By Tanya Plibersek

10 July 2020



SUBJECTS: COVID-19; Australian economy; Hong Kong.
ALAN JONES, HOST: Well, for the first time we've got a panel because we want to actually put the ideas that we've ventilated during the week to other people, so that you can hear other views. So just let me introduce you to the panel first. Tanya Plibersek, the Member for Sydney but in the Federal Parliament since 1998. She's now the Shadow Minister for Education and Training, but a former Deputy Leader of the Labor Party from 2013 to 2019. Tanya was born in Sydney to Slovenian immigrant parents. She attended the Oyster Bay Public School and the Jannali Girls High School – she was dux actually, I think. She studied journalism at the University of Technology Sydney - she graduated with a BA in Communications. She then took a Master's Degree in Public Policy and Politics at Macquarie University and she worked in the domestic violence unit at the New South Wales Office for the Status and Advancement of Women -Tanya Plibersek. 
Then, there is Senator Amanda Stoker. She's been a Senator for Queensland since 2018 after the retirement of George Brandis. But she was born in Liverpool, grew up in Campbelltown, went to Hurlstone Agricultural High School, studies Arts and Law Sydney Uni and graduated with first-class honours. She worked as a Commonwealth Prosecutor, as well as a Judge's associate to Philip McMurdo in the Supreme Court of Queensland and then in the High Court of Australia. She was the Vice President of the Women's Lawyers Association of Queensland from 2016 to 2018. She's got three daughters. So has Tanya by the way - got three daughters. 
Now, Gareth Ward is the State Member for the South Coast seat of Kiama. He was elected in 2011. Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services. He was born in Gerringong, New South Wales - he has albinism, that means he's legally blind. He went to Bomaderry High School, holds degrees in Commerce and Arts from Wollongong Uni and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of New England, and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the ANU. He's an admitted Solicitor in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. 
So, then we go to Chris Minns, and Chris Minns is a State Member in the Labor Party for the Sydney Seat of Kogarah. He was elected in 2015. He's currently the Shadow Minister for Transport and Corrections. He is Assistant Secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party, but significantly, in his first speech, he called for reducing union influence in the Labor Party. And in the 2018 leadership spill, Michael Daley beat Chris Minns for the leadership of the Labor Party. 
So here we are. So firstly Tanya, I'll just go to you in relation to that comment that has been made by Greg Sheridan. He said that this is the worst Government that has been in Victorian history. What do you make of that comment? 
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well, I often agree with Greg, but I certainly don't agree with him in this instance. And, I think Alan, that at a time like this where States and Territories have been working so cooperatively with the Commonwealth Government. Where parties have absolutely not been tying trying to take political advantage of this terrible situation we're facing, now is really not the time to be making that sort of comment. We are all very focused on supporting the Victorian Government to bring this latest COVID-19 outbreak under control. It's important that we focus on that and that people in Victoria know that other Australians are thinking about them, worried for them and supporting them in following the medical advice and the advice from police and other authorities. 
JONES: All right. Amanda - Senator Amanda Stoker, what do you make of that?
AMANDA STOKER, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Well, it is important that we are empathetic with the experience that people are going through at the moment. But, there's an old saying in the military and that is you can delegate tasks but you can't delegate accountability. And, it seems to me that at every turn, Premier Andrews does the best he can to avoid ever being held accountable for the decisions he makes...
JONES: Yeah. 
STOKER: Now's probably not the time to be putting the screws on him. But we do need to at some point, confront the reality that he contracted out supervision of quarantine because he doesn't want to be responsible if it goes to custard. He contracts out to a Judicial Inquiry anything else that might particularly pose some risk, so he can avoid questions about it and that is not in the interests of Victorians. We really need Victorians to step up here, in due course, to make sure that they demand the accountability they deserve. 
