By Tanya Plibersek

14 December 2021




SUBJECTS: Visit to Eden-Monaro; Labor’s plan for uni and TAFE; Housing Affordability Future Fund; Jenkins Report.

SIMON LAUDER, HOST: Federal Labor MP Tanya Plibersek is the Opposition's spokeswoman on Education and Women, two portfolios she's had in mind on a visit to the south-east. And this morning she's in Tathra. Good morning. 


LAUDER: Thanks so much. What have you been doing? 

PLIBERSEK: Well yesterday I met with some fantastic womens services in Bega, talking about local needs for emergency accommodation and better support for women and children leaving domestic violence. Today, I'm meeting with a bunch of people to talk about education, access to university and TAFE. I'll be in Bega again today at the University of Wollongong’s campus there, and I'll be meeting some local businesswomen at lunch time as well. So, it's both portfolios - we’ve been talking about education, about making sure that people are able to get the TAFE or uni education they want to get the job that they are after, and also about the sort of services that we need locally. 

LAUDER: And Labor recently announced plans to offer extra university places and free TAFE to address skills shortages. Meanwhile, the federal government has announced $200 million to help some universities commercialise research. Do you support the Government's measure on that front as well?

PLIBERSEK: Well, of course we support commercialisation of the brilliant inventions and discoveries in our universities, but it's worth saying that because this federal government gave universities no help during Covid, in fact they changed the rules three times to stop public universities getting JobKeeper, we've seen about 40,000 university staff lose their jobs, including 7,000 researchers. Right now universities are still waiting to find out whether they've been successful with the Australian Research Council grants for the next year. That's another 5,000 researchers who don't know if they've got a job next year. So, you'll forgive me for being a little bit cynical about what the Government is proposing when they're not prepared to back our brilliant researchers. And in fact, thousands of them who have lost their jobs have gone overseas or gone out of research all together. In contrast we've got a plan to, as you say, help 20,000 extra students go to university and also almost half a million free TAFE places. My colleague Kristy McBain, who's the member for Eden-Monaro, has been telling us all the time how hard it is for kids down here to get an apprenticeship. There are 200 fewer apprentices in her electorates than when the Liberals first came to office. I was talking to people yesterday who were saying kids need to drive to Cooma or Canberra to do the practical elements of their apprenticeships, even though there are skill shortages right up and down the coast here. So, you're expecting a seventeen year old to get in their car and drive the Cooma to do the practical elements of their apprenticeship? It's just very hard to see how they're going to do that. 

LAUDER: Tanya Plibersek, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that housing is a huge issue here in the South East, a shortage of housing and housing affordability as well. Labor has walked away from the negative gearing policy it took to the last election. What is Labor going to offer up instead? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, we've got a $10 billion Housing Affordability Future Fund that would help build affordable housing - both emergency accommodation, for example, for the women and children we were talking to yesterday who are escaping domestic violence, but also affordable housing particularly for people who don't qualify for public housing, they might be say a nurse or a teacher a police officer, but they're still finding it really hard to afford the sort of rents that you see on the coast, particularly around Christmas time. So, I was hearing a lot yesterday from people saying what happens is that they want to offer jobs to say, someone working in a cafe or a restaurant, they identify someone who would be a fit for the business and then that person says: “Where am I going to live?”. You're missing out on the opportunity of growing your business because there's nowhere for the staff to live and, even worse than that, the rising rates of homelessness because people just can't afford local rent. So, our Housing Affordability Future Funds will build up to 20,000 new homes over the next 5 years. 

LAUDER: Tanya Plibersek I know you've got to go, another busy day ahead, but I want to ask you about the Jenkins report. Pretty scathing report into the behaviour in Parliament House and the safety of that workplace, particularly for women. You've been an MP since 1998. Has it become worse or any better in that time?

PLIBERSEK: I think in some respects it's better. I'd say the biggest single difference in my time is that when I arrived in Canberra, one in four members of parliament for the Labor party were female and now we're at half. So having great colleagues like Kristy McBain come into Parliament has changed my life completely. It’s just so much better to have a critical mass of women, it has changed our culture. Sadly, that's not the case across the whole Parliament and I think there are obviously still huge challenges particularly for the staff. I think the Jenkins review reveals that we still have too much sexual harassment, too much bullying in Parliament house. But there's something I'd say about that: we absolutely need to implement the recommendations that Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins made about Parliament House - 

LAUDER: All of them?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, absolutely all of them. But, she had another report not so long ago about every Australian workplace. She found that 40 percent of Australian women have been sexually harassed at work in the last 5 years. We need to make sure that every workplace is safe, so that whether you're a first-year medical intern, or a naval cadet, or a police officer, or a factory worker, or a bus driver, or a retail worker, or someone working in a cafe - you are safe at work. We need to go back and implement the recommendations of Kate Jenkins’ first report to make sure that every Australian is safe at work.

LAUDER: Tanya Plibersek, enjoy the beach this morning and the rest of your time in the South-east. Thanks so much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Great to talk to you. Thank you.