ABC RN DRIVE
WEDNESDAY, 22 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Victorian voluntary assisted dying legislation; citizenship crisis, the Government in chaos; Royal Commission into the banks, Turnbull shutting down Parliament, Wran Lecture, Citizenship pledge.
PATRICIA KARVELAS, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Tanya Plibersek, welcome to the program.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello.
KARVELAS: Just before we get to all of those sorts of matters, Victoria's Upper House has passed the assisted dying bill. A pretty historic day in Victoria and of course across the nation people will be looking at this. What's your response to this? Do you think this is a good thing for Victoria?
PLIBERSEK: I do Patricia. I have, for many years, been on the record as a supporter of voluntary assisted dying. I think it is a very difficult area to legislate, and I think it is very, very important that we get palliative care right so that people do truly have options. But I think anybody who has watched someone they love die of cancer or something similar can't help be affected by that and in the right circumstances, with carefully drafted laws, I think this is an important step forward. I'm very disappointed, in fact, that in NSW the vote recently wasn't successful and by a very narrow margin too, I think it was just one vote in NSW.
KARVELAS: If I can move now to some of the federal issues we invited you on to talk about, an obscure and unexpected discovery for the NXT. What does this tell us about how Labor members and senators are going to fare when it comes to their citizenship, after Skye Kakoschke-Moore really fell today as well, the ninth person who's had to resign over this. She checked, it hadn't sort of worked out really, her mother was born in Singapore and ended up being a citizen and she got it by descent. What does it mean?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah well it looked like she checked about her dad and didn't think to check about her mum. I understand that it is complex for people and that's why we have very careful vetting procedures in the Labor Party. I think it's very important, because there have been so many resignations and so on, that we do have this full disclosure proposal that we've suggested. I'm actually very disappointed because the fact that we're not sitting next week means that we will delay the disclosures in the House of Representatives until the fifth of December, which is most likely to be the very final sitting day of the Parliament. So instead of actually giving the Parliament some time to properly debate and examine these disclosures, we're going to be tabling our disclosures and then heading back to our electorates, I don't think that's at all suitable and that's why Labor was arguing with the Government for an earlier disclosure date. We were successful in convincing the Government to move to the first of December and now they've cancelled the first of December, they've cancelled the whole week.
KARVELAS: Okay. So are all Labor MPs, have they got all of their paperwork in order now, given you know when the disclosure is and there is now an onus of proof?
PLIBERSEK: We're very confident. We've been very confident the whole way along, because we ask very detailed questions before we allow people to become Labor candidates.
KARVELAS: So what will happen if a Labor MP does provide, including Justine Keay, one of the contentious ones that the Government keeps raising, including Christopher Pyne on this program a couple of days ago, provides evidence that some people don't think is satisfactory? Is that a referral to the High Court? Will you accept that?
PLIBERSEK: Look, two things. I think it's very mischievous of Christopher Pyne, he's basically running an argument that because there's so many Liberals and Nationals and others that have been caught up there must be something wrong with the Labor Party, and we have very clearly shown, Justine herself has shown, that she took all reasonable steps before nominating for Parliament. So he continues to raise these things mischievously to try to deflect attention from the very deep troubles that the Liberals and Nationals in particular are facing, not just in citizenship but the fact that their whole government is crumbling around them. And like I say, we've been very confident all the way along that our people have taken all reasonable steps, Justine's shown that and the others have shown that, and when we table our documents I'm sure that'll be what that process brings.
KARVELAS: But what if that process doesn't satisfy other parliamentarians, will you refer her or should she refer herself to the High Court to get clarity?
PLIBERSEK: I think it would be very mischievous of the Government to try and use superior numbers to start referring other people because, as the Attorney-General George Brandis said, that is a very bad precedent for a democracy where the Government of the day, that presumably has the numbers, has the ability to mischievously refer other members of Parliament from smaller parties to the High Court. And let's face it Patricia, these people are so desperate now with their own- they don't have a majority, the Prime Minister's got no authority in the Parliament or his own party room, I don't know what tactics they'll use next to distract from the mess they're in, but you wouldn't put anything past them really.
KARVELAS: Will you wait until the citizenship disclosure process is complete before any motion on a banking inquiry?
