THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC SYDNEY 702 DRIVE WITH RICHARD GLOVER
MONDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2018
SUBJECTS: Barnaby Joyce; Media reporting of politics; Banking Royal Commission; Share bikes; School uniforms.
RICHARD GLOVER, PRESENTER: The Monday Political Forum rolls in. Tanya Plibersek is Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Member for Sydney, I think she's just racing into our studios from a division in Canberra so she should be here in a moment or two.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: No I just made it!
GLOVER: Oh she's here.
PLIBERSEK: See it's the only exercise I get. Not really.
GLOVER: We're not only promoting a wide range of opinions but we're assisting the cardio-vascular fitness of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
PLIBERSEK: That I thank you for.
GLOVER: It's all part, well it's all part of your 8 cents a day which we learned last week is only 4 cents a day now.
PLIBERSEK: There you go.
KERRY CHIKAROVSKI: Cheapest gym in Australia I reckon at that rate.
GLOVER: Also here Kerry Chikarovski, former leader of the NSW Liberal Party. Of course she's now Chair of NSW Women's Rugby, among other things. Eamon Waterford is the Acting CEO at the Committee for Sydney. Welcome.
CHIKAROVSKI: Pleasure to be here.
EAMON WATERFORD: Well thank you.
GLOVER: Is Barnaby Joyce’s' career over? When the question was put to one Nationals MP today he called it a ridiculous beat-up. Here's Nigel Scullion in full flight.
GLOVER: Well as you heard he called it a ridiculous beat-up, but will Mr Joyce be able to win back his reputation in the bush. Kerry Chikarovski.
CHIKAROVSKI: Look I am one of these people who, and there's a lot of people who have been saying this, I'm one of these people who don't believe people's personal lives, whether you're a politician, whether you're a corporate, whether you know I mean, people out there, there a lot of people, sporting people in the public eye, I really don't think that these people should have their private lives paraded into the public.
GLOVER: OK what if you throw in a partner who's working at a high wage for a fellow Minister and all that?
CHIKAROVSKI: So that's a different question. The question, what that question revolves around has there been a proper use of public funds? Has the taxpayer paid inappropriately for the services of Barnaby's now-partner who as I understand wasn't his partner when she started and in a number of those roles and I think that is a legitimate question and I don't regard that sort of questioning as being inappropriate. But we need to make sure that we don't join the two. Don't say "oh we're only asking this questions because now she's the girlfriend". We need to ask those questions of all politicians - are there appropriate staffing arrangements in their offices, have they been approved appropriately, are the people employed in those positions certainly qualified, you know, and I put my hand up here, my daughter worked for a politician. Should she have been precluded because her mother was a Liberal politician? No, because she was eminently qualified to do that job. So I think you need make sure that the two sets of, two lines of questioning are very, very separate.
GLOVER: Politics is not always fair though. I mean that's the other question about it, is Barnaby Joyce's career over, not that it should be over necessarily but voters may just have a view that they don't like the look of him anymore, especially in the conservative bush.
CHIKAROVSKI: And that's a question that Barnaby will have to put particularly to his own electorate. I mean I think in his own electorate he is very well regarded. You don't get that sort of result just because you're a good bloke. You get the sort of result at that by-election because he's regarded as being a good local member and doing a good job in that agriculture portfolio.
GLOVER: You can't test that because we didn't know, the story didn't come out before the election.
CHIKAROVSKI: So we'll test it at the next election Richard, so we'll see what happens then, we'll see whether they still hold him in regard as being a good local member and a good Minister.
GLOVER: Is it all over for Australia's most famous retail politician, to use that phrase? Eamon Waterford.
WATERFORD: It's amazing how quickly a fall from grace this has been really and I think you're right, he is one of Australia's most famous retail politicians. Because you know Barnaby has been an institution in politics. Whether it’s-
GLOVER: And he was right about Johnny Depp's dogs.
WATERFORD: Too right, Pistol and Boo bugger off home. I think it's become a distraction and I think the way that this story has been unfolding has been little bit by little bit, day after day, I suspect it's going to become untenable at some point. Whether it should or shouldn't I pass no judgement, other than to say I think it probably would-
GLOVER: Because it will be the thing on anybody's mind whenever he speaks about anything else?
