TRANSCRIPT - Insiders, Sunday 31 August 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq, Ukraine.

BARRIE CASSIDY, PRESENTER: Now to the program guest and this morning it's the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning.


CASSIDY: Very well. Labor's view about the Australian Air Force dropping guns and ammunition over Iraq. How do you feel about that?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's pretty clear that the anti- IS forces in northern Iraq including the Peshmerga and others have been really the only effective fighting force stopping IS at the moment. And we've both supported the humanitarian effort until now to protect civilian populations that have been under attack. I think that the next step of ensuring that the Peshmerga and other anti- IS forces are able to continue to fight back IS is a logical next step.

CASSIDY: So you would see it as an important role and with minimal risk?

PLIBERSEK: Of course any activity like this has risk. And we believe our Australian defence personnel are some of the best trained and best equipped in the world. But of course any mission like this has some risk. Nothing can be without risk in the incredibly violent circumstances that you are talking about. We don't know all of the weapons that IS have on hand but they've been capturing weapons as part of their advance through Iraq, they have been capturing weapons along the way. There's some reports that they have been supplied by other nations as well. So you can't count on the fact that they won't fight back. But the Peshmerga and those other forces in northern Iraq are the only effective barrier to IS slaughtering civilian populations as they advance through northern Iraq. So I don't really see what alternative the international community has. There are a few things that are important here. In 2003, the United States and Australia and a few others went into Iraq without international support and without the support of the majority of the Iraqi population. The difference here is you've got the newly forming Iraqi Government speaking with the international community. You've got an imminent humanitarian disaster. We have seen already that IS are prepared to commit genocide if they can. So you do have a responsibility to protect, from the international community and you've got a United States administration that are taking a much more methodical and much more internationally inclusive approach.

CASSIDY: You talk about this being a worthy next step. What about the step after that? What if they were to introduce Super Hornets? Would you be equally embracing of that?

PLIBERSEK: We would have to have a lot more information about that next step, if there is to be a next step. We would have to discuss that also within our Shadow National Security Committee and Shadow Cabinet.

CASSIDY: Are they drawing you into the conversation up until now? Did you know about these – that we're about to drop guns and ammunition?

PLIBERSEK: I am not going to discuss the briefings we have had from the Government. What I would say is we’ve been very supportive of the humanitarian effort until now. And where you have an effective or reasonably effective fighting force on the ground being the only thing standing between IS and civilian populations that are at risk of genocide or ethnic cleansing, then there is an international responsibility to assist those people to hold back IS.

CASSIDY: The Greens are demanding parliamentary debates before any decision is taken to introduce the fighters, the hornets. Do you think that is the way to go?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think that it's clear that 2003 was a disaster and most Australians remember 2003 as a disaster and they remember the fact that the Howard Government, many of whom are obviously still part of the new Abbott Government, didn't consult the Australian community at that time. I think that we are - I think it's important to have a national discussion but I would also say that we're at a very different - we're in a very different environment today. We have a US administration that is cautious about involvement. They're saying, President Obama is saying very clearly that he is not keen to put formed combat brigades back on the ground. There is no - there are some people in the United States who are urging him to go further but it seems very clear that President Obama is not keen on the idea of having large numbers of American troops back in Iraq. And I think the discussion that we are having in Australia is very much informed by the disaster that was the 2003 invasion. We do have a responsibility to protect civilian populations from potential genocide and ethnic cleansing. If we have the ability to support Iraqi forces to do that, then I think that is a worthwhile thing to do. But, beyond that, we would have to have more detailed discussion.

CASSIDY: You're saying because of the limited nature of the involvement at this stage you don't think it demands a parliamentary debate before decisions are taken.

PLIBERSEK: There is nothing stopping the Greens or anyone in the Parliament having a discussion about these issues. There are plenty of forums of the Parliament where they can publicly air the concerns that they have. I am just cautioning about the idea that this is just like 2003. There are a great number of differences including the - I mean, people will remember how enthusiastic the Bush administration was and the Blair administration and our own administration were about the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I don't think that there is that tone in our national debate at the moment. But there is an imminent humanitarian disaster. Gareth Evans actually has written a great deal about the proper circumstances to consider when you are thinking about a military intervention for a humanitarian basis. And that includes things like is there a potential genocide or genocide imminent? Is this the only reason for the military intervention? There is no ulterior motive. Is it a proportionate response? Does it have a likelihood of success, does it have international backing or international approval? They are all the sort of issues we should be considering. There is a great deal as I say written about this already in the international community. We can have a sensible debate about it.

CASSIDY: And have you disabused those in your party who feel this is all over-hyped and this is a Government trying to cover for its domestic problems?

PLIBERSEK: This is clearly a very serious international issue. There are domestic considerations, the fact that Khaled Sharrouf was allowed out of Australia and indeed took his family overseas to participate in such brutal fighting is of concern to all Australians. So there are - there is an international problem. There are domestic implications for it. That is a separate issue from the fact that this Government a year into its administration is not handling its domestic responsibilities well. It's the most unpopular Budget in 40 years, it's a Budget that takes Australia down a path of unfairness that Australians are rejecting. We can have both of those conversations at the same time.

CASSIDY: Just on Ukraine, does Labor share Tony Abbott's definition of the events there as a Russian invasion?

PLIBERSEK: I don't think the words we use are as important as the fact that there are thousands of Russian troops inside the borders of Ukraine now. The only people who seem not to be prepared to accept that are the Russians themselves. There is satellite imagery, there's NATO presenting evidence to the Russians. Russian-backed separatists fighters themselves are talking about the thousands of Russian troops that they're fighting alongside. We know that the Russians have supported financially and militarily this separatist movement. It seems that they have deliberately opened a third front in the fighting. I would say that the surge in Russian troop numbers cannot be separated from the fact that the United States is preoccupied and focussed on the threat of IS in Iraq and the Russians are using this as an opportunity to push forward their advantage. It is a serious issue. And it does deserve international attention and sanction of President Putin who I think is not only behaving aggressively he is being dishonest to boot.

CASSIDY: But you suggest or Labor has been urging Tony Abbott to push harder for Vladimir Putin to be banned from the G20 but it seems their lobbying has been well out in front of you on that score.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's very important that the international community show President Putin there are consequences to this sort of aggressive behaviour. There's some Russians indeed who are arguing that he shouldn't have been invited to France earlier in the year in June for D-day commemorations. I think there's an acceptance that economic sanctions, particularly sanctions that relate to military or strategic issues are a very important next step. But there do have to be consequences to this sort of aggression. This is the only forcible - the annexation of Crimea is the only forcible annexation of land since the Second World War. It is not acceptable for this to be the approach of Russia and particularly for as I suggested for them to try and make advances while the world community is focussed on the brutality of ISIS in northern Iraq and in Syria as well.

CASSIDY: Finally the United States Ambassador John Berry said this of Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister, this week that she is in the top tier of the most effective and capable Foreign Ministers in the world. She's impressive in every way. That is very high praise.

PLIBERSEK: And John Berry is a terrific diplomat.

CASSIDY: He said that she's had an amazing debut on the world stage and she's taken the world by storm. That seems to go beyond diplomacy.

PLIBERSEK: All I can say is he is a very enthusiastic man and a very good diplomat.

CASSIDY: Thank you for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - RN Breakfast, Thursday 28 August 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq; national security legislation; Indonesia.   


FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is Labor’s Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Parliament House studios. Tanya Plibersek welcome back to Breakfast.


KELLY: According to the Minister David Johnson, Australian forces are in “a high state of readiness”, that’s a quote. So it would seem that once again Australian forces are inching closer to a military commitment in Iraq. What is the Government considering? Have you been briefed on this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no, we have requested a briefing from the Government that so far, that request hasn't been granted so far. What I would say Fran is that we have to be very, very cautious when we’re talking about potential military involvement. Labor has been very supportive of humanitarian assistance in northern Iraq. It is plain that IS are on a genocidal campaign against ethnic minorities and religious minorities in Iraq. In fact, against anyone who doesn't agree with them. That's also true of Syria, the most recent United Nations reports about what's happening in Syria are also shocking. So we support humanitarian assistance in Iraq. We also support greater humanitarian effort in Syria. The United Nations has requested international assistance. They launched a fund hoping to collect around $6 billion for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts and I think the Abbott Government so far has contributed $12 million to that. So we would say we can help more, although of course the way we help in northern Iraq and the way we help Syria would be quite different.

KELLY: I also guess the definition of humanitarian assistance can be as broad or as narrow as you want it to be. The Defence Minister has said if asked it would be "the right thing to do to assist the new Iraqi government". Is it as clear cut as that in your view, that if the Iraqi Government does ask, it is the right thing for Australia to do to participate more fully militarily?

PLIBERSEK: Well we'd have to get a lot more information about what's being requested of us. I think it’s very clear that if there is a potential genocide, the international community has a responsibility to protect. It does look as though there are potential genocides in northern Iraq and certainly, a genocidal campaign both in Syria and Iraq. But the type of any action that Australia might take - I think that is something that we need to be very thoughtful and very calm about. The war in 2003 was not just damaging for Australia, for the United States, for all of the countries that were involved, I think it's been very damaging for Iraq as well. We need to be very cautious and not do more harm than good.

KELLY: Talking of northern Iraq, yesterday on this program we asked the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about the Kurdish regional government's request for weapons and ammunition. She said at that time there'd been no request for weapons but then clarified later that in fact there had been to the Government. What's Labor's position on Australia arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces operating in the north where IS is, as you say, on a genocidal campaign?

