politics

We asked Josh Frydenberg, Tanya Plibersek and Adam Bandt the same 5 questions. Here's what they told us.

To keep up to date with the federal election campaign as we head to the polls to vote on May 21, visit our election hub page. There you'll find analysis, explainers and all the results of our Mamamia Votes survey.

The 2022 federal election is upon us. 

Pre-polling booths are well and truly open, and millions of Aussies have already cast their vote. 

If you're still feeling confused, conflicted or just haven't bothered to lean into the election chatter just yet - we've got your back. 

I've done you a solid, and spoken to three politicians from the three major parties on your ballot paper. Of course there's plenty of others - there's a bunch of other minor parties, and plenty of independents to choose from. 

Read more: The teal appeal: The rise of independents, and the pros and cons of voting for them.

But I wanted to ask the three most prominent parties - Coalition, Labor and the Greens - the same five questions so we could directly compare their answers. 

Lucky for us, Labor frontbencher and Shadow Minister for Education and Women, Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, and Greens Leader Adam Bandt, all allowed me to pick their brains.

Here's exactly what they told me:

1. Do you think your party is doing everything in its power to help Australia save the planet?

Josh Frydenberg: 

"We are certainly doing everything we possibly can to reduce Australia's carbon footprint and to get Australia to net zero emissions by 2050. That has been our agreed commitment, it's a significant one, and we're focusing on doing so with a very detailed plan. The plan involves a technology investment roadmap, where we're investing more than $22 billion and leveraging more than $80 billion off the private sector. And it's everything from microgrids, which is small scale wind and solar in remote communities, to Snowy 2.0, which is effectively a big battery for the east coast of Australia. We're also investing in clean hydrogen, particularly in areas in Australia's regions, whether it's in the Pilbara, whether it's in Bell Bay in Tasmania, the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, the Hunter in New South Wales... and capitalising on a low emission form of new power generation. We've also got carbon capture and storage and a host of other new technologies that Australia is investing in.

"I think we've got a great story to tell, our emissions are down by 20 per cent on what they were in 2005. In comparison, New Zealand's are down by four per cent. Canada is down by one per cent. The average across the OECD -  they're down by seven per cent. We've actually seen around $35 billion of renewable energy invested in Australia in the last few years, that's eight times the pace of the rest of the world on average. And so we've got a story to tell about the technologies that we're investing in, we've got a story to tell about our target, and our commitment. And I think we've got a story to tell about how it's creating jobs and lowering electricity prices."

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Tanya Plibersek: 

"We've got a really strong commitment to zero net emissions, and it's a commitment that we're going to keep. At the moment the government is still fighting itself about whether they're committed to zero net emissions or whether they're not going to reach zero net emissions. We've already said that we want to invest in making sure that we have more renewable energy; that we upgrade our transmission grid so that it can accept more renewable energy into the grid. That's great for lowering emissions, it's great for lowering power prices, and it's great for jobs as well as investing in upgrading our transmission system [by] putting more renewables into our system.

"We also want to help industries transition, so that they can use more renewable energy in their production processes. So really energy-intensive industries like metals manufacture, aluminium, steel, cement, industrial chemicals, and those kinds of big users of energy - we want to help them transition so that their products are made with green energy. That's great for our environment here in Australia, but it's also really good for our export products, when we're trying to export to Europe [and] to the United States [and] countries around the world that are also on a path to zero net emissions. By having low emissions exports, we can capture some of those markets overseas. 

"We [have also] made an additional announcement about the Great Barrier Reef. So it's about what we do in energy and climate change, but it's also what we do in our environment to make sure that we're protecting the reef, protecting our beautiful natural environment, investing to protect species. We've got really big pressures on species extinction as well. Oh, and cheaper electric vehicles, that's a really good one too... because that's not just good for the environment, it's good for the family budget if you can lower your transport costs as well.

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"So I think we've got I think we've got a really good set of policies."

Adam Bandt: 

"It's our top election issue, and it's the reason why I quit my job and started running in elections. We've got a limited window of time left to stop climate change becoming a runaway chain reaction, and so it's right that it's people's number one concern. The scientists are telling us we've got to act in this decade, 2050 targets are too late, we need to act now. Coal and gas are the main causes of the climate crisis, we have to stop opening up coal and gas mines and then work out how to get out of the existing ones that we've got. 

"Our number one priority this election is to change the government because we think we need to do that to get climate action, and then to put the Greens in balance of power. [Then we can] put on the table our demand that we stop opening up coal and gas mines, [and] have a conversation about how we get out of coal and gas in a country like Australia; where we can support workers and communities to get out of coal and gas and into renewables and other secure jobs. We've come up with a comprehensive plan to do that, it's the centrepiece of our campaign this election. 

