TRANSCRIPT - 702 Breakfast, Friday 17 October 2014

coats arms










Subject/s: Ebola.

ROBBIE BUCK, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is the Federal Member for Sydney, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development and joins me this morning. Good morning.


BUCK: Okay. Well we have heard the Health Minister, Peter Dutton speaking just there. Isn’t that a fair enough point that if you have Australian personnel, and I guess our situation is unique in where we are, trying to get people back from West Africa, if they have contracted Ebola, poses a very difficult situation?

PLIBERSEK: It certainly would be difficult to bring people back to Australia but that is not what anyone is suggesting.  What we’re suggesting is that arrangements should be made and could be made with the UK, with the European countries, with the United States to, in the first instance, take any Australians that might be affected to one of those countries. We also know of course that the UK government is building a hospital, temporary hospitals for health workers in West Africa. We know that the UK is likely to send a hospital ship. There are other arrangements that could be put in place. Australia has AUSMAT teams, so they’re Australian Medical Assistance Teams, which are made up of volunteers who have doctors, nurses, other health professionals, who have said they are willing to be deployed into crisis situations, that is one alternative. We have also got individual Australian doctors, nurses and other professionals who have told the AMA, who have told the Nurses Association that they would go if support arrangements could be put in place. The problem here, Robbie, is not that there are no arrangements that could be put in place, the problem is a lack of willingness from the Australian Government to put those arrangements in place.

BUCK: Well, why is that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, you would have to ask the Government why they have not tried harder to do this-

BUCK: Do we know if they have made any overtures to- for some of these outcomes that you've been suggesting?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, I believe that they have spoken with other countries but I do not think it is beyond the capacity of a country like Australia to put in place arrangements. The thing you have got to remember is, there’s already Australians there on the ground who have gone with voluntary organisations so we need to be confident that we can look after them. We know that we have teams like AUSMAT teams, Australian Medical Assistance Teams, that could be deployed in similar situations, that they have been set up specifically to do this. We know that there are Australians who are willing to go with organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières, but those organisations are stretched to the capacity- their maximum capacity at the moment. What we are saying is that when we have Australians who are trained and able and willing to go, it is a shocking thing that their government will not put in arrangements to support them to do that.

BUCK: Is it risky though to have Australians on the ground there, particularly if the crisis worsens deeply, does it mean that other nations, whether we have got an agreement with them not, if they are overwhelmed, they’ll be taking their own citizens first other than Australians, wouldn’t they?

PLIBERSEK: Robbie, of course it is risky for individuals to go there, people would be doing something that is incredibly brave and beyond most of us, but we know that some Australians have already done that and more wish to. And I really- I admire that dedication. But the reason they want to go is that they know that we have a 60 day window to stop the spread of this virus. The World Health Organisation has said this virus is spreading exponentially. There’s 10,000 people infected at the moment, if we do not get a handle on it in the next 60 days by, some estimates, January next year, we will have almost a million and a half people infected. And then to say, you know, we do not want to send people now because we want to protect Australia from this virus. When you have got millions of people affected around the world it becomes very, very difficult to protect Australia, so we have an opportunity to act now. Yes, people are going into danger, there is no doubt about that. But they are people who have trained for this, they are dedicated people who wish- who really wish to assist to get this virus under control. How can it be that we are not big enough to support them to do that?

BUCK: Do you agree though that we shouldn’t be sending in any personnel until any of those arrangements are made first up?

PLIBERSEK: I think we have to make arrangements for what happens when people get sick. We have already got Australians there. We need to have those arrangements in place for those Australians, but countries around the world are putting those arrangements in place. There was a report yesterday that the Japanese have not sent a team yet and in fact we read overnight that they are preparing to deploy, that they are putting those arrangements in place now. I certainly do not say that we need to airlift Australians home over a 30 hour flight, I do not think that is a reasonable solution. I simply do not believe that we cannot make an arrangement with one of our partners. We are, right now, in Northern Iraq with the United States and a range of other countries providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Northern Iraq. Are we saying that none of those partners are willing to partner with us in West Africa to put Australian personnel who are trained and willing and able to go onto the ground there with some back up?

BUCK: Up until now, there has been bipartisan support for Australia's response to Ebola, what has changed this week for you?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we have been happy that the Government sent some money. They sent initially $8 million and another $10 million, total $18 million. That is not bad, I mean it’s not much given that one individual has put in $25 million, we’ve put in less than one generous individual. But there’s nothing wrong with sending money, it’s just that the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control in the United States, our own Australian Medical Association, our own Public Health Association, our own Nurses Association, all of these organisations are saying that this virus is getting out of control, we’ve got a window to shut it down now, if we do not, the consequences for West Africa and the world are dire.  We have got people who are ready and willing to go and we are not assisting them. Of course we wanted to give the Government some time to put those arrangements in place. We simply have not seen willingness for them to do that and what’s changed, Robbie, what changed is, we’re getting warnings every day, like the World Health Organisation in the last 48 hours has said we have got a 60 day window. That is new information saying if we do not close it down in the next 60 days, it is unpredictable, the consequences are unpredictable on a global scale. The more information we have about the spread of the virus the more critical it becomes that we support Australians who are able to go.

BUCK: Okay, Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Robbie.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, Friday 17 October 2014

coats arms












LISA WILKINSON, PRESENTER: Joining us now to discuss the week in politics is Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you.



WILKINSON: Tanya, you've been very vocal on this. You don't believe that the Government is doing enough?

PLIBERSEK: On some estimates, we have got the chance that 1.4 million people will be affected by this virus by January. So the Centre for Disease Control are saying that we have got 10,000 people infected now. If the rate keeps growing in the way it has been going, we will see over a million people affected by the beginning of next year. I think it is absolutely critical that we take the advice of the World Health Organisation and use this 60 day window to shut down the spread of this virus. If we don't get a handle on it, we can't begin to predict what the effect will be on the whole world. At the moment, the virus is mostly contained to three countries in West Africa. But you see that we are seeing cases in the United States, in Spain, in France today it looks like there are some indications that there might be someone there who is affected. That’s with 10,000 people having the virus. What happens when there is a million or two million.

WILKINSON: What do you want to see the Government do that they are not currently doing?

PLIBERSEK: At the moment, they are discouraging Australians who want to go to help. We have got people, doctors, nurses, other health professionals, who want to go and offer assistance. We have had - we have heard from the from the Nurses Association, we have heard from the Australian Medical Association, that we have got skilled Australians who have trained for many years to provide exactly the sort of assistance that West Africa is crying out for and our Government is saying that they won't assist them to go there.

WILKINSON: Scott, we understand that there are obviously concerns about deploying Australians to tackle the outbreak. But don't we have a responsibility as a developed nation?

MORRISON: Well, our first responsibility is also surely to do what we need to do here in Australia and make sure that our systems here are up to scratch and they are, and to be constantly monitoring that situation. We also need to be mindful of any potential regional response we might need to make if things escalate to that level. We have already, as you said in your introduction, committed $18 million to the international effort. There is no suggestion that we are restraining people from going to that area if they wish to provide their medical expertise. The question that's being posed to the Government is should we be directing people...

