THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SKY NEWS: AM AGENDA
TUESDAY, 14 JUNE 2016
SUBJECTS: Orlando shooting; Labor's plan for greater transparency at Nauru and Manus Island; Labor's support for foreign aid and the UNHCR
KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: I've got the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek. We'll get to the campaign in just a moment but Tanya Plibersek, I've got to ask you for your reaction to this atrocity in Orlando Florida - just so shocking to see this latest terrorist attack.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I think it's horrific. Anybody who has read about this - seen the images on TV would be truly shocked - both at the size of the death toll, really one of the largest attacks of this type that we've seen. But also of the viciousness, the idea that people out - innocently enjoying a night out - could be slain in this way. I think it's obviously important to say that we stand with our friends in the United States to say how abhorrent this act is, but also stand with the gay and lesbian community to say it is plain that they have been targeted. Daesh, IS - whatever you want to call this organisation - is an organisation based on hatred. Based on hatred of people who don't share their religious views, based on hatred of people of different ethnicities, women, gay and lesbian community - it is an organisation and an ideology driven by hate.
GILBERT: And it's another example of how hard it is to deal with the threat of the 'lone wolf' attack?
PLIBERSEK: Well of course, details continue to be a little bit sketchy but all of the evidence suggests that this attack was motivated by IS. They certainly seem to be claiming credit and so over the coming days we'll see just how close the relationship was between the gunman and the organisation. But certainly motivated by a very poisonous organisation and a reminder, of course, of why Australia has stood with the international community to fight this organisation. These attacks are happening daily in Syria and Iraq and we don't want to see this type of attack spread - this type of ideology spread to nations around the world.
GILBERT: Obviously our thoughts are with the community, the Orlando community, the LGBTI community there as well. Obviously it's shocking - this has become a - immediately - a political football as you well know in this presidential season. What do you make of the comments made by Donald Trump and others?
PLIBERSEK: I just don't think it's the time to be making any sort of political comments about this. If you look at the coverage of the grieving families and friends of those who have lost their lives - I think that really tells us all we need to know about where our focus should be at this time. It should be on bringing what comfort we can to people who have lost loved ones. To people who have been injured, to people who have had their lives shattered by this.
GILBERT: Yes, well it's good to see that both sides of politics in this country have had a moderate tasteful response to the developments, these shocking developments we've seen in Orlando. I want to ask you about a few things that Bill Shorten said last night. One, if you win the election you'll allow journalists and humanitarian workers into Nauru and Manus Island. Is that something he said on the spot or have you considered this for a while?
PLIBERSEK: We've already said in the past that if we were elected we would have an independent children's advocate. That we would support mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect and that organisations working on Nauru or Manus Island wouldn't be punished for speaking up about their concerns. In fact, they'd be supported to do that. You remember the Government's attack on Save the Children, the organisation that raised some concerns about treatment of children, in particular on Nauru - actually lost their contract, they were attacked by the Government for speaking up. We of course want to see greater transparency, greater accountability where ever we can. These are tax payers' dollars being spent and it is important that Australian taxpayers feel confident that they're being spent well.
GILBERT: I want to ask you about taxpayer dollars being spent elsewhere in the aid budget and it's linked to what we are talking about in terms of the asylum seeker issue. Do you believe it’s right for the aid budget to be used to pay for costs around asylum seekers?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's important that we use the official definitions of what is aid - that the OECD have developed - so that all countries measure their aid effort similarly. We are, for example, spending $450 million to better support the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. We know that there are a larger number of displaced people in the world than ever before. We’ve got about 60 million displaced people in the world. So we think for example, a contribution to the UNHCR to help people who are in countries of first asylum be identified to determine whether they are refugees or not. To support providing health, education, income to those people while they are in countries of first asylum. It's a very obvious example of where spending on refugee support is absolutely consistent with our official development assistance or our aid budget aims.
GILBERT: In terms of the broader parameters, you've committed an ambition of 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income. Have you got any time frame in your mind as to what you would see as the time you'd like to see Australia back at that level? Given it was for Labor, really, you were proud about that as being your goal but now it's simply become an ambition into the never-never?
PLIBERSEK: We actually almost got there too, Kieran. You'll recall that we were very close to reaching 0.5 per cent before the last election. What that means is that fifty cents in every $100 of our national wealth would be spent helping the world's poorest people. And I have to say that wasn't just Labor's ambition - John Howard said that was his target as well. Before the last election, Tony Abbott said that it was his target; in fact, Scott Morrison's still saying that it's his target. Given the Liberals have cut $11.3 billion from our aid budget, we’re not going to be able to get back there soon. As I say, Labor was almost there, the Liberals have ripped $11.3 billion from our aid budget. We have already announced that we would spend $800 million more than the Government on aid, including extra support for the UNHCR and making sure that we don't have a further drop in aid between thi s year and next year but to get to 0.5 per cent of GNI - that will take us some time.
GILBERT: When you say some time, just to get a sense for the NGOs who work in this space, how much of a priority would it be for you if you are the Foreign Minister come July 3rd?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it's absolutely vital for us to rebuild our aid budget. It's our moral responsibility as one of the strongest countries in the world, one of the best off countries in the world, but it's also in our own national interest. We know that Australia benefits from the prosperity and security of our neighbours. Countries like South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia were all previously recipients of Australian aid. They are now major trading partners. We know that in an increasingly interconnected world, that diseases - like Zika virus most recently - can spread very quickly and we benefit, we are safer, if the health systems of our neighbours are safer. We can’t be secure and prosperous in a world that is insecure and struggling economically, so it's in our own best interest to support an increased aid budget. But it is of course competing with other aims. We've seen this government cut the guts out of our hospitals, out of our schools, out of our TAFEs, our universities - 122,400 fewer apprentices. We've seen $560 million cut from Indigenous programs in this country, so we are going to have a lot of rebuilding when we return to government.
GILBERT: Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time this morning, we are out of time.