THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
THE HON MARK MCGOWAN MLA
WA STATE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Economic Reform, Public Sector Management
MEMBER FOR ROCKINGHAM
TUESDAY, 11 MARCH 2014
SUBJECT/S: WA Senate Election; Abbott Government Hiding its Commission of Audit report; Abbott Government cuts to health care in WA; Trades Training Centres; Jobs; National Affordable Housing Program; Resignation of WA Treasurer.
MARK MCGOWAN, LEADER OF THE WA STATE OPPOSITION: First of all can I thank Bill and Tanya for coming to Western Australia, and in particular Bill for meeting with the state parliamentary Labor Party, addressing us and answering questions, and I think a very warm environment was there between the state party and the federal party.
I’ll just say a couple of words about the federal election, and then I’ll hand over to Bill and to Tanya, and then we’ll have questions at the end. I don’t know if you want to ask me about any events of the day, but you may well want to at the end of that.
First of all, I think this Senate campaign is an excellent opportunity for West Australians to send a message that they don’t like the style of government of Mr Barnett and the fact that Mr Abbott has said that that is the style of government that he wants to emulate, I think gives that chance for West Australians to say no. I think what we’ve seen in Western Australia is a shambolic and chaotic government at a state level, and I don’t think West Australians want to see that replicated at a federal level.
This government has been dysfunctional, divided, and dishonest over a long period of time, and I think West Australians increasingly are becoming disenchanted with the style of government we have in this state. I’ll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Mark. It's great to be here with Mark McGowan, it's great to be here with Tanya Plibersek, my deputy, to talk about the West Australian Senate election. It's my third visit since becoming Leader of the Opposition and one thing's become clear to me as I talk to West Australians - they are very concerned about the cuts to education and to health care here in Western Australia.
There is a real opportunity in this West Australian Senate election, the first of its kind we've seen in the history of the Commonwealth, to send a clear message to Tony Abbott that Western Australians don't like the cuts that Colin Barnett is doing, and the fact that the Abbott Government is refusing to release its controversial 900 page report which will cut the quality of education and health care services in the west until after the Senate by-election, is a mean and nasty trick on West Australians.
This Senate election is about sending a message to Tony Abbott and to Colin Barnett. West Australians love their quality of life here, they want to make sure that their families can get access to the best quality health care and they want their kids to get the best quality education. We've just very met with Scott and Abraham, two very talented teenagers who are studying trades training at their Trades Training Centre.
There are 49 trades training centres covering 150 schools in Western Australia. It is really important that our education system doesn't just train children for university, it trains our future apprentices, for our future trades jobs in the west. The Abbott Government has said they're not going to go any further with trades training centres and that is the wrong way to go. That is not the correct direction for Western Australia to be heading in.
This Senate Election is all about making sure that we don’t have cuts to education and health care, it's about making sure we stand up for issues which go to cost of living and it’s about opposing the Abbott Government’s GP Tax. It's also about making sure that the middle class of Western Australia don't feel squeezed and that there are jobs in Western Australia, there's the opportunity to have quality education so that children and kids can get the best apprenticeship, so they can go and have the best jobs in Western Australia.
I might ask my colleague Tanya Plibersek to specifically talk about some of the concerns around housing and health care.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Bill. It's great to be here with both Mark and Bill today. This is a very important election, the upcoming Senate Election, because it's an opportunity for West Australians to send a very strong message to both Colin Barnett and to Tony Abbott that the cuts that Colin Barnett is inflicting on the people of Western Australia shouldn't be repeated at a federal level.
We know that right now sitting on Tony Abbott's desk is a Commission of Audit report that has some very nasty surprises in store for the people of West Australia, and people of the whole of Australia. The fact that this report's being kept secret until after the election should tell you how nasty its contents must be. Of course, as a former Health Minister, one of the areas that most concerns me are the cuts that have been made right here in Western Australia already to the health system, and the cuts that Tony Abbott has in store for the people of Australia.
When you look at what’s happened in the state health system here you've seen some very serious cuts already. We see, for example, the Fiona Stanley Hospital a year late, it's been a quarter of a million dollars a day to run an empty hospital. It's like something out of 'Yes, Minister.' On top of that comes reneging on the agreement to redevelop the Royal Perth Hospital. It's a $400 million redevelopment that the State Government has pulled out of. More than $180 million as well cut from upgrades to regional health facilities right around Perth. These are very serious cuts already and what we can't allow is for Tony Abbott to have open slather on further health cuts, for the people of West Australia.
You have got to remember that Tony Abbott as Health Minister is the man who was responsible for doctor shortages in Western Australia. When Tony Abbott was Health Minister he put a cap on GP training places and Western Australia has taken years to begin to recover from that decision of Tony Abbott as Health Minister. But wait, it gets worse. Tony Abbott's now proposing a fee to go to the doctor for every Australian, a GP tax.
When I was Health Minister we did everything we could to increase bulk-billing rates around Australia. We saw increases in bulk-billing rates here in Western Australia and Tony Abbott wants to chuck that out the window to chuck away all of that hard work to increase bulk-billing rates by trashing the whole idea of being able to go to the doctor when you need to without putting your hand in your pocket.
On top of that Tony Abbott’s also cut $10 million from a cancer outreach service that was negotiated with the West Australian State Government well before the election, the money was in the budget, this shows up as a cut in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, a $10 million cut to regional oncology services for Western Australia. We know one of the most serious consequences of the vast distances in this State is that people find it hard to travel for their medical care. The idea of the regional oncology outreach team was that people could stay closer to home for their treatment. That's another $10 million cut. The exact opposite of what Tony Abbott promised before the election.
I believe that Tony Abbott's in town today making some announcement about medical research. Of course, medical research funding is always welcome, but you look at his short history on this as PM, he's cut $12 million from the Millennium Institute, $10 million from the Westmead Children's Medical Research Institute. It is a history as a Health Minister and now as a Prime Minister, of cutting education and if West Australians care about – sorry, of cutting health - and if West Australians care about investment in their health system and having access to good health services, then they should send a very strong message to Tony Abbott and to Colin Barnett during this Senate election about health services for West Australians.
SHORTEN: Are there questions?
SHORTEN: The resources sector is very important to Western Australia. What we also see in Western Australia is that a lot of West Australians are feeling the squeeze. We've seen a slight increase in unemployment, cost of living is a challenge for West Australians. As we see a bright future for resources in Western Australia but what we also recognise is that what makes the quality of life in Perth and throughout Western Australia so enviable to the rest of Australia is having quality education and quality health services.
So the big issues in this election are having a strong West Australian Senate team who will stand up to Tony Abbott's cuts to education and to health care. We recognise that people are increasingly concerned about jobs, especially as you get investment easing up in some parts of the resources sector. And what West Australians want to see is a plan for jobs in Western Australia which is not been forthcoming so far from the Abbott Government. This Senate by-election is a chance to send Tony Abbott and Colin Barnett message - don't cut vital education and health care services.
REPORTER: Do you think losses in Tasmania and South Australia could damage Labor’s chances in the Senate election?
SHORTEN: What amazes me is the cynicism of the Abbott Government not releasing their clearly nasty proposal of 900 pages of nasty surprises and cuts to health care and education. I think it takes a high amount of cynicism to receive a report in early February and then make sure and sit on it and smother and hide the report until there's been state elections in Tasmania and South Australia.
But they really run out of excuses by holding on to this report till after the West Australian Senate by-election two months after they received a report. If it's 900 pages of nasty surprises that doesn't take two months to read, so I'm very concerned that West Australians aren't being told the truth by the Abbott Government and that they're not finding out what the Abbott Government is really proposing.
REPORTER: Has the Woolworths bailout indicated the Government position?
SHORTEN: The Victorian – if you’re referring to SPC - the Victorian Government stepped into assist SPC. I'm pleased that there is good news at any point about jobs, I was appalled that the Abbott Government had no plans about SPC jobs. What makes their position so inconsistent is that a chocolate factory in Hobart can get Abbott Government taxpayer money, but a fruit processing factory in the Goulburn Valley doesn't. There's no consistency to what the Government is doing.
Since the Abbott Government was elected 63,000 full-time jobs have gone. I want to make sure that these very bright kids we’ve just met today, Abraham and Scott, that they can learn their trade, the Abbott Government is not interested in investing in that, and also I want to make sure that when they learn their trade there are jobs to go to. It isn't good enough that the Abbott Government is turning its back on apprentices, it isn't good enough that they have no plan for Australian jobs.
REPORTER: You raise some state-based issues, is that confusing the message to voters considering it’s a federal election?
SHORTEN: Tony Abbott said on March the 5th, with a twinkle in his eye, said that he wanted his Government to be the sort of Government that the Barnett Government is in [West Australia]. None of us asked Tony Abbott to use the Barnett Government as a role model for the sort of Government we wanted. Mr Abbott opened the door on comparing the Barnett Government to the national Government. We’re just following through and saying that the Barnett Government is a ‘mini-me’ version of the Abbott Government and what West Australians want is a strong Senate who is not focussed on agreeing with Tony Abbott, but is focussed on standing up for the quality of life and for jobs in Western Australia.
REPORTER: Do you have any comments to make on the resignation of the State Treasurer and the implications on this election?
SHORTEN: I understand that there are reports of mental health issues are involved in this, so I really wouldn’t want to comment too much. I suspect that there's questions for the Premier of Western Australia to answer. I might hand over to our colleague, my colleague, Mark McGowan, Leader of the State Opposition the deal with that matter.
MCGOWAN: Sorry, Emily, what was the question?
REPORTER: The implications of the resignation of Tory Buswell, do you think it has derailed the Senate campaign here in WA?
MCGOWAN: I just say a few things about that. First of all can I wish Mr Buswell, as I said yesterday, can I wish Mr Buswell the best, some things transcend politics I hope his personal health is on the improve and is under control.