WATERFORD: Whether it's him or anyone else in the Government I think this has the potential, you know the way the story has been run this has the potential to go and go and go as a story.
GLOVER: Tanya Plibersek, is it all over for Barnaby Joyce?
PLIBERSEK: Well it is a very difficult time for him and his family and I really don't want to talk about the relationship aspects of this. But today in Question Time we were asking about the jobs. As Kerry pointed out, when you're talking about the expenditure of taxpayer funds you are going into different territory and what happened today was first the Prime Minister said staffing matters are a matter for the National Party, nothing to do with me, and then the Treasurer Scott Morrison said in fact it would have been Barnaby Joyce that decided to create these positions. I think the Liberals have thrown him under a bus, so if the Government's attitude, if the Liberal Party's attitude to this problem is that they want to distance themselves as much as possible because there is a problem I think that's quite significant.
GLOVER: You've talked about seeing this treatment in contrast to the treatment of certain women in the Parliament; can you talk to us about that?
PLIBERSEK: I just remember a lot of the conservative members of Parliament, the terrible things they said about Julia Gillard and her marital status, and her past relationships, present relationship. Cheryl Kernot got shocking treatment, I don't know if you remember some of the things that were said about her, really quite vile things about her personal life. I just hope that the people who did say things at that time are reflecting a little bit now when it's one of their own. They are hopefully perhaps reflecting that those sorts of comments are not appropriate about anyone in public life.
GLOVER: Well there is a view in the public, almost in the opposite direction, you're saying let’s remember privacy is important and it's everybody's right. The public mood if I've gathered it properly is the opposite of that. They're sort of attacking Australian journalists and saying you've run a protection racket for years protecting the lives of these politicians, we vote for them they're absolutely talking about making ethical and moral decisions all the time, we need to know this stuff, that seems to be as far as I can see, the public view. What do you say to that?
PLIBERSEK: Oh look if someone's corrupt or criminal or breaking the law in any way I think of course that has to be exposed. But which of us, when you're thinking about your personal life, would say that, in my almost 50 years on the planet I don't have things that I'm embarrassed about or wish I'd handled differently. It's not a fair thing to expect to expect perfection from any human being.
GLOVER: Well Kerry Chikarovski, what do you say to members of the public who say look we need to know this stuff, not particularly just about Barnaby Joyce but about anybody who’s got a marriage breakup or who might be making decisions based on the fact that they've got a drinking problem, whatever the secret is?
CHIKAROVSKI: Well I think salacious gossip is one thing and things that impact on your ability to make decisions in the Parliament are different, so if someone had a chronic drinking problem which meant that they were making decisions in the Parliament then I think that would probably be in the interest of not only the individual but certainly their party and the Parliament for people to know and understand and deal with that. Richard I remember having to ring and beg the editor of the Daily Telegraph because I had a phone call saying you're separating from your husband, we're going to put this on the front page of the Telegraph. And I went well hold on, I'm kind of a lowly backbencher, I don't actually really think, or I may have just gone back into the Ministry, no I think I was still a backbencher and why is this a story? Oh well you're a potential leader of the Liberal Party, so people need to know your marital status. And I said to them at the time I said look two things. First of all I have never paraded my husband and I have never paraded my children as part of my political career because my kids were little and I didn't think that was appropriate and-
GLOVER: A lot of politicians have though.
CHIKAROVSKI: Yeah but I'm just saying I didn't think it was appropriate, and my husband was reluctant, he didn't particularly like it, so I didn't do it. So I said to them I don't understand why if I've never used my family you think you can use my family position against me? And to be fair, they did actually defer it for two days so I was able to tell family and friends we had then separated, but then they ran it, they ran it, and my daughter when this all broke with Barnaby, my daughter, who's now 34, so that happened when she was 19, she raised that with me. She said you know they had to put your divorce in the paper do they think how that affected us?
GLOVER: OK what about though, what about if the politician has paraded their family in an election poster or in the Women's Weekly. What if they've presented themselves as a champion of traditional marriage, as some argue Barnaby Joyce has done?