PLIBERSEK: Well I will be meeting with two Kurdish groups later today, including the author of that letter to the Government. I think it's clear that the Peshmerga are the most effective fighting force against IS in northern Iraq at the moment. If the Peshmerga have made requests of the Australian Government, it really is up to the Australian Government to tell us what they intend to do. I note that some European countries, the United States and others are supporting the Peshmerga with ammunition and so on. But it would have to again be something that we need a lot more information about and we also need to know the view of the Iraqi Government when it comes to arming a separate military force to the Iraqi Army.

KELLY: The Greens have warned of mission creep, if there is to be any additional military commitment in Iraq we need to be clear on what the aim is. In your view is it to firm up the Iraqi Government, to protect the state of Iraq against IS? Or is it to defeat the Islamic State? Is that important - that we clarify that before anything more happens?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the first and most important thing we need to be clear about is that there is a humanitarian disaster right now. Thousands of people are dying, many hundreds of thousands have fled their homes. That’s true in northern Iraq it’s also true in Syria and as an international community we do have a responsibility to prevent genocide and to provide humanitarian assistance. Anything more than that has to be after a great deal of thought and consideration, the international community with the government of Iraq. This is something the people of Iraq need to do with international support.

KELLY: And what about debate? What about the role of the Australian Parliament? The Prime Minister Tony Abbott made it clear again this week that the Government will do what governments always have done in the past – they’ll consult, they’ll consult with the Opposition, but they will not seek parliamentary approval. Is that good enough?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I mean I was here in 2003 and I don’t recall a great deal of useful consultation at that time-

KELLY: Well the Greens want more than that, they want a vote in the Parliament, so do others.

PLIBERSEK: I think it is important for us to be very clear as Australians about what our goal is, what the objective would be, what the specific task for Australian forces would be and what the end state is, what do we hope to achieve and how do we then withdraw. None of those questions were answered in 2003 and we can’t afford to make that similar mistake again.

KELLY: It’s 22 minutes to eight on breakfast, our guest is the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek in our Parliament House studios. Tanya Plibersek, the Government says its new counter-terror law will be introduced soon. The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, clarified yesterday there is no reverse onus of proof in the new law that had been one of Labor’s complaints and complaints by others. Is that your understanding of these laws?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Fran, it’s very difficult, what we’ve seen here-

KELLY: We’re talking about people leaving or coming back from places like Syria or Iraq.

PLIBERSEK: We’ve seen a press conference. I mean, these are extremely serious matters. We’ve seen no draft legislation-

KELLY: Have you been briefed on these laws?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve been briefed on the intention, after the press conference was held, we got a briefing and in fact, I had two briefings and in neither of those briefings were any of the questions that we had about how these laws would operate satisfactorily answered. So we’re waiting on draft legislation. Of course it’s important to help our security agencies keep Australians safe, there is no one who would disagree with that. And frankly, there is no one who would disagree with the fact that there is heightened risk. We’ve already seen two Australians leave on family members’ passports to go overseas to fight, Khaled Sharrouf being the worst example of this. Of course we believe our security agencies need support to keep Australians safe-

KELLY: They’re already getting it, it’s already working. I mean, the front page of the Telegraph yesterday, the Prime Minister told us yesterday someone was stopped at Sydney airport over the weekend. Front page of the Tele screams “Enemy of the State”.

PLIBERSEK: I was also surprised-

KELLY: “Enemy at our gate”, sorry.

PLIBERSEK: I was also surprised to hear yesterday in Question Time that some airports, some named airports, have extra resources and some named airports don’t yet, which I thought was an extraordinary thing to do, to say if you want to come into Australia or leave Australia more easily, these are the airports that you use. But just back on these laws, Fran, you can’t make serious decisions about national security by press conference and so far we’ve had a press conference and very little extra detail. We want to support our national security agencies but it is very difficult without even draft legislation before us, to comment on the specifics.

KELLY: And yesterday at the National Press Club, the ASIO Director General, David Irvine, was asked whether there would be any, if there was a danger if Australia escalated its military involvement in Iraq that would make Australia more of a terror threat back home. He said he didn’t see any link between that escalation and Australia being a terror threat. Do you agree with that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, he’s a very experienced national security leader and I am not going to contradict him. I think it’s important that we listen to our most experienced, most expert advisers.

KELLY: Just finally, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in Bali today. She will sign the new code of conduct with Indonesia on intelligence. This flowed from those leaks from the Snowden files that Australia had been tapping the phone of the wife of the Indonesian President and others. This new code is called a set of behaviour principles. Have you seen what’s being signed today and does it diminish our capacity to gather vital intelligence?

PLIBERSEK: No, unfortunately we haven’t seen the text of the agreement and it is disappointing that it’s taken around 300 days to conclude this matter. I’m very pleased that it’s occurred before the end of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s term because he has been a good friend to Australia and a good interlocker with Australia but it is, of course, again - unable to comment without having seen what the Government’s-

KELLY: Is that good enough, our Government signing a code of conduct that no one else in the Parliament has seen except presumably the Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and a few-

PLIBERSEK: Well that’s a question for Julie Bishop, really.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Fran.



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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Brisbane, Saturday 23 August 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of broken promises; Bill Shorten’s statement; Clive Palmer

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is a great pleasure to be here today at the Labor Party conference in Brisbane. The Queensland Labor Party has been doing a terrific job in their struggle to keep Campbell Newman honest. To keep the LNP Government to account and they’ve been working very hard with their Federal colleagues to keep Tony Abbott on the straight and narrow. I spoke about this in my speech today, I said each one of them, Campbell Newman on his own & Tony Abbott on his own are toxic but together they are devastating for Queenslanders. When you think about the health system, the cuts Campbell Newman made, we said they were a curtain raiser to Tony Abbott’s cuts. But what Tony Abbott has done is so much worse than what any of us ever imagined. It is like being sick with the flu and then getting a dose of food poisoning on top of it. Campbell Newman’s cuts followed up by Tony Abbott’s cuts mean an American style, two-tiered health system for Queenslanders and when it comes to education, the same thing is true there. Campbell Newman rejected $4 billion of new funding for Queensland schools when he rejected the Gonski school education funding reforms. You bring that in on top of what Tony Abbott is now doing. From pre-school through schooling, new fees for TAFE, higher fees for TAFE and higher fees for university as well as cutting programs like Youth Connections – to help young people get a job. You see how Campbell Newman’s cuts with Tony Abbott’s cuts make life so much harder for Queenslanders when it comes to education. It’s like having the worst teacher in the school and getting sat next to the school bully. Now we’ve heard from Tony Abbott in the last few days and sometimes, Mathias Cormann as well, about their Budget. The problem of course isn’t the Budget sales job, the problem is the Budget. On the one hand, we’ve got Tony Abbott saying ‘nothing to see here, no problem here. We’re happy with the number of savings we’ve got through’ and on the other hand, we’ve got Mathias Cormann saying that there is a Budget emergency still. The problem is not the sales job. The problem is the Budget itself. But what an appalling sales job. You’ve got the Prime Minister, and Joe Hockey in hiding, now Mathis Cormann has been drafted to sell this dud Budget and Mathias Cormann and the Prime Minister can’t even get their story straight. Tony Abbott apparently said he is ‘proud of keeping his promises’. Well I remember some of the promises he made. He promised ‘no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions and no new taxes’ and he has broken every single one of those promises since coming to office.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, in your speech, you said ‘Opposition is the worst place to be. It is difficult to move on from the past.’ With three books now looking at the Rudd-Gillard years and the Paul Kelly book today saying today that ‘Rudd wasn’t in the right space.’ How difficult is it to move on from the past?

PLIBERSEK: I think you’ve asserted that I said it is difficult to move on from the past. I said that it is important that we know our history because we have a lot to be proud of. Federally, we are the party; we are the government that helped Australia survive the Global Financial Crisis better than any other advanced economy in the world. We are the government that introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Gonski school education funding reforms. We are proud of our history. But we also know that looking back is not enough. We have to have a clear vision that is articulated for Australians. We have to talk to them about the sort of Australia that we want. An Australia that is productive, an Australia that is prosperous and an Australia that makes sure that that prosperity spreads to every Australian.

JOURNALIST: But do you agree that Kevin Rudd was mentally unfit to lead at that time?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I didn’t speak about our leadership issues at the time; I’m certainly not going to start now.

JOURNALIST: Has Labor been negotiating with Ricky Muir about the Budget at all?

PLIBERSEK: I personally haven’t spoken to Mr Muir, but I am sure he is in contact with Labor people. I can’t answer that question. It would be very natural if he was.

JOURNALIST: In September 2012, you were one of the people who said ‘Tony Abbott had questions to answer about Barbara Ranjam.’ Now in light of Bill Shorten’s unfound allegations resurfacing this week, is it time to lay off Tony Abbott’s past with women?

PLIBERSEK:  Well, I don’t think I’ve spoken about Tony Abbott’s personal life for some time now.

JOURNALIST: Is the Government giving us mixed messages or is there a Budget crisis or not?

PLIBERSEK: It’s just crazy. You’ve got the Prime Minister out there saying ‘No emergency, nothing to see here’. Six months ago he was saying there was a fire and they needed to bring in the fire engines. Now they are saying ‘There is no emergency, there is nothing to see here’. But then at the same time, they’ve got Mathias Cormann, the substitute Joe Hockey, out there saying there is a Budget emergency. They can’t even keep their story straight for a day.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, what concerns did you have about Kevin Rudd in 2010, if any?

PLIBERSEK: Well I just said I didn’t speak about it at the time and I won’t talk about it now.

JOURNALIST: Who would you like to see take on Campbell Newman in the seat of Ashgrove?

PLIBERSEK: That is a matter for Queensland Labor.

JOURNALIST: How has this been the worst week of Bill Shorten’s time as Opposition Leader?

PLIBERSEK: Well I didn’t say that.

JOURNALIST: Well you did say that at the beginning of your speech.

