SUBJECTS: International Women's Day;  Adani; Reproductive health; Liberals’ cuts to schools.

SAMANTHA MAIDEN, PRESENTER: Joining us now live from Sydney is the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek. Good morning.


MAIDEN: I have to start by asking you about this little mini controversy that blew up yesterday after you delivered that speech to the National Press Club to mark International Women's Day. Let's just have a quick listen to the reaction of the crowd when a couple of male reporters asked some questions about Adani.

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MAIDEN: Tanya Plibersek, were you shutting down those male reporters because you've been accused by some of not giving them a go?

PLIBERSEK: Oh that's just completely unfair. There were two questions before those questions were asked, both asked by women, and then those two reporters asked about Adani, and I think the audience was a bit frustrated because they were there for an International Women's Day speech and they wanted to discuss some of the policy announcements we'd made, but I answered their questions. I think they were just doing their jobs so I was happy to answer their questions.

MAIDEN: All right well moving on to more substantive issues then, you did talk about in your speech that you'd like to see women having more access to long form contraception. Obviously this came up as well in relation to the abortion debate and I'll be speaking with Gina Rushton later in the program, I believe she's been talking to some women that have been forced to pay thousands of dollars to come to the mainland from Tasmania to secure a pregnancy termination. These sort of long form contraceptions are available already but what could you do to make them more prevalent?

PLIBERSEK: The benefit of long acting removable contraceptives is you don't have the same sort of errors that you have with people forgetting to take the Pill, so they've very safe and good quality contraceptives. The problem at the moment for most doctors is you do have to take a little bit of time to properly insert them and I'm not sure that our current Medicare benefit schedule really recognises that, so we do have to look at making sure more doctors, and even better practice nurses or nurse practitioners are able to insert these contraceptives, long acting contraceptives for women. I don't know how many times women have had to go to the GP just to get their Pill prescription filled but something that lasts for a few years instead of sending you to the doctor regularly just to get a Pill repeat is a great benefit as well. So we just have to get the, I suppose, the economics right in the doctor's surgery to make these a more attractive option for doctors to offer to their patients.

MAIDEN: Are you also looking at actually reducing the cost of securing a pregnancy termination in Australia? We're told it can cost up to $700, even with RU486. Is there a new Medicare item number or some new reform that you can look at to make that more affordable?

PLIBERSEK: We made an announcement recently in Tasmania with the Labor Leader down there, Rebecca White, and she made an announcement that terminations should be available in public hospitals in Tasmania. Sadly obviously that won't happen now that she has not been elected, but we also committed to a reproductive health hub down there, a million dollar reproductive health hub, that would include a better support for women accessing medical and surgical terminations. It's a shame. When we were in government, Labor put RU486 onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. There are the additional costs, there's not just the cost of the medicine, there's the cost of blood tests and ultrasound and so on. But all of these really should be better covered by our bulk-billed medical services, because the idea that a woman would proceed with an unplanned pregnancy simply because she can't afford a termination is really a tragic thing to think of the life that a child born in those circumstances will have. So we need to have better sex education, we need to have more people empowered to say no to sex if they don't want it, we need to have better contraceptives including long term contraceptives, we need to have better access to affordable and safe and legal abortion services in Australia. We've still got unfinished business in the area of reproductive health.

MAIDEN: OK, I also want to ask you about this letter that Sky News has obtained that Bill Shorten has written to the Catholic schools sector. This is a letter from Bill Shorten to Archbishop Dennis Hart where he outlines obviously that the Labor Party wants to address what they see as a shortfall of funding to Catholic schools in the lead up to the next election. Now, they talk about the fact that in this letter that they, Mr Shorten, criticises the abolition of the system weighted average. Is that something that you plan to reinstate?

PLIBERSEK: The first thing to say is the $17 billion of cuts to all schools have really hit school systems hard. The hardest hit school system is the public school system. 86 per cent of the cuts come from public schools, 12 per cent of the cuts come from Catholic schools, but just 2 per cent come from independent schools. So yes of course we will be increasing funding to Catholic systemic schools but the biggest increases in the shortest time will go to the neediest schools, and most of them are in the public system. It's no - what's in the letter is nothing different to what we've been saying the whole way through - that we will restore funding, we will restore every dollar of the $17 billion that the Federal Government has cut from our schools, and that will mean much better funding for public schools. We've seen public schools now face a cap on the contribution of the Commonwealth Government to their schools of 20 per cent. You can't expect more than 20 per cent of the cost of educating a child if your child goes to a public school. But the new formula has also seriously disadvantaged low-fee Catholic schools. Many low-fee Catholic schools are looking at doubling or even tripling their fees. We've seen very large falls in some areas, large falls in enrolments because schools are faced with increasing fees to this extent. We want to give parents the choice - if they want to send their kids to a low-fee Catholic school they shouldn't be ruled out from doing that because they can't afford $8,000 or $10,000 a year to do so. So our commitment is to restore the funding and the biggest beneficiaries will be public schools and low-fee Catholic schools. Go on, sorry.

MAIDEN: Just finally Tanya, very quickly on Adani, what are you going to do about all these leaks from Shadow Cabinet and has Bill Shorten overstepped the mark in terms of what has been agreed on Shadow Cabinet in terms of what he is saying?

PLIBERSEK: I don't know about all these leaks, as you put it. You've got a government that's a soap opera. I read it described I think by Jacqueline Maley as a 'telenovela'. I think we've been an incredible united and disciplined Opposition. People are allowed to have their own views, there's nothing wrong with having healthy debate within political parties. Our position is that the project has to stack up environmentally and economically, and the more we see of the project the less it looks like it stacks up, so with inflated job figures and so on. We actually want jobs for central and north Queensland. We're investing in infrastructure projects that will create jobs in their construction and support jobs in tourism, in agriculture, in a diversified economy in central and northern Queensland. I think that's where we should be counting on future jobs from not from a mining billionaire who can't seem to get funding for the project that he says is going to deliver jobs for the north and central Queensland.

MAIDEN: OK Tanya Plibersek we'll have to leave it there, thank you very much for your time today.