TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Brisbane, Friday 23 January 2015

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SUBJECT/S: Campbell Newman's plan to privatise bus and train services; WorkChoices; Tony Abbott in hiding; Bali Nine; David Hicks.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: I’m joined by my federal colleague of course Terri Butler, who’s also the Chair of our Cost of Living committee and she’ll make a brief statement later about the cost of living indications of both the bus privatisation that we’re talking about today, the transport privatisation, but also if you want to ask her any questions about the reanimation of WorkChoices I’m sure she’s happy to say a few words about that. We’ve also got Labor’s candidate for Chatsworth, Paul Keene, our candidate for Bulimba, Di Farmer, and Councillor Steve Griffiths. Steve has responsibility for public transport on behalf of the Labor opposition up here and I’m sure he’s happy to answer any questions as well.

We know what happens when state governments privatise public transport. We only have to look at the example of Victoria, what happened under Jeff Kennett when he privatised public transport in Victoria. What we saw were fewer services, more chaotic services and substantial price increases. Fewer buses and fewer routes, and higher costs. If you look at the privatisation experience in Victoria you see that public transport costs rose very substantially for commuters including a 20 percent increase over one, two-year period. But it is not just the increased costs that worry commuters, it’s the reduced services. And in Victoria, in particular, we also saw questions about on-time running, about the reliability of braking systems for example, and other issues about the quality of the service. Now Jeff Kennett said at the time that if they privatised public transport in Victoria instead of being a liability it would become an asset, and in fact Jeff Kennett predicted by around about this time the Victorian public transport system would be returning about 20 million dollars a year to Victorian state coffers. Well the exact opposite is true. The last figures I saw, the Victorian public transport system was costing the Victorian government about $2.6 billion a year. It is a pretty substantial difference, $20 million profit compared to the $2.6 billion loss. So the history of privatisation of public transport systems is not a good one, it is not a good one for commuters and of course it is not a good one for the staff of those services. We have got right across the road here a bus depot that employs a large number of people, those people living in, spending in the local community and of course contribute to the economic health of this local community and when you start to see the sackings, you also see the loss of confidence and the loss of income for the whole community. The effects of that are very- they’re not just an effect on the individuals who lose their jobs, it’s an effect on whole community and you can see that with the tens of thousands of public servants that have already lost their jobs in Queensland. Instead of Queensland being an economic powerhouse, as Campbell Newman claimed, in fact you see higher unemployment and higher debt today than when they took office. Any questions about this or any other federal issues and then I’ll hand over to Terri to say a few words.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Federal issue of the Productivity Commission's report, do you believe that this is a sign that the Coalition intends to bring back WorkChoices?

PLIBERSEK: Well it is clearly a sign that this is a softening up exercise for a return to WorkChoices. The Coalition has said that WorkChoices is dead and buried, it looks like it was just sleeping. What you see is the zombie policy of the Coalition, the policy that just won’t die. They’ve said it is dead and buried. It’s back to haunt us.

JOURNALIST: What should the Government do in regards to the two Aussies officially in line for the firing squad in Indonesia?

PLIBERSEK: I have just come from a briefing with the Prime Minister's Office on the fate of the two Australians who are on death row in Indonesia. Of course both the Government and the Opposition are united in pleading clemency from the Indonesian Government. Of course these two young men have done the wrong thing and of course they should be punished but Labor always believes that the death penalty is wrong. The death penalty is wrong for anyone in any circumstance and we will always advocate for Australians who are facing the death penalty. Beyond that I would say that it is not just Australians, we believe that the death penalty is wrong in any case, in any country, at any time.

JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to [inaudible] David Hick’s case?

PLIBERSEK: Well I have seen reports from Mr Hicks’ lawyers that it may be that his conviction will be overturned. Of course David Hicks faced an American judicial system and was convicted under their laws. So we’ll watch with interest any further statement from the Government of the United States. If it is the case the conviction is overturned, and that it was based on wrong facts then of course there are questions for the Australian Government of the day in what they accepted as fair treatment of David Hicks and proper gathering of information at the time of his trial.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Look I am not going to speculate any further on this because the reports are only initial reports and I’d like to see more information. As a general statement I would say that I think you need to be very cautious when you talk about paying people for their stories when you have been through the legal process.

JOURNALIST: Do you think he should have compensation if he is completely clear?

PLIBERSEK: Look I am sorry, the facts are very- there are just not enough facts out there for me to make more specific comments about what should happen. These are only initial reports. It appears that they have come from Mr Hicks’ legal team rather than from the Government of the United States so we really do need to know more before making further comment.

JOURNALIST: You and Bill Shorten have been spending a lot of time up here during this campaign. Can we read anything into that about what you think about Ms Palaszczuk’s leadership?

PLIBERSEK: You can read into that that we are proud of our Queensland colleagues and the fantastic line-up of candidates that the Labor Party is offering in the upcoming State election. I think it is highly ironic that Tony Abbott is pretending that the reason he is not here is because Campbell Newman is somehow doing a great job. Tony Abbott, you couldn’t get him out of Queensland at the time of the last State election, he was camped out in Campbell Newman’s back bedroom. The fact that he is not here now is for electoral reasons. The policies that Tony Abbott has introduced have damaged Queenslanders. He has taken $6 billion out of the education system, more than $10 billion from the hospital system. And when Tony Abbott’s here, he reminds voters of everything they do not like about the Liberal party in Canberra and everything they do not like about the LNP here in Queensland. The LNP here in Queensland simply have not stood up against these cuts made by the Federal Government and Tony Abbott is a constant reminder of that. Terri, do you want to say a few words about the cost of living?

TERRI BUTLER, MEMBER FOR GRIFFITH: Thanks. Obviously cost of living is a great concern to everyone here in Queensland and particularly to those people from the bus depot who are staring down the privatisation because we know of course that privatisation generally leads to attacks on their wages and conditions. There is an unfortunate trend in Australia at the moment, attacks on wages and conditions. We saw the release from the Productivity Commission issues paper under the Productivity Commission Inquiry that Joe Hockey snuck out the Friday before Christmas. We saw that released a day early yesterday and the issues paper has been out today. And what is really clear from that issues paper is that penalty rates are squarely in the sights of the Abbott Government, the wages and conditions are squarely in the sight of the Abbott Government.

We talk about return of Work Choices and whether Work Choices was really dead, buried and cremated but as Tanya said WorkChoices was just sleeping. We know that under WorkChoices one of the key components was individual agreements, and under those individual agreements, 63 percent of them abolished penalty rates. We have had backbenchers like Dan Tehan coming out and doing some running for the Government saying that penalty rates need to be looked at. Penalty rates are under attack from this Government, there should be no doubt about that. And every working person whose wages rely on penalty rates as part of their ordinary earnings every week should be concerned about the revival of WorkChoices.



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TRANSCRIPT - Television Interview, ABC News Breakfast, Thursday 22 January 2015

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SUBJECT/S: Questions for Julie Bishop and Alexander Downer over party at London diplomatic residence; political donations; Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott’s cuts; Abbott Government chaos and in-fighting; Manus Island.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: To another story now, it's emerged that the Australian High Commissioner's taxpayer owned London home was thrown open last year for a party hosted by a hedge fund billionaire and President of the Liberal Party. The Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says it was all above board.

But her Opposition counterpart Tanya Plibersek says there are many questions to be answered and she joins us now. Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time this morning. Now we've heard from Julie Bishop already today, she insists that it had nothing to do with party political matters, DFAT has confirmed that the function was paid for quite separately. What are the issues as you see it?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well I think it's highly unusual for the High Commissioner's personal taxpayer-funded private residence to be used in this way without the High Commissioner present. Of course it's perfectly appropriate for the High Commissioner to host businesses that might be interested in investing in Australia or Australian businesses that are looking to do business in London. But why not be there to spruik the benefits of those businesses doing business in Australia if that's what the function was about? And as for the expenses being picked up, of course catering is one thing, but we're talking about staff time, security, all of those other expenses as well.

O’CONNOR: So you would have no issue had the High Commissioner been there and taken advantage of what was a private function?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I'd like to know what the benefits are for Australian taxpayers in having a taxpayer-funded residence made available in this way. I think it's important for the Government to answer questions about what the benefits have been for Australian taxpayers.

O’CONNOR: So you are happy to accept the explanation that it wasn't a party political fundraiser in any way?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no, I'm not convinced that that is clearly established by the facts. You have got the President of the Liberal Party inviting a substantial donor to the Conservative party in Britain and making a, I believe, very nice residence available for a private function. It's not really clear what the purpose was of the function and indeed what the benefits have been to Australian taxpayers of hosting it in this way.

