TRANSCRIPT - Sky News, Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S:  Police Raids, National security, Iraq, Syria, Hong Kong.

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: Now for more reaction on this story and other related issues, I spoke to the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, Kieran, obviously I can’t add anything to the details because this is information that’s just becoming available now. What I would make is a general comment – our national security agencies, our intelligence agencies have been doing excellent work keeping Australians safe.

GILBERT: Alright well, we can talk specifically about this report on the front page of The Australian then about this super security agency, there’s been a fair bit of speculation that the Government was heading in that direction, Julie Bishop has seemed to push back very strongly against this idea, what’s Labor’s view on that sort of agency, an overarching agency like that?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly we’ve received no information from the Government, no briefing along these lines, Julie Bishop says that it’s not something that’s currently before the national security committee or the Cabinet. We’ve heard other criticisms of it from Michael Wesley and people like that. It’s really difficult to see whether this is a serious proposal from the Government or just some internal speculation.

GILBERT: There’s been some- well, a fair bit of strong speculation that this might be necessary because of a lack of coordination in terms of information flow, is that something that you heard separate to this issue that the agencies may not have been working as effectively as they should be?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no, I haven’t heard that, I haven’t heard that suggested by any of the security or intelligence agencies or the federal police. They seem to have very good relations between them and very good cooperation and I think that the proof of that is in the pudding. We have in recent years disrupted a number of planned terrorist attacks in Australia, people have been gaoled for that, most recently there’s been activity that’s prevented an alleged plot. So I think the fact that we have managed to keep Australians safe in the way that we have is evidence that the agencies are doing good work.

GILBERT: Julie Bishop seemed to suggest that in the last 24 hours that Labor had not focussed as much as it should have on counter terrorism, hence the need for the Government to stump up more than $600 million in additional funding. What is your response to that criticism?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s extremely disappointing that she should be playing politics at a time like this. I have just described here that our agencies are doing excellent work, those staff - hardworking, dedicated personnel. In terms of funding, we increased funding to ASIO for example by about a third when we were in government and we increased their staffing levels by about a third. It’s just very disappointing that the Foreign Minister would be playing politics with this sort of very important issue.

GILBERT: Let’s look at a related matter and that being the fight against Islamic State. What do you say to criticism that the Australian leadership has not provided a clear enough, a cogent enough, strategic argument as to why we’re getting into this in the first place?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the argument on Iraq is very clear, we’ve been invited by a democratically elected government to help protect their civilians from an imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes. That’s very clear, you couldn’t have clearer logic and frankly, you couldn’t have a clearer responsibility on Australians. We think of ourselves as good international citizens, we- when Labor was in government we ran for a position on the Security Council which of course increases our levels of international responsibility. We’ve had Foreign Ministers like Gareth Evans who’ve been involved in international moves to institute a responsibility to protect doctrine that says the world community, when a government can’t look after its own people for some reason, the world has a responsibility to protect so that we don’t see the mass atrocity crimes such as we’ve seen in Rwanda and Srebrenica and many places in the past. So that logic is clear, Syria becomes a much more complex question because the legal authority doesn’t exist for the same sort of intervention, however the humanitarian need is great and I think our responsibility as Australians at this stage is to focus on what we could do much better to assist the people of Syria, millions of whom have been displaced from their home. Around half the country has been displaced from their homes, millions in neighbouring countries, millions moved, about 200,000 dead. We could do much better than we are with humanitarian assistance.

GILBERT: Ok well given the blurred lines when it comes to Syria and when it comes to Labor’s view on Australian involvement there, what’s your view on the US involvement, because they have been leading the airstrikes against IS targets there?

PLIBERSEK: And that really has to be a matter for the United States, they have brought together a coalition of countries neighbouring Syria. They’ve got Arab league cooperation in what they’re doing. I think Australia has to make decisions that are in Australia’s interests and according to our laws and values and at this stage we haven’t seen a clear evidence of a legal basis for intervention and we haven’t, most particularly, we haven’t had laid out what would be our objective, who would we be fighting alongside of, how would we determine when we are successful? These are questions that you would really want to answer before you engage in military action.

GILBERT: I guess though there is the other argument that if you don’t target IS in Syria you’re not really targeting their strongholds because they are very, very strong in northern Syria, more so than Iraq.

PLIBERSEK: Look, I certainly understand the proposition that’s being put that you can’t have a- where you’ve got a porous border and people- terrorists moving back and forth across a porous border, you can’t ignore what’s happening in Syria. What I’m saying is that Australian military involvement is not the way that we should be involved at the moment, that we could provide much greater humanitarian assistance, of course we should be working with countries in the neighbourhood and countries around the world to starve IS of resources but it is much better if this is- if there is any military action that it is undertaken by countries in the region protecting their region from this threat.

GILBERT: To finish now on the Hong Kong protests, are you confident that the Chinese leadership will show restraint in the face of these ongoing protests from tens of thousands on the streets of Hong Kong?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly the signs over the last couple of days is that there has been a good change in the feeling of the protests, that they’ve become less tense, more celebratory. We are in Australia very strong supporters of democracy, one vote, one value, but it’s not for me to comment on the internal mechanisms for democracy in other countries.

GILBERT: But there is a legacy of cracking down on students as we all know, sadly in China, you’d be hoping the leadership shows restraint in this case.

PLIBERSEK: And certainly the indications over the last 24 hours is that the authorities have stepped down the pressure on the protestors and that the mood of the protest has changed significantly, which of course is something to celebrate.

GILBERT: Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time, I appreciate it.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - Today Show, Friday 19 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Anti-Terror Raids; Iraq

BEN FORDHAM, PRESENTER: Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull joins us this morning along with the Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you. I might start with you first of all if I can, Tanya. Yesterday like all of us waking up, watching what we saw and then hearing the detail about this plot, how frightened are you?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, I would not say I am frightened, I would say that I am determined - to ensure that our Australian security and intelligence agencies that have done such a good job of preventing this attack on Australian soil have the resources and the authority to do what they need to keep Australia safe.

FORDHAM: Malcolm, does it scare you? It scares me when I hear about a plot to kidnap someone off the streets, possibly to behead them, to film them, wrap the body in the ISIL flag and send the video back to the Middle East to distribute worldwide, that scares the living you know what out of me.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Well this is not a time to be scared, this is a time to be determined as Tanya said, to be determined and united in our resolve to support our police, our security services and all of the instruments of government to protect the community and they are doing a very good job and they will continue to do that job. But the other thing that we have got to do is make it very, very clear that we are not going to be intimidated by terrorists like this. We must- it is absolutely important that all of us go about our work, our normal business, confident in the knowledge that we are a great country, very strong and united country, and we have the security apparatus to protect our citizens.

FORDHAM: Tanya, Malcolm says now is the time to be determined and united. Not everyone is united. There were protests last night in Lakemba, small protests, I should point out, but there are people who are concerned that the terror raids yesterday, they suggested these are some kind of conspiracy here to pick on Muslims in our community. What would you say to those people?

PLIBERSEK: Well this certainly is not any sort of conspiracy. This is based on intelligence work that has been going on over some time. But the other thing I would say is that those protests yesterday were small protests and what we saw that was much larger was the barbecue on the weekend with Australian Muslims rejecting the small number of extremists in their midst. I am not going to make any comment about this most recent investigation but I can tell you David Irvine, the outgoing ASIO chief, has said in the past that most of their good intelligence comes from members of the Muslim community who are talking about family members or associates who are engaging in behaviour that is troubling to them. So you’ve got to remember that this group of people yesterday, nut jobs for sure, but a very small section of the community.

FORDHAM: Fair comment, nut jobs.

TURNBULL: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Can I just make one really important point, and I think Tanya and I are on a unity ticket on this too. Those people who- what do the terrorists want us to do? They want to frighten us obviously. But they want to get the community to demonise the whole Muslim community. They want- those people who want to attack Muslims in general, attack Islam in general, are doing the terrorists work.


TURNBULL: Because the strategy of the terrorists is to enrage the broader community, get the broader community to then demonise, in this case the Muslim community, which will cause more Muslims to support the extremists. So it is really important that we recognise, as David Irvine has said, we are talking about a small number of extremists, nut jobs, fanatics, whatever you want to call them, really bad people, and we must recognise that the vast bulk of the Muslims in Australia are good, patriotic Australians and we have to get our arms around them because they are our best allies in the fight against extremism.

FORDHAM: It is a very good point isn’t it, Tanya, those with evil intentions are trying to wedge greater Australia-

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely.

FORDHAM: And wedge the peace loving Muslim community because if they can try and show to other people ‘look, we’re being picked on here’ then they increase their numbers. What can we do to try and deal with, particularly young men, let’s face it, they seem to be young men freshly out of school, and in many cases they have broken away from their family units and broken away from the friendship groups and they fall into these cells and only hang out with the same people over and over who say the same rubbish in their heads. What can you do to grab those young men away from those thoughts and those groups?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is very important- we had a program when we were in Government called countering violent extremism, and the funding for that was cut in the Budget but it has been restored by the Government now, so I give credit to the Government for restoring that funding. Programs like that, you support community leaders to engage with young men, respectable community leaders, community leaders who can provide guidance about how to grow up to be a good, young man, that does not mean engaging in this extremist sort of behaviour, but engaging with the Australian community, finishing school, getting a job, being part of society rather than setting yourself apart from it.

FORDHAM: We saw your boss, Bill Shorten, and also your boss, Tony Abbott, farewelling some of our troops yesterday. There were some who are arguing that our involvement in Iraq is somehow going to add to the terror threat here back home. Malcolm?

TURNBULL: I do not buy that. I think the terror threat is real here now and I do not- what we have to do, ‘we’ being the collective world, the global community and in particular, as Julie Bishop has said, the other Arab countries in the region, in the Middle East, what we have to do is combine to extinguish this ISIL group and demonstrate that they are not the all victorious, concrete army that they are holding themselves out to do it. I mean, the tragedy is that they have been successful because of the collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul recently and that- they have to be pushed back, they have to be taught a very, very palpable lesson.

PLIBERSEK: And I think the thing to add to that is just as Malcolm has said, we cannot allow the behaviour of terrorists at home to govern our behaviour. We cannot respond- if the threat is that Australia is involved in protecting civilians in Iraq, you will become a target. Well, we cannot allow that to control our behaviour either. Australia needs to make decisions that are in the best interests of Australia as a responsible global citizen and one of those decisions is to do exactly what we are doing, which is to support the democratically elected government of Iraq to protect its citizens.

FORDHAM: I know you are used are arguing a point but clearly this is one where there is no argument, it is fantastic to hear that and great to see you, thank you very much Tanya Plibersek-

PLIBERSEK: Great to be here.

TURNBULL: Thank you very much.

FORDHAM: Tanya Plibersek and Malcolm Turnbull this Friday morning on Today.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National with Waleed Aly, Wednesday 17 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq; Ebola; The Abbott Government’s Broken Promises.

WALEED ALY, PRESENTER: Joining us now is Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. Thank you very much for your time.


ALY: I’ll get to the Ebola thing in a moment because I think it’s actually very interesting but let’s start with Iraq. I’ve spoken with you before about this concept of mission creep and I think last time we spoke it was a narrow mission that we were contemplating to prevent genocide. Now it seems to have evolved into something much more than that. Are these the limits or will this continue to evolve?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think Australia needs to be very clear that our objective is the humanitarian objective that includes helping the democratically elected Government of Iraq to fight off the threat that is IS. The Government of Iraq are able to ask for our help. They’ve not just asked for Australian help they’ve got at the Paris Conference around 30 nations signed up it seems as though other nations are also already coming on board including a number of nations in the region in the Middle East to help the Government fight off IS. I think we’ve been very clear that’s Australia’s role. Beyond that I don’t think – well we certainly would have to have a conversation with the Australian people about anything beyond that, I don’t see a role for Australia beyond that immediate support for humanitarian intervention which prevents genocide.

ALY: But there is no genocide happening right now, we don’t need to prevent genocide by supporting the Iraqi military to re-establish control of Iraq do we?

PLIBERSEK: Well there are thousands of people who have lost their lives. There’s 1.8 million people who have been displaced in Iraq from their homes. I’m not really sure that you could down play the seriousness of what’s going on there.

ALY: But can we call it a genocide? As I understand it there was the threat of genocide but then there were Iraqi airstrikes and there was the arming of particularly Kurdish forces and then there was that famous altercation where ISIS lost control of the dam and so on and so the genocidal threat seems to have abated. If that was our aim shouldn’t we have drawn a line under that?

PLIBERSEK: So now we’re only talking about mass atrocity crimes and we shouldn’t worry, is that the proposition you’re making?

ALY: No this is the question I suppose I’m asking about the strictness of the definition. If it’s about preventing genocide from happening that seems to have been achieved is it now about something more than that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not sure you can fairly say that we have prevented the mass atrocity crimes that IS is determined to commit in Iraq as they have committed them in Syria. You’ve got thousands of people who have lost their lives, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has sent investigative forces to northern Iraq so they can collect information about these mass atrocity crimes in an effort to hold people to account in the future. IS is determined to kill people who are of a different religion or ethnicity to them. If they’ve been limited in their success by the Iraqi forces, including the Peshmerga forces we spoke of last time, fighting back successfully in part because of the assistance of Australia and other countries that’s a good thing but I’m not sure that that would lead us to be complacent and to say we are completely free of the threat of genocide now.

ALY: There are briefings that you will be getting that none of us get with your role in Opposition of course the Government would be giving you those briefings as well or at least inviting you in on them. What seems to underlie all of this is that ISIS represents a serious threat to Australia. Can you give us an indication of precisely the scope of that threat and the mechanism, can you describe it precise terms? Because it’s not immediately clear when you consider this is a movement on the other side of the world that seems to be importing people rather than exporting them.

PLIBERSEK: Well obviously I can’t talk in detail about the content of security briefings that we receive but you only need to open the newspapers to know that there are Australians fighting with IS and the risk, aside from the people they’re fighting in Iraq and Syria, is that when they come home they would use some of the particularly nasty skills that they’ve developed overseas against Australians on home soil. That is the risk that we have to protect against and we are of course determined to do everything we can to support our security agencies in keeping Australians safe at home. But there is another issue and we spoke about it last time that the world community looked on at Rwanda and the 800,000 people who lost their lives there and said it’s terrible someone should do something, you know make it stop, but took no effective action and 800,000 people lost their lives. So however cautious we are, rightly cautious we are, about Australian involvement again in Iraq and what a disaster it was in 2003, we do have a responsibility to protect and we can debate the parameters that we put around our involvement there. I think it’s very important that the Prime Minister continues to update the Parliament on exactly what the Australian mission is, what role we play, how we will judge when we’ve been successful, what does that mean for the withdrawal of Australian troops. All of that should be part of our public discussion through the Parliament to the people of Australia. But I don’t think we can turn our backs on what is a serious humanitarian disaster.

ALY: Is it really a choice though between military involvement and turning our backs? Is that really a fair binary?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not sure whether you’re suggesting that people should have a good hard talking to IS and maybe they won’t kill people. We would always prefer diplomatic means to deal with a situation like this if there was a sensible leadership with a grievance that you could discuss it would be one thing but that’s not what we’re talking about with this organisation. I think that it is at the invitation of the Government of Iraq we have provided humanitarian assistance which includes some military assistance. You’ve got to remember this is not the invasion of 2003, we’re talking about several dozen countries involved not the four that were involved in 2003. This is something that has the backing of the United Nations –

ALY: Oh, we seem to have lost Tanya Plibersek. We might see if we can get her back because the other aspect of this story that I wanted to talk to her about was the Ebola response the Ebola crisis which is a real crisis, I mean not to say that the ISIS one isn’t but this is something that Obama administration has said that they’re sending 3000 troops to deal with this. So we’ll see if we can explore that with Tanya Plibersek who I understand is with us now. Thank you very much for being back with us, sorry if we let you go there it wasn’t anything you said.

PLIBERSEK: I don’t know what happened.

ALY: No don’t take it personally. We should move on to the Ebola thing, although –

PLIBERSEK: I just want to make one final point on the humanitarian mission. Of course our military contribution is not the beginning and end of what Australia should be doing, our humanitarian support including for the UN agencies who are trying to get aid to desperate people in Syria should be much greater than it is. We should, as Bill Shorten said, be taking more refugees from the area. There are other ways of helping that we should engage as well.

ALY: So let’s talk about the Ebola outbreak. The Obama administration has announced today that sending 3000 troops to help stem the outbreak. He says that this is a potential threat to global security. Have we been as a world, particularly the western world of developed nations, have we been a bit slow moving on this?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah I think you could very easily say that we’ve been a bit slow moving on this. You’ve seen about 5000 cases now and about 1 in 2 of the people who contract Ebola are dying from it. One of the reasons of course is that the traditional practices of washing the body after death mean that more people come into contact with blood and bodily fluids and that of course is the main source of infection. So we could very usefully be working more closely with African health authorities on the basic sort of precautions that you take with that type of disease that [inaudible].

ALY: I think we’re starting to struggle with that line. I might chance my arm with one more question. Hopefully we can get there. The Prime Minister has spoken today about Australia making a contribution, $7 million, an extra $7 million. Is that enough, is money what we should be doing or is it other things that we should be doing?

PLIBERSEK: Look of course the money is welcome but it’s in the context that we cut $118 million from aid to Africa in this Government’s first budget, and we also cut $2.8 million from the World Health Organisation, which of course is one of the agencies that is leading the response to Ebola. I think it’s clear from what Médecins Sans Frontières have said of course money is welcome but they’re also asking for expertise and people on the ground and we have some excellent researchers here, clinicians, health professionals that are terrifically good at working on communicable diseases if there is some way that we can support our people as well as sending dollars I think that would be ideal.

ALY: Tony Abbott has spoken today about doing an annual performance review of his ministry. He was asked about that today this is what he said:

[Recording of Tony Abbott]: Some are getting A’s some are getting A+’s but the fact is this is a competent and trustworthy government which promised that we would stop the boats, that we would scrap the carbon tax, that we would build the roads, that we would get the Budget back under control and that’s precisely what we’re doing.

ALY: Tanya Plibersek your counterpart Julie Bishop would she be in the A or the A+ category.

PLIBERSEK: Well she’s done a number of things that I agree with and support and a number of things I don’t agree with and don’t support including cutting $7.6 billion from Australia’s aid budget so that at times like this when we’re trying to help in Iraq and in Syria and in a number of African countries with the outbreak of Ebola we're in very difficult times when it comes to our aid budget. I’d like to ask if he’s marking people on keeping promises what he’d give himself because he promised no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no cuts to the ABC or SBS, no new taxes and he’s broken every one of those promises. Does he get an F for that?

ALY: Well I think you just give yourself an overall mark and it’s either an A or an A+ and just go with that. Actually one question I do want to ask you and it’s one I had in mind as we were talking and I lost the connection with you. It’s a difficult question for us to think about but I think we have to given how military intervention has gone for us in the past and that is by doing this we are almost certainly going to be killing civilians, is there a point at which the loss of civilian lives that we inflict directly means that the mission is not worth it. So is there a number that you might be able to identify or ball park so that we can say ‘this is when it’s gone wrong’?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think one of the reasons that I’m so dead certain that 2003 was so bad was because of the incredible number of civilians that lost their lives in that conflict. At this stage our involvement is 600 people, we expect that Australian involvement will be mostly in an advisory role. We’re not talking about sending platoons of soldiers off to fight on the ground in Iraq so it is a different scenario again to 2003.

ALY: But we are contributing to airstrikes which will kill people including civilians.

PLIBERSEK: And it is very important that we get the targeting as right as possible and that’s why our soldiers, very specialised soldiers, are involved as they are. But civilians –

ALY: Do you think our history is great though?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that civilian deaths are never acceptable but right now we have thousands of civilians being killed by IS because of their race or their religion or because they're the same religion and they don’t agree with IS tactics. We’ve got women and children being sold into slavery, we’ve got forced conversions, we’ve got particularly brutal ways of killing people including aid workers who of course only ever enter conflict zones to help the people who are affected by these terrible conflicts. So yes civilian deaths have to be in the calculations of any military action and are a terrible burden in the decision making during a military action, I mean a moral and ethical burden to think through as you’ve identified. But we are right now preventing the loss of life.

ALY: Tanya Plibersek thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Waleed.




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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Newcastle, Tuesday 16 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Overseas Aid; Iraq

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, I’m delighted to be here with Sharon Claydon and Tim Clackenthorp today. We’ve just had a very successful forum on international development and assistance. Australia has historically been a generous country with bipartisan support for foreign aid. Today I told the large number of local people who turned up about the most recent cuts in the Federal Budget to Australia’s aid. One in every five dollars cut from the recent Budget has been cut from the world’s poorest people, a $7.6 billion cut. Of course that has drastic effects in our region and around the world, meaning that there are poor people who will miss out on food, shelter, education, health care and economic development, all of which have been a focus of Australia's aid program in the past. Australia's aid has been successful, we have built about 2,500 schools in Indonesia, we’re part of an effort to get millions of Afghan children into schools. When we started our efforts there, 1 million kids were going to school, by the time we finished, 8 million kids going to school. We’ve had terrific success in tackling disease in our region, drug resistant tuberculosis, just one example in PNG, from a 25 per cent death rate to a 5 per cent death rate. We’ve seen the lives of children and mothers in childbirth saved because of Australian health efforts. We’ve contributed to global organisations like GAVI, the vaccines alliance, making sure that more people around the world can get the basic immunisations that will keep them and their children safe. Australia has been an important contributor in the international community and when you look right now at a country like Syria, for example, you see the effects of Australia’s underinvestment in aid. Oxfam did a study of aid into Syria and found that Denmark, for example, gave 164 per cent of its fair share in aid to Syria. The United Kingdom gave 144 per cent, Australia just 27 per cent of what a country as large and as wealthy as Australia would be expected to contribute. I might let Sharon say a few words.

SHARON CLAYDON: Thank you, Tanya. It’s a delight to have Tanya Plibersek in Newcastle today. It should come as no surprise that the people of Newcastle have really strong concerns about the cuts into the aid budget. There are more than 20,000 Novocastrians who make a financial or voluntary contribution to overseas aid in our city, and 550 local businesses, community groups and church networks that have a very active interest in ensuring the delivery of overseas aid programs. So, it should come as no surprise that people in Newcastle have got concerns and have been raising it with me which is why I’ve invited Tanya to address the public forum today and she very generously gave up a lot of time to questions and answers from the audience. You know, it’s an important thing, there’s been some comments about you know, does charity begin at home? You know, it’s our belief that governments should be able to walk and chew and talk all at the same time. That we are a wealthy and generous enough nation that we are able to ensure that we’ve got safety nets for our own people but that we don’t give up on being good global leaders and in fact you know, take our responsibility to develop- to contribute to develop a nation seriously. Our region is part of an area that- one thing that I’d like to note is that the impact of those cuts on women in particular and the overseas aid programs under the former Labor Government had a very strong component in assisting women in developing nations both in terms of education, development of some economic developed micro-financing, those cuts will be felt very, very deeply by those women in the Asia-Pacific in particular and I guess you know when you have a government that only has one woman in their Cabinet, that’s the kind of impact that you expect to slip right by this Government and don’t realise the hurt that it causes. Thank you.

CRACKENTHORP: Yeah, thanks, I will. Look, as someone who has actually worked for a non-government organisation in Indonesia, trying to improve food production through rice banking and research along those lines. I’ve been a beneficiary of the AusAid plan that Australia had and it’s devastating to see that AusAid has now merged with Foreign Affairs and a lot that funding has been slashed. Look, Novocastrians are very generous people, we fight, we’re fighters and we give when we’re down and out ourselves. I know a lot of people who when I talked to them, are not very impressed by this Government’s cut to the foreign aid budget. And I know that they’ll be giving as much as they can personally to organisations but there’s a very important role for government here, and this Abbott Government is letting us down. Thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Tim. Okay, any questions?

JOURNALIST: I spose, and Sharon you would probably know about this, there’s a lot of organisations I think that they look after refugees particularly, are you getting a feedback from the community here? Particularly those aid supporters?

