SUBJECTS: Citizenship; Budget; TAFE cuts.

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: Returning to our top story now in relation to the citizenship crisis that's now engulfed the Labor Party and Bill Shorten. With me is the Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek. It was all handled pretty badly, wasn't it?

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well we are very sorry for the inconvenience of people having to go to by elections but we acted on the best advice that we had at the time. Our lawyers were very clear that for 25 years there's been a precedent that people have to take all reasonable steps and that our people had taken all reasonable steps. The High Court has taken a new, stricter interpretation and of course we accept that, we'll live with that and we're sorry that people have to go to by-elections because we know that most electors don't relish that and certainly we’re prepared, we're ready to go and have a fight on the ground about Malcolm Turnbull's vision for the economy. A $17 billion tax handout to the big banks.

GILBERT: We'll get on to that but just stay on the citizenship drama because you say that you've had the advice for 25 years but there was something that happened last year that changed all that and that was the initial high court rulings. As the Prime Minister argues this morning, it was clear that the High Court was adopting a black letter law approach to this Section 44 and at that time Mr Shorten and Labor should have referred those individuals. How is that not true?

PLIBERSEK: It's actually a bit rich for the Prime Minister who said that Barnaby Joyce will be found to be eligible and the “High Court will so hold”.

GILBERT: Well he wasn't when he went to the people. You didn't.

PLIBERSEK: Actually Barnaby Joyce remained the Deputy Prime Minister when it was clear that he was a citizen of New Zealand. Look I think it is clear that the interpretation has changed, we face these by-elections, we understand that it is frustrating for people in those seats to be campaigned at for the next few weeks.

GILBERT: Has it changed?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, it's changed.

GILBERT: Or did you just get it wrong?

PLIBERSEK: No it's changed. This is a newer, stricter interpretation and we've got legal experts like Anne Twomey, Kim Rubenstein and others who say this is a newer, stricter interpretation. So we've always acted with the best legal advice at the time, the High Court has issued a newer, stricter interpretation of course we'll accept that and live with it. I think it is important now that people on both sides understand that there is a newer, stricter interpretation and if there are people on the other side who fall foul of it it's probably time that they put their hands up.

GILBERT: But they've done that. John Alexander, Barnaby Joyce we've seen the by-elections there it was Labor that said it was rolled gold guarantee. Nothing to see here. Mr Shorten over cooked it didn't he? 

PLIBERSEK: We do still have some questions about people like Jason Falinski so I think it is important that both sides look at their approach now. Of course we've got Rebekha Sharkie who also has fallen foul of this. It's not good, we are very sorry that people have to go through these by-elections, we're sorry that we had the wrong advice that was based on what the High Court had previously decided.

GILBERT: Is Labor just trying to spread the mud when it comes to Falinski, because he says that his father was not afforded Polish citizenship because he was born out of wedlock and under Polish law therefore it wasn't conferred on him. The Polish ambassador says he doesn't have the rights of a citizen.

PLIBERSEK: I can't answer that. The High Court has found unexpectedly that Katy Gallagher had a problem. In our view and based on the legal advice that we always had, she had taken all reasonable steps. I think the newer interpretation means that people will have to re-examine the judgements that they've made in the past.

GILBERT: But is it fair for Labor to be raising questions about an individual like Jason Falinski if he can't answer that question?

PLIBERSEK: People have been consistently wrong about what the High Court will find. The Prime Minister said that Barnaby Joyce was eligible to sit in the parliament, to remain as the Deputy Prime Minister and “the High Court will so hold”. He was wrong. We were plainly wrong in our interpretation of the law as well. So I think perhaps re-examining the situation of all of our MPs on both sides is something that we need to do.

GILBERT: Does Susan Lamb have the documents she needs now to renounce?

PLIBERSEK: Susan Lamb will be eligible.

GILBERT: She will be? Meaning she has all the necessary documents?

PLIBERSEK: She will be eligible.

GILBERT: Because yesterday Bill Shorten couldn't answer that.

PLIBERSEK: She will be eligible. She and our other candidates were re-endorsed by the National Executive last night, she will be eligible to stand.

GILBERT: And just finally on this because obviously it has come back to bite the Labor Party. Do you regret the way that this has been managed because some of your colleagues have been saying to me for months privately that they just thought that the Labor leadership, you included and Mr Shorten, pushed the envelope too far on this.

PLIBERSEK: You can only act on the best legal advice that you have at the time. When the High Court changes the law we have to live with the new law. We completely accept that.

GILBERT: Okay, let's move onto the tax cuts. Tonight budget reply, chance for Bill Shorten to reset the discussion now on his own agenda. What's the message? What's it going to be?

PLIBERSEK: Well the message is we'll always look after low and middle income earners better than the Liberals and the Prime Minister has made his choice, he has chosen to keep his $80 billion worth of big business tax cuts, his $17 billion worth of tax cuts for the banks, his tax cut for people on more than $180,000, the cuts to the pensioner energy supplement, new cuts to TAFE, a big pea and thimble trick with aged care places. He's swapped out, he's made this big show and dance about home care, in fact those places have come from funding from residential aged care places and don't make a dent on the waiting list for home care. That's his set of priorities, our priorities will be different. They'll be looking after low and middle income earners and services; health, education, the things that people rely on-

GILBERT: You should also give an indication though, shouldn't you to small business around the country, whether you're going to withdraw those tax cuts. Because you talk about the $80 billion corporate tax plan but that includes businesses with turnover of five, six million dollars a year, they're small businesses, they're not big businesses.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, well we've accepted the tax cuts up to $2 million a year and we'll-

GILBERT: What about up to $50 or $500, where are you going to set the line?

PLIBERSEK: People will have plenty of information to make their minds up well before an election.

GILBERT: Tonight?

PLIBERSEK: Well before an election.

GILBERT: You really should be upfront with that sort of business sector shouldn’t you?

PLIBERSEK: They will have plenty of time to make their minds up and don't forget the arguments for this tax cut, the Government talk about how it’s going to drive jobs and investment, National Australia Bank made a $6.5 billion profit and then sacked 6,000 workers. So the idea that the animal spirits will be unleashed if only we'd give big businesses a tax cut I don't think anyone cops that.

GILBERT: Last question on TAFE, you mention the TAFE cuts but it's more state level where the funding issues are, because the Federal Government argues it raised the TAFE funding by $1.5 billion through its' Skilling Australians fund.

PLIBERSEK: That is absolutely 100 per cent wrong. They have cut $3 billion from TAFE and training. There are 140,000 fewer apprentices today than when they were elected. This budget has $270 million less for TAFE and training. Now they did talk Skilling Australians Fund, it hasn't raised the money that they thought it was going to raise so they’re cutting funding-

GILBERT: $1.5 billion additional funding...

PLIBERSEK: This is $270 million less than they promised, $270 million less than this Government promised last year.

GILBERT: We’ve got to go. Tanya Plibersek, thanks as always.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.