THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TODAY SHOW, CHANNEL 9
FRIDAY, 22 AUGUST 2014
Subject/s: Higher education; Bill Shorten addresses claims.
LISA WILKINSON: PM Tony Abbott has been bombarded by more than 500 protestors overnight while trying to deliver a speech at Adelaide University. The mostly student crowd barged through a security fence and screamed at the Prime Minister about his unpopular policies on asylum seekers, student fees, gay marriage and job losses. To have a look at this and more we are joined now by communications minister Malcom Turnbull and deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you. Malcolm, if I can start with you, 100 or so days on from releasing the budget there is certainly a lot that those protestors are unhappy about.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well so it seems but the bulk of the budget has been passed already. There are some issues that are, that we are still debating with the cross benchers but that is situation normal. As Tanya knows Governments rarely have a majority in the Senate and so you have to negotiate with the people with the swing votes which in that case is the 8 independent Senators.
WILKINSON: Tanya Plibersek, 50 police were called in. One protester was injured in the ruckus. We know there is a lot of opposition to the Abbott Government policies but are protestors starting to go too far?
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is interesting that Malcolm has changed the rhetoric now. A few weeks ago it was budget emergency and we had Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott out there saying disaster, disaster. Now the Government has realised they have gone too far in talking about a budget emergency and they are dialling back the rhetoric. It’s been a very noticeable change in their talking points. When it comes to these students I don’t think protests should ever turn violent but I think every Australian has a right to tell their Government how they feel about a budget that breaks promises. There was no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes. All those promises broken. And these uni students are really going to feel the brunt of it. They are looking at much more expensive degrees and of course they are worried about that. They are worried about having to choose between buying a house when they grow up and actually paying off their university debt. It is a terrible thing in Australia, it’s a very American-style university system and Australians have rejected it. And not just uni students have rejected it but all Australians have rejected that move away from the fairer system that we have always had.
WILKINSON: Do those broken promises sit comfortably with you Malcolm?
TURNBULL: I do not concede we have broken any promises.
WILKINSON: There is a laundry list there that Tanya read out?
TURNBULL: It’s a very long list, it’ll be a long program! Let's just go back to the point about university fees. When I went to university fees were free. And it was actually a Labor Government that reintroduced fees and introduced HECS because it recognised it was unfair to ask the whole population, many of whom, most of who had not gone to university to pay tax to send people to university so they could get jobs and earn much higher incomes than they would without a university degree. So it is fair for people to pay –
PLIBERSEK: A small portion Malcolm, but not an unaffordable, not an unaffordable amount.
TURNBULL: The reality is that students will be able to borrow the entire amount of the fees at the best rate they will ever be able to get and they will have significantly higher income in their lives.
PLIBERSEK: So they should pay more tax. So they will pay more tax throughout their lives.
TURNBULL: They will have significantly higher income and as a consequence of that degree – you see this is the critical thing – I mean for a Labor Party which – the Labor Party claims to be on behalf of the battler, working man and woman –
PLIBERSEK: I know I could never have afforded to go to university if what your Government proposes is true. I could not afford it. My dad was a plumber, my mum a housewife, I would never have got to university under your scheme.
TURNBULL: Tanya, that is not true –
PLIBERSEK: It is true –
TURNBULL: Because you would have been able to obviously contribute to your fees by your own work, which all students did, I certainly did.
PLIBERSEK: And I did that too.
TURNBULL: I worked when I was at university but I did not have fees. But you would also be able to borrow the money from the Government at a very low rate and that is something you - don't sniff, we borrow money for everything.
PLIBERSEK: But Malcolm, working class kids are not going to go into $200,000 worth of debt knowing that that means they will never be able to buy a home of their own.
TURNBULL: That is not true.
PLIBERSEK: No listen, if you’re talk about a nurse or a teacher, you are looking at 15 years’ worth of repayment. If you’re talking about a woman studying engineering you are talking about 18 years’ worth of university-fee repayment. Would you take on as an 18-year-old student almost 20 years’ worth of debt not even knowing you’ve got a job at the end of that study? Would you do that?
TURNBULL: These figures are wildly exaggerated.
PLIBERSEK: No, they are not. They are not wildly exaggerated. They are National Tertiary Education Union figures.
TURNBULL: This is the case today, I mean students are taking on debt today under Fee Help. So this is –
PLIBERSEK: It is the size of the debt.
TURNBULL: All the reforms are doing is giving the universities greater flexibility in setting fees. And some universities may set lower fees to compete.
PLIBERSEK: And who is going to do that?
TURNBULL: Universities that want to compete for students.
PLIBERSEK: Except you are cutting their funding, you’re cutting their funding by 20 per cent so they have to make up the 20 per cent just to be back at stage one.
WILKINSON: We are going to have to leave it there, we have to move on, because a big story yesterday. We saw that Victoria Police will not pursue rape charges against opposition leader Bill Shorten saying they don’t have enough evidence to secure a conviction. Mr Shorten came forward to address the story yesterday.
BILL SHORTEN: I fully cooperated to clear my name. That is what I have done. I freely answered all the questions that the police asked of me. The police have now concluded the investigation. The decision speaks for itself. It is over.
WILKINSON: Bill Shorten yesterday. Now Tanya, for most people I think the fact that these allegations even existed came as a surprise. We know that it has been circulating a bit on social media. These allegations emerged around the time that Bill Shorten became opposition leader. Can you give us some idea of how much concern there has been over the last ten months over these allegations?
PLIBERSEK: Well I – the first and most important thing to say is that when allegations like this are made it is absolutely vital that the person making the allegation goes to the police and that the issue is thoroughly investigated. And a few months ago when this was first in the newspapers, an unnamed person was being investigated. I was asked about it at the time and I said the police have to investigate. It’s an incredibly serious allegation. We take these allegations seriously as a society, that means the police must investigate. But having had all these months to undertake their investigation I think with the investigation concluded Bill thought ‘Well I’ve got to now face this front-on’ and I think that is a pretty gutsy thing to do given he had not been named in the media.
He wanted to take it head-on and say ‘cooperated with the police, they’ve found I have no case to answer.’ We now should be able to draw a line under it. It has been an incredibly stressful period I think for him and his family and no doubt everybody involved in this – it has been very stressful. But having been investigated, having had his name cleared it is good now he can draw a line under it.
WILKINSON: Malcolm, as a young lawyer working for Kerry Parker, you defended him during the time of Costigan. Do you feel sorry? Obviously those allegations were proved untrue but do you feel sorry for Bill Shorten right now?
TURNBULL: Let me say this - I think Bill Shorten made the right decision to come out and say he was the person being talked about. Remember Kerry Parker did the same thing because the allegations which were being made about him were about the goanna, it was a pseudonym but everybody was talking and was saying it was Kerry. I think you have to nail these things. Look, there is nothing more - well, I suppose there are plenty of things but it is very, very painful to be - to feel you are the subject of a an unjust accusation, particularly a very serious one like that. I think Shorten has done the right thing. The police - it is very important that allegations of this kind are taken seriously. And the police have to investigate them, go through their process and they have come to a conclusion that they don’t want to take it any further. Bill Shorten has said ‘Yes, well that was the me’ and that’s it now. What the complainant says now, I do not know but from Bill Shorten's point of view he is better off getting this thing aired and ventilated and dealt with now rather than it continuing to bubble up as a whispering campaign which, those things can be very dangerous.
WILKINSON: Indeed. Ok, Malcolm and Tanya, we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks very much.
PLIBERSEK: Thanks Lisa.
WILKINSON: Hope you both have a great weekend.
PLIBERSEK: You too.