SUBJECTS: Labor’s announcement of a learning lab at Charles Darwin University; Labor’s plans for a Northern Australia Development Fund; Cuts and chaos of the Morrison Government; Labor’s support for the Northern Territory economy; Crime and community safety in the Northern Territory.

KATIE WOOLF, PRESENTER: Joining me in the studio right now is the Deputy Opposition Leader, Shadow Minister for Education and Training and Shadow Minister for Women, as well as the Member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek. Good morning.


TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Katie you're exhausted reading out that title.


WOOLF: It's quite a long title I've got to say. Now there's a lot to cover off on this morning. No doubt about it. Now if elected on May 18, a new education hub would be built in the Northern Territory under a Labor Federal Government. What's the aim of this proposed facility?


PLIBERSEK: It's a $14 million facility that we'd build in Palmerston with Charles Darwin University with involvement from Batchelor Institute as well, and its really designed to make sure that we've got the best possible training for teachers who are going to teach in regional, remote and rural areas with a special focus on teaching in Indigenous communities. It would be for initial teacher education, for people who are studying to become teachers or teachers’ aides, but also continuing professional development for people who've gone to teach in rural and remote communities to make sure that they've got people to talk to about continuing to upgrade their skills, if they've got challenges in their work how to meet those challenges using the best available evidence and the wisdom of other teachers who are facing similar situations.


WOOLF: So why I guess did the Federal Labor Party see that this was something that needs to happen in the Territory at the moment?


PLIBERSEK: Well, there's a couple of really important reasons. The first is there is a problem in recruiting teachers and teachers’ aides to go to remote communities, not just in the Northern Territory, but right around Australia and making sure that those teachers who are already in communities are getting the support they need to tackle challenging behaviours or learning difficulties or making sure that they've got extension activities for kids who are gifted and talented, making sure that the way they're teaching is culturally appropriate and so on. So supporting those existing teachers is really important and also training up people from rural and remote communities to become teachers and teacher's aides is the best way that we're going to meet some of these workforce shortages and Charles Darwin Uni has a particular speciality in doing this, as does Batchelor, making sure that we are training that next generation of teachers means that we'll have the staff to go into remote communities and country towns and so on as well and be really top class teachers for the kids in those communities. We want to make sure that every child, no matter where they live in Australia, gets a really first-class education.


WOOLF: Look I think education is such an important thing and I know that we here in the Northern Territory, we do want to make sure our children have great teachers. One of the things though that is certainly well and truly front of mind for Territorians at the moment is the economy. Now yesterday Bill Shorten announced a replacement for the North Australia Infrastructure Facility. Now, he says that Labor's going to replace the NAIF with a new fund that will help build nationally important infrastructure projects, like gas pipelines from the Northern Territory to the east coast. How will the facility differ and be more effective than the NAIF.


PLIBERSEK: Well Katie, I heard you before challenge the Prime Minister and say only $15 million has been spent from the NAIF and he came up with some other figure. That's the truth - we asked in Senate Estimates - $15 million has been transferred from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund to another bank account. We don't even know the details of that project. The NAIF has spent the same on bureaucrat's wages and board members' salaries and meetings as it's spent on actual infrastructure and they haven't even spent that - they've transferred the money into a bank account. Nothing has been built from this facility. So the first difference is we'll actually build some stuff. And we've committed a billion and a half dollars as you say to gas pipelines. It's critical that we have more Australian gas in Australia to meet our power needs, to meet our manufacturing sector needs. It's a great job creator for the Northern Territory to build pipelines and also potentially to use that gas in Darwin for manufacturing jobs here in Darwin. And we've also set aside as you know, a billion dollars in tourism infrastructure as well. Tourism is a great jobs creator here in the Northern Territory. It's one of the most beautiful and unique places in the world. We've spent, or we've committed as you know, two hundred million dollars to upgrading Kakadu as an example, but we're talking about regional airports, better quality roads. Those roads are important for tourism. They're also important for agriculture here. If you want a better agriculture industry, we need to upgrade those facilities too. The big difference is going to be we'll build some stuff rather than just talking about building stuff.


WOOLF: And I guess this is the difficulty that a lot of Territorians have got right now. As you know, when we heard about the NAIF in its early stages, we probably all felt quite optimistic as we feel right now hearing what Labor's got to say, how they do things differently and how they want the Territory to be a gas hub. But I guess, how can Territorians be sure that it's actually going to happen and how can we be sure that it's going to be different?


