Doorstop Interview












SUBJECT/S: DFAT, Aid, Education, PNG.


TANYA PLIBERSEK: This morning we’ve heard that there’s a leaked report from DFAT that shows that it is a deeply dysfunctional and unhappy organisation. That’s a real problem for Australia because it means that our diplomats are unable to help with the issues that Australia faces, this is like the continuing fracture in the relationship with Indonesia.

It’s also a great problem for the world’s poorest. Our experienced AusAid staff are not able to do the work that they are trained to do. We lost so many AusAid staff and there’s now been an additional $400 million cut to the Department of Foreign Affairs in the most recent Budget, further compromising their ability to deliver for Australia and for the world’s poorest. It’s very important to understand the effect of the $7.6 billion cut on the world’s poorest. The cut to the aid budget at the end of last year was going to be $4.5 million. In this Budget, we see that the cut is much greater, it’s $7.6 billion. And this is at a time when there are about 980,000 children around the world trafficked into forced labour. It’s at a time when 57 million children still don’t have access to schooling. It’s at a time, at last count, when around 7 million children under the age of 5 died mostly from preventable causes.

So the need globally for Australian assistance is as high as it’s ever been, and Australian aid is effective. We know it’s effective in saving people from malaria, in helping kids get an education, in training midwives, in fact the $7.6 billion that’s been cut from the aid budget would train the equivalent of 3 million midwives. It would help 25 million people to read and write. That’s the scale of the robbery of the world’s poorest that this Government has engaged in. On top of that, on top of the massive cut to assistance, on top of the abandonment of the target that was set by John Howard of reaching 0.5 per cent of gross national income for our aid budget, on top of that, we’ve now got rid of our staff that have delivered our highly successful aid programs.

Now, I also wanted to say a couple of words about higher education today. Christopher Pyne overnight has admitted that he is saddling young Australians with a lifetime of debt. He’s admitted that there’s every chance that you’ll be paying for your university education for the whole of your life. University degrees of $100,000, $200,000 introduced by a government of people who got their university education for free. People like Joe Hockey who back in the day were protesting in favour of a free university education. Now, you don’t have to go back 25 years to know what a hypocrite Joe Hockey is, but his hypocrisy should not contribute to young Australians carrying a debt to the grave, and then Christopher Pyne going after them once they’re in it.

JOURNALIST: Joe Hockey says it shouldn’t be any different to a mortgage given it’s [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: Well, the problem with Joe Hockey’s argument is that young people would be choosing between the two. We’re going to have a generation of young Australians who can’t afford to have a university degree and mortgage. They’re going to be choosing between a home of their own and a professional education. What kind of country do we want to become when we say to young people, you’ve got a choice, you can have a university education but chances are, if you’re in a profession like nursing, for example, you’ll never have the opportunity of paying back that degree, you’ll be paying it back for the rest of your life, and you can give up that great Australian dream of home ownership.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Well, that’s absolutely not true. We doubled the aid budget in Labor’s time in government. It went from $2.7 billion to close to $6 billion. It rose every single year, and we were in line to achieve the 0.5% of gross national income target. Labor’s aid program is highly successful, it was judged by the OECD and the independent evaluation deemed it to be highly successful particularly in delivering on gender equity programs that allowed things for example like the safety upgrades of the marketplaces in PNG that meant that the women subsistence farmers could bring their goods to the markets without being raped in the bushes when they went to the toilet. I mean, these are the things that delivered changed lives for people around the world. It reduced –

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Promised increases.

PLIBERSEK: We’re getting to the promised increases slightly later than we said. We had this little thing called the Global Financial Crisis. You might remember it from such things as global unemployment of 30 million people. It is an absurd comparison to say that getting to the 0.5% target a couple of years later, having doubled the aid budget during our time in government, is the same thing as cutting $7.6 billion from the aid budget.

JOURNALIST: PNG police are contradicting –

PLIBERSEK: I can only hear one question at a time. Go ahead.

JOURNALIST: PNG police are contradicting the Cornell report and suggesting there’s a cover up. Is there more to this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that’s a question for the Government. It’s an extraordinary thing that we have waited so long and that the Australian Government has provided so little information to the people of Australia about what’s going on in PNG. We want to see, as everybody does, people not risking their lives, making the dangerous journey to Australia by sea. That is not an excuse for cruelty and cover ups on Manus Island.

JOURNALIST: Do we need to hear more from the PNG side of things?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think we need to hear first of all from the Australian Government, their explanation for these most recent claims.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it was reasonable for Malcolm Turnbull and Martin Parkinson to meet with Clive Palmer last night?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s extraordinary and what’s even more curious is that apparently Joe Hockey didn’t know that his own departmental secretary was meeting with Malcolm Turnbull and Clive Palmer. I mean, it’s not unusual that they would get Malcolm Turnbull out to try and sell the Budget both to the public and to the crossbenchers. Malcolm Turnbull has been surprisingly unwilling to associate himself with I think, one of the Liberal backbenchers called is a stinking carcass of a Budget. Malcolm Turnbull’s kept his distance pretty well, up til now. But for him to be having meetings with Clive Palmer and Martin Parkinson and Joe Hockey apparently not to be aware of it, I can’t begin to fathom what’s going on there.

JOURNALIST: So the previous Labor Government, when Martin Parkinson was still the Treasury Chief then, never did that to the crossbenchers or the Greens or Tony Windsor?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I can’t answer that but what I can say is I expect that Wayne Swan would’ve known about it. Thanks, everyone.


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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development












SUBJECT / S: Child Abuse Royal Commission; Budget; Indonesia; Thailand


LYNDAL CURTIS: Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Capital Hill. If I can ask you first about a couple of issues of the day. The Government says that it has - it is not taking decisions to limit resources to the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. He has redirected some funding. We don't yet know the full details of what it's done, do we?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: We know that money's been taken from the area that offers legal support to victims making a statement. Now, you've got to really imagine this.  Think about this - these are people who sometimes for the first time in their lives are talking about the things that happened to them in their childhood. In some cases these are incidents that have affected their whole lives and some people would say ruined their lives. The reason that there is support there for those people to make a statement is because it's an incredibly difficult thing to do.

CURTIS: But if that money was not spent, in budgeting terms, you can reallocate it without it necessarily having an effect on that area.

PLIBERSEK: And if this- well, the first thing to say is it should have been made easier for people to access that funding if it’s been a problem. We also need to look into the future. Is there money taken from next year and the year after? It looks as though there is. So, that's not an underspend. That's a deliberate removal of funding from the child abuse Royal Commission - that’s a Royal Commission that victims of institutional child abuse have fought for decades to have established because this is a great tragedy, it is a great sore on Australia's soul that this issue has never properly aired. It's being properly aired but the resources must be there for victims to make their statements.

CURTIS: On the question of the general Budget, the Opposition has supported the deficit levy which has passed the House of Representatives. Are you being careful to pick your fights with this Budget?

PLIBERSEK: We were initially told that the income tax increase was going to hit people on $80,000 a year and we were very worried about that. But at $180,000 a year, it's not such a concern to us. It is important for us to focus on the key issues here, the key issues of fairness and broken promises. Now, on $180,000 a year, we're not so worried about that. It is clearly a broken promise. The Government said no new taxes, no tax increases. It is a tax increase. But our main concerns are things like the cuts to family benefits that will very much hurt middle income families and particularly families with a single bread winner or a sole parent. We're very concerned obviously about the attacks on Medicare. This is a fundamental change to operation of Medicare in this country and issues like higher education, what's being done to our young people, the future being snatched from them.

CURTIS: On your old portfolio, the Indonesian ambassador has come back to Canberra. Does that signal a thawing, a repair in relations between Australia and Indonesia?

PLIBERSEK: Look, it’s a very good step. It is step in the right direction but the fact that we're still talking about this 6 months after the Ambassador was first recalled just shows how much trouble the relationship's in. It is a good thing, I welcome it, but it's a very poor state of affairs when we still don't have a code of conduct signed, we've still got cooperation suspended in dozens of areas. Australian businesses are concerned about the suspended cooperation. We've got senior retired diplomats who are expressing concern about the relationship, we’ve got-

CURTIS: Although this was as a result of the spying allegations which was an activity taken while the Labor Party was in charge.

PLIBERSEK: No it is a result of the way this Government has handled the relationship with Indonesia. They've made statements about what will happen on Indonesian soil and in Indonesian waters without ever talking to the Indonesians. And when these allegations were made about spying, Tony Abbott could have picked up the phone, he could have spoken to the Indonesian President who has long been a good friend to Australia. More recently, Tony Abbott's once again refused an invitation to go to Indonesia, he's dumped the invitation at the last minute again without speaking to the Indonesian President so that the Indonesian Foreign Minister is out at sea trying to explain why our Prime Minister's made that decision. I mean, it is a very amateur hour approach to one of our most important neighbours.

CURTIS: And finally on Thailand, there is no timeframe yet from the military who mounted the coup for a move back to democracy. Is it a concern? Would you like to a timeframe at the very least?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. It is very important that we see a timeframe for a return to democracy. It is very important that the main political parties understand that they need to participate actively in democracy. If they don't like the election results, well maybe they need to campaign better. And for the government parties to understand that once you win an election it's important to continue to respect and strengthen democratic institutions within the country.

CURTIS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Lyndal.



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SUBJECT / S: The Abbott Government’s Budget of broken promises; Tony Abbott broken promises on health and education; GP Tax; Tony Abbott on ABC radio; university fee increases; Cambodia; Gonski

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER:  Thank you for coming here to the Royal Prince Alfred hospital today. This is a fantastic hospital, it has seen a great deal of hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from the previous Labor Government, including the fantastic Chris O’Brien lifehouse cancer centre just up the road here. It is exactly the sort of hospital that will suffer because of the funding cuts in this year’s Federal Budget. This hospital is likely to lose hospital beds. It is likely to see people waiting longer for elective surgery and waiting longer in emergency. But it is not the only hospital in Australia that will feel that. Every hospital in Australia will feel that. Before the election Tony Abbott said as clear as day there will be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no new taxes, no changes to the pensions. Since the election he has broken every single one of those commitments. We have seen $80 billion dollars cut from the states’ hospitals and schools. $80 billion dollars cut from health and schools in this Budget.  We have seen a whole range of health cuts that Catherine will speak about in a minute, but in terms of education we have not only seen massive cuts to school funding, we have seen the complete abandonment of the Gonski school education funding model. Something that has been severely criticized over night by the architect of the fairer funding system, David Gonski himself. You also see massive cuts to university education with students paying more for a university degree, and a university degree becoming out of reach for many ordinary Australians.