Having said that, I do think there are further questions that need to be answered by the Government. We learnt today in the newspaper, that it appears there was at least one staffer who knew about the circumstances of the accident. I want to know whether other Government staffers, particularly in the Premier's office, were informed about what went on. I want to know whether or not people in the Premier's office, the Police Minister's office and the Treasurer's office were aware of all of the circumstances, yet didn't reveal them. I think that is a very important matter that goes to the heart of this matter.
The second point I’ll say is this. It's clear the Government is in chaos. We have a shambolic Government in Western Australia. For so long there has been crisis after crisis, failure after failure, dishonesty after dishonesty. And these events have with the departure of another treasurer have shown that at the heart of Government in Western Australia it's chaotic and dysfunctional.
Its impact on the Senate campaign, I don't know, but I do know this - when you have a dysfunctional and chaotic State Government, it can't help - sorry I do know this - when you have a chaotic and dysfunctional State Government, it can't help the Federal Liberal Party when they said they're going to model themselves on that same state Government.
REPORTER: Do you think that there needs to be a formal inquiry into the circumstances of the resignation and what people knew?
MCGOWAN: We're going to ask some questions today in the parliament in relation to these issues. We'll hold our judgment on whether or not there should be a bigger or a higher level inquiry in these matters until we get proper answers out of the Premier. But there is new information today according to the state's newspaper. There was at least one staffer who knew, that is different to what we were advised yesterday. I also understand that staffer spoke to the Premier's chief of staff on the first day that these issues came out, and I would expect the Premier to give a full explanation of the knowledge of his chief of staff and other staff members in his office about this series of events.
REPORTER: I have a question for the Deputy Opposition Leader about the social housing story on the front page of The Aus today. I wonder if you feel that it’s gone off track and needs to be revised or dumped?
PLIBERSEK: The National Rental Affordability Scheme is a terrific program. It's already delivered 14,000 now homes and another 24,000 in the pipeline. The vast majority of people who live in National Rental Affordability Scheme properties are people on very low incomes. Sole parent, pensioners, the whole range of people on low incomes including most particularly key workers. This is a scheme that was designed to bridge the gap between social housing, public housing and the private rental market by increasing the stock of affordable rental properties and it's done just that.
I think Tony Abbott needs to answer whether he's got a commitment to keeping this program going. This is a scheme that state housing ministers including Liberal State Housing Ministers have adopted enthusiastically. But the housing industry has taken up enthusiastically, that social housing experts have said is a success. So I think it's a very well designed scheme that is meeting its objectives, and what I'd like to see is a commitment from Tony Abbott that this isn't one of the secret cuts in that 900 page Commission of Cuts, because without additional investment in affordable housing we will continue to have people locked out of the housing market and we'll continue to see problems with homelessness.
The other question for Tony Abbott today is will he answer calls from around the country including from the Liberal Premier of Western Australia to renew the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness that expires on 30 June this year? We know that there are homelessness organisations that are already very worried about whether they'll be able to keep staff on, indeed I've heard reports from people who work in the homelessness sector that they're considering lay-offs already.
Tony Abbott's got a few questions to answer when it comes to housing: what are his plans for housing affordability? What are his plans for this National Rental Affordability Scheme? Is it one of the secret cuts in the Commission of Audit? And what’s he going to do about homelessness, is he going to go back to the situation that existed before 2007 when Liberal Governments, state and federal, said homelessness was in the too hard basket?
SHORTEN: Thanks everyone.
THE HON. BILL SHORTEN
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
THE HON. TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MONDAY, 19 JANUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s 500 days of lies; GST on fresh food; Business confidence at 23 year low; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s GP Tax; Death Penalty; Manus Island; Great Barrier Reef.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be in Yeerongpilly, supporting our Labor candidate Mark Bailey for the upcoming state election. It’s also great to be here in my first event for the year, with Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, and also Graham Perrett, our hard working Federal Member for Morton. Today is 500 days since the Abbott Government was elected. 500 days of broken promises, of lies, and increased pressure on families cost of living. Families are now $6,000 a year worse off because of the Abbott Government. Pensioners are seeing the real value of their pension effectively cut in the future because of the Abbott Government. Students, worse off because they are going to have to pay two and three times what they once paid to go to university with the prospect of $100,000 degrees. Sick people worse off with the ongoing confusion and debate about the GP Tax and charging sick people more to go to the doctor. Our Defence Force is worse off, because they’ve had a real pay cut since the Abbott Government got elected.
Tony Abbott won't come to Queensland, he won't come on his 500-day anniversary. Queenslanders have got legitimate questions to ask about education, health and jobs. The economy is simply worse off than it was when Tony Abbott got elected. We see business confidence in the High Street down, and we see the ranks of the jobless increasing. Tony Abbott should come to Queensland before the end of the Queensland election, and he should explain to Queenslanders why he wants to put a GST on fresh food, why he wants sick people to pay more to go to the doctor, why he wants to take $10 billion from the Queensland hospital system, why he wants to cut and slash the funding to Queensland schools.
We know that Tony Abbott doesn't want to come to Queensland, yet I remember that in 2012, when Tony Abbott was introducing Campbell Newman when Campbell Newman was heading up the LNP team in Queensland, Tony Abbott was all over Campbell Newman then. But Tony Abbott famously said words to the effect that the people of Queensland have got the opportunity when they vote, to send a message they don't want bad Governments anywhere in Australia. Well, to quote Tony Abbott again, Queenslanders at this up coming State election have got the opportunity to send a message that they don't want bad Governments in Queensland or in Canberra.
Happy to just ask Tanya to say a few words about what she’s seen on the campaign trail and then we'll take questions.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks. That’s good, you've got a fan club Bill, that's terrific. It's terrific to be here with our leader, Bill Shorten, who has been received terrifically well here in Queensland. We have also got Mark Bailey, terrific local candidate. I have been this morning with a couple of other local candidates, with Joe Kelly and Di Farmer. And as I have gone around to the shops as Bill's been on this trip as well, we have got a very strong message from shopkeepers, from locals who are shopping, that they don't want a GST on food. As a former Health Minister I know one of the most important things you can do to keep our population healthy, is to keep the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and so on, affordable for families. So on top of the $6,000 dollars that the ordinary families lost after Tony Abbott's cuts, they simply can't afford to be paying more for doctor’s visits, paying more for medicine, paying more for education, and now on top of it, Tony Abbott's proposing an extra cost for fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh food generally. A very strong message that Queenslanders don't want that.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Tanya. Are there any questions for us?
JOURNALIST: Mr. Shorten what do you make of Mr. Hockey’s comment that children are going to live to 150?
SHORTEN: Yes Joe Hockey has been kept in the basement over summer and now he's burst out of the basement. Now I genuinely think that he's had a brain snap here. He's almost had what I'd call his Sarah Palin moment, ‘I can see Russia from my house’. This proposition to justify his 2014 Budget, based on a not yet born baby's 150th birthday in a century and a half’s time, just shows that I suspect our Treasurer's simply lost the plot.
If you want to have serious policies about growing old in Australia, you don't freeze superannuation at 9 and a half per cent. You certainly don't make less well-off Australians pay more tax in their superannuation. You don't cut pensions. But in the meantime, we have got a Treasurer who has been engaged behind the scenes and finger pointing against the Prime Minister, a Prime Minister against the Treasurer over the GP Tax debacle. And in the meantime the healthcare of Australians being jeopardised by this absolutely over the top behaviour of the Government.
JOURNALIST: The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a survey out today that said that business confidence was at a 23 year low and a lot of that is due to the uncertainty in Canberra. Isn't Labor contributing to that a bit?
SHORTEN: 500 days of the Abbott Government. It's their 500 day birthday and things are getting worse in Australia. And it's not good enough for the Abbott Government to simply blame everyone else. Families are worse off up to the tune of $6,000. Pensioners are facing cuts in their pensions. Our Defence Force has had a real pay cut. Sick people have had to worry about can they afford to go to see a doctor, the confidence is down as you observed in the business world and we’ve got more people in the jobless queues. Every day gets worse under the Abbott Government and every day means that this is a Government who are gradually more and more just losing the plot in terms of what they are going to do for Australians.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) making more of a contribution to see a doctor?
SHORTEN: I think we have got a very good system, the Medicare system. The Australian health system - let's get some facts on the table before we see the Government just attack GPs as they have been doing shamelessly in the last few weeks. Our health system, we spend about 9 per cent of our GDP on healthcare in Australia compared to about 17 per cent in the United States. If you look at what our GPs do, they are less than 30 per cent of the Medicare costs in the system, yet they look after 80 per cent of the patients and medical work. We need to see a government who stops fighting with the doctors, stops fighting with nurses, stops fighting with the patients, and starts working with people.
We pay our Medicare taxes to help pay for our healthcare system. This is a Government who is going to attack and keep attacking, bulk billing, and the only thing they did last week was due to the Queensland election where they backed off their crazy $20 fine to go and see a doctor. But the truth of the matter is the Government may have changed its tactics, but they haven't changed their mind on what they want to do with Medicare. We have got an invisible Prime Minister, but unfortunately his policies are very visible and he should come to Queensland and account for his policies and positions.
JOURNALIST: But should a person earning $100,000 be able to walk into a GP and get bulk-billed the same was as an electrician can?
SHORTEN: This argument that Australians don't pay for their Medicare does Australians a great disservice. Australians already pay a Medicare levy, so they are already paying for it. Many Australians have private health insurance so they are already paying for it. This is a Government who wants people to triple dip. This is a government who thinks the only way you cure the sick is by discouraging them from going to the doctor. We know and you know and reasonable people around Australia understand that all this Government wants to do is play our budget and political games. No-one thinks their latest backflips and contortions on Medicare is based about treatment of the sick, it's all about an untidy race to charge more people and raise more taxes by going to the doctor.
JOURNALIST: What should the Government do if the two Australians in Bali are executed – should they withdraw Ambassadors?
