TRANSCRIPT: Sunrise, Monday 31 August 2015






SUBJECTS: Dyson Heydon, Peter Dutton’s Border Farce, Joe Hockey under pressure

DAVID KOCH, PRESENTER: It's D-Day for the chair of the unions royal commission. Dyson Heydon is due to decide today whether he'll continue in the role. He came in for criticism, if you’ll remember, after it was revealed he was due to give an address to a Liberal Party fundraiser. Mr Heydon says he pulled out after realising the event's links to the Liberals. The headache for the Government comes as it continues to cop criticism over a botched visa check planned for Melbourne over the weekend. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined our request to appear on Sunrise.

But joining me now is Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Tanya, good morning to you.  What are you expecting Dyson Heydon to do today?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I'm not sure what Dyson Heydon will do or say today, but the fact that this has been going on for well over a week now, I think suggests that it should be the Prime Minister that takes action rather than just allowing this uncertainty to drift on.

KOCH: Yeah, if he continues as the Royal Commissioner, will you comply with any findings?

PLIBERSEK: Well look I think it's very difficult for - you know, it's not just that you shouldn't be biased as a Royal Commissioner, there should be no doubt or no suggestion or no possible interpretation that you are biased. We have said all along that this royal commission is Tony Abbott's royal commission. It was set up to try and smear his political opponents.  We have spent $80 million of taxpayers' money on the royal commission. Now with the doubts about perception of bias with the Royal Commissioner, I think it really does bring the credibility of the royal commission into doubt.

KOCH: Because it is a really murky area, isn't it? This link between Labor and the unions because there are reports this morning Bill Shorten's campaign to become Labor leader received undisclosed donations from an allegedly dodgy secret union slush fund.  Does this raise more questions about union funding?

PLIBERSEK: Two things I’d say - if anyone does the wrong thing at a workplace, an employer, an employee, a union, they should be referred to the police, and they should face the full force of the law. The second thing - I notice this report you've referred to today. This is information that was contained in the royal commission’s interim report, released in December, nine months ago, made public at the time.  Since then, Bill Shorten has appeared before the royal commission and answered 900 questions before the royal commission. So I am not quite sure whether this is quite the revelation that the newspaper is suggesting.

KOCH: So are you happy that the links between Labor and the union movement are completely transparent now?

PLIBERSEK: You know I am proud of the links between our party and the union movement because it's the union movement over more than 100 years that has fought for working people, the eight hour day, sick-leave, holiday leave, maternity leave, all of these great things.

KOCH: I'm talking about this funding, the dodgy funding in the past?

PLIBERSEK: I think if there is any allegation that anyone’s done something wrong, it should go to the police. We have also got the Crime Commission which is like a standing royal commission. The problem with the royal commission as it stands now is that it's $80 million of taxpayers' money used by the Government to pursue their political opponents. I don't think Australians think that that's value for money, frankly.

KOCH: Let's move on to this Operation Fortitude. Now despite it being dropped, it has sparked controversy, a poorly worded press release made it sound like people would be stopped in the street and checked for visas. Despite it being canned, does Minister Dutton still need to explain what it is this operation was really all about or is it dead and buried?

PLIBERSEK: I think Peter Dutton is pretty happy to talk tough when things are going his way, it's pretty sad to see he is in hiding as soon as things get difficult. I think it’s extraordinary. Of course, if anybody has overstayed their visa, or there’s any visa fraud, of course the police should be involved in that.  But the notion that we would just be stopping people in the streets in Australia - we don't live in a police state. And it's clear now that Peter Dutton’s office did receive the press release that described what this operation would be like. The fact that they didn't - alarm bells didn’t ring at the time is extraordinary. I think the Minister really does need to take responsibility for what is happening in his department under his watch.

KOCH: Love your thoughts on this, more reports this morning that that Cabinet Ministers are urging Tony Abbott to dump Joe Hockey as Treasurer if the Government goes badly in the up coming Canning by-election. Do you think Joe Hockey could become the scapegoat here?

PLIBERSEK: Look I don't think it's the sales person that's the problem, I think it's the product. You know, in the last couple of years, we have seen the Australian budget - the Australian economy performing worse than it did during the Global Financial Crisis. Unemployment is higher. The deficit has doubled since last year. We have got 17 new or increased taxes. We have got business and consumer confidence flat lining. It is really no wonder that people are talking about changing the Treasurer. The real problem is that there is no plan for the transition of the Australian economy. The construction phase of the mining boom is coming to an end, what sort of work are we going to be doing in ten and twenty years time? How will we keep our economy strong and growing so there are opportunities for our kids?

KOCH: We will find out later this week when the latest economic growth figures are out.  Tanya Plibersek thanks for joining us. 

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Kochie.