PLIBERSEK: No, that is not true Scott.

MORRISON: Should we be directing people who would be put in harm's way with no credible extraction plan that is the advice from all of our key agencies and I...

PLIBERSEK: That is untrue. This is...

MORRISON: I let you speak Tanya. Tanya...

PLIBERSEK: You are not telling the truth.

MORRISON: Well, Tanya, what I'm saying is that you know that there is no credible extraction plan to get people out of that place if we direct them into that environment.

PLIBERSEK: And I know you're not trying to find one...

MORRISON: If they are seeking to go there… well that is not true either Tanya, if you want to play politics with Ebola, then that is exactly what you are doing. What the Australian Government is doing is governing on the basis of practical reality, not sentiment. I think that is a stark contrast to what we saw from the previous six years when Labor were in office. We are dealing with this matter practically and responsibly. We are part of an international effort. We are part of a regional response if we need to be. And we are ensuring the right measures are in place here in Australia to keep people safe because that is what we do as a Government.

PLIBERSEK: Well, one generous philanthropist has given more money than the Australian Government. One you person has given $25 million.

MORRISON: Are in you suggesting we should put people in harm’s way?


MORRISON: That is what you are suggesting.

PLIBERSEK: No Scott, nobody is suggesting that.

MORRISON: Tanya, explain to me what is - what is the extraction plan?

PLIBERSEK: What we are suggesting, Scott, is that volunteers who are trained and willing and able to go should have the support of the Australian Government to do so. At the moment, the Australian Government is saying "We have got no plans in place to help and support you to go and do what you've been trained to do all your life". We have got doctors...

MORRISON: Tanya, that is a complete misrepresentation. What you are talking about is people who may choose to go voluntarily and there is no restraint on those persons doing that. But they have to be acquainted with the risks. And that is what the Government has simply done. But if you are going to instruct, demand people to go into that region, as part of...

PLIBERSEK: Scott, nobody is suggesting that anyone should be sent there against their will.

WILKINSON: The truth is you also can't stop people from going into the region because there are aid workers...

MORRISON: Of course and we can't.

WILKINSON: Over there at the moment and we do have to face this crisis. Just very quickly to finish on this Scott, if an aid worker does have the virus, would they survive the 30 hour trip home?

MORRISON: Our advice is no.

PLIBERSEK: But, Lisa, you don't need to come back to Australia. You should be able to evacuate to the US, to the UK, to Europe, to one of our partner countries. We partner with these countries all the time in humanitarian crisis.

MORRISON: But you've got to have the commitment available. You have to have that commitment.

PLIBERSEK: Oh my goodness. We are partnering with these countries right now in the Middle East to provide humanitarian relief in northern Iraq. It is absolutely not beyond the capacity of this Government should they wish to put these sorts of arrangements in place.

WILKINSON: All right. We are going to have to leave that one there...

MORRISON: I think it is very disappointing, sorry Lisa, but the Government is trying to protect Australians and if the Opposition wants to put them in harm's way on the basis of sentiment, then I think that is very disappointing.


PLIBERSEK: Scott, what will happen when there are millions of people affected around the world? The World Health Organisation has told us we have 60 days to close the window on this virus.

MORRISON: Our arrangements will be in place here in Australia and in the region. That is what will happen because that is what we are focussed on.

PLIBERSEK: You won't be able to protect people when there are millions around the world. We need to stop this virus now.

WILKINSON: I think everyone is definitely agreed on that. Just to finish, have we got time - we were really hoping to play something from Shaun Micallef earlier this week. We are going to have time. We are going to make time. This is Mad As Hell, Shaun Micallef sticking it to Bill Shorten. Have a term look at this.


WILKINSON: You are not safe really in politics, are you? You are of always going to cop it.

PLIBERSEK: I think one of the things that is great about Bill is that he has just got that really colourful turn of phrase that really cuts through.

WILKINSON: Shaun Micallef, a genius Scott?

MORRISON: Look, I've given him plenty of material over the last year or so and in politics, you know, you have got to be able to cop it whichever way and we all have words that go off into space every now and then. Even in the media too, I suggest, so good on Shaun, he is a good laugh.

WILKINSON: There are days when English is my second language Scott, I have to agree with you. Thank you very much for your time this morning.



Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Press Conference, Melbourne, Thursday 16 October 2014

coats arms












Subject/s: Ebola; Biometric Data.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, thank you very much for joining us this morning. Catherine King and I have written to Peter Dutton, the Health Minister and Julie Bishop, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to say that Australia can and must do much more to help with the Ebola crisis in West Africa. We have now around 4000 people who have died and around 10,000 people who are infected with this virus. And the World Health Organisation has told us that we have a 60 day window to get this virus under control. If we do not get the virus under control, some estimates would say that there will be 1.4 million infections by next year. Of course, the more people who are infected with Ebola in West African countries, the more danger there is to the rest of the world that this infection will spread beyond West Africa to other countries around the world. Australia has given $18 million and while $18 million is welcome, it is not nearly enough. One generous philanthropist has given $25 million; one person has given more than the nation of Australia. But it is not just about money. Organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières have said that money is welcome but not sufficient, that what is really needed on the ground are experienced medical teams that can care for and provide assistance to local health professionals, medical supplies and equipment and of course other personnel. I know that countries like the United States and the UK have sent defence force personnel who can do engineering tasks, can build temporary hospitals for example, and help with supply logistic issues. We have had many direct calls to Australia to do more. The United Nations has called for countries like Australia to provide more assistance, the President of Sierra Leone, the President of the United States and organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières, the World Health Organisation and our own Public Health Association and the Australian Medical Association have all said that Australia should support skilled Australians who are willing and able to go to West Africa to provide assistance on the ground. I am going to ask Catherine King to say a few words now and then we will both answer questions.

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much Tanya, and look, Labor has been calling for some weeks now for the Australian Government to do more to resolve the crisis in West Africa. We know the best defence for Australia is to stop this in West Africa. No amount of screening is going to assist in stopping this in West Africa. We need medical teams on the ground, whether they be AUSMAT teams or other Australians who are prepared to volunteer. We know that this has gone beyond the capacity of any one international aid organisation to deal with and the window is fast closing to actually try and contain this crisis. By January, the Centre for Disease Control in America is saying we’re estimating 1.4 million people will be infected. It will take decades to get Ebola out of West Africa and other countries if we do not act now and the Australian Government- the Australian Government needs to hear the pleas of Médecins Sans Frontières, the AMA, Public Health Association and the international community. It is in the best interest of Australia to do so, and the Government should act now.

PLIBERSEK: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes, Tanya, why should Australia send medical teams to West Africa when the logistics of evacuating people who may become infected are so difficult and expensive?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it is certainly not beyond the ability of the Australian Government to organise evacuation protocols for Australians who may become infected with Ebola if Australians should go to the assistance of the West African nations who are most affected. It is beyond belief that the Australian Government is not able to negotiate, with the United States or with European countries, protocols that would provide assurance for Australian medical staff should they need to be evacuated.

JOURNALIST: If Australia sends more Ebola workers to West Africa, isn't the likelihood increasing that the virus could be brought back to Australia?