SHORTEN: This is a very difficult set of circumstances, and one which appropriately is above the political debate. Let me state very clearly, Labor believes that the death penalty is abhorrent whenever and wherever it occurs. It demeans all of us as human beings. We haven't given up and I'm sure the Government hasn't given up the prospect of achieving clemency for these two Australians. I understand that these Australians have broken the laws and they have broken the laws in Indonesia. We understand that they have to pay a penalty. But the death penalty simply won't discourage the crimes. It doesn't work, and Labor is at one with the Government to try to save the lives of these Australians.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government is doing enough?
SHORTEN: Well, again, I'm not about to make this a political issue. There is one task at hand today, ladies and gentlemen. It is to do whatever we can to achieve clemency for these two Australians. So the lawyers of the families, the families, the Government, ourselves, are of one mind, we oppose the death penalty.
JOURNALIST: What should the Government be doing with regards to the situation on Manus Island?
SHORTEN: Well first of all the Government - the reports there are very troubling now. Whatever one's perspective about these matters, I think that all Australians are unhappy that there's a culture of secrecy. These people are directly or indirectly in the care of Australia, and the Government just needs to come clean with what is happening. Australians are a fair minded people. We believe in making sure the right thing is done by people within our care both directly and indirectly. The first step to doing that is to make sure we actually know what's going on and I don't think anyone outside of a few people in the Government actually know what is really happening.
JOURNALIST: What can we expect from the Queensland election campaign launch tomorrow from Labor?
SHORTEN: Well you'll have to wait and to the launch tomorrow. But I think it's fair to say that Annastacia Palaszczuk and her state team ably represented the flag being carried in Yeerongpilly by Mark Bailey, have had a massive mountain to climb from three and a half years ago. Three and a half years ago, the electorate returned only 7 Labor MPs out of 89. There have been two by-elections since then, with Anthony Lynham and Yvette D’Ath joining the ranks, but that’s still only 9 out of 89. It's been a mammoth task for Annastacia Palaszczuk to get Labor back to competitive and I think they are competitive. I think it's not so much what we expect from the launch tomorrow, but it’s about the issues, isn't it. This is a Labor team in Queensland determined to see that the assets of Queensland are put to best use for Queenslanders. This is a Labor team talking about health and education and jobs. These are coincidentally issues which transcend state and federal boundaries, that is why Tanya, Graham, myself and all our team are so keen to be here because the health and education of every Queenslander, the employment prospects of every young Queenslander are a matter of great importance to all levels of politics.
JOURNALIST: It sounds like you are lowering expectations. Can Annastacia Palaszczuk pull off a victory?
SHORTEN: The arithmetic is very difficult. I'm not an election commentator, I’ll leave that to the ladies and gentlemen of the press, but what I do know is it's a steep climb and Labor, I think, has exceeded expectations so far, it is a very difficult climb. But what matters is the future of Queensland. What matters is jobs. What matters is making sure your kids can get a good education, what matters is making sure that your parents when they need to see a doctor can see a doctor. These are the matters which unite Labor and unite Labor with Queensland and that's what we stand for. One more question.
JOURNALIST: The Great Barrier Reef is under massive attack at the moment from the Abbott Government, are we going to see a lot of developments on that from incoming Labor governments, both federally and at a state level? [inaudible]
SHORTEN: Well, I think what's been very clear in this election is there's only one mainstream political party with any policies for the Great Barrier Reef, and State Labor's made it very clear they will move heaven and earth to protect the pristine nature of the Barrier Reef. In Canberra, we see a Federal Government currently in power who deny the impact of climate change, you can see them being dragged with their fingernail marks across the concrete to have any debate about climate change. And even we saw the dramatic report released this weekend which shows we have just gone through the hottest year. And yet you still have the Abbott Government stuck in the past. So if people care about the Great Barrier Reef, we don't just have to rely on President Obama to tell us about its capacities and its importance, we should do that at the ballot box. Thanks, everyone, lovely to see you.
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Transcript of press conference
Subjects: Marriage equality, Abbott Government’s first 100 days
Tanya Plibersek: Last week we saw in the ACT, the court decided that indeed it’s the federal Parliament that needs to legislate for marriage equality in Australia. That means the federal Parliament needs to decide to end discrimination against same couples when it comes to marriage. I’m going to reintroduce into Parliament next year, a private member’s Bill that will make it possible for same sex couples who love each other to marry. What I’d like to see is conscience vote for Liberal and National Members of Parliament. Until Liberal and National Members of Parliament are allowed a conscience vote, it’s not possible for such legislation to pass. Ideally I’m looking for a Liberal or a National party member to co-sponsor this Bill. I’d like to see a Liberal or National party member put their name this private member’s leg with mine to show that this is a matter that’s above politics, that is bi-partisan. Of course not everyone agrees, but with a conscience vote, we’ll see a majority of Labor party members, and those Liberal and National party members who believe in marriage equality able to express that.
Journalist: Are you heartened by Malcolm Turnbull’s comments?
Plibersek: It’s been obvious for a long time that Malcolm Turnbull is a supporter of marriage equality. And he’s said in the past that he’d like to see a conscience vote in his own party. So ideally, it’d be wonderful if Malcolm was prepared to or able to co-sponsor such a Bill. But of course being a Cabinet minister, that makes that a little more difficult. So if not Malcolm, perhaps one of the Liberal backbenchers or a National party backbencher would be prepared to co-sponsor the Bill. If not, I’m sure that I’ll find someone in the Labor Party. But, there is a fundamental threshold question here. Unless Liberal and National party members are able to have a conscience vote there’s no way that this legislation can pass. So I’ll go to my party room in January, with a proposal that Labor would have a new private member’s Bill, and that I would sponsor that Bill.
But I won’t intro a new bill until Liberal and National members have a conscience vote. So it’s up to Tony Abbott really now to allow his members of Parliament to vote according to their conscience.
Journalist: It’s a hundred days since the Coalition … [inaudible)
Plibersek: Well, I think most Australians have worked out that Tony Abbott’s Government is not the Government they said they’d be. They said they’d be a Government of no surprises and no excuses. But so far it’s been nasty surprises and pathetic excuses. In every area of government policy we’ve seen broken promises. We’ve seen broken promises in health. They said they wouldn’t cut health funding, and they have. We’ve seen broken promises in education. They said they were a unity ticket with Labor on education funding, and instead they been dragged kicking and screaming to funding part of the Gonski funding model but not all of it, and indeed they are cutting Trades Training Centres. So they are cutting some school funding to pay for some other school funding. Trades Training Centres are more important than ever before. We see the jobs losses at Holden, the job losses at Qantas, the job losses in Gove at Rio Tinto, Electrolux, Simplot, all of these job losses. We need to have highly skilled highly trained workers. By cutting Trades Training Centres from high school , a $400 million cut there, you reduce the likelihood that young people come out of high school ready for the skilled trades jobs of the future. Across every area of government policy we’ve seen mis-steps, failures, and broken promises.
Journalist: Do you have anything to add on marriage equality?
Plibersek: I think now is really the time for Australians to say to their Government that we need a conscience vote on this. I think its time for Tony Abbott to allow his members of Parliament to follow their conscience and to vote in the federal Parliament for marriage equality.
Journalist: So with your conversations with Malcolm, how did that go, how did the conversation about marriage equality go?
Plibersek: Malcolm Turnbull is in a seat neighbouring mine, and I talk to him all the time about all sorts of issues, but I don’t talk about those conversations afterwards.
Plibersek: I think it’s very difficult for the Coalition to refuse a conscience vote...[inaudible]…so if there’s a CV we’ll see a number of people vote for marriage equality, I and think that it’s very likely there will be a conscience vote.
15 DECEMBER 2013
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Transcript of interview with Ben Fordham
Today Show, Channel 9
Subjects: Holden, NBN
Ben Fordham: How are we all?
Malcom Turnbull: We're very well.
Fordham: Everyone friendly?
Tanya Plibersek: Yeah.
Fordham: Ok, we’ll keep our answers short and sharp today because there's a lot to get through if we can. It's been a devastating week for Holden workers after the company confirmed it will cease manufacturing cars in Australia by 2017. Today a warning from Toyota that uncompetitive work practices could force it to go the same way as Holden, Ford and others. So does that mean, Malcolm, we need to have more flexible agreements i.e. Work Choices, things like that, in the automotive sector?
Turnbull: I think what it means is you need greater productivity. My understanding is that the wages of auto workers in Japan and Australia are comparable but the productivity here is a lot less.
Fordham: The bosses want more flexibility though and there are plenty of people within the Liberal Party who want a return to more flexibility in the workplace, so why wouldn't you deliver that to this industry if that's what they need?
Turnbull: Well, we’ve committed to an industrial relations policy and as you know, Work Choices is dead, buried and cremated but nonetheless it's incumbent on both the unions and the company and Toyota to be able to come to some settlement in terms of more productive work practices because if they can't, if they can't then Toyota will no doubt follow Holden. And then everyone loses.
Fordham: It's been revealed today, Tanya, that the executives in the US, the Holden executives were working on this decision for months. It was months in the making therefore it's a little bit …
Plibersek: Well, no Ben, what I think was revealed is they had two plans. If we stay this is what we need to stay, if we can't stay this is how we leave. And any business makes contingency plans. As late as Tuesday this week, when Mike Devereaux was talking to the Productivity Commission he was saying no decision had been made. What changed was he went into - we went into question time and Joe Hockey dared Holden to leave and they took his dare.
Fordham: You honestly believe that's why they pulled out?
Plibersek: I do.
Fordham: As a result of what Joe Hockey said in question time?
Plibersek: Seeing that, you've seen the text messages being sent by Holden executives saying "Are you watching this, this bloke wants us to leave, he's daring us, he's goading us." I think it was very significant in their decision.
Fordham: Ok, let’s move on right now. The Government is set to break a key election promise on the NBN, Malcolm Turnbull's baby. The pledge to deliver download speeds of 25 megabytes per second to the majority of Australians by 2016.
Now Malcom, I know that you will blame the former government for this. I know that you will bore us with all sorts of details on the NBN but can you just admit in the interest of transparency that what you said before the election is different to what you were saying now?