CHIKAROVSKI: Barnaby has, and in those circumstances I do admit that it is probably a little bit more difficult to say I can't be talking about how fabulous family and married life is and then complain when I'm walking away from it. So I do accept that that could be an argument, although I still - I mean the thing which I think offended me most about that story was the photo of that poor girl on the front page of the Telegraph, looking particularly unattractive. I mean the Telegraph used probably the worst photo, from behind, looking harassed as you do when you're that much pregnant. And I thought well what's the point of doing that? I mean at least if you're going to break that story and you know I know it's been around for a long time, I would have thought the decent way to do it was to say OK, we want to write the story, can we give you an opportunity for the two of you to sit down and talk to us about it?
GLOVER: I think if there's going to be photos have one of Barnaby Joyce with a bunch of flowers or something. Eamon?
WATERFORD: Yeah I just I don't really buy this argument that journalism is to blame for not investigating this story earlier or the like. So many people I've been hearing running that story are the same people who complain that you know politics is too horse-racy, that it's too focussed on salacious gossip and not digging into deep policy issues. And yet they also want us to be talking about, you know, Barnaby's divorce rather than the important issues that were happening during the New England by-election. So I think it's absolutely not an appropriate critique.
GLOVER: Isn't there something weird though about the fact though, this is just one little tantalising detail from history, the day Harold Holt goes missing, so you know, Australia loses its Prime Minister, it's the hugest story you can ever imagine, his mistress apparently was on the beach at the time, that has never been reported until a few years ago. Isn't that - you're reporting...
CHIKAROVSKI: I was going to say do you think she pushed him into the water? You know, because he wouldn’t get married?
PLIBERSEK: I was going to say a few years ago, quite a few years ago, there was a Liberal Senator that got caught up in a travel allowance scandal and Kerry would remember.
CHIKAROVSKI: Bob Woods.
PLIBERSEK: Well I wasn't going to name him Kerry!
CHIKAROVSKI: Well it is!
PLIBERSEK: But there was a photograph -
CHIKAROVSKI: That's it!
PLIBERSEK: - taken over his back fence of his wife when he was obviously talking to her about the fact that he'd been travelling with a woman other than her and the look on her face, I will never forget it, and I cannot ever accept that that part was in the public interest. Sure, pursue him for the misuse of the entitlement, but for goodness sake she didn't choose public life, he did. And I've been contacted about a family member with a medical condition. Like oh my God, like, how is this actually in the public interest? People need to use some discretion and dare I say it some kindness when they're thinking about the impact on people who have not chosen public life.
CHIKAROVSKI: And I'm sorry that I put his name out there, but I did actually mention it on radio or on another program the other day, so I've already done that, but I agree that that to me was one of the…and the photographer got on the roof of the neighbour's house to take that photo. I mean it was just appalling.
WATERFORD: It's a misunderstanding of the public interest, it's not things that are interesting, its things the public needs to know.
PLIBERSEK: That's right.
GLOVER: Tanya Plibersek is here, Kerry Chikarovski and Eamon Waterford, you're listening to the ABC in Sydney. Now some say the Banking Royal Commission has been hobbled before it has even begun with a tight budget, short timeline, extremely broad terms of reference and exclusion from looking at anything that might prejudice, compromise or duplicate other court proceedings. So with all of that how confident are you that this will actually achieve any really change? Tanya Plibersek?
PLIBERSEK: Well we have to make sure that it does and so it's very important for people who have been victims of some of these poor practices to come forward, to tell their story through the Royal Commission process. I mean this is a Royal Commission that we fought for for two years, it's one that the Prime Minister called "regrettable". We have to make sure that it actually achieves some change in systemic instances of poor behaviour.
GLOVER: Do you think it's been hobbled though before it’s begun by the way it’s been set up?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think there are, you know, the very short time frame, the very tight budget, the very broad Terms of Reference and then this thing you can't duplicate any other investigations that are going on. I think it’s not the Royal Commission, as you described, if you wanted to get to the bottom of a whole lot of this stuff. But it still gives us a very important opportunity for people who've been the victims of poor practice to tell their story and we've got to make the most of it.