JONES: Well, let's go to Gareth Ward. Now Gareth, Andrews doesn't have it on his own. I mean, the New South Wales Government is responsible for this appalling fiasco - the Ruby Princess and just as Daniel Andrews says I've got an inquiry, I won't answer questions about the quarantine fiasco. The Berejiklian Government says no no, we've got an inquiry into the Ruby Princess, I won't ask questions. Amanda's just talked about accountability. Where is the accountability? Gareth Ward. 
GARETH WARD, NSW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES, COMMUNITIES AND DISABILITY SERVICES: Alan, the COVID-19 virus was on the Ruby Princess before it even arrived in Australian waters, and I think we need to acknowledge that that very early on when we were still learning a lot about this virus. But, we've learned a lot as a state and I think we can be very proud of our response. Look, it doesn't matter where this virus is in Australia. We've seen devastating effects on businesses, on jobs and as has been frequently said, we're all in this together. Everyone's just trying to...
JONES: Yeah, but hang on, hang on, hang on. You're sounding like Daniel Andrews - I'm asking you about the Ruby Princess. We haven't got any answers. Gladys won't answer them, you won't answer the question simply because you say "Oh there is an Inquiry". Now, let me go to Chris Minns. Chris Minns is on the other side. He's in the Labor opposition in New South Wales, Chris, how do you see this Ruby Princess fiasco? 
CHRIS MINNS, NSW SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND CORRECTIONS: Yeah, it's a big problem for New South Wales and Australia. The answers haven't been forthcoming from the New South Wales Government, shrouded in secrecy. I think Greg Sheridan is labelled the Andrews Government "the worst". I mean, New South Wales has not answered any of the serious questions about Ruby Princess - how it how it how it docked in New South Wales, how did it let so many people come free...
JONES: Sorry to interrupt you, but I've just got to say - sorry to interrupt you Chris. I've just got to say to our viewers the Ruby Princess is the greatest source of infections in the country - the Ruby Princess. The thing that berthed in New South Wales and they didn't even wait until people had been checked as to their infections. Chris, I'm sorry on you go.
MINNS: ...Given warnings before it docked Alan, given warnings before it docked. Obviously, a huge blunder at the hands of the New South Wales Government and look, I don't think people expect miracles when it comes to these things, but be honest with the public, explain what happened and give some confidence that it's not going to happen again. That's the key to get through these serious issues I think.
JONES: Tanya, can I just come to you on this question of ideology because whenever you go into an election the Liberal Party wear the mantle of economic responsibility. Now, of course through circumstances which have changed, we've got piles of debt, massive spending - JobSeeker, JobMaker, JobKeeper, all these sort of names. And, the money keeps on going and as a result, we've tipped in 10 per cent, 10.6 per cent, 11 per cent of GDP. I think we've got a table here, which will show in a moment for all about. What do you make of that? I mean how can in an election campaign, for example, can that be defended? 
PLIBERSEK: Well Alan, I think you remember as I remember, that the debt and deficit disaster campaign that was run against Labor. And in fact, even before the bushfires, even before COVID-19, the Liberals had doubled debt in Australia. We went into this crisis with high unemployment, high underemployment, low wages growth, low business confidence, low business investment. A range of things that made our economy weak already. When it comes to the spending, there are elements of this spending that we are very supportive of, and that includes the wages subsidy - JobKeeper. But Alan, I don't really understand some of the elements of JobKeeper. For example, I don't understand why the old Qantas catering workers, because their company’s been sold, these workers who have been working in the same jobs for 20 or 30 years, but the business has been sold over the top of their heads. They don't get JobKeeper. But a uni student who's been working, you know a shift a week at a bakery or a cafe, they get 750 bucks a week - in many cases to stay home to be doing nothing. So of course a good idea, but in many respects very poorly implemented. 
JONES: Yeah, I mean casuals who were on $200 a week before the pandemic now automatically get 750. Amanda Stoker is one of the most articulate people in relation to Liberal philosophy. You would regard her as a true liberal, and many people see her as a real hope of the side. Are you comfortable with this massive expenditure, enormous debt and it continues on. When you having a look at it, 11 per cent of GDP - that's almost double, for example, of Britain's and if you take India, India's expenditure on this is 0.7 per cent of GDP. Are you comfortable with this?