O’CONNOR: What are your thoughts if we go to the Brisbane election in terms of a topic like this that has the become quite an issue, that is fundraisers being used and being cash for access to the politician, both by the LNP and by Annastacia Palaszczuk, something that Anna Bligh had outlawed?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's very important to note that Labor in Queensland had tightened electoral funding laws and Campbell Newman as one of his first acts has been to make it easier to donate in secret to the LNP or to any political party in Queensland. I think political parties will always seek to raise funds to run election campaigns, what's very important is that voters have the opportunity to know who is donating to those political campaigns as soon as possible, as transparently as possible and not at those very high rates that you see conservative parties trying to introduce. I think there should be lower disclosure thresholds than we see in Queensland, and the principle should be low disclosure thresholds, fast disclosure - not months after an election is called, and personally I'd also be interested to seeing caps on spending in elections because while ever you have an arms race of electoral spending, there will be pressure on political parties to raise funds to meet those requirements.

O’CONNOR: What do you make too of the Federal side of politics being really asked on both sides to stay out of the Queensland election, it looks like Campbell Newman really wants this to be fought on home turf issues only?

PLIBERSEK: I've been in Queensland quite a bit this week in Brisbane, surrounding areas, up in Townsville and so on and I can tell you Queensland voters like most people around Australia don't differentiate between State and Federal issues in terms of service delivery. What they see is larger classroom sizes, fewer teachers, they see almost 5,000 people lost from the Queensland health system, their hospitals understaffed and they actually expect Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman to work together to provide decent services to Queenslanders. What we see is a Queensland Government that's cut funding from health, education, infrastructure and a Federal Government that has doubled down on that and made the provision of those services worse for Queenslanders. I think the reception that Bill Shorten's got, and I have and my Federal colleagues, has been very warm in Queensland, because Queenslanders feel the effects both of Federal cuts and Campbell Newman's cuts and they certainly don't have Campbell Newman standing up to Tony Abbott, when Tony Abbott cuts $10 billion from the hospital system up there or $6 billion from schools they don't have Campbell Newman complaining about that, they have him explaining Tony Abbott's cuts to Queenslanders and justifying them.

O’CONNOR: Talking of Tony Abbott, Tanya Plibersek, we know that he certainly exploited Labor's leadership divisions when you were in office, are you planning to do the same to Tony Abbott now we are hearing rumbling from his backbench?

PLIBERSEK: With friends like Tony Abbott's got, I don't know if they need the Labor Party to exploit divisions. Of course, it's pretty concerning that you've got people leaking out of the expenditure review committee of Cabinet and defending their own positions, you got a former Health Minister and a Treasurer saying it wasn't us, it was the Prime Minister. But what I'd say is more concerning than this sort of exercise of undermining of Tony Abbott by his colleagues is the actually substance of the matter. The substance of the matter is you've got a Government that is determined to destroy Medicare and particularly determined to destroy bulk-billing. When I was the Health Minister I saw it as one of my key performance indicators how high I could get bulk-billing rate, I wanted people to be bulk-billed, I was happy when the rates went up. What you have now is a Government that thinks too many people are already being bulk-billed and that we should lower the rates. It's a completely perverted view of the benefits of Medicare. We have one of the best health systems in the world, we have fine dedicated health workers across Australia, who want to be free to look after their patients, not worry about fighting with the Government. The real concern is not the infighting in the Government but the chaos that that's causing in health policy, in education policy and across the board.

O’CONNOR: If I could also ask you one final question and of course it was a policy started by Kevin Rudd in the dying days of that Government, the policy to send refugees to Manus Island and Nauru. What are your thoughts as you see these stories of attempted suicides and great disruption at Manus?

PLIBERSEK: I'm extremely concerned at the reports that are coming out of Manus Island at the moment. I believe most Australians would be. We saw the shocking loss of the life of Reza Berati almost a year ago and it is completely unacceptable to see the secrecy that surrounds what's happening on Manus at the moment.

O’CONNOR: So is it a policy you would abandon if in Government now?

PLIBERSEK: It's certainly the case that we wouldn't see people treated in the way that people are being treated on Manus Island at the moment and we wouldn't accept the culture of secrecy that this Government has shrouded the events on Manus Island with.

O’CONNOR: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Townsville, Tuesday 20 January 2015

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SUBJECT/S: Campbell Newman's asset sell-off; Campbell Newman's and Tony Abbott's cuts; Tony Abbott in hiding; Abbott Government chaos and in-fighting; Manus Island; Tony Abbott's $100,000 university degrees


CORALEE O’ROURKE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR MUNDINGBURRA: Today, look, I’m very excited to have Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition federally, spending time with the candidates of Townsville. All three of us, we’re actually covering a cross-section of industries, be it from early years education and care, health, teaching and we’re actually hearing that there is a lot of - we’re speaking with a lot of people that are very concerned about those particular areas.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you, it’s great pleasure for me to be here today with Scott Stewart, Aaron Harper and Coralee O’Rourke, our three candidates for the Townsville area. We have just come from the port obviously, where we were having a look at a terrific hospital ship that’s been developed by Youth with a Mission, a great organisation that has a very strong presence locally and that ship’s going to make its first journey to PNG in a few months’ time and it is great to see that the second ship that they’ve bought and the plans they have for fitting that out as a hospital ship.

But one of the reasons that we wanted to come to Townsville was because Campbell Newman has a privatisation agenda that includes selling the assets of ports like this, long term leasing them, an asset of course that belongs to the people of Townsville and the people of Queensland and using that money to bankroll short term promises to get himself re-elected. He is proposing to sell the assets that belong to all Queenslanders to buy himself the next election. We have come here from the port but of course the port is not the only asset in Townsville that risks privatisation; Ergon energy of course if that is privatised, you see the risk of 900 jobs.

Townsville of course is a community that cannot afford to lose 900 jobs. It has already got higher than state average unemployment; 8.7 percent adult unemployment, 15.9 percent youth unemployment, both above the state average and those privatisations risk further job losses. Those job losses in those privatised industries have flow on effects. We know that if you haven’t got a job yourself, you cannot afford to stop for a cup of coffee on the way to work, you can’t afford to get your hair cut as often as you’d like and so the whole of the Townsville economy will of course be affected by those privatisations.

And this is just part of Campbell Newman’s negative agenda for Queensland. People have sent a very strong message that they do not want privatisation here in Townsville but Campbell Newman is not listening. He is not listening on the issue of privatisation, just as he never listened on the health cuts, just as he never listened on education policies. Townsville Hospital was one of the first places to suffer those massive job losses in the health sector, with over 200 jobs lost in nursing and allied health services almost immediately after Campbell Newman came into power and Queenslanders do not forget. They won't put up with thousands of job losses, cuts to their local health services, cuts to teacher numbers, threats to public education and then find five minutes before midnight when Campbell Newman calls a snap election that all this [inaudible].

JOURNALIST: It is obviously a state issue, why are federal shadow ministers continuing to come to Queensland and talk about these issues, I mean, can’t the Queensland Labor representatives fight the battle themselves?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the real question is where is Tony Abbott and why is he in hiding? You know, Tony Abbott could not wait to get here to support Campbell Newman last time around, he basically moved into Campbell's back bedroom for the course of the last Queensland election and now Tony Abbott is nowhere to be seen. The reason Tony Abbott’s nowhere to be seen is because he is box office poison. The cuts that Campbell Newman has made in health, in education, in transport, in infrastructure, they are made doubly worse because the Federal Government has also been cutting. The Federal Government has cut $10 billion from health services here in Queensland and $6 billion from Queensland schools. You know Campbell Newman on his own, Tony Abbott on his own, bad enough, but the two of them together are a disaster. It is like having the flu and coming down with a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning to have Campbell Newman here in Queensland and Tony Abbott in Canberra.

Of course Labor Federal members are here to support their Labor state colleagues because it is all about the quality of life for Queenslanders. We know that Queenslanders don’t care whether it's a state government, a federal government, or a local council delivering a service they just want good schools for their kids, a decent hospital when they need it, they need decent public transport systems, they need good post-secondary education for their kids so that they can take up the job opportunities of the future and we are committed to working in a united way with our state candidates. And I’ve got to say, Coralee mentioned this before, how lucky are we here in Townsville to have three Labor candidates that represent such diverse backgrounds. We’ve got Coralee who has worked in early childhood education, we’ve got high schools, we’ve got the health sector with Aaron’s work as a paramedic. I mean, we’ve got candidates that have been motivated to stand for the Labor Party because they have seen the effects of these budget cuts firsthand.