PLIBERSEK: No, I said it has been a tough week and indeed, anyone who has had such serious allegations made about them would feel the pressure of that. These were very serious allegations; the police have had many months to investigate them, as is absolutely proper. We want to make sure that Australians who make serious allegations have them treated with the upmost seriousness by police. That they are thoroughly investigated by police. That has happened now, Bill has spoken about it now, he didn’t need to, he wasn’t named in the media. He went out in the media and put his hand up and said ‘I want to put on the record that I was the person investigated’. He has done that now and he is entitled to draw a line under it.

JOURNALIST: Was it the worst week for the Opposition leader?

PLIBERSEK: I think it has been a successful first year for Labor. No one would have imagined that in less than one year since Tony Abbott was elected, that he would be so spectacularly unpopular. The reason he is so unpopular, having such a hard time, is because he has exposed his vision for Australia. What is it? It is an Australia that has an American style health care system, an American style education system and American style workplaces. It is not the Australia that people value. It’s not an Australia of prosperity that is shared so that all Australians have the opportunity that they deserve.

JOURNALIST: What is your view on the Clive Palmer party?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is marvellous that we live in a democracy and what the people decide is what the people decide. We need to work with the results of democratic elections. Labor has often had, when we are in government, we haven’t had the majority in the Senate. We’ve had to work with crossbench Senators. In the last Parliament, we had to get 5 independents every time we had to pass a piece of Legislation and we got about 600 pieces of legislation through that minority House of Representatives Government, so that is democracy for you.

JOURNALIST: Even with the leader [Palmer United Party] expressing racist views on China? That’s democracy for you?

PLIBERSEK: Of course, nobody would support Clive Palmer’s comments on China and I see Clive Palmer has backed down from those comments quite rightly, pretty quickly. But I also have a fair idea that the Chinese Government understands that Clive Palmer is one voice and not a representative voice when it comes to his comments on China.

Thanks everyone.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National AM, Friday 22 August 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Bill Shorten addressing claims; National security legislation.  

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Tanya Plibersek is Labor’s Deputy Leader and she joins me now. Tanya Plibersek welcome to AM.


BRISSENDEN: What do you make of the decision to go public, it certainly would have come as a shock to most Australians wouldn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it would have surprised many people that Bill has outed himself as the person that The Australian reported several months ago there was an investigation about. But it is important of course when such serious allegations are made that the police do thoroughly investigate those allegations and having seen that process completed now I think Bill thought it was time to hopefully put a line under this.

BRISSENDEN: How is it going to play out politically because Parliament is back next week, do you expect it will divert debate at all?

PLIBERSEK: Michael, I’m not a political commentator I think that’s really a question for someone else. This has been a very serious allegation, like any serious allegation it should have been thoroughly investigated by the police. They have taken some months to investigate it. They’ve spoken also to the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Victoria to confirm that there is no case to answer here. I think that does really need to be the end.

BRISSENDEN: Okay I know he says he wants that to be the end of it as well, but online is where this allegation first surfaced. Do you fear that this may be driven further by a non-mainstream media campaign?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think any of us can control what’s said on the internet.

BRISSENDEN: Clearly there is a lot of chatter out there that will continue, I guess you have to find a way to deal with that somehow.

PLIBERSEK: Well Michael I don’t know, I don’t read that sort of stuff. I think we’d all go mad if we read and believed everything that’s on the internet.

BRISSENDEN: Did he and the Labor Party need to clear the air on this at this stage well before an election?

PLIBERSEK: No, Bill didn’t need to address this at all. He was not named in the original report, he could have carried on without ever expressing the fact that this report was about him. But you can imagine that it’s taken a significant toll on his family and he thought now that the police investigation is concluded it was a good time to say it was me – ‘I’m not hiding behind spin doctors and so on. I put my hand up, it was about me, but the police have thoroughly investigated as they should’ve and they’ve found that there’s no case to answer’.

BRISSENDEN: Do you expect the woman will continue with her claim?

PLIBERSEK: I couldn’t begin to speculate.

BRISSENDEN: Okay. On other matters the Prime Minister has been meeting with Muslim leaders this week trying to win their support for the planned changes to the terrorism laws. Would you urge the community to support those laws?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very important that David Irvine the head of ASIO was out yesterday saying that these laws are not about targeting any particular community. They’re about keeping Australians safe from potential acts of terrorism. We are very fortunate that we’ve been able to keep Australians safe but we shouldn’t ever be complacent about threats overseas. On the other hand it’s also very important – I mean one of the reasons terrorists behave in the way they do Michael is because they want to strike fear into people’s hearts, and we’ve been a free and functioning democracy. We can’t change the way we behave as Australians to behaving in a fearful way because of terrorist events overseas. So we need to find a balance. There’s a first lot of laws that the Parliamentary Committee that I’m on, the Intelligence and Security Committee is examining at the moment. We’re methodically examining those laws. The Prime Minister announced recently that he wants to introduce a second tranche of laws but we haven’t seen any of the details of those Michael. So we’d need to look at them, examine them methodically and make sure that they do help our security agencies do their job but they don’t change our Australian way of life.

BRISSENDEN: Do you agree with the Prime Minister when he says we need to remain vigilant and that these laws do that and that if we don’t beheading such as in Iraq could happen here in Australia at the hands of terrorists?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t know which laws he’s talking about because he’s made an announcement that there will be new laws but he hasn’t drafted them yet. So when those laws are drafted Labor will examine them closely and see whether they do assist the national security agencies do their work. The national security agencies do very important work, we are very supportive of the work they do. We want them to keep Australians safe but I have to say that we balance that against behaving fearfully. I don’t want terrorists to change the way that I live as an Australian.

BRISSENDEN: Okay Tanya Plibersek thanks for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Michael.


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TRANSCRIPT - Today Show, Friday, 22 August 2014

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Subject/s: Higher education; Bill Shorten addresses claims.  

LISA WILKINSON: PM Tony Abbott has been bombarded by more than 500 protestors overnight while trying to deliver a speech at Adelaide University. The mostly student crowd barged through a security fence and screamed at the Prime Minister about his unpopular policies on asylum seekers, student fees, gay marriage and job losses. To have a look at this and more we are joined now by communications minister Malcom Turnbull and deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you. Malcolm, if I can start with you, 100 or so days on from releasing the budget there is certainly a lot that those protestors are unhappy about.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well so it seems but the bulk of the budget has been passed already. There are some issues that are, that we are still debating with the cross benchers but that is situation normal. As Tanya knows Governments rarely have a majority in the Senate and so you have to negotiate with the people with the swing votes which in that case is the 8 independent Senators.

WILKINSON: Tanya Plibersek, 50 police were called in. One protester was injured in the ruckus. We know there is a lot of opposition to the Abbott Government policies but are protestors starting to go too far?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is interesting that Malcolm has changed the rhetoric now. A few weeks ago it was budget emergency and we had Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott out there saying disaster, disaster. Now the Government has realised they have gone too far in talking about a budget emergency and they are dialling back the rhetoric. It’s been a very noticeable change in their talking points. When it comes to these students I don’t think protests should ever turn violent but I think every Australian has a right to tell their Government how they feel about a budget that breaks promises. There was no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes. All those promises broken. And these uni students are really going to feel the brunt of it. They are looking at much more expensive degrees and of course they are worried about that. They are worried about having to choose between buying a house when they grow up and actually paying off their university debt. It is a terrible thing in Australia, it’s a very American-style university system and Australians have rejected it. And not just uni students have rejected it but all Australians have rejected that move away from the fairer system that we have always had.

WILKINSON: Do those broken promises sit comfortably with you Malcolm?

TURNBULL: I do not concede we have broken any promises.

WILKINSON: There is a laundry list there that Tanya read out?

TURNBULL: It’s a very long list, it’ll be a long program! Let's just go back to the point about university fees. When I went to university fees were free. And it was actually a Labor Government that reintroduced fees and introduced HECS because it recognised it was unfair to ask the whole population, many of whom, most of who had not gone to university to pay tax to send people to university so they could get jobs and earn much higher incomes than they would without a university degree. So it is fair for people to pay –

PLIBERSEK: A small portion Malcolm, but not an unaffordable, not an unaffordable amount.

TURNBULL: The reality is that students will be able to borrow the entire amount of the fees at the best rate they will ever be able to get and they will have significantly higher income in their lives.

PLIBERSEK: So they should pay more tax. So they will pay more tax throughout their lives.

TURNBULL: They will have significantly higher income and as a consequence of that degree – you see this is the critical thing – I mean for a Labor Party which – the Labor Party claims to be on behalf of the battler, working man and woman –

PLIBERSEK: I know I could never have afforded to go to university if what your Government proposes is true. I could not afford it. My dad was a plumber, my mum a housewife, I would never have got to university under your scheme.

TURNBULL: Tanya, that is not true –

PLIBERSEK: It is true –

TURNBULL: Because you would have been able to obviously contribute to your fees by your own work, which all students did, I certainly did.

PLIBERSEK: And I did that too.

TURNBULL: I worked when I was at university but I did not have fees. But you would also be able to borrow the money from the Government at a very low rate and that is something you - don't sniff, we borrow money for everything.

PLIBERSEK: But Malcolm, working class kids are not going to go into $200,000 worth of debt knowing that that means they will never be able to buy a home of their own.

TURNBULL: That is not true.

PLIBERSEK: No listen, if you’re talk about a nurse or a teacher, you are looking at 15 years’ worth of repayment. If you’re talking about a woman studying engineering you are talking about 18 years’ worth of university-fee repayment. Would you take on as an 18-year-old student almost 20 years’ worth of debt not even knowing you’ve got a job at the end of that study? Would you do that?

TURNBULL: These figures are wildly exaggerated.

PLIBERSEK: No, they are not. They are not wildly exaggerated. They are National Tertiary Education Union  figures.

