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Transcript of interview with Tom Tilley: Triple J Hack: 15 May 2014: Budget, Royal Commission into Home Insulation

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SUBJECT/S: Budget, Royal Commission into Home Insulation

TOM TILLEY: We’re joined by the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Tanya Plibersek. Thanks for joining us.


TILLEY: Very well, now before we get into the talk about the budget, I just wanted to touch on the Royal Commission into home insulation, very quickly. Is it embarrassing for Labor to have the record of their management of this program blown open at this point?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think embarrassment is the thing that people are concerned about. We’re concerned about the four young men who lost their lives and finding any solutions we have that would prevent those sorts of workplace deaths. We know about 212 people died last year in workplace injuries and of course these four tragic deaths have been investigated a great deal. We had hoped this Royal Commission would actually go beyond a simple examination of who said what to when in Government but look at some of those underlying issues of workplace safety, but unfortunately the Government has severely limited the terms of reference of the Royal Commission to look at only the things

that were around this particular program which of course has already been subject to about eight separate inquiries. It would have been, I think instructive to look more broadly at the issues of workplace safety that lead two-hundred people a year and more to lose their lives.

TILLEY: Ok but it certainly I guess lays open, I guess, a very in depth look at the way the Labor leadership was working at that time because in the aftermath of the financial crisis and your party was working out the best way -

PLIBERSEK: Well it wasn’t in the aftermath, I mean it was right smack bang in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis, the worst circumstances in three-quarters of a century, with a great deal of time pressure to roll out stimulus measures to keep Australians working. There was a great deal of time pressure at the time.

TILLEY: Well the decision making that your Government made at the time is being called into question as you, I guess, debate the budget that’s just come out. Does it show that there was quite a bit of dysfunction in your Government at the time?

PLIBERSEK: It shows that there was a lot of time pressure, and that’s no comfort to the families of the four young men who lost their lives and of course they will continue to search for answers despite the fact that there have been, as I said, coronial inquests into the deaths of these young men. If there is anything to be learned, and of course that’s a very important contribution to the public debate, it would have been, I think, an even more important contribution if we would have looked more broadly at the issue of workplace safety, the behaviour of the employers in these cases, in several of the circumstances they’ve faced criminal prosecutions, it would have been useful to look at some of those surrounding issues too.

TILLEY: Ok, well let’s turn to the Budget, is Labor’s record on economic management so tainted that Tony Abbott will get away with his broken promises?

PLIBERSEK: Well the big lie in this budget is that there’s a budget crisis. Australia has three AAA credit ratings it got them under Labor for the first time. The Liberals never achieved three AAA credit ratings. If there’s a budget emergency why does Tony Abbott want to pay $5.5 billion every year in his Paid Parental Leave Scheme, which is quite over the top, which pays $50000 to millionaires to have a baby at the same time as he’s cutting pensions, cutting

university funding, cutting healthcare, cutting education and cutting Indigenous programs. He’s making cuts right across the board and he’s using this fake budget emergency to justify them at the same time as he’s going ahead with this over the top Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

TILLEY: Well, whether or not there is a budget emergency and a lot of economists do agree with you that it’s not an emergency, our debt level per GDP compared to other OECD countries was growing at one of the highest rates and so was our spending and there were no signs that that was going to stop.

PLIBERSEK: Well it’s a 12th of the average across the OECD.

TILLEY: That’s where it is but it’s growing, it was one of the fastest growing.

PLIBERSEK: From an extraordinarily low base during the Global Financial Crisis to keep 200 000 Australians working. We created one million new jobs during our time in Government. 200 000 of those were directly supported by our stimulus spending. It is a classic approach when times are tough and people are losing work to invest in the sort of infrastructure our nation needs. Public transport, roads, schools, hospitals we built those things, good for the nation, we kept Australians working, good for the nation. We’ve had some of the lowest debt and lowest deficit anywhere in the world. We’re one of the only developed nations not to go into recession some countries are only just now getting back to the same levels they were at before the Global Financial Crisis. Our economy has grown by 15 per cent. We managed the Australian economy well, Australia has one of the strongest economies in the world. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says our stimulus package was the best designed, best deployed in the world. It was a success story and what you’re seeing now is Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey making this argument that there’s an emergency, as a cover, as an alibi, for the cuts they have always wanted to make. Liberals destroyed Medicare once, we had Medibank back in the day, they privatised that, we had to introduce Medicare, have a second go, and ever since we introduced Medicare the Liberals have been trying to destroy it. You look at what they’re doing to young people to students. Young unemployed people will get six months with no income at all, then six months on work for the dole and if they still haven’t found a job they’ll get another six months without income. So you’re taking the poorest people. Someone who’s on just under $14 000 a year and you’re going to take almost $7000 a year away from that person. But the richest people, someone who’s on $250 000 a year, they lose just under fifteen-hundred bucks.


