TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Sydney, 11 September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHORTEN: Thanks Tanya. Are there any questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHORTEN: I beg your pardon,  sorry –

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

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

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

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

Thanks everyone.


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

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

[Audio cuts in]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLIBERSEK: Okay any questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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SUBJECT/S: Australia Post, Iraq.

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

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

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

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

STEFANOVIC: What do you think is likely to happen?

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


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

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

TURNBULL: No, no, that is absolutely right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLIBERSEK: Fear, propaganda, violence.

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

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

TURNBULL: Of course. You’re right.

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

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

TURNBULL: Very good to be here.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Capital Hill, Wednesday 3 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq, Ukraine, G20.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - The Doors, Wednesday 3 September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOURNALIST: So any lessons for the international community then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National, Tuesday 2 September 2014

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


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

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

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

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

ALY: I did actually, yes.

PLIBERSEK: And I think was a very good explanation-

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

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

ALY: Well including in Syria.

PLIBERSEK: Exactly so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALY: The land in the West Bank, yeah-

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

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

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Waleed.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Newsradio with Marius Benson, Tuesday 2 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq, Ukraine.

MARIUS BENSON, INTERVIEWER: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


BENSON: Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister, when he announced the Australian action in northern Iraq said the first condition for military action in particular was to have an achievable objective. Do you have an understanding of what the achievable objective of the Australian action is?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think we would all agree the achievable objective is to prevent imminent genocide. IS are an organisation that kill anyone who is different from them, who are prepared to kill anyone who is of a different religion or ethnic group. So the immediate objective is to prevent that.

BENSON: And in achieving that objective what about the question of using Australian troops because the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten yesterday said that he can foresee no circumstances where the case is made for formed up combat elements of the Australian Army operating in Iraq. Does that mean no troops is the Labor policy, or some troops?

PLIBERSEK: Well both the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten have said that they don’t envisage having formed up combat units on the ground. That accords with what President Obama has said as well. What we are talking about here in the first instance is a humanitarian action that Australia is involved in. We have provided support to the US in flying humanitarian supplies into Mount Sinjar in the past, we’re now involved, as you know, in another mission that includes not just food and water and medical supplies but also rearming the Peshmerga which are the most effective fighting force in the north against IS. I don’t think I really want to speculate beyond that about any other types of involvement that might be asked of us –

BENSON: But is Labor –

PLIBERSEK: What’s clear is that there won’t be soldiers on the ground in formed up units as there were during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

BENSON: Does that leave scope for soldiers not in formed up units?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think you really need to talk to the Government. The Government is saying they have had no further requests made of them by the United States other than these humanitarian missions that involve Australian planes and of course Australian personnel on those Australian planes.

BENSON: There has been a question asked about the legality of shipping arms. As you mentioned, the arms are going to the Peshmerga, they’re not going to the Iraqi Government forces. Is there any problem there in terms of legality in your mind?

PLIBERSEK: Well no this is being done with the clear knowledge of the Iraqi Government and the involvement of the Iraqi Government. It’s been confirmed in the media today that the planes are landing first in Baghdad. There’s no, this isn’t a case of bypassing the Iraqi army. It’s a case of providing weapons to a fighting force that is on the ground effectively preventing massacres. We know that the Peshmerga have been the main force against IS in the north, of course that means that they’ve been under heavy attack themselves and without being rearmed by the international community I don’t think the prospects would be very good for them.

BENSON: But when you say the Iraqi Government’s involved in this and endorses it, in fact the Iraqi Ambassador to Australia, Mouayed Saleh, has said that the weapons should go to the Iraqi Government. He has said the central government is not consulted, in fact it’s being circumvented.

PLIBERSEK: Well I saw that interview yesterday and that doesn’t accord with the briefings that we’ve received. I think the fact that the planes are landing in Baghdad and that’s been confirmed publicly today, should give people some comfort, they’ll be landing in Baghdad and then flying onto the north. I don’t really, I can’t really discuss the confidential briefings that we’ve had but I’d say that I’m comfortable that the Iraqi Government are involved in this rearming of the Peshmerga.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, can I go to Ukraine and the news this morning is that the rebels or the Russians, as the Ukrainian people say, those forces have been making advances against the Ukrainian forces and the Ukrainians are talking about an invasion. As things stand, should Vladimir Putin come to Brisbane in November?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Bill Shorten said several weeks ago that Australians will find it difficult to welcome Vladimir Putin to Brisbane. After MH17 in particular, Australians will find it difficult to welcome the Russian President here. I think it’s important to remember of course that Australia is the host of the G20, we’re not the only country that makes this decision so it would be very important for the Government to secure the support of other G20 member nations if the invitation to Vladimir Putin is to be withdrawn. I think it’s important in the more general sense to send a very clear international message that any Russian troops going into Ukraine at this stage is completely unacceptable to the international community and one way of doing that would be in relation to the G20 but there are other opportunities where Russia is seeking international approval or support and we can also send that message. So I think that the proposition that the international community are completely opposed to Russia’s actions in Ukraine is important to emphasise in any diplomatic way that we can. Labor called for further sanctions last week and I noticed yesterday that the Government had agreed to place further sanctions on Russia. Any opportunity we have as an international community to send a strong message that having Russian soldiers on Ukrainian soil is unacceptable. Something we should consider.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Marius.


