By Tanya Plibersek

01 December 2021




SUBJECTS: Retiring MPs; Federal Election; 2022 Draft Sitting Calendar; Jenkins Report; Maeve's Law.

Every week we are joined by the Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. We wanted to go to her a little bit earlier, but she was caught up in divisions in federal Parliament, but we've got her here now. Tanya great to have you on the show this afternoon.


EMERSON: Now, let's go first off to the news coming out of Canberra today about Greg Hunt and Christian Porter. First off, Greg Hunt. It hasn't been made official yet, expecting that the federal Health Minister will announce this tomorrow, that he won't be re-contesting after 20 years in Parliament. Does it come as a shock that Greg Hunt would decide during the middle of a pandemic, as Health Minister, not to re-contest the election?

PLIBERSEK: There's been nothing formal from Greg Hunt, so I'm not going to comment on that. There are lots of people leaving the parliament at this election. I wish all of them well, whoever they are. I wish them well, but nothing official from Greg yet.

EMERSON: All right, but it is official from Christian Porter that he will not be re-contesting his West Australian seat of Pearce at the next election. Clearly he's been under immense pressure with the rape allegations, which he clearly and vehemently denied. But also over the donations to fund his legal case. He has repeatedly said when questioned in the last months that he would be re-contesting, but today officially the notice came through from him, that he will not be. Is that a surprise?

PLIBERSEK: No, and I think that's the right decision. 

EMERSON: Why is it the right decision?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I'm not going to rake over all this stuff again, but I certainly think it's just simply not tenable for a Member of Parliament to take a million dollars of anonymous donations, refuse to say who they were from, and expect that will be okay. It's just not, it's just not acceptable in anybody's book. 

EMERSON: All right, then, well you say it was untenable for him not to go, so look, if he had remained would Labor continue to have prosecuted the case against him in terms of those donations?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think people deserve to know who's funding their politicians. There's a very good reason that we have disclosure rules around political donations. If you can't say where the money is coming from, or you're not prepared to say where the money's coming from, you shouldn't take the donation. 

EMERSON: All right then. So look, are you expecting other senior Coalition figures to announce their retirement before the election? 

PLIBERSEK: Look, I don't know. And we've had a few on our own side that are going as well, and it's not unusual that every election, some people announced their retirement. And like I say, most people come to politics with very best of intentions on both sides. Most people work very hard, very diligently for their communities and I genuinely wish them well in whatever their next adventure is.

EMERSON: Look the draft parliamentary calendar has now come out, the budget due on March 29th, and then as well we're expecting probably an election in May. Is that what your expectation is now, or do you think Scott Morrison could call it earlier than that? 

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think the election could be in March, basically Scott Morrison will call the election for whenever he thinks he has the best chance of winning. So, we'll see as Christmas passes how Scott Morrison thinks he's doing. There's a very good chance that he'll call the election in that week after Australia Day and Parliament won't come back at all. If that doesn't happen at all, it'll be called a little bit later, and we might have as few as 10 sitting days in the whole first half of the year. It's really pretty extraordinary how little Parliament is likely to sit in the first half next year and pretty disappointing too because, like you said a minute ago, we are in - we are still in the throes of a pandemic. And there's not just the health challenge that we need to continue to manage. We also need to rebuild our economy. I mean Australians are feeling stressed. They've seen prices going up. Petrol, rent, childcare. Everything's going up, wages are going backwards. It's really important that our parliament offers hope and offers stability, and we need to be sitting for a bit more than 10 days in the first half of the year to do that.

EMERSON: Now I'm talking to Tanya Plibersek who is also the Shadow Minister for Education, Shadow Minister for Women. Tanya, we saw the report come down yesterday. Look, it was disturbing in terms of the evidence it presented but also just the broader sweep of how dysfunctional, how really repulsive some of the conduct has been in federal parliament and the extent of it. Now, the Prime Minister came out yesterday and said, look he'll act in good faith, considering the 28 recommendations from the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's report there. But seeking bipartisan support. When would you want to see some of these recommendations implemented? Do you expect that they should be there in place before the next election?

PLIBERSEK: Look, we're working through the recommendations now, but I think there are some very good and important ideas there. We're talking to our staff first of all, because obviously it's the staff that are most affected by these decisions. We had 1700 people contribute to this really important report and I think we need to seize this opportunity to make sure that Parliament House is a safe workplace, whether you're an MP, or a staffer, or a gardener, or a librarian. But we also need to remember that Parliament House, while this this report is shocking in so many ways, sexual harassment and sexual assault are all too common in the broader Australian community as well. So as parliamentarians, we need to make our workplace safe for our staff, but we need to make every Australian workplace safe. You know, whether you're a first year medical intern, or a naval cadet, or a bus driver or a factory worker, or a retail worker, or a nurse or a medical intern - no one should go to work in fear of sexual harassment, or harassment or, God forbid, sexual assault.

EMERSON: Well, hopefully we will see the recommendations implemented sooner. Look, it was a damning report and I'd urge anyone out there who has the opportunity to read that report, because it really - I think federal Parliament, I've worked in federal Parliament, obviously, been a parliamentarian myself. - federal Parliament should be the gold standard of behaviour, not what we saw in that report yesterday. But Tanya Plibersek glad we could get you on the show today.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks for being so understanding about the division bells going and votes. We had actually, Scott, a really important vote just then, Maeve's Law, which is to allow mitochondrial donation to prevent really terrible birth defects for little babies. So it was the  Parliament at its best. A lot of bipartisanship this afternoon. 

EMERSON: No worries at all, Tanya we'll catch you again next week. 

PLIBERSEK: Bye. Take care.