"When we've been in balance of power in the past, we've got action on the climate crisis and it's the only time in Australia that pollution has meaningfully dropped, and we want to repeat that again. For us, this is the number one issue and we have to act now, and we're the only ones putting on the table a plan that looks after workers in communities, but that is consistent with the science. We're the only ones with targets that are consistent with a science that will cut the pollution in the time needed. It's a critical issue for us this election."

2. What is the most important election issue to you, and how are you planning on tackling it as an individual and a party if you win?

Josh Frydenberg:

"It might not be a surprise to you as the treasurer, my focus is on creating jobs, and I'm really pleased about what Australia has been able to achieve in the last couple of years. It's easy for us to forget what it was like back in March and April 2020, when 1.4 million Australians either lost their jobs or saw their working hours reduced to zero. That's more than 10 per cent of the workforce and Treasury actually came to me and said that they thought the unemployment rate could reach as high as 15 per cent; that's more than two million people unemployed. The good news today is that the unemployment rate is at four per cent, which is the equal lowest in 48 years, and we've got female unemployment to its lowest level since 1974. 

"So for me as treasurer, I don't see my job as achieving a number on a page. I think my job is about supporting the people behind the numbers. For every one of those 700,000 jobs that were saved with Job Keeper, that was a mum or a dad or a brother or sister - somebody who now has the dignity of work. I come across people all day every day who have seen their job saved by Job Keeper. Just yesterday [I was] speaking to a young couple who run a small business where they fix antique fireplaces and they live above the shop on the main street. Without Job Keeper, they said their business would have closed and closed permanently. Now they're up and running and they're feeling really strong about it. So whether it's in the retail sector, whether it's the local dry cleaner, whether it's people in hospitality... people's jobs have been saved with the initiatives that we've taken. And for me, going forward, I want to create more jobs. So for me, the biggest issue is how can I steer the economy towards that path of creating more jobs, particularly for young people."

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Source: Mamamia Votes survey with 5000 audience members. 

Tanya Plibersek:

"The thing that most people bring up with me, it doesn't matter where I am in the country, is that they're really struggling to make ends meet. Cost of living has gone through the roof and wages just haven't kept up. So I think that for this election that is the most important issue, and we've got plans to make childcare cheaper for 96 per cent of families in the system, we've got a plan for cheaper power bills for families, we've got a plan for cheaper medicines, cheaper electric vehicles - all of those things take a bit of pressure off the family budget. 

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"We also need to see pay increases, and we've got a government at the moment that says that people on the lowest wages, so people earning $20.33 an hour, don't deserve $1 an hour pay increase. They've said in the past that low wages are a deliberate design of their economic architecture, and they want to keep wages low. Well, we say that we can afford to increase wages, take pressure off the cost of living, reduce the gender pay gap; basically make it easier for people to make ends meet. I think that's the biggest issue for most people in this election. 

"Can I say one thing personally that I really want to focus on if we're elected? I'd like to see a change in rates of sexual assault in this country. I want to work through the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, to have a real focus on sexual assault, because it is one of the areas where we can continue to see rates of crime increase when most other areas of crime we've seen a decrease in crime rates. I think there's a lot we could and should be doing. There's a lot we know about how to change behaviour, including in investing in respectful relationships for teenagers in high school; we've got a $77 million plan to teach kids about respectful relationships. But also [it's about] sending strong and consistent messages about the legal response, the justice response to sexual assault, [and] making the process easier for victims of crime. Basically, we need to jail more rapists and keep them off the street and I would really want to focus very strongly on that in the next term if we are elected to government."

Adam Bandt:

"The most important election issue for the Greens is the climate crisis. We want to make sure we get out of coal and gas, and at the very least stop opening up new coal and gas mines. There's 114 new coal and gas mines on the books in this country that Liberal and Labor both want to proceed with, and we know the government's terrible because they're making the climate crisis worse. But Labor has been at pains this election to say they agree with the government, including on opening up new coal mines. I just don't see how in a time of bushfires, floods and droughts, you can go ahead and open up new fossil fuel projects - we've got to stop doing it. And with the floods that have been ripping through New South Wales, and the fires that came off the back of record drought in this country, we know we've got to act. Australia has got a lot to lose if we don't get it under control.

"I think probably level pegging with the climate crisis would be what we see as the inequality crisis that we're seeing in housing affordability, with so many people being locked out of homes. We're seeing the gap between the very well off and everyone else growing in this country, [and] we think government has a big role in tackling that to make this country a more equal place where everyone is looked after. So I guess climate crisis first but then level pegging with that is tackling the inequality crisis to ensure that we get dental, mental health into Medicare, [and] we fix housing affordability. And critically for us, we want to wipe student debt. We think that is a much better and fairer way of addressing cost-of-living pressures, rather than giving tax cuts to billionaires like Liberal and Labor want to do."

