Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 12 February 2014






SUBJECT/S: Closing the Gap; Toyota.

KIERAN GILBERT: That Closing the Gap statement with the Prime Minister in about ten minutes. With me ahead of that we’ve got the Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare. Before we get into a few of the other political issues, this one, it’s good to see does have a bipartisanship about it at the moment and certainly Prime Minister Abbot embracing the idea of the annual Closing the Gap update.

JASON CLARE: You’ll remember that Kevin Rudd after he apologised to the Stolen Generations initiated this process to hold us to account every year to make sure we identify the gaps and close them.

We live in a country at the moment where the colour of your skin affects the age that you die, your chances of dying when you’re young and your chances of finishing school, amongst a number of other things. That’s not good enough. We’ve got to close those gaps.

That’s what this work is all about. We invested a lot of time, effort and money in this and there’s a lot of work to go. Hopefully what we will see today is the Prime Minister building on that work.

GILBERT: It needs bipartisanship doesn’t it?


GILBERT: I suppose when you’re talking about the practical elements of health, education, mortality rates that’s one thing but also overarching all of that is the reconciliation process and recognition in the Constitution. All of that needs a bipartisanship doesn’t it?

CLARE: If both parties don’t work together, it won’t work. It won’t happen. We won’t be able to make the changes that are needed to the Constitution, we won’t be able to close the gap. The Prime Minister has our support. We need to work together if we are going to fix this God-awful problem.

GILBERT: Onto the political issues now, the reports in the Financial Review, Phil Coorey reporting that Toyota told the Government that a key impediment was workplace conditions. Is the company just being polite publically by not mentioning that and not giving that greater focus?

CLARE: There are two things I’d say. First is I think it’s appalling that two days after two and a half thousand people get told that they are losing their job that the Government uses a newspaper to say it’s your fault. You’re the reason that you’re losing your job.

The second is it’s wrong. If you have a look at the newspaper Toyota says: ‘The decision was not motivated by a single factor’. Further into the newspaper the Premier of Victoria, the Liberal Premier of Victoria, Denis Napthine says the same thing.

Last week we had Tony Abbott attacking the workers at SPC, saying you’re the reason that we’ve got a problem at SPC. Sharman Stone came out and said Tony Abbott was a liar. What this shows is that they’ve learnt nothing from that because a week goes by and now they’re attacking another set of workers saying you’re losing your job because it’s your fault. You’re getting paid too much money.

GILBERT: Aren’t you selectively quoting though because the company has taken the union to court over this. They wanted some, I think it was nearly thirty conditions either gone or changed significantly. That court process hadn’t even been concluded so obviously this was a big issue for Toyota.

CLARE: Kieran I’m just quoting what the company is saying. Let me quote what Denis Napthine said. Denis Napthine disputed the singling out of industrial relation arrangements at its factories. What you’ve got here is a Government desperate to point the finger at somebody else, to blame workers. There’s an old saying, the job doesn’t make the man, it reveals him. What we are seeing here is what Tony Abbott is really like. He gets into trouble and he attacks workers. He attacked workers at SPC last week and now he’s blaming the workers at Toyota for the problems.

GILBERT: They’re saying that there is a difference between the union bosses and the workers. They haven’t been attacking the workers.

CLARE: They’re saying they got paid too much. You got paid too much so you’ve all got to get the sack. I think that’s not good enough. This is not the first time Tony Abbott has done this.

GILBERT: That’s about the union bargaining it’s not the workers concern. They’ve shown complete respect for them saying they feel for them and they’ll help them in transitions.

CLARE: Kieran you can do a lot more than feel for the workers. You can fight for them. You can get in there, talk to the companies. Talk to Holden, have a crack, talk to Toyota and say what can we do to keep these jobs and these skills in Australia.

GILBERT: Has the whole impact been overstated though? The car distribution and the service sector it’s much greater, I asked this of Richard Marles and Jamie Briggs a bit earlier but it’s a valid point isn’t it that the industry is much, much greater than the manufacturing. It’s only a fraction of it. As sad as it is for the workers affected, of course it’s tragic but in terms of the impact on the economy has that been overstated with mentions of recession and so on?

CLARE: The point Richard made and I’d reinforce it is the capability that you lose the skills in the Australian workforce that can be used for other industries. When I was Defence Materiel Minister I saw car component companies that are now producing components for the Joint Strike Fighter, the new fighter plane that Australia is now purchasing off the United States. They are building components in Australia for fighter planes being built in the United States.

If you don’t have these skills and capabilities, not just at Toyota but in the component companies then you lose the chance at advance manufacturing of other products like fighter planes. They’re the sorts of skills we are going to lose because this Government has sat on its hands, done nothing and now the car industry is gone.

GILBERT: Should tariffs go completely now?

CLARE: That’s a question for the Prime Minister to consider. I know that we’ve got the Japanese Free Trade Agreement that’s coming to a conclusion. You and I talked about this I think two weeks ago, where that is apparently on the table. We’ll see what comes of that in the middle of the year when that Free Trade Agreement is apparently signed.

GILBERT: Surely if we don’t have a local industry to protect, tariffs should go and tax payers will save $1000, I think it’s a about a $1000 for a small size vehicle like a Corolla or a Mazda3 or something like that.

CLARE: Again, it’s a decision for the government to make and a decision about timing as well because you’ve still got the car industry here for another couple of years. You don’t want to have them go out of the country even sooner than they already are. Let’s not make this problem any worse than it already is – the car industry is now going to die in a couple of years because the Government’s done nothing.

GILBERT: Jason Clare thanks for your time.