By Tanya Plibersek

15 December 2021



SUBJECTS: Queensland; Federal Election; NAPLAN.

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: Every week, we are joined by the federal Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. How are you, Tanya?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: I’m great Emmo, it’s our last talk for the year, I think, you and me. I’m going to miss you.

EMERSON: Well I’ll miss you too. But I suspect we’ll have plenty of time to talk next year. Strap yourself in, it’s going to be a busy ride next year I think.

PLIBERSEK: That’s right. Exactly.

EMERSON: Now it’s already been busy here, because obviously the borders have opened, Anthony Albanese, your leader, he came up here on Monday, he fled on I think by Tuesday, but he’s coming back up at the end of the week. And I was told during the week that he was going to spending his holidays up here in Queensland. So Queensland clearly is going to be feeling the love from Albo.

PLIBERSEK: Queensland always feels the love from Labor. And I know that Anthony is really looking forward to having his holiday in Queensland. He’ll be working hard up to that holiday, and after that holiday, to make sure that Queenslanders understand what it is that Labor is offering at the next election - which is policies that mean you have a good job with decent pay, and the hospitals and schools and aged care and disability supports that you need, and a clean energy policy that will bring down prices and create jobs. That’s what he’ll be talking about I’m sure.

EMERSON: Well we’re feeling the love from ScoMo today, Scott Morrison the Prime Minister.

PLIBERSEK: You’re making me shiver!

EMERSON: Oh now now, where’s the Christmas spirit from you Tanya? Look, we’re obviously going to be inundated by pollies for the next six months. Are you still thinking an election May rather than March?

PLIBERSEK: Oh look, I think the Prime Minister will just go when he thinks has the best chance of winning. If things are looking good in March, he’ll go in March. If things are looking a bit dicey, he’ll wait til May and leave it til the last minute. And really the Christmas break will decide that and we’ll see how he goes.

EMERSON: What is the rule for you, in terms of how late into the year – we’re in a campaign mode now clearly – how late in the year can pollies like Albo and ScoMo campaign? Right up to Christmas Eve or you’ve got to pull up stumps a little bit earlier than that, to make it look decent?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rules about this stuff Emmo, as you know, but I think people get a bit cross if you’re knocking on their door on Christmas Eve, or robodialling them on Boxing Day. So I think the general think is that we’d normally take off the period between Christmas and the first half of January from campaigning. Of course people will still be preparing for the campaign, and working behind the scenes, but I don’t think anybody really wants to hear from politicians in the first half of January.

EMERSON: Alright then, well there was a policy announcement today from the Prime Minister, here in Queensland. This was all about giving young people a voice when it comes to online safety. Now is this a good announcement from the Coalition? Surely Labor’s in favour of dealing with the issue of social media and online bullying, particularly of young kids?

PLIBERSEK: oh yeah, I think we all are. In fact, we made similar announcements in June this year. I think it’s really important to look at the online world that our kids are operating in, and I’m particularly concerned about the fact that the research shows that the average first time that Australian kids see pornography they’re ten years old. And I’m really worried that our kids are learning sex education from violent and degrading material that they’re confronted with online. I do think we need to do better and protect them from that.

EMERSON: So is it a unity ticket then from the Coalition and Labor, acknowledging that this is a problem? I mean, people out there get sick and tired of hearing – both sides of politics, and I’m not just talking about now, but in the past as well, and at all levels of government too - on some of these really key and important issues, like this, in terms of protecting our kids from trolls and bullying on social media: why isn’t there more of a unity ticket, both sides get together and say ‘let’s deal with this together and have a unified policy’?   

PLIBERSEK: Yeah. Well, in June this year there was legislation that the Government proposed, Labor moved a successful amendment that set up a formal advisory council on the new online safety act, to help the Safety Commissioner with the very important work she’s doing. That’s obviously somewhere we had agreement. And earlier this year as well, in June, Labor announced that we would have a youth advisory council, very similar to what the Government is announcing now. So I think there’s a lot of agreement that young people need a voice and that we need to protect them from some of the worst elements of what’s happening online.

EMERSON: I’m talking to Tanya Plibersek, the federal Shadow Minister for Education. Tanya, the NAPLAN results came out today. It always raises issues. We do hear from teachers and some principals saying ‘let’s get rid of NAPLAN, it’s not a fair test, it raises anxiety amongst kids doing the test’. But from parents, we also hear they like the idea of having a sense of how their school is going, how the education system is going. What’s your view of it? Is NAPLAN a good thing to have?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think it’s a very useful test, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. So it’s important to know whether particular schools are going OK, or are falling behind, particular year groups in a school, particular classrooms, maybe some kids are struggling. It’s a good test to identify that. But you need to have other information about a school and how it’s performing as well. Is the student welfare good? How’s it’s sporting program? And all the rest of it. I suppose the thing that really concerns me about these most recent NAPLAN results is that come against a background where Australia has been really falling behind on the international testing. In fact, in the last lot of international tests we’ve recorded the worst results in reading, maths and science since international testing began. And that’s a real worry for me. And that’s across Australia, across all groups, the most advanced kids, the kids who are really struggling, are all falling backwards compared to how Australian kids did in the past, and how our international comparison countries are going. And you’ve got to say, that’s because the original Gonski funding model that would have put a lot more money into regional schools, small schools, schools that are struggling – this government abandoned that. So there is a real funding disparity, particularly for our poorest schools.

EMERSON: Tanya Plibersek, it’s been a pleasure having you as a regular guest this year, on 4BC Drive. And as I said, we’ll hopefully be spending a lot of time talking next year in an election year, but again thanks for being on the show and hopefully you have a good Christmas.
PLIBERSEK: Oh Scott, I hope you do too. And your family and all your listeners as well. I hope they have a happy and a safe Christmas, and that 2022 is a better year for all of us.