CLAYDON: I’m getting strong feedback from right across the board actually. My local community groups contact me most days to talk about the impact of these cuts. It’s of grave concern to me that they feel the need to do that behind closed doors with me as their local member and asking me to take those issues up in Parliament for them, which I’m very happy to do so. But it should be a concern to all Australians that our local volunteer and community organisations don’t feel confident that they are able to speak out against this Government in public.

JOURNALIST: And Tanya I guess you’re getting similar sort of feedback from around the country on those sort of things. Obviously people are really concerned at such a massive cut?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’ve had a lot of organisations contact me about what they won’t be able to do because they’re getting less Government funding. Unfortunately some of them are very nervous about speaking out. We’ve had organisations like World Vision and Oxfam come out very strongly against these cuts but there are other organisations that want to talk to me in private but feel nervous about losing even more Government funding if they speak out in public.

JOURNALIST: Is there growing unrest within Labor ranks about our military deployment to the Middle East?

PLIBERSEK: Everybody in Labor is united in concern for the people of Iraq. There is a very serious humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq with groups such as the Yazidis, Christians, ethnic minorities even Sunnis who don’t support IS’s tactics being the target of this violent extremist group. We are of course also cautious because of the experience in 2003 was a very bad experience for Australia, our involvement in the Iraq war at that time was a very bad experience for Australia, but it was also, in the end, a very bad experience for the people of Iraq. We want to make sure that whatever Australia does is of assistance, genuine assistance, to the people of Iraq. That brings safety and stability for the ethnic minorities and the people of Iraq who are under attack right now. It is very important to be clear about the differences between 2003 and 2014. In 2003 Australia was one of four countries to go into Iraq. Today John Kerry has said that 40 nations are involved in fighting the IS threat in Iraq. So we have a global community that recognises this threat and is prepared to support the fight against IS. In 2003 we went in against the wishes of the Government of Iraq and against the wishes of many Iraqis. Today we’ve been asked by the democratically elected Government of Iraq to protect citizens of Iraq, to assist the democratically elected Government of Iraq and the Peshmerga forces in the north of Iraq to fight off an immediate threat to Iraqi citizens. There are very clear differences between 2003 and 2014 but the experience of 2003 makes Australians rightly cautious. We need to be very clear about the objective here. The objective is to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes, to protect people from possible genocide, from murder, from rape, from forced marriage, from children being sold into slavery and forced religious conversion. That’s the very clear objective here and that’s what Australia should be focused on fighting.

JOURNALIST: Should Melissa Parke be disciplined for speaking out?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s perfectly proper to have debate in the Australian community and the Parliament. It’s perfectly proper to have a debate in the Australian community, in the Parliament, amongst parliamentarians because in 2003 Australia rushed into war and the results were very bad. But it is also important to be clear when we’ve made a decision as a nation that we want to protect civilians from imminent threat to their lives, that we must act.

JOURNALIST: Are you rock solid in favour of Tony Abbott’s decision to deploy military personnel to the Middle East and why?

PLIBERSEK: Right now, in northern Iraq, there are people who’s lives are at risk. Australians were rightly distressed when they saw images of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar without food, without water, knowing that if they came down off the mountain they’d be slaughtered and so Australians understood that the world community couldn’t stand by and watch. Because of those bad experiences in 2003 Australians are also cautious about an open-ended mission, a mission that has no end. So we must as part of the global community, we have responsibility, but we must be clear about the objective, the specific role for Australia and when that role will be complete.

Thanks everyone.



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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Sydney, 11 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget unfair on Australian women; Terror alert Level; Iraq; Treasury; Rozelle explosion.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here at this remarkable community centre meeting some of the leaders making this community a better community, and also ensuring that the hidden pockets of misery are not ignored, but people are empowered to have better lives.

I’m here today with my Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, our spokeswoman in matters to do with women’s affairs, Senator Claire Moore, and also Verity Firth, Labor’s candidate for this area in the upcoming state election.

Today the Australia Institute has confirmed what many Australians were afraid was true: that this Tony Abbott-Joe Hockey unfair Budget is particularly unfair to Australian women. And amongst Australian women to whom it is particularly unfair is women who earn less incomes, from lower income households.

Remarkable numbers today confirm that Tony Abbott has turned his back on working women, on women from poorer backgrounds in this unfair Budget. Why is it that Tony Abbott prefers to give CEOs generous tax breaks, yet install new taxes on working women who earn less than $35,000 year?

It is a disgrace that over 2 million Australian women, as a result of the Abbott Government, will be paying more tax on their superannuation. It is a disgrace that Australian working women who have lower account balances in superannuation are going to have their superannuation contributions frozen, contrary to the pre-election promises of the Abbott Government.

I might ask my colleague Tanya Plibersek to say a few words on the unfairness of this Budget. But what is becoming clearer and clearer every day since the unfair Budget is that it’ll be Australian women, especially ones from lower income households, who are going to pay the price for Tony Abbott’s broken promises and lies before the election.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here at Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre. This is a Neighbourhood Centre that has always provided a fantastic service in our local community, supporting vulnerable people who live in the community, people who live in public housing, people with disabilities.  A whole range of different people in our community get support from this Neighbourhood Centre, and that’s been especially apparent in the last week. We’ve had a terrible local tragedy, and this Neighbourhood Centre has been part of the glue holding this very close community together.

The work that’s done by the people in the Neighbourhood Centre is so important in our local community, but unfortunately it’s often lower paid and less valued than other types of work in our community. So if you’re a social worker for example, working in a neighbourhood centre, working for a women’s refuge, domestic violence service or a drug and alcohol service – you are already struggling on much lower wages than jobs with equivalent skills. When we were in government, we supported a wage increase for people working in the community sector, but it’s not just about the wages increase that these workers deserve. There are a whole range of things that impact on lower income working women in Australia today.

One of those things is the attack on their superannuation. Women make up two-thirds of the people, of the 3 million people who are getting the low income super contribution. They’ve lost $500 a year from their superannuation. We know also, at the same time Tony Abbott is protecting tax-breaks for high income super, at the same time as he is proposing to pay $50,000 to high income earners for paid parental leave, he is taking away the low-income super contribution for working women.

We also know of course, that women will be disproportionately affected by the increased cost of university education. Women once they leave university often have more broken working patterns because they are more likely to take time out of the workforce to have children.  Think about the social workers who work in centres just like this around Australia. They study hard because they want to help their community; they leave university with the cost of a degree around their neck that might be 2 or 3 times the cost of a degree now because they often take time off to have children, they will take longer to pay it back and that means that interest on that university debt will continue to accumulate while they are out of the workforce having their kids. It means they will actually end up paying more for the same degree as the average man who won’t have that broken working pattern. The research that’s been done today shows the disproportionate effect of this unfair budget on Australian women and particularly, on lower-income Australian women.

SHORTEN: Thanks Tanya. Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think it is appropriate for the Government to raise the level of the terror alert?

SHORTEN: In terms of the terror alert getting raised, what matters is the best advice from our security agencies. On one hand, Labor accepts, with the rise of ISIS in northern Iraq and the recruitment of Australian citizens to become foreign fighters over there and to train them to send them back here to cause trouble, is a real, real problem. It is a real issue and appropriately our security agencies, the Government and the Opposition are treating this with the upmost seriousness. On the other hand, it’s important we don’t unduly panic people. I am confident that our security officials will act in the best interests of our security and Labor is supportive of what needs to be done in terms of making sure that Australians are secure in Australia.

JOURNALIST: There are reports SAS soldiers will be sent to Iraq, do you agree with those moves?

SHORTEN: In terms of sending soldiers to Iraq, Labor has had a clear position on this whole matter. First of all we do support humanitarian relief, we believe that Australia’s efforts thus far have been about the protection of innocent civilians. Secondly we do believe that ISIS has an insatiable appetite for violence, for using religion to justify extreme acts of behaviour. So we do think there is a clear problem to be dealt with in Iraq. In terms of whether or not further Australian defence personnel are engaged in supporting the humanitarian process we will wait until the Government formally advises us on this matter. We understand that the American President is speaking almost as I speak now and Labor has set out some clear principles for engagement. We will continue to treat this issue, not a political issue but as a matter of national security.

JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen has said that major budget forecasts should be done by the Parliamentary Budget Office, not the Treasury, what do you think of this?

SHORTEN: I understand that Chris is speaking today at lunch time, I am supportive of what our shadow treasurer is saying on this matter.

JOURNALIST: He’s defended Treasury forecasts in the past though so why would he change it?

SHORTEN: Well Chris will give a very informative speech, I’m not going to steal his thunder. Sufficed to say that we do believe that these forecasts and this process should be as independent as possible and transparent as possible.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t Treasury best placed to do this type of forecasting?

SHORTEN: I beg your pardon,  sorry –

JOURNALIST: Isn’t Treasury the best place to do this kind of forecasting?

SHORTEN: Well Chris has worked hard on his speech, I will let Chris explain these matters when he gives the talk.

JOURNALIST: You’re here in Rozelle after the last weeks deadly explosion, and obviously you’ve seen all the tributes on the street here, is there anything you want to say about that?

SHORTEN: I think that when innocent people are taken unexpectedly in the most shocking of circumstances that we all feel diminished. Tanya and Verity have been explaining to me what a tight knit community this is and that the ripple effects of this terrible event are going to be felt for a long, long time. My thoughts are with the families, it’s unbelievable what’s happened and I can only feel extreme sadness.

Thanks everyone.


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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Logan City, Wednesday 10 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Health, education, pensions, superannuation, national security.

[Audio cuts in]

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I do not think anyone would have voted for Tony Abbott a year ago if they had known that he was going to break his promise on health, break his promise on education, break his promise on pensions, break his promise on superannuation, break his promise on jobs. A year into the Abbott Government, a government that came to office promising no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions and no new taxes, we’ve seen every one of those promises broken.

Just this morning I have been visiting Logan Hospital which has a fantastic new facility, a new emergency department and new facilities there for both adults and children. That’s an investment made by the previous Labor Government and it is a terrific illustration of the difference between Labor’s approach to health and the Liberals’ approach to health.

When we were in government we invested, and what we have seen since the election of Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott are health cuts, one after the other. The Abbott Government has cut $80 billion from health and education, $50 billion from hospitals alone. You see Campbell Newman's government presiding over 4400 job cuts in the Queensland health system. A real attack on the staff of the Queensland health system who only want to look after their patients and give them the top quality care that they know that Queenslanders deserve. So you have on the one hand Campbell Newman making cuts to hospitals here in Queensland and on the other hand you’ve got Tony Abbott in Canberra making cuts to hospitals and also introducing $7 GP co-payments, increasing the cost of medicines, cutting $400 million from public dental, cuts right across the book. No one would have voted for Tony Abbott if they had known about the health cuts, and no one would have voted for Campbell Newman if they had known about health cuts.

Looking at education now. Cuts to schools, $30 billion despite Tony Abbott's promise that he was on a unity ticket with Labor on the Gonski school education [inaudible]. And now the people in Logan will miss out because of these massive cuts to schools and education. But it is not just schools, $1 billion cut from childcare, $30 billion cut from schools and now $100,000 university degrees. So from the time that a child first goes into childcare, right through their schooling right through TAFE and university, cuts right through their educational life.

And next we will be talking here in this community hall to pensioners. Pensioners believed Tony Abbott when he said “no change to pensions” but we know that there are massive changes to pensions. The Government's own Budget papers show a $23 billion cut to pensions. What does that mean for an average pensioner? Well, Tony Abbott is changing the rate that the pension will increase, he is changing the indexation of the pension and if the changes that Tony Abbott is making had been in place over the last four years a pensioner would be $1500 a year worse off. So if Tony Abbott’s proposal had been the way things were done over the last four years, pensioners would be $1500 a year worse off. What does that mean for the future? It means that pensioners will be $80 a week worse off because of the changes that Tony Abbott is proposing. He is also going to make people wait longer to get the pension. That is particularly hard on blue-collar workers, working till you are 70 if you’re doing heavy lifting and manual work. That is really tough and of course Tony Abbott is also making it harder for people to save for their own retirement.

We know that with the changes he's announced on superannuation, someone who is 25 years old today will be $100,000 worse off in their retirement income. We know as well that our pool of national savings will be affected by that. Australia has done really well economically - tough times like during the Global Financial Crisis, in part because we had our own national savings. By 2025 we will have almost $130 billion less in national savings because of Tony Abbott's attack on superannuation. This goes to show that what Tony Abbott said when he said superannuation was a con is still the way he thinks of it. It is incredible that Tony Abbott does not just want to cut the pension, he wants to make it harder for people to save for retirement by not proceeding with increases in superannuation, by cutting the Low Income Superannuation Contribution for about 3 million workers and by making it harder for us to save as much for the future.

And I want to make one last comment and then I’ll hand over to Jim, Tony Abbott has broken promise after promise during his first year in government. But there is one promise it looks like he will keep, Tony Abbott promised 1 million new jobs, we just thought some of them would be in Australia. Jim.

JIM CHALMERS: Welcome Tanya to Logan City. It is not the first time that Tanya has been to Logan and it won’t be the last.

I think among the many lies that Mr Abbott told over a year ago to get himself elected, one of the lowest acts was to lie to these pensioners that we’re about to meet with, when he told them that there would be “no change to pensions”. Of course, as Tanya explained, there are massive decreases in the pension going forward and that will impact on people around here, good people who are just trying to make ends meet. And when you combine the attack on the pension system with what they are doing to push up the price of petrol, of medicine, of visiting the doctor plus of course the cuts to hospital funding that Tanya also mentioned, this is nothing but an attack on good people, good local people who are just trying to make ends meet from week to week.

Our message to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey is if you think that local people, local pensioners are going to forget this attack come election time, you have got another thing coming.

PLIBERSEK: Okay any questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes, Ms Plibersek, are you concerned at all about the potential to upgrade the terror threat in Australia at the moment?

PLIBERSEK: I think it is very important that all Australians are alert to any increase in the potential for a terrorist event in Australia. Of course, we receive as the Opposition, we receive frequent briefings from our national security agencies and whenever our national security agencies have argued for stronger powers in order to be able to protect Australians, we have been very supportive of these additional powers. Of course with additional powers come additional responsibilities and we have also made sure that independent oversight is included in any additional powers that the security agencies have granted.

JOURNALIST: Have those briefings indicated that the terror threat should be heightened?

PLIBERSEK: Well I am not going to speak about the details of the briefings that we get from our national security agencies. I think it is important that a very well respected leader like David Irvine is accorded the respect and attention that his warnings deserve and I think his comments speak for themselves.

JOURNALIST: The Greens say they’re concerned that if the terror threat level is raised there could be repercussions on ordinary Australians’ civil liberties. Does that concern you?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think what is very clear is that we are in a time internationally where there are heightened risks. I do not think anybody could ignore the fact that we have many Australians, dozens fighting overseas at the moment with organisations like IS, which are extremely dangerous organisations that are engaged in genocidal campaigns against ethnic and religious minorities overseas. I think it is foolish to ignore that sort of risk. On the other hand, if we argue for greater powers for our excellent security agencies here in Australia, those greater powers have to come with greater transparency and oversight as well. Australians value our freedom, we value the fact that we are a strong, multicultural democracy and that means that additional security measures come with additional accountability.

JOURNALIST: The former head of army, Peter Leahy, said today that if Australia gets involved in fighting ISIS directly that inevitably, or that could inevitably increase the risk of a terror attack in Australia. Would you agree with this assessment?

PLIBERSEK: I think that we need to be alert to any risk to Australians on Australian soil. It is clear that we have had Australians who have gone overseas and fought overseas, we’ve also had Australians who have returned from overseas. It is important that we are very focused on keeping Australians safe. I am not going to get into a discussion about the relative merits of the comments of two very senior and respected members of our intelligence and security operations.

JOURNALIST: Alright, one more final question on this issue though if I can. The Essential Media survey released overnight showed I think 54 per cent of Australians are directly and vehemently opposed to us having feet on the ground. Would you think that is likely to change?