PLIBERSEK: Well the worst-case scenario for Australia is an unchecked Ebola virus that spreads beyond the West African countries that are affected now, to become a global problem. As Catherine said, the Centre for Disease Control is estimating that if we leave the spread of this virus unchecked, up to 1.4 million people will be affected by the beginning of next year, it becomes much harder to protect Australia if there are 1.4 million people or beyond that, millions of people affected around the globe. The danger to Australia increases if this virus is left unchecked. We have also had people like Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, saying that this is a crisis not just for the health of the African nations most affected by it, but for their economies and also for the global economy. The best thing Australia can do is contribute to international efforts to stop the spread of this virus. The World Health Organisation has said that we have a 60 day window to get this under control. We have to be part of the effort during the next two months to bring this under control or risk to Australia increases exponentially.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept then that the probability of the virus being brought back to Australia could be increased if health workers are sent over there?

PLIBERSEK: I think the probability of Australia becoming affected by the Ebola virus increases exponentially if we are not part of a global effort to bring it under control. We’ve got 10,000 people affected now and, by the Centre of Disease Control’s estimate, over 1 million by the beginning of next year. We have to use this 60 day window to get this virus under control or the risk to Australia increases.

JOURNALIST: The Government says they cannot help- guarantee the health and safety of workers that go over there. Which hospital do you propose to send to or how do you propose to guarantee their health and safety?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is absurd for the Australian Government to say that they cannot make an arrangement with the United States, with European countries that have got health workers there at the moment. There are two things to say about this. There are already Australians who have gone without the support of the Government to provide assistance to Ebola victims and those Australians should have the support of their government willing to say that they will work with our partner countries to evacuate those health workers should they need evacuation. More importantly, you look at the United States - has now sent 4000 defence personnel the United Kingdom has sent 750. We are partnering with these countries in the humanitarian mission in the Middle East, so around Iraq, we partnered with them in many instances when there’s been humanitarian crises in the past. To say that we cannot come to an arrangement with the US or European partners for the protection of Australians who are willing and able to assist just isn't credible.

JOURNALIST: I understand you’ve had briefings from the Government advising against sending missions to West Africa. Who is giving you advice that such a mission could be achieved safely?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve had briefings from employees of government departments who have told us that it is not Government policy to do this. They have told us all of the problems with going in and they’ve told us – frankly from the briefing I got a very strong sense that the Government is not interested in finding solutions to those problems. We’ve got advice from organsations like the Australian Public Health Association and the Australian Medical Association that Australians are ready and willing to assist and that they should be sent with the support of the Australian Government. But more to the point Australia is one of the nations that signed up to a UN Security Council Resolution that 130 nations signed up to saying that we should provide assistance, personnel, supplies, medical equipment. We’ve had direct requests from the President of Sierra Leone to the Prime Minister of Australia. We’ve had President Obama saying the countries like Australia should do more. We’ve had organisations like the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control, Médecins Sans Frontières, credible international organisations begging Australia for help. It is completely unacceptable that we are sitting on our hands.  Catherine do you want to add to that please.

KING: Look certainly in terms of the Australian response in the briefings I’ve had from the Health Department and other officials, it was very clear from those briefings that this is a matter for Government policy - that they are in negotiations with countries about how we might evacuate Australian citizens but this is a decision that the Government has made only to send money.

JOURNALIST: You mention that other countries could help Australia evacuate infected people. Any indications of what countries might take them or evacuate them?

PLIBERSEK: Well there are countries that have significant numbers of their own personnel going into affected areas. I’ve mentioned for example the United States has 4000 defence personnel that have been deployed to assist. I do not believe it is beyond the ability of the Australian Government to negotiate with our partners, countries that we have partnered with on many occasions, where we’ve worked together to assist in these times of great humanitarian need. I do not believe it is beyond our ability to negotiate with these countries.

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop has said she’s been unable to get guarantees from European countries that they’d be willing to transport or treat victims. Are you suggesting that we should send people on this mission when we don’t have those guarantees?

PLIBERSEK: I’m not suggesting for a moment that we send Australian personnel into danger with no provision to look after them should they fall into danger. But right now we have Australian defence personnel deployed to the Middle East. We have been able to work with partner countries to ensure we have the best possible arrangements to protect our personnel to the best of our ability. Of course it is dangerous to send people into an area where this virus is spreading so quickly, but it is more dangerous to stand by and do nothing. We have medical personnel who say that they are willing and able to assist and it strains credulity to say that the Australian Government is not able to partner with other countries to provide some assurance that if the worst should happen and one of them should need evacuation that would be impossible.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying that the Government is not interested in sending teams to West Africa?

PLIBERSEK: I’m saying that they are not trying hard enough to provide an Australian contribution to getting this virus under control.

JOURNALIST: Just on the terrorism laws would you be comfortable with customs and border protection storing the biometric data of potentially 8 million Australians?

PLIBERSEK: Well I have to be a little bit careful because I’m on the Parliamentary Committee that has been examining this legislation and I can’t comment on the contents of a report of that Parliamentary Committee that will be coming out in coming days. What I would say is that the scrutiny of the legislation has been very short in its timeframe, very short in duration, the committee and indeed the Parliament would benefit from a much longer timeframe to examine this legislation. I’ll make a general comment about the question that you’re asking rather than a specific comment. If our security agencies ask for greater powers in times of trouble we need to consider those requests very carefully and when we grant them, if we grant them, we need to ensure there is a great deal of scrutiny and safeguard attached. I am always cautious about the idea of storing people’s private information including information regarding biometric data. I think you’d have to make a very strong case indeed to do so.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you one more question, what role would the Australian military play in West Africa?

PLIBERSEK: Well you would have to talk to the Australian military about the best assistance they could give but when we look at the assistance the US and UK defence personnel are giving it’s very largely building the logistics, such things as building temporary hospitals and making sure that members of staff and equipment are distributed appropriately. Catherine do you want to add to that?

KING: Yeah and certainly in terms of making sure, obviously there is a great need for not just equipment but things like bleach, access to hazard suits, that sort of thing. The defence force does have that capability and certainly they are playing that role from other countries.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT: Capital Hill, Thursday 16 October 2014

coats arms










Subject/s: Ebola.

JULIE DOYLE, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for joining me today. Now, you've written to the Health Minister and the Foreign Minister asking for Australia to step up its efforts to fight the Ebola crisis. What do you think the Federal Government should be doing here?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, I think it's a good thing that Australia's given $18 million so far but we need to keep that in perspective. One generous philanthropist has given $25 million, one person's given more than the Australian Government. But beyond money we need to provide personnel and equipment to help with this crisis. We've heard from the World Health Organization, from the President of the United States, from the President of Sierra Leone, the United Nations, 130 nations, more than 130 nations have signed up to a pledge saying that we all, all nations must provide personnel and equipment, technical expertise and assistance on the ground to help stop the spread of this virus.

DOYLE: Precisely what kind of personnel and equipment?

