TRANSCRIPT: Radio National Breakfast, Sydney, Tuesday, 10 May



TUESDAY, 10 MAY 2016

SUBJECTS: Dirty deals between the Greens and Liberals, Labor's refugee policy, Labor's Gonski education funding plan, negative gearing

FRAN KELLY, RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST: Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Opposition Leader and she joins me in the Breakfast studio. Tanya Plibersek welcome back to Breakfast.


KELLY: You're trying to focus on schools and schools' funding but Adam Bandt has really put this centre stage - this notion of a hung parliament, offering to form an alliance with Labor if that's the result. Do you welcome that offer?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think Australians would be horrified by the idea of another hung parliament. We did get through a lot, he's quite right. We legislated well when we had a hung parliament but it was extraordinarily difficult. And you’re quite right, some of the compromises that we made I think cost us quite dearly during that time in government.

KELLY: Why? Doing that, signing that agreement with the Greens... what was the problem with that?

Plibersek; Well, I mean one very clear example is we always wanted a floating carbon price and instead we had a fixed carbon price and I think that that was the wrong policy. It didn't serve us well, it didn’t serve the country well. But let's just take a step back... why does Michael Kroger want to do a deal with the Greens?

KELLY: I'm going to come to that, I just want to talk about this hung parliament notion first because Chris Bowen has said in the past and many others have too, Labor must govern alone or not at all. If it was a hung parliament, would you stage into that position? Would you be - a lot of pressure on you to do a deal.

PLIBERSEK: Well, we are playing to win. We are not playing to be part of a coalition government. We are playing to win. We are in a position where we can win at the moment, of course we are still the underdogs but we will be fighting for every seat and every seat that we lose to the Greens is a seat that makes it more likely that Malcolm Turnbull will be Prime Minister rather than Bill Shorten. So we're fighting, not just to take seats off the Liberals, we're fighting to keep seats that the Greens want to take away from Labor.

KELLY: And you do have a fight on your hand, we spoke with Anthony Albanese yesterday, his seat of Grayndler is under pressure, certainly if a deal is done with the Liberals to give the Greens their preferences. Your seat of Sydney too would be vulnerable wouldn't it?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, absolutely, and I think...

KELLY: Has a deal been done do you know?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely it has. Certainly in Victoria we are hearing all the time from our negotiators that the Victorian seats are off the table. So Melbourne, Batman, Wills there is a deal done. And you have to ask yourself, why Michael Kroger would want the Greens to pick up those seats. He wants the Greens to pick up those seats because it makes another Liberal government more likely. And I frankly think Greens voters would be very disappointed that their leadership has entered into this sort of agreement that makes it more likely that we have another Liberal government with the same cuts to health, same cuts to education, same policies across the board that Greens voters reject.

KELLY: But won't shouldn't the Greens do deals with the Liberals for Liberal preferences in the same way Labor has in the past

PLIBERSEK: Fine, but then they can’t pretend that they're not a political party like any other political party. They want the purity of not being considered a political party and, of course, they’re putting their own interests first. They’re going after seats like Sydney and Grayndler. They're telling their members that they should focus on Sydney, they’re campaigning very hard in my seat and in Grayndler. Well, that's fine, they’ve got every right to do that as a political party but it is absolutely cynical, it is absolutely political. They did a Senate voting deal with the Liberals that advantaged the Greens and the Liberals and Labor, against Labor's wishes. They’ve made all sorts of deals in this parliament including the change to the pension assets test that means 330,000 pensioners miss out on pensions down the track. They can’t pretend that they are not making pragmatic deals that hurt people.

KELLY: You are listening to RN Breakfast, it is 12 minutes to 8. Our guest is the Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek also the member for the Sydney seat of of Sydney.

PLIBERSEK: We know what you mean Fran [laugh].

KELLY: That seat is more vulnerable isn't it? The harder the Greens and the Government push you from both sides on the issue of asylum seekers and this campaign has kicked out day one with some Labor candidates disagreeing publicly with your party's position on asylum seekers. How difficult is that for you? You are a leading member of the Left.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is difficult always to explain a complex policy that tries to meet the needs across the board and that’s what we’ve got. We say we want to bring more asylum seeks to Australia we want to double our intake to 27,000 but we want them to come here safely. We don't want them drowning at sea. That's a more difficult position to sell than what the Liberals say, which is a three word slogan, or what the Greens say which is a different three word slogan. We want to restore the UN convention into our domestic legislation, we want to get rid of temporary protection visas, we want independent oversight of offshore processing, we want an independent children's monitor, or an advocate for children. We want mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse...

