Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Thursday 6 February 2014







KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, thanks for your company this morning, with me now is Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare. A lot to discuss this morning Mr Clare, first of all Paul Howse idea of a grand compact. This morning Bill Shorten described it as a fantasy, the idea that the unions, Labor and the Government will be able to sit down and negotiate a compact. What’s your view on it?

JASON CLARE: Kieran it’s not a bad idea getting government, getting unions and getting business together to work on the issues that confront this country, but it’s very unlikely to happen. Not under this Prime Minister. Not given his track record. Not given what he’s already said on SPC for example, blaming the workers of SPC for the troubles that that company faces.

The idea of an Accord is a good one. Think about what the Accord did, helped to set Australia up for two decades of uninterrupted economic growth. One of the reasons it was successful was because of the Prime Minister: Bob Hawke. Tony Abbott is no Bob Hawke. The Accord was all about offsetting real wage increases, what you get in your hand at the end of the week, for other increases in the social wage, extra money for health care, extra money for education. The track record of this Prime Minister, Tony Abbott is to cut money for education, like the SchoolKids Bonus and now he wants to increase the amount of money or introduce a $6 fee when you go to the doctor. So the chances of this happening, I think, are very unlikely.

GILBERT: The business community has said as well, in large part, I’ll quote Innes Willox from the Australian Industry Group, he said it’s not appropriate in the 21st century to have this sort of formalised compact or Accord. Very much on the same page as what the Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos said yesterday. Has this sort of thing, its use, come and gone and the modern economy doesn’t need it?

CLARE: Kieran I’m not fixed on whether it would be informal or formal but the idea behind everybody working together, the leaders of the country in government, the leaders of the union movement, the leaders of the business community sitting down and working together in and of itself is a good idea. The chances of that happening and producing results with a Prime Minister like Tony Abbott, I think are very, very unlikely. You’ve got here a wolf, in wolf’s clothing. A man who had made it very clear that where he sees a problem he’ll blame workers. Now with that sort of attitude the chances of getting everybody to work together, I think are very slim.

GILBERT: Do you see why people are cynical? I’ve received a lot of messages this morning via Twitter and emails, viewers who are cynical about this approach from the Labor movement right now at a time when the Coalition’s in power, when previously they would play the system for everything that they could get, including with the Fair Work Act, many believe went too far and certainly that’s the view of many in the business community.

CLARE: Well I think people would be cynical about a man who spent the last three years in a fluro jacket in every workplace in the country and then when he became Prime Minister decides to turn his back on Australian industry. That’s what I’d be cynical about. I’d like to know who the people are that think the industrial relations system has shifted too far. About six or seven years ago Work Choices came in and people had their wages cut, over a million people had their wages cut and entitlements. Let me tell you the story of a woman named Mary who lives in Bankstown. A forty year old Chinese woman who had her salary cut from $16 per hour to $11 per hour. That’s what happened the last time the Liberals where in power. That’s a good example of an industrial relations system which has shifted too far to the right. One we don’t want to go back to.

GILBERT: In terms of the SPC debate, the Government’s made it clear where it stands on the corporate welfare argument. Again this is something which Labor is of course opposed to but when you’ve got such a well off, well established parent company such as Coca Cola Amatil, isn’t this something where the Government needs to change the mindset of companies and the general corporate sector about the issue of industry welfare. That this is just not going to be offered if you’ve got a subsidiary which is in trouble you’ve got to deal with it.

CLARE: Well there are two issues on SPC. The first is honesty. The Prime Minister’s been caught out by a member of his own party, Sharman Stone who’s called him a liar. If you’ve got a member of the Liberal Party calling the Prime Minister a liar, that you can’t trust him. How can anybody else trust this Prime Minister?

The second issue is consistency. How can you justify making a decision to help Cadbury Chocolate in Tasmania but not support SPC in Victoria. The real difference there is that Cadbury is in a Marginal seat in Tasmania and this is in a safe Liberal seat where the Prime Minister has decided they don’t need to help. There needs to be a bit of consistency. Joe Hockey has talked about the end of the age of entitlement. Well we haven’t seen the end of the age of hypocrisy. You’ve got inconsistencies here. They say no to Holden, looks like they’re going to help Qantas. They say no to SPC but they help Cadbury Chocolate in Tasmania. They help an aquaculture company in Tasmania. There’s no consistency other than the political agenda that’s targeting marginal seats.

GILBERT: You say there’s no consistency. They did offer support for Holden, it was just that Holden wanted even more than the billion that was already on the table.

CLARE: Kieran, Kieran, Kieran, you know what happened there. They goaded Holden out of the country. You had Joe Hockey standing at the dispatch box basically telling them to get out of the country.

GILBERT: Mr Clare, the Chief Executive of Holden said no amount of money was going to keep them here anyway. On Qantas there’s this Qantas Sale Act, Labor seem entrenched in this idea that you don’t want to change it, the national carrier needs to remain but if it all goes under they’ve got to be on the same playing field as other airlines.

CLARE: Qantas is an Australian icon and we want to see Qantas stay providing services to all Australians. The point I’m making here is show a bit of consistency. If the age of entitlement is over then apply the same rule to everybody. We are not seeing that. It’s not just in the corporate world that you see inconsistency. Joe Hockey is saying that the age of entitlement is over but apparently it’s still on the table to give a subsidy to people on their private health insurance that are wealthy. That to me is inconsistent.

GILBERT: I want to ask you finally about the ABC, the Government, the Prime Minister, the Communications Minister and the Foreign Minister have all said that the ABC should issue a clear cut apology. They’ve said that their reporting wasn’t as precise as it should have been but there was no formal apology to the navy. What’s your view?

CLARE: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. If you make a mistake you should apologise. I had an instance happen to me, where allegations were put to me in an ABC interview, where a mistake was made. The allegations that were put to me were false and I made the case to the ABC and was able to prove it with evidence that the information they provided was wrong and they apologised. I think that was the right thing to do then. It’s the right thing to do now. This whole issue, this whole mess has been created by unnecessary secrecy.

GILBERT: Why do you think they haven’t done that? Just quickly because we are almost out of time.

CLARE: They’ve expressed regret, I’m not going to get into the brawl of whether that’s good enough or not. I’ll tell you what it is a bit interesting the Liberal Party and its leaders thought it was impossible to use the words sorry for the Stolen Generation for over a decade but when something happens to them, suddenly this word is so important. I think that says a lot about the Liberal Party today.

GILBERT: We’re out of time, Jason Clare thanks for that today, appreciate it.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.