The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Transcript of interview with Lisa Wilkinson
Today Show, Channel 9
Subjects: Qantas, Holden, School Funding
Lisa Wilkinson: Well the Government insists it won't rush into bail out Qantas even as the national airline announced a $300 million loss yesterday and the need to axe 1,000 jobs in the coming year.
Joining us now to discuss this and explain his backflip on Gonski is Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek joins us as well. Good morning to both of you. Christopher Pyne, if I can start with you, is there a case for the Government to step in and bail out Qantas?
Christopher Pyne: Well Qantas has a unique problem which most other private companies don't have in Australia and that is it's restricted by legislation in terms of its foreign investment, who can invest in Qantas.
Now Virgin doesn't have that restriction which means Qantas is hide bound really so we have to think about whether the taxpayer directly supports Qantas or whether we remove those restrictions and allow it to get foreign investment which also means that it might not necessarily be entirely Australian owned. So it's a problem and we have to sort through it, which we will.
Wilkinson: Is the Government feeling sentimental about this Australian icon or do you think you really have to start doing business now?
Pyne: Well there's a whole host of reasons why Australia needs to have a national carrier. But it is a global world and at the moment Qantas can't compete as easily as it should because it's got this 50% restriction on its ownership.
Wilkinson: Christopher's right, Tanya, I mean there's not an even playing field at the moment between Qantas and Virgin. Virgin has got 63% foreign ownership that really does help them in their funding. Do you think those restrictions should be loosened?
Tanya Plibersek: Look, I think it's important to have a look at anything that Qantas is proposing to help them operate more effectively. My dad spent the last 20 years of his working life working at Qantas and I think I do and many Australians do have a very strong attachment to Qantas as an Australian brand and carrier. I think we should have a look at what they're suggesting.
Wilkinson: But it's a heart versus head thing, isn't it?
Plibersek: Well absolutely. I think the emotional attachment is certainly there. You get on a Qantas plane coming back from overseas and hear those Australian accents, it's always so wonderful.
Pyne: I think there's a sense of almost bipartisanship about this issue. I mean I don't think you can make much politics out of Qantas because it's an icon for Australia and that's a good thing.
Wilkinson: And 1,000 people facing job losses.
Plibersek: Absolutely, and right before Christmas. The important thing there is to make sure we give those 1,000 people the support they need to find new jobs as quickly as possible.
Wilkinson: Speaking of Aussie icons, Holden, there's talk that it could close its operations here by 2016. Is this another case of the Government having to step in?
Pyne: Well, Holden - well GM really in Detroit - needs to let Holden compete internationally. One of the problems for Holden in Australia is it doesn't seem to be given the freedom to export and if it's not exporting the market here in Australia isn't big enough. And because we allow so much overseas cars into our market, which is a good thing for competition and for consumer choice, Toyota and Holden and Ford need to export whereas GM and Detroit puts all sorts of restrictions around Holden's capacity to export.
It hasn't invested in the equipment that it needs to invest in and if Holden make that decision it will be a decision of Holden's. We in the federal Liberal Party want to support the car industry as much as possible but at the end of the day Holden make a decision, a commercial decision, it's not something that we can make for them.
Plibersek: Well Lisa, I mean Christopher's skated over the fact that the Liberal Government's taking $500 million support out of the car industry and I think it's very important that we keep car manufacturing here in Australia.
There's a 9 to 1 multiplier effect. For every dollar we put in we get $9 back and if you look at the support for the Australian car industry, compared to the US or Germany, the Americans put in about 14 times as much per person as we do, even the Germans that would be acknowledged as having a very strong car industry, they get about 5 times per person as much support going into their car industry as we do here in Australia.
Pyne: But even with all the support that Labor's been putting in over the last 6 years, Ford's already decided to leave, even with all that support. Holden's operations here in Australia, even with all the support, made a loss again last year. When General Motors looked at their entire international operations, the Australian operation was the one
that was making a loss so all that money's been flowing into Holden and Ford and they're still making losses or deciding to leave in the case of Ford.
Plibersek: But the point is Christopher, we're not putting in a lot compared with other countries that have car industries and we're talking about 200,000 jobs and also the spin off for research and development and innovation that comes from having a car industry. I think it's very important that we keep it here.
Wilkinson: Alright, we'll have to move on. We need to move onto you, Christopher Pyne.
This week's double backflip over Gonski. Now a week ago you were Gonski's foremost critic. You said it was un-implementable, this week you've not only backed it but you've found more than $1 billion extra to put into it. Was it just a case of you caved in to public pressure?
Pyne: Well the good news, Lisa, is I found $1.2 billion more for education than Labor was going to put in.
Wilkinson: But was that because of public pressure because you were its greatest critic?
Pyne: It's because I've been spending the last 11 weeks working behind the scenes with WA, NT and Queensland.
Wilkinson: But for 10 weeks of that, you didn’t like it…
Pyne: Well I haven't said much about the school funding model since the election. But I found $1.2 billion.
Wilkinson: Where did you find that?
Pyne: Well the Treasurer and I, and the PM, worked out how we could fund that, which Labor took out.
Wilkinson: Where was it?
Pyne: You will find out in MYEFO, which will be handed down before the end of the year where that money's come from.
And I got WA, Queensland and the NT to sign up, something Labor never did. So I've delivered the national agreement and more money.
Wilkinson: But will you change your mind again because you've changed it about four times now on Gonski?
Pyne: I haven't really. It's where you end the race Lisa that counts, not where you started.
Wilkinson: But we don't know where you end, because we could have said a couple of decisions ago “this was the end”.
Pyne: I've crossed the finish line, I’ve crossed the line. I’ve got the money and the agreement.
Plibersek: It’s great, Christopher was vacuuming the couch and lifted up the cushions and found $1.2 billion.
Pyne: It was amazing.
Plibersek: You’re right Lisa, this is the 4th position Christopher's had and it's not delivering what the Government said they would deliver before the election. They said they were on a unity ticket with Labor.
Our proposal was $14.65 billion extra over six years, this is $2.8 billion over 4 years. There's no requirement, we had a requirement, for every $2 put we put in as a Commonwealth Government the States put in an extra $1. Christopher said to the States “It doesn't matter. We'll put in a bit of extra money but if you cut education funding in your own States it doesn't matter”.
And most importantly, the Gonski model said we give most to the kids who need it most and the schools who need it most, and there's no guarantee that what Christopher is proposing gives that money to disadvantaged kids. You look at the report that came out this week, the PISA Report, and it shows that Australia has one of the biggest gaps in learning between the wealthiest kids and the poorest kids anywhere in the world, and that's exactly what the Gonski model was designed to fix. Put the most resources where they're most needed.
Wilkinson: Part of the problem is we saw those figures this week saying that Australia has really fallen behind in its educational standards in this country. We had 6 years of Labor rule. Why didn't things improve during that time?
Plibersek: Well because these are 15-year-old kids. They've had a whole career in the education system.
Pyne: So it's their fault?
Plibersek: No, I'm not saying it's their fault. I'm saying a good education system starts with top quality childcare, it starts with preschool. Any parent will tell you and Christopher I know you’re a parent, that those early years of childhood are the most important learning time. So we've got to invest from the beginning in preschool, making sure that every child gets a year of preschool and making sure that our whole education system from day 1 focuses on lifting the most disadvantaged kids. The kids who start behind the eight ball.
Wilkinson: Last word, Christopher Pyne?
Pyne: Well Lisa, Labor took $1.2 billion out before the election.
Plibersek: That's not true Christopher, you can't keep saying that.
Pyne: I put it back in. Over six years Labor spent $20 billion more on education and they've achieved the worst PISA result in history.
Wilkinson: The trouble is that that $1.2 billion was never on the table, you can't take something out that wasn't on the table?
Pyne: It was in the Budget, it was in the economic statement of the Treasurer’s before the election but it was taken out in the pre-election fiscal outlook. [Plibersek interjects] You had a lovely long run and I didn't interrupt you. It's not all about money, it's about teacher quality and PISA found the one single determinant in Australia about the outcomes for students was not the school they were in but the teacher they were allocated.
Plibersek: And that's why you need the standards that come with Gonski and you don’t guarantee that. And that $1.2 billion dollars, that’s WA, NT and QLD that refused to take the extra money…
Pyne: So you took the money back.
Plibersek: … because they put politics before kids.
Pyne: You put it into consolidated revenue.
Plibersek: That’s just nonsense.
Wilkinson: Ok, I think you two need to take it out the back. In the meantime, thank you very much.
6 DECEMBER 2013
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Acting Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Transcript of interview with Marius Benson
Subjects: Carbon price, Holden, Qantas
Marius Benson: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.
Tanya Plibersek: Hi Marius.
Benson: There’s a fair shopping list of things to get through for Parliament in the last four scheduled sitting days. At the top of the list for the Government is the Carbon Tax, and on the Carbon Tax, the abolition there of. The Government says the people have spoken they don’t want the Carbon Tax, “get out of the way” is the remark directed to you and the Greens. And the Government says “by the way, it doesn’t work anyway, it only reduced emissions by one tenth of one per cent”.
Plibersek: Well one tenth of one per cent is 300,000 tonnes, that’s a lot of pollution taken out of the atmosphere. It is actually more than what was anticipated in its first year of operation. And at the same time as reducing pollution very substantially, we’ve seen around 150,000 new jobs created across the economy. The economy’s continued to grow despite all the claims that the then Opposition, the now Government, made about how this would bring economic destruction. We’ve seen pollution through the national electricity market decrease by seven per cent. We’ve seen renewable power up as a share of our national electricity market by around twenty five per cent. We’ve seen our power from wind triple in the time that we are talking about. More than a million households have got solar panels installed, and this has been a very successful effort to reduce pollution in our atmosphere.
Benson: Nonetheless it is going to go, the Carbon Tax, in July when the Senate numbers change, if not before, why not let it go now?
Plibersek: Well we would support getting rid of a fixed price per tonne on carbon pollution if we had something effective to replace it. What the Government is proposing is getting rid of the Carbon Tax and replacing it with what they like to call “Direct Action”. A program which no serious economist or environmentalist believes will do anything to reduce pollution being pumped into our atmosphere. So if the Government were prepared to keep a market based solution, if they were prepared to replace the fixed price per tonne on carbon pollution with something that was actually going to protect the environment in some way, reduce pollution being pumped into the atmosphere, then we’d be happy to talk. But, at the moment, that’s not the proposal.
Benson: To another issue, which is the future of Holden, or the lack of future for Holden. There are a lot of reports around saying that Detroit has already decided that Holden is going to close here, do you this it can be saved?
Plibersek: Well I think it can be and it must be. We’re talking about 200,000 jobs related to the car industry in Australia, and a million jobs across the manufacturing sector if we keep losing these big important manufacturing sector employers. The car industry in Australia does get Government support, but it does get support at a much lower rate than comparable countries. Per person the United States subsidises its car industry fourteen times per person more than we do, and even the German car industry, which most people would say is considered a very effective one, they subsidise at a rate five times per person higher than Australia does. We invest in the car industry, we get a nine times return on that investment, so for every dollar we put in we get nine dollars back. And you think about those people who are sitting at Holden today wondering whether they are going to have a job after Christmas. It is absolutely unacceptable for the Government to be sitting on its hands saying “we’ll wait for the Productivity Commission Report”. Holden is making this decision now and without some indication from the Government that they believe manufacturing, and in particular car industry manufacturing have a future in Australia, they’ll make a decision to withdraw.
Benson: To another national brand Qantas, which is in doubt at the moment, Chris Bowen at the weekend the Shadow Treasurer said it is too important to fail, is that the Labor position? Qantas is too important to fail and Government money should be put in to buy a share in it?
Plibersek: Well I think most Australians would say that we need a national airline. There’s a very strong attachment by Australian’s to the Qantas brand. Again, we’ve …
Benson: But that’s a sentimental attachment rather than a purchasing attachment, I mean only a small fraction of international travel goes to Qantas now, eighteen per cent.
Plibersek: Well I think most countries, most developed nations, have a national airline, and Qantas has always been an important employer in Australia. We’ve just lost a thousand jobs over the next twelve months, again a very significant effect on those workers and those families. I think it is important to consider how we can back Qantas but that needs to be based on a proposal that they come forward with. We are happy to examine and discuss what they would suggest. It is very important for us, as a first step however, to look at the thousand workers who have just lost their jobs or been told that they’re no longer employed; we need to make sure they get all the support they can get to find new work. We have had packages in the past where we have supported industries in transition and I think the Government should be looking at what they can do to support to get these workers back into employment as quickly as possible.
Benson: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.
Plibersek: It’s a pleasure Marius.
9 DECEMBER 2013
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TODAY SHOW, CHANNEL 9
FRIDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2013
Subject/s: Qantas, NBN, GrainCorp sale, schools’ funding.
Karl Stefanovic: Well joining us now to discuss this [Qantas] and the rest of the week in politics is Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, morning Malcolm.
Malcolm Turnbull: Morning.
Stefanovic: And Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Nice to have you in the studio this time.
Tanya Plibersek: It’s a pleasure.
