By Tanya Plibersek

06 October 2021



SUBJECTS: Donation disclosures; Labor’s health polices.

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: We are joined by the shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. How are you Tanya? 
EMERSON: I'm exceptional here. I know you're stuck still in New South Wales, my commiserations about that, we do feel for you down there. The numbers are coming down in New South Wales. That is very good news. But a number of your colleagues are either beaming into Queensland or up here at the moment, especially the ones who are based here in Queensland for this Labor conference today, basically, a cash for access - that's the kind of language that's being used about it. This is a Ministers meeting people who have paid to attend. Now, these cash for access things, both sides of politics do it, the LNP does it still. But it has been condemned in the past, including by Tony Fitzgerald, who headed up the Fitzgerald Inquiry. First up, have you got any involvement in this cash for access today.
PLIBERSEK: No, sadly. No one wants to pay money to have lunch with me.
EMERSON: What do you think about this because a lot of people will be saying, ‘look, this is not right. You shouldn't have to pay to meet the politicians. It creates a double standard and that it makes for some people, a far easier access to Ministers, because they've got deep pockets’.
PLIBERSEK: The first thing to say is, of course, you should be able to meet with your Member of Parliament or a Minister, or a Shadow Minister without paying for access. Of course, you should. And I regularly meet with people who just have an interesting story to tell, they've got a complex problem they need to discuss, or they've got a great idea. We do that all the time, but at the moment, political parties do have to fundraise. Not everybody has 60, 70, or 80 million dollars sitting around like Clive Palmer to fund their own election campaigns. So the important thing is that it's transparent, that it's on the public record, that people know who's doing this stuff and Labor has always been on the side of clearer disclosure. We actually dropped the threshold above which you have to disclose donations down to $1,000 when were in Government and the Liberals put it back up, its at $14,500 now. And as well as lower disclosure thresholds, we would drop it again to a thousand dollars. As well as that lower disclosure threshold, I think we could report much sooner and we should have something closer to real-time disclosure, and in my personal view, I think we should really look at spending caps during election campaigns. Because what we have now is an arms race, you see political parties competing with one another to raise these funds so that they can spend it on advertising, on direct mail, on all of the things that have become common in modern campaigning they're expensive, they're expensive campaigns.
EMERSON: But you don't have to necessarily wait until the rules change to do that. You could, you could take the lead and say well that's not the law but we're gonna have a higher standard. The Greens argue that's what they do- 
PLIBERSEK: Well we did that with foreign donations, we stopped taking foreign donations two years before the law changed and they LNP stop taking those donations. We did it with tobacco. We stopped taking tobacco donations years before the conservatives stopped taking tobacco donation. So I agree with you. It is important to have high standards. It's important to have transparency. We want to make it more transparent but I think as well as that, you know, more accountability, we should really look at what we're spending in campaigns. Because while ever it's a race like this, whenever you've got Clive Palmer for example able to spend $80 million on the last campaign. You've got the risk of being able to buy elections. That's what we really need to protect against.
EMERSON: So, are you saying that everyone who attends this conference today that Labor's holding, I know State Ministers are there. Anthony Albanese, he's beaming in to address the meeting as well. But everyone who's paid to attend, we should know how much they paid and who they were? That should be published?
PLIBERSEK: If they're making a political donation, anybody who makes a political donation, any company that donates, if they're donating above the threshold, that should be clear. And I've got to say, I've been to plenty of these fundraisers before, I meet people at fundraisers. I meet them across a Zoom to discuss an issue. I meet people who've never donated to any political campaign. I meet with people who I know are paid-up LNP members if they've got an interesting story to tell, a good idea, or a problem that needs help. I really think it's important to keep it in perspective. We meet with constituents and organisations all the time
EMERSON: All right there's been a bit of a blow up this week again between the feds in the states, and between Queensland and Canberra. This is about funding for hospital systems. The Queensland Government says, we need more money from the feds, especially if the risk of Covid coming through in a Delta break out. If Labor was in power today, how much more money would you give the Queensland Government for this hospital system? 
PLIBERSEK: I think it's really important to acknowledge that the states are doing the heavy lifting. We've got a once-in-a-generation pandemic, and that's going to require extra assistance. It's not fair for Scott Morrison to say, ‘yeah, here I am side by side with the Premiers’, but when we asked for more help with the hospital system, he says, ‘sorry, you're on your own’. You’ve got to remember this is the government that spent $13 billion giving JobKeeper money to companies that actually saw their profits increase during the Covid period. So, it's not like the money isn't there for the hospital system. They're choosing not to invest. They're saying that they've done their share. I think most Australians would see it as a partnership between the federal and the state governments, and they'd be saying to Scott Morrison, ‘you've got to do your share too’.
EMERSON: How much more would you give the states? They – Queensland, it says it wants more from the feds. If you were in power at the moment, how much more would you give?
PLIBERSEK: We haven't announced our final health policies before the election, but I can tell you. Labor has always been the party of Medicare. We've always stood up for our public hospital system. We're so grateful to the nurses, the doctors, for cleaners, the cooks in our hospitals who've been looking after our patients and we will always be there side by side with our hard-working health professionals to keep Australians healthy and safe.
EMERSON: All right Tanya Plibersek, we’ll catch you again next week. Thanks for being on the show today.
PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure take care.