ABC Radio National with Alison Carabine

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC RADIO NATIONAL WITH ALISON CARABINE

WEDNESDAY, 21 MAY 2014

 

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

ALISON CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Alison.

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 –

CARABINE: Sure.

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?

PLIBERSEK: Sure.

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.

ENDS

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ABC News Radio with Marius Benson

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC NEWS RADIO WITH MARIUS BENSON

THURSDAY, 15 MAY 2014

 

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

MARIUS BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Marius.

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.

ENDS

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ABC RN Interview with Waleed Aly

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC RN INTERVIEW WITH WALEED ALY

WEDNESDAY, 14 MAY 2014

 

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.

ENDS

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Sky News Interview with David Speers

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

PRE-RECORD INTERVIEW

SKY NEWS DAVID SPEERS

WEDNESDAY, 14 MAY 2014

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.

PLIBERSEK: Yes.

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-

SPEERS: HECS stays-

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

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC 702 RICHARD GLOVER

TUESDAY, 13 MAY 2014

SUBJECT/S: THE BUDGET.

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.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello Richard, and hi Rebecca and Cass.

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.

WILKINSON: Yes.

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.

ENDS

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ABC AM with Chris Uhlmann

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

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.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello, Chris. How are you?

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.

ENDS

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Door Stop Interview on Australia's Relationship with Indonesia

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

SYDNEY

SATURDAY, 3 MAY 2014

 

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.

ENDS

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Today Show

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

TODAY SHOW

FRIDAY, 2 MAY 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Commission of Audit Report Release; The Abbott Government’s Twisted Priorities.

Lisa Wilkinson: We are joined now by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you. Christopher Pyne, I will start with you, the government has had access to these recommendations for some time now. How much influence have they had over the budget we will see in 11 days’ time?

Christopher Pyne: Well Lisa, I agree with the introduction to the segment that this is a report to the government, it's not a report of the government and therefore it is a shopping list if you like of all the various things that a government could do if it wanted to. Some of these things that the government will adopt, others it will reject. But the overall theme of course is that we have to get our spending under control. We have to start living within our means again, we have had years of rising deficits and ballooning debt and it isn't sustainable. And I think the Australian public know that. They know it's going to be a tough budget, and they are ready for that. And they changed the government last September because they wanted a group of people in charge of the budget who would make those tough decisions, who wouldn't keep living beyond our means. So it is going to be a difficult period for a little while but there is a light on the other side of the tunnel and that is if we can do the necessary things to get our spending under control we will be able to grow our economy again, provide the jobs that are necessary and set the country on a sustainable path into the future.

Wilkinson: You're right, the Australian people did vote you in in 2013, but it was on a promise from the Prime Minister that there would be no cuts to health, pensions or education. He did that many times on the show. Let’s have a listen.

FOOTAGE - Tony Abbott: The only party which is going to increase taxes after the election is the Labor Party. No country has ever taxed its way to prosperity. A) I'm not going to break election promises but if I change my mind I will go and seek a mandate for it.

Wilkinson: Christopher, these will have to be broken promises, won't they?

Pyne: Well, I think you will find in the budget that there won't be overall cuts to education and to health and to welfare but we will obviously reprioritize within our spending. The programs and projects that the Coalition thinks are more important. But obviously...

Wilkinson: The problem is the Prime Minister said no cuts.

Pyne: Well, there will certainly be cuts to some Labor programs.

Wilkinson: So, we are talking broken promises.

Pyne: No, because we always said overall spending on things like education in my portfolio, let's take education, the overall spending on education will continue to rise but there will be cuts within education to Labor’s program. You don't change the government and then simply keep the government's programs before and add your own. Obviously the public change the government because they knew that we would reprioritize spending, but spending will increase, it's just that we have to stop the rampant increases in spending that were occurring under Labor. Labor left us with $123 billion of accumulated deficits, and debt rising to $667 billion. But, of course, the government will need to keep spending money, governments always do, the question is whether we can afford the rampant increases of spending that Labor proposed and obviously we can't.

Wilkinson: Tanya Plibersek, your response?

