TRANSCRIPT: Today Show, Tuesday 15 September 2015




SUBJECTS: Liberal leadership. 

LISA WILKINSON, PRESENTER: We’re joined by Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to you.


WILKINSON: You’re reaction this morning?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we’ve beat Malcolm Turnbull once, we can beat him again. And I think it’s very important to acknowledge that Bill Shorten has seen off Tony Abbott, he has seen off one Liberal leader and he will see off the next one.

WILKINSON: Did Bill Shorten see him off or was it his own party that saw Tony Abbott off?

PLIBERSEK: The reason that the Liberal party moved against Tony Abbott was because the Labor Opposition have held this Government to account. It has been two years of bad government. Two years of cuts to health, cuts to education, cuts to pensions, and no direction for the country. Unemployment going up, taxes going up, debt and deficit going up. The only thing that is going down is confidence. So we have, I think successfully, prosecuted that with the Australian people. It made Tony Abbott’s position untenable, and Malcolm Turnbull swooped. And he’s been planning this for some time, Lisa.

WILKINSON: The Labor Party has to be very careful about being smug though, we have lived through the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years and that had plenty of broken promises as well.

PLIBERSEK: Well I can tell you there were plenty of Liberals during our leadership instability, including Julie Bishop, including Malcolm Turnbull, talking about how dreadful it was to see that sort of instability. And it’s true, it is actually really bad for the country. They’ve gone there themselves within two years. It’s extraordinary.

WILKINSON: What do you think the Australian public’s reaction is to all of this?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think they will very quickly see Malcolm Turnbull for what he is, which is a man who is very ambitious, but he’s ambitious for himself. He is not ambitious for our country. He is a man who has been behind the scenes, incredibly indiscreet. He’s been talking to anyone who will listen about how he is going to be Prime Minister again. He’s indiscreet and he’s absolutely about himself, not about our country. He sat around the same Cabinet table as Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott, he’s been part of all of these same decisions. The only thing that he had actual responsibility for, the NBN, has been a disaster. It’s doubled in cost, it’s slower, it’s old technology, so I don’t know that Malcolm Turnbull’s got such a lot to point to, to differentiate himself from Tony Abbott.

WILKINSON: It’s no secret that Bill Shorten would have preferred to be going to the next election against Tony Abbott, he’s got a bigger fight on his hands against Malcolm Turnbull.

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think so. I mean, you look at the sort of things that Jeff Kennett has been saying, that Andrew Bolt has been saying. These are died in the wool Liberals, Liberals through and through and they are saying Malcolm Turnbull is only about Malcolm Turnbull. He is not about our country, and I think if you see, not just Liberal supporters but people who are Liberal in every cell of their being, saying that they can’t vote for Malcolm Turnbull, I think that’s a real problem. And you think, Malcolm Turnbull is said to appeal to the middle ground, but all of the issues that he talked about as appealing to the middle ground, he’s given up on those. He used to talk about climate change, he said about this Government’s policy that it was a fig leaf to cover up inaction on climate change. Well he’s adopted that policy. He said a few weeks ago that he wanted a vote on marriage equality in this term of Parliament, he’s adopted Prime Minister Abbott’s proposition that it should be a $150 million dollar vote, sometime off in the never never. He has sold out all of the things that made him appeal to the middle ground. But he doesn’t have the support of the conservatives in the Liberal party either.

WILKINSON: Alright okay, Tanya Plibersek we will have to leave it there. Thanks very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Lisa.



TRANSCRIPT: ABC News Radio, Tuesday 15 September 2015




SUBJECTS: Liberal leadership. 


MARIUS BENSON, REPORTER: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Good morning Marius.

BENSON: Is it more enjoyable to be watching from the sidelines rather than be engaged in a political leadership tussle?

PLIBERSEK: Well Marius, it’s never good for the country to see this sort of instability and it’s disappointing to see that the Government didn’t learn anything from the difficulties that Labor experienced in Government, but I’d certainly rather it’s them than us.

BENSON: Yeah you can’t really point the finger of blame and accuse them of instability.

PLIBERSEK: Well what’s interesting is the sort of thing that Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and others have said about the changing of Labor leaders, there’s a list of quotes a mile long about, you know, what they’ve said about us.  I think people will be going through their records today to have a look at some of those quotes. But the other thing that is more critical here Marius than the hypocrisy of the criticisms that they made, is the fact that Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop sat around the same Cabinet table as Tony Abbott and supported all of the same cuts, all of the same decisions that made Tony Abbott unelectable as Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull has supported the cuts to health and education, in his case the cuts to the ABC, the $100,000 university degrees, the cuts to pensions, I don’t know what’s going to change because what we see is a  change of salesperson not a change of product.

BENSON: But if Malcolm Turnbull runs the Government as efficiently as he runs a leadership challenge you’re in trouble aren’t you?

PLIBERSEK: Well, if he runs it as efficiently as he’s run the NBN the country is in desperate straits. This is minister who’s got one big job which is to deliver the NBN, it’s doubled in cost, there’s been a cost blowout of about $26 billion, it’s going to be three years slower than he promised and we’re going to get an older, slower technology that’ll have to be upgraded in a few years time anyway. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull talks big but when you look at his achievements they are not too flash.

BENSON: Politically though, do you accept that your job just got harder?

PLIBERSEK: Oh look, I think there’s always a bit of a sugar hit when there’s a change of leadership but I think people- I mean you only need to see what Jeff Kennett said about Malcolm Turnbull to see the sort of criticisms that his own party will make of him. Jeff Kennett talked about Malcolm only being about Malcolm, the fact that his overconfidence has blinded his judgement, you only have to look at the Godwin Grech affair to remember just how blinded Malcolm Turnbull can be, just how poor his judgement can be. He has been desperate to vindicate himself, desperate to become Prime Minster again after being knocked off by Tony Abbott, so his personal quest is now fulfilled. What happens to the country Marius? That is the question.

BENSON: What happens to Bill Shorten is another question. He is down there in the basement of public opinion with Tony Abbott and Tony Abbott has just left the scene effectively, Malcolm Turnbull is likely to be much more popular. What does it mean for Bill Shorten if he is in the position that Tony Abbott was of leading a party to certain defeat.

PLIBERSEK: Well I just completely disagree with your characterisation. The fact that Tony Abbott was knocked off last night is due to the fact that Bill Shorten has lead a fantastic campaign against the Government. Bill Shorten has seen off one Liberal leader, he’ll see off the next one at the general election.

BENSON: But Bill Shorten is held in as low esteem as Tony Abbott effectively, he’s at something like minus 30 himself in public opinion.

PLIBERSEK: Well Bill Shorten is the reason that the Liberals removed Tony Abbott. Bill Shorten  -

BENSON: A lot of people would say the reason Tony Abbott was removed was Tony Abbott.

PLIBERSEK: Oh well I think it takes and effective opposition to run a good political campaign against a government. We’ve done that, we‘ve seen off Tony Abbott and we’ll see of Malcolm Turnbuill at the general election.

BENSON: When to you expect the general election?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very difficult for the Liberal party to hand down another Budget. The first Budget that they handed down smashed confidence, the second budget they handed down did nothing to address the debt and deficit that they said two years ago was a disaster. They are in desperate trouble with their Budget, I’d be surprised if they go to another Budget which will be May next year. I think it could be before next May.

BENSON: As we speak do you feel a lot of the political middle ground marching away from you and back to the Coalition?

PLIBERSEK: Look Malcolm Turnbull has been pleased in the last few days to sell-out everything that he stood for that appealed to middle Australia. He has sold out on climate change, he first of all called the Liberal party policy ‘a fig leaf’, well he’s adopted that fig leaf as his own now. He secondly, a few weeks ago he was talking about how important it was to have a parliamentary free vote on marriage equality in this term off parliament, well he’s sold out Australians so there will be an expensive $150 million plebiscite sometime in the never never. You know  Malcolm Turnbull has been pretty quick to give up anything that he’s ever believed in to get his hands on the leadership again.

BENSON: A sell-out and a salesman, do you think there is a danger you might be underestimating your new opponent?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think he’s very smooth and that will work for him in the short term, but people will very quickly come to see that smoothness as a sort of slick merchant banker approach to public life and they turned off, they stopped listening to that last time Malcolm Turnbull was in the leadership. They’ll see his confidence favourably in the first instance, they will very quickly come to read that as arrogance particularly if you continue to have people like Jeff Kennett, like Andrew Bolt, speaking in  the media about how desperately ambitious Malcolm Turnbull is for himself, not for our country, but for himself.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek thank you very much

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Marius



TRANSCRIPT: ABC Insiders, Sunday 13 September 2015




SUBJECTS: Iraq; Syrian crisis; Julie Bishop; Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott 'joke'; Liberal leadership. 