PLIBERSEK: Australia has AUSMAT teams, Australian Medical Assistance teams that are actually created for this specific purpose. In 2005, when Tony Abbott was the Health Minister, he formed up these teams that were specifically created to be deployed at times of humanitarian crisis like this. They have been sent, for example, to the Philippines after the typhoon. They would be ideally placed, they're interdisciplinary teams of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. That would be one example. Other nations have sent defence personnel. The US has got about 4,000 people deployed and the UK has about 750 deployed. They're able to provide logistic support, build temporary hospitals, make sure that medical equipment and basics like bleach are able to be ferried around the country. There are both medical professionals willing and able to go from Australia, people who would have already said that they would go if they had the support and assistance of the Australian Government rather than being discouraged by the Government from going and then there's also the potential to provide people that can help with the logistic support.

DOYLE: On the Defence Force personnel then, again what kind of numbers, what kind of defence assets do you think should be sent?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that it's important to have advice from Defence about whether they are able to provide assistance at this time as a first step. What I can say is that partner nations, nations that we often work with at times of crisis, are deploying their Defence personnel. But I haven't had specific advice from Defence Forces. So you’d have to, as a first step, ask Defence whether they are able to contribute to this effort. It's certainly the case, however, that we have medical personnel who have expressed a desire to go. We've got our own Australia Medical Association, the Public Health Association of Australia saying that Australian medical personnel would go if they had the support and assistance of the Australian Government and that, of course, is something that is simply inexplicable that we've got Australians who want to assist, that are being prevented from doing so by the Government.

DOYLE: What about the concerns that the Government has expressed about not being able to evacuate health workers or other Australians if they did get infected, where would they be treated?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I just simply cannot believe that it is beyond our capacity to make an arrangement with one of our European partners or with the United States to provide a back up for Australian personnel who might become sick. We have partnership relations with these countries, we've served together at times of humanitarian crisis around the globe at various times and we've helped look after each other's personnel in the past. It's simply not credible that we can't form an arrangement now. We know that there are Australians already serving on the ground there. They have gone without the support of the Australian Government and of course I hope that the Australian Government are preparing in case any of those Australians should need to be evacuated already by talking with partner countries.

DOYLE: Looking at some of those partner countries, looking at somewhere like the United States, there's already public concerns and fears about this virus. Could you imagine then that the reaction, if they were told that they were going to have to deal with Australian workers as well?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the question here is what's the scenario if we do nothing? We've already heard from the Centre of Disease Control that the current 10,000 cases of Ebola could grow to 1.4 million by the beginning of next year. We've been told by the World Health Organization that we've got a 60-day window of opportunity to close down the spread of this virus. If we don't use this next 60 days to close down the spread of this virus, the risk to Australia and the risk to the developed world generally grows exponentially.

DOYLE: Tanya Plibersek, where are you getting your advice that what you're proposing would be manageable? Have you had briefings from Defence or the Health Department, for example?

PLIBERSEK: We have had briefings from Government departments who have told us that the Government has not got these arrangements in place. What I have not –

DOYLE: And have they said that it could be done, that it's manageable?

PLIBERSEK: Well, they've told us what Government policy is and that is not to send Australians-

DOYLE: But you’re saying that it should be done. Do you have advice that it can be done?

PLIBERSEK: From the Australian Medical Association, from the Australian Public Health Association, from medical professionals. We've also got requests from the President of the United States, the President of Sierra Leone, health organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières that say that Australia should be involved with personnel on the ground. We have expert advice across the spectrum of health organisations and we have formal requests including, I should say, a UN Security Council resolution that Australia signed up to saying that all countries should do more, should provide personnel, medical equipment and supplies. We signed up to that agreement voluntarily and yet we're not doing it. We're not doing our share.

DOYLE: Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave it there, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National Breakfast, Thursday 16 October 2014

coats arms











SUBJECT/S: Ebola Crisis; Iraq; Vladimir Putin.


ALISON CARABINE, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Breakfast.


CARABINE: You are writing to Julie Bishop today, what exactly are you asking her to do?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’ve written to both the Foreign Minister and the Health Minister to ask them to increase Australia’s efforts in fighting the Ebola crisis. I must say the AMA, the Australian Public Health Association, a number of other organisations, Médecins Sans Frontières have said that money is good but what we really need is skilled staff, supplies and equipment. Australia does have the capacity to help. We’ve got Australian Medical Assistances Teams for example that could be deployed. Other countries have deployed defence personnel. For example the United States is sending around 4000 personnel, the UK is sending around 750 personnel and they are able to do things like build temporary hospitals, transport, and logistics are taken care of and supplies are appropriately distributed. We have some very talented Australians, very dedicated Australians who have said that they would be willing to go to help fight Ebola in West Africa. What’s disappointing about this is that the Australian Government is actually discouraging those people from going.

CARABINE: So you want the Medical Assistance Teams to be deployed to West Africa and you mention the fact that Britain and the US have sent in troops. Do you see a role for Australian forces on the ground in Africa in support of our health workers?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think Australia has to be a partner in fighting Ebola in West Africa because if it continues to spread, we’ve now seen two cases in the US, we’ve seen a case in Spain, you see the risk of this becoming a global disease burden that we will lose control of. The World Health Organisation is already warning that we are losing control of the spread of this virus. It is in Australia’s interest that we help fight this virus while it still may be containable.

CARABINE: The Prime Minister has said that he won’t put Australian health workers in harm’s way, he wants to be absolutely confident the risks are being properly managed. He is right to be concerned, what would happen if an Australian health worker was infected?

PLIBERSEK: Well he is absolutely right to be concerned for the welfare any Australian personnel who go to fight Ebola in West Africa in the same way that he’s right to be concerned about the health and wellbeing of Australian Defence personnel when they’re deployed to the Middle East. We have arrangements to help our defence personnel if they get in harm’s way. It is not beyond us to put in place arrangements for our health workers should they become ill or have an accident while they’re deployed in West Africa. We should be able to make arrangements with the United States or our European partners to evacuate Australian health workers.

CARABINE: And you mention the deployment to Iraq are we picking and choosing which humanitarian crisis we intervene in?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think there is obviously a comparison to be drawn. It is very important for Australia to respond to the request of the Iraqi people to protect themselves from IS but they are having request after request from the countries that are most affected by the Ebola virus for help to protect them from the spread of this virus. I think it’s quite right we help in both situations.

CARABINE: And just on Iraq. The Government is still waiting on the status of forces agreement before it can deploy Australian special forces. In the meantime we’ve seen the security situation deteriorating in Iraq. Islamic State fighters are getting closer to Bagdad for example. By the time the green light is given by the National Security Committee could it be too late for Australian personnel to go in to help train up Iraqi units?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m very disappointed these arrangements have not been put into place so far. It is obviously important to get the legal status of forces agreement to protect Australians who are in Iraq. It’s been at least three weeks now and it is of grave concern that the Australian Government have not managed to negotiate these arrangements in this time.

CARABINE: And with ISIS getting closer to the capital if it makes it to Bagdad, and there’s a real risk of that, could it become simply too dangerous for Australian personnel to be sent into Iraq? Is that something that’s starting to concern you?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think in circumstances where there are large changes on the ground we need to take advice from our defence personnel in the first instance about the role they could play.

