Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Thursday 8 May 2014





SUBJECT/S: Broken Promises; Infrastructure; NBN

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, thanks very much for your company. With me now Labor Frontbencher Jason Clare in Adelaide this morning – Jason Clare thanks for your time. I want to ask you a general question first of all, following on from Deloitte Access Economics’ Budget Monitor, which has basically found that both sides of politics have to accept accountability for the trajectory of government spending and that a significant budget repair job does need to be done this coming Tuesday. What do you say to that general premise?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: I’d make two points. I think the Australian economy is relatively strong. We’ve got low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates and our debt is relatively low compared to other countries around the world. We do need to bring the budget back to surplus and that involves making tough decisions. We made some of those in government. This Government with have to make decisions like that as well but the basic point that the Opposition is making is don’t break your promises. Tony Abbott made a lot of promises during the election, people have a right to expect that he’ll keep those promises that he won’t cut education that he won’t cut health, he promised not to do those things and we’ll be holding him to his own words on Budget Night next week.

GILBERT: Mr Hockey says that it’s wrong to say that the government never promised new taxes given that there was a company tax levy as part of its paid parental leave scheme. That is true, there was that levy already in place as part of their policy, wasn’t it?

CLARE: That’s true. Kieran even members of the Liberal Party are saying this is a broken promise. People are saying they expected Tony Abbott when he became Prime Minister to cut taxes not increase taxes. People are saying, where’s Tony Abbott, this is like attack of the Body Snatchers. The man who said he was going to cut taxes is now saying he is going to increase taxes. This is ridiculous and if Joe Hockey thinks he can say this is not a broken promise then it will hurt his credibility as well as Tony Abbott’s.

GILBERT: What do you think of the idea of $10 billion into infrastructure, including $5 billion, this is what Fairfax is reporting this morning, that $5 billion would be in a fund for the Treasurer to access and use as bonus payments to the States to recycle their assets, to regenerate their assets and make them more productive and contribute to growth. Do you think that is a good initiative?

CLARE: Recycling is another word for privatisation so let’s not get confused about what this is actually about. I’d make the more general point that investing in infrastructure is very important, it’s what will make the economy stronger and more productive. Anthony Albanese when he was the Minister for Infrastructure invested record amounts in road infrastructure as well as rail infrastructure. We invested more in rail infrastructure in our term in Government than any Australian Government over the last 100 years so if there’s more targeted investment in infrastructure than all the better but my main concern is the biggest and most important infrastructure project in Australia is the National Broadband Network and Tony Abbott thinks it’s just a big video game machine. He doesn’t understand how important it is and if Tony Abbott thinks he is going to be the infrastructure Prime Minister of Australia then he needs to build the NBN not wreck it.

GILBERT: They are obviously still committed to a broadband network because as you know it’s just they hope to have a less expensive version of it but in terms of the welfare bill –

CLARE: Just a second rate version of it using copper Kieran and as I said last week if you want to look at what’s more important the NBN will be cheaper to build over the next ten years then the Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

GILBERT: But you say it’s copper, it’s not just copper, it’s a combination of all sorts of technologies including fibre-to-the-node.

CLARE: What does fibre-to-the-node involve Kieran? It means building fibre to the end of the street and then using copper to your house. It means using 20th century technology instead of the technology that’s going to set us up for the future.

GILBERT: Ok in some parts that is the case but as I say it’s a combination of various technologies but I don’t want to get caught up on the NBN. I want to ask you about the welfare bill which both sides have spent a lot on and expanded over the years, throughout the boom years. Do you accept that family payments for example had to be reined in and will be reined in appropriately on Tuesday? Is that your view or is this again going to come under the umbrella of broken promises like everything else when it comes to Labor’s response at the moment?

CLARE: We did some of that in government Kieran. We means tested a number of areas of welfare payments. A lot of what you’re talking about are things that were put in place by the Howard Government, Family Tax Benefit A and Family Tax Benefit B –

GILBERT: Kept by Labor.

CLARE: That’s exactly right, we made changes to them but it will be interesting to see whether Tony Abbott gets rid of them on Tuesday night.

GILBERT: Ok so that didn’t give much of an indication as to whether you think they should be, because if it’s going to be put on a sustainable footing as you know there are these big spending initiatives like the NDIS, school funding and so on over coming years, do other areas of spending have to be reined in because revenue is not coming through as strongly as it did throughout the boom years?

CLARE: Kieran you’ve got to run a ruler over all of these things and make sure that the budget is structured in a way to make sure you’ve got enough revenue to make those payments. Now we are not in government, we have to wait and see what the government proposes next Tuesday night but the fundamental point that we will make is Tony Abbott you made a lot of promises, you promised to keep your promises, don’t let this become a budget of broken promises and that’s what we fear is going to happen on Tuesday night.

GILBERT: Scott Morrison has told the Daily Telegraph that there will be a $300 million windfall for the budget from closing detention facilities which aren’t needed because the Border Protection policies have worked. Obviously there’s the human issue of saving lives at sea and less boat trips but in terms of the bottom line this looks like it’s going to be a windfall to the government as well.

CLARE: Fewer boats is a good thing, it means fewer people are risking their lives, fewer people are at risk of dying at sea and I think most objective analysis would say that the PNG Agreement has been fundamental to that. By telling people that if you risk your life at sea you’ll be resettled at Papua New Guinea it’s reduced significantly the number of people who take that risk and get onto boats and if that has an advantage in terms of budget then terrific but the fundamental good here is reducing the number of people that are risking their life on leaky boats in the middle of the ocean.

GILBERT: Jason Clare appreciate your time, thank you for that.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.