BARRIE CASSIDY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek good morning, welcome.


CASSIDY: Let's pick up on some of Peter Lahey's concerns. You’ve of course signed up to this decision. You might own it, one day. What's missing here, he says, is the long-term strategy, are you worried about that?

PLIBERSEK: I am very worried about that and in fact we've asked the Prime Minister to come into the Parliament and lay out in the Parliament what the strategy is for Iraq and also what is strategy is for Syria. I made a speech at ASPI, the strategic policy institute this week that goes into more detail here. In the first instance what we're being asked to do right now is to support the Government of Iraq to protect its people and its territory from cross-border attacks launched by Daesh, ISIS, whatever you want to call it. And we think that there is a clear legal basis to do that and a reason to do it. But this on its own is certainly not a solution to the disaster that is unfolding in Syria and to a lesser degree in Iraq at the moment.  It needs to be -

CASSIDY: How can you give bipartisan support then when you're worried about this?

PLIBERSEK: Because we're also determined that when a democratically elected government asks for help to protect its people and its territory from cross-border attacks, from a terrorist organisation and there is a legal basis to do it, then we should support that. What we say is that there should also be a political solution to Syria, that the international community is involved in determining, and there should be much greater humanitarian effort to protect the victims of this terrible conflict. Just on the international effort, you've got a number of players here, Peter Leahy talked about Russia, there’s Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US and its allies that all need to come to the table as part of developing a solution for Syria, that protects the millions of people who have been displaced from their homes from further attack, not just from the terrorist organisations on the ground there, by some counts a thousand organisations, but also from the Assad Government that has murdered hundreds of thousands of its own citizens.

CASSIDY: But we go back to the original point, though. Just because you say there's a legal basis for this, if there is no long-term strategy how can you encourage the Government by giving them support?

PLIBERSEK: Because Iraq has the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks launched across the border from Syria. The Syrian Government is unable or unwilling to stop those attacks. There's a clear basis in international law for the Government of Iraq to protect its people. Just months ago we were looking at Yazidis sitting on the top of Mount Sinjar with no water and no food and imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes. This is still a significant concern in Iraq. Iraq has asked the international community for help. It's asked the United Nations for help and we have agreed to be part of the international effort to help the Iraqi Government protect its own people from those cross-border attacks. But that is not sufficient on its own. There needs to be a next step which is the international community working on a political solution for Syria . In the short term, humanitarian access, humanitarian corridors, safe zones for people to be able to flee to, in the longer term there must be a political solution that stops the fighting.

CASSIDY: There was a report in The Australian during the week that suggested Tony Abbott has one, he has a political solution to get rid of Assad and he will be taking that to the United States very soon.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I hope that he has a well-thought out solution that the international community can work together on because it will take an international response.

CASSIDY: And when you talk, we were talking longer term but even short term, these air strikes, at the very least, they might disrupt but given the nature of them, you would imagine that IS would then find hiding places and make airstrikes difficult so they might, you could disrupt even maybe degrade, but you can't possibly destroy IS?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think in the short term what we are supporting is preventing this organisation continuing with its cross-border attacks. It moves weapons and its fighters at will across the border between Iraq and Syria. The Government of Iraq is working very hard on preventing those cross-border attacks and I think it's quite fair to assist them to do that.

CASSIDY: On the refugee crisis, Labor proposed initially of course 10,000, the Government settled on 12,000. Some experts are saying that 12,000 might not be enough. Do you think that down the track you might have to do more?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it's a very good start but we know that there are 11, maybe 12 million people who are displaced from their homes in Syria. Millions outside the borders, millions more have had to move to different parts of Syria. So it might be necessary for the international community to do more. The European response as led by Germany, is a generous response. I'd certainly like to see a greater effort from some of the countries in the region, some of the Arab League nations, for example, very important to see increased effort from them. And also more support for countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan that are supporting millions of refugees right now with the help of international organisations like the UNHCR, UNICEF, World Food Program, they desperately need support to help those people live in dignity, particularly as winter approaches. Most Syrians want to return to Syria and if they can stay in the region, their kids get a decent education, they get some ability to support themselves, then they will return to Syria when peace comes.

CASSIDY: Now Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister, has said of you that she says she gets all the support she needs from Bill Shorten but you're another story altogether. Based on what you were saying about the longer term strategy, perhaps she has a point?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't know how she could fairly make any difference between Bill and I on this issue. We have a national security committee of Shadow Cabinet that meets. Bill is the chair of that, I'm the deputy chair. We make recommendations to the Shadow Cabinet and to our caucus. We debate those in Shadow Cabinet and caucus and we come to a united Labor position. I think it's a bit strange, particularly when we've had so many leaks from the National Security Committee of the actual Cabinet, the Government's National Security Committee, that they may as well issue a transcript, that she should be suggesting that there's any difference in our positions.

CASSIDY: There was a video that did the rounds this week, certainly on the social media, from question time on Tuesday. I want you to have a look at that now.


CASSIDY: It looks like there that she called you a bitch, is that how you saw it?

PLIBERSEK: [laughs] It still makes me laugh. Look, I'm not sure what the Foreign Minister's saying. But that was a week where we were demanding that the Government should take more refugees. At the beginning of the week the Government was saying that they wouldn't, that it would only be within our existing humanitarian intake. We were also calling on the Government to do a lot more to help refugees that remain in the region. We were calling on the Government to provide $100 million of urgent assistance in the region. What matters is that at the end of the week we see more Syrian refugees coming to Australia and we see not $100 million but $44 million of extra humanitarian assistance, that's what matters.

CASSIDY: But the bottom line here though is can the two of you cooperate to the extent that you must as you prosecute issues like Iraq and Syria?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly we do and we've had to at very pressing times like when Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were facing the death penalty in Indonesia we worked behind the scenes very cooperatively. I mean I don't think it's any surprise that people in politics don't always get on, it's a very high conflict area. What matters is the results that you get.

CASSIDY: And Peter Dutton's apology this morning on television, should that be the end of the matter?

PLIBERSEK: Well he apologised for being caught, Barrie. I don't think that should be the end of the matter at all. He should be apologising to Pacific leaders and to Aboriginal Australians in Cape York. He seems to have insulted millions of people in one go and he hasn't apologised for that. What is actually extraordinary is, you know, for the first few days Peter Dutton was saying ‘oh this is a private conversation, I shouldn't have to account for a private conversation’. What he should have to account for is that with the Prime Minister just back from the Pacific Islands Forum where Pacific leaders were saying they face an existential threat right now. They're not worried about what climate change will do to their nations in the future, they're worried about the fact that the storm surges are eating away at their nations, that they can't grow crops, that they can't get fresh water, that we're seeing climate change refugees leave their homelands. That's what's worrying about these comments. Peter Dutton thinks that's a joke and Tony Abbott laughs along with it. Not the fact that they were caught, that's not the problem. The problem is that they don't care that these Pacific island nations are facing an existential threat.

CASSIDY: What are your instincts telling you, and Labor’s had some experience in this area, about the possibility of a leadership change?

PLIBERSEK: I think, you know, I think it's odds on it will happen. It's a question of when it will happen and a question of who will replace Tony Abbott. But I mean really, they're all the same group of people who sat around the same Cabinet table and made the same decisions. They've made decisions in two Budgets that have smashed confidence, that's seen unemployment go up, taxes go up, debt up, deficit up, and confidence down. It's extraordinary that they think a change of leadership is going to fix all of that because they're all part of the same team that made the same bad decisions on the same product. It's not the sales person that's the problem.

CASSIDY: Sometimes when these things happen you get the two for one deal. If Tony Abbott falls is there a prospect that Labor might look again at their leadership?

PLIBERSEK: Not a chance.

CASSIDY: Thanks for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Barrie.



TRANSCRIPT: Sky News, Thursday 10 September 2015




SUBJECTS: Iraq; Syrian crisis; Pacific Islands Forum.

LAURA JAYES, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much for your time. This is really a bipartisan decision. Have you been briefed by the Government yet? 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Our leader, Bill Shorten has received a briefing both from the Prime Minister himself and also from Chief of Defence. Sadly, the briefings that the rest of our Shadow National Security Committee (NSC) have asked for haven’t been granted until now. Although later today, I will hear from Department of Foreign Affairs officials about the humanitarian aspects of Australia’s offer.

JAYES: So what information are you seeking, what are you uncertain about, what do you have anxieties about?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course our NSC members are very keen to know, for example, about the arrangements that are made should any of our personnel, you know, the worst should happen and a plane was downed, for example, making sure that our people would be kept safe -

JAYES: So the rules of engagement, really.

PLIBERSEK: The rules of- well, making sure that there’s a combat rescue provision made for our personnel. The rules of engagement are also very important, making sure that the rules about being very careful about avoiding civilian casualties will be followed. These are the sorts of the questions that obviously our Shadow National Security team are very keen to hear directly from defence.

