Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Friday 31 January 2014






SUBJECT/S: ABC “efficiency study”; Boats

KIERAN GILBERT: Now to Jason Clare the Shadow Communications Minister. Jason Clare this “efficiency study” announced by Malcolm Turnbull, he says: “it’s a routine responsibility of government to ensure that the ABC and SBS use public resources as officially as possible.” Isn’t that an appropriate thing to do?

JASON CLARE: Kieran I’ve got no problem at all with driving efficiency in government departments, we should do that in every government department but that’s not what this is about. This is about trust. The night before the election Tony Abbott said there would be no cuts to the ABC. This is about cutting the budget of the ABC. If they don’t cut the budget of the ABC, I’ll eat my hat. This is all about providing some form of excuse to cut the ABC’s budget.

GILBERT: He said there would be no cuts. This is an “efficiency study”. If he takes it to the next election that’s not a broken promise, is it?

CLARE: Well let’s see what they do in the budget. What I’m predicting is that they’ll cut the ABC’s budget and they’ll use this as an excuse to do it. If they are not going to do that, then the efficiencies that they find in this report should be used to invest back into the ABC to deliver more services to the Australian people.

The point I’m making here is Tony Abbott campaigned for years about honesty in government. If you say one thing before an election, you’ve got to do it. Now he’s Prime Minister he’s breaking promises on debt, on boats, he’s broken his promise to build the NBN by 2016 and you can bet your bottom dollar come the budget they’ll cut the ABC’s budget. That’s important because before the election he said he wouldn’t do it. It means if he does that you can’t believe anything the Prime Minister says.

GILBERT: Yes but there is an if on that and you’ve mentioned the boats and these broken promises, Labor’s been doing that quite a bit but what is the broken promise on boats? There has been no boat for six weeks, as confirmed to me this morning by Scott Morrison, this suggestion that there are broken promises everywhere is that incumbent on Labor to pinpoint what you are talking about?

CLARE: Kieran I hate to remind you but how many boats have they bought back? Before the election they promised to buy back boats from Indonesia, they haven’t bought any back. Part of the problem here is the unnecessary secrecy.

There’s some good news that boats haven’t been coming in January, that’s a good thing because people aren’t drowning and it’s happening because of the arrangement we set up with Papua New Guinea. You can tell that by what our officials are being told on the ground in Indonesia by people seeking to come by boat and also the fact that people are now going home from Manus Island. They’ve got the message. If you come here by boat, you won’t end up in Australia, you’ll go to Papua New Guinea and they’re going home. That’s a good thing but there is no need for all the secrecy.

GILBERT: They are turning back boats as well. You’re claiming credit for the PNG deal but surely towing back boats is a pretty good signal as well, isn’t it – as to where the Government stands?

CLARE: Kieran the first question is what are they actually doing? It’s a simple question – One, are you turning back boats, yes or no? And two, how many have you turned back? The Government won’t answer those questions.

The second point I’d make is this, when you start going down that path you run into trouble with our relationship with our nearest neighbour, Indonesia and we’ve seen evidence of that.

There’s always the risk people get hurt, particularly our Navy personnel. That’s what I worry about. It’s happened in the past and no doubt it will happen in the future.

GILBERT: The Labor Party has been critical of statements Tony Abbott made this week on 2GB when he spoke to Ray Hadley but the Coalition is not the only one that can be sensitive to media coverage, is it,? When you look at what Labor did in government, Stephen Conroy put forward a whole series of reforms, including a new watch dog because he didn’t like some of the media coverage he was coping.

CLARE: Kieran my view on this, for what it’s worth, is pretty simple. We’ve got a free press. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong, you’ve just got to get on and do your job as best you can. I think what the Prime Minister showed this week is that he’s got a bit of a glass jaw. My message to him is just get on and do your job, take a spoon full cement and harden up. The media is not always going to say what you want but that’s the beauty of Australia. We are a free country, with a free media.

GILBERT: You’d offer the spoonful to Stephen Conroy then I guess.

CLARE: Well I think all politicians just need to accept that sometimes you’re going to get applause, sometimes you’re going to get attacked. Just get on and do your job. If you are in it for the applause, you’re in the wrong job.

GILBERT: Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare, appreciate it. Thanks for your time.

CLARE: Thanks mate.