SUBJECTS: Labor's commitment to tackling climate change; Climate change; Adani mine; Labor's promise to review Newstart; Aged Care Royal Commission; Labor's commitment to childcare and childcare workers; Egging of the Prime Minister.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, PRESENTER: I want to bring in my first guest today. Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek, joins us now. Tanya, welcome.


KARVELAS: Good. We are going to start with policy. We will talk about egging a little later.


KARVELAS: But why is it a dumb question, as Bill Shorten said on Q&A, to ask the cost of Labor's abatement policies? Isn't it insulting to call a question like that - a reasonable question like that - dumb?

PLIBERSEK: No, that's not what he meant. He meant we are not considering the cost of inaction. We know that natural disasters are already costing the Australian economy about $18 billion a year, that's projected to double by, I think, 2038. So the cost of inaction is very high. And here's the dishonesty in Scott Morrison’s scare campaign about the cost - Warwick McKibben did the gold standard modelling on the costs of climate change action. He did it for Tony Abbott; and when he did that modelling, he found that the impact of Labor's higher targets and the impact of the Coalition's targets is the same because to reduce pollution, Labor will allow the purchase of offsets from overseas and the Coalition won't allow the purchase of offsets from overseas. So he has said economists agree that the impact of these policies is the same and it will continue to see growth of around 2 per cent of GDP into the future. Now, when Scott Morrison talks about the cost of his policies, he talks about the cost to the Budget of his policies, which is about $3 billion in this emissions reduction fund that isn't working, that Scott Morrison himself agrees is not working. We would scrap that emissions reduction fund, we’d save $2 billion from scrapping that fund. We want to invest in things like electric vehicle charging stations and - and some other investments that’d cost about $535 million. So the cost to the Budget of our policy is much smaller than the cost to the Budget of Scott Morrison’s policy.

KARVELAS:  But the question is about the cost to the economy, the job losses- 

PLIBERSEK: Economy – has Scott Morrison, has Scott Morrison answered the question about the cost of the economy? He hasn't. He keeps talking about the cost to the budget; and he won’t answer-

KARVELAS: Okay, I understand you're trying to contrast, you’re trying to contrast - you're saying; ‘cost-benefit analysis: the cost of the environment and the consequences are bigger from not taking the action’ that you've described-

PLIBERSEK: I say that absolutely and you look at, you think about-

KARVELAS: Okay, so taking that – one minute, I have to finish my question: taking that on face value, why not provide the costings so we can compare the two different sets of modelling to say it's going to cost this much if we don't and our policy costs this much? Because it's a fiction to say it won't cost anything to the economy.

PLIBERSEK: So the modelling is already out there. It's been out there since 2015; Tony Abbott commissioned it from Warwick McKibben. When you’re asking about the cost to the Budget, that's a different thing - the Parliamentary Budget Office can cost that; but the cost - the impact on the economy, which is, incidentally, continued growth in our economy and employment in our economy, that's been done. And I'll tell you something else, Patricia. There is a huge opportunity in investing in renewables. We believe that our 50 per cent renewables target would create 70,000 extra jobs. We see already, in Australia, people have made their own decisions about the fact that investing in renewable energy saves them money over time. We've gone from 7,000 homes with solar panels on their roofs, when we came to government last time around, to 2 million now. Australian families have made their own decision about the fact that there is an investment here - you invest in renewable energy and the payoff comes for Australia. It will come in reduced pollution and reduced power prices, that's why we've got programs like doubling the Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding, our Solar Schools program, our investment in hydrogen, making sure that we have the big-scale renewables like the hydroelectricity, wind and others in Tasmania. Right across Australia, we will bring down power prices and bring down pollution with greater investment in renewables.

KARVELAS: Okay, but do you accept that, by not modelling the policy that you're presenting to the Australian people for the next election - I mean you'd mention this 2015 modelling but it’s – you’ve just said it - it's 2015. It doesn't take into consideration the architecture that you've developed here. It is actually different to what you're presenting.

PLIBERSEK: Well Patricia, Warwick McKibben just a couple, you know, a week ago, ten days ago said; ‘yes, it's fair to say that because the Labor policy allows purchase of carbon pollution reduction from overseas, the impact on the economy is the same as the government's.’ And don't forget, there is plenty of modelling out there from ANU, from the CSIRO, talking about the cost of inaction - the cost of inaction. When it comes to power policies, energy policies, this government’s had 13 different energy policies. It actually, right now, does not have an energy policy. They've given up on the National Energy Guarantee. What is the cost to Australia of not having a policy that will bring down power prices and bring down pollution. The National Energy Guarantee modelling showed that - and this is the government modelling their own policy when it was their policy - said that households will save about $550 a year with the introduction of a National Energy Guarantee. Why has Scott Morrison abandoned this policy? Why won't Scott Morrison tell you what his energy policy is. He’s admitted-

KARVELAS: Well he says he has.

PLIBERSEK: Well, has he? What is it? 

KARVELAS: I'm not going to make the government's case for them. But he's articulated his policies. I know you don't agree with them.

PLIBERSEK: No, no, it’s not that I don't agree with them. I don't know what they are. It used to be the National Energy Guarantee. Well, in fact, to start with it was Scott Morrison carrying around lumps of coal. They shifted to the National Energy Guarantee - that was their thirteenth policy. When Malcolm Turnbull was turfed out and replaced by Scott Morrison, it is impossible to know whether that is still their policy - that they voted for it three times in their Party room. Apparently, it's not their policy any more. I don't know what their policy is.