At the same time you see cuts to vocational education and cuts to funding programmes that help kids make the transition from school to TAFE or to university. So right across the board cuts to school funding, cuts to vocational education and cuts to university education. Tony Abbott also promised no new taxes and no increases on taxes. Well he has broken that promise in spades. He is increasing income tax for high income earners. He is increasing petrol tax for every Australian who drives. He is also levying new taxes on a visit to the GP and he is increasing the cost of buying medicines. He is cutting family tax benefit for many, many hundreds of thousands of Australian families who rely on that little bit of extra help from the government to make ends meet. And when it comes to pensions, pensioners are perhaps the hardest hit by Tony Abbott’s budget. Not only are they paying more for health care, not only are they paying more for petrol, but they will actually see a fall in the value of their pensions. We know people will be waiting longer to receive a pension, they will wait till they are 70 before they get a pension, but every pensioner, all of those people who are already receiving the age pension, who have worked hard the whole of their life to earn it are now going to see a reduction in the value of the age pension in coming years. This Budget hits every Australian and it breaks every promise that Tony Abbott made. Catherine do you want to talk a bit more about the health cuts?

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks, it is terrific to be here in Sydney today with Tanya Plibersek, former Minister for Health, who presided over a huge investment in health in this country. A very important investment that has been absolutely trashed by Tony Abbott. What Tony Abbott said before the last election is that there would be no cuts to health, no new taxes.  We know in this Budget, we have seen $80 billion dollars cuts from health and education. That translates to $15 billion dollars in New South Wales alone.  $15 billion dollars which will see bed closures. Which will see more pressure on emergency departments and longer waiting lists for elective surgery. These cuts start in just under 39 days’ time. They are not cuts in the never, never. They are cuts that will start very soon and start to immediately affect public hospitals right the way across this country. We have also seen cuts to public dental, public dental waiting lists will also increase. We have seen cuts to preventative health measures. Measures that were put in place, funding to states and territories to keep people well, to keep them out of hospital.  And of course we have seen the GP tax. The GP tax will cost around about $285 million dollars in out of pocket costs every year for people of New South Wales. That is putting a barrier in the way of people accessing general practitioners.

And the Treasurer Joe Hockey and the Prime Minister can’t even get the details of that policy right. They have made a claim, twice made a claim that people with chronic disease, people with asthma, people with other chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s who are going to see their GP will not pay this GP tax. That is simply another lie from Tony Abbott. People with chronic conditions will be paying $7 dollars every time they go to a GP for their standard consultation. That is what this policy is designed to do, is to make people pay more for accessing a general practitioner. And we know the results of doing that. The results of doing that will be that people will defer important visits to the doctor. Important visits where they may be managing their chronic condition or they may need to access advice about how they can stay well if they find out if their family has a heart condition or cancer within their families. People trying to access immunisation for their children. We know people will delay those visits. And we then know that from all of the international evidence that people will end up much sicker and they end up in emergency  departments. The cruel hoax of this budget is then Tony Abbott wants to put a tax on hospital visits as well. So, all around this Budget means that you will be paying more for the health services that you need and it is picking apart at the seams the fundamental health system we have here, Medicare. Labor will defend Medicare and we will certainly not be supporting Tony Abbott’ imposition of a GP tax every time you go to the doctor.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek what did you make of Tony Abbott’s wink on radio yesterday?

PLIBERSEK: Well look, I think the sad thing is that it just shows that Tony Abbott doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get what struggling Australians are facing, the sort of difficult choices they are making, the sort of sacrifices they are making. I think it shows Tony Abbott is completely out of touch with how hard life is for a lot of people.

JOURNALIST: What about the university protests yesterday? What do you make of them?

PLIBERSEK: Well like I have said before I think university protests should be large and should be peaceful. I am disturbed when I see people being jostled or any violence at a protest. But I am not surprised that university students and parents frankly are very, very concerned about the changes in this Budget. And the changes that are being proposed by Tony Abbott, putting university education out of reach for a whole lot of ordinary families. You have got families with children being born today who will already be worrying about whether they can save enough to send their child to university. The same way parents do in the United States. What you have got designed here is a two-tiered system where wealthy universities will be free to charge whatever they want and wealthy students will be the only ones who will be able to afford to go to them and the rest of the student population will miss out.

They will either make the decision to not to go to university at all because they cannot afford it or they will be going to universities that find it much more difficult to raise funds. We are already seeing universities trying to work out how they are going to cope with a 20 per cent reduction in student funding. That is coming at a time when there will also be students reconsidering whether to go to university at all because they will be copping a debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars when they graduate at the same time as they are trying to start a family, buy a home, doing all the things you do as you start to move into adulthood.

JOURNALIST: A big part of tony Abbott’s election campaign was the fact that Labor didn’t have a mandate for the carbon tax and focusing Julia Gillard’s comments before the election. What do you say to Tony Abbott’s mandate for what he’s doing for health and education?

PLIBERSEK:  Tony Abbott before the election deliberately lied to Australians. If Tony Abbott had said before the election I am going to destroy Medicare, I am going to make it more difficult for people to see a GP and we are going to introduce fees for people to go to public hospitals, Australians wouldn’t have voted for him. And he knew that, so he didn’t take them into his confidence, he told them a deliberate lie about not cutting health funding. He told a deliberate lie to about not cutting education funding because he knows that Australians value quality education, not just for their own children, but for all Australian children. That is why Australians backed the Gonski education reforms.

So he lied about those reforms. He lied about being on a unity ticket with Labor about school education funding and maybe the cruellest lie of all is the lie he told Australian pensioners that their pensions would be safe. That he wouldn’t be going after pensioners. These are people who are already struggling on around $20,000 dollars a year. Tony Abbott wants to pay a millionaire $50,000 to have a baby but he wants to cut the pensions of people living on $20,000 a year or less. He never said that before the election because he knew if he did people wouldn’t have voted for him. People would not have voted for a two tiered user pays, dog eat dog system in health and education and in pensions the way we see in the United States.

JOURNALIST: Have you been surprised amount of opposition particularly from within his own party? Six out of eight state and territory leaders and also a lot of Coalition MPs.

PLIBERSEK:  Well I am not surprised that premiers, including Liberal premiers are saying hands off our hospitals and hand off our schools. What an outrageous thing to do to state governments to say we want to cut our deficit so we are just going to shove all of this spending that we used to share, we are just going to shove it onto you.  I meant it is a completely unreasonable, unbelievable thing to without warning, without discussion without negotiation suddenly just pull out of funding that the Commonwealth has always shared with the states in the past. This isn’t a new thing. For decades Commonwealth and State governments have been sharing responsibility for hospitals and sharing responsibility for schools. And for Tony Abbott to say ‘oh no that was never our job’. It is unreal. He has lost touch with reality to think that he can get away from that.

JOURNALIST: We now know that the Cambodia deal, the Cambodia resettlement deal, will include voluntary resettlement for abled bodied refugees who are able to work and contribute. Isn’t that enough information in the broad sense on whether Labor would support this deal?

PLIBERSEK:  We’ve had very little information about Cambodia. I’ve before expressed my concerns. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia. It’s a post-conflict country that still has many, many problems of its own. We’ve seen no details of the deal. It’s part of the extraordinary lack of transparency in the immigration system that Scott Morrison’s running. We still don’t have any answers on what happened on Manus Island, the investigation of the death of Reza Berati. So many unanswered questions and the Cambodian deal, we’re learning more from Cambodia about what the Australian Government’s proposing than we’re learning from the Australian Government.

JOURNALIST: David Gonski is pleading for Government to keep funding your Government’s needs based funding model while expressing regret that he did put a $5 billion price tag on those reforms. Isn’t it true that the budget can’t afford that excess?

PLIBERSEK:  No, it’s just nonsense that these education reforms are unaffordable. We can’t afford not to invest in Australia’s children. We can’t afford to leave people behind. We can’t afford to develop a permanent underclass of kids who get a second rate education, who can never afford to go to TAFE or university. We can’t afford to leave our kids behind. We have to invest in education so we can compete internationally and we have to invest in education to get the best and to get the most out of every Australian.

And I’ll tell you something about these school education reforms. They were funded ten years into the future. We laid out in our budget papers how the school education funding would happen and how the national disability insurance scheme would happen. We found during our time in government, $180 billion worth of sensible savings. We found during my time as Health Minister, billions of dollars of savings in the health system that protected patients’ access to healthcare. We found savings by paying less for older, generic medicines so that we could afford to by the brand new medicines that are being invented all the time. We found savings by means testing private health insurance. Both of these things, opposed by Peter Dutton. There are ways of finding savings that don’t hurt patients in healthcare. There are ways of finding savings in the Budget that make sure that every dollar of taxpayers’ dollars is being well and wisely spent, but that’s not what happened in this Budget. This Budget is an attack on the Australian way of life and it’s an attack on Australians, it costs the health system. That means people waiting longer for elective surgery, it means people waiting longer in emergency departments. It means the closure of beds and the sacking of doctors and nurses and other health professionals.

This Budget costs the education system. It means poor kids will get a worse education and that our whole system will be poorer for it. You’re not only losing funding here for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, you’ll lose funding here for kids for extension classes, for all of the enrichment programs that were proposed in the funding model that would have allowed Principals to say ‘We want to hire a music teacher’ or ‘We want to hire a language teacher’ all of those programs that make education better quality. That’s lost here as well.

The argument that the Australian Budget cannot sustain health and education funding is false. We have three triple A credit ratings from three major credit ratings agencies. Very few countries in the world have that. It was never achieved under the Liberals. We achieved it, Labor achieved that and frankly if you’ve got troubles with your budget as Tony Abbott claims, why would you spend $20 billion on a paid parental leave scheme that gives the biggest advantage to the richest Australians?

JOURNALIST: I’ve got a question for Mrs King, is Labor prepared to negotiate a lower price for the GP payment?

