SUBJECTS: Labor’s announcement to increase representation in Australia Day honours; Australia Day; Warren Mundine; Gilmore preselection; Liberal chaos.

FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: January 26 is fast approaching and the federal opposition wants to see more women listed in the Australia Day honours. A Shorten Labor Government would overhaul the honours system to ensure females received 40 per cent of the awards by 2020; with an ultimate goal of reaching 50/50 representation in the honours list beyond that. Labor's gender target comes as the debate over Australia Day steps up a notch. The Prime Minister, yesterday, charging Labor with disrespecting Labor values and identity. 
KELLY: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, yesterday, talking - taking a shot back at Bill Shorten after Bill Shorten accused him of having a "bizarre Captain Cook fetish". Are we in a state of culture wars again? Tanya Plibersek is Deputy Labor leader. Tanya Plibersek, welcome back to Breakfast. 
KELLY: And happy new year. 
PLIBERSEK: Happy new year to you and your listeners. 
KELLY: I'll come to that culture war in a moment but first the honours system. The honours system - the Australia Day honours recognises merit and achievement in community and specialist fields. Why should gender targets have a place in that?
PLIBERSEK: Well it's not just important to make sure that our Australian honours represent the contribution of men and women more equally, but we know that First Nations Australians, people with a disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds - and even, there's even a, kind of, postcode disparity in our Australian honours. So, without taking anything away from the people who've been acknowledged or will be acknowledged on this Australia Day. What we’re saying is that we need to make sure our Australian honours system really captures those unsung heroes that are being missed by our current awards system.
KELLY: So why are they being missed? Because the public nominates, don't they?
PLIBERSEK: That's right, but since 1975, on average, about thirty per cent of awards have gone to women for example. And if we believe that Australian women are making as important contributions to our public life - our volunteering and so on - as men, then there's obviously something wrong with the nomination system and I think we need to look at things like the categories that are being nominated in. If you have a look, there are stand-alone categories for example, for mining, engineering, for primary industries and so on. But, the areas where women traditionally work or volunteer are often subsumed in other categories. Like nursing, for example, has no stand-alone category - it falls under the general category of medicine. So, we need to look at the categories that people are nominated in and we need to look at the nomination process to encourage more women to be nominated. There are fantastic community organisations like Honour a Woman, we can support the work that they're doing to encourage more members of the public to look around them at the women that are volunteering and contributing to our community and nominate them. 
KELLY: You need to be careful, don't you? Because it is a public nomination system, that's what you're talking about. 
KELLY: And the public is only nominating thirty per cent of women to the honours - to be considered for an honours. So you don't want to skew...
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely.
KELLY: ... the public's intention in the end list. 
PLIBERSEK: No, but what we want to say to people is "Have a look around you at the women that are working so diligently for the betterment of our community that aren't being acknowledged and think about acknowledging them."
KELLY: So, will your - the target you're going for, I think forty per cent by 2020, will that be a direction to those who select the honours, the honours committee? 
PLIBERSEK: No, it's an invitation for our community to work harder in identifying women who are not currently being acknowledged for their good work. And not just women, but those underrepresented categories more broadly.
KELLY: And if Labor was in government, would you be making sure that those categories change? 
PLIBERSEK: Yes. I think we need to re-examine the categories because the areas that have stand-alone categories are often the fields that are dominated by men and a lot of the fields where women dominate are actually subsumed in larger categories. 
KELLY: So, if in government, would this be a direction? This would happen, this change? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, looking at the categories is certainly something we'd do and we'd also make sure that the Council of the Order of Australia is gender balanced. It is currently at around about fifty per cent, which is great, we need to make sure that that remains and we need to work with community organisations, with the states and territories and others to make sure that women and other underrepresented groups are being nominated at a greater rate. 
KELLY: It is already happening to some degree, as we understand it, this year's list, the number of women receiving honours will be over thirty-five per cent as I understand it. So, it's already getting towards your forty per cent target - do we really need this? One of our listeners has written in saying "surely this is nothing more than a populist distraction from the real and genuine issues." Interesting those.
PLIBERSEK: No, I think it's important to acknowledge that we are making improvements, that's good. It's a great step forward but I don't think we should rest on our laurels. 
KELLY: What about Australia Day more broadly? Over the weekend, we are going to celebrate the national day. Some of us will celebrate, some of us will mourn. But a new debate is under way around this over national identity. Bill Shorten has accused the Prime Minister of harbouring, quote, a "bizarre Captain Cook fetish". What's wrong with commemorating a moment in the birth of modern Australia. What's wrong with doing that? 
PLIBERSEK: Nothing. I think it's important to acknowledge our history, both the good and the bad. As you say, Australia Day is a day that Australians broadly will be celebrating, but for Aboriginal Australians, it's a day of mourning as well. We need to, as a mature country, be able to deal with both of those aspects of our history and acknowledge both of them in a clear eyed way. I'm proud of modern, multicultural Australia. I think this is the best country on earth.
KELLY: Are you happy to celebrate Australia Day on January 26?