Stefanovic: And sorry for cutting you off this time. Malcolm, let's start with Qantas. Are you prepared to remove the foreign ownership component cap on the company? Are you prepared to guarantee the debt?
Turnbull: Well these are all matters that are going to be considered. I think everyone's in favour of Qantas remaining very much an Australian company but Alan Joyce has a very good point in this sense, that he is fighting against - his competitors are, for the most part, state-owned airlines that are heavily subsidised one way or another by their governments so Qantas really is battling. And Virgin, its domestic competitor and of course an international competitor too, is largely owned by state-owned airlines. So it is a real battle for Qantas.
Stefanovic: If it is the case that you say the majority of people want to hold onto it as an Australian company, Transport Minister Warren Truss reckons Qantas can't expect to have taxpayers bankroll the debt guarantee so there is divisions even within your own party on where to go.
Turnbull: There's no division at all. I mean Warren's expressed a point of view there but this is something that we will consider as a Cabinet when we hear what Alan Joyce actually is going to put to us. He's had discussions with a number of ministers including Warren including me, including Joe obviously and we'll look at that collectively and come to a decision.
Stefanovic: Tanya, you supported Qantas in general but you stopped short of bankrolling as well?
Plibersek: Well we need to know specifically what the proposal is before we can start commenting. At the moment we've heard a few thought bubbles from what was supposed to be a private meeting from Joe Hockey. But I've got to say, my dad worked for Qantas for 21 years and I'm pretty attached to it as an Australian brand. I think most people, when they get onto a Qantas plane love the feeling of hearing Australian accents, knowing that the maintenance record, because it's done here in Australia is so high. There's a really very strong attachment.
Stefanovic: Would you support if you're able to give a debt guarantee, would you support that in place of equity?
Plibersek: Look, we need –
Stefanovic: Wouldn't that be a reasonable outcome?
Plibersek: We need to see specific proposals. I'm not going to start speculating about what they’re proposing.
Stefanovic: Malcolm, is that something you would support?
Turnbull: These are all things that can be considered but as we all know, as Tanya knows, these are matters that we consider collectively as a Cabinet and we'll have those discussions there.
Stefanovic: And the other side of it is, as Ross Greenwood pointed out before, how long do you keep propping up businesses?
Turnbull: Well, that is a fair point but I think where Joyce is right is that he is competing - his competitors are being very heavily supported by governments. If you look at these Middle Eastern airlines they are, all of them, and there are plenty of others, I'm not just picking on the Middle Eastern ones, but most of these airlines that he competes with have got a lot of support from governments and that is, you know, he is not operating on a level playing field.
Stefanovic: What will happen with Graincorp today?
Turnbull: [laughs]. You should ask the Treasurer.
Stefanovic: I can't at the moment, you're here. You know what's going to happen, what's likely to happen? Are they going to stop that investment?
Turnbull: Karl, it's a matter for the Treasurer and I couldn't tell you.
Stefanovic: It will be interesting to see what happens there. Probably in another hour or so, right? He knows.
Plibersek: He could if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to.
Turnbull: You're so well informed. You should break the story yourself.
Stefanovic: Let's move onto something you do know about, broadband. You've copped it in Fairfax today. You've levelled you out saying the Coalition's plan is poorly planned, unlikely to be completed on time and slashes revenue projections. It's a Malcolm Turnbull carve up, your response?
Turnbull: [laughs] What they've got is they've got a document which was prepared at the Labor Government's request more than 6 months ago by the NBN Co management, Michael Quigley and Ralph Steffens, both of whom have now gone. This document is A) out of date; B) it is defending a failed project. It has no credibility, absolutely none. Fairfax should have actually made it quite clear what the provenance of that document was and the truth is that we will know what is actually going on the NBN very soon because there is a big strategic review under way at the moment, being overseen by the board of the NBN Co, we've got KordaMentha, Boston Consulting Group, Deloittes, a big team in there to find out the real state of the project is at the moment, where it's heading under the old plans, what our options are for doing it sooner, cheaper and more affordably. It’s a very objective study and that will be produced shortly. What Labor is trying to do - they're trying to muddy the waters because they're afraid of the truth and you've seen Stephen Conroy's appalling conduct in the Senate yesterday bullying and harassing witnesses from the department. This is a desperate attempt by Conroy and Labor to avoid the day of reckoning when taxpayers find out how reckless and misconceived this project is.
Stefanovic: Was Stephen Conroy out of line yesterday?
Plibersek: No, I'll tell you what this is. This is the incoming –
Turnbull: You're endorsing what he did yesterday?
Plibersek: This is the incoming government brief. Every department prepares for a new government information about the policies that they're going to have to implement. Malcolm could solve this very quickly by releasing his incoming government brief. Instead -
Turnbull: Can I just correct that Tanya –
Plibersek: - No, no, let me finish.
Turnbull: No, I don’t want to interrupt you –
Plibersek: Malcolm you are interrupting me –
Turnbull: You are making a mistake. It's not the department’s brief. This was prepared by the company, it’s not the departments brief.
Plibersek: For an incoming government.
Turnbull: It was prepared by the company to go to the department and it's not the department's brief. This was a very partisan -
Plibersek: Well why don't you release the department brief?
Turnbull: Because you know -
Plibersek: Why is it a secret document? I released my incoming government brief last time we came into government. Your government’s released none of them. What this is Karl –
Turnbull: This is not the department's brief, it's the company's document.
Plibersek: This is setting up to break another promise. This is a secret document that doesn't need to be secret and it's a set up to break another promise just as has happened with education promise.
Stefanovic: Finally and quickly-
Turnbull: Our promise is to tell the truth about NBN and we’ll honour that, it’s something that your government, your previous government, never did.
Plibersek: You promised to deliver faster, cheaper broadband and this is showing it's going to be slower and worse and won't meet the needs of business or domestic consumers.
Turnbull: It doesn’t show that –
Stefanovic: We've got to finish on one that –
Turnbull: Fairfax has published a totally political document written by a management team that had conspicuously and consistently failed to meet every forecast they ever made.
Plibersek: Well why don’t you release the incoming government’s brief?
Stefanovic: Why didn't you say that after the first question?
Turnbull: I had to get fired up, see.
Stefanovic: He's fired up now. Finally and very quickly, today's meeting of education ministers that promises to be an interesting one. Fly on the wall would be great. NSW Liberal Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says this "There's no doubt that what seems to be happening is that States that signed up to Gonski are being punished –
Plibersek: That’s right.
Stefanovic: And States that didn't sign up are being rewarded". He goes on further and he says, "All of this is immoral."
Plibersek: Yeah it means the kids who need extra –
Turnbull: I think he's jumped the shark, don't you?
