SUBJECTS: Labor’s announcement of a learning lab at Charles Darwin University; Importance of teachers; Labor’s plans for a Northern Australia Development Fund; PMs attacks on Territory government; Cuts and chaos of the Morrison government; Labor’s support for the Northern Territory economy; Scott Morrison’s inability to manage the economy.

MEL LITTLE, PRESENTER: And so excited to have the Honourable Tanya Plibersek MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Training, and Shadow Minister for Women in the studio with me. Good morning.
PLIBERSEK: The title takes up half of the interview.
LITTLE: How big is your business card? You've got to unfold it like an A4 everywhere you go. It's wonderful to have you in the Northern Territory with us and amazing the announcements that you've come to talk to us about. I don't know where you want to start this morning? There's so much good stuff to cover. 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm probably start with Palmerston. We're announcing today a $14 million learning lab at Charles Darwin University and it's really designed to make sure that Territorians who want to become teachers get the best possible education but with a particular focus on regional, rural and remote schooling and Indigenous schooling. It'll be also great facility for people who want to get a teacher's aide qualification and very importantly it'll be a great place for continuing professional development. We know that teaching and remote communities is tough. 
PLIBERSEK: I know that having a community of practice, other teachers who are doing the same job working together to nut out problems that they have or challenges that they have or opportunities that they have is a really good way of keeping people in the profession.
PLIBERSEK: So we're very proud of this. It's a really wonderful investment and I think it'll make a great deal of difference in coming years to the ability to recruit teachers to remote communities and the quality of teaching in those remote communities. 
LITTLE: I think one of the best things anybody can be is a teacher, no matter-
LITTLE: -what profession or what you do in your life. If you can be a teacher within what you do whether, it's a politician or anybody else, always be a teacher. It's just such an amazing thing and from my friends that are teachers who have experienced remote and outback community, the lessons they learn themselves that they then bring back into classrooms right across Australia. Invaluable. Cannot be matched anywhere.
PLIBERSEK: I completely agree and I think, I meet a lot of people who are working in remote communities - teachers, teachers aides and others - and they tell me so passionately about how rewarding their work is, how much they love their kids, how ambitious they are for the young people that they're teaching, but we do still have the difficulty in attracting people in the first place and retaining them, particularly when their own children get to high school age. You see that's often a time when people make changes so having a really good specialty institute that focuses on teaching in rural and remote communities and having that continuing support to continually upgrade your professional skills is really important. The other thing we have to do, of course, is give more opportunities to people from remote communities to become teachers-
LITTLE: Yeah, absolutely.
PLIBERSEK: - because if you are already living in a remote part of Australia, the likelihood of you getting your skills and staying in that remote community or another one like it is really strong. So, I used to be the Health Minister, when I had the Health portfolio, we had a real focus on teaching doctors and nurses and allied health professionals in country areas and keeping them in country areas. So attracting people from country areas to do the qualification and teaching the qualification in the type of community that you hope the workforce will remain in gives you a much better chance. At the moment, if you live on the north shore of Sydney, you're four times more likely to have a university degree than a young person living in outback Northern Territory. It's not because there's a difference in intellectual capacity. It's a difference in opportunity and aspiration and so making sure that we are giving the opportunity and the aspiration to people who are already living in regional and remote communities is a really good first step to addressing some of those workforce issues.