GLOVER: OK do you think it's been intentionally hobbled by the Government or-
GLOVER: - or the outcomes-
PLIBERSEK: Yeah I do, I honestly do. I mean Malcolm Turnbull said for 600 days that we didn't need a Royal Commission. It wasn't until the banks gave him permission to have one that he actually agreed that regrettably one would be allowed. I don't think he's serious about it, no.
GLOVER: Eamon Waterford?
WATERFORD: It's interesting I was sitting down today, not to brag, with the Lord Mayor of London, this is not the Greater London Authority but the Square Mile, it's the greatest concentration of financial services in the world. He has made-
PLIBERSEK: Until Brexit's done.
WATERFORD: Well right now they're doing OK but we'll see in the short term, he's made this year all about the business of trust.
GLOVER: If they're suddenly being kind to the colonials it means they're in deep trouble Eamon.
WATERFORD: They're wondering how on earth can they find themselves a new system to link in with. But he recognises that trust is a big conversation to be had and if it's happening in London then it probably needs to be happening in Australia as well.
GLOVER: There's apparently this great phrase there that some of the bureaucrats are using in England which is called Empire 2.0, which means: “Get the New Zealanders and the Australians to trade with! Help!”
WATERFORD: Dear oh dear.
GLOVER: Come on back, everything is forgiven.
WATERFORD: I will say one thing though and I would hope that the Royal Commission can get to the bottom of, I'm not confident that it will. There is such a rate of change happening in financial services, to give you an idea, the UK hasn't had a single new bank in 250 years, and then in the last five years they've had 23 new banks just pop up out of the ground. That is the speed of change we're talking about in this space and I'm concerned that the Terms of Reference that the Royal Commission has are not grappling with how do we deal with the next wave of challenges-
GLOVER: The peer to peer lending and stuff like that?
WATERFORD: - all this stuff - blockchain, bitcoin, these sorts of things - that are going to have huge consumer challenges and we need to be grappling with them now rather than waiting for another Royal Commission in 20 years to say oh we stuffed up back then.
GLOVER: Kerry Chikarovski, is the Government looking after its rich mates by hobbling this Royal Commission before it started?
CHIKAROVSKI: Look I think that's an unfair description of what's happening, and I think to be fair the Big Four in particular have made it clear that they are very concerned about this whole Royal Commission, I mean they haven't you know, willingly and happily they've been dragged to it kicking and screaming and I'm sure Tanya might disagree with how much kicking and screaming but they have definitely been dragged to it. I think the tight time frame is in fact in the interests of the Commission because I think the more time they give the banks to prepare and obfuscate and you know do all those sorts of things, the less time they will actually have to interrogate them to get to the core issues. So when we hear that the banks are finding it difficult to put together their submissions within that timeframe well, with the greatest respect, get on with it guys, because the Commission is actually going to have an opportunity to test what you are saying.
GLOVER: It's pretty broad though, isn't it?
GLOVER: They're investigating superannuation right through to the banking and-
CHIKAROVSKI: Which is, to be fair, which is basically what people have wanted. They wanted to be able to look at a whole range of issues and not just a particular part of the banking system because there is no doubt that over the last several years, to your point Eamon, over the last several years there's been a lot of stuff that's come out where people have lost trust in the banking system. If I was one of the CEOs of one of the big Four I would be seeing this as an opportunity for us to reengage with our customers and not just run ads on TV which say that we're putting a whole lot of money back into the Australian community through super funds and shares, shareholders and all that sort of stuff. But we're actually putting back into the community a situation where when you go to your local bank, when you go to your local branch, when you talk to your bank manager, I can actually trust what he's telling me, and the should see it as that opportunity.
GLOVER: And maybe there's someone actually working in the branch.
CHIKAROVSKI: Yeah that would help.
GLOVER: 11 minutes to 6. Monday Political Forum. Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition if you live in, well central Sydney, she's your MP as well she's the Member for the seat of Sydney. Kerry Chikarovski, the former leader of the NSW Liberal Party. Eamon Waterford, he's the acting CEO of the Committee for Sydney.