KING: Not at all. Where not prepared to negotiate on a GP tax at all. This is an unfair tax. It is a tax that penalises people going to the doctor. What a stupid policy. Why would you put a barrier in the way to people accessing a part of the system where you want people to go? You want them to go for prevention, you want them to go to manage chronic disease and you want to make sure they are staying well. This is stupid policy and it’s not just Labor saying that. Every single health expert in the country from the Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian College of GPs, Consumers Health Forum and the Public Health Association. They all know this is dumb policy and Tony Abbott should drop it.

JOURNALIST: If the problem is that low income earners can’t actually afford it, why not negotiate to exempt them from it?

KING: Well Tony Abbott has made a decision that everybody will pay a GP tax of $7 every time you go for a visit and he’s provided a very small exemption for a small number of people who are concession card holders after ten visits. What he doesn’t understand is it’s not just concession card holders who will feel this pressure. There are many people on low and middle incomes who in fact will find this very difficult. If you’ve got a family how on earth do you budget for when your kids get sick because that is basically what he’s telling people. You now need to factor into your budget the amount of GP visits you’re going to have each year. What we should be doing in the health system is making sure people have good access to General Practice. That is the basis on which Medicare is developed, making sure you have universal access so that you can go to the GP, the cheapest part of the system, and try to prevent unnecessary hospitalisations. Everybody knows this is dumb policy and it is certainly not something Labor will be negotiating on.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister and the Treasurer both appeared to make mistakes this week when trying to explain the GP co-payment. Does this show just how difficult it is to break down complicated health policy so that people can actually understand it?

KING: Well it seems to be that only Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and Peter Dutton, the architects of this policy are seeming now to get stuck on the actual details, they’ve been called on them, they’ve misled people by saying people with chronic disease conditions will not have to pay that tax. They clearly do not understand their own policy, let alone the way in which the health system operates. We know people with chronic disease conditions will pay this tax. Everybody will pay this tax for a standard consultation. That is the way the policy is designed, it is in fact designed to discourage people from going to the doctors and accessing the doctor when they need to in order for the Government to save money.


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ABC Radio National with Alison Carabine












SUBJECT / S: Student protests; The Abbott Government’s Budget of broken promises Thailand; Cambodia.

ALISON CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, if we could first go to the student protests, the Prime Minister has taken the AFP advice and cancelled his visit today to Deakin University. Is it a pretty sad indictment that the Prime Minister’s safety can’t be guaranteed visiting a university campus in his own country?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think certainly the scenes we saw a couple of days ago of Julie Bishop and Sophie Mirabella being jostled at protests are not acceptable. I think student protests should be large but they should be peaceful. It’s very clear that students have something to protest about but they have to do it in a way that’s proper and respects our democratic positions. Christopher Pyne said as late as November last year that he wasn’t going to increase university fees. This move to deregulate university fees basically means poor kids won’t get to university and they won’t get to do the courses that will lead them to a successful career with a decent job. It’s a completely clear broken promise. Christopher Pyne could not have been clearer when he said that he was not going to increase university fees. So it’s not just that it’s a broken promise, but the fact that this will take us to a two-tier American style university system where the best courses at the best universities are completely unaffordable to ordinary people.

CARABINE: And Labor will vote against these changes to higher education in the Senate but it was just last year that the Labor Government was trying to cut $2.3 billion worth of funding to the tertiary sector. Isn’t it a bit cute, maybe even hypocritical, for Labor to now be lining up against these changes to higher ed?

PLIBERSEK: Higher education funding expanded massively under the Labor Government, in part because we deregulated university places. We said to universities, you can have as many students as you can cope with. But funding increased, year on year, every year, very substantially. What we sought to do, was take some of that very fast growth and put it into the Gonski school education reforms because we know that the first years of a child’s schooling are critical to their life long success in education. Now, the Gonski school education funding reforms have gone too, so there’s a cut to university funding, a cut to school education funding, a cut to TAFE, a cut to youth programs that connect kids who have less school, back into schooling or into the workforce, and they’re at every stage, there’s a cut to childcare as well. So, from the minute your children leave the cradle to go out into the world, every stage of their education has received a cut in this Budget.

CARABINE: But the cut to higher education won’t occur in the Senate because you’re opposed to it, so too the Greens and we also understand, Clive Palmer. Now, the Government has calculated that Labor is blocking $40 billion worth of savings measures, the Treasurer says unless the Budget is passed pretty much unchanged, every household could face higher interest rates, higher taxes down the track. Did you take that into consideration before deciding to take what is a fairly obstructionist stance in the Senate?

PLIBERSEK: It’s not about obstructing the Budget. This is about standing for to the sort of Australia that we want to live in and that we believe Australians want to live in. We don’t want an American style deregulated university system or worse still, an American style deregulated health system where your credit card counts more than your Medicare card. Australians were not told before the election, in fact they were told the exact opposite, they were told that Tony Abbott was the best friend of Medicare, no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes, every one of those promises broken –

CARABINE: But if, if Tony –

PLIBERSEK: No, no, I want to finish this saying this –


PLIBERSEK: Because if Tony Abbott is serious about this Budget being a threat to Australia’s Triple-A credit rating, why is he introducing a $20 billion Paid Parental Leave Scheme? $5.5 billion a year –

CARABINE: Which is paid mainly by business.

PLIBERSEK: No, well it’s paid partly by business and partly by taxpayers. And it’s paid partly by cuts to things like pensions, health, education, all of the cuts that this Government is proposing. I’ll tell you something else, Ali, when we were in –

CARABINE: Well, can I just put one thing to you, Tanya Plibersek?


CARABINE: You talk about the pre-election promises which have been broken by the Government, Labor is making a big song and dance about that but as Joe Hockey points out, Labor is opposing over $13 billion in savings that the Coalition took to the election, such as the mining and carbon tax repeals, where is the consistency from Labor in that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, because people voted Labor because we said we would oppose those measures. And enough people voted Labor to give us the power –

CARABINE: But more people voted for the Coalition.

PLIBERSEK: Sure. And enough people voted for us to give us the power to keep our promise to the Australian people which is not to allow open slather when it comes to air pollution, that’s what getting rid of the Carbon Pricing Scheme would do, open slather on air pollution. And enough people voted for us to say that when mining companies are extracting minerals from the land that belongs to all of us, if they are very highly profitable then some of that profit should go back to the Australian people to pay for health and to pay for education and to pay for pensions and to pay for the low income super contribution that is also being taken away by this Government and to pay for the school kids’ bonus. And Alison, when we were in Government, the Liberals opposed the very sensible savings that we made in private health insurance. For example, when I was Health Minister, they opposed the means testing of private health insurance, something that they’ve in fact extended in this Budget. They opposed the sensible pricing of older, generic medicines. They voted against paying less for older medicines to put that money into new medicines. I don’t think that they can be pointing the finger on the budget responsibility.

CARABINE: Okay. We’re going to have to move on. Tanya Plibersek, if we could turn to the Foreign Affairs portfolio, I’m not sure if you’ve had a formal briefing on the situation in Thailand, but with the army on the streets having declared martial law, is there any sign of a political consensus in Bangkok?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Alison, I haven’t had a formal briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs but obviously I am very concerned about what’s happened with the military now. I would hope very much that order is restored quickly but that Thailand is able to draw on its constitution and its democratic values to allow the Thai people to indeed choose their government and that peace and democracy are restored quickly.

CARABINE: And on the negotiations for a refugee resettlement deal with Cambodia, Labor is not ruling out supporting such an arrangement. As we know, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world with a poor human rights record, why would Labor consider Cambodia to be a suitable place for refugees?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we haven’t seen the details of the proposal at all and I certainly share the concerns that you’ve just mentioned. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia, it’s a country that still has difficulty in feeding its own people, malnutrition for children is still a problem there, the human rights record as you point out, is questionable at the moment, protestors are being shot in the street. So we are gravely concerned about some of the things that are happening in Cambodia and I think really the question for the Government is why they think Cambodia is a better place to send asylum seekers than Malaysia where they, when they were in the Opposition, they blocked Labor’s proposal for Malaysia which would’ve seen people living in the community, able to work, able to send their kids to school, and able to get healthcare.

CARABINE: Yeah but does that mean you would be arguing within the Party room for Labor to oppose any Cambodia resettlement deal?


PLIBERSEK: Well, I make my arguments in the party room, Alison, I don’t just go on the radio before I do. All I’m saying is that Cambodia is a country that has many problems of its own and we haven’t seen the proposal –

CARABINE: It sounds like you don’t want it to go ahead, you don’t want Labor to support it.

PLIBERSEK: Well, we haven’t seen the proposal yet, Alison. I don’t know how the Government’s going to guarantee the safety of the people that it sends there. I’d be interested to hear that.

CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Alison. See you.


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ABC News Radio with Marius Benson


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development








SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities.  

MARIUS BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


BENSON: The shadow ministry met last night.  Have you decided what you are for and what you are against in the Abbott Budget?

PLIBERSEK: Well, there’s a lot of things in this Budget obviously that we are very troubled by. We have had discussions about the measures that we’ll be opposing. They include changes to the pension, the increase in the pension age, and most particularly the change in indexation of the pension so that all pensioners will lose money. We’ll definitely be opposing the petrol excise, it’s very clearly a broken promise and it’s very clearly a hit on the family budget. We will be looking at a number of other measures as well. Some of them obviously we haven’t seen legislation for and we’ll have to look more closely at the legislation, and the, but the petrol, pensions and we’ve been very clear that the $7 fee to go to the doctor – the destruction of Medicare – is something that we cannot tolerate.

BENSON: There are three items there that you’ve said you’re definitely against.  What about the debt levy, the 2 per cent impost on people earning more than $180,000?

PLIBERSEK: Well, when we were first made aware that this was a possibility, the suggestion was that the debt levy would come in at $80,000. And I think the outrage that Australians expressed at that, again, broken promise, Tony Abbott clearly said going to the election, no new taxes, taxes would be lower under them, that there wouldn’t be tax increases, they could tackle the budget deficit without new taxes. I mean he said it in so many different ways and here he was in his first budget proposing that people on $80,000 a year or more would be slugged extra income tax to fix a beat up budget emergency was something that we couldn’t tolerate. At $180,000, well we’ll have to look at that down the track. It is not as critical to us as protecting Medicare, protecting pensioners and protecting ordinary families.

