Interview with David Lipson – Sky News Lunchtime Agenda – Wednesday 13 November 2013






Subjects: Parliament, Climate Change, Coalition Raising Debt Ceiling to $500 billion, Asylum Seekers.

David Lipson: Jason Clare, thanks for your time. The Parliament kicked off with a bang this morning and a ruling from the new speaker Bronwyn Bishop that the insult if you like ‘Electricity Bill’ in reference to the Opposition Leader was allowed. What do you make of that ruling?

Jason Clare: Well I think it’s a bad start for the Government. They really stuffed up today. It was designed to be their day to announce their legislation to remove the carbon tax and it turned into chaos in the Parliament because the Speaker allowed name calling to be used in the Parliament.

David Lipson: Initially though, that was because an attempt was made to suspend standing orders by Tony Burke.

Jason Clare: No, let’s be clear about it. Christopher Pyne used that name in the Parliament and the Speaker said it’s OK to use those words. Yesterday we were told that this was going to be an adult Government and then today their acting like children in the Parliament. I think this is a Government that thinks they’re in opposition. Acting like children in the Parliament. Two can play at that game. If you want the Parliament can descend into farce and we can call the Prime Minister ‘Phony Tony’ and we can call Christopher Pyne ‘the poodle’ but I think that makes all of us lesser individuals. The general public don’t want to see that. They want us to act like adults and because the Government were playing silly buggers in the Parliament this morning, they didn’t get to focus on the legislation they wanted to introduce.

David Lipson: You’re the member for Blaxland and your predecessor of course, Paul Keating, wasn’t shy of using some pretty colourful insults. Like ‘a perfume gigolo’, ‘a shiver looking for a spine to crawl up’. Is that acceptable?

Jason Clare: They’re some of the nicer things that Paul has said in the Parliament. It’s a robust place but there’s a pretty simple rule – you call people by their title. Tony Abbott said yesterday in a press conference: some of the things I say outside the Parliament, I can’t say inside the Parliament. I can’t use that term to describe the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, and Bronwyn Bishop stuffed it up right from the start. She’s spent twenty years preparing to become Speaker and her first ruling was wrong and that’s why the Parliament descended into chaos this morning.

David Lipson: Well, eventually the carbon tax repeal legislation was introduced. Why is Labor standing in the way of it?

Jason Clare: We are very happy to get rid of the carbon tax but you have got to replace it with something that works. We know an emissions trading system will work by putting a cap on carbon. We’ve got no idea what the Liberal party’s policy will do there. Tony Abbott couldn’t explain it in Parliament today, Greg Hunt couldn’t explain it when he was sitting here. Malcolm Turnbull has said that it will increase taxes. We are told that they need a green paper and a white paper to work it all out. Well, work it out, do your homework and then come back to us but if you want to get rid of the carbon tax, we can do it this week. We can pass legislation to remove the carbon tax and replace it with an emissions trading scheme.

David Lipson: If you are so sure about that argument, why push off a vote until next year and conduct a review in the Senate?

Jason Clare: Well, the legislation can pass this week. We can move to an emissions trading scheme and get rid of the carbon tax this week but what they want to replace it with is something that could cost us $10 billion over the course of the next few years, not reduce carbon at all and lead to a big amount of wasted taxpayers money.

David Lipson: I get that point but why the review? What’s the need for the review? The Senate Committee.

Jason Clare: Maybe put it this way David, explain to me what Direct Action is all about?

David Lipson: I’m asking the questions today…

Jason Clare: I don’t know the answer David and I don’t think the people listening to this interview know the answers to it either. If we are going to get rid of the carbon tax we need to replace it with something that works. We’ve got no idea how this silly idea, that Malcolm Turnbull says would lead to reckless spending and increases in taxes, would work. We need to work that out because most people in Australia want us to take action on climate change and reduce our emissions. We know an emissions trading scheme will do that. This idea of the Liberal Party’s, well if you know how it works please tell me.

David Lipson: Labor’s also playing hardball on the debt ceiling. The Coalition Government wants to increase it to $500 billion from $300 billion but Labor is only going to allow up to $400 billion. Is that Tea Party politics at play?

Jason Clare: No, we’re saying we will increase it by $100 billion. If you need more then explain why. There’s an obligation on the Government, and this has always been the case, to explain why they need those extra funds. Kieran on the program this morning quoted Tony Abbott. This is what Tony Abbott said in a similar debate last year, he said: “The Government has to justify this. Our money, our future, is too important to be mortgaged like this without the Government giving us the strongest possible arguments for it.” That was for an increase of $50 billion, now Joe Hockey’s asking for an increase of $200 billion. Just like if you are asking your bank for an increase in your mortgage, you’ve got to show the bank why you need it and how you’ll repay it. If you need to increase the debt ceiling by more than $400 billion then prove it by releasing the MYEFO before Christmas.

David Lipson: And if that’s released, would you support the $200 billion increase?

Jason Clare: Well, we would need to see what’s in it. We need evidence from the Treasurer, from the Prime Minister, that they need more than $400 billion. They’ve failed to provide it.

David Lipson: But do you accept the argument that you need also a buffer? That it’s not just about forecasts and estimates, you should have a good buffer.

Jason Clare: First we need to see the forecast. You need to see the forecast. They failed to provide that. We will ensure they have what they need but if you don’t provide us with the evidence of what you need then we say you’ll have $400 billion. If you need more come back and ask for it.

David Lipson: You used to be the Home Affairs Minister and it was through your office that those, well they turned out to be regular email alerts, would come out each time a boat arrival came here in Australia. That’s stopped. What do you make of that and what was your justification for sending that out? Why did you feel we needed to be informed every time?

Jason Clare: Well I thought there was an obligation on the part of the Government to inform Australian citizens when a boat arrives. That’s obviously not the view of this Government.

David Lipson: But why did you feel there was an obligation in the first place?

Jason Clare: Well it’s not just me, it was my predecessors as well and I think a request by the media which was justified that if people had arrived in Australia by sea then they should be made aware of it, they shouldn’t have to wait until Friday to find out what has happened on our borders. This Government seems to have a different approach. Refusing to answer questions. Refusing to answer questions during the week. We’ll see whether they are prepared to answer questions in the Parliament.

They’ve said a number of things. They said they would turn back boats. How many boats have been turned back? We don’t know. There’s been this big argument over a boat off the coast of Indonesia. Why wasn’t that boat turned back? I’ll tell you why. Because of what we’ve always said, they can’t turn back a boat without the permission of Indonesia.

There was a lot of tough talk over the last two years. Talk about bringing in the SAS. Talk about every boat that was returned to Christmas Island was part of a taxi service. Well by the standards that the Liberal Party has now set for itself they are running a taxi service. Why didn’t they pull in the SAS? There are a lot of questions that the Liberal Party needs to answer and they are not answering any of them.

David Lipson: They say they are being quiet on this for operational reasons. Can you see any operational reasons?

Jason Clare: I was never given any operational reason and we asked all of the agencies for advice about what action is necessary to reduce the boats, best example of that is the PNG Agreement. Never once was I told by any official that putting out a statement or holding a press conference was going to imperil operations and that it should stop. The key thing here is that what is reducing the boats right now is the agreement we struck with PNG. From the date it was announced till the date of the election we saw the number of people coming by boat drop by 90%. Nothing the Liberal Party is doing at the moment is having an impact on boats other than the PNG Agreement. There is nothing new that they are doing other than press conferences and pull-up banners. The thing that’s reducing the boats is the agreement that’s been struck with PNG that’s reduced the number of people coming by boat, from the day we announced it to election day by 90%. And the reason for that is simple because if you come by boat to Australia we’ll send you to Papua New Guinea where you will be settled and that’s what’s having the impact.

David Lipson: Jason Clare we’ll have to leave it there – thanks for your time.

Jason Clare: Thanks David.