Turnbull: Well, what I said before the election is we would tell the truth about the NBN and we would for the first time get a thoroughly objective, independent analysis of where the project is now, where it could have gone to if Labor had stayed in Government which is to run up another $29 billion in debt and a much, much slower roll out and what the options are. Options are constrained by the mess we've been left with by Labor.
Fordham: But in the interests of transparency, you will admit now won’t you, that what you said before the election is different to what you're saying now?
Turnbull: What I said before the election was that we believed we could get all Australians 25 megs by 2016 and the company has come back with its advisers and said they do not believe that is achievable. But you know what that is? That is the first time the NBN Co has ever written a report which does not coincide with the political agenda of the Minister and that's because I'm the first Communications Minister - it's true.
Fordham: Come on, Tanya…
Turnbull: You can't deny that. I'm the first Communications Minister that has allowed the NBN to tell the truth. Stephen Conroy bullied them into telling lies again and again and again. And that’s the tragedy.
Plibersek: OK, two things to say. This is a report written by Malcolm's mate that he owns a yacht with.
Turnbull: That is outrageous. That is not true. The report on Labor…
Fordham: Hang on, is it true or not true?
Turnbull: It's completely untrue.
Plibersek: You don't own a yacht with him?
Turnbull: I own a yacht, own not a yacht actually, it's an old couta boat, it’s really better described as a menace to shipping and JB Rousselot, who is one of the people on that review - I own that boat with him.
Plibersek: The answer is yes.
Turnbull: No, hang on, wait a minute.
Fordham: Hang on a minute, Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm.
Turnbull: No, we've got to tell the truth, the truth about Labor was written by KordaMentha, not by JB Rousselot, and the Boston Consulting Group, it was not written by JB Rousselot, and you know that and you are smearing JB Rousselot because you are ashamed of the billions of dollars your government wasted and the mess that we have to clean up, Tanya, and it is a disgrace. Tens of billions of dollars…
Plibersek: Ben, Ben... This is a clearly broken promise.
Turnbull: You’ve broken your promise (to Fordham) to keep the answers short, you see.
Fordham: You're the one who didn't keep it short.
Turnbull: I never said I would.
Plibersek: The Prime Minister said a minimum of 25 megabits per second download speed, he said that before the election, very clearly. Promise broken.
Turnbull: Well, what we said was that was our objective.
Plibersek: Promise broken.
Plibersek: No, no, no the Prime Minister promised that.
Turnbull: We made it very clear that all of our objectives, all of our targets were subject to getting to the facts –
Plibersek: That's not true.
Fordham: This is supposed to be a lovely Christmas get together.
Turnbull: Well Tanya, you were –
Fordham: Let’s look at what you turned Christmas into you two.
Turnbull: Let's get this straight.
Fordham: No, Malcolm we're not going to. We're moving on Malcolm.
Turnbull: You went to the election with forecasts on the NBN which you and your Cabinet knew were false. And you didn’t tell the Australian people the truth.
Plibersek: Broken promise.
Fordham: Malcolm, you need to have respect for what I'm doing here right because I've got certain constraints that I've got to follow. Now we're moving on.
Turnbull: Good. Moving forward as someone said.
Fordham: You have found your own way of admitting that what you said beforehand is different to what you've said now. You have found your own way of admitting it.
Turnbull: Well, what I’ve done is made sure the truth is told …
Fordham: If you could, both of you, we need to end this nicely because this is our Christmas edition of In the House, if you could get anything in the world for each other for Christmas without any budget constraints, anything, what would you give Malcolm for Christmas?
Plibersek: Well, I had a really good present for him but I don't want to give it to him now because he's being mean.
Fordham: Come on.
Plibersek: I know that Malcolm and Lucy have been big supporters of the Wayside Chapel so I'd make a donation on their behalf to the Wayside Chapel.
Turnbull: That's very sweet and that's a lovely thing to do.
Plibersek: Now you're sorry you interrupted me, aren't you?
Turnbull: No, no, I tell you what I would give Tanya and it's not really mine to give but I would give Tanya lots of time, quiet time away from politicians and journalists to spend time with Anna, Joe and Louis, her three very beautiful children. That's lots of hugs from those 3.
Fordham: See, we all get along in the end, don't we?
Turnbull: We do.
Plibersek: Well, mostly.
Fordham: Merry Christmas, everyone, from all of us here at the Plibersek and Turnbull families.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
SENATOR THE HON KIM CARR
SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING THE LEADER FOR SCIENCE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION, AND INDUSTRY
THE HON BRENDAN O’CONNOR MP
MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS
WEDNESDAY, 11 DECEMBER 2013
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government abandon’s Australia’s automotive industry.
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, TANYA PLIBERSEK: Thank you very much everyone for coming this afternoon. I want to say a few words about the closure of Holden in Australia. Today’s a shocking day for Holden workers and the first thing I want to say is that we are very concerned for their futures, that we are thinking of them and their families particularly in the lead up to Christmas, this is terrible news for them to get and that we will do everything that we can to support and assist them. It’s a shocking day for Holden workers. It's also a terrifying day for other auto industry workers. We know that component manufacturers will be affected by this. We know that there are all sorts of industries that support auto manufacturing in Australia that will be affected by this, including research and development, logistics and so on. All of them will feel this. It's also a very frightening day for Toyota workers, seeing the fate of fellow auto industry workers and of course they would be nervous about their futures as well.
It's very unusual to see one decision, like the Government's decision to rip $500 million out of this industry, that has such huge ramifications for Australia. We are talking about probably 200,000 jobs that rely on the auto industry here in Australia. This one decision to rip out $500 million has extraordinary ongoing effects for the industry. It was Joseph Benedict Chifley, as my friend Nick Champion said, Joseph Benedict Chifley who watched the first car roll off the production line at Fisherman's Bend, and it will be his name sake, it will be Joseph Benedict Hockey, who sees the last car roll off the production line. And it’s unfortunately a decision of government that has made it so. Treasurer Hockey dared Holden to withdraw from Australia, and he got his way.
We saw yesterday in the Parliament Treasurer Hockey make an extraordinary show, manning up, puffed up, shouting, arguing, making a point of daring Holden to leave. Well, they’ve left. We had evidence from Mike Devereux yesterday that there had been no decision made, that Holden hadn't decided about its future in Australia. We had the Treasurer goading them to leave Australia and on top of that, the Acting Prime Minister writing a letter that Holden and, you know, anyone who had seen the letter would think was designed specifically to be released for public consumption, and indeed that was the conclusion that Holden drew.
Instead of picking up the phone, instead of decent dialogue, instead of an adult approach that would keep these vital jobs in Australia, we had the Treasurer and the Acting Prime Minister goading and daring Holden to pull out. Today, the response of the Acting Prime Minister is that at least Holden workers now have certainty. Well, that's a very curious definition of certainty. Yes, they’ve have got the certainty that they’ll lose their jobs. Other auto industry workers have the certainty that there will be other job losses in the auto industry. Workers at Toyota and in other related fields have the fear that they will be next, that they will be the domino that falls next. It is a very curious definition of certainty.
This government said that they would be a government of no surprises and no excuses. And today in Question Time, we had an absolute litany of excuses. Excuses for why Holden’s made this decision to leave. We had Christopher Pyne saying that this was a decision made months ago in the United States. It's only just been announced today for reasons he would not say, but it's a decision made months ago. We had Christopher Pyne also saying that this decision was nothing to do with the Federal Government. That's an absolutely extraordinary claim when it's been clear from everything that Holden has said that they were waiting for a clear signal from the Commonwealth Government about what the Government would do for the future of the auto industry here in Australia. It's extraordinary to say that this is nothing to do with the Government when we have had Holden negotiating, holding back, seeking to talk to the Government, making clear that they hadn't made a decision. We’ve have had a Productivity Commission inquiry that's kicked off any decision from the Government about auto industry assistance to sometime in the future. For now, the Government to wash their hands of this and say it's nothing to do with them is a tragic day for Holden. It's a tragic day for the auto industry. It's a tragic day for manufacturing in Australia. I think most Australians would regard it as a tragic day for Australia. It's extraordinary to see a Commonwealth Government drive the car industry out of Australia. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: I have a question to Senator Carr, as an outgoing Industry Minister as it were, do you accept that as some of your opponents are saying today, you should share a fair bit of the blame in that in the last three years maybe we should have seen more effort, and a car plan that would work and be sustainable?
SENATOR KIM CARR: No, I don't. Just think what happened during the economic crisis. General Motors in the United States went into bankruptcy. Yet in Australia, we are able to secure the assets for the future. And around the world, when the automotive industry was in retreat, in Australia we attracted additional investment. Now, we put $1.8 billion on the table. We attracted $25 billion, $25.9 billion worth of new investment. So it is just not true. This was a decision that did not have to be made. It was not necessary that this had to end this way. This is a government's responsibility. Now General Motors Holden had been talking to us in government and to the Opposition when they were in opposition. And we all know what it would take to keep the car industry in place in this country. I've indicated this week considerably less than $150 million per annum, remembering that the current car plan comes to an end in 2020. We would not have to actually draw upon the budget at all until 2017. Because this was all about investments after 2017. So it was absolutely unnecessary. This is a tragedy that need not have had to happen in this country.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] that Mike Devereux this afternoon said that the decision wasn't made until after he gave evidence to the Productivity Commission yesterday –
CARR: No it does not, it does not. It does not. I know this company well, I know these people well. Where was the Minister? Why hasn’t the Minister been to Detroit to talk to the leadership? If they were serious, why hasn't this government gone to Detroit to talk? Why would you issue a letter like the Acting Prime Minister did yesterday? Why wouldn't you pick up the telephone? Why wouldn't they have responded to the business case proposal that General Motors has had before the new government since its election? So the facts are very simple here. The Government has sought to drive this industry out of Australia because they believe there is some ideological quest that has to be pursued and it became more urgent after what we saw with GrainCorp. Now, for seven days in a row, we have had senior Ministers for seven days, senior Ministers, back grounding against the Industry Minister, demanding that the company make a decision. They have been playing chicken with this company. The Government has been playing chicken for months. Well, they got what they wanted.
