By Tanya Plibersek

19 November 2020





SUBJECTS: Australian Special Forces Report; NSW Budget; Jobs; The Economy.
ALAN JONES, HOST: Well let's go straight to our female panel. The gifted Queensland Senator Amanda Stoker. And the woman who this week was touted as the next leader of the Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek - and from her performances on this program you can easily understand why. Very briefly to both of you, you're both mothers, you're also Australians and politicians. The highest obligation of government is to provide for the safety of the nation, that's secured by soldiers sent to war by government. The second obligation is to not so damage morale in a way that dissuades young people from enlisting. Can I say to you both there was a headline in the afternoon Fairfax Press today which said this, quote "Australian Special Forces soldiers committed up to 39 murders." So they're all guilty, Amanda?
AMANDA STOKER, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: We can't let the 39,000 Australians who have nobly and honourably served in Afghanistan to have their reputations tarnished by the actions of a few. We know that the vast majority of Australians who serve do it in accordance with our values in a way in which we would all be proud. And so it's important, I think that out of respect both for alleged victims and alleged perpetrators we have transparency and that means a full judicial process with evidence that allows people to properly defend themselves of these allegations and none of the kind of click bait that we've seen from the Sydney Morning Herald. 
JONES: They are excellent sentiments, but Tanya if I could just say to you, the Prime Minister told the Parliament last week that as a nation we would be shocked about these brutal truths. It's a pretty poor choice of words, these are allegations not truths.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well Alan, that's right, and the proper legal investigations start now, they haven't been concluded. What I would say is we are grateful every single day for the service and the sacrifice of our defence personnel and their families. The ones who are serving now and the ones who have served over generations. You spoke to Heston Russell a minute ago, he's someone I've spoken to as well, and he tells a very compelling story of how we let down many of our troops when they come home. But I don't agree with you about the top brass. You were implying that people like Angus Campbell are pen pushers. These are people who have also dedicated their lives Alan to serving our country - 
JONES: I know but the Yamashita standard and the Geneva Convention says if they're going to be in charge, they must take responsibility and be as liable as the soldier. Now it seems to me they're running away from that.
PLIBERSEK: And I think Alan what's extraordinary about this report is it shows how highly we regard our SAS and our defence personnel that we hold them to these high standards. It’s members of these services themselves that have come forward with their concerns and those concerns have been taken seriously and investigated. I think that makes Australia stand out internationally. I'm proud of that. 
JONES: And plus the enemy, talking to the enemy. Anyway. Alright, look, let's just move on. And I know both of you don't want to get, as Federal politicians, into the New South Wales Budget. But there is a principle here. So I just want to ask you about state politics. People are writing to me about the sheer stupidity of giving four separate $25 vouchers, to be given to every adult in New South Wales, to be spent on dining, entertainment and recreation. Two for restaurants and cafes. Two for cinemas and amusement parks. But to participate, businesses have to be registered as COVID-safe, and they can't be spent on alcohol, gambling, or cigarettes. Administered by the Service New South Wales app. May only available be available on non-busy days like Monday to Thursday. Details are yet to be finalized. And this is described as the cornerstone of the Budget. And it's not means tested. 25 bucks, every adult in the state? Come on! We're in debt, Amanda? 
STOKER: Well, look it's one of many examples you can see of why it is best to allow Australians to make decisions about what they should do with their money.  But quite frankly in Queensland we don't even have the benefit of a Budget, we're still waiting for one. The only thing we know about spending in Queensland over the last year is that $4.6 million of taxpayer funds has been used to fund the Palaszczuk Government's re-election campaign. That's all we know. We need a whole lot more transparency here. At least in New South Wales you get a budget. 
JONES: Alright, Tanya your thoughts? 
PLIBERSEK: I've got a lot of restaurants and cafes in my electorate Alan, and they've been really hard hit. They employ a lot of people. And I'm sure they'll be grateful for any assistance they can get. What I would say is the best way to get people spending and get them confident to spend their own money is to make sure they've got a job, and that they're going to have that job next week and next month. We need to be a country that is focused 100 per cent on employment, on building things, on making things, on jobs in caring for people like aged care, early childhood, and making sure that those jobs are secure. Instead we've got a federal government that wants to cut wages and make it easier to sack people. That’s not going to help security-
JONES: Well on that issue -
STOKER: Oh please.