TURNBULL: This is the case today, I mean students are taking on debt today under Fee Help. So this is –

PLIBERSEK: It is the size of the debt.

TURNBULL: All the reforms are doing is giving the universities greater flexibility in setting fees. And some universities may set lower fees to compete.

PLIBERSEK: And who is going to do that?

TURNBULL: Universities that want to compete for students.

PLIBERSEK: Except you are cutting their funding, you’re cutting their funding by 20 per cent so they have to make up the 20 per cent just to be back at stage one.

WILKINSON: We are going to have to leave it there, we have to move on, because a big story yesterday. We saw that Victoria Police will not pursue rape charges against opposition leader Bill Shorten saying they don’t have enough evidence to secure a conviction. Mr Shorten came forward to address the story yesterday.

BILL SHORTEN: I fully cooperated to clear my name. That is what I have done. I freely answered all the questions that the police asked of me. The police have now concluded the investigation. The decision speaks for itself. It is over.

WILKINSON: Bill Shorten yesterday. Now Tanya, for most people I think the fact that these allegations even existed came as a surprise. We know that it has been circulating a bit on social media. These allegations emerged around the time that Bill Shorten became opposition leader. Can you give us some idea of how much concern there has been over the last ten months over these allegations?

PLIBERSEK: Well I – the first and most important thing to say is that when allegations like this are made it is absolutely vital that the person making the allegation goes to the police and that the issue is thoroughly investigated. And a few months ago when this was first in the newspapers, an unnamed person was being investigated. I was asked about it at the time and I said the police have to investigate. It’s an incredibly serious allegation. We take these allegations seriously as a society, that means the police must investigate. But having had all these months to undertake their investigation I think with the investigation concluded Bill thought ‘Well I’ve got to now face this front-on’ and I think that is a pretty gutsy thing to do given he had not been named in the media.

He wanted to take it head-on and say ‘cooperated with the police, they’ve found I have no case to answer.’ We now should be able to draw a line under it. It has been an incredibly stressful period I think for him and his family and no doubt everybody involved in this – it has been very stressful. But having been investigated, having had his name cleared it is good now he can draw a line under it.

WILKINSON: Malcolm, as a young lawyer working for Kerry Parker, you defended him during the time of Costigan. Do you feel sorry? Obviously those allegations were proved untrue but do you feel sorry for Bill Shorten right now?

TURNBULL: Let me say this - I think Bill Shorten made the right decision to come out and say he was the person being talked about. Remember Kerry Parker did the same thing because the allegations which were being made about him were about the goanna, it was a pseudonym but everybody was talking and was saying it was Kerry. I think you have to nail these things. Look, there is nothing more - well, I suppose there are plenty of things but it is very, very painful to be - to feel you are the subject of a an unjust accusation, particularly a very serious one like that. I think Shorten has done the right thing. The police - it is very important that allegations of this kind are taken seriously. And the police have to investigate them, go through their process and they have come to a conclusion that they don’t want to take it any further. Bill Shorten has said ‘Yes, well that was the me’ and that’s it now.  What the complainant says now, I do not know but from Bill Shorten's point of view he is better off getting this thing aired and ventilated and dealt with now rather than it continuing to bubble up as a whispering campaign which, those things can be very dangerous.

WILKINSON: Indeed. Ok, Malcolm and Tanya, we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Lisa.

WILKINSON: Hope you both have a great weekend.



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TRANSCRIPT - Capital Hill, ABC News 24, Tuesday 19 August

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SUBJECT/S: Relationship with Indonesia, Clive Palmer, Asylum seekers.


LYNDAL CURTIS: Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman and deputy leader is Tanya Plibersek. I spoke to her a little earlier.

Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Capital Hill. If we can go first to Indonesia, an agreement has been reached on what's called the joint understanding of a code and conduct. It’s aimed at resolving a diplomatic row when the news broke of that Australia once tried to spy on the Indonesian President, his family and Government officials. Is this a big step towards healing that rift?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Look of course we are very pleased if there’s any resolution of the ongoing misunderstanding between Australia and Indonesia. Indonesia’s one of our most important economic and strategic partners and we as a Labor Party have been calling for a resolution of this difficulty for some time. It has been 257 days since Julie Bishop said that Australia would work with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Government on resolving this difficulty. I'm sorry that it's taken 257 days, I think it's a shame that the Indonesian Ambassador wasn't here for 6 months of that time because there was such a degree of difficulty between our two nations. If indeed this is a resolution then we'll be very happy to welcome it.

CURTIS: We haven't yet seen the details of the code of conduct. Would you like to see them as soon as possible?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. Of course we would. It is very important that we resolve this difficulty but we would ask for a briefing as quickly as possible on the detailed contents of any agreement that is to be signed.

CURTIS: If we could move on to another of Australia's important relationships and that's the one with China. We heard Clive Palmer on 'Q&A' last night called the Chinese Government bastards and accused Beijing of wanting to destroy the wages system and take over ports. One of his Senators, Jacqui Lambie, has talked about not ignoring the possibility of a Chinese Communist invasion. Do you think the Chinese will see these for what they are not comments of the Government but comments of minor party figures?

PLIBERSEK: Well my experience of dealing with Chinese interlocutors is they have a good understanding of our political system. They understand that we have a Government, we have an Opposition, that the major parties move between Government and Opposition and that we have minor parties and Independents who speak for themselves rather than for the Government of Australia or indeed for the Opposition. I think these comments would be seen in China for what they are.

CURTIS: This is, Clive Palmer's raised these comments, he's got an ongoing legal dispute with a Chinese-owned company. Jacqui Lambie's comments back those up. Do you think they are well advised to make them?

PLIBERSEK: Well Lyndal, I think that you and I both know the answer to that one. China’s our most important two way trading partner, economically the growth of China is very good for us here in Australia and for the world. It is important that we seek to always better understand each other, our two nations. For 40 years we've had good diplomatic relations with China. I was talking to Bob Hawke recently and who told he's about to make his 100th visit to China so those people to people links are very strong as well. Government to Government, people to people, business to business. We’ve got more students studying in China, they have more students studying in Australia, and in the rest of the world also. We see more Chinese tourists all the time. I think that the best way forward for our two nations is to build on the very close relationship we already have by understanding each other better and I'm sure that people in the Chinese Government, representatives of the Government here, would understand that Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie aren't speaking for all Australians.

CURTIS: If we could turn now to domestic politics, Scott Morrison, the Immigration Minister, has announced moves to get children not only in what he's called held detention but out of community detention as well. He says it's taken some time because there were problems particularly in the support they would have been provided on bridging visas. He says that's now changed. Do you welcome this move to get children out of detention by the end of the year?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think of course, anyone would say that detention centres are not places for children and that children should be living in the community with their families. I'm a bit perplexed about how this is new policy or a new announcement. I think when Labor spoke about children moving into the community in 2010, Scott Morrison at that time said, "Well this has been happening since 2005,” so I'm not really sure what's new here but of course I welcome anything that takes children out of detention centres.

CURTIS: But what is clear from that long period of time is that not all children have been got out of those detention centres. He's taken, on your interpretation, years and years to do it.

PLIBERSEK: No, that's absolutely true and the difficulty of course with, at times, when there's been a larger number of people coming, it's taken a longer time to check the identity, health and security of people and move them through detention, and that’s not a good situation. Of course it's better not to have children in detention at all. I'm just a bit perplexed at what's actually changing, what will the difference be?

CURTIS: On that note we’ll have to leave it. Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Lyndal.


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TRANSCRIPT - Australian Agenda, Sky News, Sunday 17 August 2014

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Subject/s: Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Japan, China, Federal Budget


PETER VAN ONSELEN, INTERVIEWER: We are joined now by the Deputy Labor Leader and shadow Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek. Thanks for being here.


VAN ONSELEN: The whole issue around foreign affairs and national security, the opinion polls, and I don’t mean to bring it to that level, they do always tell us that the Coalition are well-respected by voters to handle these issues. Are you worried as a political party that this will distract from the strong success from Labor at the moment in terms of rebutting the Budget and get the Coalition on the firm policy ground the voters appreciate its efforts on?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’d never be worried about a national security issue on the basis of what the polling told me, I’ll make a decision and Labor will always make a decision based on what’s in the national interest. So I think we’ll talk in a minute about Iraq and Ukraine and some of these issues that are running at the moment, but if you take the issue of national security we’ve been presented recently with a second tranche of national security changes, and we’ve said that on those proposed legislative changes we need to see some legislation, that we are happy to support greater powers for our national security agencies if they come with stronger safeguards and stronger oversight. It’s also important to recognise that our threat assessment hasn’t changed since the September 11 attacks in New York, there are indications that we need to be on heightened vigilance because of, in particular, what’s happening in Syria and Iraq, but we need to take that in a balanced way.

VAN ONSLEN: It sounds like you think the Government might be over-dramatising the extent of the problem.

PLIBERSEK: No I’m not suggesting that, I just think that it’s important to make decisions based on the facts, based on the information that we have, and that applies to any proposed changes to legislation as well. We need to see the legislation when it’s drafted as well. I think it was a little odd to make an announcement, for example, about metadata and then to say that there’s no clear timetable for even when that legislation would come before the parliament or when we could even see draft legislation. I think the other important thing to say is that the Government have been talking tough on terrorism but in the last few months two – well one convicted terrorist, someone who has spent time in jail in Australia for terrorism-related offences, has walked out of the country, and we hear a report that there’s a suggestion that a second young man has also left Australia using his brother’s passport just recently, so it’s important if you’re going to talk tough on these things that you’re going to actually have in place the systems that would prevent Australians who have been convicted or suspected of, or on watch for terrorism-related offences, from walking out of the country and joining fights overseas.

PAUL KELLY, INTERVIEWER: Tony Abbott said this week that the new Islamic State in Syria and Iraq needs to be defeated. Is that Labor’s position?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think they certainly need to be stopped. I think whether you could claim that you have defeated an organisation that has no structure, no internal communications, no hierarchical organisation, I don’t know quite how you would determine that the organisation had been defeated, and one of the problems with these organisations is that they reform and change, they are factionalised, they are not clearly under any chain of command. So it’s not like one army fighting another army, it’s the Iraqi forces, the standing Iraqi army, fighting an organisation that is changing in its character and make-up all the time. One of the critical elements I think is what happens with the Sunni tribes now who were initially making way, frankly, and in some cases even supporting IS coming through, sweeping through Syria into northern Iraq. With the change in the Iraqi Government, with some strong suggestions that there will be a greater place for Sunni Iraqis in the decision-making structures of Iraq there’s been a couple of Sunni tribal leaders now saying ‘we can defeat IS any time we want’, I mean I don’t know how much credit you give that, but they are saying ‘a lot of these people are foreign fighters, we can take them on.’ And I think the indications are that if the Sunni tribal areas, tribal leaders, did say that they would fight off an IS advance, I think that would really change the situation on the ground.

KELLY: Given that there’s going to be a new government formed in Baghdad now, to what extend do you think it’s desirable for the United States to take whatever action is required to stop the Islamic State?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s very important for the United States to support the Iraqi Government in doing that. It’s clear we have a moral obligation and responsibility to support the people of Iraq to return to a situation of a peaceful country, I think our involvement in the earlier Iraq wars and the United States’ involvement in the earlier Iraq wars gives us a special responsibility and a special relationship there. But it is important for the government of Iraq to lead this process.

KELLY: Sure, I guess the question is then how we exercise the responsibility you just talked about, we are involved in humanitarian efforts which both sides support, would Labor be prepared to contemplate some form of military action in support of the United States.

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve been very supportive of the humanitarian action as you say, I would draw attention to the fact that our aid to Iraq last calendar year was $7.7 million and that went to zero in the last federal budget, so I am pleased that there is humanitarian assistance now because it is obviously so desperately needed, I think it’s unlikely, all the indications are that it’s unlikely that the Americans are even thinking about putting combat troops on the ground. President Obama’s approach to intervention in other countries was pretty clearly laid out at that West Point speech, and the American commentators and American officials seem to be saying it’s unlikely that they’ll put, as they say, boots on the ground. So I think that it’s unlikely that Australia is asked to provide that kind of support. If we are asked to provide that kind of support we would look at the legal basis for any intervention. Australia has always been a supporter for example of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, Gareth Evans was a great proponent of that, where governments are unable to protect their civilians or unwilling to protect their civilians the international community does have a responsibility to protect those civilians. But the problem with the Iraq wars were they were done without any international sanction and the consequences were felt for some long time after that, I think you could still say that the consequences are being felt.

KELLY: I take it from that answer that what it suggest to me is that Labor is flexible, that if you’ve talked about looking at what might be the international foundation for intervention, looking at the responsibility to protect doctrine that is, is it correct to say that Labor doesn’t rule out a military role for Australia?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s very unlikely, extremely unlikely, so we’re talking very hypothetically here, and I don’t think it’s productive to talk too hypothetically, but if you were seeing acts of genocide I don’t think Labor would be saying we stand back and allow those acts of genocide to continue.

VAN ONSELEN: Can I ask you about how you think we’ve gotten to this point, do you think the international community has been too slow to react, I mean it strikes me that when you look at it, that what was originally happening in Syria was that it was a largely moderate-led rebellion against a dictatorial leader which has morphed into the origins of the support-base for ISIS and the radical jihadists, and it wasn’t always like that.

PLIBERSEK: I think you can very easily make that argument, but the question of what should we have done, when should we have done it, I think they’re much more difficult questions to answer.

VAN ONSELEN: The argument is that the international community could have got behind the rebels in the situation in Syria earlier, before they were radicalised.

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t know that you could even say that ‘the rebels have been radicalised’, I think there are still a number of groups that are fighting the Assad regime, and they’re also fighting the elements that, extremist jihadist elements that have come, some from Syria but many from other parts of the Middle East and indeed internationally have been attracted to this fight in Syria. I don’t think there’s any simple time or point of intervention that you can say, ‘if only we had done X, if only we had armed’ –

KELLY: That’s what Hillary Clinton has said, I mean she’s come out very publicly, with a very strong critique of President Obama saying that he got it wrong, that there should have been an intervention at a much earlier stage to support the moderate rebels.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s very easy to talk counterfactuals but it’s very difficult to know. I think that there is an argument that if the anti-Assad forces had been supported earlier on there would have been less room for extremist jihadist groups to come to Syria and fight and grow stronger, but I don’t think it’s as easier to assert that as – Hillary Clinton is very certain of it, I guess I’m less certain of it.

VAN ONSELEN: Do you think that the existing nation-state boundaries which, let’s be honest, were colonially divvied-up with minimal regard to the ethnic divisions within the Middle East, are they maintainable? You’ve got a push for a Kurdish state that incurs on Turkey potentially, although the tensions there seem to have dissipated because of the greater concerns around ISIS. States like Iraq are not formed in a way that have an understanding of the ethnic divisions within the Middle East. Should we be looking to adjust the nation-state boundaries do you think?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think if we start looking to adjust nation-state boundaries we’ll see conflict for decades to come. I think it’s possible to argue that the boundaries are not natural boundaries in some cases, but you can’t rewrite history, you have to deal with the present as it is, and if we go to a situation of, there are many people saying that the whole borders of the Middle East will be redrawn over the next decades. My fear if that comes to pass is that the fighting will be ongoing for those decades. It won’t be a situation where people are sitting around a conference table somewhere making conciliatory decisions about where the borders should be, they’ll be determined by fighting.

VAN ONSELEN: And presumably if you were going to go down that path of reshaping nation-state boundaries, it probably empowers an organisation like ISIS that is looking for a caliphate state based around Islam.

PLIBERSEK: Well it’s just a horrendous thought that there would be a country run by an organisation like ISIS, so the reports not only of religious and ethnic minorities that are going on, efforts to wipe out whole communities, apparently they issues a fatwa very soon after moving into northern Iraq that more than 4 million women living in the area that they controlled would have to undergo female genital mutilation, there’s reports of women being stoned to death for adultery, there’s reports of every town they sweep through they’re closing hairdressing salons and killing people who resist because it doesn’t fit in with their ideology. It’s not just the people who get killed in the fighting it’s what comes after that. But this is what we were talking about earlier, the position of the Sunni tribal leaders. One of the arguments is that with a more inclusive government in Baghdad and with the horrendous oppression and violence that ISIS brings with them when they move into an area, that you will have Iraqis saying that we don’t want to live in this sort of, under this sort of regime. The difficulty is that you’ve got now I think about 50 to 80 000 people fighting and they’ve captured so many weapons and so many resources along the way. They will be tough to dislodge.

KELLY: Do you recognise or do you accept that there is a security issue as far as Australia is concerned, in the emergence of these forces?

PLIBERSEK: Of course there is, and I think it’s, I think that’s been true really, well it’s been true for some time but I’d say I’d put it at the upswing of hostilities in Syria, really would be the time that you would start to say that we need to be more alert to the potential for Australians who are fighting overseas coming back radicalised, and the more recent reports are that Australians who are involved in this internet chatter are being told ‘you don’t have to come here, why don’t you plan something at home?’ I mean both of these things are of extreme concern. What I would say is that our alert is not higher than it’s been since September 11, and we need to balance those two things, we need to have, if we have additional powers for our intelligence and security agencies, we need to have additional oversight and transparency and accountability to go with that.

KELLY: Ok, well how do we balance the point you have just raised, the domestic security point, with our foreign and international security policy, that is to what extent does military activity in the Middle East, military commitments in the Middle East, still remain a reasonably significant priority for Australia, or do you think we should shun those sorts of options, concentrate more on our own region, concern about the effect that any military action in the region might have on the domestic situation at home.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think they’re really two separate questions. Our foreign policy in Australia has to be about Australia’s best interests, and our most important engagement I believe remains in our region, our priority needs to be fixing our relationship with Indonesia, it needs to be working with both China and Japan to have a peaceful balance between both those nations in our region, but we can’t turn our backs on these large conflicts in other parts of the world, our engagement has to be a thoughtful engagement though, and I don’t believe our participation in previous US-led invasions in Iraq met that test, I don’t believe it was in Australia’s interest and I don’t believe that it was a thoughtful engagement.

KELLY: But do you accept what the Prime Minister has said, that is he’s -

PLIBERSEK: - I rarely accept what the Prime Minister says Paul –

KELLY: Well I mean essentially what he’s said, he’s said this very directly, any action now in Iraq has got no parallel now with the 2003 invasion, that’s what he’s said.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think any support for humanitarian intervention is not the same thing as happened with earlier conflicts, but we need to be cautious in our involvement. Humanitarian assistance to people facing genocide obviously we support, Australian involvement and support for that.

KELLY: As far as I’m concerned, do you draw a red line there and say, only humanitarian involvement or not?

PLIBERSEK: No I said very clearly earlier that if a population is facing genocide and if there is a legal basis for intervention such as the responsibility to protect – the reason we’re on the Security Council, Paul, is that Labor has always believed that our multilateral institutions, whatever their faults and flaws, are the best way to deal with international conflicts. The reason we argued so hard to be on the Security Council against Tony Abbott’s wishes, against Julie Bishop’s wishes, they said it was a waste of time and a waste of money, was so that we could engage in international action. We saw the usefulness of that with MH17 and the Security Council resolution that helped Australians get access to the site and retrieve Australian remains from the site. So of course we believe in multilateral institutions and that countries acting together have a responsibility to keep the peace, assist populations like the minorities that have been persecuted in Iraq, but it has to be done thoughtfully and it has to be done with a legal basis.

