By Tanya Plibersek

16 December 2021




PETE STEFANOVIC, PRESENTER: Meanwhile, let's go live to the Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek for her thoughts on this this morning. Tanya good to see you, thanks for your time as always. So we've got those figures that will be released today that will show the creation of a million jobs over the next four years. That's, as we just reported, 150,000 more than was predicted in May. Is that an example, in your opinion, of the budget doing better than first thought?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Well you can't say the Australian budget is strong while wages are going backwards and the cost of living is going through the roof. If you look at a 39 per cent increase in child care costs, petrol's never been higher, rents, out-of-pocket health care costs - all going up, and wages going backwards. You would hope there's an improvement on the September quarter when the Australian economy was one of the worst performing developed economies in the world. And as for jobs, we absolutely hope there are more Australian jobs created in coming years. But I can tell you from my travels in regional New South Wales, regional Victoria, many parts of Australia recently, employers are already telling me that they have jobs available, what they don't have are the skilled staff they need to fill those jobs. So what's happening with our TAFE system, what's happening with universities - we don't want to see a million jobs created and then filled by temporary skilled migrants because local employers can't find the skilled staff they need because of years of cuts to TAFE and university. 
STEFANOVIC: Okay, you did bring up living standards and wage growth there, and Labor certainly wants to make that an issue going into the election, but according to the figures out today GDP is on the up and wages are expected to grow faster, so people will in effect get pay rises over the next few years. Does that affect your messaging at all?
PLIBERSEK: We want to ensure that people get pay rises because we've seen wages flatlining for the last eight years, and in fact going backwards in real terms by about $700 a year. We need to see wages increase, because that underpins the strength of our recovery. The rest of our economy depends on people having more money to spend, more confidence to spend that money. And look, I think it's worth remembering too that this government is talking up a recovery - they're talking up a recovery from a crisis that they worsened because of the slowness of the rollout of vaccines and because of their refusal to have purpose-built federal quarantine facilities. The second lockdowns that we had are Scott Morrison's lockdowns. I also think it's important to say that this is the government that said we'd be back in black, when in fact we've got a trillion dollars’ worth of debt, much worse than it needed to be because this government has been wasting money. They paid about $20 billion out to companies in JobKeeper payments that went to companies that actually saw increased profits. We've got the sports rorts, we've got car park roads, we've got the ten times more paid for airport land than was necessary. This is a government addicted to spending taxpayers' money loosely and to win the next election. We saw reports yesterday that there's four times as much spent on Coalition seats as Labor seats, so the idea that these people are somehow good economic managers - the people who doubled the deficit and doubled debt before Covid, I think that's a real stretch. 
STEFANOVIC: Well, I mean, there has been a pandemic in the middle of all of that so it has required record spending, so I mean Labor would have had to do the same.
PLIBERSEK: Indeed, we would have spent money productively to make sure that the Australian economy was protected. We wouldn't have, for example, designed a JobKeeper payment scheme that is so loose that you can make money, you can increase profits, you can get JobKeeper, you can pay executive bonuses, you can send big dividends to shareholders overseas, all on the back of the Australian taxpayers' hard work. We wouldn't have an economy where we're spending taxpayers' hard-earned money to get the government re-elected. We've seen so much mismanagement, so many rorts and ripoffs from this government. Yes of course during a downturn it's important to spend to keep people working. This government has spent to try and get itself re-elected and has spent money on some of the dodgiest things that you can imagine.
STEFANOVIC: Josh Frydenberg on this program, he's ruled out any tax rises, in fact more tax cuts may well be on the way. Can Labor do the same if you win next year?
PLIBERSEK: Well, Josh Frydenberg is planning a tax rise for low and middle income earners by allowing the low and middle income tax offset to expire. So yeah, he might say he’s not going to give you a tax increase, he is because he's taking away that top tax offset from low and middle income earners. What this government has done is give a permanent tax cut to high income earners and a temporary tax cut to low and middle income earners. We have said that Labor will provide the same tax cuts for 9 million working Australians as the Government will.
STEFANOVIC: The tax offset though, that that may not expire, that may continue, right?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it's up to the Government to say that. I mean, all along the Government has been keen to give permanent tax cuts to the highest income earners and temporary tax cuts to ordinary working people. 
STEFANOVIC: Okay, just on a state matter Tanya, you would have heard from Brad Hazzard yesterday - he warned of 25,000 Covid cases by January. 15 minutes later the Premier says ‘don't focus on cases'. What do you make of that kind of messaging?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think the prediction of 25,000 cases by the end of January is actually very frightening for people. It is important now that we get the vaccine booster shots rolled out appropriately, and I think parents are very focused as well on the children's vaccination program. I see what the Premier's saying when he says don't focus on case numbers. There is some discussion that this new variant is a less deadly variant, that fewer people will end up in hospital. But it still shows that we have got a long way to go before we are safely through this pandemic, that people need to continue to do the right thing for themselves and for their family and community, get the booster when they're ready, and look after yourself, don't go out if you're sick, all the usual stuff that we've been so focused on over the last two years. 
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Tanya Plibersek, appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us here. We'll talk to you soon. 
PLIBERSEK: Happy Christmas to you and to all your viewers as well.
STEFANOVIC: And same to you.