GLOVER: 10 to 6 is the time. Now share bike companies should be licenced to prevent shonky operators and they should pay accreditation fees to councils. This is under laws just proposed this week by Mobike which is one of the companies in the market. The company's also called on the State to stop passing the buck to councils worried that the industry will be crippled by rules that change from one council area to another. Are the bikes a good thing or just added clutter for our parks and streets, and how should they be regulated? Eamon?
WATERFORD: Oh they are such a good thing. They are such a good thing and I am sick and tired of people who whinge about them, vandalise bikes as though somehow it's the bike's fault. There's two conversations we need to be having here. One is about how can we encourage people to get on bikes and get cycling because that is unequivocally a really good thing for our city. The other is a conversation about the fact that there seems to be an enormous amount of vandalism of these bikes happening and we seem to be thinking that that's somehow the company's fault rather than a problem around why people are cutting the brakes of bikes or stealing the helmets or throwing bikes in trees, you know, we don't do that with cars, we don't to that with people’s personal bikes, so there's a conversation about a bit of respect for the product I suppose.
GLOVER: Isn't some of the anger about it because a company has come here without asking anybody's permission and essentially set up its business in a public park. I mean I can't suddenly go and suddenly start up an ice cream stall in the middle of Hyde Park, and yet that's essentially what they're doing. They're taking public land for their own purpose which is for to allow people to park these rental bikes on them.
WATERFORD: Yeah and there's definitely a need for us to go down this regulation so we can actually say well there are some areas you can park in, other areas you can't, and perhaps there's a negotiated compromise or indeed a payment that has to go along with that. But I don't think that the suggestion of say putting in docks that you have to leave the bikes in is the right way to go. Every city we've looked at around the world that has a docked bike system has found that actually it works alright for a little while and then you end up with the problem with you go to park your bike at the station where the dock is, the dock is full, you've got to ride half way up the hill to find a dock that isn't full, you miss your train, you never use the bikes again.
GLOVER: OK but if you don't have a dock system then isn't the only alternative is that they leave them propped up on the road outside people’s houses, you can't get your pram past them, then it's in the park.
WATERFORD: Possibly but I think that's a cultural thing we need to negotiate. People park their private bikes all over the place and we don't, we didn't seem to have a problem with that. So it's the idea that bikes in public space are a problem is not the answer then it should be a conversation and a cultural understanding about why this might be OK.
GLOVER: Kerry thinks it seems amusing that I might be pushing a pram.
CHIKAROVSKI: No, no, not at all, but I do live in the city so I am one of Tanya's constituents and let me say that the proliferation of bikes anywhere is the issue. I mean I take your point about people parking bikes privately but that was because they were chained up to something so they were chained to a...so you knew if you walked out my door in the morning there would be three or four bikes chained to the thing in front of my building, right? Now I walk out and there's 10 bikes against the building, in the tunnel as I'm going past, and they're everywhere and I think the issue is because there is no protocol of where they have to go people take it quite literally that I can get on and get off wherever I like. Now it's, to say it's not just a Sydney problem, have you seen those photos of Beijing? Have you seen the photos of Melbourne? Have you seen the photos of other parts of the world, even Paris where they do have both systems. They're starting to say they're just being dropped everywhere, so I think, I understand disruptive technology, I support disruptive technology. But there needs to be some regulation around responsibility because at the moment if you, and I did it today now, I walked past, I think I saw 12 or 14 bikes today just walking from my office to home.
GLOVER: And she's put out a shoulder throwing them in the canal!
CHIKAROVSKI: And of those 14 bikes there were only two that had helmets on it, so I don't know what's happening with the helmets and I've got to be honest with you, the idea of putting on one of those helmets I'm not quite sure whether people have got children with nits in their hair or whatever you know, kind of freaks me out as well, so I'm not sure how we do that but there needs to be some regulation around it.
WATERFORD: But surely that's an easy solution. You just tell people when you log onto this bike please park it next to a pole rather than in the middle of the street. Don't be an idiot.
CHIKAROVSKI: But they say that their terms, and I had a look at it,their terms say please be responsible and park this bike where it's not going to be in somebody's way.