STOKER: Like all Australians, this should be something we're uncomfortable with, because it is a burden that needs to be borne by every Australian sooner or later. And, so we need to be really cautious when we make a decision to go into debt like this. But for most people, the economy means do I have a job this week, can I pay my bills, can I support my family and the Coalition is doing absolutely everything it possibly can to make sure the answer to all of those three questions is always yes. 
JONES: Right. 
STOKER: The reason we're able to have some room to move to make these kinds of calls at this difficult point in time is because the responsible economic management we've had since 2013. 
JONES: Yeah. Well, let's go to Gareth. Gareth, how do you see all of this? It is a massive pile, isn't it? There's going to be a lot of work needed to recover.
WARD: Well, we've made some really tough decisions in New South Wales, Alan. We've done things like pause public sector wages, so we could inject those funds back into job generating infrastructure. In fact, as a state we have half the debt of the next state as a percentage of GSP, but double the infrastructure investment. Could you contrast that with State Labor, that went to the last election increasing taxes on farmers, on small business, on first home buyers. We've cut taxes - billions of dollars of taxes and that puts us as a state in a good position, not just to drive the New South Wales economy but the rest of the nation. So, we've made some tough decisions, but we're investing the money where it's required and that's why we're in a position because of that strong economic management to invest in job generating infrastructure. 
JONES: Well Chris, how do you see that? Chris Minns who is on the other side of the fence from Gareth. How do you see that Chris? 
MINNS: No, rubbish Alan. I mean, there's been running around for the last two weeks trying to increase the GST, put it on food, bringing congestion based tolling and put a land tax on everybody. I mean, where's the tax cut? We need to drive some domestic demand in the New South Wales economy...
WARD: Where were your tax cuts? You wanted to increase taxes on farmers, you wanted to put taxes on tractors
MINNS: Hang on, wait a minute. We haven't been in power for a long time mate.
WARD: Taxes on tractors, on farmers, on small business people. 
MINNS: At the end of the day, I think if you are trying to put a GST on fresh food, making life harder for households right across New South Wales...
WARD: You would have smashed the economy. Thank goodness you don't run the economy like you are running the party.
MINNS: a time when the recession is the worst in 75 years. I mean look, this is very, very, very dangerous stuff. 
WARD: I bet you believe most of that.
MINNS: In the UK today Alan, VAT consumption taxes cut. In New South Wales, they  are trying to jack them up. 
JONES: Alright. Well, now look we've got a bit of spirit and fire which is what we want. You are all very polite and cautious to start with because it's our first night out, but we'll leave it there for all of you know. No we won't. I just want to ask one question to, perhaps the two federal ladies. Today, Prime Minister Morrison made a statement about Hong Kong. I mean, given that Hong Kong is a very well-educated, shouldn't we - and he's, I think, suggesting this will happen - we will allow these people to come to Australia and they may be very good in regenerating the economy. Tanya, a quick one on that from you. 
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think we're all watching with a great deal of concern what's happening in Hong Kong and it's so very disappointing that the one country, two systems commitments that were given by China have not been adhered to. Of course, I think, it's the right thing to do to offer the safe haven to anybody who might be locked up just for expressing their political opinion. What a shocking thing.  
JONES: Absolutely, Amanda. I agree with you, Tanya, well done. Amanda. 
STOKER: I'm really relieved to see this commitment come out of the Government. It's something that I've been hoping for some time and it's really encouraging to see that a cohort of people who are not only highly skilled and potentially able to contribute a great deal to our economy but who also face great difficulty in expressing basic opinions in their current home town have the option to come here. 
JONES: And so, there will be no extradition treaty. Well done. So it's Tanya, thank you Tanya and Amanda and Chris and Gareth and we'll see you all next week when we'll crank it up a little bit. Well done Gareth! Gareth got stuck in there and well done Chris, so we'll see you all next week.