By Tanya Plibersek

23 February 2022


SUBJECTS: Wages; Visit to Cairns; Federal Election; Energy and climate policies; Women’s safety.

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Joining us now is Shadow Minister for Education and Women, Tanya Plibersek. Thanks so much for your time. First of all, we're looking at this bit of an upheaval when it comes to the economy, global economies, at the moment. We've also got wage data out today. It's expected to confirm that wages aren't keeping up with inflation. This is central to your re-election strategy. Do you need to manage expectations here given the environment?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Well, you're quite right about wages being a really central theme in this election because everywhere I travel people are saying to me that they don't feel better off. They feel like life is getting harder, that their wages have been flatlining or going backwards, that job insecurity is increasing, and this whole while the cost of living continues to go through the roof. Of course, we're also worried about what's happening globally, particularly for Ukraine at the moment, Labor is very concerned about these aggressive incursions. We completely support Ukraine's sovereignty, and territorial integrity. And we want to send a very strong message, with the Government, that Australia will not accept this sort of behaviour. This is important for Ukraine. It's important more broadly globally as well. When we have countries becoming aggressive like this, it's important that Australia presents a united front to say this is unacceptable.
JAYES: Indeed, but also accepting that there will be perhaps a little bit of financial pain for each and every Australian because of it. 
PLIBERSEK: Well, the financial pain is something that we have already been experiencing because this government has said very clearly that low wages are a deliberate design feature of their economic architecture. The Finance Minister said that. We've got a government that has voted against penalty rates, has voted against protections from wage theft, has argued against increases in the minimum wage. Has deliberately kept wages low in Australia at a time when petrol prices are going up, childcare fees are going up, out-of-pocket health expenses are going up, everything is going up. People feel, they feel worse off. They feel like the last few years have made life harder, not easier. And that will be the central theme of this election because it's only Labor that has a plan to make sure that people's wages keep up with the cost of living, that we take a little bit of pressure off. 
JAYES: Well, you are in Cairns now after two weeks of having Covid and Covid isolation. So you are on the road there. 
PLIBERSEK: I am on the road.
JAYES: You are on the road, despite appearances I might say. Queensland is a state that you really need to make ground in. So what are you telling people there on the ground, and what are they telling you?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, more importantly, what they're telling us is that it life is harder, not easier under Scott Morrison. That their wages have been flatlining or going backwards. We've got a government right now that is predicting wages will fall $700 over the next year, and they've got no plan to turn that around. In fact, everything they do is about keeping wages lower. People are struggling to make ends meet - the cost of petrol, the cost of rent, the cost of childcare, the cost of health, all of these going up while wages are  flatlining. And this comes on top of a real growth in insecure work. I've been talking a lot to people who've been on casual contracts for years. One lady I spoke to had been casual for ten years, trying to convert to permanent work. People feel like they are worse off because of the decisions that the Liberals and Nationals are making.
JAYES:  What about energy and climate change? I mean this week we've been talking about this proposed takeover of AGL. Is that something that you think Queensland would accept the proposal put forward by Mike Cannon-Brookes, would a Labor government allow that to go ahead?
PLIBERSEK: I think the important thing to say about energy is we're all about jobs. We need to have cheaper, reliable, renewable energy to support Australian businesses to grow in the way they want to. And Labor's got a detailed plan to make sure we've got cheaper, cleaner energy to support Australian homes and businesses. The strength of the plan is evident in the fact that the Liberals aren't attacking it. They've just dropped it. They drop their criticism of it because we've got a detailed, fully-costed way of reducing our pollution at the same time as we reduce power prices for Australian businesses and households.
JAYES: Yeah, they're certainly attacking the AGL proposal though. Would a Labor government block that?
PLIBERSEK: Oh well, we're yet to see the real details of it, but it is interesting isn't it that instead of having a plan of their own, and this is a government that's had 22 different energy policies and never landed one of them, instead of actually coming up with a detailed plan all they can do is criticise others. 
JAYES: Finally before I let you go, Clare Chandler is putting up a bill to ban trans women from competing in single-sex sports. She has the backing of the Prime Minister. What do you think about this proposal?
PLIBERSEK: I would love it if the Prime Minister and the Senator were actually focused on the things that people are raising with me every day. And first of those is job security, pay, cost of living, insecurity, the fact that they feel they're going backwards. I don't want to see anyone discriminated against but honestly, I can honestly say to you that no one is stopping me in the street talking about this. I'd like them focused on the things that make the biggest difference to people's lives. And if they want to talk about women's safety, perhaps they should think about the one in three Australian women who experience domestic violence in their homes, the one in five who experience sexual assault, the 40 per cent of Australian women who've experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the last five years. We've got a report with 55 recommendations on how to deal with that and a Prime Minister who is not interested in implementing it. Maybe they should be focused on some of those issues around women's safety. 
JAYES: Was this another wedge design for Labor?
PLIBERSEK: I'll let people draw their own conclusions on that. 
JAYES: All right. Well, enjoy Cairns. I hope it's a little bit sunnier than it is here in Sydney and thanks so much.
PLIBERSEK: Thanks. Laura.