LITTLE: Yeah, absolutely and the opportunities and jobs that it will provide for Darwin as a whole and for the city of Palmerston is brilliant as well. And as part of the CDU family, thanks. 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. I know. We really should be thanking Luke Gosling and Warren Snowdon. I mean, as you know, Warren was a teacher himself and I met two people yesterday that Warren taught and he's been a really strong advocate of this project. But Luke Gosling as well, such a strong supporter of CDU, such a strong supporter of attracting people to to work in the Territory and making sure that we have job opportunities for Territorians. So Luke has been very a very strong supporter of the changes to the Northern Australia Development Fund. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund that the conservatives announced five years ago has spent $15 million out of $5 billion allocated to northern Australia and we just say that's not good enough. How can it be that there's one project has actually being funded and the same fund has spent as much on bureaucrats salaries and board members’ salaries and travel and meetings as they actually spent on building infrastructure. So yesterday we made the very important announcement about setting aside a billion and a half dollars for more gas pipelines. We've got really critical shortages of gas in Australia. We're not keeping enough Australian gas in Australia for our power needs and our manufacturing industry needs, and the other thing we've said of course is we've set aside a billion dollars for tourism infrastructure because tourism is a fantastic job opportunity in the Northern Territory. This is one of the most beautiful and unique places on the planet and we want more people to come here and leave some of their tourist dollars behind.
LITTLE: Leave us your money.
PLIBERSEK: That's right, so we've set aside more than $200 million for the upgrades around Kakadu but, you know, there's road facilities, regional airports. These are the sorts of things that will really create jobs in the top end.
LITTLE: And from what I've spoken to Luke about, as recently as yesterday, it's money that will be spent from the first Budget.
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. Yeah one-
LITTLE: I get the point.
PLIBERSEK: - of the criticisms of the Morrison government, if they made some announcements about Kakadu, that's great that they're prepared to invest but you look at the fine print and it's off in the never-never. I mean, who knows whether that money will ever be spent? Like today the Prime Minister's in town talking about defence industry jobs. Well Territorians remember in 2016 being promised thousands of defence industry jobs when the Defence White Paper was rolled out. Where are those jobs? In fact, we've actually seen shipbuilding jobs decline under the conservatives and the US troop rotation that the Prime Minister is boasting about today, well, that was a deal between Julia Gillard and Barack Obama. I mean, of course, we're happy for the extra personnel here. That's a very important support to the local community and brings investment with it. But you know, no thanks to Scott Morrison, really.
LITTLE:  Yeah. So it's we do have interesting times ahead with the Federal election looming just around the corner. One thing that I would ask you this morning is a lot of Territorians are feeling really, I don't know whether disappointed is the word or disenfranchised with our local Labor government and that can, with our Michael Gunner government I should say, and that sort of concerns me when we do go to election time about looking at who Territorians are going to vote for but then we have Scott Morrison on the other side and I, sort of, worry about stability of government when we've had so many leadership changes within that one and we have a Prime Minister that wasn't voted by the people of Australia. And so when we look at preferences and things like that, is this election going to be won on preference to you think?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's going to be a very close election. A lot of people have been assuming that Labor will win. I don't feel that way. I feel like we need to work very hard for every vote and we've been very clear about our policies we’ve been out there with a policy to invest in hospitals and schools rather than give tax breaks to the top end of town. We want to see jobs with decent pay and conditions. We've got a plan for secure jobs with growing wages, the cost of everything's been going up but wages have been flat lining and living standards have been going backwards under this government. 
PLIBERSEK: I think there's a very clear choice to make. You know, you've got three fantastic Labor representatives up here in Warren Snowdon and Luke Gosling and Malarndirri McCarthy. It's a choice between keeping them and you know, I don't really know the alternatives so I won't I won't say anything in particular about them, but people with real track records of delivery and as you say, Scott Morrison's the third Prime Minister they've had in less than six years. We've got, we're on the third Treasurer in less than six years. Tony Abbott's in the background saying he's willing to become Prime Minister again. Barnaby Joyce is saying he's willing to become Deputy Prime Minister again. They hate each other. Like they're actually all hate each other.