PLIBERSEK: Well you know that with Scott Morrison you get more of the same, that's the trouble. There's been five years of cuts and chaos. I heard him trying to talk about the Gunner Government today because he doesn't want to talk about the record of his own government. The NAIF is one area where they've completely under-delivered - over-promised and under-delivered. But they've also cut funding from your schools. They've cut funding from your hospitals. He talked about defence jobs - well most Territorians remember that in 2016 there was a Defence White Paper that promised a whole lot of defence jobs for the Territory. The Prime Minister's only boast today is that there'll be more US Marines in Darwin. Well, that was an agreement that Julia Gillard and Barack Obama negotiated, it has nothing to do with Scott Morrison or his government. So on our record we have delivered for the Territory, on Scott Morrison's own record all you've seen are cuts to schools and hospitals, chaos with three Prime Ministers and three Treasurers. Barnaby Joyce saying he wants to be Deputy Prime Minister again and Tony Abbott saying he's willing to be drafted to the Prime Ministership again. And these people can't run on their record because their record is cuts and chaos. They can't run on their vision for the future because they haven't got one. 


WOOLF: Can I talk a little bit more specifically just about the Northern Territory's economy and some of the issues that we do have right now? We know that economy and crime really are top of mind for Territorians. The economy and the way in which the Northern Territory Government is managing the finances, it is a big concern to Territorians. We know that they have said, the Northern Territory Government has said, that the GST carve up has had a massive part to play. Scott Morrison said this morning he's topped up the GST and the Federal Government is providing a lot of support to the Northern Territory. Would a Labor government, if elected, think more should be done to support the Territory and our economy at this point in time?


PLIBERSEK: Absolutely and I think it's really dishonest of Scott Morrison to talk about how he's helping the territory when he's cut $41 million from schools over the next three years. The difference between Labor and Scott Morrison is $41 million for Territory schools over the next three years alone. The difference in hospitals is $69 million - just for hospital funding. That's aside from our really important cancer packages and the other announcements we've made, just in hospital funding a $69 million difference between Labor and Scott Morrison. I just, I don't think Territorians buy it. Scott Morrison keeps talking about how he's managing the economy. He's cutting funding to schools and hospitals so he can give bigger tax breaks to multinational companies and people who are already wealthy. That's what his idea of managing the economy is. He's adding $100 million a day to our national debt and he's cutting schools and hospitals to pay for it. 


WOOLF: So specifically for the Northern Territory right now, under a Labor Government, what would be done differently to support the Northern Territory's economy?


PLIBERSEK: I'll give you three really important examples. The first is the Northern Australia Development Fund, the investment in tourism infrastructure, in the gas pipeline. Obviously, that is the potential for thousands of extra jobs, but when it comes to the economy - restoring the funding cut from hospitals and schools, from TAFE and universities, from a whole range of Federal Government programs is absolutely critical. He can't talk about the GST without talking about all the funding cut from direct negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States. You see for example, a refusal to commit to preschool beyond next year. You see the cuts, I mean, getting a commitment to continue funding for remote housing has just been like pulling teeth from the Commonwealth Government. No State or Territory can cope with that level of uncertainty and hostility from the Commonwealth Government. And I just think, you know, the whole purpose of the way Scott Morrison wants to manage the Australian economy is cutting the services that ordinary people rely on, so that he can funnel more tax cuts to the top end of town. Labor's got the same or bigger tax cuts for 10 million working Australians. We're not going to funnel money to the top end, or big multinational companies, because we want to invest in local communities and that's our commitment to the Territory.


WOOLF: Now if you have just joined us - we are of course speaking with Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Opposition Leader. Now crime, as I mentioned, is top of mind at the moment. Territorians and business owners broken into daily, often by youths. Many believe the Royal Commission into the area did have unintended consequences. I mean, like I said to Scott Morrison earlier this morning, everybody knows the Northern Territory Government's responsible for law and order. But would the Federal Labor government if elected, contribute at all to the recommendations from the Royal Commission which we had?


PLIBERSEK: Look that is something that we'll have to discuss with the Territory Government. I noticed that it was Malcolm Turnbull who called for the Royal Commission and then kind of turned his back on the outcomes of the Royal Commission. We have already committed millions of dollars to community safety upgrades, the Prime Minister followed us today. Of course, that's welcome. He's followed us in a number of measures today - the community safety upgrades, the support services for veterans, and so on. We welcome that, but I think we need to invest in those local safety upgrades, but we need to do better than that as well. We need to make sure that we're working with our children and young people to divert them from crime in the first place. Dealing with crime once it's happened is important - we need to make sure our police, our local government are well supported to do that. But wherever we can work with children and families to prevent crime in the first place, that is obviously a much better start.


WOOLF: But no concrete decision at this stage as to whether a Federal Labor government would step into this space and provide funding for a new Youth Detention Centre? 


PLIBERSEK: Well, that's something that we'd have to discuss with the Territory Government in the future.


WOOLF: Tanya Plibersek, of course the Deputy Opposition Leader, I really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you so much for having a chat with us 


PLIBERSEK: Such a pleasure Katie.