SUBJECTS: Fair Work Commission’s decision on weekend penalty rates; legalisation of medicinal marijuana; deregulation of university fees; advice for Donald Trump.


LARRY EMDUR, PRESENTER:  It's been a week of firsts for Australia. Sick and suffering Aussies will now have speedier access to medical marijuana under sweeping changes announced by the Federal Government.

KYLIE GILLIES, PRESENTER:  And Julie Bishop met with US Vice-President Mike Pence in Washington becoming the first Aussie Minister to visit Donald Trump's White House. For some political insight, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek joins us now live from Perth. Welcome to the show.


GILLIES:  Hi, a little bit to get through this morning. We want to kick it off with the penalty rate debate that is across the nation today. The Fair Work Commission will make a decision today, the result impacting lots of industries. Your opinion - should extra pay for weekends stay or go?

PLIBERSEK:  Absolutely it should stay. We know a lot of people rely on those extra shifts on the weekend to make ends meet.  And you think about what you give up when you are working on the weekend or overnight, time with family, everybody else is sitting around the barbecue, yet you’re at work -  Christmas Day, New Year's Day - people who work shift work, who work penalty rate times on the weekends, they really give up a lot and they do it so they can support their family better. It would be terrible to take that away.

EMDUR:  There are a couple of different sides to this debate as we would expect. Malcolm Turnbull argues that we are now a seven day a week economy as a reason for getting rid of penalty rates, so what do you say to that?

PLIBERSEK: Yes well I want to be able to go to the shops or have a cup of coffee on the weekend but I don't mind that that person is paid more for that. I expect that person who is serving me that coffee or selling me that dress to get a decent day's pay for the work that they are doing. I agree that we are a seven-day a week economy but that doesn’t mean that people should be expected to work seven days a week with no compensation for the anti-social hours that they are working for the time they are missing out with their families.

GILLIES:  We will move on, the Federal Government has legalised the local sale and production of medicinal marijuana in Australia. Does legalisation raise any concern for increased recreational use in Australia?

PLIBERSEK:  Look I think it is still important to say, particularly to young people, that the fact that marijuana might be helpful in some medical conditions, particularly for people who are fitting and so on, that it’s not healthy, it is not a good thing, it doesn’t mean that it is without consequences to start smoking marijuana. So we do need to make that message very clear to people. And we need to have a good, securely grown crop. A lot of people don’t know that we grow opium poppies in Tasmania and we use the opioids that come from that in medicines in Australia and indeed I think they are exported around the world, but the security around those farms is very tight, it is not just a free for all. So I think that making sure we are growing good quality marijuana in a regulated environment and that we have doctors who know which conditions that it might be beneficial for is very important and then continuing to say to young people that this doesn’t mean you can be smoking every weekend, it is still bad for you.

EMDUR:  Yes getting those guidelines in place will be key there. Now let’s move on you have been vocal about Australia’s right to low-cost universities over the past couple of days. Is fee deregulation or university price hikes something that young Aussies should be worried about?

PLIBERSEK:  Well they absolutely should be worried because we have seen the Liberal Government several times trying to deregulate university fees, meaning that students could  pay up to hundred thousand dollars for a university degree. You know those big debts come at the same time as you're trying to buy a house and start a family so we don’t want young Australians to be discouraged from getting an education because they’re worried they won’t be able to afford to pay back their HECS debt. We want a university education and TAFE education to be affordable and available and to be based  on your interests, how hard you are prepared to work at high school, the fact that you are going to be working a few years harder at university as well. We need to say to every young Australian that we are prepared to help you follow your dream, you need to study hard but we are not going to saddle you with a lifetime of debt.

EMDUR:  Now Tanya we have saved the most difficult and complex question until last, are you ready for this one?

PLIBERSEK:  Oh oh. Yes

EMDUR:  Julie Bishop became the first Aussie Minister to enter Donald Trump's White House, we just saw it on the news. We want to give you a hypothetical scenario because politicians regularly deal in hypotheticals, we don't here on the tele but we know that you guys do all the time. You’re in an elevator…

GILLIES:  Don't worry Tanya, it's okay.

EMDUR:  Don’t worry, when Larry Emdur‘s talking politics, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

GILLIES:  It’s okay, you’ve got this, Tanya.

EMDUR:  This is like kindergarten, don’t worry about it. You’re in an elevator with Donald Trump in the White House, you have twenty seconds alone with the President of the United States, the most controversial man in the universe at this point in time. Twenty seconds what do you say to him? Ready, set, go.

PLIBERSEK:   Stop tweeting after dinner. Put the phone down.

EMDUR:  You did in five.  See that is the most effective, efficient political message we’ve ever heard. You got 20 seconds, you did it in four and a half.  If only the world of politics was exactly like that. 

GILLIES:  Put the phone down Donald.

EMDUR:  Great advice, thank you very much for that. Good to see you, we got through a lot, including some hypotheticals. 

PLIBERSEK:  It was a pleasure, lovely to talk to you.

GILLIES:  Somehow I don't think he is going to listen, do you?

EMDUR:  No, well I don’t know Tanya is pretty good at that message delivery.

PLIBERSEK:  Actually, strangely I’ve got a little something in common with Donald now because my family background is Slovenian and his wife's family background is Slovenian and my mother keeps saying to me you know if you meet the President, you will be able to speak to Melania in Slovenian. I don’t know, maybe I can give her a bit of advice in Slovenian.

EMDUR:  What would you say, hypothetically speaking?

PLIBERSEK:  Take the phone away from Donald.

GILLIES:  Can you actually say that in your mother’s native tongue?


GILLIES:  It sounds quite authoritive.

EMDUR:  It sounds scary, I’ve just put my phone down right now. Tanya thank you for joining us on that wacky ride, we appreciate that.  Good to see you.

PLIBERSEK:  No worries, lovely to talk to you.