By Tanya Plibersek

16 June 2021




SUBJECTS: Minimum wage; Biloela family; QAnon.

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: Each week I am joined by the Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. How are you, Tanya?
EMERSON: Well I'm good. I mean, I saw this breaking news coming through and now I've just got to surprise you with this, but the Fair Work Commission has increased the minimum wage by 2.5 per cent. Now the new minimum wage will be $772.60 or $20.33 an hour, so that's gone up by 2.5 per cent. I don't know, what do you think was a fair increase? Is that what, is that the minimum that was being argued for?
PLIBERSEK: I think any increase is welcome, but most workers are really struggling to keep up with inflation. The cost of living is growing faster than wages in Australia, and that's a real problem. Living standards are going backwards for ordinary families. It would have been great if the government sent a strong message that they wanted to see a decent increase at the bottom end, but it's particularly true as companies do better. I know that a lot of businesses have been struggling in recent months with Covid, but as the economy improves, as businesses become more profitable, it's really good if they actually share a bit of that with their staff, because those people, when they spend their increased wages - buying a cup of coffee or taking the kids out for pizza on a Friday night, that's how we get our economy back on track. They're creating demand and activity in our economy. That's what we want to see. 
EMERSON: Well, the Fair Work Commission is independent there. It has granted this $18.80 extra a week in the minimum wage so we'll see what the further reaction is. Let me just turn to the Biloela family. We saw Alex Hawke, the Immigration Minister, come out yesterday and announce that they are going to reunite this Tamil family back in Perth, that was after the youngest daughter there was flown from Christmas Island because of illness and the mother accompanied her. The family is now back together in Perth, but no decision to let them be in community detention in Biloela where they came from before they're put into detention. Are they going to remain there in Perth?
PLIBERSEK: We've spent millions of dollars on keeping this one family away from Biloela. It doesn't make a lot of sense. We'd like to see if there are other visas that this family can apply for. There is still a number of legal matters that are outstanding, but at the end of the day, the Minister has discretion. The Minister can use their judgement to suggest another form of visa. Don't forget, when Peter Dutton was the Minister for Immigration, he was able to get a nanny in for the family of a mate of his, just because he used his discretion. It seems bizarre that they can't in this case. 
EMERSON: But the nanny wasn't flown in or didn't come through on a boat, came through on a plane - these are different circumstances. I know that's an easy line to put out there about Peter Dutton but these are completely different circumstances. 
PLIBERSEK: Nobody wants to see the boats restart, but this has been going on for years and it's costing millions of dollars and there's a community where this guy's got a job, my understanding is he works in an abattoir. We know we're short of abattoir workers in Australia. He had a job, paying taxes, kids born in Australia, honestly, how long are we going to drag this out for? 
EMERSON: I think a lot of people do worry about the cost involved in this, how long it is gone on for, but isn't the reason part of it, why it has gone for so long, is the continual legal challenges. I mean, it's gone to the AAT. It's gone to the Federal Court. It's gone to the Court of Appeal. It's gone to the High Court. 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, and any time the Minister could have used his or her discretion to - depending on which Minister you talking about - to make a decision that there was another visa category that the family could apply for, they could apply on shore, there's a range of different things that they could have done. I think the fact that we have spent so much time and energy pursuing a family where they've got a home, they've got a job, paying taxes, contributing to the community, working in an area where there's skill shortages, it just doesn't make a lot of sense.
EMERSON: Let me just turn to the Four Corners program on Monday. This is the one that was making the links between the Prime Minister and a friend of the family who is a QAnon supporter. It has had much follow up in the last couple of days that story. Did it have much substance in it? Was it a story worthy of being reported?
PLIBERSEK: The Prime Minister is not responsible for his friends' political views. I've got friends who vote Liberal and they're entitled to their views. What's a bit weird about this story is it looks like some of this QAnon language ended up in one of the Prime Minister's speeches and it was a really important speech. It was the apology to the victims of institutional child sexual abuse. That's just weird and there's a question there to be explained. 
EMERSON: So you do feel like Labor will continue to pursue the Prime Minister over these alleged links?
PLIBERSEK: We're not going to go out to anyone for their friends. People's friends are their own business, that's really not our business at all, but it would be good I think if the Prime Minister explained why he's got language, that seems to be QAnon language in what was really a very important speech.
EMERSON: All right, Tanya Plibersek, always good to talk. We'll catch you again next week. 
PLIBERSEK: Great to talk to you. See you.