By Tanya Plibersek

06 July 2021




SUBJECTS: Julia Banks’ harassment claims; Scott Morrison’s inability to take responsibility; Representation of women in politics;  Vaccination rollout failure.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya, thanks for your time this morning. First of all, what did you make of Julia Banks' claims?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Look, I think Julia Banks speaking out about her experiences while she was a Member of Parliament takes incredible courage and it takes incredible integrity, and we have to listen to what she's described about the treatment she received. I think it also shows that to be Prime Minister, to lead a workplace like this, you need to have integrity, you need to have courage, you need to have honour. And what we've heard about the Prime Minister's response is the exact opposite of that.

STEFANOVIC: Critics of Julia's stance, they have posed the question this morning that should she have done something at the time when she had the power to do so, rather than now when she's trying to shift copies of a book?

PLIBERSEK: Well isn't this the absolutely typical gaslighting response to a woman when she makes a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault? We hear reports about the Prime Minister's office backgrounding against Julia Banks in the same way that they were accused of backgrounding against Brittany Higgins' loved ones after Brittany Higgins made a complaint. You know, to be a leader, you need to have courage and you need to have honour, and instead we've got a Prime Minister that whenever things get difficult looks around for someone else to blame - it's the states’ fault that the vaccine is not rolling out, it’s the Aged Care workers who haven't been vaccinated, and in this case, apparently it's the women who are making complaints that should be responsible for fixing the culture. What we see is the Prime Minister who's happy to order another inquiry into a question that he really doesn't want to hear the answer to.

STEFANOVIC: Labor's in the firing line though too according to Julia's extract, it was published on the weekend. She said at her first Midwinter Ball, a newly-minted male MP from the Opposition said 'Julia you must use a really strong hair dye', which was seen as a dig at her age. So Labor has got its problems as well. Do you agree?

PLIBERSEK: I would say that any workplace as big as Parliament House, there will be examples of sexism and sexual harassment and I wouldn't for a moment suggest that the Labor Party, or the Greens or the Nationals, or the Liberals are immune from that. The big difference that I've seen in my time in Parliament is that the Labor Party is now close to 50/50 female representation in the House of Representatives and the Senate and that does make a difference to culture. It is harder to get away with bad behaviour when you've got critical mass of women in the place. 

STEFANOVIC: Well Julia also talks about the issues that she faced when going through preselection, when she was climbing the ladder towards a political life. What sort of experiences did you have when you were starting out? Was it something similar as well?

PLIBERSEK: Actually, I had a great experience during my preselection. It was tough, there were 13 candidates and it went for about 5 months where we were convincing more than a thousand branch members in the seat of Sydney that one of us would be the best representative for Labor in the seat. But it in my preselection, there was a strong expectation that a woman would win the seat. And I think that again goes back to culture. For decades in the Labor party, we have been trying, and I think now successfully, to increase the representation of women in Parliament. And that's not just because our Parliament makes better decisions when we better reflect the Australian community, it's because when we have more women around the decision-making table we better represent the whole of Australia and we come up with great policies. Like the real policies, we have to reduce the gender pay gap. Like our commitment to moving to 12 per cent superannuation, so we have fewer women retiring into poverty. Like our 10 days domestic violence paid leave. And like our fantastic policy to reduce the cost of childcare so families can better make ends meet, so that women aren't saying no to day four or day five in the workplace because they can't afford it due to child care fees.

STEFANOVIC: Just a quick one before we go, I want to ask you out the Brits moving towards Freedom Day in a couple of weeks times. They've vaccinated two-thirds of their adult population, so they're far more advanced than we are when it comes to this. But at what point of our vaccination, would you like to see us opening up in terms of something similar, where you don't have these shutdowns, where you can go to the football without any issue, that sort of thing?

PLIBERSEK: I'm really looking forward to life getting a bit more back to normal, and we know that vaccination rates will have to be much higher before we do. We've got the extraordinary situation in Australia where at last count about 16 per cent of aged care workers were fully vaccinated. So we are a long way away from a sort of safe opening up and that is largely due to the failure of the vaccine rollout and the failure of quarantine. Both of them again go back to what I said at the very beginning, Scott Morrison runs a mile when there's responsibility to be taken. 

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Tanya Plibersek we're out of time, but appreciate your time this morning. We'll talk to you soon. 

PLIBERSEK: Great to talk to you