THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TODAY SHOW, CHANNEL 9
FRIDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2013
Subject/s: Qantas, NBN, GrainCorp sale, schools’ funding.
Karl Stefanovic: Well joining us now to discuss this [Qantas] and the rest of the week in politics is Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, morning Malcolm.
Malcolm Turnbull: Morning.
Stefanovic: And Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Nice to have you in the studio this time.
Tanya Plibersek: It’s a pleasure.
Stefanovic: And sorry for cutting you off this time. Malcolm, let's start with Qantas. Are you prepared to remove the foreign ownership component cap on the company? Are you prepared to guarantee the debt?
Turnbull: Well these are all matters that are going to be considered. I think everyone's in favour of Qantas remaining very much an Australian company but Alan Joyce has a very good point in this sense, that he is fighting against - his competitors are, for the most part, state-owned airlines that are heavily subsidised one way or another by their governments so Qantas really is battling. And Virgin, its domestic competitor and of course an international competitor too, is largely owned by state-owned airlines. So it is a real battle for Qantas.
Stefanovic: If it is the case that you say the majority of people want to hold onto it as an Australian company, Transport Minister Warren Truss reckons Qantas can't expect to have taxpayers bankroll the debt guarantee so there is divisions even within your own party on where to go.
Turnbull: There's no division at all. I mean Warren's expressed a point of view there but this is something that we will consider as a Cabinet when we hear what Alan Joyce actually is going to put to us. He's had discussions with a number of ministers including Warren including me, including Joe obviously and we'll look at that collectively and come to a decision.
Stefanovic: Tanya, you supported Qantas in general but you stopped short of bankrolling as well?
Plibersek: Well we need to know specifically what the proposal is before we can start commenting. At the moment we've heard a few thought bubbles from what was supposed to be a private meeting from Joe Hockey. But I've got to say, my dad worked for Qantas for 21 years and I'm pretty attached to it as an Australian brand. I think most people, when they get onto a Qantas plane love the feeling of hearing Australian accents, knowing that the maintenance record, because it's done here in Australia is so high. There's a really very strong attachment.
Stefanovic: Would you support if you're able to give a debt guarantee, would you support that in place of equity?
Plibersek: Look, we need –
Stefanovic: Wouldn't that be a reasonable outcome?
Plibersek: We need to see specific proposals. I'm not going to start speculating about what they’re proposing.
Stefanovic: Malcolm, is that something you would support?
Turnbull: These are all things that can be considered but as we all know, as Tanya knows, these are matters that we consider collectively as a Cabinet and we'll have those discussions there.
Stefanovic: And the other side of it is, as Ross Greenwood pointed out before, how long do you keep propping up businesses?
Turnbull: Well, that is a fair point but I think where Joyce is right is that he is competing - his competitors are being very heavily supported by governments. If you look at these Middle Eastern airlines they are, all of them, and there are plenty of others, I'm not just picking on the Middle Eastern ones, but most of these airlines that he competes with have got a lot of support from governments and that is, you know, he is not operating on a level playing field.
Stefanovic: What will happen with Graincorp today?
Turnbull: [laughs]. You should ask the Treasurer.
Stefanovic: I can't at the moment, you're here. You know what's going to happen, what's likely to happen? Are they going to stop that investment?
Turnbull: Karl, it's a matter for the Treasurer and I couldn't tell you.
Stefanovic: It will be interesting to see what happens there. Probably in another hour or so, right? He knows.
Plibersek: He could if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to.
Turnbull: You're so well informed. You should break the story yourself.
Stefanovic: Let's move onto something you do know about, broadband. You've copped it in Fairfax today. You've levelled you out saying the Coalition's plan is poorly planned, unlikely to be completed on time and slashes revenue projections. It's a Malcolm Turnbull carve up, your response?
Turnbull: [laughs] What they've got is they've got a document which was prepared at the Labor Government's request more than 6 months ago by the NBN Co management, Michael Quigley and Ralph Steffens, both of whom have now gone. This document is A) out of date; B) it is defending a failed project. It has no credibility, absolutely none. Fairfax should have actually made it quite clear what the provenance of that document was and the truth is that we will know what is actually going on the NBN very soon because there is a big strategic review under way at the moment, being overseen by the board of the NBN Co, we've got KordaMentha, Boston Consulting Group, Deloittes, a big team in there to find out the real state of the project is at the moment, where it's heading under the old plans, what our options are for doing it sooner, cheaper and more affordably. It’s a very objective study and that will be produced shortly. What Labor is trying to do - they're trying to muddy the waters because they're afraid of the truth and you've seen Stephen Conroy's appalling conduct in the Senate yesterday bullying and harassing witnesses from the department. This is a desperate attempt by Conroy and Labor to avoid the day of reckoning when taxpayers find out how reckless and misconceived this project is.
Stefanovic: Was Stephen Conroy out of line yesterday?
Plibersek: No, I'll tell you what this is. This is the incoming –
Turnbull: You're endorsing what he did yesterday?