KELLY: But you support your government's policy to go with turn backs to stick with turn backs and offshore detention?

PLIBERSEK: It's something we hope we'll never have to do, but we have to have it in our policy in case it's necessary. We had this debate very fiercely at our National Conference which by the way anybody can attend; anybody can watch - not like the secret conferences that the Greens have....

KELLY: But just picking you up there, you probably will have to do it. I mean, the Government's just has had to do it this last week in their view and their policy had to pick up that boat from the Cocos Islands and under their policy turn it around and send it back to Sri Lanka. The boats are still coming.

PLIBERSEK: And we won't let the boats start again. Can I take you back a little bit in history as well, Fran? What we wanted to do when we were last in Government is have an arrangement with Malaysia where people would have been returned to Malaysia. We would have taken more asylum seekers from Malaysia and people who went to Malaysia would have been able to work, they would have lived in the community, their kids would have got an education and they would have had health care. The Greens and the Liberals in another one of their dirty deals actually combined to prevent that. So, we have a policy that is both compassionate and tough enough to prevent the boats starting up again. We need to send a very strong message to people smugglers who are criminals, who don't care whether people actually make it alive to Australia, that they will not be able to profit from human misery any longer. But we need to be a better international citizen too. We need to take more people and we need to take them safely.

KELLY: How damaging is a front page like this one in the Daily Telegraph for you in Sydney, 'Labor all at sea on boats?'

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the Telegraph will be campaigning very hard for their chosen government every day of the election campaign. I'm sure there'll be another story tomorrow.

KELLY: You're meanwhile trying to get the discussion onto schools and school funding and Labor has released a list of all the electorates and how much money they would get to their schools extra if they had a Labor government implementing the Gonski plan. Every child in every school will be better off under Labor, that's what your release boldly states.

PLIBERSEK: And it’s absolutely true....

KELLY: How can you guarantee that? I mean we've seen millions more poured into schools and we're going backwards.

PLIBERSEK: Fran, this drives me crazy this argument, this Simon Birmingham argument that more money isn't the answer. More money on its own is not the answer...

KELLY: That's right...

PLIBERSEK: That's why we have attached so many targets to this extra funding including 95% Year 12 completion rates. We've said that we want to return Australia to the top five countries in reading, maths and science. We want all students to study maths and science to Year 12 with a teacher that actually has a relevant tertiary qualification: a science, technology, engineering or maths qualification. We want all our schools to have a relationship with a school in Asia. We have attached goals to this extra funding. And the other thing I'd say is if you have a look at the report that came out on the weekend about twenty schools and what they have done with their extra Gonski funding already you would see the sort of difference this is making in our schools. This is very early on in the extra funding and what are schools doing with it? They’re hiring speech pathologists so kids who've been too shy to speak before can participate properly in class. Extra literacy, extra numeracy, languages, either English as a second language or languages other than English....

KELLY: Can I just ask you finally Labor's position on negative gearing? The Government is going hard against it and we heard the Treasurer today defending their position saying housing prices would be smashed in a city like Sydney under your policy. This is right in the heart of your electorate this issue, this whole... house prices, you know what everybody talks about and thinks about, people can’t afford to get in but nor do they want to see their housing prices collapse. How difficult is this issue for you?

PLIBERSEK: It's not at all difficult for me. I absolutely believe that the billions of dollars every year that we're spending on negative gearing and capital gains tax can be trimmed slightly and that means that new home buyers, first home buyers have a chance of getting into the housing market.

KELLY: Because house prices do come down a bit.

PLIBERSEK: No, they don't come down; they grow slightly less madly than they’ve been growing in recent years. I'm a home owner; I want to see my house continue to grow modestly in price. I'm also a mother of three kids and I want them one day to have a chance of owning a home of their own. And if house prices keep going up by 10%, 15% then they'll never be able to afford a home of their own and sadly I'm not in the position that Malcom Turnbull has suggested to other parents that they might go out and buy a home for each of their children...

KELLY: There's nothing wrong with parents wanting to do that though, having that aim...

PLIBERSEK: Of course they want to do it...

KELLY: Everyone wants to help their kids...

PLIBERSEK: I want to help my kids too, but do I think I'm going to be able to afford 3 houses in the Sydney housing market for my 3 children? I don't think so Fran. This is a policy that means that anybody whose entered into an arrangement already keeps all of the benefits of negative gearing and if you want to get negative gearing benefits in the future you have to buy a new house, a new apartment that adds to housing stock that actually means you take a bit of pressure of the rental market too, because we're adding to stock.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Fran.