Interview with Lyndal Curtis – ABC News – Friday 6 June 2014






SUBJECT/S: Leadership and Liberal Party; ABC and SBS Efficiency Review; NBN

LYNDAL CURTIS: It has been a week where the Opposition could have afforded to have put its feet up, got the popcorn and watched the show. Instead it joined in. The Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare did stir the leadership pot in Question Time. I spoke to Mr Clare a short time ago. Jason Clare welcome to Capital Hill.


CURTIS: Now just for balance and to show that this is not always a very easy question to answer. Could I put to you, are you interested in leading your party one day?

CLARE: I think I’ve been asked this question before. I’ll give you the same answer I’ve always given. I’ve got no interest, no desire to ever lead the Labor Party.

CURTIS: You’re at a different stage in your career to Malcolm Turnbull, so you are ruling it out over a much longer period.

CLARE: My great ambition, my dream job would be to become Education Minister. I know from my own personal experience as somebody who is the first person in their family finish school and go to university how big an impact it’s had on my life and my community in Western Sydney and if I could one day have that job then that would be a dream come true.

CURTIS: We’ll mark that for future reference should we ever need it. There’s talk about a Cabinet reshuffle by the Prime Minister, it does seem though that it would be very early in the process for him to do it now. Would you expect something maybe after the Government’s turned one year old?

CLARE: Well it would be early but they’ve got a gap with Arthur Sinodinos on the sidelines, who couldn’t practically return to the Ministry given the cloud over his head with what’s happening at ICAC. Minister Johnston, the Defence Minister’s a bit of a ghost. People don’t see much of him. People still tell me they think Stephen Smith’s the Minister for Defence. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is somebody that the Prime Minister’s thinking of pushing aside.

CURTIS: Of course the speculation is that Scott Morrison may be in line for that job if there’s a reshuffle.

CLARE: That’s right. Scott Morrison, I think, would do a much better job as Defence Minister than David Johnston.

CURTIS: Now if I could ask you a couple of questions about your portfolio. We still haven’t seen the efficiency review into the ABC or SBS. I believe the Communications Minister is waiting for comment back from the boards of both of those organisations. Should it be publically released?

CLARE: Yes it should. Just by way of background – the night before the election the Prime Minister went on SBS TV and said that there would be no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to SBS if he was elected. It’s one of a whole bunch of promises that the Prime Minister broke in the budget. They’ve ripped about $200 million out of the ABC and they’ve also established this review which they’ll use as justification to take more money out of the ABC and SBS.

This week I asked a question of Malcolm Turnbull as to whether he would release this report and he advised that he won’t be releasing it or at least not releasing it in full.

CURTIS: Is there ever a case though, when you are dealing with taxpayer’s money not to look at ways to be more efficient with how that money is spent?

CLARE: We have always got to look at how we can take the taxpayers dollar further and the ABC can be more efficient, SBS can be more efficient.

CURTIS: What do you think of the complaint that comes, particularly from some newspaper leaders, that the ABC because it is taxpayer funded and its website is free that it is in fact crowding out the business that newspapers are competing for and where newspapers see growth potential?

CLARE: The ABC is an important Australian institution. I think it is the most trusted of all of Australia’s public institutions. Polling shows it’s more trusted than the High Court or the Reserve Bank and it’s very important to Australians. About 75 percent of Australians will either watch the ABC, listen to the ABC or download something from the ABC’s website every week. I think that’s good thing. It’s a trusted and I believe, unbiased service. Other people have got a different view. I sincerely disagree with that.

CURTIS: If I could ask you one final question on the National Broadband Network. The Financial Review is reporting this morning that 118,000 homes and businesses that should have been connected to the NBN aren’t connected to the NBN. Does that show that there were real and serious problems with the way your party ran the National Broadband Network?

CLARE: Just a bit of background so this makes sense. At the start of the rollout of the NBN, fibre would be rolled out to a pit in the street and then when a person ordered the NBN fibre was connected from the pit to their house. That changed round about the middle of 2012 so that when fibre goes down your street it automatically goes to a box at the side of the house. That’s a decision that NBN Co made but there are a number of homes and businesses where that connection still needs to be made.

The point I’d make is that the NBN is a very important infrastructure project, putting fibre to people’s homes and businesses is the right approach. We were going to provide fibre to 93 percent of homes, now that’s only going to be 25 per cent and the rest of Australia will get a second rate network.

My message to the Government is speed up the roll out of the NBN. It was too slow under our government. It’s still too slow now. They’ve failed to meet the targets that Minister Turnbull set of 450,000 homes by the end of this month. Build the NBN, don’t break it.

CURTIS: Jason Clare thank you very much for your time.

CLARE: Thanks Lyndal.