By Tanya Plibersek

28 January 2022


SUBJECTS: Liberals’ economic mismanagement; Labor’s plans to reduce cost of living pressures; Labor’s policies for women. 
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Well, this morning we've seen an indication from the US Federal Reserve that interest rates, at least in America, might start going up from March. This has implications, of course, for Australia - the RBA meeting next week. What is the state of our economy at the moment? Joining me live now is the Shadow Minister for Women and Education Tanya Plibersek. Thanks so much for your time. Good to see you in 2022. 
JAYES: First of all, we've seen this out of the US this morning. We see inflation with petrol prices a problem here, we see supply chain issues. How do you see the Australian economy at the moment?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think Laura, any economist worth their salt would tell you that Australians should expect an interest rate rise this year, when that'll be is up to the Reserve Bank and we'll leave commentary on that to the economists. But there are things that the Government could do to take the cost of living pressures off Australian families. What you see from this government is petrol prices up, groceries up - if you can find them on the shelves - childcare costs up, power bills up. There's a range of cost of living expenses that have gone up at the same time as wages have been flatlining. So for eight long years Australians haven't seen a wage increase, and in fact this budget, the Government is budgeting for those wages to go down. Labor, on the other hand, says we can do something about cost of living. We can bring down the cost of childcare for 97 per cent of families. We can bring down power bills, with cheaper, cleaner, renewable energy. We can bring down the cost of electric vehicles, and we can do something to improve wages. Ordinary Australians deserve a pay rise, they have been working hard, they've sacrificed a lot during the pandemic. They deserve job security, and a wage rise, and we need to make sure that that's what our industrial relations system delivers.
JAYES: Well the PM said this just in November, have a look. 
*CLIP* SCOTT MORRISON, PRIME MINISTER: Australia's economic recovery has to be secured by people who have a track record in economic management. Otherwise, you're going to see petrol prices go up. You're going to see electricity prices go up. You're going to see interest rates go up more than they would need to otherwise. 
JAYES: So that was just in November. We're already seeing it now. For a long time Labor, as you mentioned, has been promising wages growth with almost full employment. We're not really seeing it across the board. So what does Labor actually promise here? Because we saw this as part of Anthony Albanese's speech this week, but is a lot of it really just simply out of your hands?
PLIBERSEK: Well, no, it's absolutely not out of our hands. When this government sees a skills shortage - one in four Australian businesses are saying that they need more skilled workers, the Government's response is ‘can we bring in more short-term contract labour?’ Labor's response is why aren't we training the two million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed for those jobs? We've got a policy out there for free TAFE, 20,000 extra uni places, better schools, so that our kids are ready for the workforce. We can change our industrial relations system so that you get same job, same pay. You don't have a full-time worker employed next to a contract worker, and the contract worker’s earning tens of thousands of dollars less every year, undercutting the conditions of the permanent workers. We need to make job security an object of our industrial relations system. We need to reduce the gender pay gap - we still have 14 per cent gender pay gap here in Australia. We need to be paying workers in those caring industries, predominantly women, more - and our Industrial Relations Commission needs to have the power to do that. There's so much we can do to reduce the cost of living for Australian families, with policies like our cheaper child care policy, and boost wages, boost job security. This government has said in the past that low wages are a deliberate design feature of their economic architecture. They've said it from their own mouths. They've said that they want to see wages kept low. That's what's costing Australian families. And, you know, Scott Morrison talking about keeping the cost of living low, well have a look at petrol prices at the moment. Have a look at the shelves of our supermarkets. You know prices are going up, if you can find the goods that you need on those supermarket shelves. And this is a government that has comprehensively failed to manage the pandemic and if you can't manage the pandemic, you can't manage the economy. 
JAYES: And can you do all that without a tax increase?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I love it when the Liberals start talking about taxes - the two highest taxing governments in recent Australian history were the Howard Government and the current government. Under Josh Frydenberg, ordinary Australians are paying an average of $4,500 more tax. This government, after the next election, will see taxes for low and middle income earners go up. That's their plan right now - 
JAYES: But they’ve also shelled out billions for JobKeeper and JobSaver and the like?
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely, and that economic support was necessary. Labor was very supportive of increasing unemployment benefits and making sure that we could keep Australians working during the pandemic. But when it comes to economic management, what is the track record of this government? It's lower wages, it's higher prices, it's job insecurity. And, I mean the thing that makes the biggest difference to Australia's wealth over the long term is our productivity, our labour productivity - that's gone backwards. Business confidence has gone backwards. Business investment has been problematic over this eight year period. So honestly, getting a lecture from Scott Morrison about pretty much anything these days is a bit, you know, look at what he's done, not look at what he says.
JAYES: Okay, let's talk about women then. We've all discussed, on TV, and in private conversations with our friends and family no doubt, the Grace Tame incident, let's call it. I mean, there was quite a juxtaposition - Grace Tame obviously not happy with the Prime Minister, but she's obviously been a fan of Anthony Albanese - you could see that in the photos this week. But why would Labor be any better for women?
PLIBERSEK: Well, Labor is always better for women. We've got policies right now to make child care more affordable, to have 10 days paid domestic violence leave, 500 extra community sector refuge workers, guaranteed superannuation for more stability in old age, reducing the gender pay gap, strong laws to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Under this government, the position of Australian women has slipped to 50th in the world for gender equality. That's the worst we've ever rated on these measures. People know that Labor will always be better for Australian women. 
JAYES: Tanya Plibersek, we are out of time. We'll speak to you soon.
PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Laura.