PLIBERSEK: We've been a united and stable team under Bill Shorten's leadership for close to six years now. We did have our troubles when we were last in government. We learned our lesson. We changed our rules and the result of that has been a period of unity, stability and focus on policy, where we want to invest in our hospitals and schools, in early childhood education, and TAFE and universities, in decent jobs with good pay and conditions, infrastructure that brings jobs with it. And I heard Scott Morrison. He's in town complaining about the Gunner government. Well, you know, you really would think the Prime Minister of Australia could speak about his record rather than the record of another government. You really think he'd be prepared to stand up and say Territorians should vote fee on the basis of x, y and z that I've achieved. He can't do that. He doesn't have a track record of achievement. He's got a track record of cuts and chaos and he's got no vision for the future. He's got a vision for bigger tax cuts for the top end of town and cuts to hospitals and schools to pay for them.
LITTLE: When we look at and when we look at the comments made, you're right, about here are the reasons why you should vote for my government because the other one is so bad. The comment that was made that a Labor government can't handle money?
PLIBERSEK: Well isn't this ironic. You know, the Liberals came into government in Canberra saying "Debt and deficit disaster". They have doubled our national debt. Under Scott Morrison's leadership we've been adding a hundred million dollars a day to our national debt. So, not going to be lectured to by someone who's cut schools and hospitals and is still racking up the credit card debt all the time. I'd also say this - he talks about managing the economy. Who is he managing the economy for? We say that when working people haven't had a pay rise, when the cost of everything's going up and wages are not keeping pace, you're not managing the economy. You're actually squeezing the family budget and that has an impact on our whole economy in terms of people being less confident to you know, buy a cup of coffee on the way to work or take the kids out for pizza on a Friday night. We see falling demand and consumer confidence, falling business investment, because of this historic low wages growth. Scott Morrison's idea of managing the economy is cutting schools and hospitals so you can give multi-billions of dollars of tax cuts to the top end of town. $77 billion he wants to give in tax cuts to high income earners and he's got a $40 billion cut baked into the Budget to pay for it. Where are those cuts going to fall? He talks about managing the economy. What more is he going to cut to pay for his tax cuts to people earning more than 200 Grand. You know, when Scott Morrison's tax cuts are fully rolled out, if you're on $200,000 a year, you'll get an $11,000 a year tax cut. If you're in $40,000 a year you'll get 11 bucks a week.
LITTLE: Yeah, right-o.
PLIBERSEK: So is that, you know, that's his idea of managing the economy. He's managing for high-income earners and for big businesses, not for ordinary Australians.
LITTLE: So I would like to point out at this stage Scott Morrison, our Prime Minister, was invited to appear on the show this morning. The invitation was put out over the last two days, but unfortunately, he was not able to secure a time. That invitation is still there if our Prime Minister would like to talk this morning. It's been an absolute pleasure having you in Tanya. Now can I please confirm, or ask you for an election promise, just personally?
LITTLE: I would just like Aldi supermarkets and Dan Murphy's allowed into the Northern Territory. That would be nice. What can you do for me?
PLIBERSEK: OK. I'm not sure what I can do on that one. I'll give that some thought.
LITTLE: Aldi supermarket's the best and we don't have them. It's a third world country in Darwin!
PLIBERSEK: Do you know, it's very funny you should say that. I've got some friends who are very big fans.
LITTLE: I often buy extra carry-on luggage so that I can do an Audi shop before I come home. 
PLIBERSEK: All right, that is food for thought. 
LITTLE: Thank you. The Honourable Tanya Plibersek MP, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, amongst a whole lot of other stuff that you'll find on her giant business card. Thank you so much for including the Territory in your travels at the moment. Thank you so much for the information and the amazing election commitments that are coming should the Labor government win at the next election, and hopefully look forward to catching up with you real soon. 
PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure. Look forward to it. 
LITTLE: And just quietly I heard that maybe, just maybe, Bill Shorten might pop into the Palmerston RSL tomorrow on ANZAC Day, which is very exciting. So when you see him later on today could just give him a little rib?
PLIBERSEK: I'll make sure he gets the two up skills going, a bit of practice  before he gets there. 
LITTLE: Thank you again.