Plibersek: I think it shows Karl, the important thing about this is that the kids who need extra funding because they've got poor English language, poor reading skills, disabilities, they've missed out on something, they're going to miss out on funding. Before the election the Liberals said there was no difference between their education policy and ours. We promise $9.4 billion over 6 years. They've taken that down to $1.8 billion. There's a big difference for Australian children.
Stefanovic: Finally Malcolm.
Turnbull: That's not true.
Plibersek: It is true.
Turnbull: We are committed to the same funding envelope as Labor -
Plibersek: That's not right.
Turnbull: Made over the forward estimates -
Plibersek: But not over 6 years.
Turnbull: And we've committed to an additional $230 million for Queensland, NT and WA who didn't sign up to Shorten's various deals and what we are going to do is to develop a fair national and consistent plan, policy because what Labor did –
Stefanovic: Without all the guarantees.
Turnbull: What Labor did in their desperate –
Plibersek: So why then are the Liberal education ministers so opposed to Christopher Pyne's proposal?
Turnbull: Well look Adrian Piccoli obviously thought he cut a pretty good deal.
Plibersek: He did.
Turnbull: And he thinks he got a better deal than anyone else.
Plibersek: NSW kids will miss out on $2 billion. You shouldn't have said you're going to give them the same amount of money if you're not Malcolm. It's a broken promise.
Turnbull: We have made a commitment to keep the funding envelope the same and we're going to have a national and consistent deal across the country.
Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it.
Stefanovic: Alright we’ve run out of time.
Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it. You've broken a promise to kids and parents. It's unforgiveable.
Turnbull: The only person who cut $1 billion, in face he cut $1.2 billion out was Bill Shorten.
Plibersek: No that’s not right.
Turnbull: Chris Bowen admitted that he did yesterday.
Plibersek: That’s not right.
Stefanovic: This is why it’s so good having you two on. We could do three and a half hours of this.
Turnbull: We get along so well.
Stefanovic: Well you do, it’s interesting. It's Fordo's birthday today too.
Turnbull: Happy birthday to him.
Stefanovic: Oh say it with conviction.
Turnbull: How old is he anyway? State secret?
Plibersek: Malcolm is going to sing happy birthday Mr Fordham like happy birthday Mr President. [hums Happy Birthday tune]
Turnbull: I cannot sing a note.
Stefanovic: Oh Tanya can do it.
Plibersek: [Laughs] No I can’t.
Turnbull: Can I tell you something?
Turnbull: If we're in church or somewhere, anywhere where the national anthem is being sung a hymn or whatever, if I'm standing next to Lucy and I start to sing I get this sharp elbow in my ribs. Her view is, and I think she's right, that it's in the public interest that I just move my lips silently.
Stefanovic: Finally, something we all agree on. Thanks, guys.
THE HON. TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
THE HON. CHRIS BOWEN MP
WEDNESDAY, 6 NOVEMBER 2013
SUBJECTS: Joe Hockey’s mini-Budget, superannuation tax slug on lower and middle income earners, Abbott Government priorities, GrainCorp, bilateral relationship with Indonesia, Abbott Government’s culture of secrecy, car industry.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: I just want to start by talking about a couple of things today. In a moment I'll hand over to Chris Bowen to talk about the Liberal Party's tax announcements. The Government's made a number of important announcements today and Chris Bowen will go through the details of those.
Just very briefly on that, I'd like to say how incredible it is that we had a campaign that was so firmly based on debt and deficit and since coming to Government all Joe Hockey has done is super-size the deficit.
I also wanted to make mention of the fact that the announcements that the Government have made today very clearly show their priorities. There's a number of announcements here that hit ordinary families, including the fact that 3.6 million low and middle income workers' superannuation will be reduced to benefit 16,000 of the highest income earners and their superannuation. Coming on top of the 1.3 million families that are missing out on the Schoolkids' Bonus it really does show where the priorities of this Government lie and it does further underline the fact that Australians aren't getting the Tony Abbott they voted for.
When Chris has made his announcements today I will make a few extra comments about our diplomatic relationship with Indonesia.
CHRIS BOWEN: Thank you very much, Tanya. We see two things very starkly today. We see Liberal Party's hypocrisy and we see their values and their priorities - their twisted values and their wrong priorities.
On hypocrisy, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey campaigned on the platform of reducing the budget deficit. Since the election, all they've done is blow the budget deficit. And they have shown us their values and priorities by giving higher income earners a bigger tax break on superannuation while insisting, insisting on scaling back the tax concessions for low and middle income workers. Since the election we've seen Mr Hockey provide a $9 billion grant to the Reserve Bank, which was not asked for, which has a debt impact, an increase in the deficit each year of $350 million.
And today seen him give a tax break to with 16,000 very high income earners with more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts to provide a watering down of Labor's measures to improve the tax integrity of our largest businesses and at the same time we see the Government insisting on scaling back tax concessions for Australia's hard working small businesses, taking away previous tax concessions that the previous Government gave Australia's small businesses.
They are attacking 3.6 million low and middle income earners by refusing to proceed with Labor's tax concessions. This Government fundamentally doesn't understand, fundamentally does not get that it's unfair for Australia's low and middle income earners to receive effectively zero tax concession on superannuation when Australia's high income earners get substantial tax concessions for superannuation. They just don't get the unfairness of that. And they're scaling back of our tax concessions for low and middle income earners is a slap in the face to Australia's hard-working, low and middle income families - to shop assistants, to cleaners, services indeed to our essential services workers right across Australia - that this Government thinks they don't deserve a superannuation tax concession at the same time as this Government is deliberately giving more tax concessions to those people with $2 million or more in their superannuation accounts.
Now we saw Mr Hockey again today say that the budget since the situation had deteriorated since the election and we see him today announce a raft of measures with a huge impact on the Budget. Mr Hockey has no excuse. He must release the mid-year economic forecast. He should not wait until just before Christmas. There is it nothing stopping him releasing it now. It's been released by now in other years - it should be released now. And make no mistake, that with these changes that Mr Hockey's made, that this Government's made with a $9 billion grant, with the tax changes made today, MYEFO would be Mr Hockey's mini-budget.
He can't hide behind and create excuses that it's not his fault. He's the Treasurer of Australia, he must take responsibility for his own decisions and he must update the Australian people on state of the budget which he refuses to do. He refuses to provide the update. He said before it would be done January – he briefed out and leaked it would be done in January. We've shamed them in to agreeing to do Christmas but it should be done now.
I just want to cover one other matter before I hand back to Tanya.