Tanya Plibersek, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well Lisa, I think what you see with the Commission of Audit is the blue print for a budget of broken promises. You are quite right; the Prime Minister said no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to the pension before the election. And now you have seen an array, a smorgasbord of cuts to those very things. You see an ordinary family on $100,000 a year set to lose $8,000 in family benefits. You see pensioners not only waiting longer for the pension, you see the pension growing more slowly and you see means testing of the pension to include the family home, $500,000 family home. Now, I don't know there are many homes particularly in those older suburbs in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane that wouldn't hit that $500,000 mark. You see as well further cuts to health. This is basically the end of Medicare for anyone on more than $88,000 a year. When it comes to education, Christopher is talking about how - he's trying to rewrite the promises he made. He said before the election that you could vote Labor or you could vote Liberal and your school would get the same funding. Now he's back-pedaling, he's running from that promise as quickly as he can. He's trying to implant a false memory in the psyche of the Australian people.

Wilkinson: The problem is we can't keep spending the way we have been spending, there have to be cuts.

Plibersek: Actually, I really have to take Christopher on this one as well. Since coming to government, this government has more than doubled the deficit. They have added $68 billion to the deficit. Now, if they are so concerned about runaway spending, why does the Prime Minister have a $5.5 billion paid parental leave scheme? $5.5 billion a year and he's saying that's a budget emergency? People just don't believe it. The government is trying to amp up or hype up the idea of a budget emergency to justify the cuts they’ve wanted to make. They have never believed in Medicare, they’ve never believed in decent funding for public schools, never believed in the aged pension. This is just a set of excuses to make the cuts they have always wanted to make.

Wilkinson: Christopher Pyne, last night on the 7:30 Report the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann all but confirmed that that deficit tax will go ahead. Is that now confirmed?

Pyne: Well, in the budget you will see everything that the government is going to do and I don't think that the Australian public are mugs, Lisa, in fact I’m absolutely certain they are not. And they know that the Coalition of course supports the aged pension, they know that we support Medicare. They know we are the best friend Medicare ever had because we want to make it a sustainable health system.

Plibersek: You are getting rid of it, Christopher.

Pyne: What rubbish, Tanya. That's just nonsense and the public know that’s nonsense. You can't say things that are palpably untrue and expect the public to believe them.

Plibersek: So, people on $88,000 a year will no longer have access to Medicare.

Pyne: Well, the Commission of Audit is a report to the government it is not a report of the government and the Australian public are not crazy. They elected a new government last September because they knew that the unsustainable budget position that Labor had given us wasn’t something Labor was ever going to address, they wanted a government of adults who were going to address it, and we will keep that commitment.

Plibersek: Why do you want to spend $5.5 billion on paid parental leave every year if there is a budget emergency, Christopher? Is that the most important spending there is, is it more important than the aged pension?

Pyne: Well Tanya, I didn't realise you were the hostess of the program asking all the questions but nevertheless -

Wilkinson: I'm very happy for two to have a conversation. Happy to deputise to both of you.

Pyne: Lisa, that's what I thought you got paid to do but anyway, the truth is that the paid parental leave scheme is a workplace entitlement, it’s not a welfare entitlement. Tanya being from the left of the Labor Party sees everything through the prism of welfare and government spending. We see the paid parental leave scheme being a workplace entitlement for women.

Plibersek: It is still $5.5 billion a year, Christopher. And only a fraction of that, Lisa, is raised by the levy on business. Taxpayers will be paying for it and pensioners will be paying for it with a cut in the aged pension.

Wilkinson: The Prime Minister did make it clear that this was his signature policy, and it would not be touched. Is that another broken promise?

Pyne: We took the paid parental leave scheme to two elections it was endorsed last September.

Wilkinson: So, why back down so easily on it?

Pyne: Well, we haven't backed down so easily as you say. What we are doing...

Wilkinson: The Prime Minister has said the capping will go from $150,000 down to $100,000.

Pyne: Well, what we are saying is that women need to have a generous paid parental leave scheme, they a fair dinkum one so they can participate in the work force, they want to have children because we need to boost our population, and because that's good for productivity in the Australian economy. But it also has to be affordable and sustainable and I think the program that’s being placed before the Australian people by the Prime Minister is a sustainable one that will be supported. But the most important thing is that Labor can't really try now wear the clothes of economic responsibility when they came to government in 2007 they had money in the bank, there was no deficit, there was no national government debt. Six years later there was $123 billion of deficits, and debt rising to $667 billion. And this government is setting about fixing the mess that Labor left us and I think the Australian public expect us to do that.

