Doorstop Interview – Canberra – Monday 2 December 2013





SUBJECTS: Tony Abbott’s Broken Promise on Schools; NBN; Removing the debt-cap; Clive Palmer’s Maiden Speech

JASON CLARE: I want to say a few words about the NBN but before I do, let me say something about the Liberal lies on education.

You might have seen the Sunday Telegraph yesterday where it identified the areas that will be hardest hit by the cuts that Government is going to make to education.

No area will be hit more than my electorate of Blaxland. The number one school that will be hit by these cuts is Chester Hill High School, number six is Bass High in my electorate.

So here is the challenge Christopher Pyne, come to my electorate, come to Chester Hill High School and look those children in the eye and explain today why you are cutting money from their school and why you lied.

Let there be no doubt about this, Christopher Pyne has lied. He said one thing before the election and he’s saying another thing now. Put Christopher Pyne on a polygraph and it would blow up. This bloke has lied and he should apologise to the children in my electorate.

Now onto the NBN. Today is D-Day for Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to roll out a second rate NBN.

He’s been given a strategic review of the NBN by his mates that have written a report for him at the NBN Company. It’s on his desk today and he should release that report. Most particularly he should release all of the report, there’s some suggestion that he won’t release it all, he should release the whole report and he should come clean with the Australian people and explain whether he’s going to honour his own election promises.

Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that it had a secret report from NBN Co to the minister that was given to him as part of his incoming minister’s brief when he became the minister a couple of months ago. What that report indicated was that it was unlikely that the government would be able to meet its election promise to give everyone access to the NBN by 2016.

So here we go again. The government of broken promises looks like they’re going to break another promise. They broke their promise on debt, said that they wanted to cut debt but now it looks like they want to increase debt. They broke their promise on boats, they said they’d turn back boats but now they’re not doing that. They’re breaking their promise on education, and now it looks like they’re going to break their promise on the NBN. As people have said before, this is not the government they promised to be.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Should Christopher Pyne be sacked?

CLARE: Christopher Pyne should do what he promised before the election. He should honour the promises he made and backflip on the decision he made last week, and honour the promise to give that Gonski funding to the schools in my electorate and schools right across the country.

JOURNALIST: He’s not going to do that though, so what should happen to him?

CLARE: Well, I think it was Peter Hartcher on the weekend who said of all the incompetent ministers in this government, Christopher Pyne would have to be the most incompetent. People who didn’t know who Christopher Pyne was before the election, know who he is now, and they hate him. There are people on the streets in my electorate saying “who is this bloke? Can you please tell him to honour the promises he made before the election and give our kids the funding they deserve.”

JOURNALIST: So would you like to see him go though?

CLARE: I want him to do what he promised to do. I want him to stop the lies and to give the funding to the kids in my electorate.

JOURNALIST: Just on the NBN, the argument seems to be that some of this information will be marked sensitive, do you accept that?

CLARE: Well that’s for Malcolm Turnbull to explain. He needs to release the report. And he needs to explain why he’s going to roll out a second rate, second class NBN. And for this report to meet the test that the minister has set for it, he needs to explain exactly how much it’s going to cost to roll out a second rate NBN. To do that he needs to explain how much it’s going to cost to fix the old copper network. Not estimates, not assumptions, he needs information from Telstra which is independently assessed to confirm how much it’s going to cost to fix the copper network and then how much it’s going to cost to maintain the copper network. This could potentially cost billions and billions of dollars over the next decade, and you can’t switch from a first class fibre to the premises model to an old fibre to the node type model until you know exactly how much it will cost.

JOURNALIST: The Greens seem to be in serious negotiations with the Coalition about removing the debt ceiling. Is that something that Labor should consider?

CLARE: No. Simple as that. This is hypocrisy on a grand scale. First they said they would cut the debt. Then they wanted to almost double the debt. Now apparently the sky’s the limit. We have made it very clear; we will increase the debt cap to $400 billion right now this week, but if you want to raise the debt level any higher you’ve got to prove it, you’ve got to release MYEFO and explain why.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

CLARE: Laura, this is the biggest and most important infrastructure project in Australia, and it’s important that it’s done right. I believe and the Labor Party believes that that means it must be done with fibre, fibre to the premises, fibre to people’s homes and businesses. To answer your question, there’ve been problems with construction and they need to be fixed. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Fix the construction problems. Don’t throw it out. Don’t leave Australians with a second class, second rate National Broadband Network that we’d just have to come back and finish off down the track.

JOURNALIST: So you acknowledge that Labor left problems for the Coalition to deal with?

CLARE: I have said before and I said it at a conference two weeks ago that there were problems with the early construction roll out.

I worked in the construction industry for five years before I went into Parliament and I know how difficult construction projects can be. The more you do it, the better you get at it. You build one bridge, you might make mistakes. You build forty-four on a project like WestLink M7 that I worked on; you get better and better at it, and that’s what’s been happening with the NBN.

Don’t make the mistake of throwing out the infrastructure we need for the twenty-first century. Keep rolling out the NBN, don’t leave us with a second class, second rate system that this government is talking about.

Let me remind you, back in the 40s, Robert Menzies was one of the fiercest critics of the Snowy Hydro Scheme. He was virulent in his attacks on that project, he even refused to turn up to the launch of it two months before an election. Then he became Prime Minister and suddenly had a change of heart. He supported it, he backed it, he funded it. And what I’m saying is Tony Abbott, you need to be like Robert Menzies here. Back this infrastructure. You say that you are the infrastructure Prime Minister, well if you’re the infrastructure Prime Minster, you need to fund and support the infrastructure that we need for the twenty-first century and there’s no better example of that than the NBN.

JOURNALIST: Just to be really clear, so you want the strategic review to be publically released in full?

CLARE: Yes, I do, I do. If there are reasons why it can’t be released in full, then the minister needs to explain why.

JOURNALIST: Just in regards to Clive Palmer, he’s got his maiden speech today, any tips for him?

CLARE: I wish him well. It’s great privilege to be elected to the Australian Parliament. There’s only a little over a thousand people that have been elected Members of the House of Representatives. And you get an opportunity to explain your vision, what you hope to do as a Member of Parliament for your electorate, and I’m sure that Mr Palmer will do that today and I wish him well.

JOURNALIST: So do you think he’s going to abuse parliamentary privilege, or end up having a fairly colourful speech this afternoon?

CLARE: Well I’ve got no idea what he’s about to say. Stay tuned.

Thanks very much.