JOURNALIST: That still does not explain why federal shadow ministers are continuing to come to Queensland. Are they unable to fight the battle for themselves?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely not, we have got fine candidates on the ground and I’m standing with three of them now. What I say to you is Tony Abbott could not wait to get here at the time of the last election. He spent every day with Campbell Newman, you know putting out press releases in support of him, doing social media with him, right here on the ground. That was the last election. What has changed? Why is Tony Abbott in hiding now? We know he is in hiding because people do not support his attacks on Medicare, his $900 million cut to Queensland universities, his $10 billion cut to hospitals here, his $6 billion cut to education, to school education. They do not support the fact that Campbell Newman has been silent as Tony Abbott has sucked resources out of this state, cancelled projects, infrastructure projects, and sent that money down south. The real question is not ‘why am I here to stand with these terrific candidates?’, the real question is ‘why isn’t Tony Abbott backing up for a second campaign with Campbell Newman?’ and the answer is because they are both poison.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that we will see any additional colleagues from the LNP up here in Townsville before next, Saturday week?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I am very surprised that you don’t even see Queensland LNP members, Federal members campaigning with state candidates very often and that is because the agenda that Tony Abbot is running in Canberra, it has been rejected comprehensively by Queenslanders. They do not want cuts to health and education, they do not want the cuts to infrastructure funding, they don’t want [inaudible]. Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman both came to government promising reduce unemployment and to reduce government debt, both of them have failed in those missions. Of course federal coalition members are not campaigning up here, they’ve got nothing to be proud of.

JOURNALIST: Labor has its own plans to use profits from assets to fund their promises, is there a risk that for example the profits from the Townsville port could be spent in the southeast of the state.

PLIBERSEK: Well, what we have said is it makes absolutely no sense to sell assets that are bringing in money for taxpayers - instead use that money that is coming in to pay down debt but also to invest in the services and the infrastructure that Queenslanders need.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t much of the money already been used though, I mean can you really double-dip?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s important to say how you would use that money. And what we know from Campbell Newman is that you get a one-off sugar hit as those assets are sold and then nothing forever after that.

JOURNALIST: I’ve got a question for my colleagues down in Canberra. It seems there’s someone leaking internal government information about tensions between the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, do you think the Prime Minister should be worried about his job?

PLIBERSEK: Well the leaks that you have seen in the last couple of days come from the Expenditure Review Committee of the Cabinet, that’s a very small group of people and the fact that it has been reported that both the previous Health Minister Peter Dutton and the Treasurer Joe Hockey were opposed to the measure that the Prime Minister was supposedly pushing to make it more expensive for ordinary Australians to visit their doctor - it shows that either Peter Dutton or Joe Hockey placed the story. I think the Prime Minister should be very worried about that kind of arse-covering exercise by his colleagues.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]… would Labor close down Manus Island if it was re-elected?

PLIBERSEK: Well what you absolutely need to see is a government that takes charge of what is happening on Manus Island now and tells the people of Australia exactly what is going on. We saw a very half-hearted press conference today from the Prime Minister and the new Immigration Minister. It left more questions unanswered than were actually answered. This is a very large [inaudible]… taxpayers of Australia. Taxpayers deserve to know that the centre is being run properly and that the people that are housed there are safe.

JOURNALIST: What would Labor do to fix that?

PLIBERSEK: Well for a start, you need a minister who is honest with the people of Australia about what is going on there, actually does not indulge in this culture of secrecy. And we need to work with international organisations to describe to the people who are on Manus Island what comes next for them.

JOURNALIST: And to higher education reforms, [inaudible]… policy passed through, would Labour look at some concessions perhaps to strike up a deal?

PLIBERSEK: Well, this is a bit rich really, what the Government is saying is that you have got a generation of students being held to ransom if Labor does not do something then this generation of students will suffer. What we have seen is a cut of about 20 percent of the average investment of Commonwealth Government into university courses, you have got university students who are facing $100,000, $200,000 university degrees. It’s actually up to the Government to come up with a solution that shows that we value higher education. We know that Australia will never compete internationally unless we continue to invest in our young people and in our future. We have seen Australian universities produce some magnificent graduates, do wonderful research, and this argument that cutting billions of dollars is somehow going to improve our university system is a complete furphy.


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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Tuesday 2 December 2014

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Subject/s: UN World Food Program, Aid Cuts, UN Environment Programme cuts, ADF wages.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: We’ve heard very disturbing reports todaythat the UN’s World Food Program has run out of money. Effectively, that means 1.7 million Syrian refugees are going into the worst part of winter with no help to buy food. At the moment, vouchers are provided to refugees in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, a very modest amount each month to help refugees buy food in local stores. There are about 3.5 million refugees displaced from Syria and about six million internally displaced. The burden on neighbouring countries has been enormous with over a million people, for example, moving to Lebanon which is a country of just over four million people. It is like a million people moving to Sydney and having to find accommodation, food, schooling, health facilities and so on for all of those refugees. The UN World Food Program was providing some assistance in the form of vouchers so that those families could go to local stores and buy food locally just to help them get by. The World Food Program's run out of money. They need $64 million to be able to continue supporting those 1.7 million refugees to the end of the year. Without that money, these people will go hungry. They will go hungry if you can imagine these countries going into winter, in some places snow-bound, in many places in very insecure accommodation, facing no ability to feed themselves. Unfortunately, Australia has been pretty poor in its response to the Syrian crisis. In the last year, we have provided around $35 million. When Labor was in government that figure was $100 million. So Australia's assistance to the refugee crisis in Syria has actually declined as the crisis has worsened. We see the effect of the cuts to the aid budget in our inability to provide a level of funding to these desperately needy people. When Labor was in government we doubled the aid budget. We went from around $2.9 billion to around $5.8 billion. Since the Coalition has been in government, they have cut $7.6 billion from the aid budget and in the last couple of days, you have heard talk that even more money might be cut from the aid budget. It shows up in our inability to meet the needs of Syrian refugees through the UN World Food Program and other appeals for funding. It shows up also in cuts like the one that has been reported today to the UN Environment Programme. This is a program that helps developing countries develop in a way that is environmentally sustainable. For example, one program in India that has helped 100,000 people in 18,000 households get access to solar power, obviously good for the environment but also good for the family budget to have those families relying less on very expensive fuels for electricity production in their local communities. So, you see the effect of the aid cuts to our inadequate response to the Syrian refugee crisis. You see the effect on programs like the UN Environment Programme which also incidentally helps countries around the globe measure how they are going in terms of carbon pollution reduction. It is pretty hard not to draw a link between Tony Abbott's spectacularly unsuccessful effort to keep climate change off the G20 agenda, the Government's refusal to contribute to the Green Fund that many of our partner countries have contributed to and this very petty cut to the UN Environment Programme that cuts 80 per cent of the funding of this organisation. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: The Government would argue that if it was to increase that target, the funding would have to come from elsewhere. Where would Labor get that extra funding from?

PLIBERSEK: If you mean specifically if it were to increase funding to Syria, where would the money come from? It should come from an aid budget that is not cut to the bone in contrast to the clear commitments made before the election by the Abbott Government. The Abbott Government said before the election that they would continue to index aid funding by the CPI, consumer price index, that it would continue to increase. They have cut to the bone, $7.6 billion cut, which is the largest single cut in the Federal Budget. So where should the money from? It should come from fewer cuts to the aid budget. If you're talking about more broadly this notion that Julie Bishop mentioned at the World AIDS Day meeting where she said well, if we can't get our cuts through the Senate then we will come back for another bite at the aid budget, then I think it is very important to say that Labor has already supported about $20 billion worth of measures that improve the bottom line for this Government. We have supported measures for example that tighten means testing on a number of programs. It is a bit rich for the Government to continue to blame everyone but themselves for the worsening state of the Federal Budget. We had before the election both Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey saying no surprises, no excuses. Joe Hockey saying very clearly, the Budget's our responsibility from day one, no excuses. I take full responsibility for the Budget. Now they are looking around for anyone to blame but themselves. But you’ve got to remember this is the Government that has basically doubled the deficit, they have given for example, almost $9 billion to the Reserve Bank of Australia. Money that the Reserve Bank didn't ask for, and didn't need, and is now repaying in the form of dividends. They have changed the Budget parameters to blow out the deficit. They have – [divison bells ring] is that a green or red bell? That is a green bell. Just let me start that section again. This is the Government that has doubled the deficit since coming to power. They have given, for example, $9 billion to the Reserve Bank, money that the Reserve didn't ask for and doesn't need and is now repaying in the form of dividends. They have made massive spending commitments like a $20 billion paid parental leave scheme and all the while they are looking around for someone to blame for their economic mismanagement.

JOURNALIST: Most of the Government's budget measures have delivered damaging political domestic political consequences for the Government. The aid budget cuts, despite being among the biggest, have barely caused a ripple domestically for the Government. Is cutting the aid budget a short of consequence-free option for any Government and if so what does that say about the Australian public's attitude towards aid and how much they actually care about it?