Plibersek: We left such a mess when we came into government Australia did not have three AAA credit ratings. When we left government, we did. We had three AAA credit ratings. The world judges us as having a miracle economy, having survived the GFC in the best shape of any advanced economy.

Pyne: You keep believing that, Tanya.

Wilkinson: We will have to leave that there. Thank you to both of you. 11 days to go, it's going to be very interesting 11 days of speculation for sure. Tanya Plibersek thanks very much and thanks to you, Christopher Pyne.

ENDS

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Lateline with Tony Jones

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT 

TELEVISION INTERVIEW 

LATELINE WITH TONY JONES

WEDNESDAY, 23 APRIL 2014

SUBJECT / S: Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.

TONY JONES: The Opposition is backing painstaking evidence to get relations with Indonesia back to full strength after tensions erupted over asylum boats and revelations of Australians spying on the President and his wife. That phone-tapping operation happened under the Labor government's watch. The Opposition's Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, is on her first visit to Jakarta and she joined me from there just a short time ago. Tanya Plibersek, thanks for joining us.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, OPPOSITION FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESWOMAN: Hi, Tony.

JONES: Now Prime Minister Abbott has used the Navy to stop asylum boats without destroying or apparently severely damaging the relationship with Indonesia. Why couldn't Labor have done that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's fair to say that Australia's relationship with Indonesia over the long-term is a very good and sound one. It's a close friendship and it's got a lot to offer both Australia and Indonesia. But it's also certainly true to say that we've seen some significant friction in recent times and one of the reasons has been that the Abbott Government made announcements about what it would do on Indonesian soil and what it would do in Indonesian waters without discussing it with the Indonesian Government. Labor, in contrast, when we were in government, had a very significant change delivered by the Indonesian Government when they stopped offering visa-on-arrival to Iranians who were transiting through Indonesia on their way to Christmas Island. We did that in co-operation with Indonesia and I'd say that that's one of the most significant elements of the reduced flow of asylum seekers coming to Australia using people smugglers coming from Indonesia. The changes to visa-on-arrival has seen a very substantial drop in the number of Iranians, for example, coming to Indonesia.

JONES: But Foreign Minister Natalegawa seems to have moderated any previous criticisms that he's had. Yesterday he said the Australian Government's clamp-down has reduced the number of asylum seekers transiting through Indonesia and the risk of deaths at sea. Is he now coming to acknowledge the benefits of the Abbott Government policy?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think there's been a variety of different reports that have come out of the conference that you're referring to yesterday. What I would say is that I would be delighted to see the relationship back on track as quickly as possible. The fracture in the relationship between Australia and Indonesia has gone on way too long. I'd very much like to see an Indonesian ambassador back in Australia as quickly as possible, I'd like to see the steps that have been agreed by the Indonesia and Australian governments pursued and settled as quickly as possible because our relationship is an important one for both of us. Indonesia's an important strategic and economic partner for Australia, just as Australia is an important strategic and economic partner for Indonesia. And we have a really good history between us. It's important to get the relationship back on to a much more normal footing as quickly as we can.

JONES: But in terms of friction, do you accept that in fact much more damage was done to the Indonesian relationship by spying, the spying operation that tapped the phones of President Yudhoyono, his wife and others in his circle, presumably with the knowledge of the then Australian Government, your government?

PLIBERSEK: Well Tony, I've said to you before that we don't discuss operational intelligence issues, but I think it's fair to say that the handling of those allegations that were made was less - less than it should have been. When you have misunderstandings between countries or periods of tension, the most important thing to do is rely on your people-to-people relationships. Pick up the phone, talk these things through, not let them fester. And what we've seen now is the relationship off track for a substantial amount of time. There's an agreed process for getting the relationship back on track. I'd really like to see that brought to a conclusion. We're running into a period now of presidential elections in Indonesia and I think it would be very important to get the relationship back on track before a new president is elected because any new president, whoever it might be, of course will be focused in the first instance on their domestic issues. So, really, the sooner the better.

JONES: Well once again the Indonesian Foreign Minister is saying quite clearly there is a process for a return to full diplomatic relations. He's saying that is contingent on both sides agreeing to this code of conduct which will govern future spying operations. Now, this has been going on for some time. What are the sticking points? Has he told you?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Tony, I don't know, I'm not the Foreign Minister. You'd have to ask the Australian Foreign Minister to give you a report on what the sticking points are from the Australian end. What I can tell you is that -

JONES: No, I'm talking about from the - sorry, I'm talking about what Dr Natalegawa, the Indonesian Foreign Minister has said and what are the sticking points from his end?

PLIBERSEK: No, Tony, we didn't discuss these issues and I certainly wouldn't tell you if we had because we had a terrific meeting about a wide range of issues, but we weren't focused on this. Australia and Indonesia have a lot in common. We've got a lot of -

JONES: I'm sorry, I'm just going to - sorry, I have to interrupt you there because the Indonesian Foreign Minister himself said yesterday publicly that the agreement must include a commitment to refrain from employment of intelligence resources in a manner that would be inimical or damaging to the other country. Now this seems to be the missing clause. He's saying if this clause is inserted in the document, he'll sign it and we can get the agreement back on track. Did he not talk to you about this?

PLIBERSEK: No, we didn't discuss that, Tony. You've got his quote. I mean, you can make of that what you will. You don't need me to talk about my discussions with him to interpret that. This - in fact the relationship between Australia and Indonesia was part of our conversation. We both expressed our hope that it would get back on track quickly, but that - acknowledging that we've got a long and strong and close history together as nations, that the - that recent friction that we've had we certainly hope as a Labor opposition is resolved as quickly as possible. And I said that to him. But we discussed a range of things. We discussed South China Sea, Crimea, Ukraine. It was a very good and wide-ranging discussion.

JONES: Well I'll just make the point that the code of conduct and the completion of this code of conduct agreement seems to be the key sticking point and this seems to be the line that he wants in it and I'm just wondering if he conveyed this message to you in any way?

PLIBERSEK: Well no, Tony, and I mean, I think it's a little unreasonable for you to be asking me about the negotiations between two other Foreign ministers. You really need to talk to Australia's Foreign Minister or Indonesia's Foreign Minister about their discussions with one another. It's not for me to be commenting on their discussions with one another.

JONES: Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave you there. Thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Tony.

ENDS

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Transcript of Today Show ‘In the House’ segment with Karl Stefanovic

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of Today Show ‘In the House’ segment

with Karl Stefanovic

E&OE

Subjects: Arthur Sinodinos, WA Senate election

Karl Stefanovic: Welcome back to the show. As one Senator faces a grilling in New South Wales six more dig in for political survival as Western Australia heads back to the polls. Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek joins me in the studio and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull joins us as well. I guess you could say we have Malcolm in the middle.

Malcolm Turnbull: I'm in the middle of a very small cupboard in Melbourne, but anyway it’s good to be here.

Stefanovic: You look very big on the TV don't worry about that. Let's start with you Malcolm. Arthur Sinodinos, how did he go yesterday?

Turnbull: These things are always tough experiences. But I’ll just say this I have known Arthur for a long time, Australians have known Arthur for a long time. He was really one of the principal pillars of the Howard Government, one of the most successful governments in our history. He's been made an extraordinary contribution, he's having a tough period at the moment, but let's wait until this inquiry is over. Remember it's not an inquiry into Arthur, it's an inquiry into the water company and it's already been made clear by the Commissioner that there's no suggestion he's acted corruptly or anything like that. It is embarrassing, and would be, you know it's obvious no fun for him, but I don't think we should get overwhelmed by the rather - the circus that always attends these inquiries.

Stefanovic: It's not so much the circus so much, he did a good job of it yesterday himself?

Turnbull: Well, look, you know I didn't - I wasn't watching it, you know blow by blow, but these are very awkward and difficult environments to be in.

 

Stefanovic: Especially if you have done the wrong thing. He wasn't aware of an awful lot Malcolm: the lavish expenses, the extent of the political donations, the extraordinary salaries paid for by rate payers, nor could he remember warnings about the company's financial state. I could go on and on for about three hours.

Turnbull: Well don't do that, we will run out of time. If I may say, Arthur did the right thing and stepped aside while this is going on. Really the big issue now -- the big issue is the Senate election in Western Australia, the last federal election West Australians voted overwhelmingly for the Coalition, gave us a mandate to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax and Labor is opposing that in the Senate. West Australians if they want us to deliver on what they asked us to do in September have got to vote Liberal on Saturday.