JONES: On that issue Tanya. I'll just come to you Amanda.
PLIBERSEK: Amanda you cut penalty rates. Have you forgotten that you cut penalty rates. Your government has stood by while penalty rates were cut.
STOKER: We didn't cut penalty rates.
JONES: Penalty rates do deny people work. People rates deny people work at weekends I have to say. I mean, I don't understand in 2020. But Tanya, I don't understand in 2020 why 9 o'clock on Saturday morning should be different from 9 O'clock on Thursday morning. I mean that went out, that went out long ago. But could I just ask you, you mentioned jobs. Everyone mentions jobs and then they say 'oh tax cuts, tax cuts coming.’ And the tax cuts started this week for many. It's no benefit to anyone if they don't have a job, is it? A tax cut.
PLIBERSEK: No, and that's why I really think we need to focus on building things - building roads and bridges and upgrading schools and hospitals, building things -  making things - making sure we've got clean, cheap energy available -
JONES: Because money’s never been cheaper. Amanda, that's a good point that Tanya makes. I mean, build things. Money has never been cheaper. Why won't government go out there and say they can get it for one per cent and get out there and build schools, build bridges, build roads and whatever and get out of the road of the private sector. Let them do it.
STOKER: So many things I could say here. The first is penalty rates are set by an independent commission not by government.
PLIBERSEK: You could have stopped the cuts.
STOKER: The second thing we can say is the Morrison Government has committed a record amount to nation building infrastructure programs. The third thing you can say about this is that the programs that have been implemented by this government in terms of giving people tax cuts are all about letting Australians stimulate the economy by building confidence, letting them spend and that creates jobs in the private sector for Australians who want those jobs. It's a virtuous circle when we allow Australians to make their own decisions how they spend their money. 
PLIBERSEK: We've got 2.4 million people without a job or enough hours.
STOKER: And this is about creating them. I mean, Tanya would set up some sort of central agency that allocates people jobs, by the way she's talking. This is about making the private sector create them, using the investments that come from providing people more of their own money and infrastructure investment.
PLIBERSEK: Amanda, it's not working out so great.
JONES: Okay, Tanya?
PLIBERSEK: We've got 2.4 million people, Alan, without a job or without enough hours of work. So Amanda is there saying everything's great. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to see here.
PLIBERSEK: 2.4 million people don't have -
STOKER: No, I'm saying we're doing what we need to, today's data shows it. 
JONES: Yeah, but could I just say this to you Amanda, because you're in government -
PLIBERSEK: I wouldn't be crowing.
JONES: Where is there a shovel in the ground? I mean we hear all these things about infrastructure. I mean, we've got a bloke, we've got an outfit, a reputable outfit who are doing terrific work in Queensland, Star, and they want to build a deluxe hotel at Pyrmont and they've been going forever and a day and they can't get the go-ahead. I mean, where are the shovels in the ground?
STOKER: Well, if they are having trouble getting a project up in New South Wales, you'll have to talk to New South Wales state colleagues. But when I drive along major roads like the Bruce Highway, like the M1 here in Queensland, I see federal money going into jobs, into infrastructure. When I look around this state at the projects that have been funded and committed to, from the Rookwood Weir down to the border, we are doing everything we can to do the kind of nation building projects and it's got to happen.
JONES: I understand your point but state governments, state governments are a problem. Just a quick one, Tanya. It's a symbol of New South Wales, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It's a deluxe brand, a deluxe building and the proponents can't get the go-ahead. I mean, just when we are saying jobs, jobs, jobs, we're open for business. How does that? How do you work that out?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we should be building things Alan. I'm not going to comment on individual projects. But we could be building new accommodation for people, we could be building new roads, bridges, upgrading facilities, schools, parks, footpaths. It doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be a huge project. It can be a small project. We could be doing it in every community around Australia.
JONES: Well, it is important. I think there's a general concern here about where these things are happening, but I take the points that both of you have made. Always good to talk to intelligent people. Thank you for your time and we'll see you next week. There they are, Tanya Plibersek and Amanda Stoker.
PLIBERSEK: Pleasure.
STOKER: Thanks.