MONDAY, 6 MAY 2019

SUBJECTS: Polls; Labor’s united, positive and disciplined team; Labor’s fair go policies for Australians; Labor’s employment incentives; national security; ministerial responsibilities; foreign policy.

FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Well, Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Labor Leader. She joins me in the Breakfast studio. Tanya Plibersek, welcome back to Breakfast.


KELLY: Labor is still ahead in today's Ipsos and Newspoll, two big polls, but your support has fallen slightly in one and remains stuck in the other. That suggests a lack of momentum. Where is the mood for change here in this election?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think polls are interesting but really as we always say the only one that really counts is the big poll on the day. We know that there's been a massive scare campaign from the Coalition about Labor policies this election. We've had all sorts of crazy, you know, Labor's going to steal your ute and your weekend and mad, kind of, we're going to take you Tim Tams away from you. That literally was one of the scare campaigns last week. So that doesn't help.

What we’ll do is remain united and focused and disciplined, as we have been for six years, and show our positive agenda for the country. Scott Morrison's got nothing, so he's gone negative. We've got a really substantial, positive agenda that sees improvements in people's jobs, in their wages, a better health system, a better education system, in investment in renewable energy so that we bring down power prices, deal with climate change-

KELLY: -No disputing you've got lots of ideas, lots of promises and lots of spending, but your primary vote is going backwards. In Ipsos it’s down to 33 per cent, in Newspoll it's down a point to 36 per cent. Why do you deserve to be in government when you endorsed by just one in three voters?

PLIBERSEK: Well, the question is, do people want more of the same? Do they want three more years of chaos?

KELLY: Well, it seems like they might.

PLIBERSEK: Well, we are still ahead, Fran.

KELLY: I know, I know but-

PLIBERSEK: -It's tightened, you're quite right, and we have to never take this for granted. We haven't for a single day. We have been disciplined. We've been focused on the policies that will really give everyone in this country a fair go, and we've got a call out the scare campaigns. Who knows how much more negative Scott Morrison will get in this campaign. It’s been very negative from them so far.

We've been putting up a positive agenda for what we want for this country. All you've got is Scott Morrison saying ‘We can't afford it. We can't afford it.’ What he means when he says ‘we can't afford it’ is ‘you don't deserve it. You don't deserve pensioner dental. You don't deserve to properly fund the NDIS. You don't deserve three and four year old preschool. You don't deserve fee relief on your child care.’ He's saying Australians don't deserve those things. That's not true.

KELLY: But is the contest between who's a better economic manager? Has the Government won that contest in setting that up and saying ‘we're running on our record, you can't trust Labor.’ You've rolled out, I think it's $16 billion worth of promises so far. Maybe the Government's message of a Budget back in surplus is cutting through?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we'll have surplus budgets and you'll see our costings at the end of the week. But don't forget, this is a government, Scott Morrison wants to give $77 billion of tax cuts to the very highest income earners. He won't tell you, Fran, how he's going to pay for that. Is he going to add that to the debt? Remember, this is the government that's doubled our national debt, or is he going to further cut services - more cuts to health, more cuts to education? His projected surplus for next year is based on a $1.6 billion underspend of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Will there be more underspent?

KELLY: And what you're spending is based on taking away tax concessions from people, to a high degree.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah. We don't make any apologies for closing down loopholes. Do you know, Fran, that Oxfam estimates that big multinational companies are paying about $6 billion less tax in Australia than they ought to be every year. Do you know, Fran, that the last year that we've got full figures for there were 69 Australians who earned a million dollars and paid zero dollars tax. Our country can't sustain that sort of tax minimisation because all of us suffer. People who are paying their taxes end up paying more when big, multinational companies and people on very high incomes use every loophole in the book to minimise their tax.

KELLY: Well, given you're making all those promises and you're promising people better services, better hospitals, free dental care, free childcare, ‘fair go economics’, as Bill Shorten dubbed it yesterday, why are you not doing better? Is your leader a drag on your vote? Because Newspoll today has his approval rating at -18 points.

PLIBERSEK: No, I don't believe that at all. I think we've got a very negative government. They've gone negative because they've got nothing, and that of course frightens people. I meet people all the time who have been frightened by the scare campaign into believing lies about Labor's policies.

