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Transcript of interview with Marius Benson: ABC News Radio: 9 November 2016: Presidential election in the United States; disunity and dysfunction in Malcolm Turnbull's Government; the Government's proposed changes to the Migration Act

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SUBJECTS: Presidential election in the United States; Disunity and dysfunction in Malcolm Turnbull’s Government; the Government’s proposed changes to the Migration Act.

MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, as we speak the United States electorate is voting. We're likely to know who the next president is going to be in a few hours. Just get your thoughts on that America vote - does the result matter for Australia?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: The result matters very much for Australia, of course. You've got two candidates who have expressed quite different foreign policy, particularly as they relate to our region. Certainly a Clinton presidency would see, I think, a US that continues to be much more engaged and focused on our region. But of course, the relationship between the United States and Australia is bigger than any one person, and Australia would deal with any result in this election, no doubt.

BENSON: You're voting Clinton?

PLIBERSEK: Well, if I had a vote. It is a terrifically robust democracy, the United States, and I'm sure they'll manage to do what they always do which is see someone elected who can continue the relationship between our two nations. But, yes, if I had a vote I'd be voting Hillary.

BENSON: One of the features in the American election that people are pointing to is that the intensely partisan nature of politics is even more marked - that one side is simply trying destroy the other; that it's a higher priority than any serious governing. You

in the past accused Tony Abbott of being bent on destruction above everything else. Labor can be accused now, or can it, of doing the same thing? You're blocking bills, you're yelling "chaos", and you're ascribing low motives to every position taken by the Government: you talk about pandering to racists. Destruction is the number one objective?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely not and in fact, even in the very short time we've been back since the election, we've worked with the Government, for example, to pass the omnibus savings bill. But there are things that we won't stand for, and quite properly we yesterday announced, for example, that we will be opposing these most recent immigration laws that are just unnecessary. I mean we've got -

BENSON: I want to ask you about that, but can I just resolve that issue of the partisan nature. I mean yelling "chaos" when two Senate positions are in doubt is simply empty rhetoric, isn't it?

PLIBERSEK: Well Marius, it's not just that. You've actually got a government that ran out of business in the Senate. You've got a government that has voted on the floor of the House of Representatives to condemn itself. And again this week a government member again voted to condemn the Government on its treatment of pensioners, by accident. You've got the $300 million ice campaign; none of that has gone to front line services. You've got Julie Bishop spending $200,000 to take 23 public servants to Paris to learn about how to save money in the portfolio. You've got the continuing issues of George Brandis and [inaudible] plenty of incompetence.

BENSON: George Brandis condemned by a Parliamentary Committee just vote along party lines - everyone knew where the vote was going to go, it's not the merits of the argument, it's just party allegiance that determined that vote: you had the numbers, you defeated the Government on that little committee.

PLIBERSEK: I think the view in the Australian community is much broader than several members of the Senate Committee. That George Brandis is the guy who should have resigned, that the Solicitor General, Justin Gleeson, has behaved properly and honourably. The fact that the Attorney General wanted to do this in the first place is a problem. The fact that he lied about consulting the Solicitor General is a bigger problem. But George Brandis' trail of destruction goes well beyond that, including, for example, to the 37 people he appointed to administrative appeals tribunal jobs without any proper process - a bunch of them happened to be Liberal Party donors, ex-staffers, former Members of Parliament - with no proper process and no consideration to any conflicts of interest. He is not fit to be the Attorney General.

BENSON: On the Government's measures to impose a lifetime ban on asylum seekers who have arrived in the last 3 years, Caucus voted against that yesterday, but it sounds like Labor is reserving judgement if it turns out to be the first effort; a two-step measure to find a third country to accept asylum seekers. Can you review that - you may in fact support it? Is that accurate?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think you're being overly generous to the Government. I wish this had something to do with third country resettlement. Those people who have been on

Manus Island and Nauru now for more than three years have been there much too long. Third country resettlement should be the priority for the Immigration Minister, instead of silly bits of legislation like this. But frankly, we have asked the Government is this part of a two-step deal that involves resettlement? They've said no. We can only take them at their word. I think they should be focusing on third country resettlement, but sadly I don't think they are.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Marius.