Plibersek: This is the incoming government brief. Every department prepares for a new government information about the policies that they're going to have to implement. Malcolm could solve this very quickly by releasing his incoming government brief. Instead -
Turnbull: Can I just correct that Tanya –
Plibersek: - No, no, let me finish.
Turnbull: No, I don’t want to interrupt you –
Plibersek: Malcolm you are interrupting me –
Turnbull: You are making a mistake. It's not the department’s brief. This was prepared by the company, it’s not the departments brief.
Plibersek: For an incoming government.
Turnbull: It was prepared by the company to go to the department and it's not the department's brief. This was a very partisan -
Plibersek: Well why don't you release the department brief?
Turnbull: Because you know -
Plibersek: Why is it a secret document? I released my incoming government brief last time we came into government. Your government’s released none of them. What this is Karl –
Turnbull: This is not the department's brief, it's the company's document.
Plibersek: This is setting up to break another promise. This is a secret document that doesn't need to be secret and it's a set up to break another promise just as has happened with education promise.
Stefanovic: Finally and quickly-
Turnbull: Our promise is to tell the truth about NBN and we’ll honour that, it’s something that your government, your previous government, never did.
Plibersek: You promised to deliver faster, cheaper broadband and this is showing it's going to be slower and worse and won't meet the needs of business or domestic consumers.
Turnbull: It doesn’t show that –
Stefanovic: We've got to finish on one that –
Turnbull: Fairfax has published a totally political document written by a management team that had conspicuously and consistently failed to meet every forecast they ever made.
Plibersek: Well why don’t you release the incoming government’s brief?
Stefanovic: Why didn't you say that after the first question?
Turnbull: I had to get fired up, see.
Stefanovic: He's fired up now. Finally and very quickly, today's meeting of education ministers that promises to be an interesting one. Fly on the wall would be great. NSW Liberal Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says this "There's no doubt that what seems to be happening is that States that signed up to Gonski are being punished –
Plibersek: That’s right.
Stefanovic: And States that didn't sign up are being rewarded". He goes on further and he says, "All of this is immoral."
Plibersek: Yeah it means the kids who need extra –
Turnbull: I think he's jumped the shark, don't you?
Plibersek: I think it shows Karl, the important thing about this is that the kids who need extra funding because they've got poor English language, poor reading skills, disabilities, they've missed out on something, they're going to miss out on funding. Before the election the Liberals said there was no difference between their education policy and ours. We promise $9.4 billion over 6 years. They've taken that down to $1.8 billion. There's a big difference for Australian children.
Stefanovic: Finally Malcolm.
Turnbull: That's not true.
Plibersek: It is true.
Turnbull: We are committed to the same funding envelope as Labor -
Plibersek: That's not right.
Turnbull: Made over the forward estimates -
Plibersek: But not over 6 years.
Turnbull: And we've committed to an additional $230 million for Queensland, NT and WA who didn't sign up to Shorten's various deals and what we are going to do is to develop a fair national and consistent plan, policy because what Labor did –
Stefanovic: Without all the guarantees.
Turnbull: What Labor did in their desperate –
Plibersek: So why then are the Liberal education ministers so opposed to Christopher Pyne's proposal?
Turnbull: Well look Adrian Piccoli obviously thought he cut a pretty good deal.
Plibersek: He did.
Turnbull: And he thinks he got a better deal than anyone else.
Plibersek: NSW kids will miss out on $2 billion. You shouldn't have said you're going to give them the same amount of money if you're not Malcolm. It's a broken promise.
Turnbull: We have made a commitment to keep the funding envelope the same and we're going to have a national and consistent deal across the country.
Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it.
Stefanovic: Alright we’ve run out of time.
Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it. You've broken a promise to kids and parents. It's unforgiveable.
Turnbull: The only person who cut $1 billion, in face he cut $1.2 billion out was Bill Shorten.
Plibersek: No that’s not right.
Turnbull: Chris Bowen admitted that he did yesterday.
Plibersek: That’s not right.
Stefanovic: This is why it’s so good having you two on. We could do three and a half hours of this.
Turnbull: We get along so well.
Stefanovic: Well you do, it’s interesting. It's Fordo's birthday today too.
Turnbull: Happy birthday to him.
Stefanovic: Oh say it with conviction.
Turnbull: How old is he anyway? State secret?
Plibersek: Malcolm is going to sing happy birthday Mr Fordham like happy birthday Mr President. [hums Happy Birthday tune]
Turnbull: I cannot sing a note.
Stefanovic: Oh Tanya can do it.
Plibersek: [Laughs] No I can’t.
Turnbull: Can I tell you something?
Turnbull: If we're in church or somewhere, anywhere where the national anthem is being sung a hymn or whatever, if I'm standing next to Lucy and I start to sing I get this sharp elbow in my ribs. Her view is, and I think she's right, that it's in the public interest that I just move my lips silently.
Stefanovic: Finally, something we all agree on. Thanks, guys.