PLIBERSEK: Well Labor has been very supportive of the humanitarian efforts in northern Iraq. Those humanitarian efforts started with providing food, water, medicines and so on to people who were surrounded on Mount Sinjar. Those humanitarian efforts have extended now to reaming fighters in northern Iraq, the Peshmerga and other Iraqi forces because to allow Iraqis to be slaughtered by IS because they’ve run out of weapons is a position that Australia could not accept. As a member of the international community, we join with the international community to acknowledge that when the government of Iraq asks us for help to protect its civilians against a genocidal army flooding across the border from Syria, we as an international community share a responsibility to protect. What we have seen in IS attacks are attacks on civilians, men, women, children, we have seen murder on a massive scale, forced abortions, rape, brutality that is - any number of examples of extraordinary brutality - we are being asked by the elected government in Iraq to help its people fight off this threat and I think it is important that Australia as a responsible member of the international community to contribute to that effort. Up till now it has been made very clear by the Prime Minister, by Bill Shorten as the Labor Leader and indeed by President Obama that there is no expectation that we will be putting regular forces on the ground in Iraq. Instead our mission is to support the Iraqis to fight off this threat on their own land.


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TRANSCRIPT - Today Show, In the House, Friday 5 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Australia Post, Iraq.

KARL STEFANOVIC, PRESENTER: Just more on Australia Post now, we’ve got Malcolm Turnbull joining us along with Tanya Plibersek. Good morning, guys. Nice to see you. What is the likely outcome there? What’s going to happen? You can’t sustain those losses over a long period of time.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well, the only solution really for Australia Post is to cut the cost of its mail business. I mean, people are not- we are not sending letters in the way we did, personally or at business level. What the company is arguing for is that there should be different classes of mail, so that most letters would not arrive the next day but arrive in three days. And then if you wanted to send a letter that would arrive next day that would be at a premium. But it is very tough because it is a high fixed cost business and the revenue is just declining year after year.

STEFANOVIC: So what is going to happen then? There are still a number of people, I’m sure pensioners rely on getting their mail like that, so there is going to be a transitional period. When will the cut backs start? They’ll have to start soon.

TURNBULL: Well the Government- we are considering what the company has put to us, we’re considering the independent report that BCG did for us. So we are literally- this is under consideration.

STEFANOVIC: What do you think is likely to happen?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, I think it is interesting that the parcel business is still so strong. It is a real sign of the way the economy is changing and the way that we live is changing. Of course we have to look at it long-term.


TURNBULL: Can I make a point about that just to - you basically need over three dollars of parcel revenue to make up for every dollar of lost letter revenue and it is not growing at anything like that ratio. So, yes the parcel business is growing but its profits are swamped by the losses in the letter business and that will get bigger unless we make some tough decisions.

PLIBERSEK: We’ve just got to keep in our minds that it is a big country and a lot of people live in regional and remote areas and we do not want to do anything that cuts them off from their communications.

TURNBULL: No, no, that is absolutely right.

STEFANOVIC: Alright, let’s move on. We know that the leaders are getting it together overseas to discuss the growing problem with the Islamic State. There were a number of drops overnight from Australian aircraft into the troubled areas. There is seen to be growing momentum now for some sort of ground involvement. Are you preparing us for that? Should the Australian public be prepared for that eventuality, and sooner rather than later?

TURNBULL: What the Prime Minister has said is that the decisions relating to military involvement in Iraq will be taken by the Cabinet and indeed with consultation with the Opposition. The decision that we have taken to date is for the Air Force to deliver arms and other supplies to the Iraqi defence forces and of course the Kurdish Peshmerga to ensure they have the means to stand up against this death cult, ISIL, that is rampaging across Iraq and Syria. But any further steps, you know, could be considered but at this stage we are not sending Australian troops on the ground.

STEFANOVIC: Tanya, you told the ABC we needed to ensure any action left the place better not worse. How would that be measured?

PLIBERSEK: I think the first and most important task right now is to prevent genocide. The reason that Australia is arming the Peshmerga and other forces in the north is because IS are bent on killing everyone who is different from them. The Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters are really the most effective fighting force holding that back. They are not just defending Kurdish land and Kurdish people but other religious and ethnic minorities. So the first measure of success is preventing genocide and ethnic cleansing. Longer term I think it is just important to keep in our minds that after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 there was involvement there from the US, from Australia, Britain and other countries for a long time. But it did not stabilise Iraq. So there needs to be a clear objective now, which is to prevent genocide. Of course we support that. We have been very supportive of that. Longer term we need to make sure that we are supporting the Iraqi people to fight off IS and the Iraqi people to provide stable government in their own land.

STEFANOVIC: The Greens are urging Australians not to call Islamic State terrorists. Are you comfortable with calling them terrorists?

PLIBERSEK: Of course they are terrorists. They’re using death and fear to try to control a whole population.

TURNBULL: They are the absolute definition. What planet are the Greens on, that’s a good question.

STEFANOVIC: We all have agreement - we don’t know what planet they’re living on.

TURNBULL: Certainly not in our solar system that’s for sure. They are literally –  they never fail to disappoint on the downside the Greens. At this moment what could be - it is difficult to imagine a more quintessentially terrorist act than what ISIL has been undertaking with these mass killings. Killing, beheading people on video.

PLIBERSEK: Fear, propaganda, violence.

TURNBULL: It’s classic terrorism. I find it staggering what the Greens are saying.

PLIBERSEK: It is designed to instil fear and it’s designed to gain an objective through the use of murder as a propaganda weapon. It’s terrorism.

TURNBULL: Of course. You’re right.

STEFANOVIC: It’s some very, very heavy news around at the moment, we appreciate you coming in today.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

TURNBULL: Very good to be here.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Capital Hill, Wednesday 3 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq, Ukraine, G20.

GREG JENNETT, PRESENTER: Well, these tough times in world security and diplomacy means there is a lot for the Opposition to keep across too. Tanya Plibersek has been getting the odd briefing or two on current events as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and she is with us today. The Sotloff execution has drawn widespread condemnation, as you would expect. Do you think these postings are meant to try to draw the west into the fight and if so, will it work?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, they certainly have a propaganda purpose. It is an absolutely tragic death, unfortunately this journalist has been held for about a year since his kidnapping. After the execution of James Foley, I imagine his family would have been very, very worried about his safety and now their worst fears have been confirmed. But the intention of the executor is to send a message. They say a message to stay away. I think it's equally possible that it's a message that's designed to encourage and attract fighters from other parts of the world into the region to support IS in their campaign.

JENNETT: And we have seen the western response, indeed touched on it in this program already, we have humanitarian assistance. Do you see a strategy or an objective in where the west is going with all of this at the moment?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, there is a very clear objective, and that's to prevent genocide and mass atrocity crimes, particularly in northern Iraq. There is very substantial evidence of many lives lost already. The UN Human Rights Council has authorised an investigation into these existing mass atrocity crimes that have already said to have occurred. We know that many people have lost their lives, others have been sold into slavery, women and children. This is a terrible campaign from IS, and the effort is completely engaged in preventing further mass atrocity crimes.

JENNETT: Did that prevention strategy, is it sustainable long-term or do you get to a point where you are saying we’re putting all this effort into prevention, something has to be done about cause?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think supporting Iraqis to fight IS on their own land, fight them - prevent them encircling whole towns, prevent them cutting off ethnic minorities and then going in to commit genocidal crimes, I think that that is a very important objective of this campaign, and I think it's very important that Australia and the international community support it. We have heard from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he and the United Nations have said that they support action including military action to support the Iraqis in fighting IS. There is an international effort, including from the countries that didn't support the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and indeed that's Labor's position, we certainly were very opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and that's been proved right over time. But what we are looking at now, not imminent deaths, deaths have already occurred on a very large scale, what we are trying to do is prevent more of those, the Peshmerga are the most effective fighting force in northern Iraq. They are running out of ammunition to fight IS, in their own lands, and on top of defending themselves, of course, they are providing a sanctuary for Christian minorities and other ethnic minorities in the Kurdish autonomous region and in the region they have got some control over. I think that's something the international community has a responsibility to support.

JENNETT: Alright, well let's go to NATO now. Julie Bishop will be talking to G20 member countries there about Vladimir Putin. Does it appear to you that there is an emerging consensus working up about blocking him from the Brisbane meeting?