JAYES: I’ll get to the risk of civilian casualties in a moment, but can I just ask why does Labor support this expansion of the mission? What will it achieve?

PLIBERSEK: We support it because the government of Iraq have asked for our help to protect their people and their territory. There’s a legal basis for us to help the government of Iraq to protect its own people. We believe that we can make a contribution to helping them defend themselves. I think when you’re talking about the complexity of Syria however, we shouldn’t be thinking about a broader military engagement there. What we really need to emphasise is a humanitarian response and a political resolution to the mess that is Syria at the moment. Making sure that the processes that have been held up internationally, we do what we can to bring to bring the parties back to the table, to think about what happens next for Syria.

JAYES: For there to be a political solution in Syria, there needs to a military one as well, you no doubt accept that, we’re talking about a generation long war here, perhaps, in Iraq and Syria. Many experts have talked about- for there to be a tactical boots on the ground team to give more intelligence for these airstrikes that we will now be conducting and perhaps even ground troops in the foreseeable future. Is that something that you are comfortable [with]?

PLIBERSEK: No I don’t think Australia should be sending troops, boots on the ground as people say, into Syria. We’ve got a -

JAYES: Should it be ruled out at this point though?

PLIBERSEK: In the case of Iraq, we’ve got a clear legal basis. We are helping the government of Iraq protect its own people and its own territory from strikes that are being made from across the border from Syria and within Iraq itself. There’s a very clear legal basis there. I think that the international community needs to work on a political solution for Syria and of course to some degree that will mean dealing with the warring forces there. But at the moment, what’s happening in Syria is you’ve got Russia backing the Assad government, you’ve got Iran backing Assad government, Hezbollah coming across the border from Lebanon, you’ve got the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others that are essentially, as well as fighting IS, very uncomfortable with the Assad regime. We don’t want to get drawn into what could become a proxy war between different parties for control of Syria. There has to be a political resolution.

JAYES: Sure. What is the political resolution, though? As you said earlier this week, Turkey, Russia seem to be planning for a post-Assad Syria so what is the dominant force? Is the Free Syrian Army the answer? There are 60 different groups, well that can be argued as well, so who is moderate force that we should be backing?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that’s exactly the reason we shouldn’t get involved militarily in Syria. Because that question -

JAYES: But we are, aren’t we? We are involved militarily.

PLIBERSEK: We’re involved in helping Iraq defend itself, including from attacks that are being launched from Syria -

JAYES: This is the very definition of mission creep though, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no I don’t think so because there is a very clear legal basis for what we’re doing. And I just have to stress, we do have a responsibility as a good international citizen to helping Syria. We are very pleased that the Government has announced that 12,000 extra refugees will be brought from Syria. Obviously Labor has been calling for this for many weeks now, in fact many months - when the Government originally said they’d bring 4,400 people from the region we said those should be in addition to our usual intake and that wasn’t what the Government was proposing at the time. And we’ve been calling for extra humanitarian assistance because we know countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey have had millions of refugees that they’ve been looking after for years now. We have to do more-

JAYES: To be fair though, the Government is giving 12,000 permanent places, that is different to some European countries who are only giving temporary places. It is going to cost an estimated $700 million. So even though the humanitarian aid side of things isn’t as high as you had requested, this is a pretty, overall, a very generous response from the Government, would you agree?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s terrific and Tony Abbott’s change of mind from Monday saying ‘no, we’re not taking any extra people, nothing above our current quota’ to 12,000 extra is one of the, frankly, best changes of mind I’ve seen from this Government. It’s something that of course we support fully. But we also think we need to lift our effort for refugees that are in the region, in neighbouring countries, in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey in particular that have been looking after millions of people. The UNHCR and other UN agencies are saying we are running out of money to feed these people as winter approaches.

JAYES: But as Julie Bishop points out, some of the Gulf States aren’t pulling their weight but let me move on to the humanitarian -

PLIBERSEK: And they should, I agree with that. They should.

JAYES: Can I move on to how the selection process might be made. Scott Morrison has pointed out today, and he’s the minister that will be in charge of essentially resettling these 12,000, that we should be looking after the minorities in these camps and around these camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and he says essentially they will really be the Christian minorities. Do you agree with that?

PLIBERSEK: I think we need to look after the most vulnerable people and -

JAYES: But they are the most vulnerable people, do you agree? Because some reports state the Christian minorities aren’t even safe in the camps.

PLIBERSEK: It’s very important that we go for the people that need our help the most. And in many cases that will be religious or ethnic minorities, in other cases it’ll be, for example, women on their own, potentially very vulnerable in camps, families, women and children, you know, with the fathers being killed, for example. You need to think about a range of characteristics that make a person vulnerable and we need to judge based on who needs the most help. We can do that with the help of the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration. We shouldn’t choose based on the religion of a person, but of course religion is a factor in making people vulnerable to attack.

JAYES: Can I ask about a separate issue now? The Prime Minister is in the Pacific Islands, he’s being criticised by some Pacific Island leaders for not doing enough on climate change but Australia can’t save Pacific Island nations in isolation so this really has to be an international effort, so isn’t that criticism a bit unfair?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think the Pacific Islands are asking to be saved, they’re asking for Australia to do its fair share. And they’re not the only ones criticising our government for having a very unambitious target for carbon pollution reduction.

JAYES: But what is Labor’s ideal target for post 2030? You haven’t put that forward. There’s also no explanation really about how this target of 50% renewables will be achieved by 2030.

PLIBERSEK: We’ve got great faith in our energy renewables sector. We’ve seen in recent days statements about large scale solar projects being funded and promoted. We’re confident that we can reach a 50% renewable energy target, it is ambitious but we should be ambitious. We’ve got some of the greatest natural resources in the world when it comes to renewable energy and we’ve got some of the best research and some of the most innovative equipment and so on. When it comes to-

JAYES: But with respect, Shadow Minister, our confidence and ambition isn’t going to save the Pacific Islands, so does Labor need to put forward something more concrete as an alternative government?

PLIBERSEK: But more renewable energy is a big part of doing our bit globally and of course we’ll announce our carbon pollution reduction targets over the next few months. And we’ve said very clearly that we think the Government’s target is unambitious, that their mad campaign against wind power is inexplicable and that we think that Australia as a good global citizen needs to do its share.

JAYES: Tanya Plibersek, thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.  



TRANSCRIPT: ABC Lateline, Wednesday 9 September 2015




SUBJECTS: Iraq; Syrian crisis.

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Labor's Deputy Leader and shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek joined us from Canberra just a short time ago. 

Tanya Plibersek, thanks for being there


JONES: Now Bill Shorten said today Australia's military action in Syria must be strategically, legally and morally sound. Does it fit the action that's being proposed, those three criteria?

PLIBERSEK: Well taking the legal basis first, I think it's pretty clear that Iraq has the ability to defend itself against strikes launched from Syrian territory and it has the right to ask other nations to do that too. I think the moral case, when you consider the size, the scale of the threat that's posed by Daesh, I think that there is a clear moral case under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine also for Australia to help the Iraqi Government protect the people and territory of Iraq. I think whether this makes sense in the long term depends on a number -

JONES: Strategically, you mean?

PLIBERSEK: Strategically - depends on a number of other elements. First of all, the international community must redouble its efforts to find a political solution for the tragedy that has been unfolding in Syria for many years. There is no way that bombing will solve the crisis in Syria. There has to be a political approach that of course is led by the people of Syria, but also involves the major political players that are all backing a dog in this fight.

JONES: Let's move on to the mission that's being proposed for Syria, and in your speech tonight, you've used the term mission creep. You've also used the term quagmire. Is this Labor's fear?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course. It's the fear of any rational person. We believe that the Government of [Iraq] has an absolute right to defend itself across the border from attacks by IS. But any rational person would say that the problem that spans across Iraq and Syria requires a political solution, not a military one. We are of course concerned that the international community redouble its efforts to find a short-term humanitarian response to the terrible crisis there, but a long-term strategic response that actually solves the problem, that doesn't continue to generate this human misery.

JONES: Let me ask you this - it's a strategic question: do you think the ultimate aim of military engagement should be to keep the Assad regime in power, given what happened in Iraq when we attempted to create regime change by getting rid of Saddam Hussein?

PLIBERSEK: No, I don't. I don't accept that for a moment. I think our military involvement must be confined to helping Iraq defend itself. I think our interest in Syria must be through renewed diplomatic pushes through the international community. In the short term, a humanitarian response; in the long term, a diplomatic and political response. And I don't accept - I know there are a number of people writing at the moment that the Assad Government is looking pretty good compared with the mess that's there now. You've got to remember, this conflict started because the Assad Government opened fire on unarmed protestors who were protesting against children being locked up and tortured for graffitiing walls -  this is a terrible regime.

