By Tanya Plibersek

16 November 2021




SUBJECTS: Serving in House of Representatives; Federal election, Climate and energy policies.

Well, every few weeks we speak with senior Labor MP and the Member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek. She's a good friend of this program. Now Tanya has just celebrated an incredible milestone in her political career. She's officially become the longest-serving female member of the House of Representatives in our nation's history. I mean, it's remarkable and deserves recognition. And Tanya Plibersek, a good friend of the Drive program joins me live on the line. Tanya, welcome back to Drive and congratulations on the milestone.  
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thanks Jim. It's always a pleasure to be with you, and thanks!
WILSON: 23 years in the House of Reps. Do you need reminding?
PLIBERSEK: Look, it is a great honour. I didn't actually pick it up, someone else follows these things more closely and picked it up and pointed it out to me. But yeah, it's a fantastic privilege to be re-elected by my constituents in Sydney, I'm very grateful to them. I'm very grateful to the Labor Party for continuing to back me. But the thing that is most amazing about it is, I think is what a democracy we have. My parents literally grew up in huts with dirt floors. And they came to Australia hoping for a better life for their kids, and what other country in the world would have given me these opportunities? We didn't have much money. I went to a our local public school, and I just think, I think it's an amazing country that allows something like that to happen. 
WILSON: Yeah. It's the best country in the world. We are very, very fortunate. I wanted to - do you mind if we just have a bit of a walk down memory lane? Because I want to have a listen to this snippet of your first speech in Parliament. This is back in 1998 after you were first elected as the federal Member for Sydney, just have a listen to this Tanya.
[AUDIO] I'm honoured today to come into this chamber as the elected representative for the people of Sydney. Our city has a character of its own, apparent to visitors who see a vibrant modern city with precious heritage areas, and incomparable natural beauty. But the character of Sydney is more than skin deep. Sydney is a living city which holds within it the history of all which has passed on the shores of Port Jackson. 
WILSON: There you go, 1998 Tanya. How do you feel about listening back to that today?
PLIBERSEK: I feel like I was just a baby! Yeah, look, I think the things that motivated me then still motivate me. I got into politics because I want everybody to have what I want for myself and my kids, decent job, security, a roof over my head. I want that for all Australians, and that hasn't changed in 23 years.
WILSON: So that was your main goals at that point. Did you think you'd have, you know, after that first speech in 1998, that in 2021 that you’d be still a Member of Parliament?
PLIBERSEK: Oh, I don't think I was thinking that far.
WILSON: So, there wasn’t long-term aspirations, to maybe become Prime Minister one day, for example?
PLIBERSEK: I genuinely was, and still am, so grateful just to be there. You know, even in Opposition, every single day you get to help someone with a problem with Centrelink, or the tax office, or connect them with - there's so many different grants and programs at the moment that have happened because of COVID, it’s hard to navigate your way through. Helping people navigate their way through that or putting them in contact, if they're kept at home and can't get out and do the shopping, with a service that can help them do the shopping - those satisfactions never, never have left me. I still feel every single day, how great it is to be able to do that.
WILSON: One of my listeners, Dave the bus driver, just texted me saying 'Jim, Tanya for PM'. Do you still have hopes of becoming Prime Minister? 
PLIBERSEK: I really hope that we win the next election and that Anthony Albanese becomes the Prime Minister. I really want to see a Labor Government. I'm desperate to be part of a Labor government because I think Australians deserve better than they've been getting in recent years.
WILSON: Do you still have aspirations of being the Prime Minister one day?
PLIBERSEK: I have aspirations of being a member of the Labor Government and I hope it's in the next few months and that Anthony Albanese leads us there. 
WILSON: You're a role model in so many respects, in particular for young women who are coming through, who might aspire to have a career in politics. What's your message to them this afternoon? 
PLIBERSEK: Give it a go, roll the dice, jump in. I think, you know, every big step in life has its difficulties. It's often scary or intimidating, but truly the way I have always thought about it is what have you got to lose? Give it a go - if it doesn't work out, you've learned some lessons along the way. I think it's really important for us to say that to young people, that it's okay to take risks. And in fact, it's okay to fail. But, the people who are most successful in life often are the ones who had hurdles that they've had to overcome along the way. And I don't, I think nothing risked, nothing gained, right? 
WILSON: Yeah. Well congratulations on the remarkable achievement on the 23 years in the House of Representatives, our longest serving female member. Let's talk about the issues of the day, I'll have to ask you about the election campaign - would you say that it officially, officially kicked off? 