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3. Women are still not equal in politics, in business and in the home. What do you think needs to change to truly dismantle that for good?

Josh Frydenberg:

"We're taking a lot of steps to improve women's economic security, women's health, and women's safety and in the last two budgets alone we've had a women's economic statement, which has included more than $5.5 billion dollars worth of measures. 

"Take, for example, women's safety. We're investing in frontline services, legal assistance, safe houses, and a range of other support measures to help people who are really in need and particularly young children as well. So we have a National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, and we're working to that plan. 

"When it comes to women's health I mentioned Trodelvy - that's just one example. There's been a whole range of other supports and issues we've taken; whether it's around endometriosis, or whether it's working with women on IVF services and being able to ensure that they have access even though they may have cancer or other diseases that put them at risk.

"When it comes to the economy, we've actually seen on our government's watch, the gender pay gap narrow to a record low. There's still a way to go, but it has been narrowing. We have also seen on our watch, female workforce participation reach a record high and there are 1.1 million more women in work today, under the Coalition, than when we came to government. The measures that we're taking to create more jobs for women across the economy include the more than $10 billion that's going each year into childcare. In last year's budget, we announced initiatives that abolish the cap and lift the rate that is provided to families with two or more children in childcare, which will see about 250,000 families benefit by more than $2,000 a year. And what Treasury tell me is we'll see around 300,000 additional hours worked a week, so it's enabling about 40,000 people to go and work an extra day a week. So those are practical initiatives.

"In this year's budget we made changes around the Paid Parental Leave scheme. As you may know, it's 18 weeks, and then there's been an additional two weeks that has been provided effectively to dads. But if you're a single mum, you weren't able to get 20 weeks, [and] now a single mum is able to get 20 weeks. So I think that's going to be a significant change, and it's going to create a lot more flexibility as well within the system. We also changed the income thresholds so that where the mother is the primary earner in the family, she's now able to access the Paid Parental Leave scheme, which she previously may not have.

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"We've also been working on initiatives like the Home Loan Guarantee Scheme to get more people into a home and particularly single mums and single parents, where they're able to now get into a home with a deposit as low as two per cent. That's very significant.

"We're investing in leadership programmes, as well as other programmes to help women get into non-traditional trades: we've got a big investment in STEM for women. So there's a whole lot of things that we're doing, and I'd add on that superannuation - there was a limitation called the $450 rule. If you earnt less than $450 a month, you didn't get superannuation paid on your income. Well, we've abolished that. That will help 200,000 women a year, particularly low income earners who may have been working part time, who were not getting superannuation. 

"All those measures are making a difference and I'm very proud that as the treasurer, I was able to play a small role in making that a reality."

Tanya Plibersek:

"It starts with attitudes. It actually starts with an attitude where people at the highest level - including our prime minister - believe that men and women are equal. Let's start with that right. Under this government, Australia's gone from being the 24th most equal country in the world to the 50th most equal country in the world. We've actually fallen every year since this government's been in power. We're sliding down the scales, [and] we need to demand equality between men and women. 

"Australian women don't want special treatment: they just want to be treated equally to blokes. We need to tackle the gender pay gap and Labor's got plans to do that by supporting changes to the Fair Work Act; making sure the Fair Work Commission has the expertise to properly evaluate gender-based pay claims like the one that the aged care workers have got at the moment. Like the one that the childcare workers unsuccessfully prosecuted a few years ago. The fact that childcare workers couldn't get a gender-based pay rise shows you that the system is broken. We need to fix the system and we need big companies to disclose their gender pay gap publicly. We've got a plan to prohibit pay secrecy clauses that means two people sitting next to each other at work are allowed to talk about what they earn. There are industries where you're not allowed to do that. Is it any wonder that finance, the industry that makes the biggest use of pay secrecy clauses, also has one of the biggest gender pay gaps?

"By investing more than $5 billion in making childcare cheaper, we also make a huge contribution to reducing the gender pay gap and the superannuation pay gap, because women can pick up that day four or day five at work. At the moment, it's actually costing them money to go back to work full time once they're paying for childcare. So that's one important thing we need to do. 

