THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC RN DRIVE VICTORIA WITH NICOLE CHVASTEK
THURSDAY, 11 APRIL 2019
SUBJECTS: Government division and chaos; Labor unity and stability; Murray Darling Plan; Adani; Electric Vehicles.
NICOLE CHVASTEK, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Labor Leader and she's the Member for Sydney. Tanya Plibersek, good afternoon.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi Nicole. How are you?
CHVASTEK: I'm good. Under Labor, Australia's debt soared close to $400 billion. The Prime Minister points to this trust deficit when it comes to Labor managing the books. How can you be trusted not to blow that out again?
PLIBERSEK: Well we kept Australians working during the Global Financial Crisis and after campaigning on debt and deficit the Liberals have actually doubled Australia's debt. Since Scott Morrison was Prime Minister we've been adding $100 million a day to national debt. It's extraordinary that he would claim that things have been turned around when both net debt and gross debt have doubled on the watch of the Liberals. And they've managed to do that while cutting services. They've cut health, they've cut education, cut the ABC, cut SBS, they've cut pensions, and yet debt has still ballooned under their watch. He's right that people will have a choice, that's for sure, but it will be a choice between a plan for a fair go from Labor, and more cuts and chaos under the Liberals.
CHVASTEK: He's also said that he will deliver a surplus and in the next financial year those surpluses will start and within 10 years that debt will be brought down to zero.
PLIBERSEK: He's predicted a surplus and a big part of that predicted surplus relies on under-spending in the National Disability Insurance Scheme. How heartbreaking is it for people who've been trying to get a NDIS plan, who've been made to wait, or been given fewer services than they need. They're being told that the surplus is there built on the back of under-spending on people with disability. That's nothing to be proud of. And I'd also say of course that when you're talking about the economy you've got to ask who's the economy working for? We actually have historic low rates of wages growth in Australia right now, we've got declining standards of living, we've got people who are spending less money, they're less confident to spend and that's affecting economic activity. I mean, who is the economy supposed to be working for? It's supposed to be working for ordinary Australians and it's simply not. You ask people how they feel, do they feel better off? The answer is a big fat no.
CHVASTEK: What about regional Australia? Labor's focus appears to be again on the big cities - a third of the population live in the regions.
PLIBERSEK: Well absolutely and it's the regions that have been hardest hit by the cuts that the Liberals have made. If you look at some of the Victorian regional seats, if you look at for example, I'll just take one at random, Gippsland. Gippsland will be $23 million better off in the first three years of a Labor Government when it comes to public school funding. Or Mallee, $31 million better off for public schools over the first three years of a Labor Government. If you look at what's been happening with hospitals - $183 million cut right across Victoria. We want to provide better hospital services in our cities, in our towns, in our regions, in our suburbs, in our remote areas. And that's why plan's like Labor's cancer plan that we announced last Thursday night in Bill’s Budget Reply has specific measures to make sure that we close the gap in cancer survival rates between cities and regional areas.
CHVASTEK: But Tanya Plibersek, Bill Shorten also talks a lot about unity in his reply to the Prime Minister this morning, and yet when Labor were last in office and dealing with real pressures of office, not just able to make all of these sort of promises on the 'never-never' I think the expression is, Labor were shambolic. It was an era known as the Gillard-Rudd-Gillard era and it was Bill Shorten who was in fact the architect of much of the behind the scenes power plays and machinations, and now you want him to become Prime Minister.