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TRANSCRIPT - PM Agenda, Sky News Monday 1 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq; Ukraine.

DAVID SPEERS, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time. You have offered bi-partisan support for this increased military involvement in Iraq. What is the aim of this mission as you understand it?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well I think you have to be careful to call it increased military involvement, this is a humanitarian mission that of course our RAAF are involved in and supporting. We have had some briefings, I don’t want to go too much into the details of the briefings, but I think it’s public knowledge, already on the public record that this will include flying supplies into northern Iraq, resupplying the Peshmerga and other anti-IS fighting forces including with food, water, medicines and also ammunition and so on.

SPEERS: So, not just the Peshmerga?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think you’d better ask the Government about their specific arrangements, but anti-IS fighting forces.

SPEERS: Okay, but one thing that’s clear is that Labor has supported this in a staged process. What is the actual mission here, what’s the aim of doing this?

PLIBERSEK: Well the mission is to prevent the slaughter of innocent people and IS have come across the border from Syria, they’ve killed anyone who has offered any resistance. That means Muslims who don’t agree with them, Christians, people from different ethnic minorities. They have killed anyone who has offered resistance, anyone who has refused to pledge allegiance to their particularly narrow world view. We know that many thousands of people have died already, we know that around, at last count 700,000 people have been displaced from their homes. There’s no natural end to what IS are intending –

SPEERS: Well if that’s the case and there is no natural end, and the aim is to stop them slaughtering people, is the end game here to push them out of the territory they have captured?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think our immediate effort here is to support the most effective fighting force against the IS in northern Iraq which has been the Peshmerga.

SPEERS: To do what though to push them back?

PLIBERSEK: To push them back.

SPEERS: To the Syrian border.

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly to the Syrian border but to make sure that they don’t have the free reign across northern Iraq that they have at the moment because –

SPEERS: It could take quite a lot of effort and time to achieve that.

PLIBERSEK: Well, yes that’s possible, I mean certainly the US air strikes, reports have them as being very successful in disrupting the advance of IS. Some significant strategic positions have been taken back after the US air strikes. But I think as a world community we have observed what’s happening in northern Iraq and it is unacceptable to stand by while there is a genocidal campaign going on. Particularly when there is an effective fighting force of Iraqis that we can support in pushing IS back.

SPEERS: Well, that’s what I was going to ask you and I appreciate that this is the Government’s decision but is your view that we should also be helping the Iraqi Government forces to push back Islamic State? Why is it just the Kurds in the north?

PLIBERSEK: Well because they’re really the most effective fighting force in that part of the country. But there will be –

SPEERS: What does that say about the Iraqis though?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think there has been a great deal of internal friction within the Iraqi Government, you would know that, a new Iraqi Government is to be finalised probably around the 9th or 10th of September we expect. When that’s done it is much easier to work with a newly formed Iraqi Government and there is kind of a caretaker Government, I suppose you would call it at the moment, but when the Government is fully formed, an inclusive Government of national unity that has representation of Sunni, Shia, Kurd and others, makes it much easier to continue to work. This is done with discussion with the Iraqi Government, certainly they are involved in this, but it’s a period of some change for the Iraqi Government. It becomes much easier when that Government is finalised.

SPEERS: So if they do all that, they are more inclusive as everyone hopes, would you be willing to support further support for them?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s very important that the Iraqi people take responsibility as much as they possibly can for pushing back IS and that includes obviously the Sunni part of the Iraqi population also being involved in pushing back Sunni militants, IS. So it will be important to have a Government of national unity. It will be important that the Iraqis take the lead and do as much of this as they can themselves but it is likely that they will need some international support because IS are moving very quickly, they are brutal in their tactics, they have captured a large number of weapons because they’ve swept across the country and they’ve picked up weapons as they’ve made their progress and that Government of national unity is the next step.

SPEERS: But at the moment this support is for those Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, but also in that area, very active of course are the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, this is still listed in Australia as a terrorist organisation, although it has reportedly agreed to a truce over the last year and stuck with that. Are you worried about any of these weapons falling into their hands, do you still think they should be listed as a terrorist organisation, what’s your view on this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, like I say, we’ve had defence briefings and I can’t share those with you. What I would say is that the international community that has put together this humanitarian relief effort has of course considered the risk of weapons falling into the wrong hands and they have put measures in place to reduce the opportunities for that to happen.

SPEERS: Are you able to say does that involve any Australian elements in making that assurance?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think I should talk about briefings that I’ve had.

SPEERS: No, fair enough. What about the next stages in this? Would Labor support special forces being used on the ground to either secure the airfields that are being used here or any other capacity?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think we’re jumping the gun here a little bit talking in those terms. The US have said that they’re hoping to support the Iraqis in managing this themselves, they’re not talking about fully formed combat forces on the ground. I don’t think we’re talking about that as recently as today. Our Prime Minister said that he’s not interested in putting Australian ordinary forces on the ground –

SPEERS: No, but special forces?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it would depend I think on having a very clear role, a defined task, meeting the criteria around the responsibility to protect –

SPEERS: So you’d be open to that?

PLIBERSEK: We would need further briefings before we said that we were supportive of that but you know, we are as an international community right now facing potential genocide so if those criteria around responsibility to protect, so, is there a serious threat imminent, have other means been tried, there’s no ulterior motive, you’re actually going in to try to prevent a humanitarian disaster, is the response proportionate, is there a likelihood of success i.e. are we going to leave the country better than we found it, if we, is there a legal basis? These are the sorts of things that we’d be looking at.

SPEERS: The Labor Party voted with the Government against the Greens motion today to have a parliamentary approval for any military action in Iraq, why?

PLIBERSEK: Because we have numerous opportunities in our Parliament to discuss this issue. I think it’s very important that I’m here talking to you, answering any questions you have, there are Members of Parliament, Bill’s been out talking about our thinking on the issue, members of other parties have been doing that, we’ve got many opportunities within the Parliament to talk about our rationale, our approach, our thinking on this issue. I think that that’s completely appropriate. Asking for a change to the way we’ve always authorised this sort of activity, I don’t think now’s the time to be having that debate.

SPEERS: And can I ask you, why everyone’s rightly focused on what’s happening in Iraq, there’s also this disturbing situation unfolding between Russia and the Ukraine. Russia largely got away with annexing Crimea, should it be able to annex Ukraine, what should be done here?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no country should be able to annex another country. Crimea, I think, was a very serious conflict. Now, President Putin has said that, he’s made some vague comments about the eastern part and the south-eastern part of Ukraine, talking about issues of statehood, I think is the language he used, that’s been very quickly held back by his spokesperson. I think that it is very important that the international community say to President Putin that it is not acceptable to have Russian troops on the ground in Ukraine. And then the next step is, well there’s two possible ways of going, we know that European leaders and the United States have been very clear in saying to Vladimir Putin that if there isn’t a change within the next week or so they’ll consider escalating sanctions, that is one possibility. The other possibility is that Russia having been confronted with the fact that the whole world knows that they’ve got thousands of troops within Ukraine’s borders now, does look for a more negotiated settlement. That’s obviously the preferable outcome over the next week.

SPEERS: Alright, Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Foreign Minister, Deputy Labor Leader, thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC 774 Radio Melbourne, Monday 1 September 2014

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RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The ALP is being broadly supportive of what the Government is proposing and Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of course and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. Tanya Plibersek, good afternoon.


EPSTEIN: I’m good. Do you think there’s any need to worry about weapons, or any chance that there’ll be weapons handed over to the PKK?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the whole situation is enormously concerning, Rafael. I mean, you’ve got a situation where this organisation, IS, has swept across northern Iraq. They’ve had very little to stop them, every resistance they’ve encountered they’ve just slaughtered people. So I think there’s a lot to worry about, I’m not sure that you’ve hit on the thing that concerns me most. What concerns me most I think is the thousands of people who have lost their lives, and the, well, at least 700,000, some estimate a million people who have been forced to leave their homes in the face of potential genocide.

EPSTEIN: But don’t we need to choose which conflict we enter for something other than moral reasons? We were very concerned about Libya three years ago, there’s now an Islamist militia taking over the capital. I mean, there’s horrible things being done in Nigeria yet we’re [audio cuts out] Peshmerga, I’m sure the Turks aren’t very happy. It’s enormously difficult to provide any help, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: Well it is difficult to help and I think that the really stark example of that is right next door in Syria where close to 200,000 people have lost their lives now and about a third of the population have been chased out of their homes. So, you don’t need to look very far to see a case where the same organisation, IS, and similar organisations are doing very similar things but the international community has found it hard to intervene. I guess one difference that you’d have to point to between Syria and Iraq is that the Government of Iraq is actually asking for the help of other countries in fighting off IS and another example of a difference is that there, when you’re talking about resupplying the Peshmerga fighters, you’ve got the most effective fighting force on the ground against IS, an organisation that has meant the Kurdish part of Iraq has been relatively secure in most recent years compared with the rest of Iraq. There’s an identifiable partner there. I think it’s very important to point out that the Government have assured us that this work is happening in, with the knowledge of the Iraqi Government but of course –

EPSTEIN: They’re not happy though.

PLIBERSEK: Well I mean I saw those comments from the Ambassador as well and it doesn’t exactly accord with the briefing that we received from the Government. I can’t go into further details of security briefings, that’s really something that you’ll have to get someone from the Government to go through with you –

EPSTEIN: Can I clarify with you, would you go so far as to say you were surprised by what the Iraqi Ambassador to Australia said on TV?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I’d say that there has been international calls for the resupply of the Peshmerga fighters that are the most effective fighting force against IS at the moment and that there is a lot of flux and movement at this, at the time, right now, the Iraqi Government has not finally formed. We expect a, sort of, final line up I suppose by about the 9th or 10th of September. But our discussions with the Government have, you know, all of their suggestions, they’re talking with the Iraqi Government, as are the Americans, as are the other partners.

EPSTEIN: I, look, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to be fighting against such an evil force. But I do think it’s worth asking the question whether or not there is a strategy, do you think there is a comprehensive strategy in place?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s, it’s very important to say the world community can’t stand by and watch genocide happen. We did that in Rwanda, I think you’d say that the massacres after Srebrenica and there are a number of instances where the international community have stood to one side and the consequences have been disastrous. But I agree with you, Raf, that we have to, there’s a number of questions that we have to ask. Gareth Evans has been really effective since about 2001 in laying out what he calls, well not just he calls, the international community now calls, he started the term and started this idea, the responsibility to protect where a Government’s not able or not willing to protect its own citizens, what responsibility do we have as an international community to intervene. And Gareth and others have put a lot of thought into the sort of criteria used to determine whether an intervention is necessary so –

EPSTEIN: I suppose I’m curious, I’m familiar with those ideas and Gareth Evans was actually on the morning program this morning. Do you think from the briefings you’ve received, and I don’t ask you to go into detail, has the Government considered all of the sorts of questions that Gareth Evans would have posed?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think, what we’ve been asked to do at the moment is support humanitarian efforts, including providing supplies to people who are besieged and rearming the only effective fighting force against a very brutal organisation IS that does not follow any of the rules of war.


PLIBERSEK: So, I can only tell you from the information I’ve received that I agree that this humanitarian intervention is a necessary thing to prevent further slaughter. But it is, I don’t pretend to you Raf, that these are easy decisions to make, because of course in 2003 our involvement in the war in Iraq was disastrous. It was disastrous for Australia, it was disastrous for Iraq, I think you can safely say that the years of destabilisation, violence, suicide bombings, sectarian conflict in Iraq, certainly were not lessened by Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war. So I’m not surprised that people are nervous about any involvement. What I would ask – you then need to ask yourself the question ‘can we stand by and let people be slaughtered just because they’re a different religion or a different version of the same religion as IS?’ I don’t think the international community can stand by and allow that to happen.

EPSTEIN: Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Leader of the ALP of course, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. I’ll get to your calls in a moment, 1300 222 774, and I’ll get to your texts as well. I wonder, Tanya Plibersek, of course we need to consider the question of whether or not we are, as the Prime Minister says, stopping the conflict coming to our shores, or are we actually provoking the conflict coming to our shores? You probably know that the head of MI5 in England at the time of the 2005 bombings there said that we gave Osama Bin Laden his Iraqi jihad. She was effectively saying that Britain’s participation in that war provided the fuel for people to come from Iraq to Britain. How do we know that we’re stopping the conflict coming here rather than encouraging it?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the way this unfolds over the coming weeks and months will be really critical to ensuring that, Raf, and I think a couple of the things we have to look for are, that we have to ensure that this doesn’t become a Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict, but beyond that, even perhaps more importantly we have to ensure that this doesn’t become a Muslims against the rest of the world conflict. And the best way we can do that is ensure regional cooperation of Iraq’s neighbours and Syria’s neighbours. I think that –

EPSTEIN: Are you confident though that it’s not going to, are you confident that it’s actually repelling the response, rather than provoking it?