PLIBERSEK: Well, very soon after the shooting down of MH17, Bill Shorten made very clear that he thought Australians would find it very hard to welcome Vladimir Putin to Australia, particularly at that time as Russia was denying any involvement or any support for Russian-backed separatists. And we still see the Russians are denying that they have got troops in Ukraine, despite every clear evidence that they do, so there is a very serious international problem in Ukraine at the moment. NATO is an appropriate place to discuss it. The Foreign Minister is right in saying this is not a decision for Australia alone, it's a decision that G20 nations would have to make together. But certainly a discussion at NATO, which includes any change to the invitation of the G20, is an important one to have.

JENNETT: Is there a risk there though in isolating a fellow like this, because conventional diplomacy says you keep people in the tent, Jaw Jaw is better than War War and all of that, but could there be a downside to taking that action?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think there are some risks. One risk is that other countries are not supportive of Australia's suggestion, that other countries might even not attend themselves. That's a risk that we obviously wouldn't encourage. I think that there is a possibility that Vladimir Putin himself will say I don't want to come to your G20 meeting in Brisbane anyway. I think that's probably a likely outcome of any discussion like this. There is an argument that we need to keep engaging with Russia, but it's important to acknowledge too, that there are very, very clear acts of aggression happening right now, that Ukrainian soldiers have died in significant numbers, and our own interest in this, with our 38 Australians that were killed doing absolutely nothing, but what many of us have done so many times before, flying from Europe back home to Australia. It does mean that there is an issue here that Australians have a particular interest in.

JENNETT: Alright, well it looks like the Government’s got a pretty supportive ally in the Opposition in Australia at least. So Tanya Plibersek, thank you for that today.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National, Tuesday 2 September 2014

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WALEED ALY, PRESENTER: Joined now by Tanya Plibersek, fresh from a division I think in the House, Labor's Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development. Thank you very much for joining us.


ALY: I’m very well. I’m a bit confused though, I’m not entirely sure of the precise details of the objective for this military intervention that has bipartisan support. Can you enlighten me?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it’s actually been laid out pretty clearly. The objective in the first instance is to provide humanitarian assistance and that up til now has included food, water, medicine, high-energy biscuits and so on. The next stage of it includes also providing ammunition to rearm the Peshmerga in the northern part of Iraq.

ALY: Right, I don’t understand those mechanics but to what end exactly? Are there a certain number of lives we’re trying to save, are we trying to beat ISIS back to a certain position, what- are we trying to defeat them? What is the end point here where we can draw a line and say that is done, it’s over, we’re successful, we can all go home.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that the first thing to do is prevent the massive slaughter of civilians which is what’s in prospect at the moment. Thousands of lives have already been lost, thousands more people have been injured, more than a million people have been displaced from their homes. IS will kill anyone who is a different religion, different ethnic group or even people who are Sunni Muslims who don’t agree with the tactics they’re using in their fight through Iraq. So I think the immediate objective is to prevent slaughter and we are, Australia and other countries have agreed some time ago to an international doctrine called responsibility to protect, which says that when mass atrocity crimes are imminent that the international community has a responsibility to protect. You might have read Gareth Evans’ very clear articulation of this doctrine today in the Australian-

ALY: I did actually, yes.

PLIBERSEK: And I think was a very good explanation-

ALY: Well it’s interesting but didn’t he note that there were certain elements of it that were not entirely clear because it is a new doctrine that we are trying to work through and I suppose a lot of people-

PLIBERSEK: Well it’s actually not really that new. Gareth- an international commission that was commissioned by the Canadians around 2001 began the process - around 2005 the United Nations adopted it and since then what we have been doing is refining the cases in which it might be used. There have been instances where the world community has stood by and seen massive loss of civilian life because of inaction or action that’s come too late, and Rwanda is one obvious example.

ALY: Well including in Syria.

PLIBERSEK: Exactly so.

ALY: So, is the logic of this that we should have intervened in Syria and Australia should have somehow been part of the Coalition to intervene?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that there is certainly a very strong moral case for more humanitarian assistance to Syria, Waleed. You know that the United Nations have called for a reconstruction fund there of around $6 billion and so far under the Abbott Government has contributed about $30 million. Of course there are massive numbers of refugees also who have been, about a third of the population, has been displaced in Iraq- sorry, in Syria and certainly we could do more to assist there, so I think that we could assist Syria. The difference between Iraq and Syria at this stage is in Iraq, the Iraqi Government have asked for international assistance. In Syria, there is much less clarity about who might ask for assistance and whether if we went in to support the Assad regime in fighting IS what the long-term consequences of that would be. So one of the elements that you have to consider with responsibility to protect is has there been- is there a legal basis for international intervention? The fact that the Iraqi Government has asked for support in fighting back IS gives a legal basis for it and that clear legal basis doesn’t exist in Syria but I do not think that that absolves us from a humanitarian responsibility. More than 190,000 lives have been lost in Syria to date, they haven’t all been lost at the hands of IS, they’ve been- I mean, I do not need to rehash for you the terrible crimes that have been committed on both sides against the civilian population in Syria. So there is a strong need for international attention but there are some legal differences between the two cases so our humanitarian assistance to Syria I think should be increased in the first instance because you’re right, it’s the same organisation moving with impunity back and forth across the Iraqi and the Syrian borders.

ALY: Well, you could argue, many have, that it is pointless trying to take them on Iraq and what you really need to do is be taking them on in Syria if you want to deal with them. But that’s why I ask the question about the limits of the mission because if we’re taking-

PLIBERSEK: Waleed, can I just interrupt you there. I think when you say things like ‘it’s pointless’, what you have to understand is that there are whole communities, whole towns that are besieged that are at imminent threat of massacre. The United Nations Human Rights Council have decided to send in a fact-finding mission because they expect that they will be gathering information on genocidal crimes and mass atrocity crimes. This is a very serious situation at the moment so it is one thing to talk about abstract and long-term strategic issues and we have to have a mind to those but we also need to deal with the imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes.

ALY: Okay but coming back to the question I was asking about what the end of this looks like, because we can intervene or arm militias or whatever it is that we think we’ll need to do in order to stave off imminent death, but what if that death- the threat of that death merely returns the minute we withdraw, does this mean a perpetual engagement? How do we make that judgement?

PLIBERSEK: And that is one of the things that has been in the forefront of our minds because many Australians remember the disaster that was the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Australia's part in that. It was wrongly conceived, it was done without international support, it was done against the wishes of the Iraqi people, it was done on the basis of wrong information around weapons of mass destruction, it was a disaster and nobody wants to repeat that disaster so we do need to think about what happens next and I think it was very brave, very brave and very honest of President Obama to say that the future is not clear, that there isn’t a mapped out response to how we rid the world of IS or organisations like it, rid the world of the impulse to kill in this way for extreme sectarian reasons but that does not absolve us of the responsibility now to protect civilians against the imminent threat of death, of forced marriage, of torture I mean I don’t need to go into the litany of – your listeners I’m sure are reading those stories in the newspaper.

ALY: No, no. No one’s denying that. I think it’s the application of the principles here where people start to raise questions. So for example we have a couple of texts that go supposed to this question of what exactly does the responsibility to protect connote?  So for example, one text message says ‘do we have a right to go to Syria without an invitation?’, raising the Syria thing.  Another one says ‘why didn’t we protect 2000 Palestinians?’ How exactly do you figure this out?

PLIBERSEK: Well there’s a couple of things in that. The first is I think we have a moral responsibility to help Syria and I have said that we should do that with humanitarian assistance but we have no legal basis for a similar intervention in Syria. We’re not being invited in by the Government of Syria and even if we were being invited in by the Government of Syria one of the other criteria that we have to look at is, would the place be better off after such an intervention, that is another question that we apply when thinking about responsibility to protect and-

ALY: Well do we know the answer to that in respect of this one?

