Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News- Wednesday 11 June 2014





SUBJECT/S: Australia Post, PM’s visit to New York, Climate Change

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Clare, thanks for your time. I will ask you about those developments in New York and the comments made but I want to ask you first of all about something in your area of responsibility as a Shadow Minister, in communications, and that’s Australia Post. Ahmed Fahour this morning has had to defend his salary of nearly $5 million a year in the face of cuts, job cuts of 900 jobs in Melbourne. That’s not going to go down very well with those employees affected.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: No. For the 900 people that are losing their job at Australia Post, this is devastating news and I would hope that the government will work with those people to help to make sure that job services are provided to them, to help them to be retrained and find other work as quickly as possible.

Australia Post has a big challenge, the whole nature of the business is changing. People aren’t sending letters like they used to do 10 years ago, even a couple of years ago and its expected that by around about the middle of next decade, 2025, letters won’t be delivered at all. So, Australia Post has got some big structural challenges that it needs to face. Letters going down, the number of packages being delivered going up and from the Labor Party’s point of view, we’re keen to work with the government to help Australia Post meet those structural challenges.

GILBERT: And the Chief Executive’s salary, is that a bitter pill for those workers who are being affected to see a salary of that magnitude?

CLARE: Well, it’s a big salary, an extremely big salary, much bigger than the salary of other public servants but as Ed Husic made the point on your program this morning, you could cut that salary in half and you wouldn’t fix the problem, the problem that Australia Post is facing with the changing nature of its business. There are more than 4,000 post offices around the country, they already provide a number of important government services. You can arrange to get a passport at your local post office, pay bills for example, but we think there are other government services that could be provided at post office’s as well, not complex case management like you would see at Centrelink but a number of basic government services that can be provided at local post offices.

GILBERT: Like Medicare? Medicare services and so on?

CLARE: Well, I would say that it’s important that they’re not complex services that take a lot of time at the counter or a lot of knowledge on the part of the person at the counter to assist the individual but there are a lot of basic transactional services that government provides that could probably be provided at Australia Post – a very trusted brand, located right across the country and that would help Australia Post as it makes this change over the next few years.

GILBERT: Finally, on the issue of the Prime Minister’s visit to New York. We’ve seen some division there with the United Nations but not with the Australian Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley, giving a strong endorsement of the government’s approach on climate change in the Daily Telegraph today, Mr Beazley quoted, your former leader.

CLARE: Kieran, you wouldn’t expect anything less. It is the job of an Australian Ambassador to properly reflect the views of the Australian government and Mr Beazley’s done that very well. Let me take the opportunity to welcome the news of the extension of Mr Beazley’s appointment as Ambassador to the United States. I think that’s a very wise decision.

GILBERT: But in terms of the broader issue, he makes the point, as the government does that they are committed to reductions comparable to what President Obama has made in the last week or so and while there’s a lot of fanfare around the Obama commitment, Australia’s targets are already comparable in per capita terms.

CLARE: Well, on the broader issue of climate change, what I’d say is this: Tony Abbott said only a few years ago that Australia shouldn’t be taking action when the rest of the world isn’t. Well, now you see palpable evidence that the rest of the world is taking action and at the same time Australia is going backwards. To the point now where President Obama wants to put this issue on the agenda in Brisbane at the G20 later this year and Australia, the Australian government, doesn’t even want this on the agenda. I think that sends all the wrong messages about this issue and Australia’s commitment to solving it.

This is a global problem, that’s why it’s so hard to fix. We all need to work together on this. America is showing leadership. We’re seeing action in China, in South Korea, even the conservative Prime Ministers of New Zealand and the UK want to take action here but in Australia we’re going backwards and I think that’s a terrible thing.

GILBERT: The PM says the G20’s about the economy and about building trade relationships and there are other areas, like this UN summit being talked about for September that can deal with that problem.

CLARE: Kieran, this is about the economy as well. If we are going to succeed in tackling this incredibly difficult issue we need to understand that this is about increasing economic growth without increasing the growth in carbon pollution and that requires us to re-engineer our economy to do that. That’s why talking about this at the G20 meeting later this year ahead of the meeting in Paris next year is so important.

GILBERT: Jason Clare, appreciate your time.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.