THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ALP NATIONAL CONFERENCE, ADELAIDE
SUNDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor's Plan for Affordable Housing; Announcement of the next Governor-General; Education funding; Refugee policy.
TOM CONNELL, PRESENTER: Joining me now for more on this and a few other issues of the day is the Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek. Thanks very much for your time.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be with you.
CONNELL: The housing policy. Now interesting that one of the highlights here was that 55 year-old women among the big cohort of growing numbers of homelessness in the country. Why is that?
PLIBERSEK: Well, this is one of the hidden figures of homelessness. We know a lot of older women particularly after divorce, perhaps because they've been at home caring for children, perhaps they don't have the same superannuation savings as their husband, are falling into homelessness more than ever before. So these new properties will allow stable housing at a discounted rate for older women, for young families trying to save a deposit for their first home, for key workers who instead of having travel hours a day can actually perhaps get a place a little closer to work and this is a great opportunity to offer affordable housing to a wide range of Australians.
CONNELL: Is it important to have a carrot with the stick policy if you like of the changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax?
PLIBERSEK: Well, you know what, we made the decision to grandfather negative gearing so people who are already doing it will keep their negative gearing benefits. We've made a decision to quarantine it to new properties, for people who want to start negative gearing it has to be new properties. But that still saves billions of dollars over the decade and we're returning some of that money in the form of subsidised rental accommodation to people who will really benefit. It shows that when we take the tough decisions, we can actually use those, use that additional revenue, to do something really good for the broader Australian community.
CONNELL: Labor has also been saying that we've got investors already coming out of the market in the past few years, so perhaps it wouldn't have the same impact on the housing market it might have three years ago, would that also mean it wouldn't raise as much money?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the amount that will be raised is very substantial. We're talking about tens of billions of dollars. Our estimates were over $30 billion over the decade.
CONNELL: Presumably that could be updated though so you might work with a different figure?
PLIBERSEK: We continually update our figures. The Parliamentary Budget Office continues to work with the Opposition to make sure our figures are up to date. What this shows is that when we make very substantial savings like that we can use some of the revenue that we generate to invest in things that will make a really big difference for many Australians. So we're saying we choose not to subsidise people’s sixth and seventh and eighth investment property. Instead, we're- yes we'll quarantine those if you've already got them but instead of directing all of that investment into negative gearing and capital gains tax, why don't we use some of those funds instead to build more affordable rental properties?
CONNELL: While Bill Shorten was making his announcement Scott Morrison had his own. He apparently didn't want all the attention over here. What did you make of the Governor-General announcement? Supportive?
PLIBERSEK: Oh look I think [David] Hurley is a terrific - David Hurley is, sorry about that - a terrific Australian. He has made a wonderful contribution over many decades to Australian life. I've seen him in action as the Governor of New South Wales. He's done a terrific job as the Governor of New South Wales. So there's no criticism at all of David Hurley. What I would say is it's pretty low-rent of a Prime Minister to use this appointment, use the announcement, as a political distraction during a Labor Party Conference and it's also pretty poor form to make an appointment so substantial so close to an election without consulting the Opposition. I think it is really quite discourteous.
CONNELL: There's no reconsideration of his appointment though at all from Labor?
PLIBERSEK: I think David Hurley's a terrific contributor to Australian life. I think he'll make a very good Governor-General. The criticism is not of him, it’s of Scott Morrison's low-rent politicisation of this.
CONNELL: What about three out of four will be ex-military men. Is that a lot?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think people who commit to the service of their country deserve some recognition, but of course military people are not the only ones who serve their nation and I always like to see acknowledgement- Sir William Deane was a fantastic Governor-General. We saw Quentin Bryce, I mean her contribution was extraordinary through the law, through her academic work, through her standing up for the rights of women and other groups. I think having those sorts of people also considered for Governor-General is really good.
CONNELL: Would it be good to see another woman? They seem to have maybe patched up the glass ceiling since Quentin Bryce.
PLIBERSEK: I'm sure there'll be another women. It's perhaps a disappointment it's not this time around but I'm sure there'll be other women in the future because we've got so many talented Australian women.
CONNELL: Just on education funding, obviously you’ve got all the states agreeing except Victoria. So your approach at this stage would be to renegotiate the states and offer them what would be a more generous split on the funding? So basically just say "hey we'll do better." Is that still the approach?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah absolutely. Labor said we agree with the Government on restoring funding to Catholic and independent schools. We profoundly disagree with the Government refusing to restore funding to public schools. You can't say that they'll restore funding to two sectors but not the third sector that teaches two out of three Australian children, teaches the majority of kids with a disability, Indigenous background, English as a second language, kids who are growing up in regional and remote areas. The bulk of them go to public school and it is absolutely wrong that this Federal Government continues to cut $14 billion from our public schools. So we say we will restore every dollar to our public schools too and people can look up our Fair Go for Schools website and see exactly the difference that that makes for their local public school.
CONNELL: Of course it only makes a difference if the states play their part. Victoria is one of the lower contributors in terms of percentage for the SRS. Will your deal be contingent on them actually getting up so that figure,what it will need to be, 77 eventually?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, and of course our arrangement with the states in the past and in the future is always about making sure that we work together with the states and territories to get to a fair funding level. We're not going to put extra federal money in if the states are withdrawing their funding.
CONNELL: Because Victoria is a laggard at the moment on that?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah but they've got a path to getting to 75 per cent of funding over the next few years. They're going to make a massive extra contribution themselves and we're prepared to work with them to get all schools to a fair funding level.
CONNELL: Just finally, I know you need to go in a moment. I am conscious of that, but asylum policy, do you have any qualification for your support for boat turn backs?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's really important that we continue to send a message that it's not safe to come to Australia by boat. But we do need to acknowledge that Australia has the capacity to do much better than we are right now. We've got more than 65 million displaced people in the world. We've got some of the poorest people on the planet fleeing Myanmar, in refugee camps like Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, again one of the poorest countries in the world looking after 800,000 people who are fleeing violence. We can bring more people safely to Australia on a jet, who have been found to be genuine refugees and we should be doing that.
CONNELL: How many more do you think we can bring?
PLIBERSEK: Well, that's something that we'll discuss over this conference and over coming months, but this Government has completely failed to find third-country resettlement options for people on Manus and Nauru. That's something we have to deal with. We also have to make sure that our foreign policy and our aid policy helps people stay safely in their home country where most people deeply, profoundly, want to stay.
CONNELL: And just finally on this, the medical evacuation policy. The outgoing Head of Operation Sovereign Borders has said that countries are listening and they're watching, including Indonesia, to do with this debate. Their ears are being pricked, if you like. Will you listen to the authorities if they say, for example, the Minister needs a broader veto power for these evacuations?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think we have to be very careful about what the Government is saying Labor policy will do.
CONNELL: But this was actually the Head of Operation Sovereign Borders as well though?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah we also know what people like Peter Dutton have been saying and our policy is clear. We do retain the boat turn back policy where it is safe to do so. We do retain offshore processing as part of our suite of policies, although we think that people who have been on Manus and Nauru for six years now need to be found permanent third country resettlement options. But we believe we don't need to be cruel to the people who are on Manus and Nauru to prove a point. We think that if someone is sick, they should be brought to Australia where it's appropriate for treatment. It's not that complicated.
CONNELL: Okay. I think I went over the agreed time I was meant to, so I might be in trouble, but I do appreciate your time in this busy conference Tanya Plibersek.
PLIBERSEK: No worries at all. Pleasure to talk to you.