By Tanya Plibersek

03 September 2020



SUBJECTS: Trans women in sport; COVID-19 and the economy: Border closures.

ALAN JONES, PRESENTER: All right panel time. We're joined of course by Tanya Plibersek, the former Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. I can say this about Tanya - she is a young woman, but can you believe it, she's been in the Federal Parliament since 1998 representing the seat of Sydney for the Labor Party and in government for only a handful of those years. Now Amanda Stoker can't join us tonight. And this will happen from time to time as Tanya and Amanda have other commitments. I've asked the Tasmanian Senator Claire Chandler to join us. She has been a Tasmanian all her life. She won't mind my saying this I'm sure, but she's only 30 years of age. She has an Arts Law degree from the University of Hobart. She's worked in the Hobart practice of Deloitte Australia. She's a former Federal president of the Young Liberals and in 2017 she led a Liberal Party review into female engagement. I'm not sure where that went. She lives in Blackman's Bay with her husband Chris. So Claire, welcome to the program. We'll go to you first on what is an important issue and I should stress that neither of these ladies has been told what we're going to talk about. This is rarely discussed. No one is opposed to transgender people but Claire Chandler you have been lobbying to stop trans women who are in fact biological men playing in women's rugby competitions across Australia and you've had a good deal to say about that. What is your position on this?

SENATOR CLAIRE CHANDLER: I have had a good deal to say about this, Alan. The point I make is that we have women's sport for a genuine reason and that is to enable women to compete on a fair, even and safe playing field. But 12 months ago when I first became a senator, I started receiving a number of concerns from across the country, right across Australia, from people, some men, some women, all concerned about a set of trans inclusion guidelines that Sport Australia had developed that basically set the precedent that if you are a trans woman who is biologically male and you want to play in women's sport then you are permitted to, at the expense of safety and fairness for female athletes.

JONES: Right. Well now Tanya, a lot of sports organisations are allowing trans women to compete in women's sport. World Rugby has done work on this issue and they say based on scientific evidence, they're arguing that trans women should not be playing in women's competitions for safety and fairness reasons. It's very difficult issue isn't it? Where do you stand on this?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well to be really honest with you Alan, I haven't given it a lot of thought. I mean, I never like to see discrimination against anyone but I think if we apply some courtesy and some common sense, I'm sure we can come to a reasonable position. I have to say to you the thing that's been really consuming me is the fact that we've got a million Australians unemployed and another 400,000 likely to be unemployed by Christmas. That is my complete focus. Nationally, in the national Parliament, and also locally, I've got businesses telling me they're closing. I've got people worried about paying the rent. I haven't really been thinking about much more than that.

JONES: No, just to word on this since you've raised that. It wasn't something I was going to raise here tonight. But come again, I mean Josh Frydenberg is talking as if there's an economic recovery around the corner. From your perspective, you've been in the Parliament 22 years, where do you see this going?

PLIBERSEK: I think unemployment will be high for a long time Alan, because it takes years to create a job and it takes minutes to lose one, and I think most economists are saying we're likely still to have unemployment of around 7 per cent for the next couple of years. I think 100 per cent of our focus as a national parliament has to be on jobs, making sure we've got the conditions to create jobs in this country, making sure that those jobs are secure and well paid so that people are confident to go and spend and invest, and buy a home and borrow money to buy a car and do all of the things that create economic activity in our country. Well we need to be - yes go on, sorry.

JONES: No, no, no, I take your point, didn't let you finish.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I was just going to say we need to focus on building things - infrastructure that makes our cities better invest in that, on making things - we need to get the price of energy down so that we can restore our manufacturing base here. We need to be caring for people. You know, it's impossible to believe we've still got 103,000 people on Home Care waiting lists who have been approved as needing packages, but aren't getting them. That's job creation and care, and we need to make sure those jobs are secure.

JONES: Let's return to that subject. I, just to be fair to Claire, just want to give her a final say on this because it is an important issue. I mean World Rugby say they've got clear medical and scientific evidence of the increased risk of injury to female players and the unfair disparity in size and strength and power and so on. That's your point. Just a quick one to wrap up that because I do want to go to something else. Claire?

