SUBJECTS: Asylum Seekers; Michaelia Cash; Liberals’ big business tax cut; Post-secondary education.

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: This is AM Agenda. With me now the Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek. Thanks so much for your time. I mentioned earlier on the program 18 refugees have left Manus on Tuesday of this week for the United States. That brings the total number to 267 that have been resettled, that's a positive development you'd welcome?

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Yes, fantastic. We are so pleased to see resettlement in third countries for people who have been on Manus and Nauru. They've been there way too long. These facilities were set up as temporary processing facilities and many people have been, well they've felt they've been there indefinitely and so resettlement in the United States is a good step. We obviously can't understand why the Government won't accept the offer from New Zealand. We need to work with other countries in the region as well. You'll recall that Labor had a proposal to work with Malaysia so people could go to Malaysia and have work rights there, kids in school, healthcare and so on. And we also have to look at our foreign affairs policies and our aid budget to make sure that more people can stay safely in their homes as well. So I think the regional approach goes beyond third country resettlement and looks at how we can make it safer for people to stay at home.

GILBERT: One of the questions that's been asked is about a time limit.


GILBERT: Do you think there should be a time limit?

PLIBERSEK: I think we should aim to process people as quickly as possible, but of course we don't control what happens, in that sense, in Nauru or in PNG. It is up to governments locally to make the process and arrangements-

GILBERT: So you can't have a hard limit? It's got to be more a goal?

PLIBERSEK: No, but what we can do as Australians is make sure that there are third country resettlement options available and to pursue those, and I think this has been a great failure of this Government.

GILBERT: Is Labor trying to distract from the real question on Michaelia Cash AWU thing. The Government says you're trying to distract from the fact that, the question is, did Bill Shorten have the appropriate authority to give $100,000 of union money to Get Up and given, you know-


GILBERT: -his commitment to the union movement over the years surely he would have had the authority, wouldn't he?

PLIBERSEK: I cannot believe that the Government is so fixated on this. This is ten years ago. The current leadership of the union movement have made it very clear. Daniel Walton, the head of the AWU, has said again and again that these decisions were properly made at the time. Is anybody really surprised that the AWU wanted to support Get Up, an organisation that they've said they believe is in accordance with the-

GILBERT: But you've still got to have the appropriate authority to do it?

PLIBERSEK: Of course you do and Daniel Walton had said that they have provided that to the authorities as well. The real question here is did a Minister of the Crown inappropriately compromise an Australian Federal Police raid by wanting-

GILBERT: A staff member quit.


GILBERT: The staff member who notified the media.

PLIBERSEK: And what did Michaelia Cash know? Michaelia Cash mislead the Senate five times. She finally had to confess that she had mislead the-

GILBERT: Because the staff member mislead her.

PLIBERSEK: Well, really? Do we know that?

GILBERT: Well that's what she said.

PLIBERSEK: Well why doesn't she go to the court and say that? She's been asked to attend court and to explain that. Why is she fighting that subpoena in this way if she's got nothing to hide? Why doesn't she go and say that in the court and-

GILBERT: She said it here yesterday in front of all the cameras and-

PLIBERSEK: Well she also-

GILBERT: A very public denial.

PLIBERSEK: She also mislead the Senate five times. Last time she went to Senate Estimates and the last lot of Senate Estimates she hid behind a white board. This time she's refused to go to Senate Estimates. I think it is a bit rich for her to expect us to take her on faith in a press conference if she's not prepared to stand up in court, or stand up in the Senate and talk about her involvement or her office's involvement in this.

GILBERT: Given the sensitivity of union members money and, you know this, having been in this Parliament recently, recent last decade or so, it's been a huge story in terms of people being good to their word when it comes to their own members, I mean, from Kathy Jackson-

PLIBERSEK: Yes sure, and Kathy Jackson, mind you, is the person that Michaelia Cash and Christopher Pyne and all these people in the Liberal Party lauded as - I think Christopher Pyne called her, a 'lion of the labour movement' - so I think you'll forgive me again if I'm a little bit sceptical about taking Michaelia Cash's word for who the good guys are in the union movement, when she's lauding people like Kathy Jackson. But back to this point, the Australian Federal Police have given evidence in Senate Estimates that their under resourcing means that they are not able to pursue narcotics or fraud or organised crime. They're actually cutting back on these investigations. The Government sics them onto the Australian Workers Union because they want a set of minutes from ten years ago from a union meeting and when they sic them onto the AWU they tip off journalists that there's going to be a raid, potentially compromising the very raid that they have engineered, and then the Minister lies about it in the Senate and refuses to face Senate Estimates, two Senate Estimates in a row. How can she be a Minister if she can't face Senate Estimates?

GILBERT: Well she's going to be in Parliament all day today. You can ask her any questions you like.

PLIBERSEK: Great, she's finally succumbed to the pressure. Big deal.

GILBERT: They say that she's the responsible Minister today, she's showing up. Yesterday she wasn't, so she didn't, she did show up in front of every camera, but anyway let's-

PLIBERSEK: Oh really, so it was the Industrial Relations portfolio and the Jobs Minister didn't show up because it's not her portfolio?

GILBERT: Well representing Zed Seselja was the relevant Minister. Anyway, we can get into the-

PLIBERSEK: She represents Craig Laundy, they can run and they can hide but they can't change the fact the Minister Cash represents Minister Laundy in the Senate.

GILBERT: Sure. Well she will be there today anyway so let's move on to the issue of company tax cuts. Looks like the Government's had a bit of a win here. Brian Burston from One Nation split the latest divide within One Nation, there's a win for the Government at least.

PLIBERSEK: "Dierdre Chambers, fancy meeting you here". One Nation supports Government: headline. I mean-

GILBERT: Hanson doesn't.

PLIBERSEK: We'll see, ultimately we'll see what happens. I think it's very disappointing. I don't think One Nation voters think that the most important thing this Government can do is give the big banks a $17 billion tax cut over the next ten years. I don't think One Nation voters think that it is more important to give tax cuts to the big end of town than to properly fund our schools and our hospitals, the services that ordinary people rely on. This Government: cutting the pension, cutting the Energy Supplement from the pension, cutting schools, cutting hospitals, cutting TAFE, cutting unis, and all of those dollars that they are cutting, they're doing it so they can give the big end of town a tax cut. Is that really in line with One Nation voters' desires? I'd be surprised.

GILBERT: Let's wrap up just quickly. There's calls for a Gonski-style review of universities. Is that something you'd look at if you win the next election?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, we've already made an announcement that we would have, beyond the universities, a once in a generation review of how post-secondary schooling works, so TAFE and university together. Because more and more I think people throughout their post-school life will be doing some qualifications at uni, some at TAFE. The TAFEs have been really run down in recent years and what we want to see is a world-class university system, side by side with a world class TAFE system so that people can make decisions, when they finish school or throughout their working lives, to get great qualifications in either stream, TAFE or university, and to see both of those working more closely together. So I certainly support a review. There hasn't been a review of the TAFE sector for about 40 years, not since the Kangan Review, and the last university review was the Bradley Review about ten years ago. So it's time, but we need to think, a bit more future focus, like it won't be universities on its own in the future, we'll be getting our skills and education from all those institutions.

GILBERT: Across the board. OK Tanya Plibersek thanks so much, appreciate your time as always.

PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure.