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 - 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 - 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 - 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

TRANSCRIPT - RN Drive, Wednesday 1 October 2014


coats arms











SUBJECT/S:  Iraq and Syria; Anti-terror laws; Budget Cuts; Ebola

JONATHAN GREEN, PRESENTER: Joining us is Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister. Ms Plibersek, welcome.


GREEN: Was the Opposition consulted on the decision, for this latest decision that our RAAF planes to fly in the support role.

PLIBERSEK: Our leader, Bill Shorten, was advised about an hour before Question Time that this was intended. I don’t think there was really a necessity for consultation because we have made clear the arrangements that we think would be appropriate in the circumstances where the Iraqi government has asked for Australian support to fight off IS.

GREEN: Is full involvement now inevitable?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no I think we still have to be very cautious about setting the parameters for any Australian involvement. We’ve said that where there’s an imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes as there is in the northern part of Iraq at the moment that Australia does have, as part of the international community, a responsibility to protect. But our involvement of course depends on the invitation of the Iraqi government and on the Iraqi government continuing to behave as a democratic- in a democratic and non-sectarian way. And that we don’t support ground troops involvement on the ground in Iraq and that of course we don’t at this time support involvement in Syria.

GREEN: At this time, you say, I mean once we’re involved, there’s two fights here. There’s one in Iraq and there’s one in Syria. Once we’re committed, don’t we have to follow that through, even if it does lead us into Syria?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the situation in Syria is tragic, it’s extremely concerning, about 200 000 people have lost their lives. We’ve got pretty much half of the population of Syria displaced from their homes, including millions of people living in countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and neighbouring countries and we absolutely have a humanitarian responsibility to help those people who are being displaced. We are not doing enough by any means in helping neighbouring countries deal with the refugees flowing over the border. But there are a couple of key differences between Syria and Iraq, the first key difference is the Iraqi Government, the democratically elected government of Iraq have asked for Australia’s help and the help of the international community. There isn’t such a legal basis for involvement in Syria. There is also a lot less clarity about what the objective would be, it’s an extremely fractured situation there with many, many groups operating. It’s impossible to see how Australia’s military involvement would improve the situation there. But our humanitarian assistance and I mean money to the UN and its agencies to provide food and shelter and education for children and also our humanitarian response could involve bringing more Syrian refugees to Australia, because the Government made great fanfare of taking an extra 2200 - well I think if you’ve got millions of people in countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey we can surely do a bit better than that.

GREEN: You say that Syria is fractured, lacks clarity, is there a clear ambition for involvement in Iraq, militarily?

PLIBERSEK: Yes I think the very clear ambition in Iraq is to make it possible for the Iraqi Government to take responsibility for its own security as quickly as possible so that Australia and all of the other countries that are involved can come back home. There’s a very clear objective which is stopping the march of IS, stopping them taking town after town, village after village, and killing, enslaving, raping as they go. But we should only be involved in a limited way and only for as long as it takes for the Iraqi Government to take responsibility for the security of its own people.

GREEN: Do you have reservations, Tanya Plibersek, about the cost of this? Treasurer Joe Hockey said today that more budget cuts are on the way to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars of new defence and security spending.

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very important we examine every element of this and think very deeply and clearly about it because our involvement in Iraq in 2003 was a disaster. It was a disaster for Australia, it was a disaster for Iraq, the ongoing conflict in Iraq that lasted for many years and saw so many civilian deaths is not something that we should dismiss. You’ve raised the question of cost, I think where you see whole populations at threat of genocide or ethnic cleansing we can’t ask ourselves what dollar value we are prepared to put on those lives. I think that a terrible way of considering this problem. We have to consider this problem in a way that puts our international responsibility and ethical decision making at the centre of it.

GREEN: But the Treasurer has signalled that it will be expensive and he is signalling cuts to the budget to pay for that expense. Presumably given the Opposition’s bipartisan support your commitment to this mission, you’ll also support those budget cuts.

PLIBERSEK: Joe Hockey’s budget has been a disaster from beginning to end and I’m very happy to talk about the budget. I don’t really want to link the cost of people’s lives in northern Iraq with budget cuts in Australia. But I will talk about the budget itself.

GREEN: But that link is being made, it’s not a thing we are undertaking without considerable expense and the Treasurer is saying he’ll make cuts to pay for it, will you support them?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think it’s appropriate to say we’re going to make budget cuts in Australia to save lives in northern Iraq but I’ll tell you about Joe Hockey’s budget. Joe Hockey came to Government - he doubled the deficit within a few months. They’ve included spending like almost $9 billion to the Reserve Bank of Australia that the Reserve Bank neither asked for nor needed. They’ve got a $20 billion paid parental leave scheme that gives the biggest benefit to the wealthiest people. At the same time they’re talking about cutting the age pension, cutting support for young unemployed people, cutting school education funding, cutting childcare funding, cutting health funding, cutting university funding.

GREEN: None of this has actually happened.

PLIBERSEK: Well not for want of the Government trying. Tony Abbott came to Government saying no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes, no cuts to the ABC and SBS. He has broken all of those promises and there are a lot of nasty cuts in there besides the ones that made the headlines. Things like the $400 million cut from public dental care and the $44 million cut just this year from new building and homelessness services. This is a dog of a budget.

GREEN: None of which gets us away from the fact that the military involvement which the Opposition wholeheartedly supports is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and the government intends to pay for that through cuts. Which presumably you will in turn support?

PLIBERSEK: I haven’t heard Joe Hockey say that but if Joe Hockey is saying we need to cut the aged pension in Australia in order to save lives in northern Iraq I would be shocked. And this is a Government that has been trying to make these cuts to the budget anyway. They have been firmly rejected by the Australian people as deeply unfair and I don’t know if he has linked it to some other external issue but if he did that that would be in extremely poor taste.

GREEN: Do you have any concerns that the military involvement in Iraq will heighten the security risk at home?

PLIBERSEK: I think we have to be realistic about the fact that we are living in a time when security risks in Australia are higher than they have been in the past. And that is a confronting thing for us to accept as Australians that there are a tiny number of people in Australia who are planning to do ill to other Australians for reasons that most of us find completely incomprehensible. Now I think it’s important that we are careful that we give our excellent security and intelligence agencies the resources they need to keep Australians safe. At the same time I think it’s very important to focus on community cohesion and going about our lives in the most normal way possible.

GREEN: Those counter-terrorism forces, Tanya Plibersek, were given a boost today, laws passing the Parliament. Your colleague Melissa Parke had this to say:

[Recording of Melissa Parke]: I question the Government’s general approach to this area of policy. Which is essentially that freedoms must be constrained in response to terrorism and that the introduction of greater obscurity and impunity in the exercise of Government agency powers that contravene individual freedoms will produce, and are justified in the name of, greater security.

GREEN: Are other Labor MPs also uneasy about these new laws?

PLIBERSEK: Well the reason that Labor argued so hard to have these laws referred to the parliamentary joint committee on security and intelligence was so that we could give them the scrutiny they need. They are not decisions to be taken lightly –

GREEN: And yet there are no amendments to those laws. You are happy with computer hacking powers for intelligence agencies?

PLIBERSEK: Well actually there were a very large number of amendments. There were 18 recommendations made by the Parliamentary joint committee many of which were driven by concerns that the Labor members on the committee raised and those recommendations have been accepted by the Government. So it’s not a question of bringing those amendments into the Parliament and having them voted up or down, in fact the Government has accepted the amendments that we have recommended. So it’s done at the stage before bringing it into the chamber. But it is important that those amendments were made because there were concerns about some areas of the legislation, that’s why we have the committee process. That’s why we insisted on it and that’s why we made those recommendations.

GREEN: You’re not concerned that a single warrant could enable security agencies to access unlimited computers and networks?

PLIBERSEK: No I think that that is a misunderstanding of the legislation.

GREEN: Well it’s an extreme example of what could occur.

PLIBERSEK: No I think it’s a misunderstanding of the legislation. And I understand why people want to be vigilant I think it’s very important that people speak up to protect our freedoms. We don’t want to live in a police state but in this case this legislation has had a great deal of scrutiny and a number of very significant changes were made to reflect that scrutiny and that’s appropriate. It’s very important for security and intelligence agencies to be given updated powers as circumstances change. It’s also very important –

GREEN: Journalists and whistle-blowers should face gaol, is that a fair thing worthy of bi-partisan support?

PLIBERSEK: Well what you’re referring to - the provisions around special intelligence operations - a special intelligence operation is a very limited operation that’s done where ASIO officers risk their lives by, for example infiltrating an organisation that is about to do harm on Australian soil. We asked for a number of changes to the provisions around special intelligence operations including the fact that the Attorney-General should sign off on them rather than the Director-General of ASIO and the provisions around journalists or whistle-blowers talking about special intelligence operations were changed in relation to concerns that I had. So, for example, a journalist will only contravene the provision that you’re not allowed to talk about a special intelligence operation where they know or they recklessly disregard the fact that it’s a special intelligence operation.  And what they are doing if they recklessly disregard the fact that it’s a special intelligence operation is endangering the life of someone who is working undercover.

GREEN: Need that be so? Surely the Attorney-General, who has the capacity to nominate these operations, could not the Attorney-General have nominated the spying on the Timorese Government which led to the international court. Could that not have been determined as a special intelligence operation and could reporting of that not resulted in gaol?

PLIBERSEK: And the other provision that we’ve included is that if the Director of Public Prosecutions determines that the reporting has been done knowingly, but it is in the public interest for us as a community to know that ASIO has made a mistake or done the wrong thing or an officer of ASIO has done the wrong thing then it should be reported in the public interest. So yes concerns were raised about this, that’s why we included these additional safeguards, including the Attorney-General has to sign off on it, including the fact that a special intelligence operation - that someone’s cover has been blown recklessly or the journalist knowing that they’re putting someone into danger and there is still the provision that the director of public prosecutions can make a decision that it’s in the public interest for this information to be disclosed. So of course it’s a very important thing for journalists to be protective of the rights of themselves and their colleagues.  Part of our strong democracy depends on free and frank reporting. That’s why these changes were argued for and that’s why they were accepted.

GREEN: Just a last point Tanya Plibersek you questioned Julie Bishop today on the decision not to send health workers to West Africa’s Ebloa outbreak zones. What’s going on there? How can we contribute? What might we best do?

PLIBERSEK: Ebola is a phenomenally fast spreading disease. We’ve got about 6500 people who are infected at the moment. The estimates suggest there could be around 1.4 million people affected by January if we don’t take stronger action than we are now. Australia cosponsored a Security Council resolution saying that all countries should do more, not just send money, but send doctors, equipment teams, engineering teams - basically look to their own resources and see how they can help. In addition, Medicines Sans Frontier have said very clearly that it is not just more money we need it is more people and more resources. Other organisations, the President of the United States, all sorts of people and organisations have made clear that just sending money is not enough. Australia has sent $8 million, that’s a good start, but we have people in Australia who want to go and who have the skills to go and they’re being told that the Government can’t support their work as volunteers there. There is in fact 12 Australians working with international organisations at the moment and the message to them is ‘hope you don’t get sick’. We can as a country that has absolutely first rate medical teams and indeed engineering and other resources through our defence force personnel - we could be doing much more than we are. And it’s in all of our interests to try to stop this disease spreading at the rate that it’s spreading.

GREEN : Tanya Plibersek thanks for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Parliament House, Thursday 2 October 2014

coats arms











SUBJECT/S: Cuts to Foreign Aid; Asylum Seekers; Ebola; Victoria Police Investigation; Burqas

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Reports in the paper today that the Government are planning further cuts to the aid budget are extremely concerning. Reports suggest in order to pay for the humanitarian assistance being offered to Iraq we would further cut humanitarian assistance to other places. It makes absolutely no sense for Australia to be involved in protecting the people of Iraq from the threat of IS and at the same time say, to those same people, ‘we can’t help you with food and water and shelter and education for your children if you should choose to flee your homes’. Already, the Australian aid budget’s been cut by $7.6 billion, the largest single cut in the Federal Budget. One dollar out of every five - cuts in the Federal Budget are from the aid budget, on the back of the world’s poorest people. The situation in Syria is critical too, with 200,000 people now dead, with almost half the population of Syria having fled their homes. Australia should be doing more in humanitarian assistance for Syria, not less. Syria now has lost millions of refugees to neighbouring countries, countries like Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey. Those countries that are looking after millions of Syrian refugees need more assistance from Australia, not less. In fact, the United Nations has launched a $6.5 billion appeal for Syria, asking countries around the world to help the Syrian population displaced from their homes cope. And what’s Australia given? So far, just $31 million, to that $6.5 billion appeal. If what the Prime Minister and the Government say is true, that IS is a disastrous organisation that must be stopped because of the effect they’re having on the lives of Syrian and Iraqi people, then surely our responsibility goes beyond military assistance to also include humanitarian assistance. If you look at the situation in Iraq, in particular, we are there offering humanitarian assistance to protect the people of Iraq from threat of mass atrocity crimes, at the same time, the Government cut the aid budget to Iraq last year from $7.7 million to zero. So it is important that government rule out, firmly rule out today, any further cuts to the aid budget.

JOURNALIST: I understand that’s already happened, Julie Bishop has just said there’s been no discussion in Cabinet about foreign aid and the Government will still keep its commitments on aid. So does that satisfy you?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’d like to hear it from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. They’ve put it into their newspaper of choice this morning, into The Australian, they’re doing that for a reason. I think that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer should make clear today that there will be no further cuts to the Australian aid budget. This is the largest single cut in the May budget. The world’s poorest people cannot afford any further cuts.

JOURNALIST: If- is there any danger of these cuts to go ahead that could have implications for the asylum seeker boats?

PLIBERSEK: Well I can’t comment on whether it will have implications for asylum seeker boats, what I would say is you can’t on the one hand say that there’s a humanitarian crisis in Iraq that we have to send our military to help, and on the other hand say that we’re not going to help in other ways, that we’re not going to help with shelter, with food, water, with health services, with education for people who fled from their homes

JOURNALIST: So what would be a better way to fund this then?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that’s up to the Government. The Government set out in the May budget a whole series of cuts, cuts to health, education, ABC and SBS, cuts to pensions and family payments. It’s not a new thing that the Government’s looking around for cuts, they’ve already cut the aid budget massively. It’s up to them to balance the budget.

JOURNALIST: Yesterday the Finance Minister was talking about speedy passage of bills that Labor and the Government have agreed on, has there been discussion on this amongst the Labor leadership team?

PLIBERSEK: Well for some time Labor has been saying to the Government that there are measures that we will support. Measures such as further means testing of family tax benefits. We’re happy to pass them and were happy months ago to pass those. The Government refused to split the bills, they were absolutely tied to cutting pensions and to cutting other family payments, to cutting benefits to young, unemployed people. If the Government splits the bills, we’re happy to pass the measures that we’d been publicly on the record as saying we agree with.

JOURNALIST: There’s reports today that the woman who accused Bill Shorten of rape is unsatisfied by the police investigation and she feels that they’ve cut corners because of his position in power. What is your response to that?

PLIBERSEK: My response is that this has been thoroughly investigated by the police. Bill Shorten cooperated fully, and that should be an end to the matter.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any sympathy for David Leyonhjelm’s argument that the taxes on smoking are too high and that vulnerable people are being targeted by the increases?

PLIBERSEK: Well absolutely not. One of the things we know is that, when you’re talking about vulnerable people, poorer people are more responsive to price increases in tobacco and more likely to give up when prices go up. I’ve made no apology for being part of the government that made it more expensive to smoke, than to quit smoking. We put a number of smoking cessation aids like nicotine replacement therapy onto the pharmaceutical benefits list so that it was cheaper to give up, you had all the assistance to give up, making it more expensive to smoke has led to decreases in the number of smokers in Australia combined with the other measures that we took so that Australia has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world and we’ve basically halved the rate of smoking in the last twenty years. That’s a good thing. About half of all regular smokers will die from smoking related causes. I don’t think there’s any freedom and liberty in being allowed to smoke yourself to death.

JOURNALIST: There’s reports Medecins Sans Frontieres has rejected $2.5 million from Australia, yesterday Julie Bishop said it was impractical to have health workers evacuated from West Africa because it would take 30 hours to get them home.  What do you see, I guess the Government’s next step?

PLIBERSEK: Well nobody is suggesting that if an Australian health worker became sick that they’d have to be airlifted to Australia. We should be able to make arrangements with the United States, the UK or European countries to evacuate our health workers should they become ill. We know that there are already around 12 Australian volunteers in different African countries where the ebola virus is prevalent and I’d like to think that if one of those got sick that we could look after them properly and make sure that they’re airlifted to an appropriate country in Europe or the United States for treatment. But what’s more important here is that the $8 million contribution to fighting ebola, that’s welcome but it is an absolute drop in the bucket of what’s needed. At the moment, there are about 6500 people who are ill. About 3000 people have died. But this disease is spreading so quickly that the estimate is by January, about 1.4 million people could be affected by ebola. If Australia does not act now, if the world does not act now, this situation will only worsen. Australia is one of around 130 countries of which through the United Nations supported a UN Security Council Resolution that said yes, more money’s necessary but more personnel, more expertise, more supplies are also necessary. Australia has the capacity to help and it’s very important that we do so, not just for the people who are affected in those African nations now but for peace and security in the world. If 1.4 million people have ebola by January, we have lost control of this disease.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it will take having a case in Australia for the Government to take this issue seriously?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think that there’s a risk of a case in Australia but I am very confident that if we should have a case in Australia as we’ve seen in Dallas Fort Worth in the United States that we could contain it because we have an excellent health service here, we have highly professional staff, we have excellent methods for dealing with people who have communicable illnesses. But that is not, that is not the risk here. The risk here is of millions of people becoming infected with this disease and then how does the world cope with containing that. No other questions?

JOURNALIST: If you’re happy to answer a question on the burqa?

PLIBERSEK: Well, now that you’ve asked it…do you want to ask me a question?

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Well I’d prefer if Tony Abbott didn’t get about in his Speedos, but it’s a free country.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Sky News, Tuesday, 30 September 2014

coats arms











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.


Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Today Show, Friday 19 September 2014

coats arms











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.


Add your reaction Share

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

coats arms











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.




2 reactions Share

TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Newcastle, Tuesday 16 September 2014

coats arms
















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.



Add your reaction Share