JOURNALIST: We’re getting the message out of Detroit that General Motors felt it was no longer sustainable to make cars in Australia, something Devereux said this afternoon.
CARR: And that's what that means. The business case doesn't stack up. Why not? Because the Australian Government would not contribute, would not co-invest as governments all around the world do. In Australia the Government turned its back, turned its back on 200,000 Australians. Turned its back on the 50,000 workers employed directly in this industry. Everyone knows what the consequences are except this Government. They have played chicken with the industry and now we have the consequence.
JOURNALIST: Toyota says they are now facing unprecedented pressure, that’s a very bad signal isn't it?
CARR: That’s the point. All the component manufacturers are faced with the same pressures. We’ve had the dollar increase in value by 65 per cent. You would have thought the Government would understand what that meant. We did. We were prepared to talk to them and I know if we had been re- elected, the contracts would have been signed. There would be no need for this decision today, if there’d been a different result at the last federal election.
JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, What is your response to Mr Hockey's claims that Labor didn't show the same outrage when Mitsubishi and Ford left Australia?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I’ll say a couple of things. I think for a start that it is extraordinary that the Treasurer’s focus today in Question Time has been making political points. The second thing I'd say is we have never been anything other than devastated when a single job is lost in Australia. But the difference with today's decision is a company has been goaded into leaving Australia. They’ve been, as Senator Carr said, the Government was playing chicken with Holden and the workers are the ones that lost out.
CARR: There are two points. Mitsubishi did not want to invest in Australia. I found out about Mitsubishi during the election campaign in 2007. I found out from a dealer who, of course, advised me that there had been a return on an order for fleet cars. That's how I found out, during the previous government, during the previous government. In regard to Ford, the Ford motor company did not want to invest. General Motors did want to invest. They gave us the choice. The Government has made a choice and the choice is not to have an automotive industry in this country. That is what we have got to appreciate here. This is a policy decision of Government. No one else but the Government has to be held responsible for their decision.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer Hockey clearly believes that he was being gamed by General Motors.
CARR: Look, I've been involved in this trade for a long time. And I've heard these sorts of idiotic statements from neo-liberals. You know these are the North Shore bankers talking. They are only too happy to bail out the banks when they need help but when it comes to blue collar workers, in the automotive industry they think there is something illegitimate in that. Look, let's be clear about this. There is a section of the Liberal Party that actually hates the automotive industry and they have expressed their views for as long as I've been engaged in this debate.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you everyone.
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Transcript of interview with Lisa Wilkinson
Today Show, Channel 9
Subjects: Qantas, Holden, School Funding
Lisa Wilkinson: Well the Government insists it won't rush into bail out Qantas even as the national airline announced a $300 million loss yesterday and the need to axe 1,000 jobs in the coming year.
Joining us now to discuss this and explain his backflip on Gonski is Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek joins us as well. Good morning to both of you. Christopher Pyne, if I can start with you, is there a case for the Government to step in and bail out Qantas?
Christopher Pyne: Well Qantas has a unique problem which most other private companies don't have in Australia and that is it's restricted by legislation in terms of its foreign investment, who can invest in Qantas.
Now Virgin doesn't have that restriction which means Qantas is hide bound really so we have to think about whether the taxpayer directly supports Qantas or whether we remove those restrictions and allow it to get foreign investment which also means that it might not necessarily be entirely Australian owned. So it's a problem and we have to sort through it, which we will.
Wilkinson: Is the Government feeling sentimental about this Australian icon or do you think you really have to start doing business now?
Pyne: Well there's a whole host of reasons why Australia needs to have a national carrier. But it is a global world and at the moment Qantas can't compete as easily as it should because it's got this 50% restriction on its ownership.
Wilkinson: Christopher's right, Tanya, I mean there's not an even playing field at the moment between Qantas and Virgin. Virgin has got 63% foreign ownership that really does help them in their funding. Do you think those restrictions should be loosened?
Tanya Plibersek: Look, I think it's important to have a look at anything that Qantas is proposing to help them operate more effectively. My dad spent the last 20 years of his working life working at Qantas and I think I do and many Australians do have a very strong attachment to Qantas as an Australian brand and carrier. I think we should have a look at what they're suggesting.
Wilkinson: But it's a heart versus head thing, isn't it?
Plibersek: Well absolutely. I think the emotional attachment is certainly there. You get on a Qantas plane coming back from overseas and hear those Australian accents, it's always so wonderful.
Pyne: I think there's a sense of almost bipartisanship about this issue. I mean I don't think you can make much politics out of Qantas because it's an icon for Australia and that's a good thing.
Wilkinson: And 1,000 people facing job losses.
Plibersek: Absolutely, and right before Christmas. The important thing there is to make sure we give those 1,000 people the support they need to find new jobs as quickly as possible.
Wilkinson: Speaking of Aussie icons, Holden, there's talk that it could close its operations here by 2016. Is this another case of the Government having to step in?
Pyne: Well, Holden - well GM really in Detroit - needs to let Holden compete internationally. One of the problems for Holden in Australia is it doesn't seem to be given the freedom to export and if it's not exporting the market here in Australia isn't big enough. And because we allow so much overseas cars into our market, which is a good thing for competition and for consumer choice, Toyota and Holden and Ford need to export whereas GM and Detroit puts all sorts of restrictions around Holden's capacity to export.
It hasn't invested in the equipment that it needs to invest in and if Holden make that decision it will be a decision of Holden's. We in the federal Liberal Party want to support the car industry as much as possible but at the end of the day Holden make a decision, a commercial decision, it's not something that we can make for them.
Plibersek: Well Lisa, I mean Christopher's skated over the fact that the Liberal Government's taking $500 million support out of the car industry and I think it's very important that we keep car manufacturing here in Australia.
There's a 9 to 1 multiplier effect. For every dollar we put in we get $9 back and if you look at the support for the Australian car industry, compared to the US or Germany, the Americans put in about 14 times as much per person as we do, even the Germans that would be acknowledged as having a very strong car industry, they get about 5 times per person as much support going into their car industry as we do here in Australia.
Pyne: But even with all the support that Labor's been putting in over the last 6 years, Ford's already decided to leave, even with all that support. Holden's operations here in Australia, even with all the support, made a loss again last year. When General Motors looked at their entire international operations, the Australian operation was the one
that was making a loss so all that money's been flowing into Holden and Ford and they're still making losses or deciding to leave in the case of Ford.
Plibersek: But the point is Christopher, we're not putting in a lot compared with other countries that have car industries and we're talking about 200,000 jobs and also the spin off for research and development and innovation that comes from having a car industry. I think it's very important that we keep it here.
Wilkinson: Alright, we'll have to move on. We need to move onto you, Christopher Pyne.
This week's double backflip over Gonski. Now a week ago you were Gonski's foremost critic. You said it was un-implementable, this week you've not only backed it but you've found more than $1 billion extra to put into it. Was it just a case of you caved in to public pressure?
Pyne: Well the good news, Lisa, is I found $1.2 billion more for education than Labor was going to put in.
Wilkinson: But was that because of public pressure because you were its greatest critic?
Pyne: It's because I've been spending the last 11 weeks working behind the scenes with WA, NT and Queensland.
Wilkinson: But for 10 weeks of that, you didn’t like it…
Pyne: Well I haven't said much about the school funding model since the election. But I found $1.2 billion.
Wilkinson: Where did you find that?
Pyne: Well the Treasurer and I, and the PM, worked out how we could fund that, which Labor took out.
Wilkinson: Where was it?
Pyne: You will find out in MYEFO, which will be handed down before the end of the year where that money's come from.
And I got WA, Queensland and the NT to sign up, something Labor never did. So I've delivered the national agreement and more money.
Wilkinson: But will you change your mind again because you've changed it about four times now on Gonski?
Pyne: I haven't really. It's where you end the race Lisa that counts, not where you started.
Wilkinson: But we don't know where you end, because we could have said a couple of decisions ago “this was the end”.
Pyne: I've crossed the finish line, I’ve crossed the line. I’ve got the money and the agreement.
Plibersek: It’s great, Christopher was vacuuming the couch and lifted up the cushions and found $1.2 billion.
Pyne: It was amazing.
Plibersek: You’re right Lisa, this is the 4th position Christopher's had and it's not delivering what the Government said they would deliver before the election. They said they were on a unity ticket with Labor.
Our proposal was $14.65 billion extra over six years, this is $2.8 billion over 4 years. There's no requirement, we had a requirement, for every $2 put we put in as a Commonwealth Government the States put in an extra $1. Christopher said to the States “It doesn't matter. We'll put in a bit of extra money but if you cut education funding in your own States it doesn't matter”.
And most importantly, the Gonski model said we give most to the kids who need it most and the schools who need it most, and there's no guarantee that what Christopher is proposing gives that money to disadvantaged kids. You look at the report that came out this week, the PISA Report, and it shows that Australia has one of the biggest gaps in learning between the wealthiest kids and the poorest kids anywhere in the world, and that's exactly what the Gonski model was designed to fix. Put the most resources where they're most needed.
Wilkinson: Part of the problem is we saw those figures this week saying that Australia has really fallen behind in its educational standards in this country. We had 6 years of Labor rule. Why didn't things improve during that time?
Plibersek: Well because these are 15-year-old kids. They've had a whole career in the education system.
Pyne: So it's their fault?
Plibersek: No, I'm not saying it's their fault. I'm saying a good education system starts with top quality childcare, it starts with preschool. Any parent will tell you and Christopher I know you’re a parent, that those early years of childhood are the most important learning time. So we've got to invest from the beginning in preschool, making sure that every child gets a year of preschool and making sure that our whole education system from day 1 focuses on lifting the most disadvantaged kids. The kids who start behind the eight ball.
Wilkinson: Last word, Christopher Pyne?
Pyne: Well Lisa, Labor took $1.2 billion out before the election.
Plibersek: That's not true Christopher, you can't keep saying that.
Pyne: I put it back in. Over six years Labor spent $20 billion more on education and they've achieved the worst PISA result in history.
Wilkinson: The trouble is that that $1.2 billion was never on the table, you can't take something out that wasn't on the table?
Pyne: It was in the Budget, it was in the economic statement of the Treasurer’s before the election but it was taken out in the pre-election fiscal outlook. [Plibersek interjects] You had a lovely long run and I didn't interrupt you. It's not all about money, it's about teacher quality and PISA found the one single determinant in Australia about the outcomes for students was not the school they were in but the teacher they were allocated.
Plibersek: And that's why you need the standards that come with Gonski and you don’t guarantee that. And that $1.2 billion dollars, that’s WA, NT and QLD that refused to take the extra money…
Pyne: So you took the money back.
Plibersek: … because they put politics before kids.
Pyne: You put it into consolidated revenue.
Plibersek: That’s just nonsense.
Wilkinson: Ok, I think you two need to take it out the back. In the meantime, thank you very much.
6 DECEMBER 2013
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Acting Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Transcript of interview with Marius Benson
Subjects: Carbon price, Holden, Qantas
Marius Benson: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.
Tanya Plibersek: Hi Marius.
Benson: There’s a fair shopping list of things to get through for Parliament in the last four scheduled sitting days. At the top of the list for the Government is the Carbon Tax, and on the Carbon Tax, the abolition there of. The Government says the people have spoken they don’t want the Carbon Tax, “get out of the way” is the remark directed to you and the Greens. And the Government says “by the way, it doesn’t work anyway, it only reduced emissions by one tenth of one per cent”.
Plibersek: Well one tenth of one per cent is 300,000 tonnes, that’s a lot of pollution taken out of the atmosphere. It is actually more than what was anticipated in its first year of operation. And at the same time as reducing pollution very substantially, we’ve seen around 150,000 new jobs created across the economy. The economy’s continued to grow despite all the claims that the then Opposition, the now Government, made about how this would bring economic destruction. We’ve seen pollution through the national electricity market decrease by seven per cent. We’ve seen renewable power up as a share of our national electricity market by around twenty five per cent. We’ve seen our power from wind triple in the time that we are talking about. More than a million households have got solar panels installed, and this has been a very successful effort to reduce pollution in our atmosphere.
Benson: Nonetheless it is going to go, the Carbon Tax, in July when the Senate numbers change, if not before, why not let it go now?
Plibersek: Well we would support getting rid of a fixed price per tonne on carbon pollution if we had something effective to replace it. What the Government is proposing is getting rid of the Carbon Tax and replacing it with what they like to call “Direct Action”. A program which no serious economist or environmentalist believes will do anything to reduce pollution being pumped into our atmosphere. So if the Government were prepared to keep a market based solution, if they were prepared to replace the fixed price per tonne on carbon pollution with something that was actually going to protect the environment in some way, reduce pollution being pumped into the atmosphere, then we’d be happy to talk. But, at the moment, that’s not the proposal.
Benson: To another issue, which is the future of Holden, or the lack of future for Holden. There are a lot of reports around saying that Detroit has already decided that Holden is going to close here, do you this it can be saved?
Plibersek: Well I think it can be and it must be. We’re talking about 200,000 jobs related to the car industry in Australia, and a million jobs across the manufacturing sector if we keep losing these big important manufacturing sector employers. The car industry in Australia does get Government support, but it does get support at a much lower rate than comparable countries. Per person the United States subsidises its car industry fourteen times per person more than we do, and even the German car industry, which most people would say is considered a very effective one, they subsidise at a rate five times per person higher than Australia does. We invest in the car industry, we get a nine times return on that investment, so for every dollar we put in we get nine dollars back. And you think about those people who are sitting at Holden today wondering whether they are going to have a job after Christmas. It is absolutely unacceptable for the Government to be sitting on its hands saying “we’ll wait for the Productivity Commission Report”. Holden is making this decision now and without some indication from the Government that they believe manufacturing, and in particular car industry manufacturing have a future in Australia, they’ll make a decision to withdraw.
Benson: To another national brand Qantas, which is in doubt at the moment, Chris Bowen at the weekend the Shadow Treasurer said it is too important to fail, is that the Labor position? Qantas is too important to fail and Government money should be put in to buy a share in it?
Plibersek: Well I think most Australians would say that we need a national airline. There’s a very strong attachment by Australian’s to the Qantas brand. Again, we’ve …
Benson: But that’s a sentimental attachment rather than a purchasing attachment, I mean only a small fraction of international travel goes to Qantas now, eighteen per cent.
Plibersek: Well I think most countries, most developed nations, have a national airline, and Qantas has always been an important employer in Australia. We’ve just lost a thousand jobs over the next twelve months, again a very significant effect on those workers and those families. I think it is important to consider how we can back Qantas but that needs to be based on a proposal that they come forward with. We are happy to examine and discuss what they would suggest. It is very important for us, as a first step however, to look at the thousand workers who have just lost their jobs or been told that they’re no longer employed; we need to make sure they get all the support they can get to find new work. We have had packages in the past where we have supported industries in transition and I think the Government should be looking at what they can do to support to get these workers back into employment as quickly as possible.
Benson: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.
Plibersek: It’s a pleasure Marius.
9 DECEMBER 2013
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TODAY SHOW, CHANNEL 9
FRIDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2013
Subject/s: Qantas, NBN, GrainCorp sale, schools’ funding.
Karl Stefanovic: Well joining us now to discuss this [Qantas] and the rest of the week in politics is Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, morning Malcolm.
Malcolm Turnbull: Morning.
Stefanovic: And Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Nice to have you in the studio this time.
Tanya Plibersek: It’s a pleasure.
Stefanovic: And sorry for cutting you off this time. Malcolm, let's start with Qantas. Are you prepared to remove the foreign ownership component cap on the company? Are you prepared to guarantee the debt?
Turnbull: Well these are all matters that are going to be considered. I think everyone's in favour of Qantas remaining very much an Australian company but Alan Joyce has a very good point in this sense, that he is fighting against - his competitors are, for the most part, state-owned airlines that are heavily subsidised one way or another by their governments so Qantas really is battling. And Virgin, its domestic competitor and of course an international competitor too, is largely owned by state-owned airlines. So it is a real battle for Qantas.
Stefanovic: If it is the case that you say the majority of people want to hold onto it as an Australian company, Transport Minister Warren Truss reckons Qantas can't expect to have taxpayers bankroll the debt guarantee so there is divisions even within your own party on where to go.
Turnbull: There's no division at all. I mean Warren's expressed a point of view there but this is something that we will consider as a Cabinet when we hear what Alan Joyce actually is going to put to us. He's had discussions with a number of ministers including Warren including me, including Joe obviously and we'll look at that collectively and come to a decision.
Stefanovic: Tanya, you supported Qantas in general but you stopped short of bankrolling as well?
Plibersek: Well we need to know specifically what the proposal is before we can start commenting. At the moment we've heard a few thought bubbles from what was supposed to be a private meeting from Joe Hockey. But I've got to say, my dad worked for Qantas for 21 years and I'm pretty attached to it as an Australian brand. I think most people, when they get onto a Qantas plane love the feeling of hearing Australian accents, knowing that the maintenance record, because it's done here in Australia is so high. There's a really very strong attachment.
Stefanovic: Would you support if you're able to give a debt guarantee, would you support that in place of equity?
Plibersek: Look, we need –
Stefanovic: Wouldn't that be a reasonable outcome?
Plibersek: We need to see specific proposals. I'm not going to start speculating about what they’re proposing.
Stefanovic: Malcolm, is that something you would support?
Turnbull: These are all things that can be considered but as we all know, as Tanya knows, these are matters that we consider collectively as a Cabinet and we'll have those discussions there.
Stefanovic: And the other side of it is, as Ross Greenwood pointed out before, how long do you keep propping up businesses?
Turnbull: Well, that is a fair point but I think where Joyce is right is that he is competing - his competitors are being very heavily supported by governments. If you look at these Middle Eastern airlines they are, all of them, and there are plenty of others, I'm not just picking on the Middle Eastern ones, but most of these airlines that he competes with have got a lot of support from governments and that is, you know, he is not operating on a level playing field.
Stefanovic: What will happen with Graincorp today?
Turnbull: [laughs]. You should ask the Treasurer.
Stefanovic: I can't at the moment, you're here. You know what's going to happen, what's likely to happen? Are they going to stop that investment?
Turnbull: Karl, it's a matter for the Treasurer and I couldn't tell you.
Stefanovic: It will be interesting to see what happens there. Probably in another hour or so, right? He knows.
Plibersek: He could if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to.
Turnbull: You're so well informed. You should break the story yourself.
Stefanovic: Let's move onto something you do know about, broadband. You've copped it in Fairfax today. You've levelled you out saying the Coalition's plan is poorly planned, unlikely to be completed on time and slashes revenue projections. It's a Malcolm Turnbull carve up, your response?
Turnbull: [laughs] What they've got is they've got a document which was prepared at the Labor Government's request more than 6 months ago by the NBN Co management, Michael Quigley and Ralph Steffens, both of whom have now gone. This document is A) out of date; B) it is defending a failed project. It has no credibility, absolutely none. Fairfax should have actually made it quite clear what the provenance of that document was and the truth is that we will know what is actually going on the NBN very soon because there is a big strategic review under way at the moment, being overseen by the board of the NBN Co, we've got KordaMentha, Boston Consulting Group, Deloittes, a big team in there to find out the real state of the project is at the moment, where it's heading under the old plans, what our options are for doing it sooner, cheaper and more affordably. It’s a very objective study and that will be produced shortly. What Labor is trying to do - they're trying to muddy the waters because they're afraid of the truth and you've seen Stephen Conroy's appalling conduct in the Senate yesterday bullying and harassing witnesses from the department. This is a desperate attempt by Conroy and Labor to avoid the day of reckoning when taxpayers find out how reckless and misconceived this project is.
