By Tanya Plibersek

07 October 2021



SUBJECTS: Liberals’ failure to establish a National Anti-Corruption Commission; New South Wales opening up; schools returning; French Ambassador.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's bring in the Shadow Minister for Education and Women now, Tanya Plibersek, joining us live. Tanya, good to see you and thanks for your time. We may as well start there. Is there a parallel that can be drawn, in your opinion?  Should Daniel Andrews step aside, or is he right to stand his ground while under investigation?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Well, first of all, we don't know that he's under investigation. That’s speculation in the media. There's a very clear difference. The New South Wales ICAC has made it very clear that it was asking questions of the former Premier of New South Wales. The Victorian equivalent has refused to confirm any investigation. But I think the bigger question is - we've got these two things happening at a state level. Where is the National Integrity Commission or the National Anti-Corruption Commission that Scott Morrison promised more than a thousand days ago. We're still waiting - and it looks like what Scott Morrison is proposing for federal parliamentarians, like me, is a complete toothless tiger compared to either the New South Wales or the Victorian anti-corruption watchdogs.
STEFANOVIC: There are concerns that someone loses the presumption of innocence as soon as they're targeted. Do you have any of those concerns at all?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it is important to preserve that principle - that people are innocent until proven guilty, that they have a presumption of innocence. I guess the difference in New South Wales is that the Premier has been talking to the New South Wales – the former Premier – was talking to the New South Wales Anti-Corruption Commission for some time and they have determined that there are further questions to answer.
STAFANOVIC: What are your hopes for the new Premier. Obviously, there is going to be a difference coming out of the days of Gladys Berejiklian. She was very, very popular, but now we're coming to Dominic Perrottet and, you know, he's got some beliefs that, I guess, rub some people up the wrong way. But as a whole, what are your hopes for him?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I hope that he's successful, because we're at a really critical time in New South Wales now. We are hoping, fingers crossed, that our businesses will be opening up in coming weeks, that people will be allowed to get back to work, get back to their social lives, see their friends, get their haircuts. All of the things that would signify getting a bit more back to normal life - and of course, we're super keen for the kids to get back to school. We want the New South Wales Premier to be a successful, and we hope that he is because all our livelihoods depend on that. We want to see the New South Wales economy roaring back strongly because where New South Wales goes, that's where the nation goes. That doesn't mean that New South Wales Labor don't have a role to play here. I think it's really important and New South Wales Labor now have a fantastic opportunity to lay out their positive vision for a different New South Wales, with a strong health and education system, secure jobs, decent pay – all of the things that we want for people in their lives.
STEFANOVIC: Well, the new Premier, he's had a decent start, because he's had good news within the first 24 hours. The fact that New South Wales has passed that 70 per cent double dose, which is fantastic news. So, what started as a slow race has really come over the wet sail, hasn't it?
PLIBERSEK: I think people have got the message that to keep themselves safe and, perhaps even more importantly, to keep their family and their community safe, they need to get vaccinated. A lot of our future freedoms depend on people doing their bit for the collective good. And good on those people who have, that's a great milestone to have achieved but I'm sure we can do better. I think we're aiming for that next step – 80 per cent fully vaccinated. I don't know why we would stop there. I don't know why we wouldn't be aiming for 95 per cent fully vaccinated. If you look at the vaccination rates we've got in our kids for things like measles, mumps, rubella, we achieve very high vaccination rates. Why wouldn't we aim for that with our adults as well?
STEFANOVIC: You've got the gradual return of students in schools, the majority not returning though until the 1st of November. Now that we are hitting these targets, should that be brought forward?
PLIBERSEK: Don't worry. I know the dates. I’m watching those dates very carefully, don't worry.
STEFANOVIC: But should it be brought forward?
PLIBERSEK: No, I think it's important that we do this gradually, that we keep an eye on our hospital system. We know that our hospital system is really still under enormous pressure. It would be great if the federal government was prepared to work better and more closely with the states to make sure that across the nation our hospital system can cope with the pandemic. Most people believe that case numbers will increase as we open up. So, we need to be confident that our hospitals can cope. And also, our schools need to prepare. Our teachers need to prepare for that return to school and make sure that they've got everything in place. That they've got the ventilation right in the classrooms, that they've got the mask wearing protocols right, all of the things that we need to keep teachers, school staff, and of course our children safe.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, well on that. I know you've got an op-ed that's out today and you're asking for ways for students to be able to catch up. But on that subject of teachers, there’s also a piece out today that suggests that public schools might run out of them within five years. Are you that alarmed?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I am actually. There is a looming shortage in the teaching workforce. We already see in many schools across Australia, particularly in our regional communities, vacancies going unfilled for months or even years at a time. We know also that there are particular subjects in high school, for example, where we have really dramatic shortages of teachers. We absolutely have to raise the status of the teaching profession once again. This is such important work. It is life-changing work, and we need to remind students in high school, or career - people who are thinking about a career change later in life, of the satisfaction of the work. We need to make sure that teachers are respected, properly paid, that we take some of the administrative burden off them, so they can focus on the kids and focus on teaching. But we need a national approach that encourages people to take up teaching as a career - because it changes lives.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, and just finally Tanya, the French Ambassador's on his way back to Canberra. Are pleased about that?
PLIBERSEK: Of course I am. Our relationship with France is a very important one. France is not only a major European power, it’s a major Pacific power, and I think it's very clear that our government did not handle the breaking of the submarine contract very well and it's a real shame that it came to this. I'm very pleased that the French Ambassador is returning and let's hope that we can repair the relationship promptly.
STEFANOVIC: Tanya Plibersek, I appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.
PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure.