SUBJECTS: Polls; Labor’s positive plan for Australia; Liberals’ $5 million advertising spend

FRAN KELLY: Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Labor Leader and the Shadow Minister for Education. Tanya Plibersek, welcome back to Breakfast. 
KELLY: Labor is four points ahead of the Coalition in the Newspoll after preferences; six points ahead in Ipsos. Election day is now within six weeks, is this election yours to lose? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the polls aren't really the issue, Fran. They sort of jump up and down, what matters is that we've got a plan for government, we've got a plan for Australia that involves a living wage, better investment in hospitals and schools, bigger tax cuts for people earning up to $48,000 and matching the Government all the way up to $125,000. We've got a plan, we're stable and united under Bill's leadership. What you see from the Government is a chaotic and divided opposition using taxpayers' own money to lie to them about investments in hospitals and schools. It's a dodgy ad man using taxpayers' funds to lie to taxpayers about what the Government's doing. 
KELLY: You say you might have a plan and the headline numbers are strong for Labor; but when you drill a bit deeper, your primary vote in the Newspoll sits on 37 per cent - that's down 2 points in a month. In Ipsos, it's a very low 34 per cent. You might have a plan but barely one in three voters have you as their first preference. You can't win an election with a primary vote of 34 per cent, can you?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we're not taking anything for granted, Fran. I mean, we're laying out our vision for the future for Australians, we're talking to them about the importance of a living wage, of bigger tax cuts at the lower end, paid for by closing loopholes at the upper end. Our investment in preschools, three and four year old universal preschool; $14 billion extra for our public schools, extra apprenticeships.
KELLY: But all I'm saying is that's failing to attract a first preference vote beyond one in three Australians.
PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm not going to focus on the polls, what I'm going to focus on is convincing people, one by one if I have to, about the superiority of Labor's vision. And also about the unity and discipline in our team - Bill and I have led a united and disciplined team for six years. In contrast, you've got Liberals and Nationals at each others' throats and no plan for the future from those in Government at the moment. What's their plan for the future? They can't run on their record, their record is higher cost of living, higher childcare costs, healthcare costs. They can't run on unity and discipline because there's been none. And they can't run on their plan for the future because they don't have one. 
KELLY: Bill Shorten continues to languish when he comes head to head with Scott Morrison as, you know, popular leader. He's much less popular. Is this lead in your saddle bags? Does it undermine your ability to sell your policies if the public are saying, as they have, month after month, they don't like the leader? 
PLIBERSEK: I don't think they're saying that at all. I think people who meet Bill and are watching politics closely like him very much and the difficulty of being Opposition Leader is that you're holding the Government to account. People see that as a very negative role - in contrast, the vision that Bill laid out on Thursday night for bigger investment in cancer care, making sure that people don't have those debilitating out-of-pocket expenses in their cancer care. Investment in TAFE - 150,000 extra apprenticeships. That's the sort of thing that will convince people that we have a plan for their future. 
KELLY: But we have ever-increasing presidential-style campaigns. They are leader on leader; and we've seen in New South Wales campaigns can be won and lost in the campaign itself. If your leader starts behind in the popularity stakes, again, doesn't that set you behind and why after five and a half years?
PLIBERSEK: I'd back our leader against Scott Morrison any day. You’ve got a dodgy advertising guy who thinks that he can win an election by spending $600,000 a day of your money, telling you what a great job he's doing for you when people know the difference, they know that they're not keeping up with increasing cost of living expenses. They see the cuts in their hospitals when they're waiting in emergency or waiting for surgery. I would back Bill Shorten who's spent his working life in workplaces with ordinary Australians - who's also incidentally got a MBA, Masters of Business Administration, so he knows how business works as well. I would put those two against each other any day of the week. I know who's got a better plan for the country, that's for sure.
KELLY: You're listening to RN Breakfast, it's eighteen to eight, our guest is Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek. This $600,000 a day that Labor's saying - $5 million a week, if the Prime Minister takes another week to call an election, of publicly funded political advertising. Is that an actual figure? Where's that figure come from? Have you plucked that out of the air?
PLIBERSEK: No, it's come from the information that we've got from Senate Estimates and from looking at the ad-buy on TV. I mean, you cannot turn your TV on, you can't sit in a bus shelter without seeing a Government ad. And the ones I find particularly galling are the ones about schools; and this Government, Scott Morrison, when he became leader, restored the funding cut to Catholic and Independent schools. That's great. We campaigned with Catholic and independent schools to have their funding restored. Now, all of the cuts - $14 billion of cuts fall on public schools. How outrageous is it to be using taxpayers' own money to tell parents that the cuts to their schools are not cuts but in fact funding increases. 
KELLY: I can't tell you how many elections I've covered where this issue has been an issue from both sides. Labor did the same when it was in Government - spent Government money on publicly funded advertising in the death-throes of a term. It's within the rules. You can do it, voters hate it but you can do it and you both do.
