THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SUNDAY 29 JULY 2018
SUBJECTS: By-election 'Super Saturday' results.
BARRIE CASSIDY, PRESENTER: And now also in Sydney is Labor's Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek. Good morning. Welcome.
TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi Barrie. How are you?
CASSIDY: Very well. How much are you reading into a series of by-elections when you know, and we all know, that governments almost never take seats from Oppositions in by-elections.
PLIBERSEK: Well we are very grateful to the electors that have re-elected our terrific Labor candidates. Taking four out of four of those seats that we held is something that we are very proud of. We had the best candidates and the best policies. I think this has been a resounding endorsement of our focus on health, on education, on jobs, the pay and conditions of workers, and it's been I think a repudiation of the Government's message that if we give tax cuts at the top end those would trickle down to benefit ordinary Australians.
CASSIDY: But you did no more though, and Christopher Pyne made this point, you did no more than what Oppositions have done for almost 100 years.
PLIBERSEK: Christopher Pyne is...you've really got to give him credit don't you for being able to see the glass half full, it was a very Pollyanna-ish performance just then. In Mayo, this is a seat that the Liberals have held for 32 of the last 34 years. They had a swing against them. In Longman, in Braddon, they are seats that have frequently been held by the Liberals or the LNP in Queensland, very, very marginal seats indeed, in fact Longman was a margin of 0.8 per cent, certainly a seat that they could have expected to win back. Of course the results have gone against them there. They weren't brave enough to stand candidates in either Perth or Fremantle, but Perth is a seat that had more Liberal primary votes than Labor primary votes at the last election. They were too gutless even to stand there. So I would say all in all this has not been a good showing for the Government. But it's important for Labor now to focus on what comes next and that is continuing to work on the policies that will bring most benefit to ordinary Australians - a great health system, good education policies, decent schools, TAFE and universities, and looking at what's happening in workplaces - record low wages growth at a time when peoples' expenses continue to go up. That's what we're focused on.
CASSIDY: What happened in Braddon in Tasmania? Why did you fail to get anywhere near the average by-election swing?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it's interesting isn't it that people keep changing the benchmark for what success looks like. A win is a win is a win and we're so proud of Justine Keay and her fantastic campaign team, and we're proud of the issues that we focused on, the way they resonated with people down there. Healthcare, the number one issue as Justine has said. I think it is obvious that the very strong showing from the independent down there took votes away from Labor but also took away votes from the Liberals down there, and the Greens. It was a very strong campaign from a very strong local independent.
CASSIDY: In the run up to it of course there was a lot of speculation around Bill Shorten's leadership based on polls that turned out to be fairly dodgy, but do you accept though that nevertheless these stories that went on for so long might have done some damage?
PLIBERSEK: I don't think there was ever a genuine problem. What we had is a media organisation who were very keen for Labor to be talking about ourselves. We didn't succumb to that temptation to talk about ourselves. We continued to focus on what matters in people's lives. The schools they send their kids to. The hospital that they can rely on when they're sick. We know that News Limited would be very keen for us to be focusing on internal Labor Party debates. That's not because News Limited want us to win the next election. It's because they want us to lose the next election. We're not going to be sucked in by that.
CASSIDY: So you think the speculation around leadership will now go away?
CASSIDY: And the timing of the next election? Do we now take Malcolm Turnbull on his word? I mean, he said all along that it won't be until next year.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah well I think it might have been a bit earlier if the results has been a bit different, but who knows what Malcolm Turnbull will do. He's made all sorts of odd decisions, I think the length of this election campaign being just one of them. Who knows what he'll do.
CASSIDY: Thanks for your time this morning.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you Barrie.