PLIBERSEK: I'll be at citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day, as I always am, saying how proud I am to be Australian and to be a part of this fantastic country. But I'll also go to the Yabun Festival in my electorate and acknowledge that for Aboriginal Australians this is a very difficult date. We actually can do both. We are sophisticated enough and adult enough as a nation to accept that modern Australia is great. I would want to live in any other country in the world. I love it. But we have parts of our history that are painful.
KELLY: Some -  we'll be speaking with Barnaby Joyce a little later in the program because he and some other Liberals, including Senator Dean Smith, are considering a Private Members bill to enshrine January 26 as Australia Day in law, to legislate it, because they fear that the Labor Government would be influenced by others and would go and eventually change the date. Do you see an issue with legislating Australia Day? Would you support that?
PLIBERSEK: Look, we've made it clear that we don't have a plan to change Australia Day but honestly, we've got hardly any sitting days between now and the next election. Parliament is literally barely sitting. If this government were really serious about doing something that would affect people's lives they could legislate to reverse the cuts to health and education. They could legislate to restore penalty rates. They could legislate our plan for ten days of paid domestic violence leave. They could legislate our bigger, better tax cuts that give almost double the tax cuts to low and middle income earners. If they actually wanted to do something to change-
KELLY: Well a Private Members bill is unlikely to get on the papers in the next two weeks but in general? Do you have an issue with the notion of legislating January 26th?
PLIBERSEK: We'd look at any legislation that was put forward but I, honestly, you've said your listener before was talking about populous distractions. I think everybody sees what this is for what it is. It's an effort to stoke a political correctness debate on the eve of Australia Day. It's just tacky.
KELLY: And are we, do you think, heading for another culture war. I mean, as I quoted Bill Shorten there, saying that the Prime Minister had a “bizarre Captain Cook fetish” because his plan to fund Endeavour replica circumnavigating the country, which he says will be a reconciliation mission as much as anything else, the Prime Minister says that Labor is sneering at Australia's history and is fuelling political correctness which is seeing kids being raised to despise our history.
PLIBERSEK: I just, it's just laughable, isn't it? To have a Prime Minister that is so desperate that he is accusing the Opposition Leader of being 'unAustralian' on the eve of Australia Day. I mean, truly, that sort of commentary smacks of the desperation that we see from the Liberal Party at the moment.
KELLY: Are we seeing the start of the new culture war?
PLIBERSEK: Not from us. I mean, I'm sure that the Liberals would love to distract people from the fact that the cost of everything is going up but their wages are flatlining. I'm sure they'd love to be talking about anything other than that but we won't get sucked into that.
KELLY: It's quarter to eight. Our guest is Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Labor Leader. We're barrelling along to a federal election. A former colleague of yours, former national ALP President, Warren Mundine, has gone to the other side.
KELLY: You. He’s accusing you of destroying the opportunities for working class people. That's from the former National President of the Labor Party. How much does that hurt?
PLIBERSEK: Not at all. Warren Mundine has been very clear for the last twenty or thirty years that he wants a seat in Parliament with any party that will have him. And for a long time he was desperate for the Labor Party to give him a seat in Parliament. There's a reason we didn't and I'm sure the voters of Gilmore will discover that.
KELLY: By and large though, is it better that we have more Indigenous Australians sitting in our Parliament than less?
PLIBERSEK: Yes. And that's why I'm so proud that we've got Pat Dodson and Linda Burney and Malarndirri McCarthy and right around the state and territories is a terrific representation of Indigenous Australians in the Labor Party. It is very important, just as I've always supported increasing the representation of women and people from ethnically diverse backgrounds and people of different ages and family backgrounds and professional experiences, of course it's important. But let's face it, Warren Mundine was talking to the Labor Party for a long time about a seat in Parliament. We didn't think he was suitable for it. He then talked to the Liberal Democrats and now the Liberal Party has accepted him. I think the bigger question is - if Scott Morrison is now saying that he had to intervene in the preselection for Gilmore because Ann Sudmalis was bullied out of her seat, why didn't he stand up when Ann Sudmalis said she was being bullied out of her seat and intervene to save her in the way he intervened to save Craig Kelly? So Scott Morrison is not prepared to intervene to save Ann Sudmalis, or Jane Prentice, but he is prepared to intervene to save Craig Kelly and parachute in celebrity candidate into the seat of Gilmore, Warren Mundine. Why? What's the logic of all of this?
KELLY: Nevertheless, if you look at it, Labor has lost a former leader, Mark Latham, to One Nation, you lost your former National President to the Liberal Party. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “to lose one might be misfortune, to lose two is carelessness”. What does it tell us about the modern Labor Party? These people are walking with their feet.
PLIBERSEK: I think, I really think, if you look at Mark Latham in recent years, I think we're all pretty relieved he's not in the Labor Party anymore and I'd have to say the same about Warren. There was a reason no-one supported him to go into Parliament, despite the fact that he was knocking on a lot of doors for many decades.
KELLY: What was that reason?
PLIBERSEK: I'll let the voters of Gilmore work that out for themselves.
KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you Fran.