CARABINE: So you’d want that assurance before forces were deployed to Iraq?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve said all along that we don’t want to see boots on the ground in Iraq. Our role has been a humanitarian and an advisory role, air cover to fight off IS. If the situation changes radically I think it would be important for the Prime Minister to take the advice of defence forces and of course advise the Australian Parliament about his intentions.

CARABINE: And Tanya Plibersek on Vladimir Putin, Dimitri Medvedev has told Tony Abbott to choose his words more carefully. That’s a reference to his shirtfront threat. Do you agree with the Kremlin on this one?

PLIBERSEK: Well it’s a stretch to say I agree with the Kremlin on anything, but what I would say is that this is a gravely serious matter, not just for the families and friends of the 38 Australian residents who lost their lives when MH17 was shot down but for all Australians, we all feel their loss and it’s important to choose language that is sober and carefully chosen.

CARABINE: There is a suggestion that President Putin might now stay away from the G20, would that be for the best?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think many Australians will find it difficult to welcome Vladimir Putin to Australia, but it’s important that we behave in a way that shows how seriously we take this matter and how soberly we expect the Russian Government to deal with issues like continuing access to the crash site.

CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek thanks so much for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Alison.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - ABC Newsradio, Thursday 16 October 2014

coats arms







Subject/s: Ebola, Vladimir Putin and the G20.

MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, you’ve written to the Government urging more action on ebola, that’s internationally, what should be done do you believe?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well of course I am not the only person urging more action on ebola, the United Nations, the US President, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Medical Association, Médecins Sans Frontières, all of them have said that money is good but what we really need  to send to Africa, in the west African countries that are most affected, are personnel, supplies, equipment, most particularly Australian personnel who are willing and able to go are not being assisted by the Government to do that.

BENSON: Tony Abbott has said in the past that he wants to be satisfied that it is safe to do that before Australian people are sent to those areas before medical staff go there. Do you believe there can be a guarantee of safety before that is done?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think that it is important to understand that no mission like this is risk free. But I think it is absolutely not beyond us as a nation to make arrangements with the United States or our European partners to evacuate any Australian personnel who might get sick.

BENSON: So you think Australians should go now?

PLIBERSEK: I know that we have Australians who are ready and willing to go who are being discouraged by the Government’s position and I think that it is very important that we use the resources that we have. It is also true that the US and the UK are for example sending significant numbers of their defence personnel, the US are sending about 4000 people, the UK about 750 personnel, and they are able to undertake very important roles like for example building temporary hospitals. We could and should and must do better because ebola is not just a risk to the three countries in Africa most affected, the IMF and other international organisations not least is - of which - the UN security council of which we are a member has said very clearly that if we do not tackle this disease now, this virus now, the potential is that it will affect 1.4 million people by 2015. The Centre of Disease Control has estimated that the exponential spread of this means that the disease will become unmanageable. We have got about a 60 day window right now to turn this around and if we do not, we have had warnings from the World Health Organisation, the Centre of Disease Control, very credible sources, that the world community may lose control of the spread of this virus.

BENSON: The World Health Organisation is also warning that Western nations aren’t doing enough to protect themselves at home. Do you believe Australia is doing enough to protect itself against ebola domestically? Because there are these concerns particularly as a second health worker in the United States has been affected.

PLIBERSEK: I think Australia has one of the strongest health systems in the world. Our hospitals, our public health professionals are highly professional. We have got a great deal of experience in dealing with the spread of tropical diseases for example, and we have got a very good protocols to reduce transmission risks of a virus like ebola, so we of course absolutely need to focus on our domestic preparations, but we should also reduce the risk of this virus becoming unmanageable overseas - the more people around the world that are infected, the greater the risk to Australia becomes.

BENSON: May I just quickly go to another issue which is the Kremlin says that Vladimir Putin has yet to confirm he is coming to the G20 in Brisbane next month. Would you rather he came or stayed away?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think Australians will find it very difficult to welcome Vladimir Putin to Australia. 38 Australian citizens and residents lost their lives after the shooting down of MH17 and the response of the Russian government in denying any culpability and denying the fact that the Russian backed rebels who are the most likely people to have shot down MH17 and the Russians are saying nothing to do with us, and have not used their influence with those rebels to allow proper access to the crash site. These are all things that are deeply troubling for Australians, most particularly the families and friends of those who lost their lives, but I think all Australians generally.

BENSON: I’ll leave it there. Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.



Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Perth, Tuesday 14 October 2014

coats arms



















SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government's cuts to homelessness service funding, President Putin and the G20, medicinal cannabis, Labor foreign ministers

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks for joining us here this morning. We’ve had an opportunity today to discuss with service providers in the youth homelessness sector, and indeed with people who have been homeless themselves, the terrible impact of a number of government measures on the youth homelessness sector. Today we heard that the uncertainty around the National Partnership agreement on homelessness is causing significant stress in the youth homelessness sector.

[Audio cuts out]

There’s absolutely no funding certainty beyond June next year, for people who provide housing and support services for homeless, young Western Australians. This comes on top of a $44 million cut in money that’s being set aside for new building of homelessness services. It also comes after the cutting of the National Rental Affordability Scheme, that means 10,000 affordable rental properties that were going to be built, won’t be built now. This is a really stressful situation for the providers of youth homelessness services, but the real effect is on homeless, young Western Australians who simply won’t have a roof over their heads and won’t get the support services that they need to leave homelessness behind. It also comes at a time when the Federal Government’s proposing six months every year with no unemployment benefits for unemployed young Australians. Now we simply don’t know what the Federal Government expects unemployed young Australians to do with no income at all for six months every year. You have to assume that unemployed young people - if they can get a little bit of help from their family, that’s terrific, but many of them won’t be able to. The likelihood of homeless and unemployed young Australians with absolutely no income for six months at a time, perhaps turning to crime, is a real concern for many people in our community. We also know that very important programs, like Youth Connections that help unemployed, young people get work, have been cut at the same time. So on the one hand, the Government’s saying that young people should get out there and get a job, on the other hand they’re cutting the very services that help them get a job if they are unemployed. We heard today about the huge difference that homelessness services have made to people’s lives. People who’ve been in jail, people who -

[Audio cuts out]

…offer those support services that help people to leave homelessness behind. I’m going to ask Alannah MacTiernan to say a few words as we are in her electorate. Sue Lines will add a few words and then we’ll hear from Craig Comrie.

ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: One of the really successful programs has been taking kids from juvenile detention and finding them supported accommodation and getting them work. These are services that are so critical, not just to these young people, but to dealing with crime and recidivism in our criminal justice system. I mean it just does not make sense to cut funding to programs like that, programs that are designed to get people out of this endless cycle of crime. So this is I think – one of the problems that we see with the Abbott Government is that they actually just don’t understand the detail of what’s happening in society and they don’t understand that when a kid goes through a juvenile detention centre, allowing them to go back just into their old lives is a recipe for disaster and a recipe for recidivism. These programs are critically important for our community, for those young people, and for those of us that want to see a reduction in those crime levels. So we’re going to be fighting very, very hard to ensure that these really strong social programs that are really making a difference, getting people out of that endless cycle of poverty and crime are maintained and continue to deliver positive results.