BENSON: So, the debt levy is a maybe?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we’re looking at it.

BENSON: Do you take the threat of an early election seriously? Tony Abbott has warned that, particularly the remark directed at the Senate cross benchers that if there were to be a double dissolution election, they’re unlikely to get back.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I don’t think the way to conduct political debate in this country is threaten people. I think Tony Abbott can do what he likes. I’m sure he’ll have double dissolution triggers if not from this Budget then from other measures. We will continue to oppose his moves to remove the carbon pricing arrangements and replace them with nothing, replace them with no real effort to reduce pollution, reduce air pollution in Australia.

BENSON: He will have the grounds for a double D, but do you think it’s a serious threat? Do you think it’s a likelihood?

PLIBERSEK: Oh, you’d have to ask him. I mean, I’m not very good at picking what Tony Abbott’s going to do because when he said “no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no new taxes, no change to pensions, no cuts to the ABC”, I didn’t think that he could go to his first Budget and break every one of those promises.

BENSON: Would you like to fight an election on this Budget?

PLIBERSEK: I would be very happy to fight an election where Labor was saying we built Medicare and we will protect it. We care about pensioners, three million pensioners across Australia who will lose money from this budget. We want to defend higher education against the Americanisation of our system. We don’t want to see family budgets hit with extra petrol taxes and the possibility of GST increases because of what the Federal Government has said to the states, you know, you’re on your own when it comes to health and education, cutting $80 billion from our hospitals and our schools. I’d be perfectly happy to stake our reputation in response to that.

BENSON: The Government says you have no reputation when it comes to saying governments break promises because, for example, Labor promised surpluses year after year and never delivered them, you’ve broken so many promises you’re in no position to attack the Government, you have no credibility.

PLIBERSEK: We were on track to have a surplus in 2017-2018 and I mean it is like, when you listen to Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott talk about the Australian economy over recent years, it is like the Global Financial Crisis never happened. It’s like Europe is not still just barely recovering. The Australian economy grew by 15 per cent over a period when most other countries went backwards and some are barely back at the size they were before the Global Financial Crisis. We created a million jobs while 30 million jobs were lost around the world. We got three Triple-A credit ratings from the major ratings agencies, the first time the Australian economy had ever achieved that. No Liberal Government, not Peter Costello that they lionise as the best thing since sliced bread, never achieved those Triple-A credit ratings and we did it because we kept the Australian economy strong during the Global Financial Crisis. That meant stimulus spending. I mean it’s fantastic to hear Joe Hockey now saying we need to invest in infrastructure because the mining boom’s coming off. It’s a very curious double standard that in the Global Financial Crisis, the worst economic circumstances in three quarters of a century, the now Government, the Liberals, voted against infrastructure spending but now they’re interested in it to make the economy strong.

BENSON: Can I just jump in there with a quick final question on Kevin Rudd, the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Scheme in Brisbane. He wants to give evidence and part of that has been redacted, part of the Cabinet minutes have been redacted, at the behest of the Federal Government. You were in the Rudd Ministry, you were a Cabinet Minister in the Gillard Government, are you happy to see Cabinet confidentiality breached, that convention breached and have Cabinet minutes made public?

PLIBERSEK: Look I’m not a QC. I can’t follow the ins and outs of the legal argument, but it seems to me that if someone is called to give evidence you have to allow them to properly defend themselves and it’s a bit rich for the Government which was, has indeed already handed over Cabinet documents to the Royal Commission, to now be saying that’s a problem. Like I say, I’m not an expert on the legal argument but a man’s usually got a right to defend himself.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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ABC RN Interview with Waleed Aly


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development







SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities.  

WALEED ALY: We rang the Minister for Foreign Affairs but their office did not return our calls today, so joining me instead is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, Tanya Plibersek. Thank you very much for your time.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Pleasure to be with you.

ALY: This is ultimately the extension of a story that the previous government started, isn’t it? When they started quarantining foreign aid for the treatment and processing of asylum seekers.

PLIBERSEK: Do you know what? We doubled the aid budget from 2.9 billion dollars to 5.7 billion dollars when we left government. We were on target to meet the 0.5% of gross national income target that, at that time was a bipartisan target. And it is a little infuriating to say that meeting the 0.5% target instead of in 2015, in 2017, because of the Global Financial Crisis is the same thing as what the Government has done, which is cut 16 billion dollars from the world’s poorest people. Now, you’ve spoken about this Budget, which cuts 7.6 billion dollars, that takes these four years into account. But if you look at the spending that we had projected out to 2020, spending that, as late as December last year and the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, the Government also supported, this is a 16 billion dollar cut. So, 7.6 billion dollars, you’re perfectly right to say is the largest single cut in this Budget. But the effect as you look out beyond this budget is a much greater effect on the world’s poorest people. Now, just to put this into perspective, 7.6 billion dollars would teach 25 million people to read and write, it’d provide 1.5 billion dollars – 1.5 billion doses of life saving malaria treatments, it’d treat 10 million people with HIV/AIDS with anti-infection viral treatments or train more than 3 million new midwives in developing countries. So this is, on an unprecedented scale, a broken promise.

ALY: And if I may be so cynical, not a voter among any of those people you mentioned which I suspect is why foreign aid remains an easy target. In the case of your side’s response on foreign aid, or policy on foreign aid, I wasn’t referring so much to the delaying of meeting the target, so much as the quarantining of foreign aid to be diverted to a totally separate policy area which was the processing and settlement of asylum seekers, and it got called foreign aid.

PLIBERSEK: And it’s also worth pointing out that we helped 6 million Afghan kids, including 2 million girls, go to school. We cut malaria in Vanuatu by more than 80% and in the Solomon Islands by 50%. We helped build two thousand schools across Indonesia. I mean, it really is kind of, very cheap policy analysis to say “a pox on both your houses” because we didn’t spend every dollar the way you would’ve liked us to spend it.

ALY: No, no, it’s not about spending every dollar the way I like, it’s about taking something that wasn’t called foreign aid and hadn’t been called foreign aid for a long time and then calling it that.

PLIBERSEK: Actually that’s not right. It did meet the international definition of overseas development assistance and –

ALY: Right, but it was money that we were spending anyway not under the foreign aid budget, wasn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: It was – it amazes me that you have before you a 7.9 billion dollar cut in aid and you want to have an argument about what the last Government did because some of the money went to look after asylum seekers in other countries. If we’d given money to Indonesia to look after asylum seekers in Indonesia, that would be a bad spend of money in your view?

ALY: No, I didn’t say that. I just think that – what I’m trying to draw out here, is the overall direction in policy in this country –

PLIBERSEK: The overall direction is that we doubled aid funding and this Government, in this Budget last night, has cut 7.9 billion dollars, enough money to teach 25 million people to read and write.

ALY: When you say “cut”, what you really mean is slow the growth, so that it’s a cut for the future, it’s not a cut in what we’re spending currently, is it?

PLIBERSEK: So, there will be real cuts to countries that were expecting to get extra money for aid, there will be some countries that will lose funding altogether. Africa, for example, is a country – Africa is a continent where we have previously given aid dollars, in the previous round of cuts we cut more than 90 million dollars from Sub-Saharan Africa and it looks like in this Budget, we will end aid altogether to Africa. I mean, it is extraordinary to think that there will be countries that used to receive development assistance from Australia that will no longer receive development assistance from Australia.

ALY: I’m sure you’re familiar with the argument about foreign aid that there are people here that would need a lot of the money that we are spending overseas, particularly say, Indigenous Australians, whose life expectancy is seventeen years less than the rest of the country-

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely, and they’re hit in this Budget, too. This is the extraordinary thing about this argument. The United Kingdom, which has a much worse budget position than Australia, has kept to not just to the 0.5% target of gross national target, but they’ve gone beyond that to 0.7%, congratulations to them. They didn’t use a hard budget to attack the world’s poorest people. The other argument that you hear, is not just that Budget times are tough but that we need that money here in Australia to look after poor Australians. I agree that we need to look after poor Australians here in Australia. The choice is a false choice. This Budget on top of these enormous aid cuts, also cuts money for pensioners, it also cuts New Start and Youth Allowance for kids, it also cuts money to ordinary families, it also makes people pay 7 dollars every time they go to the doctor and an extra 5 dollars when they get medicine. I mean, the idea that if we cut the aid budget, poor Australians will be better off, is absolutely disproved by this Budget. Incidentally, you mentioned Indigenous Australians, they cop a 500 million dollar cut in Indigenous programs alone, and of course they will suffer disproportionately from the health cuts, from the education cuts, from the pension cuts, from the cuts to housing assistance, from all of the other cuts in this Budget.

ALY: Tanya Plibersek, why do think it is that cuts to foreign aid carries no political consequence?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I’m not- There’s two things in that question, the first is, we have to make moral and ethical decisions that are separate from whether there are political consequences. So I think that the first question is, is this the right moral and ethical decision? And the answer is plainly not. Is it a right, strategic decision? Because stronger countries in our region, better trading partners, more stable nations are all good for Australia. So, it’s wrong morally and ethically, it’s wrong strategically, but you ask a question about political popularity and I think that this is really the job of every Australian who cares about the world around them, to say that there is a consequence to this politically, that it is not acceptable to cut 7.9 billion dollars in this Budget from the world’s poorest people.

ALY: Well, I suppose I’m asking whether or not you think those Australians exist in an electorally meaningful way?

PLIBERSEK: I certainly think they exist, I mean, I haven’t considered whether they exist in an electorally meaningful way, but they certainly exist because I’m being contacted by many, many of them. You look at the sort of outpouring that we’ve had for these girls that have been kidnapped in Nigeria and it is devastating, terrifying for the girls, terrifying for their parents. The idea at the same time that we would be cutting support to girls just like them to give them a safe way to go to school is extraordinary, and I don’t believe that the average Australian can say “I care about these girls because I’ve seen them on television and the terrible things happening to them, but I don’t care about the other 65 million girls around the world who don’t have access to education” I don’t think that’s true. So, I haven’t made a political analysis of it, I’ve made an ethical, moral and strategic analysis about whether it’s the right thing, and the answer is no. It’s up to other people, including aid organisations who’ve been very critical of this, to make sure that there’s a political consequence.