JONES: It sounds like you'd actually favour the notion of regime change, which of course led to so many problems in Iraq.

PLIBERSEK: No. Tony, I don't think you can simplify it to the degree you're trying to simplify it to. This has to be a Syrian-led process that of course involves - you've got Iran, you've got Russia, United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, arming, supporting, financing different groups on the ground in Syria. A solution has to take account of the big geopolitical pressures that are brought to bear when all of these players are backing a dog in the fight.

JONES: OK. Quickly, are you concerned that while the Pentagon has admitted to, in the course of its air strikes in Syria and Iraq, killing two civilians, both young girls. Independent sources such as Airwar - the Airwar site run by a former BBC journalist are saying that civilian deaths run into the hundreds?

PLIBERSEK: I am concerned about any support of civilian - any report of civilian casualties. Of course I am concerned about any -

JONES: So do you think we're hearing the full story from the Pentagon is really what I'm asking?

PLIBERSEK: Of course I'm concerned about any report of civilian casualties and any information must be made transparently available.

JONES: Now we don't have a lot of time, but on the new refugee intake Labor's offered support to the Government's decision to offer 12,000 additional places for Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Are you convinced that Muslim refugees in those camps will not be discriminated against?

PLIBERSEK: Well it's absolutely vital that any decisions about who comes to Australia are made based on need, based on vulnerability and that's why we should take the advice of the UN High Commission on Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration about who we prioritise for resettlement in Australia. We need to take the people who are most vulnerable. That should be our policy, that's always been the way -

JONES: Have you sought assurances from the Government that Christians won't be prioritised, which is one of the things that's been suggested?

PLIBERSEK: Well we've made very clear that we expect people to be resettled on the basis of need.

JONES: There's been disquiet about this in the Muslim community. The Grand Mufti Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed said that choosing refugees based on religion or ethnicity was the kind of sectarian thinking that got Iraq and Syria into the problem in the first place. Are his fears completely unfounded, do you think?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think we should never make a choice about who comes to Australia based on their ethnicity or religion. We help the people who need the most help. Bill Shorten's been very clear about this. Richard Marles, our Immigration spokesperson, has been very clear on it. And I'd have to say the Prime Minister in his press conference this afternoon when he was pushed on this did admit that there are Muslim minorities who are persecuted in Syria and Iraq and that they would also be eligible for resettlement in Australia.

JONES: Finally, is there a risk that if handled badly, this could actually inflame divisions, sectarian divisions in Australia?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think we need to focus on the positive. The Australian community has been calling on the Government to do more, both to provide extra assistance to refugees in the region and to bring more people to Australia.

JONES: So you've got no concerns at all about some of the rhetoric from within Government circles from that side of politics that preceded this decision?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I've got to say I'm not going to pass running commentary on some of the poisonous nonsense that we hear from Government members. I'll simply say it's a good thing that they're bringing more people and the decision has to be based on need.

JONES: Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave you there. Thanks very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.



TRANSCRIPT: Press Conference, Canberra








SUBJECTS: Two years of Tony Abbott; Syrian refugee crisis.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everyone. Two years ago Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister. Two years ago, Mr Abbott promised Australians that we will not let you down. But in the last two years, unemployment has now risen to 6.3 per cent, there are 800,000 Australians unemployed. There are over a million Australians who are underemployed, there is another 800,000 Australians stranded on the Disability Support Pension. Economic growth is wallowing in mediocrity and confidence is down. Mr Abbott, however, seems focused on infighting – he is more focused on keeping his day job than doing his day job. Australia deserves better after two years of Mr Abbott's Government. 

Today also Labor wants to talk about the global humanitarian crisis that is unfolding. I talk, of course, of the Syrian refugee crisis. Mr Abbott's announcement yesterday was simply not good enough. Today Labor is calling for an emergency bipartisan meeting, of not just the Government and the Opposition, but of State leaders, of community representatives, of religious organisations. Furthermore, Labor is calling today for a one-off increase in our humanitarian intake of refugees from 13,750, for an additional 10,000 refugees caught up in a conflict not of their making, and indeed they are part of the greatest peacetime refugee crisis that the world has seen since the conclusion of the Second World War. 

Labor believes it isn't good enough for the Government or Mr Abbott to simply say that they will take more refugees, but from within the existing level of refugees scheduled to be taken by this country. We are proposing a significant increase because this is a significant crisis. I would like now to invite my Deputy Leader, Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek to talk further about what Labor believes should be done, then I invite the Shadow Immigration spokesperson Richard Marles to supplement that.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Bill. Richard will speak in a moment about the proposal that we will make on bringing more refugees to Australia from this conflict zone. I want to speak very briefly about the humanitarian assistance we should offer to the people who continue to be affected by this conflict in Syria and in neighbouring countries. At the beginning of last year, I visited both Lebanon and Jordan to see the conditions in the refugee camps in those countries. Of course, the situation in Syria is horrific. It was horrific then and it is horrific now. 

Of a population around the size of Australia – you can just picture – about half the population is either internally displaced or has fled to neighbouring countries. There are about 3.5 million people at last count in neighbouring countries, including, say, using Lebanon as an example – a country of just over 4 million people, has about a million refugees that they are looking after. Jordan is in a similar situation. Turkey has even a higher number again. So, we are saying today, given the immense humanitarian need in Syria and in neighbouring countries, that the Australian Government should do more. It should offer $100 million to help in Syria and in the region. 

$100 million would buy, for example, rehabilitated schools and classrooms for almost a million children, and food relief for around 100,000, and vaccinations for almost 1.5 million children, and 20,000 families provided with housing, and 50,000 women and girls provided with support for gender-based violence. The scale of need is absolutely enormous and sadly Australia has actually been doing less as the crisis has worsened. When Labor was in Government, we provided $100 million to the Syrian crisis. Since then, the Abbott Government has provided about $55 million. This contrasts, of course, with around $650 million which will be spent over two years on providing military support –military support that Labor has supported – to help protect civilians in Iraq from the threat of Daesh. I'm going to pass onto Richard now who will speak a little bit about the additional measures we are proposing for asylum seekers.

RICHARD MARLES, SHADOW MINSTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:  Thank you, Tanya and thank you, Bill. As has been said, we are experiencing in the world today the largest humanitarian need since the Second World War. The UNHCR tells us 59 million people in the world are displaced and the single biggest cause of that is the conflict in Syria. All of us have been moved in recent days by the images of Aylan Kurdi and what has played out in Hungary and across Europe, but of course this issue now has been around for some time. As Tanya said, both she and I have visited Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and have seen first-hand the impact of the Syrian crisis. 10,000 additional places is a very significant offer. And it does have a real cost, we don't underestimate that, but in recent days we've seen the states come out and make offers of assistance in relation to meeting the needs of this. In recent days, we've seen members of the community, the Syrian community here in Australia, saying that they are willing to help. And through working with the states, through community sponsored visas which reduce cost, through family reunion, through providing people work rights who come here, we do believe that as a country we can work together and put 10,000 places on the table. But to do that, our Prime Minister needs to show some leadership and bring people around that table. On the conservative side of politics it shouldn't be left up to the New South Wales Premier to lead this debate. Our Prime Minister ought to be bringing people together now and putting that table together, so that we can, as a country, offer 10,000 places. That would make us commensurate with the kind of offers which are being expressed by the countries of Europe. That would be an amount which is suitable and fitting to a country of our size and our generosity, and befitting obviously the sentiment which is out there today from the Australian people for there to be action. Tony Abbott needs to seize this moment and demonstrate some leadership.

JOURNALIST: Mr Marles, do you have a costing on this policy?

MARLES: This is a real cost. And there is no getting around that issue, but we are talking about a one-off emergency increase in our humanitarian intake, and so in that sense the costs that we are describing is defrayed over a number of years, but I also make the point that we've got states right now costing contributions that they would make to this. If we did talk about this on the basis of cost-sharing with states, community-based sponsored visas, family reunion and work rights, all of that can defray the cost and we are a big enough country to put this proposition together. We don't underestimate the significance of it, but it can be done.

JOURNALIST: Can I just confirm, are you talking about 10,000 additional permanent refugee places right now?


JOURNALIST: And what are the community sponsored ones that you are talking about?

MARLES: Well, within the humanitarian program now, which was introduced under the Labor Government, there are community sponsored based visas, that is to say members of the community provide money in relation to that particular visa, which enables communities to bring people out under the humanitarian program. That was a reform that we put in place when we were in government. Obviously visas of that kind are much cheaper in terms of the public purse. It’s the community then playing its part in bringing people to Australia. So with the community playing its part, with the states playing its part, with families playing their part, we can all do this together, and of course if work rights were provided to these people and that was not the case with the Kosovars under John Howard, but if work rights were provided to this cohort, then they play their part as well in being here in Australia. We think if you do all of that together, if the Prime Minister was to show some leadership and get that discussion going, then as a country, we can put 10,000 places out there and that would be a very good thing for this country to do.