PLIBERSEK: Oh, for sure. Yeah. I think, it's not just the Prime Minister in the high vis and the hard hat that's the tip-off. It's the fact he's gone back to the old slogans from John Howard, you know, ‘interest rates will go up under Labor’, ‘petrol prices will go up’, all the old scare campaigns have been dusted off and dragged out. I put the Halloween decorations away just recently, I feel like maybe Scott Morrison has gone into the big plastic tub and pulled them out again. We're in campaign mode and I say, let’s really, let's do it. Let's bring it on. Because Labor's got such a strong story to tell about making sure that people have got secure work and decent wages, and that if you work hard, your wages are going to go up, and good schools and TAFE and universities, a good health system, aged-care - all the things that Scott Morrison's been letting Australians down on.
WILSON: Are you confident of winning the election early next year? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I learned last election that it doesn't matter what the polls say. You can always have a last-minute reversal. So I don't think confidence the right word, but I think Anthony's doing a terrific job laying out Labor's policies and that people are really hungry, hankering for a change I'd say.
WILSON: Talking about policy, climate and emissions are clearly going to be a big part of the campaign on both sides of politics. When will Labor be releasing its climate policy? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, we've only just got the Government modelling recently, so we’ve got to take a good hard look at that, but there's not going to be any election this side of Christmas and, looks like we're looking more like May if you believe the Prime Minister than March. So, well before then people will be able to look at the details of Labor's renewable energy and climate policies and make their own decisions about whether they want cheaper, cleaner energy and the jobs that come with it. I mean we have already obviously put out quite a few of our policies like the rewiring the nation, which is upgrading the transmission lines so that they're ready to receive that renewable energy and move it around the country as it needs to be moved around the country. And renewable energy apprenticeships and cheaper electric cars, obviously, taking thousands of dollars off the price of an electric car. Those policies are already out there, but there'll be more to come.
WILSON: Does Labor have plans to be even more aggressive with their 2030 targets?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we’re planning to legislate our 2050 target. That's a very big difference between us and the Government. And look, I think it is important for us to be more ambitious than the Government. The Government has really dropped the ball on this. They've had 22 energy policies and are still scrambling around for this most recent one, and we know that the world is moving towards more renewable energy. It's cheaper, people are putting solar panels on their roofs for a reason, they’ve worked out that it saves them money. So the more we do in this area, the more job opportunities we have. And really it's worth reminding people Australia can be world-leading in this, we have discovered so much of the technology right here in Australia. The fact that other countries are overtaking us and that we're losing the jobs and the export dollars that come with that is a real, it's just such a disappointment. We could be a world leader and instead we're following the pack.
WILSON: Well, considering you just mentioned ambition, does that mean you'll be more aggressive then with your 2030 targets than the Government? 
PLIBERSEK: I've said many times we need to be more ambitious than the Government, I don't think there's any surprise there. But all of the details will be available to people well before the next election, and you can bank on the traditional old scare campaign from Scott Morrison - like he said last election electric vehicles are going to end the weekend and now he's got an electric vehicles policy. No doubt, whatever we say he'll be trying to run the same sort of scare campaigns, but we're up for this discussion with Australians. Australians get it honestly, they're putting solar panels on their roofs. 
WILSON: But they want to see your policy though. They want to see what the alternatives are, they want to see the policy. They want to see what's in black and white so to speak. 
PLIBERSEK: And they will. They will well before the election. I can tell you, the call for Labor to be more detailed in our policies from the Government are a bit rich from Scott Morrison when he put out a pamphlet and it's taken him almost a decade in government to come up with this most recent scheme, and then refused for weeks to release the modelling that underpinned what he's going to do. I mean it is a bit rich from him.
WILSON: Tanya as always thank you for your time. And again, congratulations on becoming the longest-serving female member of the House of Representatives. Obviously your first speech in 1998, 23 years later and you're still in the House of Representatives. We really appreciate your time and also the fact you're a good friend of this program. Thank you. 
PLIBERSEK: It's always a pleasure to talk to Jim. Thanks for having me. 
WILSON: Thanks very much. That's Tanya Plibersek, Member for Sydney and a senior Labor MP.