ALY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for your time. You’ll be pleased to know I’m getting text messages from people who were loving the fact that you told me off, so there you go.

PLIBERSEK: [laughs] I didn’t mean to tell you off! [inaudible]

ALY: I quite enjoyed being told off, actually, on air, it’s good, good fun. Thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Alright, thank you.


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Sky News Interview with David Speers


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development






Subject/s: THE Budget.

DAVID SPEERS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time. We have heard Clive Palmer this afternoon talking tough about pushing some of these measures to an election if it gets to that, is Labor equally prepared to resist some of these budget measures all the way to a double dissolution?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: We have been very clear indeed that we will oppose a number of these measures. First among them of course is Medicare. Labor introduced Medicare, we fought always to protect it. This budget is the worst attack on Medicare that we have ever seen from an Australian Government. It’s not just the seven dollar GP co-payment, it’s not just the increased costs of medicines, it’s not just the charges to go to a public hospital for the first time, but these things together are an assault on the universality of Medicare. It means that fewer doctors will bulk bill. Doctors’ incomes have been attacked at the same time as patients’ costs are going up.

SPEERS: Well, the doctors do get a two dollar slice out of the seven dollar payment, though.

PLIBERSEK: It’s going to cost them two dollars to administer the money they are collecting. Doctors are all the time trying to work out how they can focus more on their patients and less on their paperwork. And this Government just doesn’t get that.

SPEERS: The other measures, as I understand, that Labor will definitely block is the fuel tax.


SPEERS: And the other was the pension increase. On the fuel tax firstly, how can Labor say no to that when it has been frozen for so long at 38 cents a litre?

PLIBERSEK: Because this is a very clear broken promise from the Government and it’s a very clear attack on the cost of living of ordinary Australians. At the same time as they are making Australians pay more every time they fill up at the petrol station, they’re actually cutting funding for public transport. So, at the same time as they are taking away your future option to get out of your car, they are forcing you to be in your car more, to drive to work, to drive when you are taking the kids to school-

SPEERS: But that money is going into roads and lot of people would like to see that.

PLIBERSEK: A lot of this roads funding is re-announced Labor funding-

SPEERS: But there is new funding there-

PLIBERSEK: There’s some new funding but there is a billion dollar cut to local Governments spending on roads, there is re-announced funding from Labor and there’s a small contribution from this petrol excise, which is a broken promise.

SPEERS: Let me ask you about some of the other areas, in education, in particular, is there any way Labor or the Parliament can stop the Abbott Government reducing that funding, that Gonski funding after 2017?

PLIBERSEK: This is something we will have to see over the next few weeks, because it is not clear which of these measures will be in the appropriations bills and it’s not clear what will require separate legislation.

SPEERS: And to be clear, if it is in the appropriation bills, you won't vote against it.

PLIBERSEK: We won't block supply, we know what happens to Australia, to the sort of constitutional crisis, we’ve had only once in our history, when oppositions take it upon themselves to block supply. It’s a destructive thing to do.

SPEERS: And also the GP co-payment, if that was in the appropriations bill, we don’t know exactly how it will play, but you wouldn’t vote against it?

PLIBERSEK: We have always said that we will not block supply, but we believe that we will be able to vote against the GP co-payment. We believe we will be able to vote against the petrol excise increases and we will spend coming weeks and months working through the legislation to see what we can do to hold the Government to account for their raft of broken promises. Before the election, they promised no cuts to healthcare, no cuts to education, no new taxes, no hit on pensions. They have broken every one of those promises. And with this cut to the funding for the states, they are setting up to break the last of the promises which is no increase to GST, because the only way the states can cope with this is by increasing GST.

SPEERS: I will get to that, but just staying with education, higher education is a major overhaul here as well, where does Labor stand on this?

PLIBERSEK: It is a disgrace, I mean, again Gough Whitlam, so many people will tell you they only went to university because Gough Whitlam made it possible for smart, working class kids to go to university.

SPEERS: He made it free.

PLIBERSEK: Yes, this turns the ability for working class kids to get to university back to pre-Whitlam days, they are asking every student to pay more for their education, a bigger share of the cost of their education, but they are also deregulating fees. So, the most popular courses at the most popular universities will be out of reach for average students.

SPEERS: But can you understand those that don't go to university thinking, why should we subsidise so much of their course fee when being a graduate they’ll go on to earn a lot more over their lifetime.

PLIBERSEK: And that’s why we introduced HECS, we introduced universal education-


PLIBERSEK: HECS stays, but I can tell you working class kids, the difference between taking on a $30,000 debt or a $200,000 debt when you are also-

SPEERS: Is it really going to be $200,000?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't know what the numbers will be, because universities will have the freedom to charge whatever they wish. You’re best to ask universities what they’re going to charge.

SPEERS: They are certainly not saying $200,000.

PLIBERSEK: Well, if you’re looking at what they are charging overseas students, they’re very substantial fees indeed and the universities will have the ability to charge whatever they wish for the popular courses. And the difference for a working class kid of taking on that sort of debt at the same time as they want to be starting a family, buying a home, setting themselves up, we know what will happen, kids will say no.

SPEERS: Your old portfolio of health-

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it’s been shockingly hit.

SPEERS: Yes, they are not going to continue the increase that Labor signed up to with the states, to cover eventually 50 per cent of growth costs for hospitals, but why should the Commonwealth cover that? Hospitals are run by the states.

PLIBERSEK: This is like a couple who have been married for ten years and had an agreement to share the washing up, one of them one night saying ‘The washing up is your job, it has always been your job.’ We have had an arrangement with the states for decades about who funds hospitals. The proportion has varied up and down a little bit. Our aim has been to get to 50 per cent. 50/50 is fair. 50/50 is fair.

SPEERS: But it is strangely higher than the Commonwealth has ever funded previously.

PLIBERSEK: Because hospitals need more funding. We are getting older, we’ve got higher hospital costs because we are inventing fantastic, new treatments all the time that can keep people healthy and keep them alive longer.

SPEERS: Why shouldn't states shoulder the share that they always have?

PLIBERSEK: What we’ve asked states to do, is to treat people more efficiently, so we give 50 per cent of the efficient growth to hospitals. Now, I am getting a little bit technical here, but there are incentives in the system for hospitals to treat people sooner when they are in emergency, sooner when they need elective surgery and better. We’ve got quality incentives in there as well. So we have designed a hospital system that puts the incentive onto the states to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, to treat them quickly when they get sick and get them healthy again and by using our funding contribution we have been able to achieve that. Tony Abbott has turned his back on that, people will be waiting longer to get into hospital, they’ll waiting longer for elective surgery, this will see hospital beds close. There is no doubt.

SPEERS: Unless the states can find the money-

PLIBERSEK: $80 billion.

SPEERS: Which gets to this question about-

PLIBERSEK: Looking down the back of the couch, oh here’s $80 billion!

SPEERS: The GST, where do you stand on the GST?

PLIBERSEK: It is an appalling situation to put State Premiers and State Treasurers into the situation where they are saying the Federal Government saying to the states and territories ‘You’ve got to beg for an increase to the GST’. This is so clearly a broken promise and we are completely about keeping Tony Abbott to the promises he made before the election.

SPEERS: Philosophically, how do you view the GST? Is it completely out of limits to increase it or broaden the base?

PLIBERSEK: I view it as another hit on family budgets.

SPEERS: So, Labor will not support any change?

PLIBERSEK: We can discuss all these things in coming weeks, I’m not going to get into a hypothetical-

SPEERS: It is a pretty simple question, it has been around a long time, does Labor any increase or any change to the GST?

PLIBERSEK: It is a ridiculous proposition to ask me to answer a hypothetical question about something that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer deny that they’re doing, but I’ll tell you this-

SPEERS: I’m just asking you to have a think about it. Whether you think that there is any case for changing the GST?

PLIBERSEK: I support a broad and progressive tax system and we have offered the government a number of terrific ways of raising revenue including going after corporate tax evasion and they’ve turned their back on that.

SPEERS: Sure, but Labor used to have a pretty firm line on no change to the GST, what is it now?

PLIBERSEK: We don't support changes to the GST and we see it as a broken promise and another hit on family budgets.

SPEERS: So, you won’t back any change to the GST?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it is ridiculous to ask me to answer a hypothetical question. We don't support changes to the GST because they’re another hit on the family budget and another broken promise.

SPEERS: Alright.

PLIBERSEK: But, I tell you what, we made $180 billion worth of responsible savings when we were in government, and we’ve got more that this Government have rejected, including corporate tax evasion. Companies that are offshoring their profits, does this government want to go after them? No, they want to go after pensioners, they want to go after families on $100,000 a year, they want to go after people who have got sick kids or are filling the tank up at the petrol station.

SPEERS: Finally, in your portfolio area, foreign affairs, there’s one of the biggest cuts is to foreign aid.

PLIBERSEK: The biggest.

SPEERS: Nearly $8 billion. Will you make any commitment to restore that funding?

PLIBERSEK: We have never abandoned our commitment to get to 0.5 per cent of gross national income. We’ve never abandoned that commitment.

SPEERS: So that stays?

PLIBERSEK: This government kept their commitment before the election then turned its back on it just weeks ago. Their midyear forecast still had the 0.5 per cent target for gross national income, they had turned that are back on that. They have abandoned poverty reduction as an aim of our aid budget, they’ve got rid of AusAid completely, our experienced overseas development assistance workers, some of them merged into DFAT, many of them have just lost their jobs. We are looking at these poor girls in Nigeria today and the contribution that Australia has made to funding education for girls around the world. So much of that at risk today because in this budget $7.9 billion cut from the aid budget, between now and 2020 that figure is $16 billion, the government has turned its back on the world's poorest people.

SPEERS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

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ABC 702 with Richard Glover









TUESDAY, 13 MAY 2014


RICHARD GLOVER: Rebecca Huntley is social researcher and director of IPSOS Mackay Research. She’s here with me in Sydney alongside Cassandra Wilkinson from the Centre for Independent Studies, welcome to you, too. And in Canberra, Tanya Plibersek’s the Member for Sydney, of course and Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party. Tanya, welcome to you as well.