We need to remain focused and disciplined and united as a team. We have for six years. We will in the future. We provide a sharp contrast to the chaos and the other side with the Morrison-Palmer-Hanson ticket for the next election and we need to focus on the things that make a difference to people's lives. People haven't had a wage rise in years now. We've got the lowest wages growth on record. That hurts families. We want to help them by giving the same or bigger tax cut to 10 million working Australians and help them with their child care costs, with pensioner dental, with better schools for their kids, reinvesting in TAFE and universities, making sure if they get sick the hospital system is there for them, if they get cancer that they don't have those thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket expenses. This is our offering to people. More of the same chaos and negativity and cuts or a positive vision for a fair go for all Australians.

KELLY: You're listening to RN Breakfast. It's 7:42. Our guest is Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek. Let's go to one of the promises yesterday, a new announcement: 30 per cent tax deduction for small businesses to employ someone who's been out of work for three months or more and is either aged under 25 or over 55. The danger, often noted, with some measures like this is that it can displace other workers. One group gets a leg up because of a tax concession therefore others find themselves on the dole queue. How do you factor that in, guard against that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we consider that the groups of workers that benefit from this - under 25s as you say, the over 55s and carers returning from a time out of the workforce - often face discrimination and barriers to getting into work or returning to work. We know older Australians, for example, are less likely to be unemployed, but if they become unemployed, it takes them much longer to find a new job. There is discrimination against over 55s in our workforce, so we see this as balancing up their opportunity to get a job. Under 25s often say it's hard to get that first serious full-time job. Employers say to them ‘We need someone with experience’ but nobody wants to give them their first entry into the workplace. So we think this is a fair policy. It helps employers. Employers are very enthusiastic about this, and of course it helps those workers that have been otherwise discriminated against in our workplaces.

KELLY: The issue of national security hasn't been very front and centre of this campaign, but it roared back late yesterday after Paul Keating on the sidelines of your campaign launch made some inflammatory comments about Australia's security agencies, who he's accused of going "berko" in their hawkish approach to China. That's a quote; "berko", damaging our relations in the process. Let's have a listen:


KELLY: Paul Keating speaking on ABC TV after your launch. "The nutters are in charge", he said. "Organizations like ASIO have lost their strategic bearing". Will there be a clean-out of the security agencies if Labor wins?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no. I mean, people love Paul Keating for his colourful language and that was on display yesterday, but we have a very good relationship with Australia's security agencies. We receive regular briefings. I do, Bill does, the Shadow National Security Committee does-

KELLY: -And do you think they're right on China, or do you think they're playing too big a role in the policy development of China?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think Paul Keating's right to say that China is an absolutely vital economic partner for Australia and we have to have a good relationship with China, and I think it's important for any government or potential government to heed the – heed the information we get from our security agencies. We take it very seriously and we don't comment on it publicly.

KELLY: Well the, it won't surprise you that the Government lost no time jumping on that. After all, Bill Shorten did make much at the launch of the fact that he takes advice regularly from Paul Keating. And so Bill Shorten says, you know, ask the question particularly, will there be a full-scale clean-out under a Shorten Labor Government?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely not. We have a good relationship with our security agencies, and as I say, we receive regular briefings that we value. I think, you know, people love Paul's colourful turn of phrase and it was lovely to have him there yesterday, but he doesn't run our party's policy.

KELLY: Who would be running Home Affairs and all those agencies under a Bill Shorten Government?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we'll make any announcements about our shadow ministerial, or our ministerial, line up if we're successful at the time.

KELLY:  But we know you want to be Education Minister. We know you're going to stay there. We know because Penny Wong-

PLIBERSEK: -I'm the Deputy Leader. I get to choose the portfolio I'd like, yeah.

KELLY: But it's an important, it's a key role, isn't it? And this issue’s now opened up again. Who would be making - who would be engaging with the agencies?

PLIBERSEK: Well Fran, we're not going to announce a ministerial line up before we've won an election, so let's just focus on the election as the first step, and I can reassure you and I can reassure your listeners that we have regular, detailed briefings from our national security agencies. We value their advice, we heed it, but we don't discuss it in public.

KELLY: And you don't believe they have too much sway over the foreign policy?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's very important that we take the advice of our security agencies on foreign policy, but we also, of course, work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and with the business community, with diaspora communities in Australia. We have, in Penny Wong, a phenomenally intelligent and thoughtful, I hope, future Foreign Minister.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.