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"We need to tackle violence against women. Labor would implement all 55 recommendations of the [email protected] report to make sure women are safe at work, we would invest $3 billion in making women and children safer; that means implementing the next national plan on violence, an extra 100 million dollars for emergency accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence, building 20,000 new public housing dwellings - at least 4000 of those [would be] set aside for women and children escaping domestic violence and older single women, [and] 500 extra community sector workers to help. We often ask about a woman who's living in a violent situation, 'why didn't she leave'? What we should be asking is, 'where would she go'? We've got a plan for where she would go and who would help.

"When it comes to political representation, I'm really proud of the fact that Labor is at almost 50 per cent of our political representation at a federal level. When I first went into parliament, we were about a quarter, [and] the Liberals were about a quarter. We're now at about half and they're still stuck at a quarter. We absolutely have to make sure that our parliament looks like the people that elect it. And that means more women, it means a diversity of ages, a diversity of ethnic, religious, professional backgrounds. We need a more diverse parliament because diverse groups of people make better decisions."

Adam Bandt:

"There's work to be done, and work is being done. But there's a lot of change that can be driven from the top and change that can be driven from the bottom. I think politics plays a big role in that. The Greens party room is majority women, we've got six out of 10 members of our party room women, and it's something that we continue to fight for, and we'll put at the top of our agenda. 

"We want to change the law, to do a number of things. One is to change the law so that in workplaces across the country, there's a positive obligation on employers to create a safe workplace free from sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. We've got those kinds of laws with Workplace Health and Safety at the moment, so employers have to create a safe workplace generally. [But] we think we should extend that to ensure that it's safe for everyone, especially safe for women. 

"We want to change the law so that we start to close the gender pay gap by putting in a minimum requirement in our Fair Work Act to say that minimum wages of workers in those areas where a lot of women work - care sectors, nursing, education - should be lifted faster than inflation. So 0.5 per cent above CPI to start to close the gender pay gap, and deal with those rising pressures of cost of living. 

"We also think a lot of this starts from school level and from early age. The importance of having real, respectful relationships education for boys and girls a compulsory part of the curriculum, [but] done properly, not as part of some culture war because the minister wants to have a certain view. Actually have it driven by experts and ingrained into our system. That would go a really, really long way in helping change the culture. 

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"Lastly, we've all got an obligation, especially as politicians to do better. I know that there's a low view, generally, of politics, but people should rightly be able to hold what happens in Canberra to a higher standard. And I think we've seen over the last little while, the lid has been lifted on what men have been doing for a really long time and men's behaviour and at times unlawful conduct. There's an obligation I think, on us as parliamentarians to do better to ensure that everyone who's working in that place feels that they can speak out. I think if we start to change the culture at the top, hopefully some of that will flow through."

4. Half our readers feel resigned or fatigued by the campaign already. Tell them why they should trust you and your party to run the country?

Josh Frydenberg:

"I can understand why people are fatigued. It's been a pretty tough few years with COVID and all the other issues people have been managing and then to have an election on top of that, and it's been a long election campaign. But our democracy is something we're all heavily invested in, and it's a wonderful right that not every country in the world enjoys; that is the ability to choose your political representatives. And Australia faces some big issues into the future. 

"We've spoken about the economy and coming out of COVID. There's also the big environmental issues that we've spoken about, like climate change, [and] big national security and defence issues which you need stable government to deal with. So Australia can't take its good fortune for granted, we can't take our strong economy for granted. And ultimately, with a strong economy, you can then invest in all the things that people expect from their government; health, education, disability support, aged care, and infrastructure. I'll give you a good example of it; as a government we have listed more than 2000 new drugs onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and those drugs are changing lives, effectively taking them from costing 1000s of dollars and outside the reach of a typical family to actually making them affordable and accessible. On budget night, I listed a drug on the PBS called Trodelvy. Trodelvy is for women with terminal breast cancer, and it normally costs about $80,000 a treatment. I was introduced to a lady called Alison Day through Breast Cancer Network Australia, which is in my electorate in Camberwell. Alison had written a letter to her daughter Matilda in the expectation that she wouldn't be alive to share that birthday with her because she has terminal breast cancer. She couldn't afford Trodelvy, but then all her friends chipped in and bought her that drug. 

"She came to Canberra for budget night, and she sat in the chamber with her daughter Matilda, and was there when I listed Trodelvy on the PBS, which is now available to women right across Australia. That was on the Tuesday night. The next day on the Wednesday, Matilda and Alison were celebrating Matilda's 12th birthday, and that is just one of literally 1000s of stories across the country where the government can actually do a lot of good for people by making drugs affordable and accessible by investing in the programmes that help people in need. And we can do so because we actually have a strong economy."

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Tanya Plibersek:

"Because we've got a plan. We've got a leader in Anthony Albanese who wants to step up and take responsibility. We've got a prime minister in Scott Morrison, who's always looking for an excuse when things don't go well. We've got really clear plans to bring down the cost of living, take some of that pressure off families, to increase wages...