KARVELAS: Okay, Labor has all but guaranteed an increase to Newstart following the review that you've promised. So let's just get some final clarity: will Newstart rise under Labor?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we're doing a review not with the intention of reducing Newstart. We accept that it's an inadequate payment - that people are struggling in poverty on Newstart. We need to make sure that we can afford the sorts of rises that people will suggest through the process of this review. Currently you're talking about a payment of up to about $776 of fortnight, but it can be much lower than that as well - depending on the age of the person and other circumstances; and Youth Allowance, of course, is lower again. Even business groups agree that this is actually trapping people in poverty and preventing them for example, you know paying for the the public transport to get to their job interviews or preventing them buying a clean shirt to go to-

KARVELAS: So would you commit to a Newstart rise in your first term if there is an elected Shorten government?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we accept that it's inadequate and an inadequate payment and we've committed to doing a review-

KARVELAS: Would you like to deliver a rise in your first term?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm not going to put a timeline on it, but I would like to see a rise in Newstart because I think people are really struggling to make ends meet.

KARVELAS: What did Bill Shorten mean last night when he said Labor was thinking about what we do about the low pay of aged care workers. Are you considering a pay rise for them as well?

PLIBERSEK: Well, there's a Royal Commission into Aged Care right now, as you know Patricia, and I would be very surprised if it doesn't make recommendations about workforce. We know that childcare workers are some of the worst paid workers in the country despite the fact that they do complex responsible work. Aged care workers are in a very similar circumstance. It's a largely feminised industry, but we don't have immediate plans to increase their wages. We've got to see what the outcome of the Royal Commission is. But as I say, workforce continues to come up as an as an issue in the hearings of the Royal Commission - the stress on the workforce, the low number of people who are caring for people in-

KARVELAS: So do you anticipate pay will come up as well and it will become a live issue if you're elected?

PLIBERSEK: Well, that'll be a matter for the Royal Commission. But I'd be very surprised if the Royal Commission didn't make recommendations around workforce.

KARVELAS: And pay specifically?

PLIBERSEK: I can't, I'm not going to speculate about that. I'm not going to get into hypotheticals, but I think most people would acknowledge that caring work that is generally done by women is underpaid. If you look across our economy, disability workers - when we were last in government, social and community sector workers, people who work in drug and alcohol counselling and refuges and so on - we supported a wage increase for those workers. As you know, we've already committed to the wage increase for early childhood educators because we don't think parents should be paying more for child care. We think they should be paying less for childcare. We've got an offer for parents to pay much less and even receive free childcare, but we think that the workforce should be properly remunerated. It's responsible complex work. We've asked early childhood educators in many places to increase their qualifications with our National Quality Framework when we were last in government. We haven't seen a commensurate rise in pay. I'd say this too, Patricia, we have a real problem with low wages right across our economy. We've got a real problem with the fact that wages aren't growing. The reason that we are so worried about very low inflation in our economy at the moment, the reason that confidence is so low is because wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. Many, many families are struggling.

KARVELAS: Let me pick you up on that. Bill Shorten keeps saying everything is going up but your wages, but if you actually look at the economy in the results today, not everything is going up is it?

PLIBERSEK: No, but the things that people rely on, that they're spending money on every week like power bills, childcare, private health insurance, there's a whole raft of things that are becoming increasingly unaffordable for families.

KARVELAS: But it's inaccurate to say that everything is going up, right?

PLIBERSEK: No, but you only buy one flat screen TV every few years, right? So the fact that the cost of electronics might be coming down is no comfort to people who are struggling to pay their power bills or struggling to pay for childcare. That's why our policies are focused on meeting those cost of living needs - reducing the cost of childcare, making it free for many families, we've got the same tax cuts - or larger - for 10 million working Australians, bigger tax cuts for 3.6 million working Australians under $48,000 a year. We want to restore penalty rates. We want to make sure our industrial relations system delivers a proper wage increases over time because we cannot keep this situation where wages are flat lining and expenses that families struggle with continue to increase.

KARVELAS: Just before I let you go, what do you make of the attempted egging of the Prime Minister this morning? What does it demonstrate about the kind of state of our democracy?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's terrible. I think it's, you know, it's such a discourteous thing. It would worry the people around the Prime Minister, his - the people who were showing him around that day. His security detail would have wondered, you know, what comes next do they have to protect his safety from an even worse attack. It reduces people's access to parliamentarians. Like you were saying before, when incidents like this happen security goes into overdrive. So it actually diminishes our ability to connect with voters and talk to them. So it's very bad for democracy. And I think even if you don't agree with Scott Morrison, you should respect the office of the Prime Minister of this country. We live in a democracy. It's very important to respect our democratic processes. And can I say this last thing Patricia? It's been said before, many people say it - the first person to raise their voice loses the argument. I think when we are having public debates about issues, behaviour like this doesn't win people to your cause. It actually turns people off your cause.  So I think that, whatever the point this protester thought she was making this morning has been lost, and I think perhaps even, I would say that,  whatever she was trying to convince people of, she's probably convinced more people of the fact that her argument is not worth making a proper reasoned debate. That, in fact, she would have turned people off whatever cause she was hoping to promote.

KARVELAS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you so much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.