SUE LINES: Thanks, I’m Senator Sue Lines from Western Australia, I’ve been monitoring Kevin Andrews on this issue of homelessness since the Abbott Government came to power and he has been completely silent on the issue. I’m very concerned about what’s happening with funding in Western Australia. We have the least amount of crisis beds available for homelessness than any other state or territory and I really think the Abbott Government is passing the buck on this issue. There has been absolutely nothing from Minister Andrews except a vague commitment to do a review. Well they’ve now been in government for more than a year, the Minister himself has attended two homelessness conferences where he’s said absolutely nothing. And we have dire consequences in Western Australia. We have people living in their cars on the beach, we have people living in the parks. We have people sleeping in their cars all over the place and it’s time the Abbott Government made a commitment to continue Labor’s funding for homelessness. This crisis in Western Australia has got to stop.

CRAIG COMRIE, CEO OF YOUTH AFFAIRS COUNCIL OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA:  I’m Craig Comrie, CEO of the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia. I think what this morning was, was a unique opportunity for Parliamentarians to hear the stories of not only homelessness providers but also the clients that they support. That often doesn’t happen. Many members of the current government, the Coalition, haven’t actually gone out and visited homelessness services and heard the stories of the young people they support. I think what we’ve seen since the Budget in May is clear - uncertainty about how the Budget measures will impact on young people and the uncertainty around the NPAH and NAHA is just another nail in the coffin for many services that are trying to do their best to support young people. We have as many as 6000 homeless young people in Western Australia on any given night who are currently being supported by fantastic services across the state. We need to ensure this funding continues, as well as making sure that Budget measures like the six month wait for young people to get onto youth allowance don’t get through the Senate so we don’t force more and more young people into homelessness and poverty.

PLIBERSEK: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes, now what do you make of the recent shirt-front comments made by Mr Abbott?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not sure that this sort of playground language adds to a very serious debate. We’ve lost 38 Australian citizens and residents in the MH17 tragedy and I think it’s important that we keep a sober tone to the debate. Bill Shorten said many months ago that he thought Australians would find it difficult to welcome Vladimir Putin to the G20. I think that comment still stands.

JOURNALIST: Do you think his words were completely inappropriate?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I just don’t think that sort of language adds anything to the debate. This is a very sober and serious debate.

JOURNALIST: Do you think he is right to up the tone of the rhetoric considering, as Bill Shorten said, that welcoming the Russian President may not be what most Australians support in terms of the G20?

PLIBERSEK: Well look I think that the problem is that it’s all words, it’s tough talk, but there is no clear articulation of what the Australian Government will do during the G20 when Vladimir Putin is here. It’s all very well to talk tough in this sort of schoolyard language but what does it actually mean?

JOURNALIST: On a separate issue, do you support having a trial for medicinal cannabis in New South Wales?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s important to take the evidence of experts on this. I think that any potential medicine should be treated in the same way, go through the same rigorous testing processes.

JOURNALIST: And so you would support the way the working group has been set up with a view to doing a trial?

PLIBERSEK: Well that’s a matter for the New South Wales Government. I think that it is important to take an objective, scientific, medically based approach to testing any particular, any potential medicine that would give relief to any sufferers of, in this case, chronic nausea, chronic illnesses.

JOURNALIST: In your estimation, was Bob Carr a good foreign minister and do you think he harmed Australia’s relationship overseas?

PLIBERSEK: I think Bob Carr was a good foreign minister and I think Labor foreign ministers have consistently delivered on Australia’s interests, from the time of the establishment of the United Nations, and the role of Doc Evatt in that, to the role that Bill Hayden and Gareth Evans played in bringing peace to Cambodia. The fact that during Labor’s time in government, we substantially increased the cooperation between Australia and China, and Australia and India, two of our largest and most important trading partners. I think that Labor foreign ministers have a lot to be proud of.

JOURNALIST: And Bob Carr in particular?

PLIBERSEK: And Bob Carr, as one of those Labor foreign ministers.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Capital Hill, Thursday 9 October 2014

coats arms







Subject/s: Iraq; Budget; Hizb ut-Tahrir; commercial surrogacy.

LYNDAL CURTIS, PRESENTER: I spoke to the Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek a short time ago. Tanya Plibersek, welcome to 'Capital Hill'. Now, Australia has launched its first air strikes against Iraq. They do come at a cost. The Treasurer Joe Hockey said in order to spend what is needed to defend the nation and deliver on Labor's commitment to bipartisan support in relation to the operations in the Middle East, you should pass the remaining Budget measures. Would it be patriotic to do so?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, obviously Labor is very concerned about our Australian Defence Force personnel who are serving overseas at the moment, protecting Iraqi civilians from IS, our thoughts are with their families here in Australia too, who every time they see a family member go off on deployment, of course have natural worries for that family member. I think it's in pretty poor taste, frankly, for Joe Hockey to be making domestic political points out of this. We've sought to be very bipartisan, to take a principled position on our decision-making around responding to the request of the Iraqi Government to help fight off IS. We've responded as part of the international community to that request in a way that has prioritised Australian safety and also our international responsibilities, and really that's where the debate should stay.

CURTIS: It will come at a cost, though, as I mentioned. Do you believe that the Government will need to find savings elsewhere or can the cost, which may be around half a billion dollars a year, be absorbed into what is a very big budget?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's pretty clear that the Government has lost control of the Budget. Every Australian Government has to make decisions about spending priorities, and I've certainly never heard of a government arguing that we can't afford the defence budget unless we cut Medicare, cut pensions, cut university funding, cut support to young unemployed people. I mean I think it's...

CURTIS: But aren't they the spending priorities the Government has chosen?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, and if they could manage to convince the Australian people and the Parliament that these are good measures for Australia, then they will pass their Budget, but the Australian people have reacted very negatively to Joe Hockey's first budget, and the Australian Parliament, the representatives of the Australian people are responding to that negative reaction.

CURTIS: If I could move on, the Prime Minister has again had some strong things to say about the Islamic political group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. There are suggestions, though, from some experts that if you crack down on groups like those, perhaps deem them to be terrorist groups, you force them underground where they're harder to keep tabs on. Do you think that a stronger line against Hizb ut-Tahrir needs to be taken, or are there risks in that?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it's very important to take the advice of our security and intelligence agencies about the best way to handle individual groups. We've got very experienced security and intelligence personnel who can give us that advice. It's important that the members of Parliament, Ministers, the Government and Opposition, test that advice, ask questions and challenge the advice of the authorities to make sure that we are getting the full picture, but when our security and intelligence agencies advise a particular approach with a particular group, I think it's important to listen.

CURTIS: And one final question: the 2012 surrogacy case involving an Australian couple leaving one of their twins behind in India, is that something you have any knowledge of, or should the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop be able to look back at the files on that case?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I don't have any details other than what I've read in the paper, but of course any situation that doesn't prioritise the best needs of a tiny new baby is something of concern to the Australian community and I think it shows that Nicola Roxon was quite right when she was Attorney-General in commissioning a report on the disparate approach of different states to this issue of commercial surrogacy overseas, different State regimes operating, and I think that the next step - unfortunately the Government sat on that report for about 8 months – but the next logical step that people including judges have been calling for is a more thorough investigation of Australian state-based laws around commercial surrogacy arrangements and their intersection with immigration law. It is a pretty patchy, pretty murky area, and as with anything that involves young children, babies, we need to ensure that the best interests of the child are at the centre of our decision-making and our legal structures.

