Politics with Michelle Grattan

Politics podcast: Tanya Plibersek on marriage equality and education funding

Politics podcast: Tanya Plibersek on marriage equality and education funding.

In the wake of Labor’s rejection of the proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite, speculation has fallen on whether it will maintain its planned policy of enforcing a binding vote on marriage equality after the next election. Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek tells Michelle Grattan she doesn’t think the issue will come up at the party’s next national conference.

“I know that the Liberals are trying to whip up some notion that this will be reexamined at the next national conference. I don’t hear anybody in the Labor Party calling for this to be reopened at the next national conference,” she says.

Plibersek, who is Labor’s spokesperson for education, says the government needs to properly fund the university sector.

“When it comes to undergraduate students in particular I’m very concerned about where this government is headed. You only need to look at the United States to see university degrees that cost an arm and a leg, hang a debt sentence around the neck of students and in many cases don’t even have the pay-off of leading to higher paid jobs,” she says.

“So I think we need to be careful about loading students up with debts that really become a burden for them … You’re talking about students at the same time in their lives as they’re finishing university, they’re often establishing relationships or families, they’re looking to buy a house.

"It comes at a very difficult time and the intergenerational effects of the type of debt that this government is proposing for students I think has broader social consequences than just being a disincentive to education for many people.”

Plibersek also defends Labor’s criticism of Education Minister Simon Birmingham for raising the possibility of cutting funding to wealthy private schools.

“It’s a distraction. Is he really going to take money off schools? Is he prepared to tell you which schools and how much money? And this is a smokescreen. He would love us to be having the old sectarian fights: state against state, independent verus public, versus Catholic, and frankly none of that matters.

"What matters is that we properly fund our schools system and they’re not going to do that.”