SUBJECTS: Labor’s $10 million investment in Cairns Pilot Training Hub; Labor’s plans for NAIF investment in Far North Queensland; Climate change and energy; Labor and trade unions.

MURRAY JONES, PRESENTER: Good morning it's Classic Hits 4CA. Welcome along to the Breakfast Show. My special guest this morning, because there's been some exciting stuff announced in the last 24 hours in the Cairns region, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek. Welcome to Cairns and thanks for bringing some of that warmth from Canberra, it seems.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I think you do pretty well for warm weather up here all on your own.
JONES: Certainly you've been fairly warm down there in the southern part of the country in the last couple of days but yeah, we certainly do pretty well. Exciting stuff, I know you've been here to make an announcement about something really exciting. It's the CQU Asia-Pacific, it's an aviation hub. In so many ways I think this is such a positive thing for us. We've talked a lot about the pilots, but I guess the thing I'd like to talk about, it's not just about pilots, there's a lot of other aspects to this plan as well.
PLIBERSEK: Oh absolutely. So the Central Queensland University already have completed stage one of this new training facility at Cairns airport, looking out over the tarmac from the classrooms, and the students that I met, most of them are studying a Bachelor of Aviation and that will give them the option to become a pilot, but it also gives them so many more options, because we know that the jobs just aren't in the cockpit. They're running the airlines, they're running the airports, cabin crew of course. There's engineering and maintenance streams that people can pursue. And so I met some great students, about two dozen students in the class, who were talking about - most of them want to be pilots - but they're very open minded about those other jobs as well. And if you look around the world, we've got a massive shortage of pilots right now, including here in Queensland but around Australia, around the world, and there will be increasing demand over the next twenty years. They anticipate about 600,000 new pilot jobs will be created. Another 600,000 or so in the maintenance and engineering areas, and more than 800,000 extra cabin crew will be needed over that period too.
JONES: So it's a great opportunity for Cairns, and interesting, it's not the type of thing you would traditionally find associated with universities, so to have this move, to have this commercial pilot aspect and the ancillary aspect, the services for aviation in a university is a new and novel thing and I think it's going to be a good thing for us too.
PLIBERSEK: Well it's brilliant too because of course Cairns is the gateway from Asia into Australia and from Australia into Asia, so not only do we want to see transport links from Cairns airport into Asia boosted, but this is a really good opportunity for students to come from our region to train in Australia and when overseas students settle in a place like Cairns to do their studies, it really brings a lot of extra money into the local economy. So we are talking about 70 jobs during the construction of stage two of these new facilities with extra flight simulators, new aircraft hangars and so on, but there's ongoing jobs - about 15 ongoing teaching positions - and extra money into the town when people come here to study here.
JONES: And a great destination to fly, to spend time and to study, so I think it ticks so many of the boxes, and we've also had stage one of the Mareeba airport, maybe a little bit more focussed on maintenance but I guess that brings that whole area up here in tropical North Queensland together as far as this aviation focus is concerned.
PLIBERSEK: And I think it's worth remembering Labor's promise that out of that Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, a billion dollars would be set aside for tourism infrastructure as well. Because look, this is just the most beautiful place in the world and we should be welcoming tourists here and the money that they bring with them for the local economy.
JONES: Can we talk a bit more about the Federal election which is pending, of course. Health, education, economy, have traditionally been some of the key things. They're still important, but would you say, because it seems like from looking at the polls, I guess, listening to the electorate that climate change and renewables surprisingly have become some of the key planks of the upcoming election?
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. And I think the problem is the Government, after six years, still doesn't have an energy policy. It's not clear what this Government wants to do to reduce pollution and reduce prices. They've had half a dozen different policies, they can't agree amongst themselves, you see the Liberals and the Nationals fighting each other, within the National Party there's a fight about how we should proceed. Labor's got a very clear plan. We think we can bring down prices and bring down pollution by greater investment in renewables. And storage, of course, as well, because people make the point that the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow -  
JONES: Sure.
PLIBERSEK:  - that's true, but with battery storage becoming cheaper and cheaper all the time, we're already seeing new renewables producing cheaper electricity than new coal possibly could. Of course, coal will be part of our energy mix for the foreseeable future, but if we're talking about new investment, well, it's renewables getting cheaper all the time.  
JONES: Can I just ask you one other question that's just come to my head, and look I haven't given you notice -
PLIBERSEK: You can ask me anything you like. How's that?
JONES: Well, that's an open slate.
JONES: When it comes to the Conservatives, they're basically in the laps of big business. Equally, it could be said the Labor Party is very much guided by the unions. Unions are important, I have no question about that, but balancing up what you need to do for the electorate as against the need for the unions. If you are in power, how do you balance those competing interests?
PLIBERSEK: I've never found this difficult. I've been a Member of Parliament for 20 years and I've never taken instruction from anyone. Not from a business interest, not from a union. I've made my judgements based on my own knowledge and moral values. But I'll tell you what - we've got a problem here in Australia right now with historic low wages growth, and I'm very happy to work with the union movement to lift Australian wages. Because we see that last year, company profits grew at five times the rate of wages. People feel in their family budgets the price of everything's going up - their health insurance is going up, their childcare is going up, the groceries, the electricity bill. Everything's becoming more expensive, but wages have flatlined. In fact, living standards are going backwards. I'm happy to work with the union movement, I'm happy to work with businesses that want to increase the pay that they give to their staff. And I'm happy to work with anyone who wants to focus on the family budget the way I do.
JONES: Tanya Plibersek, it's been great to talk to you this morning. Thank you so much for your time.
PLIBERSEK: It's a real pleasure.