By Tanya Plibersek

02 December 2021



SUBJECTS: Liberal resignations; Labor’s candidates for Flinders and Pearce; Senator Thorpe; Jenkins Report; Religious Discrimination Bill; Birthday.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us live now is the Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek. Tanya, good to see you as always, thanks for your time. A couple of big resignations in the works for the Government - we'll start with Greg Hunt. He's expected to announce his resignation today. What's your reflections first on that news?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Well, I wish him well. I mean it's been a very tough time to be the Health Minister. Obviously Labor has some criticisms about the way the vaccine rollout was managed - but today is not the day for that. He's made a great, long contribution to the Australian Parliament and whatever comes next, we wish him well. We've got a terrific candidate in the seat of Flinders, Surbhi Snowball, and obviously this makes the the seat, we hope, just a little bit more winnable for us.
STEFANOVIC: And what about Pearce?
PLIBERSEK: Well again, Tracey Roberts the Mayor of Wanneroo is our candidate in Pearce and she is fantastic. She is so well known in the local community, and she's been campaigning on the ground for months now, but people know her as the Mayor of Wanneroo. So I'm very much hoping that Pearce is a seat that we can win in the next election as well.
STEFANOVIC: And a reflection on Christian Porter's time in Parliament now that it's come to an end?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's the right thing for him to go.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. In a week where behaviour in Parliament has, once again, been in the news - you had the Jenkins Report that was released this week as well, which I'll get your thoughts on in just a moment, but I do want to ask you about this other report this morning. So there's been this other incident that's reportedly happened that suggests that Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has been accused of telling Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes, 'at least I keep my legs shut'. That report, emerging this morning. What's your reaction to that?
PLIBERSEK: If it's true, I am shocked and I think it's just inappropriate for anybody, it doesn't matter who you are, to behave in that way in our Federal Parliament. It's really important that all of us work to uplift the standards in our Federal Parliament. All of us in every political party, in the Senate, in the House of Representatives. We need to make sure that this is a better work environment for the people who work here, but also a Parliament that Australians can be proud of.
STEFANOVIC: On the Jenkins Review, is Labor inclined at this stage to adopt all of the 28 recommendations?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it's a very substantial report. We're very grateful to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and the more than 1,700 people who've made submissions - including, I have to say, people like Brittany Higgins who have really been the driving force behind this work, and we're working through the recommendations now with our staff. There are 28. I think there's some really important recommendations there that we absolutely need to be implementing to make this a better workplace, but it is important for us to involve our staff in this process. They're the ones that we want to improve the workplace for. We want to make this a place that people want to come to work, that they're proud to serve their nation - and involving our staff in the process is really important for us.
STEFANOVIC: Which, if any, do you have misgivings about of the recommendations?
PLIBERSEK: I don't have misgivings about any of them, but it's a large and complex piece of work-
PLIBERSEK: So we just need to involve the people who are the driving force behind this in making our decisions. I think that's just a fair and sensible thing to do. But personally, I don't have a problem with any of the recommendations.
STEFANOVIC: Would have 'booze ban' actually work?
PLIBERSEK: I think alcohol can be a contributing factor to bad behaviour, but it's not the root cause of it. I think the Sex Discrimination Commissioner was very clear about that, as were some staff that are interviewed in the media today, saying that alcohol can contribute to a bad environment, but underlying sexism, power imbalances, weird sort of working away from home, long hours, high pressure - all of these things are factors, and I think a lot of staff feel absolutely powerless to speak up on their own behalf because basically, they're really, basically they're worried about getting the sack. Making sure that we have proper Human Resources employment processes down here would be a really good start.
STEFANOVIC: We had Senator Jacqui Lambie on the program a short while ago. She was revved up about a lot of things this morning, but she did say, when asked about religious discrimination, that it would be dead on arrival if it passes through the House. What's your thoughts on its future?
PLIBERSEK: I really want to see protections for people from religious discrimination. But protection from religious discrimination shouldn't come at the expense of less protection for other Australians - and that's the balance we're trying to get right here. I think it's absolutely wrong for the Government to try and rush this through the Parliament, to ram it through. An Inquiry has been set up. We actually think that Inquiry is too short and doesn't allow proper time for examination of the Bill, but some time is better than none. To try and ram it through today without the benefit of churches and faith groups having the chance to talk about their views on the legislation, without the benefit of equality groups, people who are worried about the impact that this legislation will have, for example, on gay kids in school - they should also have the right to have their voices heard in discussing this complex legislation.
STEFANOVIC: Are you expecting a rowdy day to cap things off this year, Tanya?
PLIBERSEK: I really hope not. You know what, just this week we saw a fantastic example of the Parliament working really well together. We passed something called Maeve's Law through the House of Representatives - which is legislation that will allow a process called mitochondrial donation. It will protect children from dying young from painful illnesses and we had a fantastic debate, it was very respectful. Some people didn't agree with the legislation, but their views were respected. It was Parliament at its best. I think, as we run up to Christmas, it would be great to see a bit more of that cooperation and a bit less argy-bargy
STEFANOVIC: And on your birthday, too. Happy birthday for today. What a way to celebrate it.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you. Thanks so much, 21 again!
STEFANOVIC: It's lovely. Tanya Plibersek, appreciate it. Happy birthday, talk to you again soon.