PLIBERSEK: The poorest person loses seven thousand, richer person loses fifteen hundred, how is that fair?

TILLEY: Alright, it’s interesting to hear you talk about your government’s economic track record and you name some economists there that said you managed the economy quite well. I think a lot of people in the Australian economy don’t see it that way and that was part of the reason you were voted out of power last year and it’s an issue of credibility because when Wayne Swan was in power in 2008 he said, sorry in 2010 he said, that you’d bring a surplus back within three years but you said earlier today that when your government left you had a goal of a surplus by 2017-2018, four years after Wayne Swans prediction, so how are people going to take you seriously when you talk economic management tonight.

PLIBERSEK: Tom, you don’t feel the bullet you dodged. People don’t thank us for our economic management, we don’t expect thanks, you don’t go into public life if you’re expecting applause. Well you don’t go into politics if you’re expecting applause. You probably get it in your job.

TILLEY: All the time.

PLIBERSEK: You do it so well, that’s why. Economic management of Labor in Government has been recognised by economists around the world and Australian economists but ordinary families still feel day to day pressure on their Budget. What I can say about what they saw on Tuesday from this Government is that all of the pressure they feel is exacerbated by the decisions that were made on Tuesday night. So seven dollars extra to go to the doctor, an $5 for medicine, losing half of your income if you’re a young unemployed person, uni fees going up, $2 billion taken from apprenticeships and support for young workers. So you get your income cut if you’re unlucky enough to be unemployed, but you get the supports that would help you get a job, they’re cut at the same time.

TILLEY: Ok we’ll go into more depth on each of those issues, you are listening to the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Tanya Plibersek and if you’ve got a question for Tanya Plibersek, or you want to suggest what you think Labor should try and block in the Senate then give us a call 1300 055 536. Jake has called in from Frankston. Jake do you have a question?

JAKE: Yeah, g’day mate how are you?

TILLEY: Very well.

JAKE: That’s good. I was, with the trades, I was doing a first year apprenticeship in boatbuilding, out in Victoria there’s nothing there. No schooling or anything, we’ve got to do it all online and it’s nothing fun. But um, I’m on the Tools for your Trade and I’ve just found out it’s been cut and I’m just devastated.

TILLEY: Tanya Plibersek, will you block that measure in the Senate?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we’ve got to look at all these measures but a billion cut from that program. That’s a really substantial program that was helping apprentices just like Jake. Most apprentices are on a low wage while they’re working and they’ve got the costs, increasing costs of going to TAFE, a lot of state governments are putting up TAFE fees and you’re seeing now with the federal government on top of cutting Tools for your Trade, they’re cutting a whole range of other programs like Youth Connections, a whole range of things.

TILLEY: OK but they will be getting more support for TAFE fees and they also are bringing

PLIBERSEK: No, no, no sorry, they’re lending you money. They’re prepared to loan you money to go to TAFE. They’re not giving more support for TAFE fees. They’re helping young people -

TILLEY: But the Government’s now not just contributing to uni students tuition fees, they’re contributing to people going to private colleges.

PLIBERSEK: Diplomas and so on. Yeah -

TILLEY: So there is some support in tuition fees there, but let’s get onto the loans though. I’d love to hear what you think Jake. Part of the budget you might have noticed as well was that as a tradie, or an apprentice tradie, you can now get a $20 000 loan interest free and you get a 20 pre cent discount on that. Four thousand dollars if you finish your trade is that a good measure?

JAKE: I don’t think so to be honest. I mean $5000 goes a long way to buying tools over the four years that I’m doing my apprenticeship for but then again $20 000 for me, I mean I could do so much more with that money. I mean a lot of people don’t even get tools with their apprenticeship money.

TILLEY: Ok but you could actually borrow the money, buy the tools and you’d only be $15000 out of pocket and you could do it much quicker.

JAKE: I don’t agree to be honest. I mean

TILLEY: You don’t -

PLIBERSEK: and you end up with debt. You end up with a debt.

JAKE: Exactly, I mean that’s more debt again I mean at least with the money I was getting it I could go out and get the stuff I need, not with this, ah how would you call it, debt.

TILLEY: Alright Jake thanks for the call. I’ll go to Stephen.

PLIBERSEK: Good luck Jake, good luck with your studies.

JAKE: Thank you very much.

TILLEY: See you Jake, Stephen has called in from Sydney, you actually live in Tanya Plibersek’s electorate. What’s your question in regards to welfare?

STEPHEN: Well I have a question because my partner actually works in the film industry which has taken another hit of funding and actually he’s unemployed for the moment and it’s very hard because we live on my wage which is one wage and we actually after all the bills are paid for, live on about $9 per day for food and we eat once a day and it’s just gotten to the point now where as the budget’s come out it’s moved to despair, kind of, in our situation knowing that, now having to wait six months for welfare before we can actually get it. So my question is where do you think you’re really going to block? And for someone in our situation where do we go to from here? Because it just looks bleak to say the least.

