01 August 2019




SUBJECTS: Universities; Proposed counter-terrorism bill; Allegations against Crown Casinos; Raheem Kassam; Shadow Ministry.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: I've been talking this morning about the disparity in university graduation rates between city and country areas. What we've seen with the Government's restricting access to university is that rural and regional students will continue to miss out on the opportunity of a university education. By locking kids out of education we're locking them out a job in the future. It makes no sense, it's completely unfair, that a student, a young person growing up in Brisbane is four times more likely to get a university education than a young person in Caboolture or rural Queensland. It's not fair that a young person on the north shore of Sydney is three times more likely to have a university education than someone on the central coast of New South Wales. We need a strong and excellent university system in Australia side by side with a strong and excellent TAFE system, because nine out of ten jobs that will be created in coming years will require either a university or a TAFE education. We need to make sure that Australians have the opportunity of a post school education to prepare them for the workforce of the future. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Does Labor support the Government's new counter-terrorism bill?

PLIBERSEK: Well it would be terrific if we saw more details of legislation rather than reading about legislation in the newspaper. My understanding is that we haven't yet seen the bill but you can see what we've done in the past when it comes to terrorism-related legislation. We always put the safety of Australians first.

JOURNALIST: So from what you've already read do you support it?

PLIBERSEK: We work cooperatively with the Government on pieces of national security legislation through the Joint Standing Committee that's responsible. We examine that legislation - quite often we have improved government legislation, sometimes with dozens of bipartisan amendments through that committee process - but well always put the safety of Australians first. We'll see the legislation, we'll work cooperatively with the Government to make sure that Australians are safe.

JOURNALIST: Did Karl Bitar or Mark Arbib lobby Labor to vote against a parliamentary inquiry into the Crown allegations?

PLIBERSEK: I haven't heard from or seen either of them in a very long time. I don't know of any contact from them.

JOURNALIST: If they did do that would that be inappropriate do you think?

PLIBERSEK: I can't comment - I have no idea whether they've made any contact at all.

JOURNALIST: Given the very serious allegations about the Crown matter, also including allegations that ministers lobbied for fast tracked visas, why did Labor support this being referred to the Law Integrity Commission when that Commission actually has no power to compel ministers to appear?

PLIBERSEK: Well my understanding is that this is a very serious investigation by an organisation that has wide ranging powers. We think it is very appropriate that the allegations are properly investigated. There are obviously questions to answer and we need to look at this issue very seriously.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned though by the allegations made by Roman Quaedvlieg that two ministers and a backbencher were lobbied to fast track visas?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course any allegations like that are concerning and they should be properly investigated. The Government certainly should be answering questions about any of the allegations that involve ministers in particular.

JOURNALIST: How can they be properly investigated? How can they be properly investigated if the Law Integrity Commission can't question ministers allegedly involved?

PLIBERSEK: My understanding is that the Commission has extensive powers, wide ranging powers, and that the investigation will be thorough and detailed.

JOURNALIST: It cant call ministers Ms Plibersek, it can only deal with Commonwealth officials, so who would investigate the allegations against the ministers?

PLIBERSEK: We believe that the referral is an appropriate referral and we've said, since these allegations were first made that the Government should answer questions about any involvement of ministers in the behaviour that's been alleged.

JOURNALIST: Labor's been making a point of going after Raheem Kassam, the British conservative who is going to be out here to attend a conference. Donald Trump's son has weighed in overnight saying 'the insanity needs to stop'. Your response to Donald Trump Jr's comments?

PLIBERSEK: There you go, free speech. He's got a right to his opinion. We think that it is, of course, we believe in robust debate, free speech, but there is a line. When people are coming to Australia to vilify groups in our community, people with a history or sexist, homophobic and anti-Muslim vilification, then we should draw the line.

JOURNALIST: Do you think this man is similar to the Milo Yiannopoulos case?

PLIBERSEK: We have, as a nation in the past, denied visas to people who are likely to vilify groups in our community and incite this sort of discord, there's the Milo Yiannopoulos case, there's holocaust deniers who have been denied visas in the past. It is important that we, yes, support free speech, but that we draw the line at people who are likely to incite hatred in our community.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, would you like to lead the Labor Party one day?

PLIBERSEK: I'm very happy being the Shadow Minister for Education so thanks very much for asking.