Stefanovic: Was Stephen Conroy out of line yesterday?
Plibersek: No, I'll tell you what this is. This is the incoming –
Turnbull: You're endorsing what he did yesterday?
Plibersek: This is the incoming government brief. Every department prepares for a new government information about the policies that they're going to have to implement. Malcolm could solve this very quickly by releasing his incoming government brief. Instead -
Turnbull: Can I just correct that Tanya –
Plibersek: - No, no, let me finish.
Turnbull: No, I don’t want to interrupt you –
Plibersek: Malcolm you are interrupting me –
Turnbull: You are making a mistake. It's not the department’s brief. This was prepared by the company, it’s not the departments brief.
Plibersek: For an incoming government.
Turnbull: It was prepared by the company to go to the department and it's not the department's brief. This was a very partisan -
Plibersek: Well why don't you release the department brief?
Turnbull: Because you know -
Plibersek: Why is it a secret document? I released my incoming government brief last time we came into government. Your government’s released none of them. What this is Karl –
Turnbull: This is not the department's brief, it's the company's document.
Plibersek: This is setting up to break another promise. This is a secret document that doesn't need to be secret and it's a set up to break another promise just as has happened with education promise.
Stefanovic: Finally and quickly-
Turnbull: Our promise is to tell the truth about NBN and we’ll honour that, it’s something that your government, your previous government, never did.
Plibersek: You promised to deliver faster, cheaper broadband and this is showing it's going to be slower and worse and won't meet the needs of business or domestic consumers.
Turnbull: It doesn’t show that –
Stefanovic: We've got to finish on one that –
Turnbull: Fairfax has published a totally political document written by a management team that had conspicuously and consistently failed to meet every forecast they ever made.
Plibersek: Well why don’t you release the incoming government’s brief?
Stefanovic: Why didn't you say that after the first question?
Turnbull: I had to get fired up, see.
Stefanovic: He's fired up now. Finally and very quickly, today's meeting of education ministers that promises to be an interesting one. Fly on the wall would be great. NSW Liberal Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says this "There's no doubt that what seems to be happening is that States that signed up to Gonski are being punished –
Plibersek: That’s right.
Stefanovic: And States that didn't sign up are being rewarded". He goes on further and he says, "All of this is immoral."
Plibersek: Yeah it means the kids who need extra –
Turnbull: I think he's jumped the shark, don't you?
Plibersek: I think it shows Karl, the important thing about this is that the kids who need extra funding because they've got poor English language, poor reading skills, disabilities, they've missed out on something, they're going to miss out on funding. Before the election the Liberals said there was no difference between their education policy and ours. We promise $9.4 billion over 6 years. They've taken that down to $1.8 billion. There's a big difference for Australian children.
Stefanovic: Finally Malcolm.
Turnbull: That's not true.
Plibersek: It is true.
Turnbull: We are committed to the same funding envelope as Labor -
Plibersek: That's not right.
Turnbull: Made over the forward estimates -
Plibersek: But not over 6 years.
Turnbull: And we've committed to an additional $230 million for Queensland, NT and WA who didn't sign up to Shorten's various deals and what we are going to do is to develop a fair national and consistent plan, policy because what Labor did –
Stefanovic: Without all the guarantees.
Turnbull: What Labor did in their desperate –
Plibersek: So why then are the Liberal education ministers so opposed to Christopher Pyne's proposal?
Turnbull: Well look Adrian Piccoli obviously thought he cut a pretty good deal.
Plibersek: He did.
Turnbull: And he thinks he got a better deal than anyone else.
Plibersek: NSW kids will miss out on $2 billion. You shouldn't have said you're going to give them the same amount of money if you're not Malcolm. It's a broken promise.
Turnbull: We have made a commitment to keep the funding envelope the same and we're going to have a national and consistent deal across the country.
Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it.
Stefanovic: Alright we’ve run out of time.
Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it. You've broken a promise to kids and parents. It's unforgiveable.
Turnbull: The only person who cut $1 billion, in face he cut $1.2 billion out was Bill Shorten.
Plibersek: No that’s not right.
Turnbull: Chris Bowen admitted that he did yesterday.
Plibersek: That’s not right.
Stefanovic: This is why it’s so good having you two on. We could do three and a half hours of this.
Turnbull: We get along so well.
Stefanovic: Well you do, it’s interesting. It's Fordo's birthday today too.
Turnbull: Happy birthday to him.
Stefanovic: Oh say it with conviction.
Turnbull: How old is he anyway? State secret?
Plibersek: Malcolm is going to sing happy birthday Mr Fordham like happy birthday Mr President. [hums Happy Birthday tune]
Turnbull: I cannot sing a note.
Stefanovic: Oh Tanya can do it.
Plibersek: [Laughs] No I can’t.
Turnbull: Can I tell you something?
Turnbull: If we're in church or somewhere, anywhere where the national anthem is being sung a hymn or whatever, if I'm standing next to Lucy and I start to sing I get this sharp elbow in my ribs. Her view is, and I think she's right, that it's in the public interest that I just move my lips silently.
Stefanovic: Finally, something we all agree on. Thanks, guys.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
SATURDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2013
Subjects: WA Labor; WA Government an insight into Abbott Government cuts; Australian journalists detained in Sri Lanka; Indonesia spy claims; Emissions Trading Scheme; WA missing ballot papers.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: It’s a great pleasure to be here today with Mark McGowan and my friends in the West Australian Labor Party at their annual conference. This annual conference is an opportunity for Western Australian delegates to talk about their plans for the future, but also to make sure that Colin Barnett is held to account here in the West.
We were talking earlier today about a series of broken promises made by the State Government, and I was saying in fact this was a prelude, an insight, into what it’s going to be like with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.
We’re already seeing in Canberra, Australians didn't get the Tony Abbott they voted for at the last election. Tony Abbott said for example that the commission of cuts would not affect health and education. Just days into the Government we know that health and education are also on the chopping block. Tony Abbott said during the election campaign that he was concerned about cost of living, but he’s already legislating to take the SchoolKids Bonus away from Australian families. That’s $1,200 a year taken away from an ordinary Australian family.
We see a pattern here, where Liberal governments say one thing before an election and do another once they’re elected. They say very little that’s controversial before the election and then after the election they take out the big scissors, they go after the cuts that will hurt Australian families the most.
JOURNALIST: Indonesia has reacted angrily to allegations that Australia is [inaudible] Jakarta to spy on the country. What do you think this has done to our relationship with Indonesia?
PLIBERSEK: It’s a very long-term tradition that neither governments nor oppositions comment on matters of national security, and of course I will be abiding by that tradition.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of news that Australian journalists have been detained in Sri Lanka? Are you concerned by that especially given the [inaudible]
PLIBERSEK: I did speak to the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance yesterday about two of their members that were questioned in Sri Lanka. I’m delighted to hear, I heard yesterday afternoon that they were released after questioning and were making their way home to Australia.
JOURNALIST: Louise Pratt is facing an anxious wait. What do you think her chances are and will Labor lodge an appeal if she’s not successful?
PLIBERSEK: First things first, we’ll allow the Australian Electoral Commission to make a determination about the best course of action. The Australian Electoral Commission has acknowledged that an error has been made, a very serious error. But we know that the Australian Electoral Commission is in fact one of the best and most trusted electoral commissions in the world, so we’ll wait for them to make their comments.
JOURNALIST: Do you think though that an appeal [inaudible]
PLIBERSEK: I don't think we should get into hypotheticals. I think we need to find out for certain what the Australian Electoral Commission believes is the best course of action and we’ll consider that course of action once they’ve made their statement.
PLIBERSEK: I think this is a highly unusual one-off incident. I think it’s decades, indeed I think the last time we had anything like this was 1906 is what I've been told. I don't think we should get carried away with the idea that this being something that happens frequently. This is a highly, highly unusual set of circumstances. I’m sure that the Australian Electoral Commission are taking it very seriously indeed and we’ll wait to hear what their proposed course of action is.
JOURNALIST: So your not critical at all of the handling of it?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s a terrible thing that these ballot papers have been lost. What I would say is that it is highly unusual in the Australian system that anything like this should happen.
JOURNALIST: It might be unusual but it’s also costly. They’re estimating if we go to another election it might cost effectively $11 million.
PLIBERSEK: Indeed. It's a disappointing outcome. I think that voters will be disappointed, I think there’s a bit of exhaustion really in the West. The number of times that people have had to go to the polls here recently over the last few years. But I just would caution against imagining that this is something that is common or happens all the time. We need to take a sober and sensible approach to what happens next.
PLIBERSEK: I think it’s fine to examine different ways of making sure our system is strengthened, we can do that all the time, there’s no objection to seeing if there are more efficient ways that we can conduct ballots. I just want to remind people and caution them that Australia has one of the best and strongest electoral systems in the world and this is a highly unusual set of circumstances. We can’t extrapolate from this.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott has said that he will scrap the carbon tax, you've said you wont support it unless there is an emissions trading scheme. Why do you continue to stand by that?
PLIBERSEK: Because the vast majority of scientists internationally say that climate change is happening, that it is caused by carbon pollution in our atmosphere and that if we don't reduce carbon pollution, if we don't reduce the pollution that we’re pumping into our atmosphere that the consequences, both to our economy and our environment will be serious in years to come. In 2007, John Howard went to the election with an emissions trading scheme proposed. Both the Liberal and Labor party in 2007 went to that election with an ETS. 2010, Labor also went to the election with an emissions trading scheme, 2013 Labor went to the election with an emission trading scheme. It’s been our long-held view that the bulk of the science is supportive of taking action to reduce cabon pollution. Scientists around the world are saying we must act to protect our environment and to protect our economy, because the economic consequences of climate change are also extremely serious.
