THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
TUESDAY, 5 MARCH 2019
SUBJECTS: Tackling obesity with healthy eating in schools; wage stagnation; income tax; family and domestic violence; Free Trade Agreements; Liberal Political appointments.
LISA MILLAR, PRESENTER: Well the Federal Opposition will unveil a plan today to tackle rising obesity rates by encouraging healthy eating in schools. Here to tell us all about it is the Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Welcome to News Breakfast.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you.
MILLAR: We've just been hearing about the salt content in a lot of fast foods. Childhood obesity seems to be a bigger problem than ever in Australia.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it's absolutely alarming. The report that you did into fast food shows just one part of the problem. About a quarter of children are overweight or obese and one of the things that's happening is parents are starting to see children who are overweight or obese, they're starting to see that as normal body weight. We've actually lost an idea of what's normal. So today we're talking about the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. This is a program we established when we were last in government. It's actually lost its funding under this Government but there are about 800 schools that are already doing this program, we'll re-fund those schools and we'll also expand this program to another 1,200 schools. So this is a program where kids grow the food together, they harvest together, they cook together, they sit down and eat a meal together and they learn about nutrition along the way.
MILLAR: When you look at the problem that countries have with obesity, whether it's America or the UK, it seems that you're not going to fix the problem unless there's also a crackdown on companies and big business and who's providing the food. Is that on the plate, so to speak, for Labor?
PLIBERSEK: Well what we did when we were last in government was the five star rating on the front of food and that's obviously a good...
MILLAR: Doesn't seem to be working though...
PLIBERSEK: No it's not working yet, that's for sure. It's a good way of telling busy parents that this yoghurt is healthier than this yoghurt or if you're buying two cereals this ones got two stars this ones got four, well you're going to choose the four star one. But it's also an effort to get food producers to re-formulate their food – to put less sugar in, to put less salt in, to put less of the unhealthy stuff - and it was having an effect in getting food producers to re-formulate their food but there's so much more we have to do. We have to focus on active transport - more bike paths, more kids walking to school, more sports in schools - there's so much more that we need to do because it's about the food that we're eating, it's also about the lack of activity in our modern lifestyle.
MILLAR: Let's look at some other politics today, it's going to be a busy day we're going to hear from the Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He's going to be delivering a pretty significant speech where he's laying down the ground work for this election campaign saying it's going to be a contest between enterprise and envy. What do you say to that?
PLIBERSEK: I think in his world it's envy if an ordinary, working person wants a pay rise and it's enterprise if the CEO gives themselves a pay rise. I mean at the moment we've had historic low wages growth, the cost of everything is going up. Wages are not keeping up but CEO's salaries and profits and productivity in our businesses is going fine. So what we're saying, what we've always said is: when businesses do well, when the CEO can afford a payrise for themselves then perhaps they need to share that a bit with the workforce. And of course we need to provide the services that everybody relies on: health, aged care, child care, schools, hospitals. That's not envy. That's common sense.
MILLAR: Are we going to see something of a class warfare then in this election campaign?
PLIBERSEK: Well not from us. I mean you've actually got a Prime Minister that thinks it's envy for people who've not been given a payrise for years, who are falling behind, whose living standards are slipping in the face of the price of everything going up, he's saying that people who say “I want a pay rise” in those circumstances are envious. They're not.
MILLAR: But even with Labor's Bank Fairness Fund, you are starting to be portrayed by the Coalition as against big business and for the workers and that is something that the Coalition-
PLIBERSEK: Great. If, honestly-
MILLAR: Well I don't know if that will win you broad votes though?
PLIBERSEK: We are, unashamedly, the party of ordinary, working Australians trying to get a fair deal and the fact that we voted for the Banking Royal Commission 26 times while Scott Morrison voted against it 26 times and tried to give the banks a $17 billion tax cut at same time. I mean if that's the contest bring it on.
MILLAR: Well Scott Morrison is also going to say today that this is the most important election in decades and that Labor will repeal income tax cuts that were brought in last year, that you're not as keen on trade deals with your neighbours and there are question marks over it because of the pressure from unions already.
PLIBERSEK: Let's talk about income tax. We have a bigger tax cut for 10 million Australians. Anybody earning $125,000 or less under Labor gets a bigger tax cut, almost 75 per cent bigger, almost double the tax cut under Labor. You don't hear Scott Morrison talking about that. The people that we care about are the people that are catching the train to work this morning, that are going to work hard all day, rush home to pick up the kids, cook their dinner, supervise the homework and do it all again the next day. We're not apologising for not supporting the bank CEO's in their constant quest to turn their $5 million dollar pay packet into a $6 million pay packet. No apologies.
MILLAR: But just while we are on the union – business - workers. Because the lead story in The Australian today points to a battle that you are likely to face with unions, with a crackdown on companies sending jobs offshore. This is going to be a continuing refrain for Labor isn't it, thought this election campaign. The expectation from people who have waited a long time - Labor supporters - to get into government.
PLIBERSEK: So, we are unashamedly a pro-trade party because when we trade with other nations we find export markets for our own good and services. But what we won't apologise for is putting Australian jobs first. If there is an Australian in Australia available to do a job then we think that Australian should get the job before we open it up to an overseas worker to come in and do that job.
MILLAR: So you can keep the unions happy?
PLIBERSEK: Well it is not about keeping the unions happy, it's about putting the national interest first and making sure that we put the interests of ordinary working Australians ahead of any pressure from the unions or from big business or from Scott Morrison. We will do the right thing by Australian workers.
MILLAR: Let's turn to domestic violence. Labor announced a $60 million package in the last couple of days, it has now been topped by the Coalition’s $330 million extension of the national program that came in in 2010. Do you now need to match that, and is that what we are then going to see through this whole campaign, the duelling policies being released?
PLIBERSEK: Two things. Of course we welcome any expansion of services for victims of domestic violence. On first glance, a lot of what has been announced by the Government is just the continuation of existing programs, which of course we welcome. But with so much unmet demand, we think that the Government could have gone further and joined us with our commitment to 20,000 flexible emergency packages, and our other commitments such as 10 days paid domestic violence leave, because if you lose your job as well as being a victim of violence it dramatically reduces your opportunity to leave a violent relationship. We have also, of course, in the past committed to the $88 million to the emergency accommodation funding and the support for legal services. Our commitment yesterday is just one of the things we have committed in this area.
MILLAR: Can I just ask you about the diplomatic appointments. Labor has made it very clear that is it going to look at appointments like George Brandis in London, the most recent one to New Zealand. Will Labor commit, if you get into government, not to appoint ALP figures to diplomatic posts?
PLIBERSEK: When we were last in government we appointed both Liberal and Labor appointments. What you have seen from this Government is just an absolute abandonment of the idea that we need the best person for the job, in a bipartisan manner. And it’s not just-
MILLAR: So you will still put ALP politicians into diplomatic posts?
PLIBERSEK: What we did when we were last in government was we had both. We had a number of very significant Liberal appointments….
MILLAR: Why then be looking at George Brandis or…?
PLIBERSEK: Because they are just flat out political appointments, that actually are not suitable for the job.
MILLAR: So he would be one of the first to go?
PLIBERSEK: Well I am not going to start naming names...
MILLAR: You just said he is not suitable for the job.
PLIBERSEK: I am not going to start naming names. It's not just diplomatic appointments. You look at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. You have got dozens of recent appointments that are just ex-Liberal party staffers, that are failed Liberal Party MPs. These are jobs that are worth a quarter of a million dollars a year. This Government is in a rush for the door, they are in a rush for the exit, and whatever they can shove in their bags as they are leaving the place in terms of jobs for their mates, they are going to take. Its diplomatic appointments, it’s the Hello World travel scandal, it's the Administrative Appeal Tribunal, it’s Christian Porter’s bus in Western Australia that he had just forgot someone had given to him. This is a government of cronyism.
MILLAR: Tanya Plibersek, thank you for joining us.
PLIBERSEK: Lisa, thank you.