JOURNALIST: The 10,000 would that be this financial year or spread over three? And secondly, for those of us who remember, with the Kosovars there was an expectation that some of them go home, I think it’s going to be much more difficult in this instance, are you, this would be permanent settlement would it, just to confirm?

MARLES: Yes, correct. So let me deal with that question first, Andrew. We’re not talking about safe haven visas which was the visa class that was used for the Kosovars. The reality in relation to the Kosovars was that most of those people ultimately did stay in Australia, and so offering permanent places better reflects the reality of the situation that we’re talking about and indeed were you to do this through the permanent humanitarian program, it could be done far more efficiently so ultimately that helps defray costs as well. We would be trying to do this within the course of the financial year. But in saying that, there is a practicality limit here and that is the ability of the settlement community to be able to absorb those people within our program. Now we've had some conversations initially with the settlement community today. What we understand is that there is the capacity to be able to do that at relatively short notice and the reality here is that the journey from Java to Christmas Island, having been ended, we hope, does free up capacity within the system to take people. So, we do believe that it can be done within a year, but with that practicality limit, that is the intention of this proposition.

JOURNALIST: Is there any room within Labor policy, to accept those safe heaven visas, with the reintroduction of those Kosovo style [inaudible]? 

MARLES: That visa class as I understand it is still on the books, and there may well be a situation in the future where you might use a visa class of that kind, but in relation to this circumstance the proposition that we are putting forward are permanent places. That is going to reflect the reality of what we're actually talking about and the sooner that you get people in Australia settled, the sooner people are out there working, the sooner people are off the public purse tab, the cheaper the whole proposition is. It’s actually going to be much more cost effective to do it this way and to have people here under the permanent program than to use the safe haven visa category for this circumstance.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] have skills and qualifications and [inaudible] there’s any scope to increase the number of migrants coming through the skilled migration program which is obviously a lot larger from some of these people?

MARLES: Well, look, the observation that many refugees who come to this country have skills is absolutely right. And often the skills that people have, coming through the humanitarian program, are used to the great benefit of our country. What we're talking about now, though, is a humanitarian response. The humanitarian visa program is the way in which we should be responding. We don't want to do this on the basis of what skills people have in terms of their accessing this, because at the end of the day this is meeting a humanitarian need, and that's the way in which we ought to be going about this.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has raised repeatedly the question of bringing minority groups – he specified minority groups – is there a particular reason why you should or shouldn't do that? And second if I could also just ask about this idea of safe heavens within Syria, whether Labor has thought about that and what the implications of that are?

MARLES: Well, in terms of, Laura, which minorities come or who comes, that's ultimately a question that we think should be worked through with the UNHCR. They are the people on the ground who have the best sense of where the greatest need is and what would make sense here is for the Government to, if we were in a position to offer 10,000 places, to provide them to the UNHCR in order for those places to be deployed by the UNHCR to the greatest possible effect. Now the one caveat on that is that if we’re talking about community-sponsored visas in Australia, if we’re talking about family re-unification, and both of those visa categories we mention in this context because they are cheaper, to be frank, then obviously that has a relationship with what communities exist here in Australia, but with that caveat, principally you would be asking the UNHCR to deploy these to the best possible effect.

PLIBERSEK: Can I just answer the question about safe havens? It’s obvious that with more than 11 million people displaced within and outside Syria that there will be no final resolution to this Syrian exodus until there is a political solution in Syria itself. There have been some minor good signs in recent times that the countries that are most involved in this conflict are talking about what a political resolution of the conflict might look like. Russia, Iran, the United States, Turkey, all of these countries seem to be inching very slowly towards talking about a post-Assad Syria. That gives us, I think, greater capacity to talk about safe havens. Safe havens, of course, will not just be safe havens from Daesh or IS, and the many other groups on the ground – over 1,000 by one estimate – that are fighting their way through Syria, but they will also have to be safe havens from the Assad regime. There have been continual reports of the Assad regime bombing civilians – very large civilian casualties – and using weapons like barrel bombs that are doing very significant damage. So, yes, it would be good to see safe havens established. That will have to be part of a broader political solution and they will have to be safe not just from one terrorist group, but from the range of non-state actors and indeed from the Assad regime as well.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] airstrikes in Syria [inaudible]

SHORTEN: Labor’s considering its position on that. We recognise the argument which has been put which is Australian aeroplanes bombing Daesh who cross into the border from Syria into Iraq and then pursuing them back into Syria is allowed under international law in terms of the principle of collective self-defence. Labor hasn't finalised its position on that today. 

But today what Labor has said is that we've decided that Australia should play its role in the international effort to relieve the pressure on the neighbouring countries around Syria for the massive refugee crisis. That Europe is proposing to take 120,000 refugees shows, I think, it's important that Australia does its bit. Back in 1976 and '77, Malcolm Fraser stood up in terms of the tragedy of the exodus from Vietnam. Bob Hawke of course did the right thing by Chinese students studying here following the Tiananmen Square massacre, John Howard, too, when dealing with the plight of Kosovars made a decision to go above and beyond. It is now time for this Parliament and for Mr Abbott to step up and what we've said today, Labor believes that it is time for Australia to dig a little deeper, to be a decent and compassionate nation that we know we are, and to provide an extra 10,000 refugees with a better prospect of life than they are currently experiencing.

See you all in Question Time, thank you.



TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop Interview Perth, Tuesday 1 September 2015






MATT KEOGH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CANNING: So we’re here today at the Armadale Kelmscott Memorial Hospital which is part of the Armadale health service. I was born in the hospital that used to be here, and it’s in the area of Kelmscott obviously in Canning. We’re here because we want to highlight one of the key issues for the people of Canning, which has been that the Abbott Government’s cut over $2 billion from the health services that cover this area. That’s cuts to this hospital, Armadale Kelmscott, it’s cuts to the Peel Health Campus and the Murray District Hospital in Pinjarra. This really highlights the wrong priorities of the Abbott Government which are of great concern. And of course it compounds the problem of the GP tax, which is going to further reduce the levels of bulk billing which are already low throughout Canning, which then force more people into our hospital system putting more pressure on these hospitals. This is combined with this hospital; the Barnett Government seems to have failed by cutting back their budget for the planned redevelopment of this hospital. We’ve got a huge growing area in Armadale and Kelmscott, and also through Byford into Serpentine and Jarrahdale, which this hospital needs to support. And instead of investing the funds that are required to redevelop this hospital, we’re just seeing cuts from the both the Abbott and Barnett Liberal governments, which really highlights the problem of the areas of Armadale and Kelmscott and through Mandurah, and all through the seat of Canning being abandoned by Mr Abbott and his Liberal Government. And people need to remember that a vote for Mr Abbott’s candidate in this election is a vote for Mr Abbott’s wrong priorities and broken promises. Any questions on any of that or I can hand over to Tanya.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much for coming out this morning. It’s wonderful to be here with Matt Keogh and with Senator Sue Lines, but also to be here with a number of staff from this hospital. It’s a terrific facility and of course, as Matt said, he was born here and he’s seen a lot of changes at this hospital over the years including work that was done under the previous Labor government. But as Matt has quite rightly pointed out, there’s real concern in this area about the more than $2.8 billion of health cuts that this region will see over coming years if Tony Abbott has his way. It’s just on two years, two years to the day in fact, that Tony Abbott said that a Coalition government would be a government of no surprises and no excuses. And sadly, all we’ve seen from Canberra are nasty surprises and pathetic excuses, including in this most important area of healthcare. The Liberal candidate for this area, Andrew Hastie, is trying to make out that he’s running to be the President of the Republic of Canning; that he’s going to have nothing to do with Tony Abbott and his team in Canberra. But we all know that Andrew Hastie will have to defend all of the same Captain’s Picks as the rest of Tony Abbott’s team are having to defend. That means cuts to health, cuts to education, increased unemployment, increased taxes, a doubling of the deficit, all of the wrong calls that Tony Abbott’s making in Canberra will be defended by Andrew Hastie here in Canning. I’m delighted to be here with Matt today. He’s a local candidate, he’s a boy who was born in the hospital right behind us, and he’s committed to this local community. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: There’s been a second controversy involving Andrew Hastie. This one, the latest one, being troops under his command, US troops accidentally killed two Afghan boys from a helicopter. What are your thoughts on that? Should he come forward and be clear about his operations in Afghanistan or should the ADF release that report which cleared his troops?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I’m not going to make any comment about that. I’ve only seen the same information that you have and it’s not proper for me to comment without much more information than that.

