Radio Interview with Jon Faine – Tuesday 15 July 2014






JON FAINE: On the line is the Shadow Minister for Communications. Earlier this morning we had a chat to Malcolm Turnbull, the Minister for Communications, who in Question Time in the Parliament yesterday proudly announced that for the first time ever, the NBN Co had achieved one of its performance targets. Jason Clare is from the Labor Party and Malcolm Turnbull took delight in teasing and baiting and tormenting the Labor Party over what he said was failed policy under their administration of the NBN Co. Mr Clare good morning to you.


FAINE: The NBN Co meets a performance target is in itself of some significance if indeed even on your side of politics we accept the rhetoric that this is nation building infrastructure.

CLARE: Well it would be if it did. The problem is that in November last year Malcolm Turnbull was out at Blacktown and he promised that the NBN would pass fibre past 450,000 brownfield premises by the 30th of June and unfortunately they just didn’t meet that target they fell 70,000 short. Malcolm hasn’t been telling you entirely the truth this morning.

FAINE: Are you saying he’s misled the Parliament?

CLARE: Well I put a press release out last night saying ‘Turn Bull into Truth’. I said to Malcolm that the target he set for the NBN for the 30th of June hasn’t been met. They fell short by 70,000, he needs to come back into the Parliament and clarify the record.

FAINE: They’ve been running the bulls in Pamplona, I didn’t think you were doing it in Canberra as well Mr Clare. But as matters stand he also this morning repeated some of the claims in the Parliament yesterday and rejoiced in saying that the Labor Party ambitions and the programs for the NBN Co have now been, he says, completely debunked and what was an electoral positive for you, he claims, no longer should be seen that way.

CLARE: We were flogged at the last election, no doubt about that, but I don’t think many people voted for Tony Abbott because of his NBN policy. I think most people are pretty smart, they get it, they understand that this is game changing technology that will change the way we live and the way we work.

Most people who look at this know that fibre to people’s homes or fibre to people’s businesses is the end game. The real question here is do you build the NBN in one stage or two. The Labor Party said we should do it in one stage, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull are effectively saying that we are going to build it in two stages. I suspect it’s going to take a Labor Government to come back and finish the job.

FAINE: And yet one of my questions to Mr Turnbull was precisely that, is there ever the chance that something as important as this to the future of the nation can be anything other than a political football. It’s surely not in the NBN’s interest and it’s not in Australia’s interest for the NBN Co to continue to be kicked around like this.

CLARE: I think that’s right Jon and like all big infrastructure projects they tend to be controversial at the time and then when they are built people look back and wonder what all of the controversy was about. I think in twenty years time we’ll look back at this and people will be confused about what all the fight was about because people will know just how important the NBN is to our lives.

FAINE: Our discussion also comes on the morning after the ABC announced 80 jobs being cut in the international service and Mr Turnbull was at pains this morning. I might say in the absence of any ABC management all of whom were invited to join us on the radio, all of whom have declined. The ABC management have put the shutters down, which is very disappointing but in the absence of ABC management Malcolm Turnbull said, well this is not a decision of Government, the ABC’s independent and we’ve not even given the nod and the wink to these cut backs that’s not how it works.

CLARE: Malcolm Turnbull can’t wash his hands of this. It’s happening because of a cut to the ABC’s budget and because of a promise Tony Abbott made the night before the election that he’s broken. The night before the election on SBS news Tony Abbott said there would be no cuts to the ABC and yet in the Budget they’ve cut the ABC’s budget by more than $200 million ,with the promise of more to come. This is happening, 80 people are losing their jobs, a lot of them in Melbourne, because this Government broke a promise that it made the night before the election.

FAINE: This is the withdrawal of a contract rather than cut in actual core funding, as you are more than aware Jason Clare.

CLARE: Absolutely right but it’s run by the ABC and there were no caveats on the promise. The Prime Minister was very clear on the night before the election, he said no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to the SBS. So he’s cut this contract for the ABC but he’s also cut deeper into the ABC as well, with the promise of more cuts to the ABC from an efficiency review which hasn’t been released yet and we’re told will never be released in full.

FAINE: Mr Turnbull conceded this morning that there were further cuts to come.

CLARE: That’s right. So this is not the end of it. My suspicion is that there will be more people that will lose their jobs before the Government is finished with this. The problem here Jon is that this Government doesn’t like the ABC.

FAINE: Does the Labor Party have a view on where the ABC should cut its cloth to fit its budget?

CLARE: Two things. First the Prime Minister should keep his promise and not cut the ABC. It’s certainly the case that the ABC and SBS and all organisations, whether they are Government Departments or private companies can be more efficient but we should find those efficiencies and invest them in more services, things like iView that we’ve done in the past.

FAINE: We will see where the ongoing issues, where they take us on the ABC. It’s obviously excruciatingly difficult for someone who works for the ABC to report on the ABC. On the one hand if we do, we are accused of being indulgent on the other hand if we don’t we are accused of covering up for management. If we do have a go at management the way we would if it was for instance changes at a bank then we come under fire for internally creating problems on the other hand if we let them off we are told we are guilty of double standards, so we try and walk a tight rope.

CLARE: It’s a difficult position but the Government’s in a tricky position as well. They should know that the ABC is the most trusted Government institution in the country, all of the surveys show that is the case. People love the ABC and they don’t love this Government and if they continue to cut deeper into the ABC then I think they will do that at their political peril.

FAINE: Well question time was certainly interesting yesterday we’ll see where we go to on the Carbon Tax and all of the rest of it, Jason Clare which we will just leave alone for the purpose of this discussion this morning.

CLARE: Thanks Jon.

FAINE: I suspect the audience has had enough of it. Jason Clare, Shadow Minister for Communications.