PLIBERSEK: I think we have got a very different Government in the United States than we had in 2003 and the comments that President Obama has made, the caution that he’s been, frankly, very harshly criticised for, I think are an indication that at least the leadership of the United States have learnt some of the very harsh lessons of 2003.

EPSTEIN: But Islamic State don’t care about what party is in power in Australia or the United States, do they? Their ideology is about far more than that.

PLIBERSEK: Of course Raf, that’s not the point I’m making at all. The point I’m making is that the United States is looking for allies across the board. So of course they’re looking to Australia to be involved in humanitarian and other things, but they’re also talking to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, they’re talking to other countries in the region to make sure that this doesn’t look like the United States versus IS, that it is actually the world rejecting the barbarity that’s on display at the moment.

EPSTEIN: Are you confident that they’ll achieve that?

PLIBERSEK: Well Raf, I think it is important to understand that we’ve learnt a lot of lessons from 2003 and I don’t believe that the United States is rushing in in the same way they did in 2003. If you remember 2003, weapons inspectors were not allowed to complete their work. Australia and other countries went to war on the basis of claims of weapons of mass destruction that did not eventuate. There was widespread opposition from the Iraqi people to the intervention of the United States and its allies in Iraq and there are a whole lot of things that are different today. What we see are thousands of people who are being killed for their religion or for their ethnicity or being sold into slavery and the question is can we do nothing? There is, I think, really no justification for standing by and just allowing it to happen. I’m not arguing that it’s simple, but I am arguing that there is a very strong case here for the international community to have its responsibility to protect engaged and that of course we have to be careful, of course we have to be always looking to make sure that Iraq is better when this is finished rather than worse. As many people would argue 2003 was.

EPSTEIN: That’s a high water mark, but look thank you for your time I appreciate it.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, bye-bye.


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TRANSCRIPT - 2UE Radio Interview, Monday 1 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq; Ukraine.

STUART BOCKING: On the line from Canberra is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek has been good enough to join us. Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


BOCKING: I’m well, thank you for your time on this Monday morning. Parliament’s set to resume, should Parliament be debating the issue of our involvement in Iraq?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it is a good opportunity for the Parliament sitting this week to discuss what’s proposed in our involvement in Iraq. That doesn’t mean necessarily having a vote, it just means an opportunity for parliamentarians to put on the record their views about Australia’s involvement in any humanitarian mission.

BOCKING: Now, some comments from Christine Milne and Andrew Wilkie over the weekend, just have a listen.

CHRISTINE MILNE (audio recording): If we’re going to start, where is it going to end?

ANDREW WILKIE (audio recording): We still have this insane situation where our Prime Minister unilaterally can make decisions of war and peace.

BOCKING: Well, is it so insane? I mean, we do elect to whether it’s your party or the Coalition to govern in the best interest of this country. It’s not unreasonable to imagine that from time to time you get called on to make difficult decisions.

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s certainly true that governments do have to make difficult decisions at times and I’d say there’s absolutely nothing preventing Christine Milne, Andrew Wilkie, any Member of Parliament raising this issue in the Parliament. It is perfectly appropriate for them to make their views known. That’s quite different to insisting on a binding vote when we know that governments have access to some information, security information, intelligence and so on, that it would not be useful to make public before they make their decisions.

BOCKING: As the Shadow Foreign Minister, have you been made aware of some of that detail?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we have received- we received a briefing at the end of last week. Obviously I’m not going to talk about the contents of that briefing-

BOCKING: No, no.

PLIBERSEK: But of course we have supported from the very beginning, the humanitarian mission that Australia’s involved in because you don’t need to be party to security briefings to know that around 700,000 people have been pushed out of their homes in northern Iraq, there are many, many thousands that have been killed in very brutal ways, that men are being killed and women are being sold into slavery with their children. I mean this is a very serious humanitarian disaster in northern Iraq. You only need to look next door to Syria where around 190,000 people have lost their lives already and a third of the population of Syria is displaced from their homes, to know that the potential for continuing disaster is enormous and that an international move to protect people from genocide is very important. You think about the world community standing by when so many hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in Rwanda, for example. We’ve said more than once, we cannot stand by as an international community where civilian populations are threatened in the way that is happening in northern Iraq and frankly in Syria at the moment.

BOCKING: So how is it in light of that Andrew Wilkie at the weekend saying we’re taking sides, given we certainly don’t want to side with the Islamic State, who’s other side are we going to be on?

PLIBERSEK: Well, the mission that the Prime Minister has been talking about, that Labor has said we are supportive of, does include rearming the Kurdish fighters, the Peshmerga and some other anti-IS forces in northern Iraq. They are the only effective fighting force against IS in northern Iraq at the moment. We certainly don’t think it’s fair to leave these people to their fate. They are, in some cases, surrounded, they are besieged, there are communities without food and water for months at a time. And now you’re looking at this, you know, I suppose the last barrier between the IS moving right across Iraq and into Baghdad as well. Of course we want to support them, this is their own country and they are being overrun by an incredibly brutal fighting force that will not stop, does not obey the rules of war. Of course we would support Iraqis protecting their own country from that.

BOCKING: So how open ended then is your support for what Tony Abbott has proposed at this stage? If it was then to involve, again, let’s say a coalition of the willing in Iraq, is that where you’d have to have a rethink? How open ended is this bipartisan support?

PLIBERSEK: Well we have to be very careful not to get involved in a fight that makes things worse not better and my criticism of the Iraqi invasion in 2003 stands. I think it was a terrible idea and terribly executed because we didn’t have the support of the Iraqi people we didn’t have the support of neighbouring countries. What we really need to look at today is making sure that we are protecting from genocide, that that’s the purpose of any involvement, that we tried everything else and I think it’s fair to say there is no real negotiating with IS - that we have reasonable prospects of getting in, doing what we need to do and getting out, and that we have the right authority so that we are working with the UN Security Council with other partners, and most particularly with other countries in the neighbourhood, this really does require the involvement of countries like Saudi Arabia saying ‘IS are beyond the pale and we will join in international efforts to withstand them’.

BOCKING: I think the other big point that seems to have been lost on Christine Milne, Andrew Wilkie and I’ll get a chance to chat with them throughout the week. It seems to me we can still have the argument about some of the intelligence around weapons of mass destruction, what was stockpiled in Iraq what wasn’t, what we’re seeing now out of the Islamic State, courtesy of very modern technology, cutting edge technology, is there for all of us to see. Whether it’s Syrian men being herded like cattle and shot, whether it’s the execution of James Foley, it doesn’t take a great stretch of imagination or intelligence to see what’s happening this time around.

PLIBERSEK: Well the information that we went to war on in 2003 was wrong. The Americans and others said that there were weapons of mass destruction, there weren’t. We went without any real international – the so called ‘Coalition of the Willing’, but there was no support from the UN Security Council and others. We also went before weapons inspectors had even been given time to complete their work in 2003. For all of those reasons at the time I very strongly opposed Australia’s involvement. What we see now is hard evidence, hard evidence of a genocidal campaign. IS, frankly, they kill anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They kill Muslims, they kill Christians, they kill a variety of different religions. They’re selling women and children for $25 a head. This is a shocking attack on civilian populations who just want to be left in peace. Are we really saying that the international community is just going to stand by and let IS do this, of course we can’t.

BOCKING: Extraordinary isn’t it. I know you’re pressed for time, one other quick point just on another trouble spot around the world, the situation in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is scheduled to arrive in Australia later this year for the G20 Summit. As the Deputy Labor Leader, as the Shadow Foreign Minister would you want to shake hands with Vladimir Putin in Brisbane?

PLIBERSEK: Well you know that Bill Shorten for some time since the MH17 disaster has said that he doesn’t think Vladimir Putin will be welcome in Australia. Of course it’s not a decision for Australia on its own we need to talk to other G20 member nations but I think one thing that Vladimir Putin understands at this stage is the international community turning their backs on him. So it’s not just about the G20. There’s sporting events coming up, there’s potential for further financial sanction against his inner circle and there’s all sorts of further international action that we can take, but it can’t be Australia on its own - we need to be talking to other like-minded countries and saying what can we do together to make sure that Vladimir Putin understands that sending thousands of troops to Ukraine is completely unacceptable.

BOCKING: I appreciate your time on a busy morning. Thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Good to talk to you.

BOCKING: You too, Tanya Plibersek who is the member for Sydney. She’s also the Shadow Foreign Minister and Deputy Labor Leader.


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