By Tanya Plibersek

29 October 2020





SUBJECTS: Private lives of MPs; Labor’s Childcare plans; Incident at Doha airport.
ALAN JONES, HOST: So Tanya, it's you and me. I don't know how we're going to manage here. I mean, it'll be, we'll have a little bit of a ding dong. Can I raise a point with you that was made by the former Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, and I wanted to ask the ladies this question, who said that things quote "might have been different" unquote for his career if he'd received the same treatment as Gladys Berejiklian and that the New South Wales Premier had been given quote "a leave pass" on her personal life. What are your thoughts about those comments Tanya?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well Alan, I actually said about Barnaby at the time that his personal life was really nobody's business. I did feel very sorry for his wife and daughters, but that's not really anyone's business but his family's.
JONES: Good on you, good on you.
PLIBERSEK: And I feel the same way about Gladys Berejiklian.
JONES: Absolutely.
PLIBERSEK: Her personal life is her own business. In both cases the only questions to answer are has there been any misuse of public entitlements? Has there been any special treatment, in the Premier's case.
JONES: Correct.
PLIBERSEK: Has there been any special treatment of her boyfriend? These are, there are legitimate questions about that sort of behaviour, but people's personal lives, that's their own business.
JONES: And I should just say to our viewers, Barnaby Joyce and his partner Vikki Campion were cleared of misusing Parliamentary expenses during their affair. He was given no concessions, the inquiry found whatsoever. I've got to say here again that I thought Turnbull's performance in the Barnaby Joyce affair was disgraceful. He went into the Prime Ministerial courtyard. I would have thought a responsible leader, Tanya, would have said, given that Barnaby Joyce in winning the seat of New England kept Turnbull in the Prime Ministership, you would have walked into the courtyard and said what you have just said - go and have a cold shower. This is no business of yours. Personal relationships are difficult. Mr Joyce has my support, and away we go. What would you as a leader have done?
PLIBERSEK: I think you do need to be very careful that there's, if someone's working for someone that it's a, you know, free relationship, that there's no pressure involved, that there's no favouritism or improper dynamics in the office or anything like that, but aside from that I just, I think we stay out of each other's personal business don't we? 
JONES: Absolutely.
PLIBERSEK: I think that's a much better principle.
JONES: Quite. Let me just come to this childcare issue Tanya, because you, or the Labor Party, have a very ambitious program for childcare. They want to increase the subsidy per dollar that families spend on childcare from 85 cents to 90 cents. Households earning below $530,000 would receive a subsidy. We currently spend by 2024 about $10.3 billion. In the year to March Tanya, childcare hourly fees increased by 4.4 per cent. This was before the pandemic and so surely it's axiomatic, if the government subsidises childcare to 90 cents in the dollar, a childcare proprietor puts up the fees. How do you stop that from happening? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, you do have to be very careful. But let's take a step back. At the moment Alan, you know, we're in a recession, times are very tough on families, and we never want anyone to be saying no to an extra hour of work or an extra day of work because they can't afford the childcare. We know that this is one of the biggest bills that families face and we want to help them out with that bill. And of course it's good for kids as well. On the question of price, we do have to be very careful because whenever government subsidises any sort of service, whether it's childcare, whether it's aged care, whether it's the hospital system, unless you have some rules around pricing then providers can, you know, then basically take taxpayers for a ride.
JONES: Absolutely.
PLIBERSEK: So we want to get both the Productivity Commission and the ACCC involved in the first instance, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, to have a look at the pricing structures, just to make sure that there is no price gouging, but longer term we'd like the Productivity Commission to look at the whole childcare sector because we know that it's just way too expensive for most families. 
JONES: Hopeless.
PLIBERSEK: I mean, you're talking about more than private school fees and if you've got two or three kids in childcare, it's ruinous for families.
JONES: Absolutely. And what about, they say that we've got to have this childcare because it increases female participation in the workforce, but female participation in the workforce was at its highest in the 1970s long before childcare subsidies. So what do you say to people with no children who may well be subsidising the career ambitions of well-off parents or what do you say to the mum and dad who say well, I think the best childcare is looking after them at home, but I get no help for looking after the kids at home. How do you resolve these conundrums?
PLIBERSEK: Well, my mum stayed home and looked after us and I'm very grateful to it. I just think this is a decision for individual families to make but I don't want people locked out of the workforce because of the high cost of childcare. That's terrible. It's terrible for the family and it's terrible for our economy. We know that extra spending in areas like childcare translates really strongly into extra jobs. Not just because it lets mums go to work but also because every million dollars we spend in the childcare sector supports about eight jobs. So we've got really strong economic reasons to help people into the workforce and to, you know, create jobs in a sector like childcare.
JONES: Should a family, Tanya, should a family on say $400,000 be entitled to a childcare subsidy?
PLIBERSEK: We believe that of course if you're on those very high incomes, you should get a smaller subsidy. But when you see how expensive childcare is Alan, I think even families on those higher incomes benefit from a little bit of taxpayer assistance. And remember this only goes for a few years. Those mums are in the workforce. They're paying taxes for their whole career, and the dads too. And you asked a little bit earlier, you know, if someone's got no kids, should they have to subsidise someone else's child care? I mean, this is how we work as a society. I hope I never need aged care, but I'm happy to pay my taxes to make sure that someone who does need it will get the best possible care. I hope I don't need to use the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but I'm happy to pay my taxes to make sure that someone who does need it can use it.
JONES: Good on you. I just want to, I just want to ask you one quick question though. We could talk it half an hour, this dreadful Qatar story. I'm asking you as a female and a mother. Will we ever know who authorised the invasive strip search and examination of 13 Australian women at Doha airport. Now the Prime Minister has issued a deadline of Friday, which is tomorrow, for answers. Just a quick one Tanya. What if there are none? 
PLIBERSEK: I think it's disgraceful and I can't believe our government has waited so long to make this demand.
JONES: A month. A month.
PLIBERSEK:  We knew about this a month ago.
JONES: Yep. October 2.
PLIBERSEK: If this happened in Australia, people would be facing the courts.
JONES: But shouldn't the world be doing something about this. The world!
PLIBERSEK: Yes. It's not just Australian women that were affected. I also feel sorry for the tiny little baby that was found in the toilets at the airport. 
JONES: Absolutely.
PLIBERSEK: We need to think about that baby. But the women, I mean, imagine that, you're on your way home you get pulled off the plane but shoved into the back of an ambulance.
JONES: Staggering. But hang on. Who's got the authority to demand this of a woman?
PLIBERSEK: I don't know and I cannot understand why it's taken our government a month to ask for this explanation.
JONES: Nor can I. Well done. Great to talk to you. Thank you for your time. See you next week.
PLIBERSEK: No worries Alan.