We saw on the weekend the extraordinary spectacle of the Deputy Prime Minister of trying to publicly bounce the Treasurer into making a decision on GrainCorp to knock back foreign investment. We see the Government at war with itself on this issue and today we saw the even more spectacular statement by Treasurer Hockey that he would not be bullied into this decision. I think there's only one conclusion to make out of that comment; he feels he's being bullied by the Deputy Prime Minister, or perhaps it's by the Agriculture Minister, Mr Joyce.
We clearly have a Government at war with itself on this issue. For the Deputy Prime Minister to try to publicly shame the Treasurer into a decision and for the Treasurer to publicly respond in a press conference by saying that he won't be bullied, shows these deep divisions.
The Treasurer has an obligation to explain to the Australian people the benefits of foreign investment in the agriculture sector and in the economy more broadly and if he were to knock back this foreign investment decision he would need to have very good reasons indeed. But I call on the Treasurer to show leadership and to not hide behind claims of being bullied by his Cabinet colleagues and to make the right decision in the national interest.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Thanks very much, Chris. I want to make a few additional comments about Australia's diplomatic relationship with Indonesia. Not, of course, on any security matters or intelligence matters - there's long-standing convention that we don't comment on those issues. What's at stake here, however, is our very long and strong and close relationship with Indonesia.
Indonesia is an important neighbour. It's been partner an important friend and trading partner and Labor in Government worked very closely with Indonesia to strengthen that relationship. Recently, however, that relationship has soured and unfortunately it's not difficult to understand why.
As Greg Sheridan pointed out this morning, Indonesia's Foreign Minister seems to be taking too much pleasure at having a go at us lately. Despite claiming before the election that their foreign policy would be more Jakarta and less Geneva, there's been a series of missteps by the incoming Government that have affected our relationship with Indonesia. Before the election the Liberals made claims about policies how their asylum seeker policies would operate within Indonesian territory without discussing those plans with Indonesia.
Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop failed to talk to Indonesia about the Liberal's turn back the boats or buy back the boats policies leading the Indonesian Foreign Minister to describe them as unilateral and worrying plans. The Indonesian Foreign Minister warned Julie Bishop in New York that Indonesia cannot accept any Australian policy that would in nature violate Indonesian sovereignty. That was his exact quote.
Of course in response to that Tony Abbott made much of his first visit to Indonesia, however, it really didn't go very well. He locked Indonesian journalists out of a press conference and the suggestion by the Indonesian journalists union at the time was that that might have contravened Indonesian law. Of course it went down very poorly. Tony Abbott was forced during that visit to spend much of his time apologising for the things that he had said before the election and the policies that he'd announced with no consultation and of course he came back empty-handed on both his turn back the boats and buy back the boats policies.
The diplomatic relationship which Labor handed to the incoming government was in fine working order but in a very short time Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop have managed to run it into the ground. The current difficulties in the relationship are of course, magnified by the poor footing that this relationship is built on. And the fact is that Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott insulted the Indonesians on more than one occasion. I wrote very recently to suggest that she should visit Indonesia immediately to repair this damaged relationship. I note that indeed she will arrive in Indonesia today. So the test for the new Foreign Minister is to restore the good will in our relationship with our near neighbour because anything less undermines the mutual cooperation we have with Indonesia and the stability that that brings to our region.
Thanks. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Foreign Minister has the character to deal with this?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to make personal comments about other Members of Parliament. What I would say about our relationship with Indonesia is that it is one of our most important. It's been built on over a long period of time by successive governments; it was handed to the incoming Government in very good working order. There was a very close rapport between Bob Carr, for example, as our Foreign Minister and Marty Natalegawa as the Indonesian Foreign Minister and it's absolutely now imperative that Julie Bishop now go to retrieve the relationship that these loose comments over time have led to.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Indonesia's Foreign Minister sees this as a form of payback given Mr Abbott's posturing on boats before the election?
PLIBERSEK: Again, I'm not going to speculate on the motivations of the Indonesian Foreign Minister. What's of interest to us is our Indonesia relationship as a nation with Indonesia as a nation. What I can say is that the relationship has been good, strong and deep for many years and in recent months has deteriorated very substantially because of a number of missteps taken by Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott before the election and unfortunately also since the election.
JOURNALIST: So is there one specific thing the Minister could do to start to repair the relationship?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's very important that she has gone to Indonesia now. I'm pleased to see that she went to Indonesia. I think she needs meet obviously with the Foreign Minister and any other senior Indonesian officials and listen to their concerns. The fact the Indonesian Foreign Minister repudiated Australian Government policy in New York was troubling at the time. There's obviously a fractured relationship there, the relationship is strained and it's very important that the Australian Foreign Minister listen to the concerns of the Indonesians.
JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, the profit shifting crackdown that was abandoned by Joe Hockey, I think he said it was unrealisable, what do you say to that?
BOWEN: I think the measures that he announced today will save $1.1 billion compared to the $1.8 billion that they would have saved in the way the previous government was implementing them.
Now we saw Mr Hockey a few weeks ago beating his chest saying tax minimization crackdowns will watered be the hallmark of his chairmanship of the G20 Finance Ministers. Now he’s watered down based on advice from the previous Government. Advice from the various economic agencies that the Government has available to it, most notably the Treasury and the tax office, that this was a workable way of reducing tax minimization. So, it's up to him to justify this significant amount of revenue that would have been saved and how he can close the ring on that with his rhetoric as the incoming Chairman of the G20 Finance Ministers, and the G20 Finance Ministers have made exactly these sorts of measures and agreeing on them across international borders, one of the key priorities for the next 12 months.
JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, who owns these billions of dollars of tax hikes coming Australia's way, are they Labor’s or the Coalition’s?
BOWEN: The Treasurer is the Treasurer of Australia and he can take decisions and responsibility for the decisions he's announced today.
JOURNALIST: So if you're going to criticise him how can you given some of these were apparently Labor's ideas?
BOWEN: Well let's be clear, we announced a whole range of measures. Now Mr Hockey has today scrapped some of those measures, like he scrapped the improving of the tax integrity around high income earners’ superannuation. He's got to take responsibility for that. He's got to explain why his priority is to give a tax break to people with $2 million in their superannuation accounts at the same time he's cracking down on Australia's low and middle income earners and taking away the only tax concession they get, the only tax concession they get for their superannuation which Mr Hockey seems to think is appropriate that they don't get any.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that doctors could rort the self-education arrangements to travel to conferences and education events?
BOWEN: I'm not going to talk about doctors in particular but I will say this, this was a measure designed again, to improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system. When I was Treasurer delayed this measure by a year to enable better consultation to ensure that it was properly targeted, to ensure it is cracking down on claimed self-education expenses which are over and above that which could be properly justified. I would include in that expensive overseas conferences which may have some educational element to them but which clearly also have other side benefits from the individual undertaking them. That I think is appropriate. Again Mr Hockey, again with this so-called ‘budget emergency; he thinks it's somehow okay to leave all that in place - Yeah, sure, go overseas as much as you like, claim as much money as you like, and claim it as self- education and we're at going to do anything about it at all. That underlines again his warped priorities and his incorrect prioritisation of the tax changes needed in Australia.
BOWEN: That's a matter for Mr McTernan. Each individual case should be looked at on its merits. As I say, if someone is going overseas, not using Australian education institutions, but going on it expensive conferences, claiming it as a government would be entitled to look very closely at that to take necessary and prudent steps to tighten that in the interest of fairness.
JOURNALIST: Why do there seem to be so many tax measures announced under your government that were not actually legislated?
BOWEN: That's pretty standard. I notice Mr Hockey said today one of these measures were announced in 2001. Yes, who was the Treasurer in 2001 and the Treasurer for the next 6 years and didn't implement that tax change? I think we all know the answer to that question.
JOURNALIST: There was some commentary today, particularly with the self-education cap, that its axing was a win for common sense and Joe Hockey was saying it actually helped further themselves. Do you make much of that argument?
BOWEN: Look, we all good agree that self-education is a good thing, that people trying to improve their and their productivity and their saleability in the labour market is a good thing for them and a good thing for the nation, there's no argument there. But it's a matter of ensuring that it's targeted at those people who do need do the tax concession to undertake their self-improvement, their education courses and not providing a wind-fall benefit for those who are in the position, and there's only a certain group of people who are in the position, where they're able to afford international courses and international travel at very considerable expense and then to claim that as a tax concession.
We're not talking about going down to the local TAFE and doing a course there, we're talking about very expensive international travel which some people have been claiming as a self-education expense.
JOURNALIST: They’ve given themselves another few weeks to look at some of these tax initiatives they haven’t made a decision on, I’m not sure which ones they are. Do you have any views about what should happen there
BOWEN: It should be dealt with on a case by case basis. A couple of weeks of consultation I think is not necessarily ideal but that's a matter for the Assistant Treasurer to ensure the consultation is proper.
JOURNALIST: Is leaving 62 options up in the air, is this adding to the uncertainty of the business community?
BOWEN: I think that can be overblown. I think the business community certainly wasn't banging my door down to say we need these legislated or not legislated. I think a couple of weeks of consultation if that’s the way the Assistant Treasurer wants to do it, I’ll be very critical of many of the things they have announced today, but I’m not going to criticise a couple of weeks of consultation.
JOURNALIST: You'd like the midyear economic outlook out before that?
BOWEN: Absolutely. There's no excuse for not releasing the mid-year economic outlook it now. I mean this is our Treasurer who wants us to approve an increase in the debt cap of 67% to half a trillion dollars but is not going to release the economic forecast to back that up. This is a Treasurer who wants to give $9 billion to the Reserve Bank but is not going to release the mid-year economic outlook. This is a Treasurer who says there's been a further deterioration since the election in the time that he's been Treasurer but I'm not going to tell you how much and I'm not going to outline the figures. So the culture of secrecy which encounters so much of this Government is well and truly at place in the Treasury.
JOURNALIST: Will you be campaigning for a Fringe Benefits Tax on cars over the next three years?
BOWEN: Well the next election is three years away and we will be developing our policy. On the Fringe Benefits Tax let me say this. I saw Mr Hockey in a moment of Orwellian hutzpah say that the car industry is open for business. Well that will come as a bit of a surprise to the workers at Holden and Toyota who are waiting day by day to find out if they have a job because of this Government's refusal to give the car industry the necessary assurances it needs because of the Government’s insistence on ripping away half a billion dollars from the car industry.
So we're not going to be lectured by Mr Hockey about the car industry. He's in no position to do that. In relation to the integrity of the budget we said it was fair enough that if people are claiming tax deduction on the basis that they're using their car for work purposes that it would not provide be unreasonable for them to provide some evidence, some evidence that that's the case. Now, what policy we take to the between next election we'll announce between now and the next election.
JOURNALIST: If the Foreign Minister were to come back from Indonesia and the Indonesian President of Foreign Minister were to make remarks that they've been making over the last couple of months, does that leave us, our kind of relationship in dire straits?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the relationship is seriously fractured, or we wouldn’t have seen the level of response we've seen from Indonesia over the last few days, I think the test for come Julie Bishop, if she doesn't come back from Indonesia with the obvious good will of the Indonesian Government behind her you would have to judge very harshly the series of the steps that have occurred over the last few months that have led us to this position.
We handed over a relationship that and was in very good working order and now we've got the Australian Foreign Minster having to fly to Indonesia and to explain herself and apologise. It really has deteriorated to a great extent that we're in this situation at the moment.
JOURNALIST: The substance of the allegations, would Indonesia know that Australia has an ASIS station in Jakarta?
PLIBERSEK: We have never commented on intelligence matters and I'm not going to start doing that now.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 8 NOVEMBER 2013
Tanya Plibersek: Australians aren’t getting the Tony Abbott they voted for, in recent days we’ve seen the lie of the budget emergency scare campaign that was used before the election with the government almost doubling the debt ceiling and adding 50 per cent to the deficit in the few months they have been in office. We’ve seen also a range of other areas where Tony Abbott said one thing before the election and another thing after the election. In particular I want to talk today about the fact that Tony Abbott has taken an axe to the CSIRO and a number of other expert advisory groups. It looks like the CSIRO could lose up to a quarter of its staff. The CSIRO is the preeminent scientific organisation in Australia. It’s internationally recognised for the terrific research it produces and now it’s under threat. Before the election Tony Abbott said he would not touch health and medical research. He said, even since the election, science is absolutely critical to progress and scientists are the explorers and adventures of the modern age. We are lucky here in Australia that our scientists are the best in the world. He said I’m pleased to pledge the incoming government will continue to support science to the fullest extent possible. What’s changed in a week? I’d like to know.
First of all, Tony Abbott refused to appoint a minister for science that rang alarm bells for people in the scientific community. Now we see these huge cuts to CSIRO because of the reductions in public service mean up to a quarter of their staff may lose their jobs. That will impact scientific research in Australia. I also want to talk about the expert advisory groups Tony Abbott has announced he wants to disband today. Again, this is an example of saying one thing before an election, and doing something completely different after an election. Take the housing supply council for example. Tony Abbott said before the election he was concerned about the cost of living for families. Well housing affordability is one of the biggest impacts for ordinary families.
