By Tanya Plibersek

17 June 2021




SUBJECTS: Michael McCormack; Tanya’s husband; Australian Olympic swimming trials; ABC. 

ALAN JONES, HOST: Let's go to your two federal Parliamentarians whom you know well. At a time when politics seems to be dominated by people without ability, these women are able. Tanya Plibersek and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Concetta can I come to you first? We have a President of the United States in cognitive decline and an acting Prime Minister of Australia who yesterday was asked about the mice plague and why the Government was doing nothing, he responded that the farmers were doing well because we've got a Free Trade Agreement with Britain. Today, he was asked this question by Tony Burke: 


TONY BURKE: Yesterday I met with Kate who while working in South Australia was paid $25 a day to pick, 800kg of oranges. Kate worked seven days a week but still had to search for food in local supermarket garbage bins. Why does the Government allow conditions like this in Australia? 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We do have a welfare safety net system here in Australia and it is the envy of the world. We do have the highest minimum wage of anywhere in the world. That's what we have in Australia and we should be proud of that. 

TONY BURKE: The question goes specifically to someone who is paid piece rates. They don't receive the minimum wage. It's part of how it works in Australia.


JONES: Concetta, can I ask you as a member of the Government, please confirm that you are embarrassed that such incompetence can be rewarded with the status of acting Prime Minister. 

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well I think Alan, you have to understand that under the Coalition agreement the Leader of the National Party, and this has been a long-standing situation, the leader of the National Party becomes the Deputy Prime Minister, and Michael McCormack was elected by his Party room to be their Leader, and as such, he's the Deputy Prime Minister. 

JONES: But are you embarrassed by that? This is representing Australia! This goes all around the world!

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Alan, I just saw those excerpts. I think that what Michael was trying to talk about was the fact that this Kate, and I don't know who Kate was, and I'm not sure about the circumstances of Kate, but it went to the fact that there is a safety net in Australia.

JONES: But wouldn't a bloke with any ability Concetta, wouldn't a bloke with any ability have said look if what Mr Burke is saying is right, let me say emphatically, that is unacceptable. You get me the details and I'll make sure someone in Government looks into the whole matter. Wouldn’t you say that? Instead of standing up and saying we've got the best minimum wage in the world, we have a welfare system. Tanya Plibersek your thoughts on this?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND SHADOW MINSITER FOR WOMEN: Kate's situation is that she has to fill an 800kg bin with oranges, that takes all day to do that, she earns $25 for filling that bin with oranges. And it is shocking that the Deputy Prime Minister doesn't understand how tough some people are doing it. Kate and other workers that she was with used to go around the back of the local Coles and looks through the out-of-date food in the bins that they were throwing away. Because once they’d paid more than a hundred bucks a week each in rent, there wasn't much left over for buying food. It is shocking that in Australia today that people are dumpster diving to support themselves when they're working full time, seven days a week. 

JONES: Yeah but a bloke at the local pub would know how to answer that question and simply say, hang on, hang on, you can't go on like this. Give me the details and we look into it. Tanya Plibersek can I ask you on a very personal level - 

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it's not right and I'll fix it?

JONES: Yeah that's it. Can I ask you on a very personal level, are you aware that in the chamber this week you were targeted by a senior figure in the Government with some rather off-colour remarks about your husband's past and these apparently were not captured by recordings because they were off microphone. Your husband is a very senior figure in the New South Wales Public Service. How do you respond to that?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I don't think it's much of a secret Alan that about 40 years ago, when my husband was in his early teens, he had a heroin habit, and he sold heroin to support that habit and he got busted by the Police conspiring to import heroin, and he went to gaol and he went to gaol for a few years. Luckily, he went to a Salvation Army rehab before that, but I think rehab and gaol probably saved his life. He knows he did the wrong thing. He knows that it was right that he went to gaol. I agree that it was right that he went to gaol. I'm not really sure why Peter Dutton felt the need to raise it, but what I would say is Michael's story of reform and the hope that it gives people who've got a family member struggling with drug addiction is what I hang on to. I'm proud of my husband. I think his story of reform, the wonderful father and husband that he is, is a real tribute to him and a great Australian success story. 

JONES: Well, I just want to say, I have known Tanya Plibersek's husband for a long time. I've found him to be a man who's risen above that teenage mistake to serve governments of all political persuasions with distinction. No one should have to suffer this below the belt stuff, but I have to say, it does come from both sides, which brings me to you Concetta. Who's going to pull the ABC into line for its persistent attacks, often dishonest, against senior government figures, the latest being an attack on Scott Morrison whom it sought to tarnish by visiting upon him the ideological traits of one of his friends. Concetta?

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well Alan, in the words of Scott Morrison, this was very, very poor form. But Alan, I have long advocated that it's now time to merge the ABC and SBS, I think we need to go back to basics, and we need to have one broadcaster with a charter that sets out and benefits all Australians, irrespective of colour or creed. And I actually think that this is discussion that needs to be had and as a consequence of that, as a consequence of that, we should revisit the whole issue about funding and all of those issues, bearing in mind Alan now that we have a plethora of media outlets-

JONES: Stack of platforms.

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: That service both mainstream and - absolutely.

JONES: Stack of platforms, Concetta. Tanya can I just say this to you, in Adelaide at the moment we've got some of the finest young achievers in Australia, athletes - swimmers -  a young girl Kaylee McKeown broke a world record. Ariarne Titmus, the greatest 200 freestyle swim in history. Cate Campbell's going to her fourth Olympics. Brilliant, articulate, feminine, gifted Australian. Why shouldn't Australians, Tanya, see these young people on the taxpayer funded national broadcaster instead of it trying to trash the reputation of a Prime Minister. Tanya?

PLIBERSEK: Well Alan I'm all for more sport on free-to-air TV, but I'm not sure that Sky would be happy that I was saying that on Sky tonight. I really want to see these swimmers -

JONES: Absolutely.

PLIBERSEK: Perform in the Olympics. As you said, Kaylee, like,19 years old, breaking a world record - how fantastic is that?

JONES: I know but Australia can't see it.

PLIBERSEK: I'll certainly be following them, yeah, I’ll be following their progress for sure.

JONES: Australia can't see it but a national broadcaster comes up with this other trash. Just before we go, Concetta, a final thought from you on this?

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, as I said, Alan, I'd like to see one national broadcaster that's sending to air and covering the broadcasting needs of all Australians.

JONES: Things of the nation.

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Rather than a minority, and things that the nation want to see, and things that the nation should be seeing.

JONES: Things that the nation are interested in. I agree with you. Thank you both for your contribution. Always good to talk. Always sad that we run out of time, but we'll talk next week. There they are, Tanya Plibersek and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Back after the break.