GLOVER: Now, brave or mad? That’s the question that some people are asking about Tony Abbott. Is he? Yes, it’s true, break some promises about new taxes but arguably does it for the sake of the country’s long-term financial health. How do you think he’ll be seen after tomorrow’s tough Budget? Tanya Plibersek.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it’s really clear that the Commission of Audit is the alibi for a budget of broken promises. Tony Abbott said very clearly before the election, no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts to the ABC, no change to pensions, no new taxes, no tax increases. And it looks like every single one of those commitments is going to be broken on Tuesday.

GLOVER: Now, the guy who ran the Commission of Audit for them, he’s on PM tonight saying look, the main promise was to bring the Budget into surplus again and voters, he’s implying, voters will really see that as the main game and concentrate on that rather than anything else.

PLIBERSEK: I think that that’s completely untrue. You think about the way Tony Abbott behaved after Julia Gillard said “we don’t want to have a carbon tax, we do want to have action on climate change, we want to have a carbon pollution reduction scheme but not a carbon tax”, and then Tony Abbott spent three years saying “broken promise, broken promise”, I don’t know that people are going to cop from him that when he says no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no new taxes, no cuts to the pension, no cuts to the ABC and breaks all those promises, that that’s okay.

GLOVER: We are spending more than what’s coming in the door, this would be a problem if you were in government.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I can give you a terrific example of the wrong priorities that this Government’s got, because we suggested, we had legislation prepared for a $700 million revenue take, where we were closing loopholes that multinational companies were using to offshore their profits. Basically, we had ready to go, $700 million of extra revenue that we could get by preventing companies profit shifting off shore, and the Government’s knocked that back. We had proposals that would’ve reduced some of the very generous benefits that very high income earners get on their superannuation, again the Government’s knocked that back. When I was Health Minister, the Government argued against my savings measures to reduce the cost of older, generic medicines, money that we ended up spending on fantastic, new medicines. Of course, you always need to be looking at the money you’re raising and the way that you’re spending it. You need to make sure you get value for money and you need to make sure that when you’re raising revenue that you’re doing it in the fairest possible way. But you see the crazy priorities of this Government when they’re prepared to spend $5.5 billion a year on an over the top paid parental leave scheme at the same time that they’re cutting pensions, cutting health care, cutting education and putting up taxes that they promised they wouldn’t do.

GLOVER: Let’s come to some of those details of those rumoured changes tomorrow. But Cassandra, first to you. Will it be seen as just a series of broken promises as Tanya says?

CASSANDRA WILKINSON: Maybe, I mean, I think Tanya’s got a point, that if you have argued that you have got to stick to the letter not the spirit of your promises, he’s probably going to be hoisted on that petard in the coming days. But I’d say going back to your original premise, bravery is a term that we should reserve for the reformer and this is based on what we see in the rumours and leaks, not a reforming budget. It’s trimming, and it might cut deeply in a couple of areas, but there isn’t really structural change. When you look at the problem in the Budget it’s that the last couple of Governments of both stripes, have put a lot people on Government payments who don’t really need them. A lot of that’s gone to families, but a lot of it’s also gone to top up the superannuation of the wealthy, a lot of it’s gone into payments for growing treatment of the worried well in health. There’s all kinds of money being paid to people who don’t really need it. Now, that’s what this Budget so far, from what we’ve seen doesn’t get to grips with.

GLOVER: But they are going to tackle family benefit parts A and B in different ways though, aren’t they? That’s certainly the rumour.

WILKINSON: Somewhat. And that’d be a good start if they do. But they’re still going to leave people with very large incomes and supers sitting on the pension. And the idea that really poor people are disabled people or people who haven’t had the chance to save because they’ve been carers for disabled children throughout their lives, have got to compete for a bucket of money that’s got a whole lot of wealthy people’s fists in it, seems like that’s the kind of work that needs to be done, and if Abbott wants to be considered brave, then he’s still got a long way to go.

GLOVER: Okay, wealthy people you have to define of course and some people say things that family tax benefits which goes to pretty ordinary families who are trying to make ends meet, that that’s a way of trying to reduce inequality in Australia. A lot of people are worried about the growing gap between the rich and the poor, giving some targeted money to families might be some way of helping that. 

WILKINSON: I reckon that those of us who live in Sydney have got a bit of a distorted idea about what doing it tough actually means. When the average income in Australia is really more like fifty grand than the hundred that we’re talking about in terms of the thresholds here, it’s not really a deep, deep cut. And when we’ve still got to find money for the NDIS, for all those people who really do need the help of their neighbours and friends and other tax payers, you’ve got to say, if the first thing you need to do is make sure the disabled are taken care of, then maybe PPL and maybe family payments and maybe a whole lot of other stuff have got to wait.

GLOVER: Rebecca, let me come to you. Because there’s really two competing ideas here, one that Australians care so much about sustainability over time, that they’ll cop any sort of pain if you can convince them it’s necessary for the good of the country and for the good of the economy. The other is the sense that they’re sick of politicians bloody lying to them all the time. Now you talk to average Australians in their homes, which is the sort of dominant feeling of the two?

REBECCA HUNTLEY: There’s definitely tension. I think what we’ve felt in our research up until this is some anxiety about what is really going to be cut and is the burden of this kind of idea of a contribute and build budget, which is what Joe Hockey is calling at, is going to evenly distributed. I think that the Government’s been reasonably clever in their politics of this, talking about you know, the big end of town will have to deal with it, people on high incomes, the issue around the petrol excise. But it really hinges on an ability to tell an interesting story and also to convince people that the debt is as much of a problem as the Government is saying. Now, I think that if they over emphasise that, and people really feel like, basic things like Medicare are being chipped away at, people will start to, you’ll see voters start to rebel. I think the interesting thing about Medicare co-payment, for as long as it’s been floated, there is quite a lot of anxiety in the population about that. That’s because Medicare is so strongly supported, not only as a public policy question, but also almost as a sense of nationalism. Australians think that Medicare is the thing that distinguishes us from other countries. Now, there is an acceptance that the Medicare system, the medical system in general is under a lot of pressure by the ageing society as well as by issues in relation to things like obesity related diseases and all the rest of it, so they might cop that co-payment if they think there’s a basic commitment of the Government to keep Medicare going, that this is about making sure the longevity of Medicare.

GLOVER: Rather than chipping away at Medicare.

HUNTLEY: Absolutely.

GLOVER: So, your advice to Joe, is sell it as saving Medicare, not chipping away?

HUNTLEY: Absolutely. It’s very important. If they think for a moment that this is the beginning of a series of reforms that will move us more into an American style kind of health care system, that will be a real problem.

GLOVER: Can I bring you in here, Tanya Plibersek? Let me play devil’s advocate for a second. Say, at six dollars with suitable safeguards in place for poor people, everyone can afford a couple of cups of coffee to go to the doctor, can’t they?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Richard, the reason that Australians love Medicare, is because they know that it delivers high quality health care for a reasonable price. Not just to individuals but to our national budget. Australians are already contributing to the cost of Medicare through their tax system and what you are in fact asking people to do is not pay six dollars to go to the doctor, you’re asking them to pay the thousands of dollars that they’ve paid through the tax system and then pay a co-contribution. What this will mean is the end of Medicare as we know it, because doctors will lose the incentive to bulk bill. When I was Health Minister, we got GP visits up to 82% of those GP visits were bulk-billed. As soon as you start charging co-payments, what will happen is doctors will start charging any fee they like, the fee that the AMA is suggesting is closer to seventy dollars or over a hundred dollars for a slightly longer consultation and then they’ll ask their patients to get some of that back from the Medicare office. So you’ve lost universality, you’ve lost the reasonable prices that we’re paying through the health system. And the trouble is, you look at the American system, which is what the Government’s taking us to, it actually ends up costing the Budget more as well. Individuals are paying more and it’s costing more, costing the nation more. The way to keep health costs down, this is the last thing I want to about this, the way to keep health costs down is to keep people healthy and out of hospital. Going to see your GP when you need to is part of that. Organisations like Medicare Locals that focus on preventative health, keeping people healthy and out of hospital is another part of that. The Government is doing everything they can to get rid of the things that keep us healthy, like the front of pack labelling that they knocked back, that gives people better information about the food they’re eating.

GLOVER: But if we’re so price sensitive that six dollars is really going to hurt then surely we’re price sensitive enough to make sure that doctors don’t then go to a full payment system.

PLIBERSEK: It hurts the poorest and the sickest people. The people who are sensitive to a six dollar co-payment, or a seven dollar or fifteen dollar as the Commission of Audit suggested, the ones who are most price sensitive are the sickest and poorest and they’re the ones who end up in hospital emergency, they’re the ones who will put off treatment until they are very, very sick. They’ll cost the health system more, and the cost to them as individuals, the cost in sickness and in misery is much greater.

GLOVER: Cassandra Wilkinson, do you agree with that?

WILKINSON: The thing about co-payments is that there’s a whole bunch of them in the system already. There’s co-payments on medication, if you want to see a specialist in any short amount of time, you’ve got to pay out of your own pocket as well and plus in a normal public hospital, the co-payment’s called a car parking price that you pay when you turn up. I think there’s a reason that over the years lots of Labor and Liberal people have said “look, this might not be the perfect way to do it” but there’s got to be some price signals in the health system. Because at the moment, Medicare over services the wealthy, it over services the cities, it’s not providing the service that it needs to to people who are in poorer suburbs and outside the big cities. There’s a whole lot of, and this is what I mean about, let’s not call someone brave if what they’re doing is whacking on a couple of payments without dealing with the major structural problems. Australians are paying twice as much in out of pocket health care costs as the British and the French. We’ve got add-on costs already, but they’re currently happening in a way that’s pretty ad hoc.

GLOVER: Okay, but that’s partly because of what Tanya said, generic medicines and not being tough enough on the suppliers, isn’t it?

WILKINSON: Well I’m absolutely for putting in generics in NSW there was a fight for years and years and one of the biggest problems is that clinical discretion stops you from brining cost down in generic medicine. It stops you from mandating cheaper kinds of things like artificial hips. You have all kinds of costs with the system which are completely indiscriminate and again the Government’s not doing the serious reform needed to bring down the price of healthcare in Australia.