We say that we must act, and indeed Tony Abbott also says that we must act; but he’s proposing a system where you take tax-payer dollars and give them to big polluters. And we’re proposing a system where you take tax-payer dollars from big polluters and invest that in helping ordinary Australians cope with climate change - that’s the difference.
JOURNALIST: State Labor MPs say that they feel a bit snubbed by the federal turn-out at this conference, does Federal Labor value the West?
PLIBERSEK: I’m the Acting Leader, so I’m here today, and I was here last night at the conference functions as well. I’d say I’m delighted to be here. Thanks.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 8 NOVEMBER 2013
Tanya Plibersek: Australians aren’t getting the Tony Abbott they voted for, in recent days we’ve seen the lie of the budget emergency scare campaign that was used before the election with the government almost doubling the debt ceiling and adding 50 per cent to the deficit in the few months they have been in office. We’ve seen also a range of other areas where Tony Abbott said one thing before the election and another thing after the election. In particular I want to talk today about the fact that Tony Abbott has taken an axe to the CSIRO and a number of other expert advisory groups. It looks like the CSIRO could lose up to a quarter of its staff. The CSIRO is the preeminent scientific organisation in Australia. It’s internationally recognised for the terrific research it produces and now it’s under threat. Before the election Tony Abbott said he would not touch health and medical research. He said, even since the election, science is absolutely critical to progress and scientists are the explorers and adventures of the modern age. We are lucky here in Australia that our scientists are the best in the world. He said I’m pleased to pledge the incoming government will continue to support science to the fullest extent possible. What’s changed in a week? I’d like to know.
First of all, Tony Abbott refused to appoint a minister for science that rang alarm bells for people in the scientific community. Now we see these huge cuts to CSIRO because of the reductions in public service mean up to a quarter of their staff may lose their jobs. That will impact scientific research in Australia. I also want to talk about the expert advisory groups Tony Abbott has announced he wants to disband today. Again, this is an example of saying one thing before an election, and doing something completely different after an election. Take the housing supply council for example. Tony Abbott said before the election he was concerned about the cost of living for families. Well housing affordability is one of the biggest impacts for ordinary families.
The housing supply council has done excellent work since it was established reporting on how we can increase housing supply. It has experts on it from the building industry, from finance, academics and others looking at how we can boost housing supply and consequently improve housing affordability in Australia. Many Liberals like Kevin Andrews, Marise Payne and others have used the work of the housing supply council to make comments on housing affordability and housing supply and yet on the same day we have a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare about housing affordability and the stress it is placing on families we get rid of the very body that is being used by local government, by state governments, by industry itself to help boost housing supply. There are a number of other expert bodies as well, the expert body on firearms. Right here in New South Wales and in other parts of Australia too, we have significant problems with gun crime right now and the Abbott Government getting rid of the expert body that was set up, coming out of moves from John Howard to restrict firearms, to help us control firearms in Australia.
We’ve got an expert advisory group on ageing. Today we read in the papers that Australians might live to an average of 100 years and the body set up to help encourage active ageing is being disbanded by this Government. You see a pattern of saying one thing before the election and doing something completely different after the election. But you also see an even more worrying trend which is ignoring the advice of people who are expert in their field, who are working in the field day to day.
I want to talk for a minute about what is happening in climate change as well. We hear today that Australia will not send a minister to the talks in Warsaw. This is extremely concerning; I think one commentator said today if you’re not at the table in these discussions, you’re on the menu. I think that is extraordinary that neither the climate change minister Greg Hunt nor the minister for foreign affairs who has taken over responsibility for climate change negotiations will be going. It is usual at these discussions to have at least ministerial representation, if not prime ministerial representation. The only possible explanation for this absence of Australia from the table is that we don’t take climate change seriously. I think that Tony Abbott knows, Julie Bishop knows, Greg Hunt knows that we would be laughed off the international stage because we are the only country that is going backwards when it comes to controlling pollution. This is a further indication to the international community that this new government does not take climate change seriously, that they are not interested in the economic or environmental consequences of climate change and they are not interested in putting a global cap on pollution and working to limit the effects of climate change.
The other thing worth mentioning when it comes to climate change is of course the pricing impact. Joe Hockey has been claiming for some time now prices will fall if the carbon tax is repealed. We hear now from experts in industry, in business, in energy production that prices are not likely to fall. So what we’ll have is a dangerous lemon of a policy from the Government, we won’t see prices fall, we won’t see pollution fall, the only falls we see are in the production of renewable energy and the jobs that go with the clean new energy industries.
Finally, I think it’s worth saying when you look at the attacks on expert advice and the way the Government is sticking its head in the sand on climate change in contrast with the way they have found $360 million to provide superannuation benefits for high income earners, you get a schizophrenic approach to what the most important issues are facing Australia today. I think if the Government continues to go down this path we’ll be able to save a whole lot more money, we’ll just get rid of all expert advice and Wikipedia everything like Greg Hunt did when it came to climate change. Any questions?
Journalists: Just in regards to the CSIRO, the CSIRO said only 300 jobs have gone, are certainly not the number reported this morning, is that a bit more of a relief?
Plibersek: Well I think any jobs losses at the CSIRO are a concern, it’s always important that organisations are as efficient as they can be, but the CSIRO like most government organisations has been facing quite regular reviews of its capacity, capabilities and its efficiency. 300 jobs is a lot of jobs, I’ve seen 550 reported, I’ve seen one in four reported, this is all speculation. What we know is there is a cap on hiring and renewing contracts and a large number of CSIRO staff are on contracts of two years or four years, of course they feel their employment is threatened and the top quality research that they produce is consequently threatened and this is, I’ve got to say, in absolute contrast to what the Prime Minister said before he was elected which was that he was a supporter of science and health and medical research.
Plibersek: Look, I can’t answer what type of research will be hit hardest but anyone of the hundreds and thousands of Australians, for example who used the CSIRO wellbeing diet, knows the research the CSIRO produces is really important in our day to day living in Australia. It has real impact on ordinary Australians, the choices they make, the decisions they make. But the other thing the CSIRO does is not just that very day to day applied research, they also do some very important basic research, the sort of research that underpins industry development here in Australia, the sort of research that underpins major scientific discoveries right across all the areas of science in Australia.
Journalist: Isn’t it actually true there has been no cut in funding by the Government, they have just said there will be a hiring freeze in place and they will be no cut in funding at all?
Plibersek: Well, they have said they are sacking 12,000 public servants, it seems like a large number will be coming from the CSIRO. When they sack those public servants that is a saving to the Government, that’s why they are doing it. So it’s not clear how much of the burden of that the CSIRO will bear but we hear they will bear a particularly large proportion of the burden because they have so many staff on contract.
Journalist: Isn’t it true that a large part of funding for CSIRO comes from external sources and has been dropping for some time?
Plibersek: It’s very important that the CSIRO partner with industry. That’s why I say that they are one of the best organisations in the world for applied research, research that transforms the everyday lives of Australians and partnership with industry is an important part of that. There is no criticism of that, it’s a good thing. What we can’t do is loose the experienced researchers employed at the CSIRO for short-term savings in staffing costs.
Plibersek: I think the fact this Government has added 50 per cent to the deficit including measures like giving $9 billion to the Reserve Bank of Australia they didn’t need nor want, shows the nonsense of this argument that deep cuts are necessary. The Government’s able to find $360 million to give 16,000 high income earners a superannuation tax break, they can afford to fund science properly too.
Journalist: Channel 10 last night aired some pretty severe allegations regards to a navy ship and abuse on that ship, how concerning are those reports form a Labor point of view?
Plibersek: Of course any report of any abuse or assault on any naval vessel is something that must be absolutely thoroughly investigated. We of course support a thorough investigation of all the allegations but I won’t comment on the details until the investigation is complete.
Plibersek: I’m not going to comment on allegations until there has been a proper investigation. What I will say is in the past when these instances have been alleged and subsequently been proved, I think it’s been very important Navy has taken them seriously; they have taken them seriously in recent years. I think there is culture change in the Navy because of the increasing openness and encouragement to people to report allegations of abuse, but on these specific allegations I won’t comment any further because it is important to have a proper investigation take place.
Plibersek: Well I’d say Peter Varghese is an extraordinarily talented and highly regarded bureaucrat but it is extraordinary that we should have a head of a department explaining Australia’s relationship with Indonesia rather than the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is the job of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to manage that relationship, she’s in Indonesia at the moment, she should be the one who is accountable for the decline in diplomatic relationships with Indonesia and she should be the one explaining the steps she has taken to repair that rift.
Plibersek: I would say it’s a relationship that Labor handed over in fine working order that in just a few months has come under strain. I’ve said over the last few days that is very important that the Minister for Foreign Affairs seeks to rebuild that relationship. Indonesia is an important trading partner for us, an important security partner, our good relationship with Indonesia is good for us, good for Indonesia and good for our region buts it’s a relationship that’s not at its best today.
Journalist: Why do you think that is the case? Is that because if the way the boat issue has been handled? What do you see as the cause of the problem?
Plibersek: Look I think there have been a number of missteps by the incoming government. They started before the election with announcements made about what the Australian government would do in Indonesian waters and on Indonesia soil that were not discussed with the Indonesians. They were compounded when the Prime Minister went there for his first trip and excluded Indonesian journalists from his press conference. I think that it’s very clear there have been a number of missteps that have put the relationship under strain and that it’s a relationship that’s imperative the Foreign Minister now re-build and account to the Australian people for those missteps and how she will repair the relationship.
Journalist: Qantas has let go 300 workers today closing their Avalon operations. Do you think the Abbott Government should have stepped up to offer assistance?
Plibersek: Well I think it’s terrible, a tragedy when any Australian worker loses their job and particularly when you see the closing of a major workplace like this. I think the important thing today is to focus on the needs of those workers and their families, for the Government to work closely with Qantas to ensure that as many workers are transferred to other jobs as possible and provide assistance to those who can’t be transferred to find new employment quickly. I think the focus for today has to be on supporting those workers and their families find ongoing employment as quickly as possible. Thanks everyone.