PLIBERSEK: I don't think it is a consequence-free cut because cutting the aid budget contributes to insecurity and instability in our region and around the world. Of course Australians have been extremely concerned when they see, for example, the girls that were kidnapped in - by Boko Haram in Nigeria. There is an outpouring of community response to events like that, to natural disasters and so on. Cutting the aid budget seriously compromises our ability to respond to those crises. So I think that the Australian community do want to respond generously and effectively to the crises they see around the world. The Australian community also understands that the best way that we can have a stable and peaceful environment is for countries that are dealing with poverty and instability to be lifted out of that poverty and instability and that Australia has a role in doing that. We have trading partners today, like South Korea for example, that used to be aid recipients from Australia are now countries we are signing trade agreements with because of the way that they have developed their economies over time. That is our hope for all of the countries that we have an aid relationship with. I think it is also very important to look at countries like the United Kingdom, where there has been very clear bipartisan support for reaching aid targets. There has been political leadership on both sides and I think sadly, we used to have that in Australia. It was John Howard who committed Australia to the 0.5 per cent of gross national income target for our aid budget. John Howard committed Australia to helping achieve the millennium development goals. That bipartisanship has been lost under Tony Abbott. Unfortunately, Julie Bishop looks like she is going to be rolled a third time in ERC when it comes to cuts in her own portfolio. It is disturbing to see how far backwards Australia has gone.

JOURNALIST: Labor wants to spend more on defence pay and more on the ABC and more on education and more on foreign aid. What priority do you give foreign aid in that mix?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s - there are certainly a number of calls that we will have to make closer to the next election. There have been a massive number of cuts under this Government, higher education, school education, hospitals, GPs, foreign aid is obviously a very serious one of those. But here is a couple of things to remember. I said earlier that Labor has supported the Government in improving their Budget bottom line by $20 billion. It is worth noting also that the Government has actually reversed around $20 billion worth of Labor savings and revenue measures from when we were in government. You look at things like the high income superannuation changes that we made and other savings measures over our period of government. The tax avoidance measures that we tried to introduce to prevent companies offshoring their tax liabilities. And these are savings that Labor was making in government that the Government, the now Government, has reversed. So it’s not-

JOURNALIST: So will you return that measure?

PLIBERSEK: I’m not going to start talking about individual measures. The point is, that we have supported tens of billions of dollars’ worth of the Government’s savings and they have reversed billions of dollars of savings that Labor made when in government.

JOURNALIST: You’re happy to talk about individual measures when it comes to government legislation that you don’t like, why won’t you speak about individual measures that you may bring back to pay for those things?

PLIBERSEK: Well, because we’re a long way from having those discussions right now.

JOURNALIST: The cuts to UNEP were actually announced in the budget -

PLIBERSEK: Sorry, the cuts that -

JOURNALIST: The cuts thatUnited Nations Environment Program were announced in the Budget. Why is Labor reacting to it now?

PLIBERSEK: Well because it’s been drawn to our attention amongst a number of cuts in the foreign affairs portfolio. It has been extraordinarily difficult to get straight answers out of this Government on where the cuts will be; $7.6 billion worth of cuts. We can get country by country figures, we’ve had extraordinarily difficult times getting program by program answers from this Government, we’ve had two lots of Senate estimates where we’ve put questions on notice, there have been delays and obfuscations from day one about the real effect of these cuts.

JOURNALIST: On Syria, the Government has announced some 4,000 positions for refugees from Syria and Iraq that arguably wouldn’t have existed under Labor’s policy where all those places went to people who came on boats-    

PLIBERSEK: That is simply not the case. The number of positions that the Government have announced, 2,200 from Iraq and 2,200 from Syria actually increase the number that came virtually not all. This is pretty close to the numbers that were coming from those countries in any case. They come as part of the existing 13,000 odd places, they’re not additional to the number of humanitarian entrants that the Australian Government is proposing to take. There’s some - fact there’s a decrease in the number from 20,000 under Labor to 13,000 or under this Coalition Government. So arguably there are fewer people coming from those countries.

JOURNALIST: But wasn’t that quota filled with people coming by boat?

PLIBERSEK: And some of those were Iraqi and some of those were Syrian.

JOURNALIST: But 4,000 of them?

PLIBERSEK: I can’t tell you the numbers for the last year but I can tell you that from our Immigration spokespeople, the numbers are very little different to the numbers that were reported in any case and they are part of the existing quota, they are not additional to the quota. And you’re talking about 3.5 million people who are now displaced from Syria, 6 million internally displaced. Countries like Lebanon, with a population of 4.3 million with over a million refugees. Jordan, a population of something over 6 million, over a million refugees.

JOURNALIST: So, obviously the $7.6 billion in cuts in foreign aid over the last year or so have set us back considerably on reaching the 0.5 per cent of GNI target. What sort of trajectory would Labor be looking at in government to get us back on track for that target? What kind of years? How many years?

PLIBERSEK: It will depend on whether there are further cuts announced as we fear in coming days to the aid budget, but I can say that we are already very, very far away from anything near the 0.5 per cent of GNI. We’re looking at less than 0.3 per cent in coming years, perhaps 0.28 per cent or 0.29 per cent of GNI. We are a long way from 0.5 per cent and it will be difficult to reach that target.

JOURNALIST: So are we talking about another decade?

JOURNALIST: On another matter, can I just ask about the Greens? It’s very gender specific. [inaudible] As a parent, can you see any harm in girls playing with Barbies and boys playing with toy guns?

PLIBERSEK: I think parents can make  whatever decisions they like, I trust parents to make those decisions. What I can say as my experience as a parent is kids make up their own minds and you can try not giving guns to boys but they pick up any little bit of stick or lego or newspaper and use them to play gun games and it’s - good luck to parents who think they are actually going to change that.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Well if the reports are correct, I think any Australian would be absolutely appalled to think that that would be the case. I think any Australian would expect the full force of law to be used against anyone who has allowed or facilitated a nine year old girl being taken out of Australia for a forced marriage. There is no excuse, no explanation that is acceptable if indeed the reports are true. As to any government program, I haven’t seen the details of the proposal, but anything that strengthens the legal framework that would prevent such a thing happening, and anything that strengthens the hand of many people campaigning in our communities to ensure this does not happen of course would be welcome.

JOURNALIST: Finally, one more question. Defence pay - Labor's decided to [inaudible] why is that and is it going to go further?

PLIBERSEK: Well Labor has been saying all along that defence personnel deserve to have their wages at least keep pace with the cost of living. What the Government’s proposed is a cut to the leave and conditions of defence personnel and insultingly the wage increase that doesn’t even keep up with the cost of living increases that defence families are facing. We took yesterday a petition of 60,000 signatures to that effect in the Federal Parliament. Labor has been very strongly opposed to this completely inadequate pay offer to defence personnel, particularly when we know that those people are often facing the risk of traveling overseas, risking their lives, leaving their families behind at Christmas and difficult times like that. The bill in the Senate is a reflection of Labor policy which is that this pay offer was inadequate- Thank you everybody.


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TRANSCRIPT - PM Agenda, Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Subject/s: Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank;David Johnston’s untenable position as Defence Minister.

DAVID SPEERS, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek joins me now to discuss this.


SPEERS: Labor is saying we should be part of this bank. What do you know that the Government doesn't?

PLIBERSEK:I would like to ask what the Government knows that they're not sharing with people. We have got a very strange situation in the Government. Apparently Julie Bishop is opposed to signing up, but both Andrew Robb and Joe Hockey are in favour of signing up. I think it would be a very good moment for the Prime Minister to show a bit of leadership and say let's get, obviously the transparency and governance right, but sign up.

SPEERS: We don't know a number of key things about this bank do we? China would control up to 50% of the share holdings and therefore would control where the money is spent, that's right, isn't it?

PLIBERSEK:What we do know is we have other international banks like the Asian Development Bank, like the IMF that we are part of. We have managed to have an influence in those international financial institutions. There are very clear rules for the governance of those. And we know...

SPEERS: But that's the point, they're transparent, we know the rules and know what is going on?

PLIBERSEK:Yeah, and that's why we should be in developing those rules and insisting on that transparency and governance in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. There is absolutely no reason - the Chinese have made it very clear that they are open to those transparency arrangements, that they want good governance.

SPEERS: Why not wait for a commitment before we join then?

PLIBERSEK:Why not try to influence it from the inside? It is absurd to imagine that the rules can be set and then after the rules are set we can amend them afterwards.

SPEERS: But the rules... China’s approach seems to be they would still have a 50% holding, so they would still make the decision wouldn’t they?

PLIBERSEK:It's actually a good thing that China wants to put $50 billion into a multilateral institution, they already have a lot of bilateral lending, they can lend that money all on their own. There is nothing to say it has to go through a multilateral institution like this bank. They can do bilateral arrangements all over the place, they do them already. The fact that they want to have a multilateral institution shows that they want to have the participation of other countries in setting those priorities, in making sure that things like environmental, labour and social standards are good and making sure transparency is there. Of course we should be part of setting the rules.

SPEERS: You don't think this would be Australia underwriting soft diplomacy on the part of China?

PLIBERSEK: China can do soft diplomacy on its own, that’s already happening. The Chinese Government is making very substantial loans, and indeed investing in aid in our region in a very substantial way. This is different. This is an institution where they are asking Australia to participate including help set the rules, help establish, build this from the ground up.

SPEERS: How much do you think Australia should contribute to it?

PLIBERSEK:I think that is something to be discussed much further down the track. None of the countries that have - there are 21 countries, as you say that have signed up already - they're not pledging particular amounts now. What they want to do is be there on the ground floor and help set the rules, the institutional rules for this new bank.

SPEERS: The US treasury has said, I'm sure you have seen, it will "fail to meet environmental standards, procurement requirements and safeguards adopted by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank including protection to prevent the forced removal of vulnerable populations from their lands." The US obviously has serious concerns.

PLIBERSEK: And that's why we should be in there right now, making sure that those protections, social protections, environmental protections and labour protections are strong. We can't do that from the outside.

SPEERS: Surely we can say when you're done that we will join?

PLIBERSEK: We should be in dialogue with the Chinese right now about those conditions, and we're not. We're standing aside in an extraordinarily self-defeating way. This is a $50 billion proposal from the Chinese themselves plus any additional money other countries put in. We know there is an $8 trillion infrastructure gap in our region. The Government says they want to see growth, the Prime Minister calls himself the infrastructure Prime Minister. And yet this opportunity to see $50 billion productively invested in our region is being passed up.

SPEERS: Well it will be invested regardless of what we do, won’t it?

PLIBERSEK:Well, it will be invested in better quality infrastructure if we have a say over how it is spent. We already have an infrastructure agreement with China, our Department of Transport and Infrastructure and their Department of Commerce signed an agreement, I think in 2012 that talked about how we could cooperate on infrastructure investment. That's a terrific opportunity for Australian companies to be involved with Chinese companies in building infrastructure. There is no reason that we would stand aside from this bank.

SPEERS: The suggestion, though this is somehow a point of tension between Australia and China, we have just signed what experts agree is the best Free Trade Agreement China has got from anyone.

PLIBERSEK: It would be good to know that from the actual text of the agreement. We haven’t seen that yet. We have seen a lot of pamphlets, we’ve seen a lot of press releases, I'm sure that we all welcome greater trade with China but it would be terrific to see the exact terms that we are signing up to. And I don't - my criticism is not that this is a point of tension with China, although indeed it is, I'm sure, a bizarre refusal in the eyes of the Chinese, my point is we’ve got an $8 trillion infrastructure gap in our region, the Government says they want to see growth and investment and opportunities for Australian companies, we have a chance of getting in at the ground floor - helping shape an institution that will spend $50 billion in our region in coming years and we are turning our noses up at it.

SPEERS: Labor today has been demanding the resignation of David Johnston the Defence Minister over the comments he made last night about our ship builders, the ASC. Do you accept though that ASC has been involved in cost over runs and delays and there are plenty of people frustrated with how they’ve performed?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s interesting that David Johnston's own colleagues have put him back in the box on his comments about the ASC. He's had a number of both named and unnamed senior and junior Liberals tell him to pull his head in on the ASC. But more importantly-

SPEERS: He has expressed regret now, hasn’t he?

PLIBERSEK: Kind of. He gave one of those apologies: if you are offended at anything I have said then I’m sure I'm sorry. He should be apologising to the highly skilled engineering and manufacturing workers that work on incredibly complex, highly skilled work at ASC. But take a step back, before the election, this minister stood outside the gates of Australian Submarine Corporation and said we will build 12 new subs right here in South Australia. Since then there's been fierce back pedaling, there’s been a virtual announcement that the submarines will be built in Japan, a very strong public backlash that's caused the Government now to feign some process. They have not made clear what the process is, we are 18 months down the track and we're not - we don't have any clearer answer on what type of subs, where they'll be built-

SPEERS: Let me ask you this, because Labor obviously feels passionately about this and the need to build it in Australia, right? If this Government does sign a contract with Japan or anyone else to buy the new submarines there, would Labor in government be prepared to break that?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it would be ideal if these submarines were built in Australia, but at the very least, at the very worst, this Government should engage in a proper open tender process, and this is completely -

SPEERS: So you would do that?

PLIBERSEK: This is completely topsy turvy. We’ve got a Defence White Paper coming up. What you do is identify the defence need you're trying to fill and then you go out and find the best submarine to meet that need and then you negotiate with the potential suppliers. You have a tender process with the potential suppliers. This is a -

SPEERS: So if that tender process did find -

PLIBERSEK: This is a nonsense process.

SPEERS: But if that tender process did find that the best option is off shore, would you be prepared to do that?

PLIBERSEK: I think that's a matter for much further down the track. As I’ve said, we believe -

SPEERS: You would abide by a tender process presumably?

PLIBERSEK: We believe that the Australian Submarine Corporation has done a very good job. We heard from their head at an inquiry in parliament just recently, that they believe they could build the submarines cheaper than the prices that have been talked about from overseas. Let's have a look at the local industry at least. Let's not rule them out by doing a side deal with Japan pretending there is no deal.

SPEERS: Just to be clear on this, if there is a side deal with Japan done under this Government after the next election would you abide by any such contract?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is unreasonable to put a hypothetical like that to me. It is very difficult to know the state of any contract, how far advanced it might be, what penalties might accrue. This is a very substantial investment for Australia, not just in financial terms, we are talking about tens of billions of dollars, figures between $20 billion and $40 billion have been mentioned. It's not just a substantial outlay, there’s a substantial number of jobs that go into this picture, and you know, at the very heart of this is the question of how we defend our nation. That has to be the start of answering this question. And can I also say, David, it's not just about the Australian Submarine Corporation, this is a Defence Minister who wants to give defence personnel a below inflation pay increase of 1.5%, so he's happy to send people overseas to fight, you know, it is extraordinary to want to take away leave and pay our defence personnel less than inflation in terms of wage - an effective pay cut.

SPEERS: Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, we’ll have to leave it there, thanks for joining us this afternoon.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, always a pleasure.


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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Sydney, Saturday 22 November 2014

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Subject/s: ABC cuts, Ebola.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: We’re here in Town Hall Square where in the next hour or so we’ll see a crowd gather to show its support for our national broadcaster, the ABC. The ABC and SBS provide a valuable service to Australians and they have for many years. Just as we’ve grown as a nation, so we’ve seen the ABC grow, from its early days with just a few programs and the unusual spectacle of Australian stories told in an Australian voice for the first time on our TV screens and on our radio bulletins, to now a very sophisticated media organisation that can compare well with the best in the world. Before the election Tony Abbott said as clear as day, no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to SBS. He didn’t say it once, he said it many times and Australians are shocked and horrified to think that this is another broken promise from the Abbott Government. Before the election Tony Abbott said “No cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to the GST, no change to pensions, and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”, now every one of those promises has been broken. There is no promise that he’s made left to be broken. Australians want to defend the ABC and SBS because they value the ABC and SBS. Particularly at times of crisis when there are bushfires, when there are floods, when there are natural disasters they turn to the ABC for the information that keeps them safe. And when they’re overseas, if they wish for information from Australia, they tune in wherever they can to stories from home. Australians want to hear Australian stories told in Australian voices and they want a television industry here in Australia that tells those stories with Australian actors and Australian story lines. Stories like Redfern Now, and back in the day Sweet and Sour, so many programs that have reflected the way Australia has changed over the years. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Talking of these cuts, the Government explains them away as not cuts but as efficiency dividends, do you buy that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think everybody knows a lie when they’re being told a lie. Before the election Tony Abbott said “no cuts to the ABC” and now we’ve seen, if you include the Australian network and the cuts in the previous budget, more than half a billion dollars cut from the ABC and SBS, now I don’t know how anyone can think they can get away with cutting half a billion dollars and then saying nothing to see here, no cuts here. A lie is a lie is a lie.

JOURNALIST: Do you think we’re going to see an impact on content?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course we’ll see an impact on content, I mean isn’t it extraordinary that you’ve got Christopher Pyne launching a petition in Adelaide because he knows that programming will be cut and he knows that jobs will go in Adelaide. And isn’t it extraordinary that you’ve got National Party members saying don’t touch programming in the bush. I mean these are the people who have supported these cuts and then they want their own patch of turf protected. If you cut half a billion dollars from the ABC and SBS, you can’t protect broadcasting, you can’t protect programming, you can’t protect Australian content. We will see all of these things negatively affected, jobs will go, 400 to 500 jobs are predicted to go, you can’t keep making fine quality TV and radio when you’re cutting hundreds of staff and half a billion dollars.

JOURNALIST: Do you think a rally like this will make any difference, isn’t it too late now?

PLIBERSEK: Well no, I think rallies like this are absolutely vital because the fact that Christopher Pyne and National Party members are out there saying to the Government ‘don’t cut my patch, hands off my ABC’ shows that they know Australians care for the ABC and care for SBS. In fact, the very fact that Tony Abbott made this promise before the election shows that he knows Australians want the ABC and SBS protected. The fact that he made the promise that he broke shows that he knows that people care. So I think rallies like this are absolutely vital and I think people should be contacting their Liberal Party and National Party MPs and Senators and saying hands off my ABC.

JOURNALIST: How seriously should we take the comments from the United Nations today about discrimination against refugees that have Ebola?

PLIBERSEK: Well isn’t it extraordinary to see our Foreign Minister at a Security Council meeting lecturing the world on Ebola when Australia has been so slow to act, dragged kicking and screaming to doing anything. It is an extraordinary scenario to have Australia lecturing countries that have done so much more than we have in terms of providing medical assistance and humanitarian support, and extraordinary to have Australia lecturing the world about discriminating against countries where Ebola is prevalent when the Foreign Minister and the Immigration Minister can’t even get their story straight about whether we’ve got visa bans or we don’t.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there has been a contradiction there from what the Minister said in terms of those visa applications from people coming from Ebola affected countries?

PLIBERSEK: Well Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop have said two completely different things. I don’t know whether this is part of their continuing turf war or whether they just don’t know – the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. But they’ve made two completely contradictory comments about whether we are or aren’t processing visas from Ebola affected countries.

JOURNALIST: Doesn’t the Government have a responsibility though to take precautions like this to protect their citizens?

PLIBERSEK: The first and most important responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens. What we’ve said all along is the best way to protect Australians is to fight Ebola in West Africa, at the source of where the virus is spreading. We know now that close to five and a half thousand people have died from Ebola. We’ve been told by the World Health Organisation, the Centres for Disease Control, the United Nations, the Security Council in the past, our own AMA, our own Public Health Association, the International Crisis Group, that the best way to fight Ebola is at the source, in the countries where most of the infections are occurring, and the best thing that Australia can do is help the international effort to contain the spread of the virus. We’ve got Julie Bishop saying that at the Security Council, but not doing it here at home. I think this is an example where deeds matter more than words and our deeds so far have been inadequate. 


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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Sydney, Friday 21 November 2014

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Subject/s: Julie Bishop’s attack on the United States, Peter Greste, Wayne Goss, the Great Barrier Reef, climate change, Palmer United, Martin Ferguson.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much for coming out. I just want to say a couple words first about Peter Greste and his family. There of course have been reports that there is a possibility of a presidential pardon for Peter Greste. Certainly those reports are encouraging, we hope for the sake of Peter and his family that those reports are accurate. I met with his parents just recently and of course his family are very concerned that Peter should be released from gaol in Egypt as soon as possible. Secondly, I wanted to mention that Wayne Goss’ funeral is on today. Wayne Goss was a great Premier of Queensland, he is a man who modernised Queensland after three decades of corrupt, conservative control. He will be sorely missed by his family of course but also by the broader Labor Party, his many supporters in Queensland and many friends and we’ll send him off today with all of our thanks for the incredible work he did in Queensland.

Turning now to international affairs, we heard Campbell Newman a few days ago criticising the US President Barack Obama for daring to say that he hoped that the Great Barrier Reef would still be there in 50 years’ time for his daughters and his grandchildren to be able to see. The Great Barrier Reef of course is one of the natural wonders of the world, it is an environmental treasure and also brings about $6 billion into the Australian community through tourism and so on. So you wouldn’t think that it would be such a controversial thing to say that we should protect and look after our beautiful Barrier Reef. But Campbell Newman took offence. Campbell Newman is no diplomat so I guess people might not be surprised that he’s gone the US President on this. What is more surprising is that the Abbott Government and our Foreign Minister are now also criticising the United States of America, our good and close friend, for daring to say that we should look after the Barrier Reef. This is an extraordinarily petulant performance that just shows how stung the Abbott Government is by the fact that they tried to keep climate change off the G20 agenda and they failed in that endeavour.

The whole world wanted to talk about climate change at the G20 because climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s an economic issue. As the climate globally changes, we see more extreme weather events, we see degradation of our natural environments, we see drought and floods and these have economic as well as social consequences. During the G20 meeting when a number of global leaders were in Australia, we had all of them talking to each other and to the Australian people about the importance of taking action on climate change. Certainly President Obama's speech received a lot of attention but the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, talked about the importance of climate change, Prime Minister Modi talked about the importance of climate change. Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, talked to Tony Abbott, his friend, about climate change.

Australia is now behind the rest of the world. We're out on a limb. We're trailing behind. We're going in the wrong direction. We are on our own amongst developed countries in denying that climate change is real and reversing action that was actually having an effect. Carbon pricing in its first year saw the economy continue to grow, jobs continue to grow, but emissions from the national electricity market reduced by 7%. Since we got rid of carbon pricing we've seen carbon emissions rise again and they’re on a trajectory to rise by 2% in this year.  So we had a program that worked, we've replaced it with this so-called Direct Action which nobody thinks will work, we've made a change from taking money from big polluters and using it to reduce the effects of carbon pollution in our society and in our economy.  So instead of taking money from big polluters and spreading it through our community, we're actually taking taxpayers' dollars and giving those dollars to big polluters in the hope that something will change but with no clear plan for that change - no guarantee that pollution will actually reduce.

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop obviously took a swipe at President Obama over his speech. Isn’t she right to stand up for Australia on any issue?

PLIBERSEK:  Julie Bishop's not standing up for Australia. She's berating the President of the United States, a very good friend to Australia, because she's responding to his quite reasonable comment that we should protect our beautiful Barrier Reef. What an absurd situation where the Foreign Minister of our nation is insulting one of our closest friends because that friend wants to talk about climate change and the effects on our natural environment. Actually defending the pollution that will degrade the Barrier Reef, that's not standing up for Australia.

JOURNALIST: Tanya, why did Labor not stop dredging and dumping material in the marine park when it was in Government?

PLIBERSEK: We've made a commitment that if we return to Government, we will prevent dumping in the Great Barrier Reef.


PLIBERSEK: We've made that commitment already. You can talk to Mark Butler more about that if you want more details.

JOURNALIST: Canada this morning pledged $300 million to the Green climate fund. Obviously there's been similarities between their leader and Tony Abbott. Are we on our own now?

PLIBERSEK: We are completely on our own. Now, Tony Abbott is completely out on a limb. The world leaders that he is closest to, including Stephen Harper in Canada, Prime Minister Modi.  The United States, China, all of these countries are taking action both domestically and globally to reduce dangerous climate change. We're the only ones who are going backwards.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the latest drama surrounding the Palmer United Party?

PLIBERSEK: The members of the Palmer United Party are delighted to talk to the media so I'll leave it for them to explain what's going on in their political party. What I would say is that I was very pleased to see the future of Financial Advice laws that Labor had introduced in government, that we had sought to protect, actually protected in the Senate with the support of a couple of Palmer United Party Senators so it's great to see those very good Labor initiatives defended.

JOURNALIST: So, how will it affect the workings of the Senate?

PLIBERSEK: Well, most governments have had to negotiate with Senates that they didn't control and usually that gives you an opportunity to fine-tune and strengthen legislation. I hope that that's the case now. We'll see.

JOURNALIST: A former colleague of yours, Martin Ferguson, appears prepared to take a swipe at the Opposition Leader John Robertson just today about the Baird Government’s privatisation plans for electricity assets. Is it appropriate for Mr Ferguson to be doing that four months out from the State election?

PLIBERSEK: I haven't seen Martin Ferguson's comments so I won't make any comment. Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Hobart, Thursday 20 November 2014

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Subject/s: Childcare; FOFA; Palmer United; UN Security Council; Ukraine; Privatisation

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Good morning. It’s great to be here at Lady Gowrie in Hobart. This centre has offered quality early childhood care and education for well over three quarters of a century. We have had a wonderful morning talking to the educators here and to the kids and of course it raises all sorts lots of issues about what the Government’s got planned for early childhood education and care. We know that the Abbott Government is undermining the national quality framework. The national quality framework ensures that all of these children get the quality care they deserve. We also know that the Abbott Government said that they want to expand access to nannies and in-home care but not spend any more on childcare. That means that long day care centres like this are under threat. Someone's got to make up the difference. It is also important to say that despite saying before the election that the Government would not make any cuts to education, over $1 billion has been cut from the childcare and early childhood education. You can’t take that sort of money out of this sector and not see the effects on parents, on childcare workers and on the quality of care that is able to be offered to children.

JOURNALIST: Are we running the risk of jobs and centres closing?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course if the Government keeps taking money out of the long day care the way they have then of course that puts pressure on childcare centres and puts pressure on childcare workers. People choose a career in childcare because they love kids but they deserve to be paid appropriately for the level of responsibility and dedication that they show in their work.

JOURNALIST: And in terms of the, I suppose, the gap that would be left in children's learning does that then put extra pressure on the primary school system to be making up the difference where the skills are being missed?

PLIBERSEK: Well we know that the years before a child goes to school are really critical in their brain development. They’re the years where the brain is just soaking up like a little sponge everything that is happening around them and if you give children a quality early childhood education through play, through experience, through adventure, like Lady Gowrie childcare centre, then they start school school-ready. They start school excited about learning and confident and those confident learners go on to have a great education throughout their school career, so investing in early childhood education, preschools, long day care centres, makes all the difference to a child’s school readiness and their future school achievements.

JOURNALIST: We saw Jacqui Lambie vote with Labor last night on financial advice laws in the Senate. Are you hopeful or is Labor hopeful that this rift in the Palmer United Party could potentially work in your favour in the Senate?

PLIBERSEK: Well look, I’m not going to talk about the rift in the Palmer United Party, what I would talk about is the future of financial advice laws. These were laws that were brought in by Labor when we were in government to protect mum and dad, mums and dads who are thinking about their future, their retirement, making sure that they have got some savings and they are designed to make sure that financial advice benefits the people who are saving their money and putting it aside. Now it seems like a very simple and obvious thing to do, that financial advice should benefit the person who is investing their money, it is not a big ask and I am very pleased that the Government’s efforts to remove these protections were overturned by the Senate last night.

JOURNALIST: The Palmer storm seems to be building momentum though, is it - are you hopeful that with the positions Jacqui Lambie has put forward so far this could be what you need in the Senate to be getting more opposition to legislation and seeing things for the Opposition's way?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I am delighted when any senator thinks about and considers the issues before the Senate and votes according to their conscience and to their best judgement and last night making sure that the financial advice that people are given is actually in their best interests so that is a great win for the Senate.

JOURNALIST: Is it tenable for Jacqui Lambie to still be calling herself a Palmer United Party given the latest development?

PLIBERSEK: Look at all those questions about the Palmer United Party are really questions for Jacqui Lambie and Clive Palmer. What I am pleased to see is that Labor’s initial legislation protecting Australians who are investing their hard earned money now has some protection, the original protections that Labor proposed, has been restored.

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop has called for an international taskforce to target modern terrorism, what is your take on that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that terrorism is certainly something that we need to consider, all countries need to make sure that the primary responsibility, keeping their citizens safe, is discharged. We haven’t seen particular details of this call in the UN Security Council, so I’ll have to see more details to consider whether having a special envoy, I think she’s recommended, would make the difference she’s suggesting.

JOURNALIST: With the discussion focusing on social media and other modern techniques do you think it will carry a risk of censorship?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is something we need to wrestle with as a community, what we’ve seen in recent times is young people radicalised very quickly because of what they’re reading and looking at online. Young people who have no previous signs that they are potentially violent have in some cases been radicalised over a matter of months by material they have been accessing over the internet. Of course that’s true.

JOURNALIST: Australia has begun its final presidency of the UN Security Council, do you think the Government has made the most of its position on the world stage?

PLIBERSEK: Well Labor pursued the presidency of the Security Council because we believe that we’re a country that has always punched above its weight in international affairs. I’m not sure you could say that our presidency under the Liberal Government has really delivered an enormous amount of change. Certainly the fact that there was a motion about MH17 was very important, it was a very important opportunity for Australia because 38 Australians of course lost their lives in that terrible tragedy. It was of course very important that we had an opportunity to say to Russia and to say to the world that we expected adequate investigation, access to the crash site and for those responsible to be held to account. Being able to do that on the Security Council was a very important opportunity for Australia. As for other achievements, I’m not sure you could say that it has been a year of extraordinary achievement.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister had a phone conversation with the Ukrainian President overnight, do you think we should be focusing on efforts to stabilize the situation in Ukraine rather than securing the MH17 crash site?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly I think it is very important that Ukraine is able to ensure peace within its borders. There’s a lot of trouble in the eastern parts of Ukraine and of course Crimea has already been lost. We support the right of Ukraine to determine its own future, to have whatever arrangements it chooses with Russia and with Europe, not to be held to ransom by either one side or the other. The situation in the Ukraine continues to be troubling we do have a particular interest in it because we do want answers for the victims of MH17, not just the Australians, but the almost 300 people who lost their lives in that terrible tragedy. So it is important that access to that crash site continues to be possible for international investigators, but beyond that there is a wider question of security within Ukraine and the necessity for Russian backed rebels to obey the law and to behave appropriately.

JOURNALIST: The latest policy announcement that we’re open for business from the Liberals is about potentially selling off Government assets, is it a different name for privatising?

COLLINS: Of course I would be concerned about the Government trying to privatise any assets that belong to the Tasmanian people without a proper process, without Tasmanians being able to have a say. We’ve of course seen Liberal Governments in the past try to privatise assets without having that conversation with the Tasmanian people and it cost them dearly at that point when it came to the hydro. So I do think it’s really important that they have the conversation with the public first and that it’s not privatisation by stealth.

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TRANSCRIPT - Sky News, Saturday 15 November 2014

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Subject/s: G20; Climate change; Inclusive growth.

DAVID SPEERS, PRESENTER: Joining me now is the Deputy Labor leader and the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek, who was there watching Barack Obama’s speech and is still there at Queensland University. Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. Can I ask, on this climate change announcement from President Obama, do you think Australia should now also be making a commitment to this green climate fund?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well of course Labor supported a commitment to helping developing countries with climate change mitigation  when we were in government. Of course Australia should be part of this. It’s extraordinary that Tony Abbott in his opening remarks to world leaders today was boasting about the fact that Australia is the only country going backwards on climate change. We now have the United States and China, two of the world’s largest polluters and largest economies talking about the action that they will take, deeper cuts, faster cuts to carbon emissions and today’s announcement of course saying that developing countries won’t have to choose between economic development and climate change mitigation, or reducing their carbon footprint, they’ll be able to do both, of course Australia should be part of that.

SPEERS: Alright, but to what extent are you able to put a dollar figure or as some have suggested, a percentage figure? I think there are some suggesting Australia should make up 2.7% of this international $10 billion fund. Are you able to put any sort of ballpark figure on where you think Australia should land here?

PLIBERSEK:  Oh no, that would be something that would need to be thought through, discussed, I don’t have a particular number in mind. But here we- the very reason that Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd promoted the G20 as the premiere economic decision making body in the world was because there are some problems that are too big for any one country on its own to fix. At the time, the Global Financial Crisis required coordinated international action. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s an economic issue and today President Obama said the world should act together to reduce the effect of dangerous climate change on countries that are bearing the worst brunt of it. Poorer countries, particularly in our region. He mentioned Asia and the Pacific region in particular as areas that are feeling the effects of climate change and will feel the effects of climate change in the future. This is an issue where global cooperation is absolutely vital and Australia has to be part of that global cooperation instead of being as we are now, an outlier. Not just behind the pack, but heading in completely the wrong direction.

SPEERS: Alright, but as you know, many have pointed out that China’s commitment here allows them to keep increasing emissions for another 16 years, in the meantime that could well and truly not just surpass entire Australian emissions but entire American emissions as well in that period. Is that good enough from the world’s biggest emitter?

PLIBERSEK: China is a country of well over a billion people, it’s not surprising that their emissions are higher in total than Australia’s. But Australia is one of the highest emitters per person in the world of carbon pollution. We can’t get away with doing nothing. Yes, of course China should act. They’re sourcing a greater proportion of their energy from renewables, they’ve made further commitments, they’ve gone further than any international observers expected. Now it’s time for Australia to do the same.

