6PR DRIVE WITH PAUL MURRAY
THURSDAY, 3 APRIL 2014
SUBJECT/S: Abbott’s record as Prime Minister; WA Senate election; NBN
PAUL MURRAY: [Inaudible] is Jason Clare, Jason is the Shadow Communications Minister now, he was of course a Minister in the Labor Government previously and had a series of high profile portfolios there. He’s been on the stump but he joins me in the studio. G’day Jason.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: G’day Paul. Thanks for having me.
MURRAY: So I know you’ve been over here having a look at some issues to do with the NBN and we’ll get to that but just generally in terms of how the Labor campaign is going, what’s your feeling?
CLARE: It’s going to be tough and tight. There’s six positions up for grabs in the Senate on the weekend and we’re fighting hard to get as many votes as we can. There’s a risk that not everybody turns up to vote on the weekend. West Australians are pretty peeved off that the Electoral Commission buggered up the vote back in September. Got to go back and vote. I can understand people must be sitting at home thinking why should I turn up and vote again. It’s important to vote. Our system of government, democracy, doesn’t work unless people turn up and vote. So the first thing I’d say is whether you are going to vote Labor, Liberal, Clive Palmer or Greens it’s important that you turn up and vote. The Government’s been in office for seven months, I thi0nk most people would say they’re off to a bad start. Unemployment’s going up, the deficit has doubled, you’ve got cuts to schools, cuts to hospitals, and silly things like knights and dames going on. There’s an opportunity for the people of Western Australia to say to this Government, “Pull your socks up, not good enough after seven months in office.”
MURRAY: The flip side of that argument is, of course, that it’s only been six months or so since Western Australians voted pretty comprehensively to toss Labor out. Why would you think they’ve forgiven you in such a short time?
CLARE: Well I think this is an opportunity to make an assessment on how you think the Government’s going. Most people when they voted for Tony Abbott six or seven months ago wouldn’t have expected to open the newspaper and see unemployment is going up and the deficit double. He came to office promising to cut the debt and cut the deficit, he promised he wouldn’t cut money for schools but he has, he said he wouldn’t cut money from hospitals but he has, and he didn’t say anything about these weird old medieval ideas about bringing back knights and dames, people are scratching their heads saying “What’s next, Jedi knights?” It’s all a bit strange.
MURRAY: That was out of left-field. If you guys were still in Government now and you set your own parameters about returning the budget to surplus. A lot of your campaign now is about prospective budget cuts, if you were still in Government, you’d be cutting.
CLARE: We had to make some very tough decisions when we were in Government about making savings where it counted to bring the budget back to surplus. But a budget, and we’ll see their first budget in about six weeks’ time, really gives you an insight into the soul of a Government because they have to make decisions where they think it’s best to cut. Now I don’t think it’s a good idea to cut money for schools, if we’re going to set ourselves up for the future that’s where you’ve got to invest. The most valuable things in this country aren’t just in the ground, they’re between our ears, and we’ve got to make the most of that. Cutting money for schools, I think, is a silly idea and it shows the Government is out of touch.
MURRAY: Joe Hockey said that we’re now facing a decade of deficits, right? Certainly Labor had told us we were going to be back into surplus last financial year, was, I think, Wayne Swan’s principle promise. This idea of returning to surplus, is it the most important fiscal imperative for a Government?
CLARE: The most important thing is to keep people employed. We said that when we were in Government. If we hadn’t stimulated the economy, for example –
MURRAY: But you can’t do that on the never-never forever, can you?
CLARE: No, you’ve got to steer the budget back to surplus, but you’ve also got to make sure that people don’t lose their job along the way. And if this Government doesn’t get the budget settings right in six weeks’ time, then you’ve got the risk of unemployment continuing to go up, and there’s nothing more important than a job, if you don’t have a job, you can’t pay the mortgage, you can’t feed the kids, you can’t do all the things that people think and justifiably are so important in life.
MURRAY: But would you, if Labor were still in power, would you still be making return to surplus your number one political and fiscal priority?
CLARE: There are a couple of things we wouldn’t do. This is a debate framed around what’s happening right now. The Government’s floated the idea of putting the GST up, and putting the GST on food and on medicine to help create more money to bring the budget back to surplus. We said no, we don’t support increasing the GST. They’ve also talked about a tax of $6 when you go to see the doctor, and we’ve said categorically we don’t think that’s a good idea. You shouldn’t be taxing people just to go and see the doctor. They’ve also talked about a tax on business so that they can provide people with paid parental leave. Now paid parental leave already exists in Australia for all mums when they have kids and they leave work it gives them six months to help raise their new-born baby, but Tony Abbott has got a policy where he wants to give people who earn $150,000 a year $75,000 when they have a baby. I think that’s another example of bad priorities, taxing working people to go to the doctor and giving a whole bucket of money to rich people to have a baby. Priorities are all wrong.
MURRAY: I agree with you, I think that’s just a complete disconnect with their overall message which has been we have to impose all these new tough imposts because Labor left us with a mess.
CLARE: Labor left Australia with a triple A credit rating, with low unemployment, and taking the steps that were necessary to stop us going into recession. I was a boy when the last recession hit, my dad lost his job. In my electorate on the other side of the country, in the western suburbs of Sydney, unemployment hit 15-16%. It ruined a generation of people. That’s the first and most important responsibility of Government, to keep the economy strong.
