THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SUNDAY, 24 MARCH 2019
SUBJECTS: NSW State Election results; MPs' travel
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning and thank you for coming out this morning. The first thing I wish to do is congratulate Premier Gladys Berejiklian on her win at the New South Wales election last night. It is a historically significant win to see the first popularly elected female premier of New South Wales and I congratulate Premier Berejiklian personally for that victory. Of course there is still a degree of uncertainty around the number of seats, so it will be perhaps several days until we have a final understanding of what the new New South Wales Parliament will look like. As well as congratulating Premier Berejiklian I’d like to congratulate Michael Daley on running an extraordinary campaign. In a every short amount of time, Michael brought his team together and they ran, I think, a campaign that talked about the issues that matter to the voters of New South Wales. I congratulate the ALP team in head office for the work they did on this campaign and most particularly I want to send a message to all our volunteers, our hard working Labor Party volunteers, I saw so many of them out on the booths yesterday in their red t-shirts, campaigning their hearts out. I also saw a little boy yesterday, I think probably 10 or 12 years old, with a big Liberal Party t-shirt standing outside Forest Lodge Public School handing out Liberal Party how to votes, he was the only Liberal Party volunteer I saw there at Forest Lodge, and I thought isn’t it just a marvellous thing about our democracy in Australia that anyone can participate, that when we seek to change the government we do it peacefully, we do it through debate and discussion. And it does, you know I’m not happy about the result last night, it does make me proud to be Australian when I see how many people participate in our democracy in this way.
I saw Scott Morrison last night standing up to take credit for the win in New South Wales which is pretty extraordinary given that he wasn’t allowed out of witness protection until hours after the booths had closed last night. I think the lesson we can take from last night’s comments is that we still have a Liberal Party and a National Party at a federal level at war with itself. We saw Barnaby Joyce and Trent Zimmerman already going at it, hammer and tongs last night about who’s fault it was that their not doing better at a federal level. So what Labor will be doing in coming weeks is focussing on the issues that matter to the voters of Australia: health, education, jobs, cost of living, wages, an economy that works for all Australians. What we won’t be doing is getting diverted as the Liberals and the Nationals are by introspection and leadership challenges. I think we’ve learnt that Australians will not tolerate the sort of division and disunity that we’ve seen from the Morrison Liberals, this is a government that can’t run on its record, its record is the lowest wages growth in history, cuts to health, cuts to education, historic high rates of underemployment. And it can’t run on its vision for the future cause it really hasn’t got one. And it can’t run on unity and discipline because what we see day after day is a lack of unity and a lack of discipline from this government. In contrast Labor will be focussed on the issues that matter to the Australian community: health, education, jobs, cost of living, an economy that works for all Australians.
JOURNALIST: Tanya, does last night’s result cause you any doubt about federal Labor’s position?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we never take anything for granted for a start. A lot of people have made assumptions that Labor’s ahead going into the next federal election, I’ve been around long enough to know that you can be ahead and still lose an election. I was in parliament in 2001 when we were ahead for much of that period leading up to the election and everything changed at the last minute. So for a start none of us have taken this election for granted. But what I would say is Bill and I have lead a stable and united team for six years now, people know us and they know our policies. We’ve been very clear that our priority will be investment in health and in education making sure that wages grow up, making sure our economy works for all Australians.
JOURNALIST: What are the implications for federal Labor in New South Wales after last night’s result?
PLIBERSEK: I’m not sure that you can draw a very clear parallel between what happened in the state campaign and what we expect to see in the federal campaign. All of our candidates in New South Wales are working hard in their seats, talking about the things that will matter to voters come the federal election. I’d also note that in fact in a number of key seats, particularly in western Sydney we’ve seen strong swings towards Labor. Julia Finn’s done very well, Jodi McKay in her seat, so there are some very good news stories in amongst the disappointment of not winning the election last night.
JOURNALIST: Would you be satisfied with a 33 per cent ALP vote in New South Wales in May?
PLIBERSEK: I certainly wouldn’t be happy with a 33 per cent vote in May but we’re working very hard every day focussing on the issues. I know there will be a lot of analysis over the next few days over the entrails of how the campaign was run and so on but I think voters become very impatient with that very quickly, what they want to hear from us is how much extra funding their school will get; well I can tell them that every school will be better off under a Labor government. They want to know what’s going to happen to their local hospital; I can tell them that hospitals will receive upgrades and new facilities under a federal Labor government. They want to know what’s going to happen to wages, we have a very clear plan to restore penalty rates that have been cut by the Liberals.