CHANDLER: Oh look absolutely Alan you are completely correct. World Rugby has found that there is a 20 to 30 per cent greater chance that a woman tackled by a trans woman who is biologically male on the sporting field will get injured as a result of that. So this is absolutely an issue that sporting codes across the country, particularly contact sporting codes, need to be looking at very closely and I'm certainly putting the pressure on Rugby Australia to adopt the findings in the World Rugby report to ensure that women's sport in this country can be preserved for biological women as it's very rightly determined to be.

JONES: Right. Okay Tanya, let me go to you here about that point you have just raised, the economy. The Premier of Western Australia, now no one can go into WA, the Premier of WA said on the 18th of March this year "If we close the borders to the east what will happen to our markets and products and supply chains for important goods?". March 18 - now he's completely changed his tune. On the same day the Health Minister and the Deputy Premier Roger Cook questioned the constitutional validity of border closures and he said in the Parliament "Well, there is this little thing called the Constitution. I think we should be limiting and minimising non-essential travel to Australia, but we can't turn around and say one Australian cannot meet and visit another Australian". Tanya, can you understand from this why people don't trust politicians?

PLIBERSEK: I understand, Alan, what you’re saying about the inconsistency between March and now, but of course we know a lot more about COVID-19 now than we knew in March and I think everybody wants to see the borders reopened as quickly as possible, businesses back on their feet as quickly as possible. But State Premiers are making decisions to try and keep their people safe, and I think it's wrong to present this.

JONES: Tanya there's no evidence that border closures, there's no evidence the border closures save a life, but if you were the Prime Minister-


JONES: -as is Scott Morrison, and he's got a National Cabinet, and Scott Morrison said the borders shouldn't be closed and children should go back to school and the Premier's defied you. What would you think?

PLIBERSEK: Well Alan, I think the Premiers are doing what they're doing on the best advice they've got and I don't think we should try and make this a competition between the economy and health because you look at the countries where this virus has really taken off in the community, their economies have been smashed - the UK, France, Spain, the US - their economies have been hit very hard -

JONES: Tanya you and I don't agree on this. 99 per cent of these cases are mild. You either believe the World Health Organisation figures or you don't.

PLIBERSEK: But Alan, thousands of people have died.

JONES: Yeah, I know. I know because we’ve portrayed -

PLIBERSEK: In the US,180,000 people so far.

JONES: Hang on, Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: 180,000 people so far in the US have died Alan and I don't want to see that in Australia.

JONES: Tanya, Tanya -

PLIBERSEK: I don't want to see that.

JONES: Tanya, I commend a bit of reading to you - the Center for Disease Control in America released a statement this week that only 6 per cent of those who died in America, died exclusively of Coronavirus. There is a bias in the way things are being reported here and the public aren't being told the truth. Could I just go to you Claire about this border business and Premiers closing down borders. Your Premier won't let anyone into Tasmania.

CHANDLER: That is correct Alan. I mean, Tasmania is in a slightly different circumstance in that we do have a water border around our state that makes travel into Tasmania a little more difficult than if we were one of the mainland states. But look I think it is a concern amongst small businesses in Tasmania particularly that the borders are at the moment, it looks like, going to stay closed until 1st of December and I have a lot of small businesses contacting me with concerns about that. I mean, all of these things need to be considered within a suite of policies and processes to ensure that people stay safe and ensure that this disease doesn't spread any further, but I would certainly like to see more consideration given to the small business people whose trade is reliant in many cases on open borders.

JONES: All right. Well done. You've done very well tonight. Tanya, thank you for your time. We will come back-

PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure Alan.

JONES: Now, we will come back to that economy issue and I agree with you, the economy issue is an enormous issue and I'm not too sure anyone knows how we're going to get our way out of it and I worry about the young ones. That's the concern.

PLIBERSEK: I've got a few ideas Alan, I'll share them with you next week.

JONES: Good on you. OK, we promise it next week. Tanya Plibersek and Claire Chandler, Claire a new Senator from Tasmania.