CURTIS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.



Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, University of Adelaide, Thursday 9 October 2014

coats arms
















SUBJECT/S: Budget cuts;  Abbott Government’s unfair Higher Education legislation; Surrogacy; ABS; Iraq.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning. Thanks for coming out this morning. It’s a great pleasure to be here with my fellow colleague Kate Ellis at the University of Adelaide Medical School talking to some noisy medical students. You need to settle down, fellas.

It’s a great pleasure to be here talking with medical students about their concerns about the Government’s plans for deregulating fees for universities and the cuts that are being made to university funding in Australia. Here in South Australia, you’re looking at over $300 million cuts to the university sector and indeed $114.3 million cut from Adelaide University alone. That means substantial fee increases and a reduction in quality research. The fee increases will be particularly hard on university students including university students who’ve already been begun their courses. There’s an estimate that the cost of a medical degree from a university like Adelaide will go from around $60,000 to as much as $180,000. Of course that will discourage many students from taking on a medical degree. It’ll also mean huge future debts including for existing students, if the Government has its way. The proposal to apply a commercial rate of interest will affect students like these who’ve already made a decision to take on a medical degree. Students take on a career in medicine because they are dedicated to assisting their fellow Australians. People choose to follow a profession in medicine because they are full hearted people who see the benefit for the whole community in the work that they’re doing. The very last thing we want to do is discourage people who are passionate about a potential career in medicine from taking on valuable work. But increasing the cost of a medical degree from $60,000 to $180,000 will surely discourage many young Australians from taking on a career in medicine. The particularly unfair thing about these cuts is that they also affect existing students.

These young people have taken on a medical degree in the expectation of course that they’ll work hard for many years, that they’ll graduate with something to repay. But what they’re expected to do now is see their fees increase. They don’t know by how much and also a commercial rate of interest applied to any debt they have. They’ve also expressed concerns about how that will affect their career decisions, that the pressure on them to take on careers in areas that are higher paid but not necessarily the areas of greatest need, and it will certainly put extra pressure on young women on how they will balance their career in medicine with raising a family. The idea that they’re able to take a few years out of their career to raise a family when their interest is accumulating all the time on their HECS debt is of course a great worry to people who took on a career in medicine in good faith. The good news is that these higher education changes haven’t passed through the Senate yet and with only three Senate sitting weeks, the pressure has to stay on the Government to keep fighting these unfair changes. We had a victory last week with fighting off the unfair changes to the pension, it looks like another victory today with the unfair changes to unemployment benefits. We need to have a third victory to protect these idealistic, young students who only want to serve their community with a career in medicine. Any questions- oh Kate, do you want to make some comments about university funding?

KATE ELLIS: Well, thank you very much, Tanya Plibersek, for joining me here today and for the students from the University of Adelaide Medical School. We are here very clearly today to say that the Abbott Government’s attacks on young South Australians’ prospects need to end. In South Australia we have seen employment prospects hit by the loss of Holden and we have now seen job losses as a result of the broken promise to build submarines in South Australia. We are now hearing from a new report that South Australia will be disproportionately hit as a result of the cuts to school funding. And we know that our universities are also in the firing line for big cuts as a result of the Abbott Government.

Now today we’ve heard first hand from local medical students, some who have said if fees had been deregulated, they would not have commenced medical studies at the university, not willing to take on such a great debt. Others who have said that they are worried about the prospect of their debt accumulating quicker as a result of Christopher Pyne’s changes, not knowing what level that debt will reach and also knowing that any time that they take out of the workforce will mean that their debt continues to rise - disproportionately hitting women who leave the workforce who have children. We have heard all of this first hand. We know that this is very real and it is facing South Australians right now. What we also know is that we vow to stand up and to put the prospects of young South Australians first, to do everything we can to stop these changes in the Australian Parliament so that they never see the light of day, but also to continue to campaign for this Government to give young Australians the opportunities they need.

We know that many of the students here in South Australia are particularly concerned by cuts to health which have placed in jeopardy their opportunity to get an internship. This is an ongoing issue. It is one that we will continue to take up with the Federal Government as we point out the impacts of $80 billion in cuts to health and to schools as well as proposed cuts to higher education and the impacts that they will have.

PLIBERSEK: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just on another topic. Would you support an inquiry into overseas surrogacy?

PLIBERSEK: Well there have been in the last few days, once again, very concerning reports of babies left behind by parents who have made international surrogacy arrangements. Of course, any situation which disadvantages a baby and certainly disadvantages a birth mother in this way is a great concern. It is important that we have better, more nationally consistent rules relating to commercial surrogacy. Of course commercial surrogacy is banned in Australia. But we know that state to state there are different applications of these laws as they relate to commercial surrogacy overseas. Clarity and national consistency would obviously be beneficial. When Nicola Roxon was the Attorney-General she commissioned a report that showed there was inconsistency from state to state. Unfortunately the Federal Government sat on that report for about 8 months after they received it. It is very important that we hear now from the Federal Government what their plans are to encourage consistency in the application of state laws and to clarify the situation as it relates to commercial surrogacy arrangements overseas.

JOURNALIST: Would you be concerned that if any Labor MP or minister advocated for this [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: Well I certainly don’t know any details relating to that. I’ve seen the reports in the paper today. We don’t know what representations were made and what information those representations were based on. So I don’t propose to comment further.

JOURNALIST: How concerning is it that the ABS has admitted problems with its latest jobs figures?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very concerning that we saw that the jobs figures, the most recent job figures, was not a credible set of figures. Of course businesses make investment decisions based on jobs figures, the economy is affected by the release of jobs figures so we need to be very confident that the figures that we’re relying on are credible figures. I think it’s terrific that the ABS is reexamining the figures and credit to them for taking their responsibilities so seriously. It’s a shame that Joe Hockey cut funding to the ABS in the last budget.

JOURNALIST: So given that Labor introduced an efficiency dividend on the ABS, how much should the Opposition take responsibility?

PLIBERSEK: Well this Government’s been in government for over a year now and it’s about time they took responsibility for the decisions that they’ve made. They’ve had more than a year to implement any of the decisions they believe need to happen in Australia and it’s a bit rich - I don’t know how long Joe Hockey is going to keep blaming the rest of the world for the things that he’s responsible for.

JOURNALIST: There’s been more backbench grumblings about the paid parental leave scheme, is it time for the government to drop it in light of the increasing budget deficit?

PLIBERSEK: The time for the Government to drop the paid parental leave scheme was more than a year ago. And this was a misconceived scheme from the very beginning. Tony Abbott thought he had a problem with women voters and he grabbed the first thing he saw sitting on the shelf, and he didn’t think through what it would mean to design a scheme that paid the greatest benefits to the wealthiest people. It is an absurd suggestion that the government [inaudible] about on what they consider to be problems in the Budget, that is $5.5 billion a year scheme because Tony Abbott is too proud to admit that he made a mistake. The scheme was wrongly designed in the first place. It is completely inconsistent to give the greatest benefit to people who already have the most. He should’ve abandoned it a year ago, if he’s got any credibility as a leader he’ll now admit that he made a mistake and he’ll abandon this misconceived scheme.