PLIBERSEK: We haven't had those discussions at this stage. You know that we are keen to pursue a banking inquiry, you know that there are many people on the Coalition back benches who are telling us, well they're not telling us, they're telling the media, that they think it's a good idea. There seems to have been a very detailed discussion about it in the Cabinet the other night. It's been widely reported that, in fact, the Cabinet discussed whether they should just flat-out do a backflip and agree to it, to pre-empt their own members of Parliament crossing the floor. So of course we'll continue to pursue the banking Royal Commission and we'll continue to pursue the other things that matter to us, like restoring penalty rates for the 700 000 Australians who've lost them. But the cancellation of the next sitting week is not just about these two issues for us, it's about the 53 other pieces of legislation that we could be debating. It's about the fact that orgainsations like Indigenous rangers, I had three female Indigenous rangers coming from as far away as the Pilbara next week. They book these trips in months ahead to come to Canberra to tell us about their work. We've got a White Ribbon -
KARVELAS: Okay should the Federal Government reimburse people who've made the trip? Should that be a way of dealing with it?
PLIBERSEK: I don't think it's just about the money Patricia. People like this, organisations like White Ribbon, like the Indigenous rangers, Our Watch, which is again an organisation that deals with violence against women and children, they plan a whole year that this will be their chance to lobby parliamentarians for very good causes. So we're not dealing with the 53 piece of legislation, we've delayed this citizenship stuff, we're knocking back these organisations that do such good work. The citizenship thing, I think, Patricia, is probably the most significant of the three in a way, because we argued for a first of December disclosure date so the Parliament could properly examine people's disclosures. You can only wonder why the Government, having said originally they wanted a disclosure date on the last sitting day of Parliament, finally agreeing to Labor's earlier disclosure date, have now engineered a whole week of Parliament to just disappear so they can go back to that -
KARVELAS: Well there will be an extra week and if you heard Julie Bishop speaking to Fran Kelly this morning she says that week will be available, that to say that there's been a cancellation is not really honest.
PLIBERSEK: What does that mean, available? It means -
KARVELAS: It means that if business isn't finished they'll make sure it sits and business is finished.
PLIBERSEK: Sure. So members of Parliament who've booked in final school assemblies, visits to nursing homes, meetings with constituents, all of the things that become really important at this time of year in their electorates, will be cancelling all of those things, disappointing schools, nursing homes, community organisations having their AGMs. All of that's out the window, because Malcolm Turnbull didn't want to sit next week. And for what reason, really, Patricia? Does anybody really believe that the reason they're not sitting is because they're not ready to debate marriage equality? That is never how Parliament works. You know better than that and I'm sure your listeners do too. With 53 other pieces of legislation, including things to support the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including the Government's own bills about tax cuts for big business that they think are so important that Scott Morrison's telling big business they've got to go out and lobby for them, but that's not important enough to turn up to Parliament next week.
KARVELAS: If I can just bring you to an idea that you floated this week. You delivered the Wran Lecture last night. In it you talked about the idea of kids learning the citizenship pledge and reciting it at school. Why should they do that?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's a great thing for Australian citizens, people who are born here as well as people who've come here, to know our pledge. Because I think it's a beautiful encapsulation of our values. Now, we used to pledge allegiance to the Queen and before that, King George, and now we pledge allegiance to one another: "I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people." Not to the Crown, not to the government, not to an abstract institution, but to one another. And I think that is, that notion of solidarity, egalitarianism, equality, the fact that each one of us is deserving and each one of us has a responsibility to everyone else, is a really nice thing to .....
KARVELAS: But this whole thing, this kind of nationalism is usually the terrian of the right. You're trying to reframe it and say that it's a good idea?
PLIBERSEK: Why is it? I mean, you say it's about the right but in fact this pledge is one that was introduced by the Keating Government, and Nick Bolkus, the Minister at the time described it as an opporunity to unite Australians, a pledge that Australians could unite around. I think this plege does that. It talks about our democratic beliefs, our rights and liberities and upholding the law.
KARVELAS: I'm losing you a little bit, I don't know what's happening with your phone.
PLIBERSEK: Sorry. The pledge talks about the democratic beliefs we share, the rights and liberites we respect, and upholding the law. I don't think there's anything intrinscically right-wing about that. I think that the notion of solidarity, of responsibility to one another, of an investment in the collective good, is essentially progressive. And that's why I was talking last night about an inclusive citizenship. Just as we've been talking about inclusive economics where we all benefit as the economy grows, we share the benefits that drive further economic growth, I think we should be talking about inclusive notions of citizenship. Not saying that you have to known Donald Bradman's batting average or you have to have university-level written english to prove you're a real Australian, but that you have to invest in our democracy. That you have to protect and defend your rights and liberties and respect the rights and liberites of others. I think that's actually a beautiful thing to say that that's what is required to be an Australian citizen. Not your colour, not you religion, not where you came from, but that you are invested in our collective good.
KARVELAS: Tanya Plibersek, many thanks for your time tonight.
PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure.