Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Thursday 2 April 2014






SUBJECT/S: WA Senate Election; Government’s refusal to release Commission of Audit report, Emissions targets.

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda thanks for your company this morning, with me now the Labor frontbencher, Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare. Jason Clare thanks for your time, as we look to the WA Senate rerun this Saturday, let’s look at the political calculation here. I know Bill Shorten has been there the last couple of days but in recent times it has not been your happiest of battlegrounds for Labor and while you stand in the way of the repeal of the Carbon and Mining Taxes, is there any prospect of turning that around this Saturday?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well every seat, and there’s six seats in the Senate that are up for grabs here we’ll be fighting very hard for. It’s going to be a tough battle. I think the people of WA are pretty upset that they have got to go back to the ballot box but they’d also be pretty upset with the start that this Government has had. They’d be scratching their heads wondering why Tony Abbott is talking about Knights and Dames when he should be talking about jobs, why unemployment is going up, why Joe Hockey has doubled the deficit and why this Government is threatening now to cut money to schools, cut money to hospitals and all of the sorts of things that we fear are in the Commission of Audit, which this Government is hiding until after the election.

GILBERT: There have been some criticisms of Palmer and the Prime Minister saying that he’s attempting to buy a seat in the Parliament again with the big advertising spend, but isn’t it hypocrisy from either side of the two major political parties given that Labor and the Liberals have dominated the advertising spending for years and years and Palmer is simply just doing what Labor and the Liberal Party have done for many decades.

CLARE: Kieran it is a bit rich for Tony Abbott to be complaining about money spent on advertising, he spent almost double what the Labor Party did at the last Federal election and I didn’t see him complaining about that after he won that election.

I think what’s happening here is the Liberal Party is concerned that it’s not going to get three seats on the weekend, it’s worried it will only get two and that Clive Palmer will effectively cannibalise their votes, so they’ve made the short term decision to attack him now. I suspect they will rue the day they did that though because come the first of July they are effectively in bed with Clive Palmer. It will be an Abbott-Palmer Government. Tony Abbott won’t be able to get what he wants through the Senate without the support of Clive Palmer, so the decision he made yesterday to basically release the dogs and attack Clive Palmer he may regret that come the first of July.

GILBERT: So you think it’s okay for Palmer to spend as much as he likes and effectively, as Tony Abbott says, buy a seat?

CLARE: We tried to change the electoral laws when we were in government, Tony Abbott refused to allow us to do that, he opposed it. Now he’s complaining because somebody else is out there spending money, not him and there is a risk that they are going to take his positions that he’s hoping to get in the Senate. You’ve just got to call it for what it is, he’s made the decision to attack Clive Palmer because he’s worried that he’s going to lose a seat in the Senate. I think Tony Abbott’s judgment in attacking Clive Palmer is probably a bad mistake on his part and he’ll live to regret that when Clive Palmer has the balance of power in the Senate and Tony Abbott needs to get into bed with him to get things through the Parliament.

GILBERT: You’ve spoken about the deficit and so on, this comes of course ahead of Joe Hockey’s first budget in six weeks. The report in The Australian today suggesting that savings of up to $60 billion a year will be found within a decade if the Government is going to meet its surplus target of 1% of GDP within ten years. Now Labor’s having a go at Joe Hockey for not releasing a report he’s had since Monday, the final report, three days or less than three days now. Isn’t it a bit rich to be having a go at him given the Labor Party when in government sat on the Henry Report a long time, had no consultation, then dumped the Mining Tax on everyone?

CLARE: Kieran there’s an election on the weekend, don’t the people of Western Australia have a right to know what’s in it? Remember Tony Abbott told the Australian people that this would be a ‘no surprises’ government. Well if it’s a no surprises government tell the people of Australia what’s coming. I think he’s being deliberatively secretive here. This is a 900 page report that I suspect has cuts to schools, cuts to hospitals, a new tax when you go to the doctor, there’s a reason that he’s not releasing this report. I’ll have a bet with you, I bet you 10 bucks that in the next fortnight they release the report and it’s got all these nasty cuts. That’s the reason they are not releasing the report today. They are terrified that if they do the people of Western Australia will be aghast at it and won’t vote for them on the weekend.

GILBERT: There are two points that I’ll put to you; One, it is a 900 page report, surely Mr Hockey and co. are allowed a bit of time to digest it and secondly do you not concede that there needs to be some structural changes in the medium to long term in the Australian budget because that’s certainly the view of most economists and observers of the budgetary situation in this country.

CLARE: Kieran on those two points I’d say if Joe Hockey can leak a part of the report he can release the whole thing. It’s on his desk he can do that today. On the second point, all governments need to look for savings, the question is where. Where governments make savings go to the soul of the government, they tell you what the priorities of the government are and if this is a government that think it’s in the best interests of all Australians to cut money to schools, to cut money to hospitals, to make you pay a tax when you go to see your local doctor but then at the same time say that millionaires and women on high incomes should get $75,000 just to have a baby, well that tells me and I think it tells everyone in Australia that this Prime Minister and this Government has its priorities all wrong.

GILBERT: Mark Butler, on another issue, has indicated, seemed to indicate that the Climate Authority is right when it assesses that 15% – that the conditions have been met for a 15% reduction of emissions by 2020 that’s up from the 5% currently agreed to by both sides of politics. Now Bill Shorten seemed to back away from that pretty clearly yesterday, is there a split here between the left and right within your party again on this matter?

CLARE: No there’s not. I think what Bill Shorten said is that we are not changing our settings, not now, not in opposition. I think that’s right. The focus has got to be on the Government, what is it going to do. People know that the Labor Party thinks climate change is real, they’ve got their doubts about the Government. Tony Abbott said climate change is ‘crap’. They also know that we’re determined to do something about it, they’re not so sure that this Government is going to do anything at all.

GILBERT: Should it be 15%? The new target.

CLARE: We’ve set it at 5% and we’re not changing our settings, not now, not in opposition. The question is what’s this Government going to do about it. We’ve got this thing called Direct Action, nobody knows what it is, nobody knows how it’s going to work. Not many people believe it’s going to reduce emissions by 5% let alone 15.

GILBERT: Jason Clare thanks for your time.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.