By Tanya Plibersek

04 November 2021




SUBJECTS: Voter ID laws; Support for schoolkids after lockdown; National School Curriculum.
 Do you still support Anthony Albanese saying this is a desperate attempt to undermine our democracy and deny Australians their basic democratic rights?
Alan, I don't think anybody wants Australians lining up for hours on polling day, making it harder for them to vote. We know that there are a lot of Australians who don't have valid ID. In Queensland, one in six Indigenous kids doesn't have a birth certificate. We know this is a problem for homeless people, people who fled their homes because of natural disasters or domestic violence. We don't want to make it harder for people. And Alan, if this was a big problem, people would have been prosecuted. No one has been prosecuted for it. There have been fines, but no prosecutions. 
JONES: They can't prosecute them, because they can't find the people. But they are the figures, 18,000 multiple votes. Now, you're not right in saying it stops people from voting -
PLIBERSEK: No, no, no, sorry. 18,000 have been asked about it. That doesn't mean that they've all done the wrong thing. 
JONES: You know, Tanya sorry, but you know that this legislation says that if you haven't got identification, you can use someone who can validate your identity. So you don't have to have the passport, you don't have to have the - but you've got to have someone who can validate that you’re Tanya Plibersek. Concetta, can I come back to you. 18,343 people in the Turnbull election of 2016 whose names were checked off the electoral roll more than once. I mean surely, a, it's a problem and surely the ID legislation addresses these issues. Yes or no?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: It does. It does because it reduces the risk of voter impersonation by requiring voters to present identification documentation. Now, it does bring us into line with other liberal democracies, and other countries are also going down this path. Can I just be very specific? No one will be turned away on polling day. They will be able to produce a whole raft of different options for ID documents. And if, as you correctly say Alan that you don't have an ID, well then somebody can attest to who you are. But also the voter can be issued with the declaration vote. So the options are covered. So I actually think that what the Labor Party is going on about is purely ideological. 
JONES: Well, so Tanya - I just want to come back, because this lady is highly intelligent I can't believe if she was the leader she would say this. Whether we can agree or not 51 of these people that voted three times, four others had four marks to people five times. Your party is calling the proposal racist and discriminatory. Surely it's a simple proposition - voters show a photo ID, a driver's license or passport, a bank card, or someone beside them to say, this is Tanya, this is Alan Jones. Tanya, what on earth can be wrong with that?
PLIBERSEK: Surely Alan we want to make it as easy for every Australian who's got a legitimate vote to vote on a Saturday. And the other thing I have to say Alan is we've just come out of the worst part of the pandemic, and I can't believe that the Prime Minister’s focused on this and not on jobs, the economy, rebuilding, reopening, making sure that we’ve got borders reopened - 
JONES: But that doesn't invalidate this.
PLIBERSEK: It’s actually troubling to think that this is his priority rather than getting the country back on its feet. 
JONES: I think it is important Tanya, because we've got to be sure we have the right people in government. And if there is multiple voting and voting fraud, we may have the wrong people on the Treasury benches. 
PLIBERSEK: Even the Electoral Commissioner says this is vanishingly small. This is a government looking for a problem where nobody who observes these things closely believes there is one. 
JONES: 18,000 Tanya. 18,000 people multiple votes.
PLIBERSEK: No no, you’re suggesting 18,000 people have done the wrong thing Alan. Not one prosecution. 
JONES: And their votes were counted, Tanya. And we don't know who they voted for, but they may have formed government. I mean, Albanese, Concetta, said ‘on the eve of an election the Morrison-Joyce Government is trying to ram through a bill to stop Australians voting’. He said, 'this is a desperate attempt to undermine our strong democracy, and deny Australians their basic democratic rights'. Concetta people out there in the pub listening to this think this bloke's on something. 
FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, and the reality is that voter ID aligns with very common civic activities that require ID. I mean, you need a driver's license if you want to open a bank account, you need ID. Even if you want to collect a parcel down at the post office, you need some form of ID. So as I said, no one's going to be denied a vote because they don't have proof. There's ample opportunities, ample documents that they can show. And if they don't, there's a procedure there. 
JONES: Okay, look, just coming back since it is our last program together and I've been very grateful for the contributions you've made. Any progress, has any progress, you first Tanya, has been made in this urgent need to assist our school-aged children who have been appallingly abandoned in this Coronavirus response? Tanya, you were the one who wrote so powerfully about this, has anything been done? You've talked about priorities before, has it got any priority?
PLIBERSEK: Look, it's actually even worse than we thought Alan, because the Government set aside 25 million dollars to help these kids - we found out in Senate Estimates last week that they've cut that to 18 million dollars, and not a single dollar has gone to help a single child yet. They keep talking about what they're going to do, they’ve cut the funding and they haven’t spent a single dollar. And Alan, can I just say, as we are finishing up, I was listening to you talking to Catherine McGregor earlier. That beautiful Tennyson poem that you read out. We need our kids to be able – they need to learn to read, so they can read to learn. That gift of reading that gives you fluency and enthusiasm, and access to beautiful poetry like that. And also my other favourite, If by Rudyard Kipling, and I thought as we're quoting poetry tonight -  ‘if you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same. If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run'
JONES: 'And if you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, you're a man, my friend. You'll be a man, my son'. 

PLIBERSEK: That's right, it's beautiful.

JONES: Well, I tell you something, that is above the centre court at Wimbledon. That Kipling quote, as you walk onto the centre court and look back there, it’s that quote. But I just want to quickly, I want to make this point, Concetta. The Governorship of Virginia, may have heard me earlier tonight, saw the entrenched Democrats soundly beaten because the former Governor standing again made the statement that, quote ‘I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach’. Now the Republicans went berserk with election ads, and the Democrats got smashed. But the issue here is with Coronavirus and home schooling, and this was central to Virginia, is that parents gained an insight into what their kids were being taught and a black lawyer representing the parents of Virginia said, quote, 'government education is exposing children to ideologies that are sometimes inconsistent with what the consumers, the parents want their children to be exposed to'. Tanya, I think this is going to be a big issue here, Concetta?
FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well Alan, it was a great result and I think it reflects where the grassroots are taking back their country from the woke brigade. Can I just say, as far as the Australian government is concerned, in an answer recently in the House of Representatives the Education Minister said he wanted the National School Curriculum to reflect a positive and optimistic view of our history. Well, that's all very good. Now, let's show the necessary political fortitude as a government to make that happen. And overwhelmingly, Australians want their children to understand where our democracy comes from, the fundamental freedoms, that underpin it, and more importantly, so that they can defend that democracy just as previous generations have done so.
JONES: Absolutely. Tanya, a quick one from you to end. History and the economy are being taught, they said, in America through this prism of race. If the Opposition were to win government at the next election, you may well be the federal Education Minister, what would you do about this? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I'll tell you what, Alan, I'd want our kids to learn to read and write and do maths. Under the Liberals, we’ve got the worst results in international testing in Australia history. Our kids have gone backwards. Of course I want them to learn science and art and history and so on as well, but we need to focus on the basics first. And I'm a very proud Australian. I've said to you in the past, and others, that I think our kids should know about our democracy, including things like our citizenship pledge, and why it's so important that we commit to one another, to Australia and its people. To one another.
JONES: Thank you, Tanya. We've run out of time, but it's good to talk to you both. Thank you both for the contribution, not that you've made to the program, but rather to the understanding and enjoyment of our viewers, so thank you both and good luck.
FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Thank you. Good luck to you too.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you. 
JONES: And to you too. Thank you Tanya and Concetta. We’ll be back to wrap it all up shortly.