Interview with Peter van Onselen – Sky News PVO News Hour – Wednesday 21 May 2014





SUBJECT / S: The Abbott Government’s Budget of Broken Promises.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Jason Clare is the Shadow Communications Spokesperson, he’s often touted as a potential future Labor leader. I spoke to him a short time ago particularly about the Budget broadly, some of the measures in his area in relation to the ABC. But I started by asking if it’s not a Budget emergency it’s at least a Budget problem and does he acknowledge that the cuts may in fact be necessary?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: The Labor Party agrees that there are challenges that we face, the ageing of the population, the increase in health care costs over the course of the next few years means that we do need to make structural changes to our Budget. The key question Peter is, what those changes are and how you do them?

My main criticism of the Budget is threefold. First the Prime Minister lied, he should have told us the truth before the election and he should admit that he’s lied now. The second criticism I’d make is that by his own words, by Joe Hockey’s own words they are hurting the economy now, we’ve seen confidence drop because of all of the ridiculous statements about a Budget emergency and thirdly the way they are going about this is that they are targeting the wrong people. They are taking taxes off mining companies, taxes off people who have got a lot of money in their superannuation and they are unfairly putting the tax burden on the sick and the poor. That’s why the Budget is so unpopular.

VAN ONSELEN: In fairness it does look like they are spreading the tax load, the deficit tax is aimed at high income earners, big business is having to pay for the Paid Parental Leave Scheme and then yes on top of that everyone is paying the co-payments for seeing a doctor and lower income earners are being hit in relation to Pensions eventually and Newstart that sounds like a broad based effort to try to payback Labor’s debt.

CLARE: Peter, the facts don’t lie. If you’re earning about $200,000 a year then the impact of this budget for you is that you’ll have to find about $400 or $500, but if you are a family with about $100,000 then you’ll have to find $4000 or $5000, and if you’re a pensioner the changes to indexation will mean that over time it’s going to cost you thousands and thousands of dollars more.

What Chris Bowen said at the Press Club today was that for people on low incomes, the lowest 20 per cent in Australia, this will effectively reduce their income by 5 per cent. Whereas people in the top twenty percent bracket in Australia it will reduce their available income by about half a percent.

I said this morning to Kieran Gilbert, it’s a reverse Robin Hood budget, it’s giving money to people who don’t need it, particularly wealthy people who are having children and it’s taking money off the people who need it the most, families on low incomes and Australian pensioners.

VAN ONSELEN: Do you accept the pension idea is as unpopular as it no doubt is, isn’t a broken promise because the implementation of it will only be able to happen after the next election? That’s what the Government is arguing. It’s not an unreasonable point.

CLARE: No, I disagree with that one too. It’s booked. It’s in the Budget. They have put it in the forward estimates so it determines what the Budget says, what the deficit figures are, when the Budget returns to surplus. The Prime Minister said there would be no changes, they’ve got to take this to an election and get a mandate for people to increase the pension age and to cut indexation before they start booking these changes and that’s what they’ve done in this Budget.

VAN ONSELEN: What about in your policy area of Communications – the cuts to the ABC? Sitting here at Sky News we well know that it’s possible to run a leaner, more efficient enterprise than the ABC. Surely you’d agree with that?

CLARE: I think I’ve told you before Peter that any organisation whether it’s private or public can be more efficient. The problem here is Tony Abbott promised the night before the election that there’d be no cuts to the ABC.

VAN ONSELEN: He’s clearly broken that promise. I agree with you about that. However, isn’t the problem here not the breaking of the promise but the making of the promise? The breaking of it is for a better end, the making of it was political stupidity ahead of the election.

CLARE: You said it. No one forced him to say it but the night before the election he said no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no changes to the pension, no changes to the GST and no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to SBS. So to hold him to his word what I’ve said to you before and I’ll say it to you again, if you can find efficiencies in the ABC then reinvest that money in more services, more programs for the Australian people, rather than cutting away at the basic services that ABC provides but also the Australia Network which I know you believe is a regressive and stupid move that’s going to hurt Australia’s influence in our region.

VAN ONSELEN: You’ve talked a lot in this interview about Tony Abbott’s broken promises, it’s been a theme in the media and it’s been the theme of the Opposition more generally. It’s fair to say Labor well understands the political pain that he could suffer for broken promises because it happened to your side of the parliament over the carbon tax.

CLARE: This is why it’s such an incredible thing for Tony Abbott to do, he traipsed around the country for three years off the back of one thing Julia Gillard said the night before an election and throughout the last three years he said the same thing time after, time after, time, no new taxes, no increases in taxes, no cuts to education, no cuts to health and we are going to hold him to it.

VAN ONSELEN: I understand you are doing that and he’s silly to have put himself in the position where the charge of hypocrisy is a reasonable one but by the same token that charge goes both ways doesn’t it because having now held him to account for his broken promise you’re continuing to hold the line on your broken promise over the carbon tax in the Senate. You’re not letting it be repealed?

CLARE: No. We would be very happy to get rid of the carbon tax and replace it with a emissions trading scheme, replace it with something that will work. What we don’t want to do is replace it with a $2.5 billion Direct Action Program, which no one knows how it will work and no one thinks it will work.

The point I’m making is it takes a lot of chutzpah to run around the country saying that you are going to be Mother Teresa and you’ll keep your promises and then win an election, go to your first budget and basically break everything. Tony Abbott’s become like one of those professional wrestlers, no one believes what he says anymore because they think it’s all fake.

VAN ONSELEN: One of the issues is, just as a final question, your side of politics is playing the negative game, I don’t blame you, it’s early in the term, Tony Abbott did it to you right throughout your time in government. When are we going to see a change in tact by Labor are we going to start building an alternative vision because if you’re just a version of what you were ahead of losing the election you’re really not trying to win the next.

CLARE: We are not going to do what Tony Abbott did and just say no to everything, we’ll be constructive. Where he comes up with bad ideas like trying to demolish Medicare, we’ll stand and defend it and stop him from doing that. The same thing goes with the pension, same thing goes with the attempt to create a two-tier university system but if they come up with good ideas we’ll back them. They’re rolling out the reforms I made to Customs and I’m backing that. I think that’s a good thing that Minister Scott Morrison is doing.

On new policy areas, Chris Bowen announced a few today. If we are going to create the jobs of the future a lot of them are going to be in the tech sector and Chris Bowen today announced a number of areas where we think we can grow the Australian economy by providing the right environment for the tech sector to thrive in Australia.

VAN ONSELEN: Alright, Jason Clare appreciate your time, thanks for your company.

CLARE: Thanks Peter.