GLOVER: Tanya, Cassandra makes a point about support on Labor ranks in the past. It’s true that Bob Hawke tried to bring in exactly the same thing. It’s hard for you to argue that it’s confronting Labor Party principles, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think about three decades ago, or two decades ago we talked about a dollar or a two dollar co-payment and that was very quickly dispensed with for the very reason that it’s bad policy. People are paying for Medicare through the tax system. There isn’t evidence of over servicing, in fact where doctors are over servicing they are picked up pretty well by the systems that we have in place that see that some doctors are seeing too many patients in a day or too many patients in a week and those doctors are quite often disciplined in a variety of different ways where they’re doing it. I think the fact that you’ve got the head of the Business Council of Australia deciding that we’re seeing the doctor too often doesn’t give me any reassurance that these decisions are being made on the basis of what’s good for our health, not what’s good for the bottom dollar.

GLOVER: I guess his point is that we value something more if we pay something for it, even if it’s only a little bit, we might listen more assiduously to the advice, we might be a bit more cautious about going for no good reason.

PLIBERSEK: I just think the notion that there’s a whole lot of people out there who’ve got nothing better to do with their day than sit in a doctors surgery for an hour waiting to see the doctor, or put their names down to see the doctor in three weeks time because they’ve got nothing better to do, I just think it’s fanciful.

GLOVER: Those magazines are good!

HUNTLEY: I’d have to say Richard, you really want research to back up the idea that six or seven dollars would make people listen to the doctor, more than they would listen to them when they’re not- I think that’s an assumption that people make, I think that you would need to check that thoroughly in terms of research.

GLOVER: And unlikely, you’re implying…

HUNTLEY: Well I think it’s questionable.

GLOVER: Rebecca Huntley, Cassandra Wilkinson and Tanya Plibersek are here. Let’s talk about some of the other things briefly, the sale of the Royal Mint, that seems to be on, together with the sale, maybe, of defence housing etc. How do people feel about privatisation these days, Rebecca?  Do they see it as selling off the family silver or what?

HUNTLEY: Not so much, they’ve had years of privatisation of public assets by both sides of politics. But I think that what you do get from voters is a question about are we getting as good a possible deal from this as whatever organisation is going to buy it and I think that you’ve seen voters become more and more scrupulous and critical about that when they’ve seen some of the perhaps uneven deals in public-private partnerships. So, they do ask questions about privatisation, they don’t necessarily dismiss it. I think the interesting thing about the privatisation of Australia Post is, is it going to lead to more expensive, for example, cost of sending packages? Everybody is obsessed with online shopping, if you’ve noticed in your street the Australia post guy who runs from one house to another and so there’ll be questions about that. Is it going to put greater pressure on retail, on smaller business, on internet businesses that are domestic internet businesses?

GLOVER: And Cassandra we seem to be constantly talking about natural monopolies being privatised these days. Sydney Airport is one example, the port in Newcastle was privatised by the NSW government last week. Well, if you’re a coal miner in Newcastle, you don’t have a choice, these are not competitive things, you have got to put your coal through this particular coal port. Because they’re natural monopolies is it sensible to privatise them? Don’t you just end up with price gouging by the new owner?

WILKINSON: Well, two things, one the old saying that only thing worse than a public monopoly is a private monopoly is worth keeping in mind. I think Australia Post is a good example of a service where there’s heaps of competition, most of us don’t use snail mail anyway, and when we do send a package there’s half a dozen great and cheaper providers of packaging. Whereas say, the mint, is something where it’s hard to imagine who else is going to produce your banknotes, but I guess we’ll find out. The general way that governments deal with having a natural monopoly, say a port, is that you have an IPART or similar body does a regulated pricing, which means you wind up paying to regulate the asset that’s run by someone else and you wind up with some quite complex challenges in terms of incentivising the private owner properly to run it efficiently.

GLOVER: Well, look at the electricity system, which we’ve basically encouraged them to gold plate the system at an immense cost to all of us.

WILKINSON: Yeah, so what we should have had which was competitive pricing of electricity and cheaper prices for customers, because the government overregulated as well as partly privatising we wound up with the worse of both worlds, which was too high standards and customers paying too much for things they didn’t need. Which is why in the end these sales are not necessarily good or bad per se, it’s about the rules that are wrapped around them and fundamentally about what the government does with the money that it gets for them. If it take that money and builds new infrastructure that communities need, and that can generate increased economic activity, that’s great. If they spend it on filling recurrent payment holes then we’re all in a lot of trouble.

GLOVER: Does the government need to manufacture our coins, Tanya?

PLIBERSEK: I would have thought that selling off a licence to print money would be pretty popular.

GLOVER: Especially if you allow the new owner to choose the faces on the coins. So, you’d have the Clive Palmer two dollars.

PLIBERSEK: It would be like personalised number plates, but on our ten dollar notes. Look, Richard, I think the thing is that you have to decide on each of the potential privatisations on a case by case basis. There’s some that have been raised that would concern me a great deal. I am opposed to the sale of Medibank Private, I think Medibank Private has played a very important role in keeping competition in the private health insurance market. Snowy Hydro was another one that I think the environmental concerns that come along with something like that are very substantial. There are a range that are obviously poor policy, but there’s a lot of privatisations that have been proposed, we’ll have to look at the details as they come up.

GLOVER: What about the mint? What’s your feeling there? Because that does seem to be on the likely list.

PLIBERSEK: It just seems like an odd thing to do. I don’t understand, really, what the benefit of it could possibly be. It’s like Cassandra was saying, who’s going to provide competition to the mint? How do you keep prices low once you’ve sold it off? How do you guarantee that this is going to save taxpayers any money and not in fact cost them more in the future? I don’t know how you can answer any of those questions confidently.

GLOVER: Someone was saying, the school tours will be a lot more popular once they start giving out the free samples. That’s the main business model. We have on the Monday political forum Rebecca Huntley, a social researcher from IPSOS Mackay, Cassandra Wilkinson from the Centre for Independent Studies and the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek who also of course is Member for Sydney.

Five to six, just a quick one, no explanations even required if you could whisper one small thing into the ear of the Treasurer, save something from the cuts what would it be, Rebecca?

HUNTLEY: Anything to do with preventative health. So important for public policy, but also a priority for Australians.

GLOVER: And we’ll save money in the end?

HUNTLEY: Yeah. Anything to do with preventative health.

GLOVER: Cassandra?

WILKINSON: National Disability Insurance Scheme for sure, absolutely.

GLOVER: Long way coming, don’t delay it.


GLOVER: And Tanya?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I was going to say preventative health.

HUNTLEY: I can imagine Tanya whispering in Joe Hockey’s ear, it’s an odd thing!

GLOVER: No, she’s going to whisper ‘give up the cigars’!

PLIBERSEK: I was going to whisper, just don’t smoke. Look, health and NDIS are both excellent ones and I’d have to say one of the worst broken promises of this Government is the betrayal of Australian school kids with the broken promise on the Gonski education reforms. But it’s going, I’m sad to say, going to be very hard to narrow down our focus to just a few areas. It’s going to be a budget full of atrocities.

GLOVER: Let me just ask finally, and rather more lightly, Mr Hockey has been mocked for taking refuge in a cigar after completing the budget. When you want to reward yourself what do you tend to reach for, Tanya?

PLIBERSEK: Jane Austen.

GLOVER: So, you’d be photographed over the hedge with your Finance Minister both reading Austen?

PLIBERSEK: A well-thumbed copy.

GLOVER: A well-thumbed copy, Mr Darcy and all of that. Why don’t we go to Cassandra, what about you?

WILKINSON: That’s easy, I watch Dr Who with the kids.

GLOVER: Is that right? Totally relaxing.

WILKINSON: Totally relaxing. Takes you a thousand universes away.

GLOVER: A mental Tardis in which to slip with the good Doctor, and Rebecca Huntley?

HUNTLEY: Well, if I could watch Game of Thrones while getting a pedicure. But they only have girly movies at the salon, they don’t have Game of Thrones.

GLOVER: Do they have movies at the salon, do they?

HUNTLEY: Well, they sometimes do.

GLOVER: Is that right?

HUNTLEY: Usually some kind of terrible Sandra Bullock film, but I think they should show Game of Thrones.

GLOVER: So, that is a fresh horror I did not realise. I’ve seen of course the pedicure salons, I’ve walked past them, but I didn’t know there were people consuming Sandra Bullock movies at the same time.

HUNTLEY: It’s quite an extraordinary good business idea if this career I’m in doesn’t work out. Just basically the ability to have a Game of Thrones constantly playing whilst getting your pedicure.

PLIBERSEK: And if someone could be reading you Jane Austen at the same time.

HUNTLEY: There’s an Austen Room. There should be an Austen room at the back, an Austen waxing room.

GLOVER: Get your fingernails done with Austen and toes done with Game of Thrones. Brilliant business ideas every day. We’re out of time but thank you to Rebecca Huntley, Cassandra Wilkinson and Tanya Plibersek. Thank you very much.


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ABC AM with Chris Uhlmann








MONDAY, 5 MAY 2014


Subjects: Indonesia, the Budget, ICAC


CHRIS UHLMANN: Tanya Plibersek is the Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman for the Opposition. She’s recently returned from Indonesia. Welcome to AM.


UHLMANN: Good, thanks. Tanya Plibersek, what do you make of Tony Abbott’s decision not to attend the Open Government Partnership in Bali?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s quite concerning. We understand that the President of Indonesia has issued a personal invitation to the Prime Minister and ironically it’s to attend an open government forum but we don’t know the reason the Prime Minister is not attending. It’s not credible to suggest that he is required in Australia for Budget preparation. The Budget would be basically at the printers now unless there’s a great deal more chaos than you’d normally expect around Budget time. So, I think it does put light to the claim that the Government make that the boat turn-backs policy is not affecting the relationship with Indonesia.

UHLMANN: You’ve just come back from Indonesia. How would you describe the relationship?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think overall our relationship is a strong one, but it is absolutely off track at the moment and Labor wants to see it back on track. We still don’t have an Indonesian Ambassador here in Australia. It’s been more than a hundred days since the Australian Government said that they would sign a document with the Indonesians that would set out some terms around our relationship that would get it back on track. It means cooperation is suspended in a number of very critical areas, that’s not good for Australia’s long term relationship with Indonesia, it’s also not good for Australian businesses wanting to do business in Indonesia. It’s an important trading partner for us, it’s an important strategic partner for us, it’s growing and strengthening importance as Indonesian prosperity increases – we need the relationship back on track.

