By Tanya Plibersek

17 March 2022




SUBJECTS: Kimberley Kitching; Federal budget; Cost of living; Labor’s plans to help ease the burden on families.

PETE STEFANOVIC, PRESENTER: Well we're turning to one of our earlier stories now, these bullying claims that have rocked the Labor Party after the death of Senator Kimberley Kitching. Let's bring in the Shadow Minister for Women now, Tanya Plibersek live in Sydney, Tanya thanks for your time this morning. So Michael Danby, the former Labor MP, was on with Laura yesterday and he said that Kimberley Kitching's family would like her treatment to be addressed and an apology given. Should the party apologise to her?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: I'm just not going to get into this. We haven't even had Kimberley Kitching's funeral yet. I don't think it's appropriate to be making this into a political issue. I absolutely want to respect the wishes of her family but I just can't answer for the details of this and nor do I want to be talking about it at the moment. We have lost a colleague way too young, way too early. I think we need to focus on that at the moment and give her family a bit of time and space. 

STEFANOVIC: So why not? 




STEFANOVIC: No. No. So with that point in mind, why not investigate that loss then, considering that Kimberley Kitching wanted it sorted before she died following these allegations of bullying?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, look I just don't know any of the details of that and I have to say we are absolutely devastated to have lost a colleague too young to this. We do want to absolutely respect the wishes of her family and support her husband in any way that we can, support her friends in any way that we can. I think this is just a terrible loss that it's going to take us some time to work through. 

STEFANOVIC: It is, it is, no doubt about that. Did you ever see any evidence of her being bullied?

PLIBERSEK: No, it was nothing I saw, absolutely not, and look, I just don't want to keep raking over this terrible loss and treating it like it's just a political issue to manage. I think we need to focus on supporting her family. She is a great loss. I think it's a terrible time for anybody who knew her, but the sort of things that we need to be focusing on now is talking to the Australian people about the things that matter to them - their job security, cost of living, the situation in Ukraine - the things that are going to be the big issues in their lives in coming months. And certainly yesterday I was in Queensland, I was visiting schools, visiting TAFE facilities, visiting women's centres that work with victims of domestic violence. People weren't asking about whether there's bullying in the Labor Party, they were asking about whether their kids are going to have a decent school, a job at the end of it, whether they're going to have the support services they need if they're victims of domestic violence trying to leave a violent relationship. I think it's important for people in the Labor Party, and in politics more generally, to be focusing on those issues going forward rather than trying to determine - it is impossible for me to know the relationships between colleagues like that at this stage.

STEFANOVIC: There is one incident though that's been highlighted in the Australian this morning by Sharri Markson. So Penny Wong reportedly told Kimberley Kitching that ;if you had children you'd understand why there is a climate emergency’, when discussing school students taking part in climate protests. Was that a fair thing to say to someone who actually wanted but couldn't have them?

PLIBERSEK: I don't know any of the details of that. You can't just keep putting suggestions to me about who said what to whom. I'm telling you that this is not the time to be focused on trying to make this into a political issue. Of course we should support her family and her friends and getting any answers they can, but we also need to be respectful of people's privacy at a very difficult time. 

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Okay. Now you did mention cost of living there. It is going to shape this election no doubt. Prime Minister, on two different fronts here. He's offering flood-ravaged families in New South Wales $10,000 'Back home' grants, that's on top of tax relief and emergency payments as well. And then leading up to the budget we've potentially got one-off bonus payments to pensioners and potentially freezing fuel excise indexation in the budget. Do you support all of those measures?

PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to comment on budget speculation, but I will say that the thing that people raise constantly with me when I'm out on the road is the extraordinary cost of living pressures that they're under. I mean people haven't had a pay increase in eight years and the cost of everything's going up - rent, mortgage, petrol, childcare, out-of-pocket health expenses, groceries - everything's gone up but your wages. And this government's got, not only no plan to do anything about wages, the former Finance Minister said really clearly that low wages are a deliberate design feature of this government's economic management, and that's why they never supported a wage rise for 2.2 million workers. They voted against making wage theft a crime. They've presided over cuts to take home pay when penalty rates were cut. They have budgeted for a real wages decline over the next year, they have got no plan to turn that around. Labor's got a plan to make sure that people's wages increase. When you work hard, you're doing the right thing, your business is doing well, you should expect to see a pay increase over time. We've also got plans to bring down the cost of electricity, $275 a year cheaper. We've got a plan to make electric vehicles cheaper, so you don't have to be as reliant on super expensive petrol as families are seeing it taking a big chunk out of their take-home pay. 86 per cent of families will get cheaper childcare under Labor. These are the sorts of differences that we can make to people's lives every day if Labor is elected, and only Labor will do it because only Labor wants to see wages go up.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Tanya Plibersek joining us live from Sydney. Thank you Tanya. We will talk to you soon.