WATERFORD: See this is interesting. I rode a bike down to the studio today. I picked up one of these share bikes at my office-
GLOVER: Ah OK.
WATERFORD: - and I was going to walk and I realised it was going to be even quicker hop on one of these bikes and the experience was rather lovely but I did, I didn't see anything like that that suggested where to park it.
GLOVER: Where have you dumped it? I'm not going to trip over it on my way out the front door?
WATERFORD: I asked the front desk where your car was parked and I parked it there.
GLOVER: Threw it in the back of the ute. Tanya Plibersek are you pro these bikes or not?
PLIBERSEK: Look I'm absolutely pro more bikes in the city and I particularly would love to see more kids riding their bikes to school. As a mother who's sending her child to school on a bike a couple of times a week, a teenager, I am very nervous about the way that cars respond to bikes in the city. But look, we're killing ourselves, we've got this big obesity problem, we need the exercise, we want fewer cars on the road, absolutely we want more bikes. But surely we can find some way of doing it that doesn't involve bikes being strewn all over the place. So Eamon's saying docking stations don't work, perhaps you can give people a greater reward or discount if they return their bike to a docking station like they do with shopping trolleys and so on. That's actually the other issue that is driving me nuts be the way. It's not just bikes that are strewn everywhere. It's people who go to the shops, put all their shopping in the shopping trolley, and instead of just taking it outside and loading it into their car they push their shopping trolley all the way home and then leave their shopping trolley in a suburban street.
GLOVER: At least that's not the business model though. Coles and Woolworths don't want you to do that and the bike companies that's actually their busines model, to ride it down to the park and leave it there.
PLIBERSEK: No no but this is really my exact point. We need to have regard for one another. Courtesy, think a little bit about our neighbours, not treat objects with disrepect, just because there's no financial cost to us. Like the companies need to be more responsbile and not just profit by using public space with no obligation to improve public amenity. But human beings need to behave in a way that make living together in cities a pleasant experience as well. Responsibility on both sides.
CHIKAROVSKI: But there is a technological solution to the shopping trolleys, they do it in the States all the time. If you do take it beyond a hundred metres from the shop the wheels lock.
GLOVER: Is that right?
CHIKAROVSKI: You can't take them anywhere.
PLIBERSEK: Yep. And some shops have that here too. Why don't they all?
CHIKAROVSKI: That's what they should do.
GLOVER: That is disruptive technology. Let me squeeze in this last question. There's debate over a Brisbane public school which gave 100 students detentions over having non-regular shoes, the heel apparently wasn't correct. How tough were the rules over uniform and appearance at your school and how did the kids try to subvert the system. Just quickly. Eamon?
WATERFORD: Ah ha! I'm the worst person to ask this question to. I went to an independent school with no uniform.
GLOVER: Oh! Shut up shut up! You had an easy life.
WATERFORD: So let me say how did I subvert it? I subverted it by wearing a suit to work for the rest of my life.
GLOVER: Kerry Chikarovski.
CHIKAROVSKI: So I went to a, I'm very old, I went to a Catholic girls school where you had to have your uniform below the knees, you had to wear stockings in summer and used to wear hats, the whole bit. The way we subverted it was your wore a very tight belt and as soon as you walked out the door and you were going down to the train you hitched your uniform up as high as you possibly could.
GLOVER: The old hitch of the skirt trick. Tanya Plibersek.
PLIBERSEK: Well same as Kerry except I wasn't going to a Catholic school I was going to a public school where every other girl had a really short uniform but my mother made me wear my uniform to my knees so there was a bit of hitching going on.
GLOVER: So this is a family tradition. You make your poor son ride to school just because your mother-
PLIBERSEK: Cruel! We are cruel.
GLOVER: Cruel by nature that the-
PLIBERSEK: You know there's a 1000 years of survival in eastern Europe...
GLOVER: We're out of time but thank you very much to Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek in Canberra. Thank you Tanya. And with me in Sydney, Kerry Chikarovski the former leader of the NSW Liberal Party and Eamon Waterford who is the cycling CEO of the Committee for Sydney. Thank you very much.