PLIBERSEK: Well, two things about that - we didn't cut hospitals and schools and then use the money we'd cut to have an advertising campaign saying how great our plan for hospitals and schools was. We did spend money on telling people smugglers not to put the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in danger by re-starting the traffic. That last time we were in government we tightened the rules when we were last in government, we've seen a loosening of the application of those rules under those opposite but look you've got to say the scale of the ad buy and the fact that they're cutting hospitals and schools to fund it is unprecedented.
KELLY: The election is going to be someday soon, we know that, the Prime Minister we heard there, his mantra seems to be 'Labor is full of lies when it comes to political advertising and a whole range of other issues'
PLIBERSEK: Is he saying that he's not spending $600,000 a day? He can tell us if he thinks the figure is wrong.
KELLY: They're saying that they are operating within the rules.
PLIBERSEK: Oh well they've changed the rules to make sure they're operating within the weaker rules that they've changed.
KELLY: He says you'll be telling lies each and every day, you've already talked about him lying, you've called him a 'dodgy ad guy' How negative is the election campaign going to be?
PLIBERSEK: Well we're not negative, we're...
KELLY: That's kind of negative.
PLIBERSEK: Well, look I'm making, I think, a fair criticism of the Prime Minister Fran but our positive plan for the future is there for everyone to see. We've got a plan for a living wage, we've got a plan for preschool, for three and four year olds, universal access to preschool; we've got a plan to restore the $14 billion cut from our public schools, give every kid a proper education, extra funding for TAFE, extra 200,000 people get an opportunity to go to university, getting rid of the out of pocket expenses in cancer care, all of these things are a part of our positive vision for Australia, finally dealing with energy and pollution by seeing greater investment in renewables.
KELLY: Just on that, because we've got a few listeners, saying let's talk about policy, let's talk about energy, let's talk about Adani, let's talk about Adani first, energy and climate change will feature. The Coalition is divided over whether they give the final approval for the Adani coal mine, this decision could soon be Labor's to make. Would Labor give a tick to the ground water plan for this project? It's already been approved by the Department.
PLIBERSEK: We haven't seen the documentation, what we've seen is that this project has to stack up environmentally-
KELLY: -It's been approved by the Department.
PLIBERSEK: We don't know what's sitting on Melissa Price's desk frankly. We've got a big fight between the Liberals in Victoria who are worried about losing Kooyong and are saying to the Environment Minister you must not sign and the Nationals in North Queensland who are saying you must sign. This shouldn't be a political football, it should be based on the science and economics, and I am sceptical given how many false starts there have been so we’re not relying on Adani for the extra jobs for north and central Queensland, we've invested in infrastructure projects we've committed to investment in infrastructure projects like Gladstone port upgrade and a range of other infrastructure projects because we don't think that relying on an overseas company that continues to miss deadlines and continues to provide, what seems like, quite concerning wrong information to the government is the way to ensure that there are jobs in north and central Queensland. We also know if you're going to move onto energy, that we have had had 13 energy plans from this government now and they still don't actually have one. We know that the future for Australia is in renewables because they're getting cheaper all the time.
KELLY: Well let's talk about yours, and a lot of people are wanting me to ask you about costings because it's suggested another reason for the delay in the election could be because the government wants the Treasury costings on your climate policy. Don't voters deserve to know as soon as possible what the impact of your carbon price will be on business, the economy, and electricity prices?
PLIBERSEK: We've been absolutely clear about that, for a start...
KELLY: We don't have the costings.
PLIBERSEK: For a start there is a saving to the Budget because we're getting rid of the $2 billion Emissions Reduction Fund, which is actual seeing emissions go up, how can you have-
KELLY: -But there's the baseline and credit scheme people want to know...
PLIBERSEK: Just a second, there's $2 billion less cost in getting rid of the Emissions Reduction Fund, which has seen emissions go up, the cost to the budget of our policy is just over $500 million. In terms of the cost to...
KELLY: Industry.
PLIBERSEK: Well, to our national wealth and national productivity, our reduction, pollution target has the same impact on our national wealth as the government's because we are allowing overseas credits to be used in our pollution reduction target, so the impact is same as the government's and Fran-
KELLY: -When will we get the modelling on the impact of the baseline and credit scheme?
PLIBERSEK: All of this will be clear, as costings always are, before an election.
KELLY: Last week of the campaign, or will you promise it earlier than that?
PLIBERSEK: We have consistently made our costings available earlier than the Coalition, last day before the campaign tactic that they use, slipping them out at the last moment. We will always make our costings clear.
KELLY: Can I just ask you very briefly, I'm way over time, we're going to be joined by the Education Minister shortly and Dan Tehan is going to bring in a policy to put people in jail who help uni students cheat at exams and writing essays, I think  New Zealand has done something similar. Do you support that?
PLIBERSEK: Look, it's disappointing that we haven't seen any details from the Government so I'm only going on what I read in the papers but any measures to reduce cheating are very important, it's important for our international reputation, it's important for students but truly Fran this to me smells like distraction. This is a Government that's cut billions of dollars from higher education, 200,000 people will miss out on a university education because they have recapped university places. Just as their free speech inquiry found, there was no crisis of free speech. I suspect this is a bit of a diversion to divert from their cuts.
KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you Fran.

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  • Rebeccah Miller
    published this page in Transcripts 2019-04-09 11:34:18 +1000