By Tanya Plibersek

08 March 2021



SUBJECTS: International Women’s Day; Linda Reynolds; Christian Porter; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle interview.

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: The Daily Telegraph reveals almost half of Australians are clueless over what respect for women actually means. Plenty to discuss with the Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek. And from 4BC in Brisbane, Scott Emerson. Nice to see both of you this morning. Tanya, can I ask you this - as a nation, do you think we're failing women? And if so, what can we do to change that?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Ally, look, it's certainly true that I have more freedom and choice than my mother or grandmother had, and I hope my daughter will have more freedom and choice than I've had in my life. We still have challenges in Australia. We've still got a gender pay gap. Too many women still face sexual harassment, sexual assault, or domestic violence. So we've still got more to do. And that's why I think it's really important that today Labor is talking about the gender pay gap and the measures that we would introduce to make sure that men and women's pay is more equal. We've been talking about domestic violence leave - 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. And of course, we've got our fantastic childcare policy that will make it easier and more affordable for women to take on that third or fourth day of work, or fifth day of work. We also know that it's been a particularly difficult time in the last few weeks, with all of the allegations we've seen of sexual harassment and sexual assault in our Parliament. There's still a lot more to do on that front as well.

LANGDON: That's it, isn't it? I mean, Scott, when you think about it, you know, it's 2021. I think it's sad isn't it that we're still having to talk about how women can achieve equality at work and in pay, how women can feel safe in the workplace, it's not good enough is it?

SCOTT EMERSON: No Ally. It's extraordinary that it's still the case and I have to say that, you know, the idea of naming and shaming companies who are over a certain size who haven’t achieved that, well, I think that's right idea because look, I can't believe in 2021 a woman would be paid less for doing the same job as a man. I mean, that sounds just so, it's not even 19th, 20th century. That's 18th century thinking. And it's good- let those companies explain why that is happening in them still - because they go out there and they'll talk about how wonderful the company is, but look inside and see what the decisions are being made - women should be paid the same as men. That's just common sense.

LANGDON: I do like to think though that we have a bit of momentum at the moment. We have an Australian of the Year who was a sexual assault survivor. I think we're having a lot of very important conversations certainly Tanya, in Canberra as you mentioned or just touched on what's been happening there for the last couple of weeks. And let's just talk about Defence Minister Linda Reynolds for a moment, because we know she was due back at work today. She's extended her sick leave for almost a month. It follows criticisms, of course, of her handling of that parliamentary rape allegation and calling the alleged victim a quote "lying cow". Now Tanya I think we all hope that Linda Reynolds is okay, but I want to ask you about her job. What happens here? Do you think she can stay in the role as Defence Minister?

PLIBERSEK: Obviously, we hope that Linda Reynolds and Christian Porter are able to look after their health while they're on leave. But these are two really critical Cabinet positions. And we have to ask, you know- this can't happen long term. We have to ask who's looking after our nation. We've got this $90 billion submarine project that seems to be going off the rails. We've got the war crimes inquiry that the Defence Minister has to look after. The Attorney General's also off - there are important legislative changes that we need. Who's looking after the country if these Ministers stay off for an indefinite period? I think it's very difficult for this not to have an end soon.

LANGDON: Yeah I think we have to put our national interest first. Scott, do you think Linda Reynolds, or Christian Porter for that matter, do you think they can survive this and keep their portfolios?

EMERSON: I think they are unlikely to survive for different reasons. I think Linda Reynolds has had a series of mistakes being made and obviously set to correct the record twice now in Parliament. And obviously the "lying cow" comment damaged her immensely. When you talk to people in Canberra at the moment there's a lot of speculation she won't be coming back into that role of Defence, such an important role for us particularly with the rise of China here in the Pacific. Then Christian Porter. Look, when you watch that press conference you just hope he's going to recover, as you obviously hope that Linda Reynolds will recover from her health issues as well. But again you just see the kind of pressure he's under. You wonder how long he can remain in that job, if he does come back into it.

LANGDON: Yeah. I tell you what, there's a lot of pressure on the Prime Minister at the moment isn't there? But let's talk now about the interview that the whole world is talking about. It's just a few hours away now and America will be glued to the television as Prince Harry and Meghan sit down with Oprah finally airs. We're hearing that the Queen has chosen not to watch it, with Palace sources claiming the royal family are ready to quote 'come out swinging' if they come under attack. Tanya, so are you on team Meghan or team Her Majesty here?

PLIBERSEK: I'm not surprised that the Queen's not going to be watching this. Look at what's happening in the UK at the moment. They've been so hard hit by Covid. Their health crisis has been bad. Their economy is really suffering. I think she's probably got more important things to worry about. And frankly as a grandmother, I think she would be very hurt by all of this. I'm not surprised she's not watching.

LANGDON: Yeah, I mean, that's where it’s sad, isn't it? Of course Prince Philip is still in hospital. He's been there since the middle of February. Scott, I mean, have you been riveted to this or do you want it all to go away?

EMERSON: I do want it all to go away, but I'm fascinated to see what happens in the interview and then how Buckingham Palace does respond. There's a Queenslander involved in all this - Samantha Cohen, she worked for the Palace for almost 20 years, worked for Harry and Meghan. She's been very quiet, but she's mentioned in articles about the allegations of bullying by Meghan. I'll be very interested to see once this Oprah interview is broadcast what the Palace then does then.

LANGDON: I think it's going to come down to, isn't it, if whether or not they attack the institution or whether they attack individuals. Tanya?

PLIBERSEK: I was just going to say it's pretty hard really, to feel that sorry for Harry and Meghan though, isn't it? I mean, look at what's happening in the UK. Look at the hard time that people have had in lockdown, and with Covid just raging through their community, the economy really struggling. I think it's pretty hard to feel sorry for two people living in California and enjoying a pretty good life, it seems.

LANGDON: I know, you know what, and I really do want to feel for them. But I just think they just, every step of the way, they just seem to read the mood wrong, and they just - they don't get it. They don't understand what the real struggles are out there. Guys, nice to talk to you today. Have a great week.

EMERSON: Thanks Ally.