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
WEDNESDAY, 13 FEBRUARY 2019
SUBJECTS: Medical evacuations from Manus Island and Nauru; Federal election; Scott Morrison’s part-time Parliament.
MICHAEL ROWLAND, PRESENTER: Still a fast-moving story this morning. The Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek joins us now from Parliament House. Tanya Plibersek, good morning to you.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning.
ROWLAND: Peter Dutton is claiming directly the Labor Party ignored advice from security agencies in pushing ahead with this bill. What do you say in response to that?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we did meet with security agencies, but unlike the Government, we don't leak those briefings. We keep confidential briefings confidential. What I would say is that we made some very important changes to this legislation. For example, we gave greater ministerial discretion to refuse transfer on criminal grounds. We have given a longer time frame for the minister to make a determination and very importantly we have confined these new arrangements to people who are already on Manus Island or Nauru to make sure that there's not even the suggestion that people should risk their lives to get on a boat thinking that they can take advantage of these new arrangements.
ROWLAND: Peter Dutton says one of the consequences is the convicted child sex offenders that he claims are in off-shore detention will now come to Australia. Will that be the case?
PLIBERSEK: Well, he plainly hasn't read the amendments which make it very clear that if someone has a criminal record or is a risk to Australia in a criminal sense, the Minister can reject their transfer to Australia for medical treatment. Look, I don't- I'm not surprised at all that this Government is trying to run a scare campaign on these legislative changes because they have got no other tool in the tool box. They can't run on their record - cuts to health, cuts to education, wages flatlining, historic high underemployment, they have doubled the debt. I heard him talking about debt earlier, Peter Dutton. I remind people they have doubled the debt. They can't run on their record. They can't run on unity because they're a divided rabble and they can't run on a vision for the future. All they’ve got left is scare campaigns so I'm not surprised they'll use the only tool in the tool box.
ROWLAND: As my colleague Laura Tingle said last night, what we saw yesterday was the first time of the majority of the Australian Parliament voted against what has been established asylum seeker politics for at least a decade. Are you confident you've got the Australian public on your side here?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I'm confident that Australians understand you can have strong borders without being deliberately cruel to people who are sick on Manus Island and Nauru, people who have been there for close to 6 years. Now, I think it's one of the great failures of the Government that we still have so many people on Manus Island and Nauru. For what reason have we- has Australia not accepted New Zealand's very generous offer to resettle several hundred asylum seekers, refugees, in New Zealand? That is just bloody-mindedness. It's the same bloody-mindedness that led the Liberals to join with the Greens to reject the Malaysia arrangements that Labor initially proposed. Tony Abbott's admitted that that was a mistake. Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton still haven't admitted that resettlement in Malaysia should have been an option that we had available to us.
ROWLAND: So the Labor Party is quite happy to fight an election that the Government at least is keen to frame around the issue of national security?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think Australians are too smart to fall for a Government that retreats back to the only thing it knows, which is scare campaigns. Australians know that their wages are flatlining but the cost of everything is going up. They know that they're living more and more on the credit card because they can't keep up with the cost of living. They know that energy prices have gone up but so has pollution. They're worried about the fact their kid’s school isn't properly funded, that their parents' aged care, their own medical treatment, is really falling below what we expect in this country. Australians are too smart to fall for a Government that has only one speed which is scare campaign.
ROWLAND: Will the Labor Party be moving a motion of no confidence in the Government?
PLIBERSEK: We were very clear that we didn't see the issues yesterday as an issue of confidence. This is only about getting sick people on Manus Island and Nauru the medical treatment that they need and that we owe them given how long they have been essentially in Australia's care.
ROWLAND: And now that's dealt with, will the Labor Party be moving a motion of no confidence in the Government?
PLIBERSEK: We don't have any plans to do that, but I think Australians looking on this divided and incompetent rabble of a Government would be hoping for an election sooner rather than later so they can send a very strong message to the Government that the cuts to health and education, the flatlining wages, the falling standards of living are a serious problem.
ROWLAND: Finally the Opposition is very keen to extend Parliamentary sittings so Parliament can deal with the fallout from the Banking Royal Commission and it appears Bob Katter whose vote you need is pretty reluctant on that front. So does that disappoint you?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we'll keep working with all of the crossbenchers to make our case for extending Parliament. It is unbelievable, I think Australians would find it extraordinary to know that Parliament is sitting for 10 days in eight months. We have got too much on the agenda to be a part-time Parliament. Of course, it's the recommendations of the Royal Commission - there will be some that we can legislate quite promptly where there is agreement between the Government and the Opposition, but we have got so many important issues facing us as a nation. Does the Government really believe that Australians will cop a Parliament sitting 10 days in eight months?
ROWLAND: Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, thank you so much for joining us on News Breakfast.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you