Radio Interview with Chris Uhlmann – Monday 7 April 2014






SUBJECT/S: Minerals Resource Rent Tax, Labor Party reform

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well the Labor Leader Bill Shorten is working to rebuild the party, declaring it has to change to retake Government. The Opposition Leader’s office has confirmed he wants to build up the party’s membership by allowing people to join even if they aren’t union members. Bill Shorten was set to make a speech on party reform today but that has been cancelled because of the death of a close family member. Jason Clare is the Opposition Spokesman for Communications. Welcome to AM.


UHLMANN: Jason Clare, why on God’s green earth would you defend a tax that’s failed and doesn’t make any money?

CLARE: Well Chris, we’ve had a petroleum resource rent tax for what more than 25 years now on offshore oil and gas and the principle that you have the same sort of tax regime for iron ore and coal makes a lot of sense to me. That’s what Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen have said and that’s the approach we’re taking.

UHLMANN: I guess the principle that you did break though is the one that’s always held for budgets is that you don’t hypothecate revenue to particular things. That’s what you did. You spent money that you didn’t have and that’s why the budget’s in so much trouble.

CLARE: Well hypothecation happens from time to time. I don’t think it’s true to say that this is the only time that has occurred. Government’s do that at a state and a federal level.

UHLMANN: Should you continue to support this tax?

CLARE: Well the point that Bill Shorten has made is that a profits based tax for resources that Australian citizens own is a good thing and if the mining tax is repealed in the Senate after the 1st of July then that gives an opportunity for Labor in opposition to have a look at the type of tax that would be needed in the future.

UHLMANN: But that sounds like you are going to change it in any event, why not do that now?

CLARE: No, no, no. What I am saying is we’ve got to wait and see what happens after the 1st of July. Clive Palmer now has effectively the balance of power and Tony Abbott has to deal with him. He’s been very critical of Clive Palmer in the last week. Now they’re hugging up to him. I think there’s a bit of ‘Palmer Karma’ coming his way. We’ve got to see whether he can get things through the Senate but if this goes through the Senate and is repealed then the Labor Party will need to have a look at this in the future.

UHLMANN: Well speaking of karma, it’s all bad for your party at the moment isn’t it? You were thumped in Tasmania, you lost your majority in South Australia and now one in five people in Western Australia have been voting for you. What does the party have to do to regain the trust of the community?

CLARE: Well Chris, we’ve got a big challenge, you’re right. We’re out of power in every part of the country except for South Australia and the ACT and the result on the weekend is not a good one. I don’t think people like Tony Abbott very much, they don’t want a one party state, they want the Labor Party to succeed but we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us if we are going to re-earn the trust of the Australian people and part of that is rebuilding the Labor Party and reforming the way it works.

UHLMANN: Do people in the Labor Party understand that when they make that argument about Tony Abbott, that people don’t like him very much, that makes Labor’s situation actually worse, you’re doing badly against someone you constantly claim isn’t any good.

CLARE: Well, I’m just stating a fact. Whenever I am standing at a street corner in my electorate people tell me that they don’t like what the Prime Minister is doing. Whether it’s the decisions he’s made to cut money for schools or whether it’s bringing back old time, out of date things like Knights and Dames, that’s just a fact, and for the Labor Party, if we want to earn the opportunity to govern Australia again then we’ve got to get our own house in order and that starts with reforming the way the party operates.

UHLMANN: Do you think that people should be able to members of the Labor Party without being members of a union?

CLARE: Yes I do. I think that people who vote for the Labor Party should be able to be members of the Labor Party and it doesn’t work like that at the moment. There’s a rule that says that if you’re working you need to be a union member. The Labor Party needs to keep with the times. The majority of Australian workers aren’t union members anymore and if the Labor Party is to properly represent the Australian community then we need to make sure that everybody that wants to join the Labor Party and shares our values can join the Labor Party now.

UHLMANN: And full members? I note that in the ACT there was a move to make them associate members which means that they really couldn’t vote in party ballots.

CLARE: Well I think they should be able to vote but I take it one step further and say that people that vote for the Labor Party on election day, that come up to our volunteers and say that’s the one I want, I want to vote for the Labor Party, shouldn’t just be able to easily join the party but they should be able to vote for Labor candidates.

What I’m talking about here is community preselections. Our members of parliament shouldn’t just be selected by a small group of party members. I’d like to see us go down the path of community preselections where hundreds or potentially thousands of Labor voters in local communities help to select our candidates. We’re trialling that right now in New South Wales and I think that it’s going to help to make sure that the Labor Party selects better candidates who’ll become better Members of Parliament.

UHLMANN: Finally in fifteen seconds Jason Clare, a big fight ahead then with the union movement?

CLARE: Well look, we’ll wait and see but this is an important reform. It’s been described as symbolic. Maybe it is symbolic but I think it’s more than that. This will help to reform the Labor Party and help us to earn back the trust of the Australian people.

UHLMANN: Jason Clare, thank you.

CLARE: Thanks Chris.