JOURNALIST: And just on the budget, Joe Hockey has commented that the Labor Party should help pass the budget because of the cost of the Iraq War. What’s your thoughts?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course we are in a very serious time in Iraq at the moment. Australian Defence Force personnel have been flying missions in very dangerous circumstances. Their families here in Australia would be worried about those defence force personnel. I think it is extremely poor judgment for the Treasurer to be trying to link this to his domestic concerns about getting his poorly designed, terribly sold budget through. Labor has been perfectly clear in the positions that we’ve taken in Iraq. Our positions have been based on a set of principles that involve support to the Iraqi government in respect of their request to Australia and other nations to help fight off IS as IS attacks the civilian population of Iraq. We’re responding to the request of the Iraqi Government to protect its civilians in a bipartisan way. I think it’s in very poor taste that Joe Hockey would try to politicise this.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it will be possible to flush them out without ground troops?

PLIBERSEK: I think that IS is a dangerous organisation that is adapting its fighting techniques in response to the international coalition of dozens of nations that have set out to fight IS in Iraq but I am convinced that with dozens of nations involved in supporting the government of Iraq, that the government of Iraq and its neighbouring countries can take the lead in any ground war. Labor has said from the beginning that we don’t support Australian troops being involved in ground war.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, Friday 3 October 2014

coats arms











SUBJECT/S: Iraq, burqa.

LISA WILKINSON, PRESENTER: For more we are joined now by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull here in the studio and from Parliament House in Canberra Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, good morning to both of you.



WILKINSON: Malcolm, if I can start with you, the Defence Minister David Johnston said overnight that we have to finish the job in Iraq, but isn't this just the start?

TURNBULL: Well what David is talking about is the importance of standing up to this so-called Islamic State, which I really don't think we should refer to as an Islamic State, ISIL is the term that I would rather use. We have got to stand up to them. We’ve got to ensure that their sort of marauding over in that part of the Middle East is stopped and we’re joining with our allies and I might add other countries in the region, Arab countries in the region, Muslim countries in the region. There is a grand coalition that is saying no to this sort of barbarity.

WILKINSON: There’s been a lot of mission creep on this. Surely to finish the job properly it is going to take boots on the ground?

TURNBULL: Well it may well do, but as you can see from President Obama’s lead and from what our Prime Minister has said, the boots on the ground are not going be American or Australian boots.

WILKINSON: That won't change?

TURNBULL: Well I can't really - you can't rule anything out and if anyone was going to make a forecast like that it should be the Prime Minister. Clearly foreign interventions in that part of the world has had, let's say, most generously mixed success, not a lot of success. It is really important that the major countries in that area, the major Arab countries in the region, I am talking about Saudi Arabia and others, take responsibility for securing their own region and for dealing with an insurgent terrorist group like ISIL.

WILKINSON: Tanya, last time we went into Iraq, Labor didn’t support the mission, this time you are, will you go as far as boots on the ground if that is what it takes to finish this off?

PLIBERSEK: No, we don't support Australian troops on the ground in Iraq. What we support is responding to the Iraqi government's plea to the international community to protect civilians from imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes. This is an organisation that kills anyone that disagrees with it, different religion, you can be the same religion and if you don't agree with their tactics they will kill you too. They are abducting women and raping, selling women and children in the marketplace. It is a terrible organisation. The government of Iraq has asked the international community for help and we are responding to that plea for help. But we have said we don't support Australian troops on the ground and we don't believe that there is a case for Australia to be involved in Syria either at the moment. The situation in Syria is terrible, it is a humanitarian disaster but we should be helping with extra support for the neighbouring countries that are dealing with a massive refugee burden from Syria.

WILKINSON: Alright, let's turn now to the burqa debate. Malcolm, do you like the Prime Minister, find the burqa confronting?

TURNBULL: What Australians wear is a matter for them and I don't express a view about other people's choice of clothing, it is a free country. In different countries, including in some Muslim countries, there are all sorts of rules about what people can wear and can't wear in public. But in Australia we have always been very easy going about that. So if people want to put a garment over their head so you can't see their face, that's their choice. As long as whatever security arrangements are necessary for a particular place are covered, that is a matter for them.

WILKINSON: The Prime Minister’s words on Wednesday certainly got Australia talking. And yesterday we learnt that burqa-wearing women were going to be confined behind glass in Parliament House. Last night the PM moved to overturn that decision, is that an embarrassing back down by the Prime Minister?

TURNBULL: Well, not at all. There was a decision by the presiding officers, or an interim decision by the presiding officers, which the Prime Minister asked them to reconsider. And I think he has been wise to do that.

WILKINSON: But did the Prime Minister know that that decision was in the planning?

TUNRBULL: I don't know, I can't comment on that. But can I just say this to you, very, very few women, Muslim women, wear the full face covering. There are many Muslim wearing the head scarf, there are many non-Muslim women that wear a head scarf. I mean nuns used to cover their heads up like that. It’s not exactly a- it’s not a Muslim monopoly on that. But the full face covering is very, very rare- it’s not common. I have been in parliament for ten years, I have only ever seen one woman with a full burqa in the public gallery. So it is not - it isn't very common and the thing that I am concerned about, I know that Tanya is because we are on a complete unity ticket on this, we don't want to have debates like this being turned into some sort of coded attack on the Muslim community. Can I just say again as I have said here before, the terrorists want us to demonise and alienate the Muslim community in Australia. The Muslim community is part of Australia, they are Australians. We have to pull together. We have to be at this time more than ever united. Because our enemies, ISIL, the rapists, the beheaders, the torturers that Tanya was talking about so eloquently before, they want us, they want us to attack Muslims. They want us to alienate and frighten and demonise the Muslim community so that they don't feel they are part of Australia and they feel their only home is with an extremist group. There is no point us doing the terrorists work, we have to pull together.

WILKINSON: Tanya, we ran a poll on the show yesterday and after the Prime Minister's words on Wednesday, 85% of viewers said that they wanted the burqa banned. Is the PM just reflecting the community's feelings or did he ignite this debate?

PLIBERSEK: Look I don't think that there’s- I don’t think that poll reflects the general Australian community. I think most Australians think wear what you want, we are a free country. I mean, I said yesterday I don't want to see the Prime Minister in his speedos, but it is a free country. This is a divisive debate, as Malcolm said, we are stronger together. We are a stronger community when we respect and trust one another.

WILKINSON: Okay Tanya, we will have to leave it there. We’ve run out of time, thank you very much for that. Quickly, Doggies or Rabbitohs?

PLIBERSEK: Bunnies, Bunnies!

WILKINSON: Okay, Malcolm?

TURNBULL: Well I am still getting over the Roosters getting knocked out. I am for the Bunnies too.

WILKINSON: Okay, seems to be a lot of support for the Bunnies this morning. Thanks to both of you, have a great weekend.


Add your reaction Share