"There's so many things that we could be doing better in this country. There's bread and butter issues; pay, conditions at work, cost of living. They're super important - we get they're super important. But we can be better as a nation as well. Labor's got a plan to fully implement the recommendations from the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We want to set up a national integrity commission. We've got a commitment to addressing gender inequality. We want to tackle climate change. And personally, I'd like to see a bit more integrity and kindness and decency in public life. And I think we'll get that with the Labor government."

Source: Mamamia Votes survey with 5000 audience members.  

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Adam Bandt:

"I think that's fair enough. I think that politics in many ways isn't working for everyday people at the moment, and we see that, as the Greens, watching what happens in parliament. It's the big vested interests and the big corporations that have got a lot of spending power that get the ear of the big parties, and then they get to write policies that work for them. As a result, politics doesn't work for people and the standard of debate, the standard of integrity and the standard of respect in politics is so low at the moment that I think it's not surprising that people are turning off and switching off because in many respects, politics isn't addressing the big issues. 

"We're going into an election, where we've got big issues like the housing crisis, the climate crisis, we've got people who are living in poverty, we've got people unable to find meaningful work. And instead of tackling those big issues, we've got this narrow contest between a terrible government and a visionless opposition, and it becomes about personalities in the worst possible way. It becomes about point-scoring. 

"One of the successes, I think, of the offering of the Greens is that we're putting forward a vision for a better society, where we power past coal and gas, where we get dental and mental health into Medicare, where we make childcare free, and all of those things...and we fund it by not asking everyday people to pay more, but by making the billionaires and the big corporations pay their fair share of tax. 

"Our view as the Greens is when a nurse pays more tax than a multinational, something is seriously wrong in our society. So we're offering a vision to try and reconnect people with politics. And to say politics can actually be a force for good, like the government can actually make people's lives better. I think if we had more of that during the election campaign, then people might feel a bit more hope in politics. But I understand why people are feeling like that - and they're not necessarily wrong to do it either. It's up to us as people running for office, to do better to inspire people that politics is a place for hope."

5. What have the last two years of the pandemic taught you as a politician?

Josh Frydenberg:

"It's been a bumpy ride, that's for sure, so you've got to take the highs with the lows. I think the key [for me, and for the government] has been working extremely closely with our professional public service, whether they are the health professionals or the Treasury officials or across other areas of government... We've heavily relied on that impartial advice - that fearless and frank advice. And it's been absolutely essential as we put in place the support for the economy when it was effectively put into hibernation with all those health restrictions. When we put in place quite dramatic health measures like closing our borders early on in the crisis which helped Australia avoid the high COVID fatality rates that you've seen in other parts of the country. That close working relationship between the public service and the political representatives, I think has been in Australia's best interests."

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Tanya Plibersek:

"I think the thing that was most striking about the pandemic is that Australians are prepared to sacrifice for one another. Young, healthy people stayed home, they wore masks, they got vaccinated because they were worried about passing the virus on to their grandma, or giving it to someone else. I think that spirit of all being in it together, and all being prepared to look after each other was really important during the pandemic. 

"Honestly, at the beginning of the pandemic, if you had said, 'we're going to ask Australians to stay home from the beach and the pub', it would have been pretty hard to imagine a nation doing that, right? But we did it for each other. And I think that spirit of looking after each other is really important. I think that preparedness to put the national interest first, to look after the most vulnerable, to help each other out, to offer a helping hand when it's needed...I think that is really beautiful. I think it's really core to the Australian spirit, and I think we saw a lot of it during the pandemic and it made me really proud."

Adam Bandt:

"That we're all in this together...and none of us are looked after unless all of us are looked after. It taught me the importance of expert advice in our public health system - it's really been listening to those experts that's helped us get through this, and people being prepared to work for the good of everyone else. It's taught me that we still have a big gender disparity in our society at the moment; women ended up doing a huge amount of the unpaid work that was necessary to get us all through the COVID lockdowns and out the other side. Women lost paid work first, and then ended up doing a much greater share of the burden of unpaid work with it came to home education and the like. So that told me that there's a real need for us, as a society led by politicians, to value unpaid work better and work that's being done by women, better.

"It also taught us that governments can be a force for good. Things that people had said were impossible, like free childcare or lifting people out of poverty, all of a sudden were possible. And it showed that change can happen if we have a different vision of government. If we say that part of the role of government is to step in and make people's lives better and reduce inequality, then it can make people's lives a lot better."

Feature image: AAP Image/James Ross/Mamamia. 

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