Sunrise Interview with Minister Tanya Plibersek 27/05/24

27 May 2024





MONDAY, 27 MAY 2024



NATALIE BARR, HOST: Hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue could be generated upped a new push to legalise and regulate vaping. If enforced, with a small excise, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria would all bring in more than $600 million each over the next four years.


The move is backed by the Federal Nationals and comes as the government cracks down on vaping by banning its recreational use.


For more I'm joined by Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Morning to both of you.






BARR: Barnaby, your side back this. Should the government seriously consider not banning vapes, actually regulating them?


JOYCE: Well, the market's out there, isn't it, and people are making money out of it, the mafia predominantly. And if you want to fix that you have to bring it into a regulated form.


The issue we have with vapes is, I don't vape, and they're not good for you, they will kill you, so do cigarettes, and they're legal. And what do people say is, well, it doesn't have the effect of alcohol or drugs that it inhibits or destroys your capacity to drive a car or how you act in public, therefore, there's not the sense of moral outrage against that that there are against other drugs.


That doesn't make it right, but what we've got to be a realist and say that unless we want ‑ unless you want people to take an unregulated product from China and then the money just goes flying back to criminals in China and criminals in Australia, then you have to be a realist and say, well, wouldn't it be better if we have a regulated product that we can strictly control, and the revenue goes back to the Australian health system where it belongs.


BARR: Tanya, what do you say? Should the government be open to doing a U-turn, legalising and regulating vaping, if it meant more tax dollars?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: The only people who want more sales of vapes in Australia are the big tobacco companies. Their first generation of customers is dying from smoking-related ill health; they want a new generation of customers. That's the kids that they're focused on.


These vapes, shaped like highlighter pens or computer memory cards so kids can hide them in their pencil cases, teachers say this is the worst discipline problem they have in schools.


Kids are sleeping with vapes under their pillows so they can wake up in the night and vape. They're getting popcorn lung from it; they're getting black gum disease. Those things are every bit as bad as they sound.


You might make a bit of money from tax revenue; we would spend billions in the health system cleaning up the mess of the vaping addiction that has taken hold of young people today.


BARR: Barnaby ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: No, we shouldn't be making it easier for kids to get vapes.


JOYCE: Tanya, Tanya, I agree with everything you say about how they're incredibly bad for you, right; but the problem is, Tanya, they're there, and the kids are still going to have them under the pillows and still have them ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, we can stop them, we're stopping them at the border ‑‑


JOYCE: ‑‑ in their pencil cases but ‑ no, we're not ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: ‑‑ we're stopping them at the border, and we should be stopping people selling them.


JOYCE: Well, how? ‑‑


BARR: Well, on your calculation Barnaby ‑‑


JOYCE: Well, why didn't you stop cigarettes as well?


BARR: ‑‑ do we legalise ‑‑


JOYCE: Why didn't you stop cigarettes as well then?


BARR: ‑‑ do we legalise illicit drugs, Barnaby, you know, because they're still out there.


JOYCE: No, because ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: It's the same argument.


JOYCE: No, because if you ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it's the same argument.


JOYCE: No, it's not; it's not, because the first thing is, you haven't had a chance of stopping marijuana, we know it's there, its prevalence, wherever you want it basically.


BARR: So are you arguing for the legalisation of marijuana now?


JOYCE: No, I'm not, because if you have ‑ if you, you know, if you pull a few cones and then jump in a car you're likely to kill somebody, and the same thing, it inhibits how you act, and therefore, there's more of a moral outrage in the public about it ‑‑


BARR: Okay.


JOYCE: ‑‑ because it really does affect how you act, and it makes you dangerous. But the problem with this is, it is a problem, it is unhealthy, all the things Tanya said is right, but we're just not controlling it, so we're just ‑ so the money's there, the money being made is being made by criminals.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: And we pick the bill in health system.


JOYCE: And when they go to buy ‑ when they go to buy their ‑ when they go to buy their vapes with all the colours in it, as you say, they also meet the person who sells them ice, who sells them heroin, who sells them dope, who sells them meth; all the other things that you don't want this person ever to meet, your child ever to meet that person.


BARR: Okay, two different arguments there. We'll let people decide, and I'm sure this won't go away.


Moving on, one of the ABC's most senior journalist has sensationally labelled Australia a racist country. Laura Tingle made the remarks during a panel discussion at the Sydney Writers Festival where she also accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of encouraging abuse towards migrants, looking to buy or rent property.


Tanya, what do you make of these comments?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, my parents came to Australia after the Second World War from Europe, and I am so grateful every day that Australia took them in and that we were born here and able to grow up in this fantastic country, and it is a magnificent multicultural country as well.


But of course there are Australians who have experienced racism, of course that is absolutely true. I think the point she's making about Peter Dutton pretending that if he somehow bans migrants buying houses it's going to fix the housing problem, well, it's worth making that point.


I'd like Barnaby to say how many extra homes would be available in the housing market in Australia every year if his policy was implemented; how many extra homes would that give us?


JOYCE: Well, I'd like to answer the question that's asked, Tanya, that's generally how this, you know, works. First of all, Australia's not a racist country. But Laura Tingle, I mean fair go, I listen to Laura Tingle talking to Phillip Adams, he's the, you know, "Mingle with Tingle", whatever he calls it.


It's the mad Left Wing, and that's who runs the ABC, and as their audiences dive through the floor, and I don't know what they're down to, you know, 4 per cent or something, the question has to be asked, why do we fund something that only wants to talk to half of Australia, and not even half, maybe 10 per cent of the ‑ who have those, you know, really well‑held views, and they get all so frustrated as they're reading Dostoevsky, and they get all turned up inside out and then they go on, you know, a panel, and say, "What's the lefty issue de jur today? Oh, we're all racists."


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: A lot of farmers listen to Radio National in the tractor.


JOYCE: Yeah ‑‑


BARR: Okay, just finally, Tanya, is Australia a racist country?


JOYCE: [indistinct] they listen to ABC local ‑ they listen to ABC; I listen to PK in my header [unclear].


BARR: Do you believe Australia is a racist country, Tanya?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I didn't hear any of that, sorry. I can't make out ‑‑


BARR: Tanya, just to wrap up, do you think she is right? Is Australia a racist country?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah. No, I think it's a fantastic multicultural country, but we have to protect against incidents of racism ‑‑


BARR: Okay.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: ‑‑ which occur in our community as they do in every community.

BARR: Okay. Thank you both. We'll see you next week.