Interview with Fran Kelly – ABC Radio National Breakfast – 4 March 2013


Interview with Fran Kelly

ABC Radio National Breakfast

4 March 2013

FRAN KELLY: Well as you’ve heard, Julia Gillard has begun her five day trip to Western Sydney, and she’ll spend the next few days outlining her vision for the area, and for the nation. Last night the PM outlined a plan to party members at the University of Western Sydney, and top of her priority list: jobs, education, fast broadband and assisting modern families. And a plan to make the community safer by cracking down on organised crime.

The Prime Minister will establish a national anti-gang taskforce based on a successful model used by the FBI in the US. This $64 million taskforce will target cross-border organised crime, with assistance from a range of agencies including the Australian Crime Commission, Customs and Centrelink.

Jason Clare is the Minister for Home Affairs, he’s also the member for the Western Sydney seat of Blaxland. