By Tanya Plibersek

01 July 2024



SUBJECTS: Senator Fatima Payman; Labor’s tax cuts for all Australians.

NATALIE BARR: Rogue Senator Fatima Payman has been indefinitely suspended from the Labor Caucus after she doubled down on her decision to vote against party lines over the issue of Palestinian statehood. The Western Australian Senator was already in trouble after becoming the first Labor MP to cross the floor in 38 years. But her comments over the weekend that she was prepared to rebel again after her dressing down from the PM with her future in the party now uncertain. For their take, let's bring in Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, and Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce. Morning to both of you.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning.

BARR: Tanya, Labor's left faction was going to meet today to discuss what to do. What do you think should happen to Fatima Payman?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Well, I think it's appropriate Senator Payman's sort of set herself aside from the Labor Party and made it very clear that she's not going to vote as part of the group. So I think what's happened is appropriate.

But I think we need to go back a step. I really understand why so many Australians are distressed about the attacks on Israel and in the following weeks the civilian death toll in Gaza. It is a very distressing time for a lot of Australians.

I think it's important to understand though that a Greens motion in the Senate doesn't fix that. As a government, we've been saying that we need to see the return of hostages, get humanitarian access into Gaza, have a ceasefire; all of that is really important, and I think that that's what our focus as a nation has to be.

BARR: How annoyed is the Prime Minister that this is the focus this morning; it's on the front page of every paper, and you know, people are struggling to eat.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah. Well, I think the other news that we should be talking about today is that it's the 1st of July, that means our tax cuts for every Australian taxpayer come into play, 13.6 million taxpayers get a tax cut from the 1st of July. We're seeing wages go up as well, because the minimum wage case, we'll see the electricity bill relief start today, and of course we've got cheaper medicines, cheaper childcare, free TAFE, all of those other measures to help people with their cost of living. The most important thing that we can be doing as a government is making sure that we are laser focused on the cost of living, and that's what we're getting on with.

BARR: Barnaby, do you think people are concerned about the Fatima Payman issue and the fact that she's the first person to cross the floor in decades?

JOYCE: I don't know. Like, you have a distraction, but it's not an interest; this is a distraction. We've got two people who are on the same wage as myself and Tanya, doing very, very well, having a little tiff in a very nice house in Canberra. No, they're not really interested.

What you have for the Labor Party is a dilemma between party discipline and votes, and they don't know how to deal with it. They want to keep the votes out in the western suburbs, but they want to also stick to this pledge. Just saying, people, no, that's not a pledge. It started 130 years ago, a pledge to do whatever the party tells them.

Now I think the pledge is a relic and it should have been left behind about 50 years ago, and if you put the pledge aside, you wouldn't have an issue with this. You'd say, "I don't know, this individual's decided to go in a different direction. Who cares"? But because they've broken the pledge, it becomes a major issue for them, nobody else, just for them.

And what I can say to Fatima Payman is, yeah, well, look, when you decide to put – outside every mores like we saw with the desecration of the War Memorial where people believe this is a licence to do whatever you like, you don't gain support, you lose support. That desecration of the War Memorial on Anzac Parade, outrageous.

BARR: Yeah, it absolutely was. Those pictures, absolutely appalling. Barnaby, let's finish on this. We all remember that video back in February where of course you were filmed on the Canberra pavement. Is it true you haven't touched alcohol since then, and you've lost a lot of weight? Tell us what's happening.

JOYCE: That's correct. It's just my choice, nobody else's. When I went stomach to the stars, I thought, "That's a disgrace, can't do that again". I literally woke up the next morning and said, "That will do." So I've given up the smokes, given up alcohol, life's incredibly boring, having to actually talk to people at functions. You know the sort of rubbish they prattle on about, it's incredible.

BARR: So do you think this is going to continue then, if life's too boring without alcohol?

JOYCE: Ah, no, look, I'm not saying that. I think you put too much pressure on yourself. But look, I haven't had a drink, and I've just, you know, lost weight, and yeah, you're sharper, and but that's my choice, nobody else's choice. I'm not a wowser. If you want to have a drink, you know, that's absolutely and utterly your choice. I've made a choice, whether it's for life, or for as long as it goes, I don't know, but it didn't worry me, just woke up and stopped.

BARR: Tanya, did you know about this?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Look, I didn't, but, you know, congratulations.

JOYCE: Thanks, Tanya.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I think cutting out alcohol is really no, no, it's good, it's great; it's great for your health, it's great for your family. I think it's something to be congratulated on. Good on you.

JOYCE: Thank you very much, Tanya. That's very nice of you. Thank you, I appreciate that.

BARR: You know, especially the lives that you guys lead, I don't know whether you could, you know, it's like us, to go out late at night and have a few, it would be pretty hard to wake up early. Thank you very much. Good luck Barnaby. Thank you, Tanya, and we'll see you next week.