The housing supply council has done excellent work since it was established reporting on how we can increase housing supply. It has experts on it from the building industry, from finance, academics and others looking at how we can boost housing supply and consequently improve housing affordability in Australia. Many Liberals like Kevin Andrews, Marise Payne and others have used the work of the housing supply council to make comments on housing affordability and housing supply and yet on the same day we have a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare about housing affordability and the stress it is placing on families we get rid of the very body that is being used by local government, by state governments, by industry itself to help boost housing supply. There are a number of other expert bodies as well, the expert body on firearms. Right here in New South Wales and in other parts of Australia too, we have significant problems with gun crime right now and the Abbott Government getting rid of the expert body that was set up, coming out of moves from John Howard to restrict firearms, to help us control firearms in Australia.
We’ve got an expert advisory group on ageing. Today we read in the papers that Australians might live to an average of 100 years and the body set up to help encourage active ageing is being disbanded by this Government. You see a pattern of saying one thing before the election and doing something completely different after the election. But you also see an even more worrying trend which is ignoring the advice of people who are expert in their field, who are working in the field day to day.
I want to talk for a minute about what is happening in climate change as well. We hear today that Australia will not send a minister to the talks in Warsaw. This is extremely concerning; I think one commentator said today if you’re not at the table in these discussions, you’re on the menu. I think that is extraordinary that neither the climate change minister Greg Hunt nor the minister for foreign affairs who has taken over responsibility for climate change negotiations will be going. It is usual at these discussions to have at least ministerial representation, if not prime ministerial representation. The only possible explanation for this absence of Australia from the table is that we don’t take climate change seriously. I think that Tony Abbott knows, Julie Bishop knows, Greg Hunt knows that we would be laughed off the international stage because we are the only country that is going backwards when it comes to controlling pollution. This is a further indication to the international community that this new government does not take climate change seriously, that they are not interested in the economic or environmental consequences of climate change and they are not interested in putting a global cap on pollution and working to limit the effects of climate change.
The other thing worth mentioning when it comes to climate change is of course the pricing impact. Joe Hockey has been claiming for some time now prices will fall if the carbon tax is repealed. We hear now from experts in industry, in business, in energy production that prices are not likely to fall. So what we’ll have is a dangerous lemon of a policy from the Government, we won’t see prices fall, we won’t see pollution fall, the only falls we see are in the production of renewable energy and the jobs that go with the clean new energy industries.
Finally, I think it’s worth saying when you look at the attacks on expert advice and the way the Government is sticking its head in the sand on climate change in contrast with the way they have found $360 million to provide superannuation benefits for high income earners, you get a schizophrenic approach to what the most important issues are facing Australia today. I think if the Government continues to go down this path we’ll be able to save a whole lot more money, we’ll just get rid of all expert advice and Wikipedia everything like Greg Hunt did when it came to climate change. Any questions?
Journalists: Just in regards to the CSIRO, the CSIRO said only 300 jobs have gone, are certainly not the number reported this morning, is that a bit more of a relief?
Plibersek: Well I think any jobs losses at the CSIRO are a concern, it’s always important that organisations are as efficient as they can be, but the CSIRO like most government organisations has been facing quite regular reviews of its capacity, capabilities and its efficiency. 300 jobs is a lot of jobs, I’ve seen 550 reported, I’ve seen one in four reported, this is all speculation. What we know is there is a cap on hiring and renewing contracts and a large number of CSIRO staff are on contracts of two years or four years, of course they feel their employment is threatened and the top quality research that they produce is consequently threatened and this is, I’ve got to say, in absolute contrast to what the Prime Minister said before he was elected which was that he was a supporter of science and health and medical research.
Plibersek: Look, I can’t answer what type of research will be hit hardest but anyone of the hundreds and thousands of Australians, for example who used the CSIRO wellbeing diet, knows the research the CSIRO produces is really important in our day to day living in Australia. It has real impact on ordinary Australians, the choices they make, the decisions they make. But the other thing the CSIRO does is not just that very day to day applied research, they also do some very important basic research, the sort of research that underpins industry development here in Australia, the sort of research that underpins major scientific discoveries right across all the areas of science in Australia.
Journalist: Isn’t it actually true there has been no cut in funding by the Government, they have just said there will be a hiring freeze in place and they will be no cut in funding at all?
Plibersek: Well, they have said they are sacking 12,000 public servants, it seems like a large number will be coming from the CSIRO. When they sack those public servants that is a saving to the Government, that’s why they are doing it. So it’s not clear how much of the burden of that the CSIRO will bear but we hear they will bear a particularly large proportion of the burden because they have so many staff on contract.
Journalist: Isn’t it true that a large part of funding for CSIRO comes from external sources and has been dropping for some time?
Plibersek: It’s very important that the CSIRO partner with industry. That’s why I say that they are one of the best organisations in the world for applied research, research that transforms the everyday lives of Australians and partnership with industry is an important part of that. There is no criticism of that, it’s a good thing. What we can’t do is loose the experienced researchers employed at the CSIRO for short-term savings in staffing costs.
Plibersek: I think the fact this Government has added 50 per cent to the deficit including measures like giving $9 billion to the Reserve Bank of Australia they didn’t need nor want, shows the nonsense of this argument that deep cuts are necessary. The Government’s able to find $360 million to give 16,000 high income earners a superannuation tax break, they can afford to fund science properly too.
Journalist: Channel 10 last night aired some pretty severe allegations regards to a navy ship and abuse on that ship, how concerning are those reports form a Labor point of view?
Plibersek: Of course any report of any abuse or assault on any naval vessel is something that must be absolutely thoroughly investigated. We of course support a thorough investigation of all the allegations but I won’t comment on the details until the investigation is complete.
Plibersek: I’m not going to comment on allegations until there has been a proper investigation. What I will say is in the past when these instances have been alleged and subsequently been proved, I think it’s been very important Navy has taken them seriously; they have taken them seriously in recent years. I think there is culture change in the Navy because of the increasing openness and encouragement to people to report allegations of abuse, but on these specific allegations I won’t comment any further because it is important to have a proper investigation take place.
Plibersek: Well I’d say Peter Varghese is an extraordinarily talented and highly regarded bureaucrat but it is extraordinary that we should have a head of a department explaining Australia’s relationship with Indonesia rather than the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is the job of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to manage that relationship, she’s in Indonesia at the moment, she should be the one who is accountable for the decline in diplomatic relationships with Indonesia and she should be the one explaining the steps she has taken to repair that rift.
