Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 4 December 2013






SUBJECT/S: Education, TPVs, Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, ASIO; ABC

KIERAN GILBERT: With me for some immediate reaction I’ve got the Labor frontbencher, Jason Clare for a previously organised interview but we’ll get to those matters in a moment.

First of all I want to ask you a question relating to this report card. Obviously Australia not doing too great but it follows six years of Labor in office. A lot of money spent on school halls, a lot of money spent on computers for schools. Was it all spent as effectively as it should be and isn’t it a report card more on Labor than it is on anything the Coalition has done?

JASON CLARE: They are bad results and confirm what Gonski said, which is that we need to invest more in our schools and we need to invest it in the right areas. If you look at where unemployment is the highest in Australia, almost without exception you’ll find these are places where the school completion rates are low.

What Gonski is saying is that you need to invest money in areas of disadvantage, where there are high indigenous populations, high levels of people from low SES backgrounds, from non-English speaking backgrounds. If you’re going to lift people up, in areas like mine, target the money in the right area.

We said we’ll inject $9 billion extra, to help lift up our kids and make sure that we’ve got the qualifications we need to compete in the Asian Century. The Liberal Party don’t want to do that. They only want to invest an extra $2 billion. That’s not enough.

GILBERT: Is the last five or six years- was that a missed opportunity in hindsight, particularly when we heard all of the grand rhetoric like the Education Revolution and obviously didn’t achieve what it was hoping to?

CLARE: I’d say all of those things are important, National Curriculum, getting better data about how schools are going but the funding model is still wrong. The old Howard funding model is broken and we need a new funding model that invests in areas like mine, where kids suffer great disadvantage when they start school, often they don’t even speak English when they start school and they need more help if they are going to get the sort of results we see in other parts of the country.

GILBERT: Let’s move on now to the temporary ban on Protection Visas. Scott Morrison is obviously not going to accept the Senate knocking off his and the Government’s mandate, to reinstate Temporary Protection Visas. They do have a mandate don’t they?

CLARE: Well, let’s just take one step back Kieran so we can understand what’s actually happening here. We introduced the PNG Agreement and it has made an enormous difference in stopping the boats. The week we announced it 1,300 people came, in the last week before the election only 146. So there has been this massive drop.

The Government is terrified that in a year’s time people will look back and say, hang on that PNG Agreement stopped the boats. All of the other things they came up with like turning back boats and buying boats that’s all come to nothing. They’re grappling for something they promised so that in a year’s time they can say, “See, we stopped the boats”.

The truth is the PNG Agreement, which says, if you come to Australia without a visa, you get no visa. You go to PNG. Not a temporary visa, not a permanent visa, no visa. That is the clearest possible message that you can send up the pipeline to tell people don’t get on a boat and risk your life at sea.

GILBERT: What about the 33,000 already here? Scott Morrison says he wants to send a message of intent to those pedalling the people smuggling trade that this Government is going to be hard line across the board. That includes the 33,000 already here.

CLARE: This is about deterrence, stopping people that are thinking about getting on a boat. That is what this must be about and the clearest way to do that is to say, if you get on a boat you’ll get no visa. The risk here is that you confuse the message and people think, hang on a second I can get a Temporary Protection Visa.

People will be happy to get any sort of visa to come to Australia, we are the best country in the world. If a confused message goes up the pipeline and says hang on you can get visas to Australia again, then it could send the counter signal. We need to be clear, you come without a visa you get no visa, you go to PNG. If you are found to be someone who is genuinely seeking asylum you live in PNG.

GILBERT: It doesn’t look like Labor will succeed in knocking off the Temporary Protection Visas or effectively the Government adopting that policy, Scott Morrison using the Migration Act and his powers in it to do what he is doing here. I understand he’s got other measures as well that we can expect that will implement the Government’s hard line policy.

CLARE: It’s open to the Minister to use whatever powers he has in existing legislation but he must make it very clear to people that if you’re seeking to come to Australia by boat, without a visa then you’ll get no visa. The risk here is before the election the then Opposition, now the Government indicated that some people that were transferred to Nauru or to PNG might end up being settled in Australia. Now if this is a mechanism for giving those people a Temporary Protection Visa in Australia then that’s a gap in their policy that they need to change.