Stefanovic: I can see what you’re trying to do here but we’ll get onto Western Australia in just one second. But one more point about Arthur, the problem here for you is this guy was your Assistant Treasurer, it goes to your party's judgment. Do you concede now that you made the wrong call?

Turnbull: I'm not making any concessions. There should be no rush to judgment there. He's been in the box for a day. I mean look I used to be a barrister, barristers can be very - you can make people look unsure, uncertain, all of that stuff.

Stefanovic: Malcolm, he did a good job of it yesterday himself. He really did.

Turnbull: Karl, this is a very tough environment. Let's wait and see what the findings of the Commission are.

Stefanovic: All right, Tanya?

Tanya Plibersek: Can I just say a couple of things about this? This raises questions for the Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister has made Arthur Sinodinos Assistant Treasurer. That's the job that is responsible for corporate governance. Arthur Sinodinos was the person in Australia who was supposed to design the laws that make company directors and others responsible to their shareholders. I think it's very plain that that wasn't a good decision now. But what's even more curious is a couple of weeks ago when we were in the parliament one day Tony Abbott was absolutely backing Arthur Sinodinos, less than 24 hours he was happy to step aside. What did the Prime Minister know and when did he know it?

Stefanovic: Alright, they are trying to turn it into that Malcolm, your response?

Turnbull: Tanya is entitled to ask all these questions, the Prime Minister has dealt with them. Arthur, obviously was confronted with this. He thought about it, he made the judgment to step aside pending the conclusion of this inquiry. That was a very –that was the right thing to do, it was a very manly thing to do, if that's not an inappropriate adverb, and so he's done that, and we await the judgment of the Commission.

Stefanovic: This is a very difficult position, I gather, for the rest of the party, but I think Arthur, would you ever consider down the track allowing him back into something as serious as Assistant Treasurer, or is he gone, is he done, is he finished?

Turnbull: Well, you know the Prime Minister, who chooses the ministry, has said that he expects him to come back as Assistant Treasurer.

Stefanovic: He can't now, he can’t now.

Turnbull: Well Karl, that's your opinion. You're entitled to it. Let's wait and see the outcome of the Commission.

Stefanovic: Let's just go to WA now as Malcolm flagged before as he was trying to get us off topic. He's very clever that Malcolm, isn’t he Tanya?

Plibersek: He is.

Turnbull: It didn't work.

Stefanovic: You’re backing candidate Joe Bullock. This guy Joe Bullock is a very interesting guy, he described the ALP as an untrustworthy party full of mad members. This is the guy that you’re backing over there. He was recorded at a Perth function saying the party needs him in parliament or it would follow every weird lefty trend that you could imagine. He also said he would rather be expelled from the party than vote in support of gay marriage and abortion. This is the sort guy that you are backing?

Plibersek: That’s why we have a conscious vote on same-sex marriage and abortion and he’s got every right not to vote for it.

Stefanovic: What about the other stuff - an untrustworthy party?

Plibersek: Well I don’t know, he might have had a good dinner that night I'm not sure. He's someone who was worked for the working people of Western Australia for 30 years. I was just there a couple of days ago talking about penalty rates and the potential that people will lose up to a third of their take home pay, people who are cleaners...

Stefanovic: This guy is not your cup of tea, though, Jo Bullock?

Plibersek: We are a very broad party. We are, we’re a very broad party.

Stefanovic: Alright you two, finally very quickly because we are out of time, have you both started sucking up to Clive Palmer?

Plibersek: [Laughs]

Turnbull: Can I just say Karl, leaving aside Clive for a second, our candidates in Western Australia, David Johnson the Defence Minister, Michaelia Cash an outstanding minister and Linda Reynolds at No.3, a brigadier general, a woman, a brigadier general in the Australian Army reserve...

Plibersek: The trouble is Malcolm...

Turnbull: We don't have to be apologetic to our candidates.

Plibersek: People don't want to send a message to Tony Abbott that what Colin Barnett has been doing for Western Australia is just fine for the rest of the country, health cuts and education cuts.

Stefanovic: Joe Bullock if he gets in, it is unlikely, but he will be an interesting member for you. Thank you very much you two. We’ll see you next time.

Plibersek: Thanks.

Turnbull: Thanks.

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