28 January 2020




SUBJECT: Citizenship.

OLIVER PETERSON, PRESENTER: Do you know the Australian citizenship pledge? Could you recite it? In fact, should our kids recite it? 9221 1882. Would you like it introduced in our schools? Tanya Plibersek is Labor's Education spokeswoman and she made comments in her Australia Day address over the weekend about this citizenship pledge. Tanya, good afternoon.


PETERSON: I'm very well thank you. A lot of feedback coming in on your Australia Day speech. But let's go back a step. Why would you like to see the patriot pledge introduced into our schools?

PLIBERSEK: Actually I never said that. I said that Australian kids and adults should know our citizenship pledge and be familiar with it. I don't know whether someone has reported that I want people to stand up at the beginning of the day and recite the pledge. I've never said that. And for me, this is not a first-order issue. It's not as important as jobs, health, education, but we've got a lot to be proud of in Australia and our citizenship pledge encapsulates that really neatly.

And it's sad for me that the first time many Australians hear our citizenship pledge is when they go with a friend who's accepting Australian citizenship and they hear the pledge and think 'Oh wow. Never knew that that was our pledge'. I think that's a bit sad.

PETERSON: And until probably you made a few waves over the weekend, as leaks started to appear about what might be in your speech yesterday, I think probably a few people Googled to actually see what the pledge is: 'From this time forward I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey'. I think many people listening to us this afternoon, Tanya Plibersek, would have had next to no idea that we even had a pledge.

PLIBERSEK: No, and I think the wonderful thing about our pledge- we used to in Australia pledge loyalty to the Crown, to first of all, King George and then Queen Elizabeth, and we don't anymore. We pledge our loyalty to one another. And I think we've just gone through this terrible bushfire season where we've seen absolutely the best of our nation, where people have gone out of their way to help strangers. They've donated huge amounts of money or just a tiny amount but from a stretched family budget. They've offered a room in their home or gone to the fire front to cook for the emergency services personnel. They've done whatever they can to help at a time of need and that's what this pledge reflects. It reflects solidarity with one another. 'I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people'. Not to the Crown, not to the government,not to a political party, to one another.

I think that's a beautiful sentiment and I'm really proud to say it. I go to a lot of citizenship ceremonies, most Federal Members of Parliament do, and it never fails to move me that people who, like my parents did after the Second World War, they've left behind everything they know, everything that's familiar - their home, their family, the language that they're familiar with - and they've come to our country and they want to make a commitment to our country and to other Australians, the people who live here, and they say those words and they're so meaningful.

Like, obviously, this isn't as important as reading, maths, science, you know, all the other stuff that kids should be learning every day, but to get through thirteen years of schooling and never have heard that pledge, and like I say, most Australian adults, unless they've been to a citizenship ceremony with a friend or a family member who's taking on citizenship, many of them have never heard those words either, and I think we're missing out because it's just such a lovely expression of our commitment to one another.

PETERSON:So your motivation here moreover, Tanya Plibersek, is off the back of the sense of community and spirit over summer, in regards to the bushfires, is trying to continue that sense of community, mate-ship, patriotism, and being proud about being an Australian?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I've been saying this, actually, for years. The first time I raised this issue was in 2011, in a speech to the Sydney Institute and I've said it a few times since then. I think there's a lot of heat and anger about citizenship and inclusion and exclusion and so on in our public debate, and there doesn't need to be. There really doesn't need to be. Most Australians are proud to be Australian, most of them would look at this pledge and say this is a really neat expression of what it takes to be a good citizen. To share our democratic beliefs, to respect our rights and liberties, and to uphold and obey the law. I don't think it's that controversial frankly.

PETERSON:Well some of the feedback at the moment from the Greens have described it as 'sad'. I read in The Australian newspaper today Georgie Dent has said that the pledge idea was 'inexplicable' - what would you say to them?

PLIBERSEK: I think they should read my speech. It's a couple of lines in a speech about the fact that I'm proud to be Australian, and I think that doesn't mean that you don't look at things that we could do better as a nation, look at times in our past where we haven't lived up to our potential. It doesn't mean we need to be uncritical, and it doesn't mean we need to be negative or feel superior to other countries. It just means patriotism is about a love of country and about a love of your fellow citizen, and our pledge expresses that very neatly. And I think after Christmas people have had a lot of outrage stored up, had a chance to express it now and good luck to them. Part of the democratic beliefs that I share is that they've got a right to disagree with me, and as frankly and as ferociously as they like.

PETERSON:Yeah, well in this particular circumstance you've probably had a bit of a smile, you've got Barnaby Joyce in the same corner as you, because again, according to reports in The Australian,he says it's a scary day when he agrees with you, well that's I suppose the-

PLIBERSEK: Well I'm not sure who's more scared - him or me.

PETERSON: Tanya Plibersek, I appreciate your time on Perth Live Today. Thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, no worries at all Ollie. See you.

PETERSON: Tanya Plibersek, Labor's Education spokeswoman.