By Tanya Plibersek

12 November 2021



SUBJECTS: Federal Labor’s commitment to build a $50M CQ University campus in Cairns; Federal election; Scott Morrison’s mishandling of submarine deal and relationship with France; Electric vehicles.

MURRAY JONES, HOST: Good morning, it's 846 4CA. Just a few days ago, I had to run some errands coming back to the radio station. I saw Jim Chalmers walking past the radio station and thought, I'll have to try and grab him. But he was walking further down because it's right next to the radio station, between here and the Cairns Convention Centre, earmarked for at least $50 million, but $50 million at least from Federal Labor with respect to a brand new campus for CQUniversity. It's exciting stuff. Joining me this morning to talk a little bit more about that promise is the Shadow Minister for Education and Women, Tanya Plibersek, good morning. 
JONES: Beautiful sunshiny day. We've got to get you up here in this part of the world. 
PLIBERSEK: I can't wait to get back there. Honestly, I can't wait. 
JONES: Well, I mean, there's so much to talk about particularly with students, because I guess this opens the door – a $50 million commitment, if they get across the line at the next election, Federal Labor. It's a rather large injection for CQU.
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely, and our candidate for Leichhardt, Elida Faith has been campaigning very hard for this, with local council, with the university obviously. This is a great opportunity. The block there on the corner of Grafton and Hartley Streets has been vacant for a long time. We expect about 300 jobs in the construction period, but we're talking about doubling the number of CQU students to about four thousand, which will be a great boost for local businesses. And, of course, the most important thing is it means that people from Cairns, from Far North Queensland more generally, can study and stay close to home. We know we've got skills shortages, particularly in health and allied health services, advanced manufacturing - if we can teach people closer to home, they're going to go out and fill those job vacancies and they're going to stay in their local community. And that's a great opportunity for the next generation of young Queenslanders.
JONES: And hopefully with international travel being back on the cards, not too far away, international students - because we know that Australia is deemed to be the pariah just in the last couple of weeks with some issues, with respect to diplomatic issues on the international front – but actually having those international students coming to such a beautiful region, it actually is such an important thing for Australia moving forward, and just in relation to international relationships.
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. So this new campus means that you've got the great education and job opportunities to go with the great lifestyle that we know in Cairns has. And attracting International students - of course you get the student, you get the money that they're putting into the local community through their rent, through every meal they buy, every time they go out for a drink. But quite often, their little brother or their little sister comes to study, mum and dad come and visit. It's a great boost for the local economy. 
JONES: And I think for people that have maybe travelled and spent time in Australia and studied here, they understand the culture, they understand Australian people, they go back overseas and they're often really good ambassadors for our country as well. 
PLIBERSEK: 100 per cent, yeah. They've got a really good view of Australia that they bring home with them. But they also, quite often you end up having these business relationships - they see a Cairns business and they go 'that product would go really well where I'm from' and they end up being sort of business ambassadors, as well as cultural ambassadors. 
JONES: Look, it's been described by the Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor Nick Klomp from CQU as a nation-building project, and it's going to be directly outside my window where I sit and work each day. So, such a project, I think will be very entertaining actually.
PLIBERSEK: Well, you'll get to watch storey by storey go up, and then you'll start to see those students, those young, local kids able to get their dream job because they get an education closer to home. That's a really great outcome 
JONES: Now, $50 million, and of course that comes back down to the next federal election going to Labor. I was talking to the Leader just a few weeks ago about possibly a December election. Do you think that's looking a little bit more remote now? 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think we've probably missed the window for a December election. But early in the new year – any time before May next year is when the election needs to be, and the truth is Scott Morrison will go when it suits him, when he thinks he's got the best chance. So you see a lot of a lot of Scott Morrison at the moment during his kind of fake tradie act. I think that means there might be an election in the wind. 
JONES: So it seems like unofficial campaigning has started. Let's talk to a letter to the editor that I saw in the Cairns Post this morning - it was just a short text. It said, 'it's a bit presumptuous of ScoMo to say "he won't cop sledging of Australia". It seems to me Macron was sledging him, not Australia. There's a big difference.' That was written by Atticus in Cairns, and I think that's probably a pretty fair call because it really was ScoMo that was being sledged, not Australia as a whole. 
