By Tanya Plibersek

11 April 2022





SUBJECTS: Federal election; education; flood emergency in Queensland; Morrison government always too little, too late.
MADONNA JARRETT, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRISBANE: Good morning, everybody. I'm Madonna Jarrett, Labor's candidate at the upcoming federal election for the seat of Brisbane, which is where we're standing today. I'm here today with opposition spokesperson Tanya Plibersek, spokesperson for education and for women. I've been out doorknocking, I've been at railway stations, and I've been listening to the people of Brisbane, and I can tell you there are two or three really significant concerns for them. One is concern about climate action, the lip service being paid to climate action by this government, the failure of the Morrison government to address costs of living, and people are looking for integrity and responsibility in their governments. And with that, I'll hand over to Tanya.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Well, thank you, Madonna. It's such a pleasure to be here with you, the first full day of campaigning, right here in Brisbane. It's such a beautiful city and it's so great to be here and it's really hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, Brisbane was once again hit by catastrophic floods. Just behind us you can see the Brisbane River, and it was just a short time ago that you could see a crane floating down the river here. What's really sad about that time was that when the people of Queensland, the people of Brisbane, the government of Queensland, asked Scott Morrison for help, he was nowhere to be seen. As usual from Scott Morrison, when the going got tough, Scott Morrison got going. Instead, we're here today, talking to the people of Queensland about what a Labor government would do for the people of Queensland. We know that the last few years have been really tough on Queensland, and right across Australia, people have been struggling. And Scott Morrison has done nothing to make that easier.

What I want for Australians is what I want for my own family, a secure job, a pay rise when you work hard, great schools, TAFE, and universities, strong Medicare, cheaper cleaner energy, better internet connection, aged care that really respects people. These are the things that Australians are demanding from their government. What they want is a leader who will step up and take responsibility. Deliver for Australians when they need help. That's Anthony Albanese. Scott Morrison is the guy who goes missing whenever he's needed, who’s never there when you need him. In contrast, Labor would deliver a better quality of life, easier life, for ordinary Australians. Thanks, any questions?

JOURNALIST: Shadow Minister, is Anthony Albanese fit to be prime minister if he can't name the unemployment rate or cash rate?

PLIBERSEK: Seriously, an election is not a test of memory. It's a test of leadership. Anthony Albanese is out there every day, talking to Australians about how their lives can be better, how we can make work more secure, how we can make sure that when people work hard, they see a pay rise. He’s talking to Australians about cheaper childcare and better quality aged care. In contrast, you've got a Prime Minister who's never there when you need him, and who relies on scare campaigns, dishonest scare campaigns, to talk about what Labor's going to do.

JOURNALIST: Labor went to the last election promising $14 billion extra in school funding, what happened to this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, the states and territories signed new school funding agreements with the federal government. Those school funding agreements run to the end of 2023. If Labor is elected at the next election, we will be negotiating with states and territories for the next round of funding agreements beyond 2023. And we’ll work with every state and territory to get every school on a pathway to reaching its fair funding level. Of course, halfway through an agreement, as we are now, we're not going to start talking about what would be in the next agreement. What we can say is every school, every underfunded public school, will be better off under Labor, and Catholic and independent schools will not have their funding touched, they'll continue to receive the funding that they're receiving now under the state funding formula. We want to make sure that every child in every school in every part of Australia gets the chance of a world class education. In contrast, this government has seen Australian school kids go backwards in international testing. Our kids today can't read or write or do maths as well as kids just a few years ago, they're going backwards under Scott Morrison. That's not good for individual kids, and it's not good for the Australian economy. We need a strong education system to be a wealthy and productive country.

JOURNALIST: What are the cash and unemployment rates?

PLIBERSEK: The cash rate is about point one percent. The unemployment rate is about four per cent. Although here in Queensland it's about 4.3 per cent. But like I say, the election is not a test of memory. It's a test of leadership.

JOURNALIST: Should the alternative Prime Minister know those figures that affect everyone’s lives?