PLIBERSEK: We've been united and disciplined for five and a half years, we've got the most comprehensive policy agenda of any opposition going into government in living memory. We've got a leader who is consultative and inclusive and leading a united team. We've changed our rules so we can't change leaders and in contrast, you've seen the Liberals and Nationals - the Nationals were fighting over their leadership just a couple of weeks ago. The Liberals have had three Prime Ministers in their time in government. You know, I would give Labor ten out of ten for governing the country when we were last in government but I would give us two out of ten for governing ourselves. We learnt our lesson, we changed our rules, you can see from our behaviour, from the unity, from the comprehensive policies we've developed that we're focused on the Australian people. What you've seen from the Liberals and Nationals in recent times, a million bucks a day in taxpayers' money being spent on ads to keep them in office, $180 million press conference on Christmas Island for the Prime Minister; and a rush to appoint their old mates to as many jobs as possible on their rush out the door. You don't see discipline, unity and a focus on the needs of ordinary Australians from this Government, you just see them focused on themselves.
CHVASTEK: What is Labor going to do to save the Murray Darling?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it's important that we work together across the states and across farming communities and people who are interested in making sure we keep the environmental flows. I don't think the problem is with the plan so much as the implementation of the plan; and we think that we need to make sure that the plan is properly implemented - that the river is protected and that the livelihood of people who are living on the river is also protected.
CHVASTEK: And what are you going to do to stop the provision of water to huge irrigators?
PLIBERSEK: Well, again, I think it's fair to say that it's not the plan that's the problem. We've seen some very poor behaviour or allegations of very poor behaviour from public servants who've been managing the flows of the river. We need to make sure that we are, yes, protecting the livelihood of farming communities along the way; but also protecting the drinking water of communities at the end of the system.
CHVASTEK: And what about climate change? What's Labor's position on, say, giving the green light to Adani?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we've been very clear about our position on Adani and that you need to follow the law and follow the science. I'm pretty sceptical...
CHVASTEK: The science is that they don't want anymore, that coal-fired power stations are the last thing that the planet needs.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, well, what we've seen from the Government is Melissa Price being bullied into making a last-minute approval; and we've seen the Government pull the pin on Senate Estimates so that the CSIRO can't be questioned on, what we believe are, concerns about the approvals process relating to water. We are, we are sceptical about whether this mine's likely to go ahead any time soon. There's been delay after delay - Labor certainly would not spend a dollar of taxpayers' money on propping up this mine. The Government's been prepared to put their hand into the pocket of taxpayers to the tune of $1 billion to support this mine. And when it comes to talking about coal-fired power, we've said first of all that there'd be no taxpayer support for new coal mines and that we would focus our efforts on increasing renewables in our energy mix. We know that renewables are cheaper than coal now and by focusing on renewables, by having a strong renewable energy target, by investing in large scale projects through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and domestic projects like batteries - through our battery program; we can bring down pollution and bring down the price of power.
CHVASTEK: Well, the Prime Minister's made a great deal of hay about the fact that Bill Shorten doesn't know how long it takes to charge an electric car.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, and he's got his own Ministers out there saying with super-fast charging, you can do it in fifteen minutes. So, I think it's a bit rich, I mean truly these people are trying to whip up a scare campaign on cars that pollute less. It's like, you know, someone going out there campaigning against the mobile phone ten years ago. Or campaigning in favour of beta videos once upon a time. These people have never seen a technological innovation they weren't prepared to try and whip up a scare campaign about. We say that Australians currently have less choice when it comes to less polluting vehicles. We actually have worse emission standards than the U.S or Europe; and when it comes to electric vehicles, you look at the Australian market - it's tiny by international comparisons but what's, I suppose, even worse about it - if you want an electric vehicle in Australia, you're looking at at least $60,000, probably $100,000. There are models for sale in the U.K right now that cost AUD35,000. We are being denied choice here in Australia because of the Government's cave-dwelling attitude.
CHVASTEK: Tanya Plibersek, when can we expect you and the Labor leader Bill Shorten in regional Victoria?
PLIBERSEK: All the time - very often.
CHVASTEK: We look forward ...
PLIBERSEK: It's always such a pleasure.
CHVASTEK: All right, we look forward to welcoming you to the program. Thank you so much for giving us your time this afternoon.
PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure, Nicole, thank you for having me.
CHVASTEK: Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Sydney.