PLIBERSEK: I’m not surprised it looks bleak, if you’re on $9 a day and on one of those days one of you gets sick that’s seven bucks out of your $9, if you need medicine it’s an extra $5 on top of your medicine. We’ve got a whole lot of budget measures that were announced on Tuesday night and we’re going through all of those at the moment. We’ve already announced that we’ll block the extra costs to the health system and Medicare payments and so on, we’ve said we’ll block the change to pensions, that we’ll block the petrol increases. We’re just working methodically through the changes to try and understand them in the first place. There’s a lot of hidden nasties in the budget but the effect on young people of making them live on no income for six months when they’re unemployed then do work for the dole for six months so they’re so busy doing work for the dole that they can’t find a job, they don’t have time to find a job. And then live on no income again for another six months after that. To continue cycling every year through this six months of work for the dole and

then six months of no income, that is something we are very seriously concerned about.

TILLEY: Yeah and a lot of people are. But the logic of that policy is that it will encourage people to look harder for jobs and Stephen I imagine a lot of people listening to your story would say “Look that sounds very tough but filmmaking is a very small industry and perhaps when you’re not getting work in that industry” -

PLIBERSEK: Not in my electorate. It’s actually a very substantial employer in my electorate and -

TILLEY: Well it’s also very cyclical Tanya Plibersek and that means when the aren’t films rolling maybe you need to look for other work Stephen, I mean how do you feel about that proposition?

PLIBERSEK: So your partner is just sitting around with their feet up on the couch are they Stephen?

STEPHEN: Well he applies for roughly 50 jobs a week.


STEPHEN: And he’s even gone to applying for jobs at Coles and at other places like that to get employment. But as his only experience is working, he has a full degree from university and because his only experience is in film and you know not in a hospitality background or even in a supermarket, no one is interested in looking. No one. Like he literally applies for nearly fifty jobs a week and he sits at home and it’s quite depressing to watch.

TILLEY: Yeah alright. Fair call, that does sound pretty tough Stephen. Thank you so much for the call.



PLIBERSEK: You and your partner want to come in and have lunch with me one day?

STEPHEN: I think we would actually love to.

TILLEY: Sounds like a good offer.

PLIBERSEK: Ok ring the office, ok?


TILLEY: We’ve set up a date between Scott Ludlum and a voter in Perth a month ago and that went very well as well, so it seems to be a bit of a political hook up here at the moment. I hope you guys have a great lunch, see you Stephen.

STEPHEN: Thank you Tanya and definitely we’ll take you up on your offer.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

TILLEY: Alright, you are listening to Tanya Plibersek, Labor MP and we’re asking her what the Labor Party will actually stand up for when it comes to blocking or passing a lot of the legislation in the budget that will go through the Senate. Now Tanya Plibersek you’ve been very outspoken in your opposition for the changes to the pension age, indexation, petrol excise and also the Medicare co-payment. But what other things are you going to bargain with to block those things that you definitely care about? Will you consider supporting Paid Parental Leave or the Debt Levy in order to block the Medicare co-payment?

PLIBERSEK: Look we’ve still got to make decisions on a number of these things. The debt levy, that’s just, I mean what a name. It’s an income tax increase, let’s call it what it is.

TILLEY: A temporary income tax increase?

PLIBERSEK: Well who knows if it’s temporary, they’ve broken every other promise. The income tax increase we were very worried about when it was proposed to come in at $80 000 a year. And people screamed so much about that that I think the government took fright and increased where it comes in to $180 000 a year, not so worried about that anymore. If it had been $80 000 a year it would have really -

TILLEY: Ok so you’re not so worried, you are open to passing it?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we’ll see. We’ll see about that one because our priorities really are for people who are doing it toughest and obviously when you’re on $180 000 a year you’re not in that group of people who are doing it toughest. There are a range of other areas that we’re very concerned about that we’re looking at very closely. The changes to university education, basically deregulation of uni fees so universities can charge whatever they like for a

degree, that’s a big concern for us. I mean a lot of us in the Labor Party, you know my big brother could only go to university because Gough Whitlam made university education free. You know, I got to go to university in the time of HECS but it was affordable HECS you know? The idea that you could be up for $200 000 for a university degree and then paying it back when you basically as soon as you start in the workforce and paying it back at a commercial rate of interest is alarming. We know that working class kids won’t go to university if they’ve got a $200 000 debt.

TILLEY: Ok sounds like you’ll have a lot to agree with Clive Palmer on that one. Thank you so much for you time.

PLIBERSEK: He and I, peas in a pod.

TILLEY: Oh absolutely, just don’t fall asleep. Thank you Tanya Plibersek, Labor MP.