SUBJECTS: Peter Dutton; Liberal disunity and division; Faith in politics; Housing loan deposit scheme; Negative gearing; Clive Palmer; Chaos and minor parties.


DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: Now, former Prime Minister, Paul Keating - we know he doesn't mince his words, but he let fly yesterday. He urged voters to "drive a stake through Peter Dutton's dark, political heart" and called him the “most mean-spirited man he's seen in his 50 years of politics”. That's a pretty tall order isn't it, considering the calibre of some of our politicians?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Peter Dutton's been a very difficult and divisive figure. I mean, if you look at the last six years, he consistently undermined Malcolm Turnbull, he brought on the leadership instability, he ran for Leader, he wasn't selected by his colleagues to become Leader, he didn't win that ballot inside the Liberal Party. But it's not just that, he was voted by doctors as the worst Health Minister in living memory. He joked about climate change and the effect on our neighbours in the Pacific and on the second day of the election campaign, he had a go at his opponent for her disability, and he is a very divisive figure as you say.

KNIGHT: Well, why do you have to get so personal though? Because you jumped in soon after Paul Keating made his comments yesterday and you said "We've all said that about Peter Dutton". And earlier in the campaign, you put on the record that voters are telling you that Peter Dutton is a “horrible person”. You keep saying, though, that we need to change the tenor of debate in politics, we need to be a more uplifting and less negative and that women in politics are bullied and harassed. Why play the man and not the ball? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, my comments about Peter Dutton came after he attacked his [Labor] opponent, Ali France, for her disability; and he's-

KNIGHT: But someone's got to - someone's got to come up above, don't they? 

PLIBERSEK: He's an extraordinarily divisive person. But look, you're right, it's not just about Peter Dutton, if you want stability then you - we need to win seats like Dickson. People should vote for Ali France for stability, they should vote for Ali France for better investment in hospitals in schools, they should vote for Ali France for better investment in TAFE and apprenticeships and local road projects and infrastructure, and the same or bigger tax cuts for 10 million working Australians. A vote for Labor, a vote for Ali France, is a vote for stability, it's a vote for closing the loopholes for the top end of town so we can afford pensioner dental, bigger subsidies for childcare - cheaper childcare, better schools and hospitals- 

KNIGHT: But you'll still have negative potshots though? You're not going to pull back from that? 

PLIBERSEK: Well look, I mean, Peter Dutton, you know, he is a pretty extraordinary, divisive person. Within the Liberal Party, I reckon there'd be people that within the Liberal Party who'd be agreeing with us today - that he created the instability of the last six years by consistently undermining Malcolm Turnbull, knocking him off and then not even having the support within his own party to win that ballot. 

KNIGHT: Now Bill Shorten also took an unprompted shot at the Prime Minister yesterday, demanding Scott Morrison make his stance clear on his beliefs about gay people. Why is faith being made an issue as part of this election campaign?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't think he did. I mean, what Bill said yesterday is we support equality. We support equality for all Australians. We campaigned for marriage equality with the gay and lesbian community. We support equality. I don't think that's that controversial. 

KNIGHT: Well he questioned the Prime Minister's commitment to whether or not - you know, he urged the Prime Minister to come out more strongly and raised the issue about faith. Do you think that that is an issue in this campaign?

PLIBERSEK: Well, he didn't really. All he said is that he doesn't believe that gay people go to Hell. And I think-

KNIGHT: And he prompted the Prime Minister to come out and make his stance clear. 

PLIBERSEK: Well, Scott Morrison decided to come out and talk about it. That's up to him. I think the issue here is: do you support equality? Yes we do. It's very clear in the Labor Party that we do – for in this case gay and lesbian Australians but across the board for every Australian. 

KNIGHT: Do you think faith should be an issue in this campaign?

PLIBERSEK: No, I think faith's up to individuals, it's absolutely their own business. If they want to talk about it, they can. If they don't want to talk about it they needn't have to. 