PLIBERSEK: For sure. We have a long, strong, deep relationship with France. They're are major European power, but they're also major Pacific Power, and I think the real problem - there are two real problems here. The first is the Liberals and the Nationals have been in power for close to a decade and we still don't actually have a contract to build the new submarines. If we do sign up with this American submarine, it'll be 20 years before we see one. And we've spent billions of dollars, billions of taxpayers' dollars on the French project with effectively nothing to show for it except a much worse relationship with France than at the beginning of the project. Really at the end of the day, we should choose the submarine that suits Australia. No body is arguing anything other than we need to pick the submarine that meets our needs best, our security needs best. But if you're going to cancel a contract like this, leaking private text messages - world leaders have to be able to talk to other world leaders confidentially about things that really matter in Australia's interests. If other world leaders think that their emails or their text messages are going to end up on the front page of newspapers, how can they trust Scott Morrison next time there is something important for Australia's interests to be discussed.?
JONES: Now look, some have suggested that it may be for a want of wilful ignorance that Macron possibly did not respond to a text from the Prime Minister. And the Prime Minister's obviously saying that he's got clean hands in relation to this. But that leaking of the text, I guess, has been the real diplomatic mistake.
PLIBERSEK: It's just it's just a shoddy thing to do, isn't it? Just shoddy, shabby, terrible.
JONES: Look in the last couple of days there’s obviously been a lot of talking about electric vehicles. And I've replayed some of the comments by Michaelia Cash, by the PM in the lead-up, to the 2019 election -
PLIBERSEK: We all remember them, don't we. ‘It's going to ruin the weekend. You can't toe your boat. You can't toe your caravan’. It looks like they've put their finally got on board with the electric vehicle.
JONES: Well, some people have said that the last election was the climate change election. It was not a one-issue narrow election, there was a lot of things at play, but what's your take on, I guess, the suggestion that the Prime Minister has basically copied Bill Shorten’s policy with respect to electric vehicles and just put it out there, despite all the rhetoric over so many years?
PLIBERSEK:  I think most people get that Scott Morrison trashed electric vehicles at the last election, and he's come on board now. But I'd say it's not the same policy, because what Labor has always tried to do is make it cheaper for ordinary people to choose to buy an electric vehicle. And this policy that Scott Morrison's announced still doesn't bring down the upfront costs. Most Australians say yes, I'm interested in buying an electric vehicle, tell me more. And then they work out that if you look at the cheapest electric vehicle available in Australia, there are eight cheaper than that available in the UK. So we still have these quite high upfront costs for a lot of electric vehicles. We’ve got to get those costs down. And so Labor's policy would take thousands of dollars off the cost of an electric vehicle. So take something like a Nissan Leaf, about fifty thousand dollars - it would be about more than two thousand dollars cheaper because we're getting rid of import tariffs. And some people salary sacrifice for their cars, they package them up through work, they pay fringe benefits tax. If we take off that fringe benefits tax, the same model would be about nine thousand dollars a year cheaper as well. So you can see huge savings and of course, you know that they cost virtually nothing to run. And we need to look at other issues too. We need to make sure that the charging stations are there. But there are people who are keen to do this, we’ve got to make it more affordable for them to make this choice.
JONES: And I think that's one of the things, even though there may be some cost with respect to the transition, as a long-term investment there’s no doubt about it that it's worthwhile doing.
PLIBERSEK: Definitely cheaper to run for sure.
JONES: And look, you know, with research development when it comes to vehicles, the major car companies have not have not done anything to do with petrol-driven vehicles for years. The only things that are going to be available are electric vehicles around the corner in any event.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. You’re so right Murray. A lot of the big car manufacturers are saying we've just made the last of our internal combustion engine vehicles. So Australia needs to make sure that we've got our charging stations right, that we're getting the infrastructure ready for when this big change comes. Nobody's saying, Labor’s not saying, we should force people - but if we make those cars cheaper, I think a lot of people will choose them.
JONES: Yeah, I guess it comes down to incentives. And look, you know, one of the scary things too is that some of the car companies have been quite open and said Australia's become the dumping ground of obsolete vehicles that are going to cost us in the long term because we're just not moving fast enough in this space.
PLIBERSEK: And isn't it sad that that's not like nutty greenies saying that, that’s the car manufacturers themselves saying that Australia has become the dumping ground of the most polluting cars in the world. How sad is that? We are going backwards, we’re behind the rest of the world when we could be a leader. And in being a leader, we could let Australians drive cheaper cars.
JONES: Interesting Comments about a range of subjects, particularly locally here with CQU. It's been great to talk to you this morning. Shadow Minister for Education and Women, Tanya Plibersek, and have a wonderful day.
PLIBERSEK: You too Murray. Always a pleasure talking to you.