VAN ONSELEN: Can I ask you about the Labor position on Palestine and Israel, because it strikes me that there are quite strong differing views between, if you like, a section of Melbourne Labor versus Sydney Labor. You’ve got people like yourself and Anthony Albanese and certainly Doug Cameron who I’ve spoken to about this issue as well, and then you’ve got Michael Danby, Stephen Conroy, Richard Marles and even to an extent Bill Shorten who have, to an extent, a different view. How does Labor come to a policy on this issue, this difficult issue, without dividing itself?

PLIBERSEK: I’ll talk about that in just one second. The final think I wanted to say about Iraq is that we also need to have a moral and intellectual look at, why intervene in Iraq, why not Syria, how do we have a logical approach that takes in both of these crisis areas. On Israel and Palestine, our approach has always been a two-state solution where Israel can live behind secure, internationally recognised borders and the Palestinians have a viable state of their own. They have every right to expect a viable state where they provide their own security, where their economy is strong, and where they are able to support their people, see employment, and all of the ordinary things that citizens of any country have a right to expect, a decent school system, a health system, an economy that’s growing. We are appalled by the outbreak of conflict in Gaza. Of course Hamas bears a great deal of responsibility for the firing of around 3000 rockets we believe so far, but the number of civilian deaths, 1900 or so deaths in Gaza, the vast majority of them civilians, hundreds of them children, well over 400 children dying, is something that the international community cannot accept or tolerate.

KELLY: I just wanted to go now to Asia. Obviously the China-Japan relationship here and the tensions involved are critical, not so long ago we had a visit from the Japanese Prime Minister Abe, with a lot of security initiatives announced, can I just clarify Labor’s position here, is Labor supportive of the deepening security relationship between Australia and Japan or do you have concerns about that?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’re supportive of improvements in the friendships of any of our neighbours. What I’d say is an improved relationship with Japan, a closer and deeper relationship with Japan, shouldn’t be at the expense of a close and deep relationship with China. What’s in Australia’s interest is not to be picking sides or elevating one friendship above another, but to have good relations with both.

KELLY: Do you think that we’re doing that, I mean do you think that there’s any danger we’re doing that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that Tony Abbott’s language on his visit to Japan where he called Japan our best friend in Asia wasn’t well chosen. I think it’s important for us to have good friendships with all of our neighbours.

KELLY: Can I just clarify, I mean, Japanese Prime Minister Abe has reinterpreted the constitution to give much more autonomy to the Japanese defence forces, the Chinese are extremely upset about that, Tony Abbott has supported the constitutional reinterpretation, what’s Labor’s view on that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I note that it’s not been very popular domestically in Japan, and the Japanese government realised it wasn’t very popular and didn’t seek to take the decision to the Japanese people. Look, I think it’s, I’m not worried by the constitutional reinterpretation. What I am worried about is the increasing, well the rhetoric from both Japan and China about one another, and I think Australia’s role in this should be saying to both countries, ‘tone it down fellas’, we have an opportunity as a very long-standing friend of China, we’ve got over four decades of good strong diplomatic relations, Bob Hawke’s about to make his 100th visit to China for example, those person-to-person relations are very strong, we’ve put a lot of effort into our relationship with China. The same is true of Japan, from particularly the early 1950s we’ve put a great deal of effort, first on the trade front, but our diplomatic relations again are very strong. There is no need for us to get caught between two countries with increasingly nationalistic rhetoric.

KELLY: Well just on that point, just to finish up on this point, are you concerned at all that there is in the United States and Japanese approach to China a sense of containment, are you worried that there’s a containment element in that American-Japanese approach.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that the United States would say that they’re not interested in containing China, but I think that China may feel that they are, and there is a lot of dialogue between the United States and China, there’s a lot of country-to-country meetings, a whole range of security and trade and other levels, I think it’s important for China and the United States to make a greater effort to understand one another.

KELLY: But are you concerned that the current settings of America, Japan and Australia vis-à-vis China?

PLIBERSEK: I’m concerned that there is room for misunderstanding and our best interests are served by saying very clearly to China, and to Japan, and to the United States, that it is not in Australia’s interests or in the interests of our broader region to see any increase in tension.

VAN ONSELEN: Surely we’re going to talk a lot more about the Budget with John Hewson and Geoff Gallop, but before doing that I want to ask you about some of the Budget issues. Joe Hockey obviously hasn’t had a great week, he’s ended it with an apology, but getting to the actual issue, the indexing of fuel excise, what’s wrong with the principle of it, if nothing else, simply as an environmental measure whereby taxing fuel greater is akin in a sense to a carbon tax, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: Well that’s what Tony Abbott said to President Obama, he said he’s got his own carbon tax and it’s on petrol. Well the difficulty is that poor people spend a greater proportion of their income on transport costs than wealthier people, and more particularly if you take a step back, Tony Abbott came into government saying ‘not cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes.’ And this is clearly a new tax.

VAN ONSELEN: Wasn’t the bigger error there to make that commitment rather than to then change the indexation subsequently? He deserves to wear political pain for the broken promise, sure, but isn’t he better off to go down that path for the sake of reindexing it, something that John Howard never should have changed?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s a bit rich to say, ‘putting aside the fact that he made this clear, written-in-blood promise more than once, including on the night before the election – no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes, no surprises, no excuses government’, I don’t think you can really just say, well setting that aside let’s talk about, you know, what he shouldn’t have promised, he shouldn’t have promised that, we’ll deal with the issue on its merits.

VAN ONSELEN: There are reports today that the Government is looking to backflip on a few differenet budget measures, the linking of the mining tax, some of the issues around university with student repayment rates for HECS and so forth, Labor would welcome those changes assuming that we see Government policy to announce the same.

PLIBERSEK: They should just go back to the drawing board. I mean this is a stinking budget. It’s a stinking budget because it breaks so many promises and because it’s so profoundly unfair. They’re talking about tinkering at the edges. This is a budget that outsources all of the savings to the states and territories, so $80 billion cut from health and education, the federal government is not making those savings, the states and territories will have to work out how to make those savings, it makes a number of cuts and changes including to health and education and pensions, but doesn’t really improve the budget bottom line because all of those cuts are going to pay for the pet projects of the Prime Minister, so there’s paid parental leave, there’s Direct Action that nobody really thinks will work, and then there’s the revenue that they’ve given up, so they’ve given up revenue from the Minerals Resources Rent Tax, they’ve given up revenue from carbon pricing, they’ve given up revenue from the business tax avoidance measures, they’ve knocked back proposals to change high-income superannuation. So they’re giving away potential savings, they’re spending money on things that nobody really thinks are a priority, and then they’re outsourcing half the cuts to the states and territories for very little improvement in the bottom line. The $7 GP co-payment that is such a hard sell, that’s no going back into the health budget, that’s going into the future medical research, and I think most people don’t really believe that’s going to benefit them anytime soon.

KELLY: Isn’t Labor in trouble here though because there are $5 billion worth of cuts which you accepted in government which you’ve now reneged on, so isn’t there now a question about Labor’s real motives?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve agreed to a number of the saves proposed in this budget, we’ve agreed to $3 billion of them already, things like means-testing on some of the benefits –

KELLY: But you’ve changed your mind on $5 billion worth of Labor cuts.

PLIBERSEK: I’ll give you an example. We said we would spend some of the higher education funding that we had massively increased while we were in government, we’d spend some of that on primary schools and high schools, because we know that kids aren’t going to get into university if they’re left behind in primary school. There’s a difference between moving spending within the education portfolio from higher education into primary schools and high schools, compared to just cutting higher education and introducing $100 000, $200 000 university degrees for nurses and teachers. There’s a big difference to the approach that this government has taken, which puts the greatest cost of the budget onto the poorest people. Another example of the unfairness of this budget, is the largest single cut - $7.6 billion – comes from the world’s poorest people, 1 dollar in every 5 which is saved in this budget, so we’ve had $7.7 million cut to country aid in Iraq, they’re now talking about putting some of that money back, money cut from the Palestinian Territories now having to put some of that back. You can’t look at any of these measures on their own without understanding that the greatest burden is carried by the poorest people when it comes to this budget.

VAN ONSELEN: Tanya Plibersek, as always we appreciate your time on Australian Agenda, thanks very much.

PLIBERSEK: It’s a pleasure, thanks.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC News Radio, Wednesday 13 August 2014

coats arms









Subject/s: AUSMIN meetings; Iraq; Ukraine. 


MARIUS BENSON, INTERVIEWER: Tanya Plibersek, you met John Kerry the Secretary of State last night, you were in the company with Bill Shorten. Was it a productive meeting?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well it was a very good meeting indeed, we covered a lot of ground. Internationally we talked of course about Iraq, and more broadly the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine. We talked about climate change, the G20, and of course also his oceans policy, he has been a great advocate of setting aside more of our oceans to be protected for the future.

BENSON: And on that list you’ve just gone through, was it just a sequence of agreements between yourself and John Kerry?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course we have a lot in common. There’s a number of areas where there is some agreement not just between our countries, but at a policy level the Democrats and the Australian Labor Party have been as one on the threat that climate change, for example, poses.

BENSON: Can I go to the issue of Iraq and the question of military action there. John Kerry made it unambiguously clear yesterday American troops wouldn’t be going in but there are, there have been, American air strikes on Islamic State forces in Iraq. Do you believe military action should be part of the potential mix in Iraq or should military action be completely ruled out?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it was extremely important to protect groups of people in northern Iraq in particular from potential slaughter and even genocide, and I think that’s what was being faced in northern Iraq. The first and most important thing was to provide them with food and water, people were starving and dying of thirst, and then to provide a path out of the areas that were encircled by IS, I think it was absolutely necessary to use force to provide a path out for those people.