Plibersek: I would say it’s a relationship that Labor handed over in fine working order that in just a few months has come under strain. I’ve said over the last few days that is very important that the Minister for Foreign Affairs seeks to rebuild that relationship. Indonesia is an important trading partner for us, an important security partner, our good relationship with Indonesia is good for us, good for Indonesia and good for our region buts it’s a relationship that’s not at its best today.
Journalist: Why do you think that is the case? Is that because if the way the boat issue has been handled? What do you see as the cause of the problem?
Plibersek: Look I think there have been a number of missteps by the incoming government. They started before the election with announcements made about what the Australian government would do in Indonesian waters and on Indonesia soil that were not discussed with the Indonesians. They were compounded when the Prime Minister went there for his first trip and excluded Indonesian journalists from his press conference. I think that it’s very clear there have been a number of missteps that have put the relationship under strain and that it’s a relationship that’s imperative the Foreign Minister now re-build and account to the Australian people for those missteps and how she will repair the relationship.
Journalist: Qantas has let go 300 workers today closing their Avalon operations. Do you think the Abbott Government should have stepped up to offer assistance?
Plibersek: Well I think it’s terrible, a tragedy when any Australian worker loses their job and particularly when you see the closing of a major workplace like this. I think the important thing today is to focus on the needs of those workers and their families, for the Government to work closely with Qantas to ensure that as many workers are transferred to other jobs as possible and provide assistance to those who can’t be transferred to find new employment quickly. I think the focus for today has to be on supporting those workers and their families find ongoing employment as quickly as possible. Thanks everyone.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
SATURDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2013
Subjects: WA Labor; WA Government an insight into Abbott Government cuts; Australian journalists detained in Sri Lanka; Indonesia spy claims; Emissions Trading Scheme; WA missing ballot papers.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: It’s a great pleasure to be here today with Mark McGowan and my friends in the West Australian Labor Party at their annual conference. This annual conference is an opportunity for Western Australian delegates to talk about their plans for the future, but also to make sure that Colin Barnett is held to account here in the West.
We were talking earlier today about a series of broken promises made by the State Government, and I was saying in fact this was a prelude, an insight, into what it’s going to be like with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.
We’re already seeing in Canberra, Australians didn't get the Tony Abbott they voted for at the last election. Tony Abbott said for example that the commission of cuts would not affect health and education. Just days into the Government we know that health and education are also on the chopping block. Tony Abbott said during the election campaign that he was concerned about cost of living, but he’s already legislating to take the SchoolKids Bonus away from Australian families. That’s $1,200 a year taken away from an ordinary Australian family.
We see a pattern here, where Liberal governments say one thing before an election and do another once they’re elected. They say very little that’s controversial before the election and then after the election they take out the big scissors, they go after the cuts that will hurt Australian families the most.
JOURNALIST: Indonesia has reacted angrily to allegations that Australia is [inaudible] Jakarta to spy on the country. What do you think this has done to our relationship with Indonesia?
PLIBERSEK: It’s a very long-term tradition that neither governments nor oppositions comment on matters of national security, and of course I will be abiding by that tradition.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of news that Australian journalists have been detained in Sri Lanka? Are you concerned by that especially given the [inaudible]
PLIBERSEK: I did speak to the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance yesterday about two of their members that were questioned in Sri Lanka. I’m delighted to hear, I heard yesterday afternoon that they were released after questioning and were making their way home to Australia.
JOURNALIST: Louise Pratt is facing an anxious wait. What do you think her chances are and will Labor lodge an appeal if she’s not successful?
PLIBERSEK: First things first, we’ll allow the Australian Electoral Commission to make a determination about the best course of action. The Australian Electoral Commission has acknowledged that an error has been made, a very serious error. But we know that the Australian Electoral Commission is in fact one of the best and most trusted electoral commissions in the world, so we’ll wait for them to make their comments.
JOURNALIST: Do you think though that an appeal [inaudible]
PLIBERSEK: I don't think we should get into hypotheticals. I think we need to find out for certain what the Australian Electoral Commission believes is the best course of action and we’ll consider that course of action once they’ve made their statement.
PLIBERSEK: I think this is a highly unusual one-off incident. I think it’s decades, indeed I think the last time we had anything like this was 1906 is what I've been told. I don't think we should get carried away with the idea that this being something that happens frequently. This is a highly, highly unusual set of circumstances. I’m sure that the Australian Electoral Commission are taking it very seriously indeed and we’ll wait to hear what their proposed course of action is.
JOURNALIST: So your not critical at all of the handling of it?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s a terrible thing that these ballot papers have been lost. What I would say is that it is highly unusual in the Australian system that anything like this should happen.
JOURNALIST: It might be unusual but it’s also costly. They’re estimating if we go to another election it might cost effectively $11 million.
PLIBERSEK: Indeed. It's a disappointing outcome. I think that voters will be disappointed, I think there’s a bit of exhaustion really in the West. The number of times that people have had to go to the polls here recently over the last few years. But I just would caution against imagining that this is something that is common or happens all the time. We need to take a sober and sensible approach to what happens next.
PLIBERSEK: I think it’s fine to examine different ways of making sure our system is strengthened, we can do that all the time, there’s no objection to seeing if there are more efficient ways that we can conduct ballots. I just want to remind people and caution them that Australia has one of the best and strongest electoral systems in the world and this is a highly unusual set of circumstances. We can’t extrapolate from this.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott has said that he will scrap the carbon tax, you've said you wont support it unless there is an emissions trading scheme. Why do you continue to stand by that?
PLIBERSEK: Because the vast majority of scientists internationally say that climate change is happening, that it is caused by carbon pollution in our atmosphere and that if we don't reduce carbon pollution, if we don't reduce the pollution that we’re pumping into our atmosphere that the consequences, both to our economy and our environment will be serious in years to come. In 2007, John Howard went to the election with an emissions trading scheme proposed. Both the Liberal and Labor party in 2007 went to that election with an ETS. 2010, Labor also went to the election with an emissions trading scheme, 2013 Labor went to the election with an emission trading scheme. It’s been our long-held view that the bulk of the science is supportive of taking action to reduce cabon pollution. Scientists around the world are saying we must act to protect our environment and to protect our economy, because the economic consequences of climate change are also extremely serious.
We say that we must act, and indeed Tony Abbott also says that we must act; but he’s proposing a system where you take tax-payer dollars and give them to big polluters. And we’re proposing a system where you take tax-payer dollars from big polluters and invest that in helping ordinary Australians cope with climate change - that’s the difference.
JOURNALIST: State Labor MPs say that they feel a bit snubbed by the federal turn-out at this conference, does Federal Labor value the West?
PLIBERSEK: I’m the Acting Leader, so I’m here today, and I was here last night at the conference functions as well. I’d say I’m delighted to be here. Thanks.