JOURNALIST: Why do you say that he’s trying to run as the President of Canning? What’s he actually done to make you think that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, you’ve got in Andrew Hastie a candidate saying what’s happening in Canberra doesn’t matter to the people of Canning. But of course the decisions that are made in Canberra matter to the people of Canning. When Mr Abbott decides to cut the health budget across the nation, the people of Canning suffer. When Mr Abbott decides to cut the education budget across the nation, the kids of Canning suffer. When Mr Abbott makes a decision about $100,000 university degrees or cuts to the pension, cuts to the part pension, it’s the people of Canning who suffer. If Mr Hastie wants to be on Mr Abbott’s team, he’s going to have to take responsibility for those captain’s calls.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, does Labor think that it can actually win this seat or is its aim just a substantial swing?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we’ve got a brilliant candidate here, of course. But even with a brilliant candidate, a local boy, it still is very difficult to expect a swing of around 12 per cent. What I can say is we’ll give it a red hot go.

JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts around Dyson Heydon’s decision not to stand down from the Royal Commission?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it shows that Mr Abbott should have acted in the first instance and asked Dyson Heydon to stand aside. It has become untenable for the Royal Commissioner to be sitting in judgment on himself in this way and we’ve always said that this is a politically motivated $80 million inquiry. I think this is final confirmation of that in the last few days.

JOURNALIST: A Senate committee has recommended the removal of asylum seeker children and their families from Nauru given that the conditions are not adequate. What are your thoughts on that?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s the case that most Australians would say that we should get asylum seeker children out of detention as quickly as possible. It was our intention when we were in government to have an arrangement with Malaysia that would’ve seen asylum seekers able to go to Malaysia, able to go to work, live in the community, their children able to go to school, healthcare provided. Sadly, the Liberals, then in opposition, refused to support that. They came up with their own arrangement with Cambodia that’s fallen apart in recent times. It’s very difficult to see where Peter Dutton goes next.

JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton today said that Fairfax papers are leading a jihad, as he termed it, against the Government. What do you think about that?

PLIBERSEK: I think Mr Abbott said in 2013 “if you want better coverage, be a better government”. What’s Peter Dutton done in the last week? He’s presided over a border farce - absolutely appalling run of events in Melbourne. He hid under the doona all weekend and now he’s come out to blame the media for getting bad coverage. Peter Dutton should do his job better if he wants better coverage.

JOURNALIST: Would a Labor government change the arrangements for the Border Force, would it scale it back in its functions and powers?

PLIBERSEK: Well, certainly we wouldn’t be encouraging any Australian law enforcement agency to be stopping people randomly as was suggested last weekend in Melbourne. Our personnel, our security personnel, the people who work for Border Force do a wonderful job. This is not about the work that is done by this agency. It’s about a Minister’s inability to manage his own responsibilities. He’s now said that the press release, that was controversial, did actually go to his office twice and no action was taken. This is not about the personnel of the agency or the fine work they’re doing, it’s about an incompetent minister who pays no attention to the detail of his portfolio.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] from the Australian Chamber of Commerce says that there’s a long cold winter ahead if the China free trade agreement collapses. What are your thoughts on that?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s important to say Labor is supportive of a free trade agreement between Australia and China. But it has to be a good quality agreement. We have some concerns about the provisions around employment in the agreement. The enabling legislation is yet to be tabled in the Parliament. We are keen to work with the Government on that enabling legislation to make sure that Australian jobs are protected. Think about Western Australia. In Western Australia alone, since Tony Abbott came to government, unemployment is up 1.8 per cent. We’ve got close to 100,000 people unemployed, looking for work. Of course, we want to ensure that an Australia-China free trade agreement brings the benefits of jobs to WA and of course to the rest of the nation too.

JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull yesterday told residents here at a morning tea on that issue that Labor was running a scare campaign regarding Chinese workers and was guilty of shocking misinformation here in Canning. How do you respond to that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I would expect Malcolm Turnbull to say that. But it is clear that in this free trade agreement that runs to thousands and thousands of pages, there is some uncertainty about the provisions around importing whole workforces for large projects. If the Government is interested in working with Labor to make sure that the enabling legislation puts beyond doubt any of the areas where we have concerns, we would welcome that. Instead what they’ve chosen to do is spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on a politically motivated advertising campaign that, wow, coincidentally happens to be running when there’s a by-election on. Let’s actually get to the meat of the issue. Let’s work together to ensure that this agreement actually brings jobs with it, actually increases employment in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Labor says it’s working to try and protect those jobs, but are you concerned that if this agreement is blocked that tens of thousands of jobs could be lost?

PLIBERSEK: We want to see a free trade agreement. We negotiated for many years on this agreement with China. We would be delighted to see a good quality agreement introduced. But it has to be an agreement that expands job opportunities for Australians, not loses them.

JOURNALIST: If it comes in but in a form that’s not satisfactory to you, and you win the election, would you then seek to insert protections, make changes, event go back and renegotiate some things?

PLIBERSEK: Let’s just see- the first step is seeing details of the enabling legislation and of course we would like to see this agreement now, of the quality that we could support, that would actually support employment outcomes here in WA and across the nation.

JOURNALIST: Do you think China would be willing to renegotiate the agreement?

PLIBERSEK: I think all of these things are hypothetical, speculative. You’re talking about uncertain events in the future. I don’t think that there’s -

JOURNALIST: But you are saying changes should be made now. So it’s not that hypothetical.

PLIBERSEK: We’re saying that we would like to see a good quality agreement between Australia and China. We would like to see enabling legislation that puts beyond doubt any of the concerns that people have about very large projects, in particular being able to import entire workforces and doubts of course also around the qualifications that some trades will need when being brought to Australia. Let’s see if the Government can reassure Australians and West Australians about those weaknesses by introducing enabling legislation that clarifies the situation.

JOURNALIST: Matt Keogh, do you agree that Andrew Hastie’s conducting himself like royalty as he gets around the electorate?

KEOGH: To be honest, I haven’t really been following what Andrew’s been doing around the electorate. What I’ve been doing is going out and talking to people in the electorate about the issues that are concerns to them, so things like, you know, GP tax, cuts to education, cuts to hospitals, like this one, that’s what I’ve been out doing in the electorate, I’m not following what he’s doing.



TRANSCRIPT: Sunrise, Monday 31 August 2015






SUBJECTS: Dyson Heydon, Peter Dutton’s Border Farce, Joe Hockey under pressure

DAVID KOCH, PRESENTER: It's D-Day for the chair of the unions royal commission. Dyson Heydon is due to decide today whether he'll continue in the role. He came in for criticism, if you’ll remember, after it was revealed he was due to give an address to a Liberal Party fundraiser. Mr Heydon says he pulled out after realising the event's links to the Liberals. The headache for the Government comes as it continues to cop criticism over a botched visa check planned for Melbourne over the weekend. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined our request to appear on Sunrise.

But joining me now is Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Tanya, good morning to you.  What are you expecting Dyson Heydon to do today?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I'm not sure what Dyson Heydon will do or say today, but the fact that this has been going on for well over a week now, I think suggests that it should be the Prime Minister that takes action rather than just allowing this uncertainty to drift on.

KOCH: Yeah, if he continues as the Royal Commissioner, will you comply with any findings?

PLIBERSEK: Well look I think it's very difficult for - you know, it's not just that you shouldn't be biased as a Royal Commissioner, there should be no doubt or no suggestion or no possible interpretation that you are biased. We have said all along that this royal commission is Tony Abbott's royal commission. It was set up to try and smear his political opponents.  We have spent $80 million of taxpayers' money on the royal commission. Now with the doubts about perception of bias with the Royal Commissioner, I think it really does bring the credibility of the royal commission into doubt.

KOCH: Because it is a really murky area, isn't it? This link between Labor and the unions because there are reports this morning Bill Shorten's campaign to become Labor leader received undisclosed donations from an allegedly dodgy secret union slush fund.  Does this raise more questions about union funding?

PLIBERSEK: Two things I’d say - if anyone does the wrong thing at a workplace, an employer, an employee, a union, they should be referred to the police, and they should face the full force of the law. The second thing - I notice this report you've referred to today. This is information that was contained in the royal commission’s interim report, released in December, nine months ago, made public at the time.  Since then, Bill Shorten has appeared before the royal commission and answered 900 questions before the royal commission. So I am not quite sure whether this is quite the revelation that the newspaper is suggesting.

KOCH: So are you happy that the links between Labor and the union movement are completely transparent now?

PLIBERSEK: You know I am proud of the links between our party and the union movement because it's the union movement over more than 100 years that has fought for working people, the eight hour day, sick-leave, holiday leave, maternity leave, all of these great things.

