By Tanya Plibersek

18 March 2024








NATALIE BARR: To Queensland first, where Labor is licking its wounds after a massive double digit swing against the State Government that saw it lose one seat and barely hold on to another in two by elections. Those results could lead to a wipe out for Premier Steven Miles' party in the October State election, and that won't bode well for the Albanese Government which is unlikely to gain any of the extra seats in Queensland it may need to avoid a minority government at the next Federal election. For their take let's bring in Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to both of you.



BARR: Does your internal polling show that this is a state issue, or is there anti-Labor sentiment that you think will translate Federally here?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well I think by-elections are always tough for sitting governments and Steven Miles has said that he's listening very carefully to the message that the electorate there have sent him. The by elections were fought on State issues, and of course we know Federally that the top of mind for most voters is the cost of living and that's why we've focussed on higher wages, a tax cut for 13.6 million Australians, cheaper childcare, more paid parental leave, more affordable housing, more Commonwealth rent assistance, electrical bill relief, free TAFE. All of those things that we're doing to try and help out with that cost of living.

BARR: These were big swings though.


BARR: So are there any alarm bells, federally?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well we are absolutely determined to make sure we're listening to Australians on the things that matter most and that includes cost of living.

BARR: Because of this?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Oh no, not because of this. We don't need to be told that that's the most


BARR: So no alarm bells?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: -- important job for a government, is to be aware of what's really critical for people and people have been telling us that cost of living is top of mind for them, and that's why we've focused on higher wages, more Australians keeping more of what they earn.

BARR: Yeah. Barnaby, do you think it was just State issues, Steven Miles not popular in that State? Was that the reason?

JOYCE: Look, there are two things that lose you an election: incompetence and arrogance. And I was about to say well they would have had the arrogance knocked out of them after that. But just listening to Tanya then and trotting out the lines, it seems like arrogance and incompetence is still there.

Law and order is a big issue up there, massive issue. If you can't feel safe on your streets then you will change the Government. The cost of living also, of course that's a massive issue but that also goes over to the Federal sphere. And whilst you're concentrating on swindle factories, you know, so-called wind farms and, you know, solar factories and transmission lines, and people are getting poorer, every day they try to go shopping or pay for fuel and most certainly pay for power. Then people say, "It doesn't matter what your rhetoric is, it doesn't matter what your lines are, what matters is what's in my wallet, what's in my skyrocket, and it's getting less and less because I can't afford to get through my life". That's the issue and that issue will go over to the Federal election. But a lot of work for the State guys to do between now and the election. Don't think for one second you've got it in the bag.

BARR: Yeah, and Steven Miles has actually acknowledged that.

The Coalition is calling on the Government to follow the lead of the United States and threaten to ban TikTok over Chinese interference concerns. Now the PM has so far ruled out enacting a ban but is watching the US closely. Tanya, should China have access to Australian TikTok data? This is something TikTok has been banned in 12 countries on government devices. Is it safe to be in Chinese hands in Australia?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, first of all of course it's not on government devices in Australia either. We've got a ban here in Australia on government devices. But there are 8.5 million Australians who are using it. We'll take the advice of our security and intelligence agencies on anything we need to do around TikTok. I think people should be careful of the data that they put online in general. And like I say, if the security intelligence agencies give us advice on TikTok, we'll take it.

BARR: But we've got the US saying it is a national security threat, Chinese law requires companies to report back to its government. And the US is giving TikTok owners six months to sell it to someone else. Shouldn't that raise more alarm bells in our country?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think Australians should be very aware of what's happening to their data online and they should know that if they're putting things online and they've got TikTok on their phones, there's a back door into that information.

BARR: But isn't it bigger than that? Isn't it what's happening that we don't know about?


BARR: How TikTok is possibly influencing our elections, Barnaby, what's happening in our country, that we don't know about?

JOYCE: Well I was former Chair of the National Security Committee. We've had a spy in our Federal Parliament. Now I'm not saying what side they were on, they could easily have been on either, that's not for one second would I cast that aspersion.

But we seem to now have one in our pocket as well and we've got to be really, really careful that the information about where we're going, about who we're talking to, about what we like to watch, about so much about your life is not being conveyed for the purpose of a computer or an individual to manipulate in such a form as it helps a totalitarian regime, and the view that they have of what an individual wants for the world rather than what a democracy wants, or even in China what a wider group of people would want. So yeah, I'd be hellishly cautious and I'm certain on this issue the Labor Party are doing the right work too. No one puts national security on the table as a political issue.

BARR: Okay. Look, the community of Cessnock is grieving today for the loss of Lance Corporal Jack Patrick Fitzgibbon who died in a parachuting accident earlier this month. Our thoughts go out to his beautiful family, including of course his dad, retired Labor Minister Joel Fitzgibbon who was a Sunrise regular for many, many years, and Jack's sister Grace who works here at Channel 7. Barnaby, you will be attending the funeral, what message would you like to share?

JOYCE: The Fitzgibbon family are a family of honour. Jack died in service to our nation. Joel has served our nation. The family will be absolutely grieving. You know, we hope and pray that Jack is with our maker, give comfort to them as, you know, you've seen the Fitzgibbons, you've watched them on television. They're a great family and, you know, he's my neighbour down there and he's also my mate. You know, we'll all turn up and give what support we can to Jack's family.

BARR: Yeah. Tanya.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Oh, it's just the worst thing that any parent can imagine and so our hearts go out to Joel and Dianne and their family and the friends and comrades that Jack had in the service as well. We know that there will be a lot of people grieving today.

BARR: Exactly, 33-year-old Jack taken in the prime of his life. The funeral's at St Joseph's Catholic Church in Cessnock today. We are thinking of Joel, who was part of this program for many, many years, and of course Grace who works here. Our thoughts are with you today.

Thank you both, we'll see you next week.