MURRAY: You were also a boy when Labor last delivered a surplus budget.
CLARE: What I’m telling you here, and you’ve asked me what’s the priority, the priority is keep the economy going strong. If the economy is weak and unemployment goes up, people lose their jobs and they lose more than that, you can have people that lose a job in their twenties and never get a job again.
MURRAY: There’s been a lot of political flak around your number one person on the Labor ticket, the unionist, Joe Bullock. The Australian today publishes that he had an assault conviction back in 1996. A lot of people have been around politics for a long time in this town have known that and these are the sort of things that get thrown around at election campaigns. Is that legitimate?
CLARE: We don’t want to go down the American path where you’re playing the man rather than the ball. The decisions that people make at the ballot box on the weekend surely have got to be about whether this Government has done a good job or not. That’s what people are doing on the weekend, they’re sending six people to Canberra to represent Western Australia in the Parliament and make decisions in the public’s interest. Now my argument is we’ve got to get a bit of balance in the Senate. There’s a lot of Liberals representing Western Australia in the Federal Parliament but there’s not a lot of Labor people there. This Government hasn’t been up to scratch in the first six months. I don’t think most people listening to the program today would be terribly excited with what they’ve done, they’ve made a lot mistakes. This weekend, if you think that Tony Abbott has done a good job, then vote for him. But if you don’t think he’s done a good job, if he hasn’t lived up to your expectations, then vote Labor and send a message to Canberra to pull their socks up.
MURRAY: My view would be that that stuff about Joe probably came from your side of politics, because there are many people that are dirty. Louise Pratt was put into the number two position which on one count, Louise would not have been returned to the Senate. So there’s a fair bit of grumpiness within Labor still about that.
CLARE: Well I wouldn’t have had a clue. I know Louise; I’ve been in the Parliament with Louise now for a couple of years. She’s a first class Senator, a first class candidate.
MURRAY: I agree.
CLARE: And we need her back in Canberra. It would be a big loss, not just for the Labor Party but for WA, if Louise isn’t in the Senate after Saturday. And it’s going to be tough, you’ve got the Greens, Palmer, the Liberals, they’re all spending a lot of money fighting for people’s votes, and the Labor Party, the party whose job it is to stand up for working people, to improve their lives and working conditions. The more Senators we get in the Senate, rebalance it because we’re under-represented at the moment, then the better the interests of the people of WA will be served.
MURRAY: You’ve no longer got border protection; you must be really upset about that. You’ve got communications these days. You’ve been in town today talking about some specific issues with the NBN. What were they?
CLARE: Talking to residents about the speeds that they currently get and the speeds that they need. There are parts of Perth where their Internet speeds are absolutely atrocious at the moment.
MURRAY: On ADSL2, when they’re more than a couple of kilometres from the closest post office.
CLARE: Yeah, that’s right. Under our plan, everyone in Perth would’ve got fibre connected to their home or to their business. Under the Liberal plan that they’re rolling out now, there’s only some parts, some lucky parts of Perth that will get fibre to the home. Everybody else is going to get that second rate model which is fibre to a box around the corner and then copper all the way to you house, so the speeds will be much slower. Tony Abbott said about twelve months ago that everyone in the country, WA, everywhere else, would get the NBN by 2016, and then as soon as he got elected, he said “sorry, we can’t do that,” and he broke the promise. And I remember and I’m sure listeners would remember that we were harangued as a Government about breaking promises and about the importance of honesty, and as soon as he got elected, he broke the promise to build the NBN by 2016. So if broadband is important to you then the weekend is an opportunity to send a message to Canberra saying, “Not good enough.”
MURRAY: But your rollout was a lot slower than you’d anticipated as well.
CLARE: You bet it was, and I’ve been critical of that. I’ve said the NBN is the right model. We need to set ourselves up for the future and the NBN is the way to do it, but it wasn’t built quick enough and we need to speed it up. It’s still not being built quick enough and my message to Tony Abbott is build it, don’t wreck the thing. Don’t build a second rate version, tie our hands around our back when we’re competing against Japan and South Korea and all these other countries that have got the best technology in the world, we need it too.
MURRAY: One last question on the campaign because we’re almost out of time. Do you reckon Palmer will get a Senator up in WA?
CLARE: I think Tony Abbott thinks he will. It was interesting, a couple of days ago, Tony was in town and he was personally attacking Clive Palmer. Now, come the first of July, Tony Abbott has to work with Clive Palmer. Effectively, you’ll have an Abbott-Palmer Government. Tony Abbott won’t be able to do anything in the Senate unless Clive Palmer agrees. And to come to Perth, get stuck into Clive Palmer, shows me one, that he thinks he’s about to lose a spot to Clive Palmer and two, that it’s a bit of bad judgment on Tony Abbott’s part because he’s created an enemy for life here and it’s going to be harder for him to get things done when Clive Palmer has got the balance of power.
MURRAY: It sort of reminded me about Barnaby Joyce bagging Tony Windsor and how well that went.
CLARE: Yeah, that didn’t go down too well.
MURRAY: Good on you, Jason. Nice to talk to you.
CLARE: Thanks Paul.
MURRAY: Jason Clare, Labor’s Communications spokesman.
THURSDAY, 3 APRIL 2014
MEDIA CONTACT: RYAN HAMILTON 02 9790 2466