By Tanya Plibersek

11 May 2021



TUESDAY, 11 MAY 2021 

SUBJECTS: The Budget; Childcare; Debt and deficit; Andrew Laming. 
NEIL BREEN, HOST: The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, will deliver his second pandemic Budget tonight. He's promising it will be a boost for families, women, the aged. He's making a lot of promises. As Parliament kicks into gear, a lot of eyes will also be on the member for Bowman here in Brisbane, Andrew Laming. As you know, over the weekend, more than a hundred constituents in his electorate marched through Cleveland demanding he leave Parliament immediately. 

It comes after Laming announced he wouldn't contest the next election, following a string of allegations regarding inappropriate behaviour. He denies the allegations. The Courier Mail is reporting Redland Mayor, Karen Williams, is considering running in Laming's seat and joining the LNP. She's been the mayor of Redlands since 2012. A councillor since 2004. There's a lot around in the halls of Canberra today. Tanya Plibersek, she's the Shadow Minister for Women and Education. She joins me now. Good morning to you Shadow Minister.


BREEN: It's a big week in Canberra. The Federal Government's talking a big line about spending, and boosting the economy. But Labor to this stage anyway, haven't seen the fine print, doesn't appear to be too impressed with the Budget?

PLIBERSEK: We haven't seen the fine print. And we know that this Government's good at talking a big game, and then they don't deliver. The Prime Minister, classic ad man, gives you a great headline and then it's all “T&Cs may apply”. He really, you know, last year, just one example, the centrepiece of last year's Budget was this JobMaker program. It was supposed to create almost half a million jobs and it's created about a thousand. So I don't know, you've got to read the fine print. 

BREEN: One of the things that there will be fine print in tonight, and I was reading yesterday, I think I read it in the Australian, Tanya Plibersek, there's going to be a like a 50-page addendum to the Budget, which deals specifically with women's issues. What do you understand that's going to entail?

PLIBERSEK: This is what every government has done for about the last 30 years, until Tony Abbott stopped the practice. And it usually goes to issues like what's happening in childcare, what's happening in women's health, and so on. It's just a pretty normal Budget practice. It's a good idea.

BREEN: And are you expecting like the Federal Government to throw a lot at women's issues because of the problems they've been in over the last six months or so in Canberra on this issue?

PLIBERSEK: I'm expecting the Government to spend money, or to promise to spend money, wherever they've got a political problem. And certainly, the announcements they’ve made over the last few days about women's health and women's safety are absolutely designed to fix a political problem for Scott Morrison. Of course, any extra spending is welcome. This is a Government that since 2013 has cut women's pay and working conditions. They've cut family benefits, they've cut childcare, they've cut schools and TAFE, and Medicare. And they've actually, just weeks ago, tried to make it so that women would drain their own superannuation accounts if they were fleeing domestic violence. They'd fund their own escape from domestic violence by draining their super, leaving them in poverty in old age. So you've got to, like I say, you've got to read the fine print. Nothing wrong with saying we want to spend more on helping people escape domestic violence, but when you look at the details it's not always what it says on the packet. 

BREEN: Do you like the plan for a 95 per cent rebate for childcare for a second and third child, for people of a certain income of course, it won't be a free-for-all for everyone - do you like that plan? 

PLIBERSEK: I like Labor's plan better, because Labor's plan makes childcare cheaper for more families. Three-quarters of the families that benefit under Labor's plan, miss out under the Government's plan. And I think it's a bit confusing. Like I'm not really sure why it only applies to second and subsequent children. So you get, you know, you get a rebate if you've got two kids in childcare at the same time, that's helpful. Not many people have three kids or four kids in childcare at the same time. So, so many people will miss out on this. And the other thing that I'm a little bit worried about is that there's nothing in here that prevents this just being taken as profits by some childcare centre operators. So it might not really help families in the way that we want it to.

BREEN: At this stage it looks as though the deficit will come in and around a $161 billion this year. We have to spend I suppose to keep the economy strong, but that's a massive amount of debt. 

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it's a massive amount of debt. And it actually- of course, we do need to spend to keep jobs growing. That's what we did during the Global Financial Crisis. I have to say the debt we're running up is, you know, massive compared to what happened during the Global Financial Crisis. It worries me because, you know, our kids and grandkids will be paying for this. So we need to make sure that every dollar counts. That when we're spending taxpayers’ money we're actually creating jobs, but also leaving something for the future. Infrastructure’s a really good example of that. You know, of course, roads, bridges, all the big stuff. But also upgrading say our TAFE facilities, our schools, our hospitals, making sure that we're able to give good quality care to every part of Australia. 

BREEN: Tanya Plibersek, your state counterparts here in Queensland, the Labor Government think Queensland gets ripped off. Do you think Queensland gets ripped off by the Morrison Government? 

PLIBERSEK: I know that the Queensland Government has been calling for more infrastructure spending in Queensland, and I think that's justified. That Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund: we're actually calling that the ‘no actual infrastructure fund’, because the Government’s been so slow to spend it. And every single year, they underspend what they promised. Like last year, the Federal Government spent $1.7 billion less on infrastructure than they promised. And they're averaging an underspend of more than a billion dollars a year. So even if Queensland gets a promise, there's no guarantee it'll actually get delivered. 

BREEN: Your colleague Penny Wong came up to Brisbane at the weekend.  She joined the protest against Andrew Laming in Queensland. And we agree too, Parliament would be better off without him, wouldn't it? 

PLIBERSEK: Yes. I mean really, yes, absolutely. I have never heard of a Member of Parliament trolling his own constituents online – like that is bizarre behaviour. And it seems like some people are worried, even now, that he'll come after them. It is just extraordinary behaviour. And the Prime Minister has to remove him from the LNP. He has to be removed from the Government. If the Prime Minister doesn't get rid of him, he's saying that that behaviour is acceptable.

BREEN: Well, we expect to see him sitting in Parliament today. Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much for joining us on 4BC Breakfast. It'll be a big night tonight. We'll watch with interest, and then we'll watch Anthony Albanese's reply speech on Thursday. Thank you.