BENSON: The Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon has called for the world to do more for the Yezidi people who have been the focus of concern in Iraq. Should Australia do more, specifically should Australia offer refuge to Yezidi people to come here?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course Australia should do more, and it’s a shocking thing to realise that last year we gave $7.7 million in Overseas Development Assistance, aid, to Iraq, and this year the government cut that amount to zero in this budget. Australia has the capacity to do much more for the people of Iraq and indeed the people of the Middle East more generally, where we’ve cut aid funding in other areas as well, that we’ve cut the amount of aid that we’ve given to Syria, we initially gave substantially more than we’ve given in more recent times just as the humanitarian crisis continues to deepen and worsen. Australia has the capacity to help in the Middle East and Iraq much more than we are.

BENSON: Can I turn to Ukraine, there’s a Russian convoy now, a convoy kilometres long of trucks heading to eastern Ukraine from Russia. Julie Bishop the Foreign Minister has said that Russia is trying to use humanitarian help as a pretext for occupation. What should the world be doing in response to that?

PLIBERSEK: Well if the Russians have an offer of humanitarian assistance they can hand over whatever they have at the border to the Red Cross. It should be international organisations providing any assistance in that eastern part of Ukraine that is under contention at the moment. There should be no reason for Russian trucks to roll into eastern Ukraine. It is important to send a strong message that Russian trucks wouldn’t be welcome in Ukraine, but the best way to do that is to continue as an international community to send a message as we did through the Security Council in relation to MH17.

BENSON: Just looking broadly at foreign policy on Iraq, Gaza, the Middle East generally, Ukraine, in the Asia Pacific region as well, it appears that Labor and the Government are in full agreement. Is foreign policy now a unity ticket between the Government and Labor?

PLIBERSEK: Well Marius I wouldn’t say that there’s complete agreement in all of those areas. Foreign policy has traditionally been an area where we look for a united approach as Australians and in many of these issues, and the horror that we all feel about what’s happening in Iraq, the distress that’s been caused by the deaths of civilians in Gaza, all of these things are areas in which our common humanity unites us. There has been areas that we have pointed to things that we would have handled differently but I don’t think there’s a great benefit in telegraphing to the world that we’re divided on these issues.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Marius.

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TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, August 8










Subject/s: Russian sanctions; unemployment figures; metadata retention. 

LISA WILKINSON, INTERVIEWER: Russia has moved overnight to ban all Australian imports, worth around $1.8 billion, as well as considering a ban on all Western countries flying over Russian airspace. The news comes just as we were mourning the 38 Aussies killed by his rebels in the MH17 disaster. We are joined now by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor’s Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek. Malcolm I’ll start with you - an outrageous ban at an outrageous time. What is our response to this?

MALCOLM TURNBULL, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well the world is standing up to Russia. Tony Abbott has actually led world opinion in standing up to Russia over its outrageous conduct in the Ukraine-

WILKINSON: That was prior to the announcements overnight.

TURNBULL: The fact is there are sanctions being imposed on Russia and the Russians are responding to them. It is not unexpected.

WILKINSON: What is our response now?

TURNBULL: Well the net loser out of all of this will be Russia. I will leave, the precise responses will be calibrated with other like-minded countries but Russia will be the loser out of this. Putin is being - is reacting against the firm response from the rest of the world and his country, his citizens will lose out of this.

WILKINSON: Putin is the due here in November for the G20 summit. Tanya, do you think he should be banned?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is important for the world community to be able to say to Vladimir Putin that the behaviour in backing the separatists in Ukraine, the aggressive moves towards other neighbours is unacceptable. Sometimes the best way to do that is to have someone in the room and to say it to their face. It is still not clear that he will come in November. There is always the chance that he might not come but it is true that these sanctions come at an extraordinary time. Australia has participated in one round of sanctions against Russia and that was after the invasion of Crimea but I think Malcolm that we have not as Australians said that we would sign to this second lot of sanctions that the US and the Europeans agreed to more recently in response to the shooting-down of flight MH17. So it’s a punishing of our primary production sector and our farmers at a time when it seems that the Russians have backed separatists, have armed them, and those armed separatists have shot down a plane with Australians on it. It is extraordinary behaviour.

WILKINSON: Outrageous. And it certainly will have an effect on the economy with that $1.8 billion taken out of it. Let’s stick with the economy now. As Ross told us, the jobs figures are not good. Unemployment is at a 12-year high. Treasurer Joe Hockey says the Government must be allowed to implement its budget to get the economy back on track. Tanya, your response?

PLIBERSEK: Well the budget is part of the problem. The budget includes measures that have destroyed consumer confidence. People are worried about spending money and they are worried about their jobs. You see the effect particularly in states like Queensland where first of all Campbell Newman has sacked teachers, nurses, public servants and now the additional Federal Government cuts that are proposed to health and education services compound that. If you take 10 teachers out of a community or 20 nurses out of a community like Townsville or Rockhampton, in fact they’ve lost hundreds of staff up there from hospitals and so on, you feel that effect right across the whole community. I think the budget is part of the problem not part of the solution.

WILKINSON: Joe Hockey is holding back on tax cuts until he can get all of those moves through. You’ve got this new bromance going now with Clive Palmer, Malcolm, is that helping at all?

TURNBULL: Well before I get to the bromance let me make a correct a point about the unemployment figures. Look, they are regrettable, to see unemployment rise, we want unemployment to be low. But let me just make this point - there are more people looking for work now than there have been for a very, very long time. The participation rate has gone up. There have been a lot of new jobs created and there is a lot of confidence in the economy. So that’s one of the reasons that unemployment has gone up.

WILKINSON: But the participation rate includes people who just work for just one hour.

TURNBULL: No, that is- the participation rate includes people who are looking for work. What happens is when the country is being poorly led, when people lose confidence in the economy, they give up, they say "There is no point looking for jobs". What you are now seeing is a higher participation rate, and that means there are more people looking for work. That is one of the factors behind the increase in unemployment.

PLIBERSEK: Lisa, think about this - when we went into the global financial crisis in 2007 we had the same unemployment rate as the United States. The United States unemployment rate went to double the Australian unemployment rate. Our unemployment rate is now higher than the US since this Government has taken office. It is higher than you expected, Malcolm, it’s higher than you predicted in the budget. It is going up at a time when our economy should be coming out of the global financial crisis. It’s getting worse.

WILKINSON: All right, we’re going to have to move on. This week the Government beefed up the anti-terrorism laws, announcing $630 million will go towards boosting spy agency powers, but the Coalition has struggled to sell its new data retention policy which requires communication companies to store all our meta-data for two years. Now let's just have a quick look at George Brandis, the Attorney- General, trying to sell meta-data on Sky News.

Clip played from Brandis interview.

WILKINSON: Malcolm, very embarrassing. And a hard one for you to get behind this one. You said back in 2012 that data intention is a sweeping and intrusive power with a chilling effect on free speech with major questions over security and privacy. You are not a fan, are you?

TURNBULL: Let me just take the opportunity to clear a few things up here. I had a lengthy meeting yesterday with the Attorney-General, his department, with ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and other law enforcement agencies-

WILKINSON: After being excluded from this initial policy?

TURNBULL: Just let me go on, Lisa. What I can confirm is that the agencies, the law-enforcement agencies, and therefore the Government, is not seeking that the telcos like Telstra and Optus and so forth retain any information that they are not currently retaining. In particular, they are not seeking that the telcos retain details of your web browsing history, which sites you go to, which IP addresses you connect with. So I just want to be very clear about that. What they are talking about is the data they are currently recording, which is in the telephone world "You rang me at such and such a time for how many minute". They are saying they want that to be kept for two years. And in terms of the internet world, they want to, for IP, for internet companies, telcos, to retain the details of which IP address you were using at any given time for two years. Now telephone companies and ISPs retain that data connecting your account to a particular IP address, that is to say your IP address, they retain that now, but not always for two years. So that is what is being sought. There is no question - to emphasise this - what you do on the web and where you go on the web, the agencies are not seeking that that be recorded in any form.

WILKINSON: Well I am not quite sure how that improves anti-terror initiatives.

TURNBULL: I can explain that if you like.

WILKINSON: Well I don’t know if my boss is going to let me, no I am getting a no unfortunately. Next time you can. Thanks very much Malcolm, thanks a lot Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Lisa.


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TRANSCRIPT - Press Conference, 6 August 2014











Subject/s: Homeless Persons’ Week; Youth Connections; Budget Cuts; Anti-Terrorism Legislation; Surrogacy; 18C RDA

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: I'm here with Peter Sutcliffe and Josh Field from the Salvation Army and I am also here with Penny Sharpe and Edwina Lloyd, who are two candidates for our State election. I wanted to talk to you this week, during Homeless Persons Week, about this fantastic service at the Oasis Youth Centre, run by the Salvation Army. This is a terrific service I know that for a fact. My office was across the road for many years and I spent a lot of time in this service. It provides accommodation for homeless young people but it provides something more than accommodation. It provides this education facility, this school that we're standing in right now. This classroom where young people who are staying here and other young people from the area are able to get an education. One of the most important things about Homeless Persons’ week is understanding that there's more to ending homeless than just putting a roof over a person’s head. What we see if we take a simple approach to homelessness is that people cycle through homeless facilities. You can put a roof over their heads but 6 months later they're on the streets again. What we need to aim to do as a community is end homelessness for a person. Give them the life skills, the opportunities, to move permanently out of homelessness and one of the most critical things that we can do is make sure that young people have an education and have a job because the surest way permanently out of homelessness is to get a job. Unfortunately, in the most recent Federal Budget, three youth education programs have been cut. They've already been cut but the Government has an opportunity to reverse that decision. The three programs are Youth Connections, Partnership Brokers and National Career Advice. These three programs are aimed at getting young people into the education and training they need to get a job and then getting them work. Youth Connections, the program that funds this school that we're standing in today, has been a fantastically successful program. It's helped more than 100,000 people already and 80 per cent of people who go through Youth Connections are still in work or training 18 months later. The average cost of putting a young person through a Youth Connections program is just over $2000. So you think about the difference between investing in getting someone an education and getting them into the workforce and getting them permanently out of homelessness compared with just paying for them to remain homeless. Paying for them to stay in facilities like this or, unfortunately, even worse, end up homeless, end up in hospital, end up in prison. Youth Connections works, it’s cost effective and it makes absolutely no sense when the Government's talking about reducing unemployment to cut the very programs that help unemployed young people into the training they need or into the jobs that they can stick to. I'm going to ask Josh from the Salvation Army and Peter to say a few words about how important the Youth Connections program is for homeless young people.

