By Tanya Plibersek

30 March 2022



SUBJECTS: Federal Budget; Cost of living; Budget reply; Labor’s plan for secure, well paid jobs.
SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: Each week are joined by the Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women. How are you Tanya?
EMERSON: Well, look, I'm good. Very much a lot of Budget out there at the moment. We did have your colleague Jim Chalmers on early in the program, and if people are worried there, that it's just going to be a feast of Labor - I know that wouldn't worry you Tanya - but we have got Simon Birmingham on the show as well coming up the next hour. So we'll talk to the federal Finance Minister as well about the Budget. Just on petrol prices there, because I put this to Jim as well Tanya, we're getting a lot of our callers coming through to say look, prices are already dropping. Now that might be the cycle, but some of them are saying ‘wow this policy of the federal government's already started to hit petrol prices’. Is that a worry for Labor that people are already giving a tick to the Morrison government over this policy?
PLIBERSEK:  Look I tell you anything that makes life a little bit easier for families is something that we're going to be delighted to hear. I think it's worth remembering that petrol prices, even before the Russians invaded Ukraine, were at almost $2 a litre, and so we do need to keep downward pressure on petrol prices. Of course, the measure that the Government's talking about is only for six months and then we'll have to have a look at what's happening to prices after that. But petrol prices are only one part of the real struggle that families are facing. What they've seen is eight long years of stagnant wages and the price of everything going up.
EMERSON: Well, alright then, so we heard today that Labor's going to back the cost of living relief package in the budget. You're saying that it's only one part of all the problems out there. Is Labor going to promise more cost of living relief, maybe in Anthony Albanese's Budget reply speech tomorrow?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we've already got two policies out there, just as examples, that are better than what the Government is proposing. If you look at our early childhood education and care, our childcare policy, means that around nine out of every ten Australian families would be better off under our plan for cheaper childcare. Same comes to household power bills - we're talking about 250 bucks a year less on people's power bills with our cheaper, cleaner energy policy. So I think we've already got policies out there that would bring down cost of living pressures on families. And of course Labor is always going to stand for more secure work and better wages, and we've got a government that has actually spent eight years - they said, the old Finance Minister said, low wages are a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture and everything they've done has been designed to keep a lid on wages. And the biggest difference we can make to the pressure that families are feeling is making sure that they get a decent day's pay for the hard work they're doing.
EMERSON: Isn't something also then for families out there, you’re talking about families out there - aren't you going to congratulate the Coalition in terms of the unemployment rate. It's 4 per cent, the forecast it's going to go below that, possibly to almost a lowest unemployment rate in almost 50 years. Don't you give the Coalition a tick on that? 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. Look the lower the unemployment rate, the better. But I think if you talk to a lot of families - they don't show up as unemployed if they're working a couple of hours a week, they don't show up as unemployed if one week they're working and the next week they're not. They don't show up as unemployed if they've got an hour of work one week and 10 hours the next week. They don't show up as unemployed if they have to work 4 jobs to make ends meet. They don't show up as unemployed if they're working in aged care and they're working full-time and still struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. So this really big problem of insecure work we see, of low wages and insecure work, really does I think cover up some of the stress that families are under. And the unemployment rate - the lower it is, the better, but we need to look beyond just the rate and look at the security of work and the pay that people are getting as well. 
EMERSON: All right, well the Government is forecasting wages to go up in this next 12 months, in this budget, and the years ahead as well. But from Labor's side of things then well alright then, what is Labor going to -
PLIBERSEK: Just a sec. On the forecast, they've been wrong 52 out of 55 of the last forecasts. They keep saying wages are going to go up and they don't. I'm not sure why you’d believe them this time, when they're hardly ever right in the past.
EMERSON: All right, I put it to you then. All right, how will Labor get wages up?
PLIBERSEK: Well we need to make sure, for example that we are getting same job, same pay - that you don't have these cowboy labour hire firms paying people less to do the same work as someone else in the same business. We need to make sure we've got rights for people working in the gig economy through the Fair Work Commission. We need to make sure that we're providing a proper definition of casual work so that, wherever possible, if people are working for the same employer, same hours every week, they actually have some hope that they'll get permanent work instead of being kept on casual contracts all the time. We need job security. We need to criminalise wage theft. Can you believe we've got a government that voted against criminalising wage theft and making sure it's easier for workers who have been ripped off to get some of the money back? We need to make sure that our public sector has more permanent work instead of all the contractors that we're hiring in the public sector. There's so much we could do, actually to give people a bit more certainty, a bit more predictability. And if they're working hard and their business is doing well, we want to see them get a pay increase. 
EMERSON: Alright then well look, we've got Anthony Albanese, he's going to give his Budget Reply speech tomorrow night. We might then be, given what you've just said then, going to hear him say look in the first year of an Albanese Government wages are going to increase by this level. Is he going to make a promise on that and give a definite figure? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm not going to talk about what's in Anthony's speech tomorrow night. I'm sure that your listeners will be desperate to hear for themselves plans that Labor has for the future.
EMERSON: Because I'm hearing that the speech is not going to have, there is going to be a lot of waffle, a lot of rhetoric, but not many promises are going to be announced. 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, well I think people should tune in and listen for themselves and I think most people know that Labor will always be standing up for more secure work and higher wages for ordinary people in Australia. That's what we've done for over a hundred years of history. 
EMERSON: All right, Tanya Plibersek, good to have you on 4BC Drive and we'll catch you again next week.
PLIBERSEK: Tops to talk to you. See ya.