JOURNALIST: What lessons do you take from last night, do you think Michael Daley's one topic campaign, you know, should that not have been how he ran it? Was there issues with the campaign?
PLIBERSEK: I think it was always extraordinarily difficult for a new leader with not much more than 100 days in the job to win an election. It was always an extraordinary ask to win 13 seats. I think it was a campaign that saw a lot of hard work and a lot of enthusiasm from our party members. I think the focus on hospitals and schools before stadiums was the right focus for the campaign. But I really want to be clear - I think all of the evaluation and re-evaluation of campaigns is something that political tragics like me are very interested in and will be doing lots of. I don't think that's what the voters of Australia want from us now. They want us to be very clear about how their lives will change under a Shorten Labor Government and that's what we're offering: a clear plan from Bill Shorten to lift wages, to improve hospitals, improve our schools, make sure our economy works for everyone, tackling the fact that cost of living is running away from us while wages are stagnating.
JOURNALIST: Isn't it a reality though that both the major parties seemed to lose ground last night? Is that an indication that people have stopped listening?
PLIBERSEK: I think neither of the major parties can take a great deal of comfort from the results of the New South Wales election last night. I think that's right, but again, I think that our introspection at this time is not what people want to hear from us - what they want to hear from us is what our plan is for the country. So that's what I'll be talking about, that's what I'll be focused on and I know that's what our candidates will be focused on as well. Our candidates in the federal campaign who are out there on train stations early in the morning before it's light, who are door knocking, who are phoning their electors. They're not going to be talking about the results of the New South Wales election, they're going to be talking about their local school, their local hospital, what's happening with wages and jobs in their local community.
JOURNALIST: But that's very much what Michael Daley's been doing for the last few months with his, his sort of laser-focused message - it didn't seem to resonate. That has to have lessons?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's very hard for a leader who has been in his position for as short a time as Michael Daley was. I think it was a monumental effort but we know that people's attention to politics in the lead up to a state election campaign, quite often people only focus at the very end - the last week, the last few days - Michael Daley's short time in the job was a real difficulty to overcome, it was always going to be difficult.
JOURNALIST: So your best hope in this coming election that voters will just vote to end the dysfunction of the Liberals?
PLIBERSEK: No. Our best hope and what we're focused on is telling people about our positive plan for the country and our investment in hospitals and schools, making sure that people, when they work hard, see that reflected in their pay packet; that wages actually go up, that we do something about underemployment in this country. [pause for background noise] So your question was: is Labor's best hope for us to focus on leadership?
JOURNALIST: No, for voters to focus on the dysfunction.
PLIBERSEK: Our best hope is for voters to listen to our positive plan for the country, to listen to the fact that we've got better funding for every school, that we will invest in 3 and 4 year old universal access to pre-school, that we'll restore TAFE, that we'll uncap university places so more Australians get the chance of going to university, that we'll rebuild our health system so your Medicare card counts more than your credit card, that we'll restore growth to wages, reverse the cuts to penalty rates. Our greatest hope is that - the fact that Bill and I have been laying out, for six years now, a positive plan for Australia - resonates with voters. Yes, the dysfunction and disunity in the Liberal party is a disaster for Australia and I think voters mark them down significantly on the fact that, even from last night, Trent Zimmerman and Barnaby Joyce are at it again. The party's still going on at Liberal party HQ and already the Liberals and Nationals were at each other's throats on the TV screens. I think that's a problem but the biggest problem is not their disunity, division and dysfunction - their biggest problem is what they've done to the country and the fact that they don't have a plan to make our lives better.
What have they done to the country? Well, we know debt's gone through the roof despite their claim to better economic management, wages are flat-lining, underemployment is higher than it's ever been, childcare costs are up, healthcare costs are up, power bills are up. They are so out of touch with the lives of ordinary Australians because they're so busy worrying about their own jobs, their own leadership battles. Our greatest hope is that people see our positive plan and respond to it.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Michael Daley should stay on as New South Wales Labor leader?
PLIBERSEK: That's completely a matter for the New South Wales party and we'll go through our normal democratic processes.
JOURNALIST: On Madeleine King, should taxpayers be paying for flights for her and other MPs to attend sporting events and then for her to schedule some meetings around?
PLIBERSEK: It's up to all MPs to properly account for their travel. I've seen the story that you're referring to and the story says that all of the travel was within entitlements - I think it's up to each MP to make sure that every time they are travelling on taxpayers' expense, they are doing a proper amount of work to justify that travel and that they are able to clearly account for the travel being within entitlements.
JOURNALIST: So you think she should pay that back?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to comment on that, all travel should be within entitlements and it's up to all MPs to make sure that it is.