Interview with David Lipson – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 30 July 2014






SUBJECT/S: EU/US sanctions imposed on Russia; Abbott Government abandons the Australian ship building industry; Abbott Government’s unfair Budget.

DAVID LIPSON: Thanks for your company on AM Agenda, I’m joined now by the Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare. Thanks for your time today. We just heard from the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott speaking about the sanctions that the US and EU have imposed on Russia. It’s clearly not a priority for Australia to join those countries in these sanctions against Russia because we need their cooperation in order to complete the mission to bring back the victims of MH17.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: That’s right David but anything that puts pressure on Russia to help restore peace to that region and to get clear and unrestricted access to the site is a fundamentally good thing. Our priority, as the Prime Minister said, is to bring our people home. We’ve been frustrated in attempts to get to the site over the last three days. That’s not good enough. President Obama has made the point that the Russian government are continuing to support, to train and to arm the separatist rebels and if more pressure can be placed on Russia to make sure that the rebels pull back and get us access to the site so we can bring our people home then that’s a good thing.

LIPSON: So you believe that imposing these sanctions could actually help the mission to bring those remains home by pressuring Russia. Are you actually saying that Australia should join with the EU and the US?

CLARE: I’m not privy to the conversations that the Prime Minister has had with President Obama. He’d be in a better position to give you the answer to that question. The Prime Minister is right to say that our priority must be to take the steps necessary with the countries of that region to be able to get in and get our people out.

The general point I’d make though is that when the world comes together and says this conflict needs to end, innocent people are being killed and we use economic sanctions to help put pressure on Russia to do that then I think that’s a good thing.

LIPSON: Returning home, the Prime Minister also spoke about ship building in this country and pointed out that there have been very significant cost over runs, very significant delays as well, it’s off the back of this story in The Australian newspaper today by Cameron Stewart that suggests that the government is considering sacking its own naval ship builder and installing British defence giant BAE Industries to rescue the Air Warfare Destroyer Project. What would be Labor’s view on that?

CLARE: Well David I’d make two points. First this is apparently part of a report which is still secret. So the first point I would make is that the government should release the report so we can have a proper discussion about the state of the program. The second point I’d make is that if you’ve got a ship building industry where you make warships, then you stop building warships and then you make them again, then you are going to have problems in construction. The best way to do this is to have a continuous ship building program.

Last century we built the Anzac frigates, there were troubles at the start and then the ships were built properly and they’ve been very successful. We stopped building ships, now we are building them again. On current trajectory we are going to stop building ships then we are going to build future frigates down the track. Now all of that means you are not as efficient and productive as you can be and you have cost over runs and that’s why Labor in government and Labor in opposition is now urging the government to make sure that we build a sustainable, long term ship building industry. That’ll be not just important for the warships that we need to build but also for the future submarine project.

LIPSON: Should that sustainable ship building industry be government owned or should it be to the cheapest bidder?

CLARE: It doesn’t necessarily need to be government owned and this project, an alliance project, has been built by three major companies, the ASC based in Adelaide but also BAE based in Melbourne and Forgacs based in the Hunter in New South Wales. That’s not a bad way to go about building those projects. You need to do it in a very efficient way would be the point I’d make. The way to make it efficient though is to make sure you’ve got a continuous ship building program not a stop start program like we’ve had in the past and like we potentially will have in the future.

LIPSON: Turning to the budget we see figures that the Financial Review is reporting on regarding the Mining Tax that just $600,000 was reaped in the three months to the end of June that means it’s about $300 million for the last financial year, less than half of what Labor expected to reap from the Mining Tax and yet the Opposition is still, along with the cross benchers blocking the repeal of not just the Mining Tax but the associated measures that would blow an even bigger hole in the budget.

CLARE: I just don’t think Joe Hockey gets it. It’s not just this, it’s the budget more generally. Joe Hockey has handed down a budget which is as popular as anthrax and a book has come out that says he wants to make even deeper cuts. He needs to go back to the drawing board here and come up with some better ideas. Nobody in his party or any other party thinks that putting a tax on people to go to the doctor or increasing the cost of university fees, or cutting the pension or in this particular area here, cutting superannuation entitlements for people on low incomes or the Schoolkids Bonus being cut is a good idea. So Joe Hockey, if he seriously wants to be Prime Minister should say, okay I’ve got this wrong and I’ll go back to the drawing board and come up with some better ideas that will win the support of the Parliament.

LIPSON: What about this warning from Standard & Poor’s that the Australian Government must keep debt below 30 per cent to maintain its Triple-A credit rating. Is that at risk? That’s the second ratings agency to sound this sort of signal.

CLARE: I’d make the general point to you David that we want to work constructively with the government on this but there are better ways to tackle some of the challenges in the budget than putting a tax on someone to go to the doctor or doubling the cost of university degrees or cutting the pension. One thing the government can do straight away is to ditch their Paid Parental Leave Scheme that gives millionaire mums $50,000 to have a baby. That’s just one example of some of the things the government could do and we’ve put down other ideas for them as well. So I’d reiterate the point –

LIPSON: You say you want to work constructively with the government. Does that mean that there are some of its savings measures that Labor would consider backing if there were some changes?

CLARE: We already have. We’ve backed some of the ones that have gone through the Parliament.

LIPSON: But the ones that are being blocked at the moment?

CLARE: There are others that are yet to come to the Parliament where we have said David that we would support some changes to Family Tax Benefit B but there are others where we will not change. The Labor Party set up Medicare, we built it and we’ll defend it. We’ll stop the government from their attempts to try and break down Medicare and create a two-tier health system. We won’t support the government’s attempts to create a US university style system where degrees double in price and we will not allow the government to cut the real increases in the pension.

LIPSON: Jason Clare, Shadow Communications Minister thanks so much for that, we are out of time.

CLARE: Thanks very much David.