PLIBERSEK: I think this is an absolutely ridiculous test to set when we know that Anthony Albanese is out talking every day to unemployed Australians, and not just unemployed Australians, but underemployed Australians. Scott Morrison is all talk when it comes to the unemployment rate. But you ask how many Australians want more hours of work? How many are worried that they won't have a job next week or next month or next year? How many are working in the gig economy? How many are on minimum wages, and cobbling together three or four jobs trying to make enough money to feed their family? Australians are doing it tough. And Scott Morrison has done nothing to make it easier. That's the issue in this election. Scott Morrison has done nothing to make life easier for Australians.

JOURNALIST: But how can Anthony Albanese claim to be the better economic manager if he can't name those two basic figures?

PLIBERSEK: Well, let's talk about economic management, shall we? We've got a government now that doubled the debt and doubled the deficit before COVID-19. They're very keen to blame COVID and Ukraine and everything else for the close to a trillion dollars of debt that Australia is facing in coming years. They're very keen to blame all these external pressures. But before COVID-19 hit, we're already looking at double the debt and double the deficit. Scott Morrison's government along with John Howard's government are the two highest taxing governments in the last 30 years. But we know that businesses were struggling, they were worried about investing, even before COVID-19 hit. We talk about unemployment. We see massive underemployment in the Australian economy, people worried about making ends meet because everything's going up but their wages. How can you say as a government that you are a good economic manager, when people's wages are going backwards? When the cost of living is going up, wages are going backwards, and families are finding it harder to make ends meet. That's a sign of a bad economic manager.

JOURNALIST: It turns out Alan Tudge could come back to the Coalition frontbench if they get re-elected. What's your response to this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, this is a government that rewards incompetence and bad behaviour. This is a government that says, you know, if you get caught doing something wrong, we'll give you a spell on the back bench until the controversy dies down, and then you're back on the front bench, and perhaps you'll even get a promotion. What are the standards that this Prime Minister is willing to accept from his front bench? It really is no wonder that this government doesn't want an integrity commission, when the behaviour of its own senior ministers, doesn't matter how bad that they behave, they just get promoted.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister points out though that the report on Alan Tudge found that he had not breached ministerial standards. Carrying out a report was more than Labor has committed to doing in the aftermath of the revelations surrounding Kimberly Kitching’s treatment. Does Labor have a leg to stand on?

PLIBERSEK: Isn't it interesting that whenever the Prime Minister commissions his own government to do a report into one of his Ministers, the reports say that his own Ministers haven't done anything wrong. Seriously, if Alan Tudge has done nothing wrong, why are taxpayers forking out half a million dollars to the complainant in this instance?

JOURNALIST: States such as Queensland have had a real focus on family violence policies in recent years. But a lot of advocates argue that the family law system needs reform too, to better protect victims and children. Would a Labor government commit to a review of the family law system?

PLIBERSEK: Well, family law is a very important element of federal government responsibility. And one of the most disappointing things that this government has done when it comes to family law is to say ‘we've got delays in the family court, we're going to fix that by abolishing the family court’. That's what this government's record is, when it comes to family law. We know of course, that families that are going through divorce need support, to make sure that they can come to arrangements that put their children in the centre of decision making. That's our priority, to make sure that children in divorcing families get all the support they need to grow up strong, and healthy, and confident.

JOURNALIST: Has Anthony Albanese guaranteed you'll retain the education and women portfolios if Labor wins government?

PLIBERSEK: I haven't spoken to the leader about portfolios, and I'll tell you why. We are weeks away from an election. I'm focusing every minute of every day, just as Anthony is, on actually winning the election, convincing Australians of our vision for the future. Anything else would be very premature indeed.

JOURNALIST: Why has Labor stopped talking about school funding and policy at a primary school level?

PLIBERSEK: I don't agree with that at all. We continue to talk about school funding, not just the fact that we will get every school to its fair funding level with states and territories through the next funding agreement, but also our $440 million plan to help our school kids bounce back after COVID-19. We’re out there, with about half of that money, just over $200 million, focused on helping our kids with their social and emotional wellbeing more school counsellors, more school social workers, school psychologists, programs that will help our kids bounce back, like more sports or school camps, school by school, helping our kids recover from their lost learning in COVID-19. And of course, the other half of that, of that policy is making sure our schools are safer for children and school staff to return to, better ventilation, making sure that our air filtration systems, air conditioning, are all fit for purpose in a COVID world, making sure that our schools have the facilities they need to help our kids bounce back. Thanks everyone.