KOCH: I'm talking about this funding, the dodgy funding in the past?

PLIBERSEK: I think if there is any allegation that anyone’s done something wrong, it should go to the police. We have also got the Crime Commission which is like a standing royal commission. The problem with the royal commission as it stands now is that it's $80 million of taxpayers' money used by the Government to pursue their political opponents. I don't think Australians think that that's value for money, frankly.

KOCH: Let's move on to this Operation Fortitude. Now despite it being dropped, it has sparked controversy, a poorly worded press release made it sound like people would be stopped in the street and checked for visas. Despite it being canned, does Minister Dutton still need to explain what it is this operation was really all about or is it dead and buried?

PLIBERSEK: I think Peter Dutton is pretty happy to talk tough when things are going his way, it's pretty sad to see he is in hiding as soon as things get difficult. I think it’s extraordinary. Of course, if anybody has overstayed their visa, or there’s any visa fraud, of course the police should be involved in that.  But the notion that we would just be stopping people in the streets in Australia - we don't live in a police state. And it's clear now that Peter Dutton’s office did receive the press release that described what this operation would be like. The fact that they didn't - alarm bells didn’t ring at the time is extraordinary. I think the Minister really does need to take responsibility for what is happening in his department under his watch.

KOCH: Love your thoughts on this, more reports this morning that that Cabinet Ministers are urging Tony Abbott to dump Joe Hockey as Treasurer if the Government goes badly in the up coming Canning by-election. Do you think Joe Hockey could become the scapegoat here?

PLIBERSEK: Look I don't think it's the sales person that's the problem, I think it's the product. You know, in the last couple of years, we have seen the Australian budget - the Australian economy performing worse than it did during the Global Financial Crisis. Unemployment is higher. The deficit has doubled since last year. We have got 17 new or increased taxes. We have got business and consumer confidence flat lining. It is really no wonder that people are talking about changing the Treasurer. The real problem is that there is no plan for the transition of the Australian economy. The construction phase of the mining boom is coming to an end, what sort of work are we going to be doing in ten and twenty years time? How will we keep our economy strong and growing so there are opportunities for our kids?

KOCH: We will find out later this week when the latest economic growth figures are out.  Tanya Plibersek thanks for joining us. 

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Kochie.



TRANSCRIPT: ABC Radio National Breakfast, Friday 28 August 2015





SUBJECTS: Syria, China FTA

FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is Labor’s Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Labor Leader. Tanya Plibersek, welcome to breakfast.


KELLY: Labor’s support for the Iraq mission when we spoke about this some time ago was conditional on having the invitation from the Iraqi government, on it not being open ended or subject to mission creep, that it didn’t involve Australian soldiers on the front line, and that it was primarily a humanitarian and training mission. Does extending the RAAF fighter jets into missions over the border into Syria fit within those red lines?

PLIBERSEK: I think, Fran, the first thing we need to do is pause and find out from the Government, first of all, exactly what it is that Australia’s being asked to do, and secondly, what exactly the Australian Government is proposing in response to that request. So far, the national security committee of the Cabinet has not met to discuss this, they’re talking about meeting next week. From that meeting, we would make expect the Government to make clear what’s being asked of Australia and what their proposed response is. When we have that critical information, we’ll make a decision about our response to it.

KELLY: But it’s clear what we’re being asked, we’re being asked to join in the coalition missions into- across the border, into Syria.

PLIBERSEK: Well, Fran, I don’t think it’s as clear as that. There’s many different ways that we could participate in that sort of request. It could be just to try and secure the border between Iraq and Syria or it could much wider operations that are being asked of us, we don’t know that. The Government has not shared the content of the letter that we’ve received from the United States and it’s not made clear exactly what it’s proposing Australia should do in response to any request that’s been made.

KELLY: There’s plenty of advice coming in. Former Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia has a moral obligation to join in with the rest of the coalition campaign across the border in Syria. Gareth Evans too thought that there was a moral justification there under the responsibility to protect principle adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2005. Do you accept there is sufficient moral justification for extending the mission into Syria to prevent mass atrocities?

PLIBERSEK: I certainly accept that we have a humanitarian obligation to the people of Syria. There’s 11.5 million of them that have fled their homes, victims of IS and a range of other brutal terrorist organisations and the Assad government itself. And I certainly have been supportive; the Opposition has been supportive of the Government’s approach in Iraq. But it is important if we’re talking about broadening that approach, that we’re very clear about what our objective is, what the legal basis is and what specifically we’re being asked to do. At the moment, the Government hasn’t made that information public.

KELLY: Have you sought legal advice on this? Gareth Evans, as I mentioned, said that legally it’s a grey area but probably defensible under the notion of collective self-defence, under article 51 of the UN Charter. Have you sought advice on that?

PLIBERSEK: We’ve asked the Government to share its legal advice. The Prime Minister in the past has said that while the moral case is the same, the legal case is different. If he thinks that position has changed, I think it’s very important that he take not just the Opposition but the Australian public into his confidence and share what’s changed in his view.

KELLY: If the mission in Syria is limited to assisting Iraq to defend its own people from attacks coming from across the border in Syria, and if our military targets in Syria is solely the ISIS fighters responsible for those cross border attacks, would Labor support it?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Fran, I’m not going to make a position or a statement based on supposition of what’s being asked of us, and supposition of what our response might be. We are absolutely willing to listen to the Government to make its case for expanding Australian operations but they should say exactly what it is that they’re proposing to do and we’ll make a decision based on the information at the time. As I say, we do have a responsibility as good international citizens to help in Syria. It’s one of the most hellish places on earth. IS is obviously an organisation- one of the most evil on earth, everything the Government says about the hundreds of thousands of people who have died, civilians who have been displaced, the treatment of prisoners, slaves, captives, all of that is true and it is important for us to play a role as an international citizen in protecting civilians from those crimes. But we also, you know, Fran, we have spent- or set aside about $650 million for a military response here and we’ve contributed in the last couple of years about $55 million to the victims of this organisation that are living in camps and caves coming in now into the third or fourth of fifth winter displaced from their homes. So yes, we have an obligation but we need to consider what specifically is being asked of us militarily, and what more we can do.

KELLY: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is seeking advice from other countries on this, the legal basis and some legal advice, she’s going to be talking to Iran too.  That’s smart, isn’t it, for Australia to be keeping Iran in on the loop on this given the support Iranian forces are giving to the Iraqi government, in terms of training and support for the Shiite militia and the fight against ISIS.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it’s for the Foreign Minister to explain why she’s singled out Iran for consultation. Iran is one of several countries in the region that are supporting different sides of this conflict. Iran obviously is the country that has backed Assad, the brutal dictator of Syria, and I think it’s really up to the Foreign Minister to explain why she’s singled out Iran for consultation. Of course, anybody who has been watching the situation in Syria understands that it is important for IS to be confronted militarily, but it’s also important for there to be political resolution to the conflict in Syria. There’ll be no lasting peace there until there’s a political resolution that involves consultation with the international community because so far, big players in the international community have been backing their dog in the fight and unwilling to work on a compromise that would benefit the people of Syria. And then thirdly, of course, as well as a military and political solution, we need to deal with the humanitarian crisis that sees millions of people displaced from their homes.

KELLY: It’s 16 to 8. Our guest is Labor’s Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek. Can I ask you on another issue? Andrew Robb is headed to Beijing to reassure the Chinese that the Australian Government is committed to the free trade agreement. At the same time, Labor MP Kelvin Thompson says Labor should oppose the FTA with China. Is the Opposition committed to the free trade agreement? Will you pass it when it comes to Parliament?

PLIBERSEK: We’ve always been committed to free trade, or better trading relationships with our neighbours. It’s one of the reasons that we worked in government on this very free trade agreement. What we say about the agreement with China is that it has to be a good quality agreement that enhances Australia’s job prospects.

KELLY: But if the Government says it can’t make changes without threatening the whole agreement, will Labor pass it as it is?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we’re looking to work closely and cooperatively with the Government to see what we can do to improve the agreement to make sure that it has good job outcomes for Australians.

KELLY: Okay, Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Fran. 




TRANSCRIPT: The Today Show, Friday 21 August 2015





SUBJECT: Syria; Liberal leaks; Canning by-election; China FTA; Kathy Jackson

KARL STEFANOVIC, PRESENTER: It's been a long week for the Prime Minister and it could get longer. The head of the inquest into union corruption Dyson Heydon possibly deciding his future today, but more than likely next week. Either way it's a mess. Education Minister Christopher Pyne and the Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek join us now. Good morning to you guys. Nice to see you all bright and early this morning.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE, EDUCATION MINISTER: Good morning, Karl. Good morning, Tanya.

STEFANOVIC: Chris, with what we learned this morning out of The Australian, the US wants more involvement from our RAAF in Syria. When do we start? When does that happen?