PLIBERSEK: Well we know that we are preventing mass slaughter and I don’t think any of us has a crystal ball, I don’t think that you know, there are obvious problems that the Iraqi Government has had in bringing stability to the country and part of that has been because the Government of Iraq has behaved in a very sectarian manner, even in recent times and that is one of the reasons that there was the international pressure on Nouri al-Malaki to go and for Haider al-Abadi to replace him. It’s not- Iraq has been a very fragile place before 2003 but certainly that has been heightened since the international – or the American, Australian, British and other forces invasion of Iraq, so we do need to concentrate on what comes next in making sure that we argue for an inclusive, stable government of Iraq but this is not an action to replace the Government of Iraq in the same way that 2003 was. This action is immediate, it is based on meeting an immediate humanitarian danger. So it is very important to look at all of the criteria that you would be thinking about when you are asking is our responsibility to protect engaged in this case. I think the issue of Gaza is also a very important one and there was a great deal of international condemnation of the more than 2000 civilian deaths in Gaza and the fact in particular that many of those civilians were taking shelter in United Nations’ facilities when they lost their lives, or a number of those civilians were taking shelter in areas where they should have been safe. There was also a great deal of international condemnation of the rockets that Hamas continued to fire. I think it is extremely welcome that we have now got a ceasefire after 50 days of conflict but I am disturbed to see that there has been, as you would have seen reports of, it seems the Israeli Government has claimed around 400 hectares of land-

ALY: The land in the West Bank, yeah-

PLIBERSEK: So I think it is- it shows that there needs to be continued international support for parties in Israel and the Palestinian territories to go back to the negotiating table for a lasting peace. We can’t afford to see continued conflict in that area either.

ALY: Well indeed, I don’t think anyone would suggest that continued conflict is the answer to that. We did speak to Mark Regev incidentally on the appropriation of land yesterday, you can listen to that interview online if you have any interest in it, the spokesperson of course for Benjamin Netanyahu.  Tanya Plibersek, I better leave it there, but thank you very much for joining us tonight.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Waleed.


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TRANSCRIPT - The Doors, Wednesday 3 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq, Ebola, India, MRRT.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Look, I’ve come out this morning to talk about the tragic death of Steven Sotloff. This is another confirmation that IS in Iraq and in Syria are a barbaric organisation that follows none of the rules of war. Steven was abducted more than a year ago now and his tragic death, it underscores the type of enemy that the Iraqis are fighting. Australia has decided to help supply the Peshmerga, the most effective fighting force in northern Iraq at the moment to hold back this force which has killed everyone that has stood in its way, murdered, abducted, sold into slavery, women and children, that has besieged whole towns and set out to wipe out whole communities. I know that yesterday, that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, also gave his support including to military action to hold back IS. This is a very serious fight and our Australians who are involved in supporting the Iraqis to hold back this threat are doing a terrific job, a very necessary job.

I want to say a couple of things about Syria as well, because people have said on the one hand, you’re intervening in Iraq by supporting the Peshmerga, how is Syria different? IS, the same organisation originally started in Iraq transferred to Syria, grew its strength and is now back in Iraq. There’s one very key difference, and that is the Iraqi Government has asked for Australian support against IS. And unfortunately in Syria, the civil war now means that there is no credible partner with which to fight IS. Any support of a similar type to Assad’s troops in Syria would empower a regime that is a brutal regime, that is also accused of mass atrocity crimes, including using gas against its own- chemical weapons against its own civilian population. That doesn’t mean that the world community should turn its back on Syria. Australia has been asked as part of the international community to do more for Syria. The United Nations has called for a rebuilding fund of humanitarian- a rebuilding fund of around 6 billion dollars and so far the Abbott Government has only contributed less than 30 million dollars to the relief effort in Syria. We also see that there are millions of refugees in Syria and Iraq, well over a million in Iraq, well over 6 million in Syria, another area where Australia could do substantially more than we are.

I want to turn now - does anyone have any comments or questions about the international issues before I talk about domestic issues?

JOURNALIST: Just firstly on Iraq and the use of propaganda, the video uploaded says that Steven Sotloff is paying the price for US air strikes. So, does that give you pause or does that make you think about potential ramifications for Western nations, Australia in particular?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s true that IS are using this as a propaganda opportunity to try and warn off- not just the United States, this is an international effort. Well over a hundred countries have agreed at the UN Human Rights Committee to launch an investigation into the mass atrocity crimes that have occurred in Iraq. This is an international effort against IS. But of course IS will use any propaganda opportunity it has to try and frighten off or intimidate the international community. I think given the many thousands of Iraqis that have lost their lives, it is important for us an international community, to say that our responsibility to protect Iraqi citizens has been engaged. Their government has asked for the support of the international community. I feel so very sad for Steven Sotloff, for James Foley before him, for any civilian who is caught up in this fight. We know their names, because of the propaganda efforts of the IS. We don’t know the names of the thousands of Iraqis who have lost their lives, thousands of women and children who have been sold into slavery to IS fighters. So tragic, our hearts go out to their families. We know how important the work is that foreign correspondents do because without the work of people like Steven Sotloff and James Foley and our own correspondents who are in war zones around the world at the moment, the world wouldn’t know about these shocking events. These people would sink into anonymity for us and sink into, unfortunately, indifference because we wouldn’t be seeing the impact of IS on northern Iraq and Syria without the reporting of journalists. But I don’t think we can do what IS wants us to do and give up the support of the Iraqi Government because of the propaganda that they launched.

JOURNALIST: So any lessons for the international community then?

PLIBERSEK: Well there is a very strong lesson for the international community from the events of 2003 when the Iraqi invasion happened without giving proper time to weapons inspectors to do their work. It happened without credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction and it was later found to be false, it happened without international sanction, without the support of many nations and I think that that is an important lesson and it seems to me that President Obama who was a strong opponent of the invasion in 2003 has learnt that lesson, the effort that he’s putting in to building an international coalition to support the Iraqis and the fact that the Iraqi Government has asked for this intervention does make it a very different situation. But we need to learn the lessons of 2003, that’s a mistake that should never be repeated.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek overnight Medicines Sans Frontier has warned that the world is losing the battle against Ebola. Should Australia be doing more?

PLIBERSEK: Well Australia has cut $7.6 billion from its aid budget. It is the single largest cut in this year’s budget. One dollar in every five of savings is from overseas development assistance. This is a real event where Australia could and should be doing more. But it is difficult to see how that is supported with a $7.6 billion cut to the aid budget. Africa is one of the countries that has suffered most from these cuts to the aid budget. Our aid to Africa has been reduced dramatically. Now we were told by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that Africa is a long way away, we’ve got no real responsibility to Africa, why are we involved in an area so far away from our region? But of course the consequences of a massive outbreak of Ebola, that health authorities are warning they are finding difficult to contain, obviously affects us globally. We’ve seen how quickly this illness can spread and how serious the consequences are.

JOURNALIST: How confident are you the Abbott Government is negotiating [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve received no briefing on any safeguards that might be negotiated, so we’ll wait and hear what safeguards have been negotiated.

JOURNALIST: The decision to sell uranium was actually made by the Gillard Government so how far down the track was that Government with negotiating safeguards?

PLIBERSEK: Well the Gillard Government had long and comprehensive discussions with the previous government of India. We had a change of government in Australia and a change of government in the world’s largest democracy so I think it’s important to hear what their intentions are.

JOURNALIST: Do you still think Australia should be selling uranium to India then and what are your concerns?

PLIBERSEK: Well India is an important economic partner for Australia and an important strategic country in our region. And I am delighted by how successful their elections were, how well run they were and the opportunity that hundreds of millions of Indians had to vote. As for any comments on uranium I’ll leave them until we know the details.

JOURNALIST: Can I just get a quick comment on the mining tax repeal, particularly the School Kids Bonus, is it time to admit that this is a School Kids Bonus which this government and this economy can’t afford?

PLIBERSEK: Well let me make a few comments about the domestic economy and the budget. Tony Abbott said a year ago that there would be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions and no new taxes. He has broken every one of those promises with this budget. And yesterday we saw a dirty deal that will leave Australians worse off. We know that the superannuation cuts will leave someone who is 25 years old now who is earning $55 000 a year by 2025 they will have missed out on more than $9000. If you’re talking about older people on higher wages that’s thousands more. When you look at what that means for retirement savings all together you are talking about easily $100 000 or more for the average worker that they’ll miss out on because instead of getting 12% into their super, they’ll get 9% of their wage into their superannuation.


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