By Tanya Plibersek

31 March 2022


SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison; Budget Reply; Cost of living; Investing in training and skills; Aged care. 
JOURNALIST: Senators have called the PM a bully this past week, is this a case of personal grievance on display?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: I think when you've got multiple people coming out saying the same thing - you've got Connie Fierravanti-Wells, you've got Jacqui Lambie, you've got Pauline Hanson, coming on top of Julia Banks, coming on top of Gladys Berejiklian, who said that Scott Morrison was a horrible, horrible person who put politics above people. I think you have to start to listen to the sheer number of people who have said these things about the Prime Minister. People will make their own minds up about that. It's not something that the Labor party's been pushing. We didn't ask any questions about it in Question Time yesterday. I think it's really something that Australians are hearing directly from the people who have to sit in a room and negotiate with Scott Morrison, that he's a bully.
JOURNALIST: Have you ever had any experience of that kind of behaviour from Scott Morrison? 
PLIBERSEK: No. I mean, I don't sit in a room and negotiate with him the way Pauline Hanson and Jacqui Lambie do. I'm not a member of his party like Connie Fierravanti-Wells or Julia Banks, or Gladys Berejiklian are. So I don't have those sorts of interactions with him. 
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the contrast of how he sought to deal with the Labor Kimberley Kitching bullying claims and then how he dealt with Concetta's claims yesterday?
PLIBERSEK: Well, Concetta's claims or Julia Banks’ claims some time ago. Yeah, I guess it's for him to answer why he's got such a different view on how these matters should be handled. 
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's deliberately trying to weaponise bullying on one side?
PLIBERSEK: I mean, what do you reckon? 
JOURNALIST: Can either party realistically claim to be better for women, when there have been bullying allegations levelled at people on both sides?
PLIBERSEK: I think it is very important that parties have good strong internal complaints processes and we started working on our's in 2018 to improve them. And I think we've got a good, strong internal complaints mechanisms now. I also think that having a really good look at the whole culture of parliament, as Kate Jenkins’ review has done, is really important. And that was a good opportunity, not just for members of parliament, but for staff who work in the building to talk about their experiences. And of course, we've learned more through that process as well. So making sure that we've got a strong, consistent complaints mechanisms for staff, for members of parliament, or for anyone who feels aggrieved. I think that's absolutely the right way to go.
JOURNALIST: Will there be any extra cost of living sweeteners from Labor in the budget reply tonight to make people's bills a little bit more manageable?
PLIBERSEK: Well, you'll have to tune in tonight. Honestly everywhere I have been travelling around Australia, in recent times, people have been telling me that their lives are getting harder, not easier. What they've seen is everything go up, but their wages. For years now, wages have been flatlining while the cost of living has been rising. What we've got from the government on Tuesday night was a few short-term measures to get them beyond the next election. This is a budget that was purely focused on getting a government through a difficult time, a few sweeteners in the short term, try and ride the wave through next few months and then things are back to normal, families are under pressure all over again. What you see from Labor already are proposals that permanently help. So that means proposals in industrial relations that would see more permanent work, see wage rises. When companies are doing well, their workers should get a pay increase. We know in our economy at the moment that wages are flatlining. It's having a major effect on families. When it comes to cost of living, we want to make childcare permanently cheaper. We want to make family power bills permanently cheaper. Instead of these one-offs that the Government hopes will get them beyond the next election. Labor has a plan to make life easier for Australian families.
JOURNALIST: What is the plan to lift wages?
PLIBERSEK: We've made clear quite a few things in industrial relations like same job, same pay - not allowing cowboy labour hire firms to undercut wages in businesses. Actually working in the gig economy, to make sure that people in the gig economy get paid decently. Making sure that in the public sector, we preference permanent employment instead of the huge number of people who've been on short-term contracts, sometimes renewed again and again, but short-term contracts in the Australian Public Service. We've got a plan to make sure that we close the gender pay gap by doing things like getting companies with more than 250 staff to publish their gender pay gaps. And we want to make it easier for women in low-paid industries, like childcare, aged care, disability support to take gender pay cases to the Fair Work Commission to make sure that they are properly paid for the incredibly difficult, complex, emotionally difficult, and physically difficult work that they're doing. I think, taken all together, you will see Labor has a very strong plan to see more permanent work and fairer pay for Australians. 
JOURNALIST: What's your tip for when the election will be called? 
PLIBERSEK: I reckon 21st of May will be the election. I'm not sure when the Prime Minister will call it. 
JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, with all these bullying allegations going around, do you think Pauline Hanson has the right to call anyone a bully given the past 25 years she's been marginalising minorities, even wore a hijab in the Senate? Do you find this is all getting a bit out of hand?
PLIBERSEK: Like I keep saying Phil, this is not Labor pushing this. These are the people who are closest to the Prime Minister with direct experience of working with him telling you their experiences of working with him. It's not for me to make judgements about whether they’re fair calls or not, I just draw attention to the fact that it's not one person. It's now a series of people over quite some time. And they're people who have had direct experience of working with Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Are you getting tired of the emphasis, nearly every single budget now, on male-dominated professions especially tradies? Labour subsidies, work programs, things like that. When female dominated sectors, like aged care, teaching, nursing never seems to be a focus on subsidising their wages or incentives. They've thrown about 8 billion, I think, at tradies since the pandemic started, do you find that an imbalance? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't think this is a competition between Australian men and women. I think what Australian women want is not special treatment, but just equality and when it comes to investing in trades and skills, of course, I wanna see that. And this is a government that initially cut $3 billion from TAFE and training. We've still got 70,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today then when the Liberals first came to office. Of course I want to see investment in trades training because I want to be able to call a plumber in four years time. I want people to be able to build houses and roads and run our cities, cook in our restaurants.
JOURNALIST: Do they need taxpayer funds to subsidise utes, do they need home builder programs? Couldn't that be better put into aged care sector to help. 
PLIBERSEK: You raise a really important point about aged care, because we've have Aged Care Royal Commission. There were 21 reports into aged care before that Royal Commission. All of them saying that this area is underfunded, that the staff are underpaid, that the consequence of that is that residents are being neglected. Yes, the Prime Minister should have done something for aged care in Tuesday night's budget. The money that they put in some time ago they've actually not attached to any sort of consequences to the way that money is being spent. So they said ‘here's some extra money, we want to see improved food in our aged care facilities’, but there's no guarantee that any of that extra money went to improve nutrition for residents, went to better pay for staff, went to any of the issues that we know are really affecting our aged care system at the moment. So I want to see more young people studying a trade, but I also want to see our residents in residential aged care properly cared for and, actually if the Government wasn't wasting billions of dollars, we could do both. This is a government that has wasted billions of dollars on paying JobKeeper to companies that didn't need it, paying 10 times above the odds for airport land, sports rorts, car park rorts. I mean, car parks that were announced and then the Government said, no after all, we're not going to build them. And now they're re-announcing them. I mean this government is so hopeless. Hopeless at running the country. If they took some of the money they were wasting and actually applied it to the things that need to happen in this country like trades training, like aged care, we'd all be better off. 
JOURNALIST: Thank you.