PETER SUTCLIFFE, SALVATION ARMY: Thank you Tanya. For the Salvation army, the Youth Connections program is a really important part. We currently have 33 students enrolled in our program here, we have three who for the very first time, through our school here, will complete their HSC this year. Now that's important, these three young ladies, if they'd have been in the normal school system, would never have been able to complete their HSC. We've tailored a program that meets their needs. Students who come into our Oasis Youth Centre have a whole range of complex needs and they can't attend normal school because of these complex needs they have. We work with them, we tailor the program to suit. Three young ladies who will complete their HSC this year, we have another 19 completing year 11 and then the rest are completing year 10 or completing basic numeracy and literacy classes. Now for us that's an important part. What we do here at the Oasis Youth Centre is, if you like, the services we provide are like a 3-legged stool. We provide the accommodation services for them, we case manage the students and we also supply the education. Cut one of them off and you become a very unstable stool that no-one wants to sit on and so for us, the Youth Connections program, the education program we provide here is very important. So important that we're going to look at how we can continue this Youth Connections program, the school right here, even after the funding is cut. That means we've got to look at the others services we're providing and just see how we can continue to do this because we see education as an important part of stopping this endless cycle of homelessness. Around 44,000 young people every night homeless, and we've got to end this. Josh will just talk about the young ladies who are completing their HSC and what they're doing and just how it has worked with them.

JOSH FIELD, SALVATION ARMY: The current HSC students, they’re working in this environment and they actually support each other in this. There's not a chance they would have been able to get through their HSC without the support of this program and without the support of each other. They've worked exceptionally well. A couple of our students are doing food tech and only last week made this 4-layered tiered colourful cake which was fantastic and they shared that with the whole of the Oasis staff which was great so, yeah.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Josh. Alright, I might make some more general comments now about other areas if you like.

This week during Homeless Persons Week, we see this $128 million cut from youth programs just like this that actually permanently help young people leave homelessness but this is not the only cut that this Government's made to homeless programs. $44 million cut from all of the new building programs out of the national partnership agreement on homelessness, no new building for homeless services. We also see that the national partnership agreement on affordable housing ends in June next year. The Government's got a White Paper on Commonwealth-State relations that says basically that housing's none of the Commonwealth's business so what happens to public housing funding after June next year, who knows. We know that there were 10,000 more national rental affordability scheme properties to be built. This Government canned them in the most recent Budget as well so that's 10,000 affordable homes that would have been available under existing funding except this Government has ended that program. So everywhere you see this Government making life harder for the people who can least afford it. Cuts to pensions, cuts to supports for homeless Australians, cuts to the supports for unemployed young people. We also know that none of this was expressed before the election. Before the election Tony Abbott was saying no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes. In fact, today one year ago he said, "Taxes will always be lower under a Liberal Government." We know that there's been a raft of new taxes introduced. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: In terms of the Budget cuts to this particular program, where are those negotiations at, when are they likely to come before the parliament and what is Labor doing in terms of trying to stop that?

PLIBERSEK: This program didn't require legislative change to be cut so it’s gone, the funding has already gone. The only hope is to have enough public outcry about the fact that on the one hand the Government is saying unemployed young people, we will cut their income for six months of the year, they should apply for 40 jobs a month, we want them get work and on the other hand, they’re cutting three successful programs that help unemployed young people get a job. Because this cut didn't require legislative change, it’s done. The only hope is enough public pressure to reverse this cruel cut.

JOURNALIST: There have been a number of other Budget cuts though across the board in many social services and welfare sectors and public services, what makes this particular education centre different to all of the other cuts in terms of helping stop the Budget crisis?

PLIBERSEK: Well, where do these kids go? This is a school that is built for kids who wouldn't survive in mainstream education. Many of them are homeless because they have had unimaginable trauma in their young lives. They are kids who have been let down in many cases by their families and they have been let down by mainstream schooling. They come here as a school of last resort and because of the fantastic expertise of the teachers here, because they have got the support of the Salvation Army to deal with the other issues in their lives, because they have got a stable roof over their heads, they manage to succeed through massive will and massive hard work, they manage to succeed. How can it possibly be, in our society's interests to deny these kids an education? How can it possibly be in the long term interests of these kids, we want to help them get permanently out of homelessness and the best way we can do that is to make sure they have got a job and the best way we can make sure that they have a job is make sure that we make up for the gaps in their schooling. Make sure they can read and write, make sure that they graduate Year 10 and in the case of these three young women, the HSC. And that opens so many doors to these kids who have been – many of them from a very early age have been brought up with the idea that they will never succeed.

JOURNALIST: Just on some other general matters. Do you think the Government should be making it easier to slap preventative detention orders on terror suspects?

PLIBERSEK: Well I saw the same press conference that other Australians saw yesterday, with the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Foreign Affairs Minister all making some statements about what the Government’s got planned. That’s all the detail that we as an Opposition have. We hope to be briefed later in the week about the details of what the Government's proposing but we have no details at this stage. I think it is important that our security agencies, which do such an excellent job, have the support they need to prevent terrorist activity but we also need to be sure, as a democracy, that there are proper checks and balances, proper oversight when powers are increased. We don't know what the Government's proposing, we don't know the details - we don't know the details of the proposal and we certainly don’t know any details of proposed oversight or any sort of checks and balances.

JOURNALIST: The Government wants to take away the sunset clause on them. Would you agree with that?

PLIBERSEK: We were very critical of fact that the Government got rid of the independent national security legislation monitor earlier this year. They had one of these red tape repeal days and got rid of the independent position, the person whose job it is to oversee whether national security legislation is indeed doing what it is supposed to do, providing a safer environment or whether it is in fact infringing peoples' rights. They got rid of that position. George Brandis has backed down on that and he is doing a lot of that lately but he has backed down on getting rid of the independent oversight. That position, as far as we know, has not been filled. We need to have the confidence that if there are tough laws to prevent terrorism, there is also tough oversight so that our citizens and our parliament can be confident that these laws are not misused.

JOURNALIST: Do you feel that some of these new counter measures go too far?

PLIBERSEK: Well I can't say whether they go too far because all I have seen is a press conference and a press release. We need to have legislation released in draft form by the Government. We need a proper briefing for the Opposition so we can say, with confidence, that, yes, tougher laws might be needed but that goes with stronger oversight. We don't have any of that information at the moment.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the case of baby Gammy, the Prime Minister says there is not much the Federal Government can do because surrogacy is a matter for the states. Do you think that the Commonwealth could do something more?

PLIBERSEK: Well surrogacy is a matter for the states but I think it is very important that we say very clearly that no law should be changed that makes it - that increases the vulnerability of poor women in developing countries to the sort of exploitation that this young Thai woman has experienced. There is no question that any Australian that I have talked to, when presented with the information that a couple are the biological parents of a child and have taken one, a  healthy baby girl and left the sick baby boy are shocked that that is possible. This 21-year-old woman, obviously in desperate financial circumstances or wouldn't have agreed to the surrogacy in the first place, now left to her own devices to raise and care for a child that obviously has expensive medical needs going into the future. It is completely unacceptable. Of course, I am pleased that Australians have been generous in contributing to a fund for her but that is only because we know of this case. We don't know how many other cases, young women in similar circumstances who have been exploited and left on their own. It is important that we work with the states and territories to make sure that we don't commercialise this relationship in a way that allows vulnerable young women like this to be exploited.

JOURNALIST: Given that there are different laws in different states, is there room, do you think, for the Federal Government to intervene in any way or to have legislation?

PLIBERSEK: Certainly if the Federal Government's interested in developing a national approach, we would look at that on its merits. But I don't think the problem is different laws in different states, I think the problem is unscrupulous organisations overseas that get into the business of babies to make a profit. I think in addition, we have got a problem in this individual case of a couple who have made a decision that, frankly, I can't understand and I think most Australians would have trouble understanding.

JOURNALIST: The Federal Government's backed down on the proposed changes to 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Apparently George Brandis has said this morning that he still believes in those changes in their original form.

PLIBERSEK: This just shows that the Government's a mess on this as it is on many other areas of policy. They have gone too far. They have gone too far when it comes to allowing bigots the right to be bigots. George Brandis has been put back in his box on this one. George Brandis went too far in saying that occupied East Jerusalem wasn't occupied. He was put back in his box on that one. It seems like George Brandis is just shooting off his mouth, saying whatever he chooses. There is chaos in this area. It doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence that we have an Attorney-General at odds with the Prime Minister on some of these most critical pieces of legislation. What I would say on the other hand when it comes to back downs, is if they are going to do a back down on 18C, they should also do a back down on cutting Youth Connections and they should do a back down on the cuts to health and education and the cuts to the pensions that have turned up in this Budget. This is a problem of extremists in Government being let off the leash and then the extremists having to be hauled back when it becomes apparent that are out of step with the Australian public. Thanks everyone.


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