UHLMANN: So, how much responsibility do you take for the poor state of that relationship given that what really annoyed the Indonesian President was the bugging of his phone which took place on Labor’s watch in 2009?

PLIBERSEK: Well, when Vice President Boediono was here just a few months ago, he said to Bill Shorten and I that the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, until a few months ago, had never been better and he gave –

UHLMANN: Of course that wasn’t revealed until after you left government.

PLIBERSEK: Well, what I’m talking about is after we left government, the visit was when we were in Opposition and it was very clear then and it was very clear in the warm meetings that I had in Indonesia, including with the Foreign Minister, there’s a great deal of affection for Australia in Indonesia, that there’s a desire there to get the relationship back on track. I think it does require the Prime Minister to make a greater effort than he’s made up til now to see the relationship restored to what it was.

UHLMANN: People have been talking a lot about broken promises in the lead up to the Budget, but surely the most often repeated promise by the Coalition was to stop the boats, and that’s what it’s done.

PLIBERSEK: You know, there was a substantial decrease in the number of people making the dangerous journey to Australia by boat –

UHLMANN: But they hadn’t stopped.

PLIBERSEK: - after Labor worked with Indonesia to stop visa on arrival arrangements for Iranians transiting through Indonesia to Australia. There was a substantial drop after the arrangements were made with Nauru and Manus Island. And, Chris, if you’re really interested in asking the question about why those numbers didn’t drop earlier, it would be worth asking Scott Morrison when he’s contemplating sending asylum seekers to Cambodia, why the arrangement with Malaysia that Labor proposed, that would’ve allowed asylum seekers to work, that would’ve allowed their children to attend schools, that would’ve allowed people to receive medical attention in Malaysia, was unacceptable. Scott Morrison talks a lot about 1200 people who died trying to make the journey to Australia. 800 of those died after that Malaysian arrangement was proposed.

UHLMANN: Now, just on another issue. There was a report in The Australian this morning that the Government is poised for asset sales in the Budget. What’s your view on that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that it’s extraordinary that a week out from the Budget, there seems to be so much uncertainty from the Government about what’s in and what’s out. We hear them ruling things out, the previous story was talking about the mining companies are able to get an assurance that there won’t be an increase to the cost of diesel fuel, but ordinary Australians aren’t able to get an assurance that their health costs won’t go up. I think there’s a great deal of concern that if Medibank Private, which is the one that’s being speculated about for example, is sold, that health care costs will go up. We know that Peter Dutton’s already ticked off on the highest private health insurance premiums increases in a decade, if Medibank Private is privatised, then there is less competition, the Government would have to show how this would improve health competition and prices for ordinary Australians. And my understanding is that it doesn’t hit the bottom line, what we lose is the income from Medibank Private. It’s just an ideological decision if it happens, it’s not an effort to improve the Budget.

UHLMANN: One last thing briefly, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption shining a harsh light on political donations. Should they have limited it to individuals, not business groups or trade unions?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think that the first thing that it’s important to ensure is that there is proper transparency and the reports today about this secretive organisation that is directing money to Joe Hockey’s campaign, I think shows that there’s people making a great deal of effort to get around the rules that already exist. So the first thing is to thoroughly and transparently apply the rules that already exist. And the second thing, Chris, that I think we really have to look at, for Federal campaigns, is looking at the amount that we’re spending on political campaigning. Whileever there’s an arms race, where parties are trying to outdo each other during a campaign, there will be pressure from parties to raise money. So, as well as properly applying existing rules, so that there is transparency and accountability, we should look at what we’re spending.

UHLMANN: Tanya Plibersek, we’ll have to leave it there. Thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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Door Stop Interview on Australia's Relationship with Indonesia










SUBJECT/S: Australia’s relationship with Indonesia; Budget.

REPORTER: How embarrassing is this for the Government that they’ve had to cancel the visit to Bali?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I'm very concerned that the Prime Minister at this very late stage has decided not to go to Indonesia. This was a personal invitation from the Indonesian President and it does look rather odd that at this late stage the Prime Minister has cancelled the trip.

REPORTER: You don’t believe that that it’s to do with budgetary issues?

PLIBERSEK: Well if they are still working on the Budget to the extent they need the Prime Minister here, this shows it's a government in chaos. The Budget is just weeks away and at this stage should virtually be at the printers. I mean it is an extraordinary claim, if it's true, that the Prime Minister, that the Budget is in such a bad state at the moment or such an early draft that the Prime Minister has to be here to hold the hand of the Treasurer to get it ready for Tuesday week.

I mean I've been around for the preparation of a Budget or two and I would amazed if they are at such early stage of the development of the Budget that the Prime Minister still needs to be here. I mean, phones do work in Indonesia. If there were a few late questions still to be tied down in the Budget, surely they could give him a call.

REPORTER: What kind of opportunity would this have presented, considering Indonesia is to have elections in July, and that President Yudoyono won’t any longer be the President anyway?

PLIBERSEK: I think we have said before that it's very important for Australia to get the relationship with Indonesia back on track. Indonesia is a very important neighbour to us. We've got a good friendship with Indonesia, it's an important economic and strategic partner. The sad fact is that for many months now, the relationship has been under pressure. We still have no Indonesian ambassador in Australia. There are a number of areas of co-operation between the Indonesian and Australian Government that are suspended at the moment. It is very important that we get the relationship back on track. I think in fact it would better to do it with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been a very good friend to Australia over the years. Any new President elected in these presidential elections will of course in the first instance focus on their domestic concerns. That happens whenever you have got a new Government. The danger is that after presidential election, we will see further delays to restoring state the relationship to the healthy state that it should be in.

REPORTER: Do you think that it was Tony Abbott's office that declined the invitation or do you think it perhaps came from the Indonesians, that they requested he not attend in light of the reports about boat being intercepted?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I can't begin to speculate on that. That is obviously a question for the Government. But if the case is that the Prime Minister's not visiting Indonesia because, as we've seen reported today, it may be that a boat has been intercepted and will be returned to Indonesian soil, it shows that what the Government has been saying about the relationship with Indonesia not being affected by boat turn backs is not true. This Government came to office - excuse me for a second - this Government came to office having made election commitments about what would happen in Indonesian waters and on Indonesian soil without ever having discussed that with the Indonesian Government. Then they claimed that those announcements that they have made had no effect on the relationship with Indonesia. If the reports are correct that the reason that the Prime Minister's not going is because an orange life raft might turn up on Indonesian soil while he's there and that that would embarrassing and difficult, it does show that the claims that the Government has made, that this is having no effect on relationship are simply not true.

REPORTER: The way things stand at the moment, it does show, though, their boat turn back policy is working. Is there any point that Labor would start to support that policy and is it just inevitable that a policy like that, the fact it's working, that there will be Indonesia some strained relations with Indonesia as a consequence?

PLIBERSEK: Sorry, it's the wind. Look, there are several factors that have reduced the number of people attempt to make the dangerous journey to Australia by sea. The first is getting rid of –

REPORTER: Sorry, Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: You tell me when you're ready.

REPORTER: Is there a point where Labor support it in the future and is it an inevitable part of the boat turn back policies are strained?

[Break in audio]

PLIBERSEK: There are several factors that have reduced the number of people coming to Australia by boat. The first is the end of the visa on arrival arrangement for Iranians in Indonesia. The second is of course the weather is particularly bad at this time of year. And of course the offshore processing arrangements of Nauru and Manus Island have also contributed to that.

[Break in audio]

The difference between those earlier things, the visa on arrival and the offshore processing, is that Labor introduced those in cooperation with our neighbours. We didn’t make unilateral announcements about what would happen in Indonesia, we did that in cooperation with Indonesia.

The other question of course for Scott Morrison is that when he says when he sees offshore processing on Nauru and on Manus Island has been successful how does he justify the fact that he opposed the arrangement with Malaysia? Scott Morrison talks a lot about the 1200 people who have died at sea and of course that is the thing that has always driven Labor’s policy, seeking an end to people risking their lives to come to Australia. But 800 of those people drowned after Scott Morrison rejected the arrangement with Malaysia that Labor had proposed.

REPORTER: I’ve just got one more that was texted through to me from Channel 10, are you able to comment on the talk about no dole before the age of 25?

PLIBERSEK: Can I just make one other comment about the trip to Indonesia. It’s ironic that the invitation to Indonesia was to a conference on open government but our Prime Minister won’t tell us why he’s rejected the invitation at this late stage. Indonesia is an important friend to Australia, the relationship is under stress at the moment. Labor has offered bipartisan support to the Government to get the relationship back on track and rejecting this invitation at this late stage really does put extra strain on the relationship. It’s very important that the Prime Minister discloses the reason that he’s really not going because Australians deserve to know why he’s putting further pressure on the relationship with such an important neighbour.

REPORTER: And do you have any comment on the reports that the budget will contain measures to curb the dole under the age of 25?

PLIBERSEK: We’ve seen a lot of budget speculation over recent days and all of it has been pretty nasty. Tony Abbott came to government saying that there’d be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to the pension and no new taxes. He’s already broken every one of those promises. Now with the Commission of Audit we see that he’s got a lot worse in store for Australians. Today’s reports are of course saying that young people will be left to fend for themselves if they’re unfortunate enough to be unemployed and not studying. Of course we’re concerned, but it’s all in the piece of what we’ve seen in the Commission of Audit. The Commission of Audit’s saying $15 to go to the doctor, higher costs for medicines, it’s saying essentially the end of Medicare for ordinary Australians. More expensive private health insurance that you’ll be forced to take out. The Commission of Audit is also saying higher taxes including a state based income tax system, so you won’t just pay income tax to the federal government, you’ll pay income tax to the state government as well. And of course the Commission of Audit is saying cuts to minimum wages. If the Commission of Audit’s suggestions were accepted right now, a worker on minimum wage would be about $140 a week worse off than they are now. This is Commission of Audit is a blueprint for a budget of broken promises. Thanks everyone.


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