SPEERS: Well when it comes to doing the same, and you did refer to Australia as falling behind the pack, do you think we should match at least what the Americans have committed to now in terms of a post 2020 emissions reduction.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think our goals and targets should be a matter for discussion but at the moment we’ve got a government that has thrown out the window an emissions trading system that was working, a price on carbon that was working to bring down our carbon pollution. And they’re also trying to trash our renewable energy target and what we’re seeing because of that is job losses in renewables, we’ve slipped in terms of attractiveness as a destination for investment in companies that focus on renewable energy. We are going backwards as a nation on climate change mitigation and carbon pollution reduction, completely out of step with the rest of the world.

SPEERS: Okay, but let me ask you this, is it important to you that countries, when they make commitments like we’ve seen here, show how they’re going to deliver it? Because at the moment it is unknown how the Americans, how President Obama will be able to deliver on that commitment he’s made for 2025.

PLIBERSEK: Well can I say I’ve got an awful lot of faith in both the United States and China to be able to do what they say they are going to do. Unfortunately, what Australia says it is going to do is go backwards on climate change. I mean we’ve got the two largest economies in the world saying that they will take decisive action to cut pollution deeper and faster than anyone imagined. Today we’ve got an additional commitment that countries will help our region to reduce the effects of climate change and reduce carbon pollution in our region, that’s unequivocally a good thing.

SPEERS: Let me turn to some of the other elements of President Obama’s speech there today, he’s talked about an even deeper American military commitment in this region, the majority of its navy and air force will be in the Pacific by the end of the decade, do you welcome that?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it was a very good opportunity for President Obama to reemphasise that the United States has a long and strong bond with Australia and with other countries in our region too. The President also talked about the areas of commonality with China and the work they’ve done for example on climate change more recently. I think the other very important message from today’s speech was the importance of inclusive growth, of aid and development, making sure that other countries in the region, poorer countries, have the opportunity to develop their people by investing in health, investing in education, investing in more productive agriculture. This was a speech that of course talked about US foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions but spoke about so much more, spoke about growth, but the quality of growth, saying that growth should be both environmentally sustainable but also inclusive and really that’s the bar that we set for this G20 meeting. We hoped that climate change would be on the agenda and President Obama has put it firmly on the agenda. We hoped that inclusive growth would be on the agenda and again President Obama has put it firmly on the agenda.

SPEERS: But he did talk about the need for the security, order of this region not to be based on spheres of influence, coercion or intimidation where big nations bully small and he talked about the need for international law norms to be upheld, peaceful resolution of disputes. Do you share all of those views? And are you concerned about China’s behaviour when it comes to some of these disputes?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s always worth emphasising that we need to uphold international laws and norms. Of course all countries should expect to be held to account in that way. But I was also very, very pleased during the week that the United States and China could come to this agreement on climate change because it shows that the channels of communication are very open, that there is a lot of room for constructive negotiation and coming to agreement on the issues that matter to all of us.

SPEERS: Final question Tanya Plibersek, when you talk about growth and I hear that you share, and certainly the President does as well, the need for inclusive growth in this region and around the world. Do you give the Abbott Government a tick for at least being able to drive on this G20 agenda this two percent target to boost growth adding two trillion dollars to the global economy?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think everybody would agree that economic growth is good.  But economic growth has to be environmentally and socially sustainable and inclusive as well. What we’ve heard recently from the IMF, from the OECD, from economists like Joseph Stiglitz is the firm evidence that countries that have a smaller gap between the richest and the poorest have longer and stronger and more durable economic growth. The proof is there in the numbers that inequality is bad for growth. Inequality within countries and inequality between countries is bad for growth. So it’s terrific that the G20 is talking about growth but from the President’s speech today, from the comments of other world leaders including people like Christine Lagard from the IMF we know that it’s also the quality of growth. Not just the number in front of the percentage point.

SPEERS: Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek, thank you for joining us from Queensland University, we appreciate that.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you very much.


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TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, Friday 14 November 2014

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Subject/s: Russia; Putin; Climate change deal; Palmer United.


KARL STEFANOVIC, PRESENTER: Joining us now is Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to you two, thank you for being with us.



STEFANOVIC: Malcolm, it doesn't look like you are sweating bullets.

TURNBULL: No, and I think that we want to be careful about using words like "intercept". I mean, you know, navies, countries have navies for many reasons and one of them is to project force and in the case of Russia, clearly force and grandeur and the Russian navy is in our part of the world as part of an international relations exercise showing that Russia’s still on the map and still a powerful country and-

STEFANOVIC: So it is provocative? It is a show of force then? We should be worried?

TURNBULL: Well, no we shouldn’t.


TURNBULL: We should not be worried at all. But I mean, the navy is part of every country's defence force and when like you send it out to sea in a group like this, you are projecting force and saying "Here I am, I am still on the map, I am still strong and important."

STEFANOVIC: Like we didn't know that anyway.

PLIBERSEK: Karl, I think it is very important, Karl, that we don't overreact to this incident because of course the Russian ships are in international waters, they’ve got every right to be where they are, it’s not unusual that they are where they are. It would be a lot more unusual if they were sitting in the Brisbane River. At this stage I think people just need to take a chill pill, just as Malcolm has.

STEFANOVIC: Alright okay, Malcolm, we all need to take a chill pill but you’re sending a third ship out there, just to what, observe?

TURNBULL: Well, of course, this is all part of the - I mean, I am not privy to the latest naval maneuvers. But Karl, as Tanya says, this is all very normal. This is what navies do - join the navy, see the world and they get around. And I don't think this is you know – despite the desire to beat it up, I'm surprised frankly that up there in Brisbane the Courier Mail isn't promoting some good fishing spots on the Brisbane River, inviting the Russians to come in and throw a line in.

STEFANOVIC: Well they do that anyway, the Courier Mail, it is a fine publication.


STEFANOVIC: Just on the Courier Mail, it is asking for an apology this morning. Tanya, should we get an apology from Vladimir Putin?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the families of those who lost their lives when MH17 was shot down certainly deserve an explanation and an apology. It is not about what the Australian Government needs, it is about what the families of those who lost their lives need. And they need someone to be held accountable for what happened. And they need answers why this happened. And of course, for those nine people whose bodies have not yet been recovered, those families in particular need access to the crash site for authorities to recover those remains. So there is still a great deal that should happen and we believe that Vladimir Putin has the key to many of those things.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, next up, China and the US –

TURNBULL: Can I just say that is absolutely correct. I mean the one person who knows exactly what happened is Vladimir Putin. So he is in a position to set out the facts, clearly, cogently and accept responsibility for the actions of a group of rebels, insurgents, whatever you want to call them, who were being supported by Russia operating within the Ukraine as part of a separatist movement there. I mean he really - he should set out those facts, take responsibility, express his compassion and condolences and apologise for this terrible event. And Tanya and I are unusually in complete agreement on this.

STEFANOVIC: Let's talk about something that you don't agree on, and that is China and the US have made a climate change pact to agree to work together on reducing emissions. Malcolm, you can't be happy with where we are sitting given that potential deal for China and also the US to cut emissions?

TURNBULL: Well, the Government has welcomed this agreement, number one. Number two, Australia does have an ambitious emission reduction target. The- our reduction by 2020 is comparable to the targets described by China and America. Can I say, it is very, very encouraging, in fact something of a relief to see at long last agreement between China and America. It is early days yet, but China is making a very concerted move against burning coal. It is determined to reduce emissions in China, not just for climate change reasons but because of general atmospheric pollution, as anyone who has been to a big Chinese city recently would know. That is- environmental issues are becoming a very, very important topic and agenda in China. That is one country in the world that is able to move quickly.

PLIBERSEK: Karl, can I –

STEFANOVIC: Just quickly, Tanya. Very, very quickly.

PLIBERSEK: Well I’ve got to say, our excuse- the Liberals’ excuse was always that the rest of world wasn't acting, Australia shouldn’t act. You have now got the world’s two largest economies, two largest polluters taking substantial action on climate change. Malcolm always said that the Liberals’ policy was just a fig leaf to cover up a determination to do nothing, he is right then. Australia needs to be part of this world move. We have already lost, for example, 100 jobs of people who were creating the towers for wind farms just recently because we have taken this step backwards when it comes to tackling climate change. We are losing those clean green jobs and we are being left behind.

STEFANOVIC: Alright, we do have to go. Malcolm, unfortunately I can’t ask about the impending divorce between Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie. I really wanted to find out from you how Clive is, I’ve been worried.

TURNBULL: I didn’t even know they were married, actually. That’s a –

PLIBERSEK: They can probably speak for themselves I think, Karl. They’re doing a pretty good job.

STEFANOVIC: Well, Malcolm’s stuck in the middle!

TURNBULL: I’m not going to offer a - sort of a reconciliation meeting at the Wild Duck. But if Tanya wants to do so, there’s a booth there that I’m sure is available.

STEFANOVIC: Nice. I love the maneuverings. Thank you, you two. We’ll see you very soon.


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