PYNE: Obviously I can't confirm that story on the front page of The Australian today but it's clear that the ISIL threat in Syria and Iraq is a very serious one. We've already in Australia twice interdicted attempts to have terrorist acts here in Australia since last September. There are people trying to go and join ISIL in Syria and Iraq very regularly and Tanya of course will be kept well informed by the Government about movements and we will respond of course to any requests by the US or our allies. Already airborne refuelling aircraft are refuelling coalition fighter jets that are bombing in Syria, and we would do everything on a very strong legal basis if we were to take that further action.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, when does it start though? Because The Australian's got that answer, when does it actually start?

PYNE: I don’t believe any decision has been made by the Government and obviously we would be briefing the Opposition and I understand a briefing has been organised for early next week about any developments that might occur there-

STEFANOVIC: We can possibly say then that's going to happen if there's a briefing organised for next week. Tanya, you said in the past you'd be more inclined to drop aid into Syria-

PLIBERSEK: Well, actually no, that's what the Government said I said.

STEFANOVIC: What did you say?

PLIBERSEK: This is an extremely serious situation. It is a terrible organisation doing terrible things in Iraq and Syria. We've been very supportive of action in Iraq. We don't have any details so far of the story that Greg Sheridan has on the front page of The Australian today. There was a briefing scheduled for this week that was cancelled so we don't know what is being asked of us at the moment. Once we know what's being asked of us then we can make a decision about our response to that.

STEFANOVIC: Should we be should dropping aid rather than bombs?

PLIBERSEK: We should be doing more for the 11.5 million people who are displaced from their homes in Syria, the victims of Daesh. These are the people that are being chased, raped, murdered, sold into slavery, chased from their homes, of course we should be doing more.

STEFANOVIC: You're not saying we shouldn't be dropping bombs.

PLIBERSEK: It's not either or. We do need to have a strong military response to this organisation that doesn't exempt us from also helping the victims of the organisation.

STEFANOVIC: Let’s go domestically. Chris, three leaks in a week, the PM's clearly lost Malcolm Turnbull's confidence.

PYNE: They're pretty minor stories. I mean, the media are really beating them up, quite frankly. The leaks that occurred in the Gillard/Rudd Government was a deluge in comparison to these minor stories-

STEFANOVIC: So you concede it’s Malcolm Turnbull then?

PYNE: Certainly not. I wouldn’t have the faintest clue where these stories

STEFANOVIC: Well, you just rolled along with it. I just said then three leaks in a week, the PM’s clearly lost Malcolm Turnbull's confidence.

PYNE: I wasn't rising to your bait. I’ve seen you in action before.

STEFANOVIC: Well, who is it then? It's got to be Malcolm.

PYNE: Who would know? They’re very minor stories.

STEFANOVIC: Well, you should know!

PYNE: They’re minor stories and they're certainly not earth shattering at all. I mean, the agenda of cabinet, seriously, under the Gillard/Rudd Government there was a deluge of leaks-

PLIBERSEK: Well, the fact that there is no agenda is pretty significant.

PYNE: I think what's happened this week- the most spectacular own goal I've seen in two years is that Labor's put their Trade Union Royal Commission and their links to the CFMEU and the AWU right back in the middle of the spotlight.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, we’ll get onto that in just a second. The ACTU is going to devote upwards of $30 million to take down Tony Abbott. If he doesn't win Canning, is he finished?

PYNE: The ACTU is using its members’ money, that’s true, $30 million with a staff of 25 full time staff to dislodge the Abbott Government. Why wouldn't they? The problem-

STEFANOVIC: If he doesn't win Canning, is he finished?

PYNE: Well, Canning’s on September the 19th, I'm very confident we will win Canning. It's a great tragedy of course that we have the by-election there following the death of Don Randall. But I wouldn't be putting too much store by the result in Canning but I do believe we will win it.

STEFANOVIC: Have you got a problem with the free trade agreement with China? It’s causing a bit of ruckus in parliament yesterday. Is it giving Australian jobs to the Chinese, do you believe?

PLIBERSEK: No, we're very supportive of a China-Australia free trade agreement. It just has to be-

STEFANOVIC: So where is the union getting off then?

PLIBERSEK: It just has to be a good quality agreement that makes sure that particularly on these large project - that projects can't bring in a wholly foreign workforce, that jobs are offered to Australians first. We've been negotiating the Australia-China free trade agreement for several years, we just didn't take the first agreement that was offered because we want good quality jobs for Australian workers.

STEFANOVIC: So you disagree with union ads saying they are taking Australian jobs?

PLIBERSEK: No, I think we need to be very careful. These are the issues that we're concerned about in the China free trade agreement. Large projects- will the jobs have to be offered to Australians first?  That's very important. And then if trades are being brought in, will they have skills that are commensurate with the sort of skills that you'd need if you were doing that work in Australia.

STEFANOVIC: Bob Carr says there will be more jobs and higher wages. Has he got it a wrong?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think there is a potential for this agreement to grow a number of our sectors, including the agricultural sector. We just need to make sure that it’s-

STEFANOVIC: So are you talking to the unions about this, because they have a different opinion?

PLIBERSEK: You're not listening to what I'm saying.

STEFANOVIC: No, I am listening to what you’re saying.

PLIBERSEK: It’s a good thing to have an agreement, it has to be a good quality agreement that has more jobs for Australians.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, so you will say to the unions- to pick up the phone and say listen, those ads, they are misdirecting the Australian people.

PLIBERSEK: The concerns about large projects having fully imported workforces, that's a legitimate concern. We need to have a look at the enabling legislation when it’s introduced to Parliament to make sure this is an agreement that’s good for Aussie jobs.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, let’s move on. In terms of the Commission into the unions, do you think Justice Heydon will survive today, Chris? Do you think he'll stay on?

PYNE: I certainly hope he does because I think Justice Heydon is doing important and good work and he’s exposing, through the Royal Commission the very tawdry criminal activities of some unions and some union leaders which I would have thought nobody supported. Labor is desperately trying to close down this Royal Commission because of their links to the union movement and unfortunately I think they're highlighting why they're not yet fit for Government-

PLIBERSEK: Well, Karl-

PYNE: If they were to be re-elected, nothing would have changed since they were last in government.

PLIBERSEK: I'd be interested to know, as Chris has raised criminal behaviour, whether he still thinks Kathy Jackson is a lion of the union movement and a hero and a revolutionary as he said in the past.

PYNE: I would like to know whether Tanya Plibersek supports the CFMEU's racist campaign against the China free trade agreement, because she certainly didn’t back away from it in your answers to the previous questions, Karl.

STEFANOVIC: On Kathy Jackson that's the sort of behaviour this guy is trying to weed out. That’s what we want to happen, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: She wasn't actually convicted this week in the Royal Commission. This was her union taking action against her. No-one supports criminal behaviour.

STEFANOVIC: She rorted her union for $1.4 million.

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely and Christopher Pyne said that she was a hero of the labour movement.

PYNE: Whatever Kathy Jackson’s done that’s been wrong, and obviously-

PLIBERSEK: You’re her greatest defender, Chris.

PYNE: She’s been found guilty of crimes. The reality is she also exposed Michael Williamson and Craig Thomson who were also ripping off the HSU-

PLIBERSEK: And should be-

PYNE: The story of the HSU has been a sorry one, and all three of them have ended up in suits.

STEFANOVIC: Tanya, let me ask you this, do you think Justice Heydon has shown any legal bias in his role in the Commission. Any legal bias?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Dyson Heydon himself has said that there's the issue of bias and then there’s the issue of apprehended bias-


PLIBERSEK: Or the impression someone might be biased.

STEFANOVIC: Has he been found guilty in your opinion of apprehended bias?

PLIBERSEK: I think signing up to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser certainly gives the impression that you might support a political party.

STEFANOVIC: And that's enough for him to go?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think-

PYNE: When Mary Gaudron, Michael Kirby and Michael McHugh all addressed Labor lawyers when they were judges of the High Court-

PLIBERSEK: That’s not a branch of the Labor Party, Chris.

PYNE: Or the court of criminal appeal in NSW.

PLIBERSEK: It’s not a branch of the Labor Party.

PYNE: I don’t remember Labor calling on any of them to resign.

PLIBERSEK: The Liberal lawyers were a branch of the Liberal Party.

STEFANOVIC: We’re finishing the week with how we started, in a complete and utter stoush. Good to have you with us.

PLIBERSEK: Great to see you.

STEFANOVIC: Hopefully we can talk about some light affair next week but I fear that that won’t be the case.

PYNE: Thanks, Karl. Thanks, Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Karl. See you, Chris.

STEFANOVIC: Thanks, Chris. Thanks, Tanya.


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