GILBERT: I don’t think that’s the case. This relates to the 33,000. I doubt it would extend. Let’s move on, Julie Bishop heading to Indonesia, talks tomorrow with Marty Natalegawa, the Indonesian Foreign Minister. You’ve had a bit to do with Indonesia in your former roles. What are the prospects of a resolution to this? Do you think the Indonesians and nationalistic sentiment leading into the Parliamentary and Presidential elections could preclude any swift resolution to this rift?

CLARE: No I don’t. It shouldn’t and it can’t be allowed to. I said to you a couple of weeks ago that we need to be proactive here. Don’t let this fester. So the Foreign Minister going to Indonesia is an out and out good thing. I welcome that and I wish her well in her discussions with the Indonesians. This relationship is too important to sour and so the discussions she has over the next few days are very important. There’s no better way to deal with an issue like this than face to face.

GILBERT: Now the ASIO raid, we heard Bill Shorten asked about, should the Opposition be demanding more information on this? I know Kelvin Thomson, at least, has expressed his concern, one of your Labor colleagues. Adam Bandt says that if these are proven correct, the situation around this ASIO raid that George Brandis thinks he’s J. Edgar Hoover throwing warrants around like confetti.

CLARE: Well, we have asked for a briefing, the Leader of the Opposition has asked for a briefing. I make no immediate judgment about this. As acting Attorney-General, Kieran, I have had to sign off ASIO warrants and you seek a lot of information from ASIO in writing and in person. I expect that the Attorney-General has done that in this case but it’s up to him and ASIO to explain that in detail.

GILBERT: And you want to see that detail?

CLARE: We are entitled to, under the law, to seek a briefing and receive a briefing and that is what the Leader of the Opposition has asked for.

GILBERT: Finally, I want to ask you about, Cory Bernardi has called for the structural separation of the ABC and it’s funding to be cut. The Prime Minister’s also said, they showed very very poor judgment in the broadcasting of the Snowden matter. What’s your view on the reporting of that matter and subsequently this claim from Senator Bernardi?

CLARE: Well let me deal with them in the opposite direction if you don’t mind Kieran. On cuts, Cory Bernardi has called for the ABC to be cut, Tony Abbott yesterday in his press conference said that there’d be no cuts to the ABC. So if in the budget in May the ABC is cut that’s another broken promise. That’s another lie from the Prime Minister and we would hold him to account for that if he cuts the ABC in next year’s budget.

More broadly, what I would say is that we have a free press. Sometimes the press says things we don’t like, but there’s no use whinging about it, you’ve got to get on and do your job.

Last December there was a big story broken on the front page on the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age about Customs corruption at Sydney Airport. Now Tony Abbott’s criticism has been not that the story about Indonesia was broken by the ABC but they promoted it. Well the ABC did exactly the same in this case here, working with Fairfax who won a Walkley award for this last week, promoted this story about Corruption at Sydney Airport. I was the Minister responsible at the time, my job then was to get in-

GILBERT: It’s a bit different isn’t it because that relates to the corruption of one of our agencies? This relates to our foreign interests.

CLARE: What I’m saying is when you have a situation like this, what do you do? I got in and dealt with it, I appointed Justice James Wood to head up the reform board, I built a blue-print to reform the organisation and to the credit of this Government it is now implementing that reform. It’s your job as a Minister to take responsibility for these things and fix it, not whinge.

This is the problem I’m seeing here with the Prime Minister, when he’s upset about something he acting like a bully who’s upset in the playground and throws a tantrum: Oh the Parliament is going to sit longer or I’m going to complain about the ABC. It harks back to the sort of bullying we saw from Tony Abbott long before he became Prime Minister. He’s been kept in a box for the last few years but now we are starting to see the ugly bully come back and that’s writ large in his activities over the last few weeks of Parliament.

GILBERT: Jason Clare thanks for your time this morning.

CLARE: Thank you.