KNIGHT: Okay, now the one thing that there is agreement, it seems, between the Government and Labor is that of housing policy and helping first home buyers and that element of housing policy. 


KNIGHT: Now you've matched the PM's loan deposit scheme. 


KNIGHT: How smart is it though backing a policy that hasn't been modelled, didn't go to Cabinet and has no guarantee that it's not going to push house prices up even further and potentially price first home buyers out of the market?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, look, we've been talking about policies for first home buyers for six years and one of the reasons that we made our change to negative gearing is so that first home buyers aren't competing with cashed up investors buying their sixth or tenth or thirtieth property. So, our negative gearing policy is if you're already doing it, you get to keep doing it. If you want do it in the future, you have to invest in new housing. But it does level the playing field a bit for first home buyers. This additional policy that the Liberals have come out with just five days, six days before the election is a modest contribution. We think if the Liberals have a good idea, we're happy to work with them on that good idea. 

KNIGHT: So it's smart policy? 

PLIBERSEK: We think it's a modest contribution that might help some people. It's not going to change the world. The biggest impact we can have is levelling the playing field for first home buyers instead of going to auctions and competing with cashed up investors who get a taxpayer subsidy to outbid the first home buyer. But it's, you know, it's not a bad idea so we're willing to back it. What would be great is if the Liberals backed some of our good ideas - like the pensioner dental scheme, like more affordable childcare for - more affordable or free childcare for working families. Wouldn't it be terrific if the Liberals turned around and backed some of our good ideas too?

KNIGHT: Okay, now Clive Palmer could well emerge from this election as a kingmaker in this campaign. You can't miss his ads or his billboards or his radio and TV ads. They're everywhere. 

PLIBERSEK: You certainly can't-

KNIGHT: But what do you make of him-

PLIBERSEK: And I'm wearing yellow but it's no implied endorsement. 

KNIGHT: No code there? Okay. Well I'm wearing blue so there's no code endorsement there either. But what do you make of Clive Palmer going to Fiji in the final days of this campaign? 

PLIBERSEK: Oh it's extraordinary. I mean, this is the guy - as you say, the billboards are everywhere. He says he has spent $70 million advertising himself. Well $70 million is what he owes the workers of Queensland Nickel that he's ripped off. Isn't it extraordinary that he'd spend that money on himself – not paying his debt to his workforce. Secondly, he's gone to [Fiji] in the middle of the campaign, that compares pretty much with the last time he was in Parliament – out of 400 votes, he turned up to just 25. This is the guy whose businesses – personal businesses – will benefit to the tune of $18 million a year if the Liberals are elected. We know what's in it for Clive Palmer. But I tell you this – if people vote for Clive Palmer, One Nation – all these minor parties –they are voting for chaos. The only way to end the chaos is to vote Labor in the House of Representatives and in the Senate because having these minor parties in the Senate for our country, it's like having your foot on the accelerator and the brake at the same time. If we want the country to go forward then let's give Labor a majority in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. 

KNIGHT: Well, minority government could be a real option here depending on – for both sides, this is going to be very close- 


KNIGHT: Will you rule out forming a coalition with the Greens? 

PLIBERSEK: Oh, we've ruled out forming a coalition with them. 

KNIGHT: Point blank? 

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. We will work with, as we have when we were last in minority government, the whole of the crossbench, issue by issue on legislation. But- 

KNIGHT: So you'll work with the Greens? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, we have to. I mean, if you're in minority government, you have to work with the whole crossbench. But, truly for Australia's sake, I really hope people don't vote for minority government because we've had six years of chaos and division. Having a minority government with Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer calling the shots. I mean, it is a recipe for chaos. 

KNIGHT: All right, well Tanya Plibersek, three days to go and you will be joining us on our election coverage as well on Saturday night. 

PLIBERSEK: Looking forward to it.

KNIGHT: Which will be good, don't wear yellow.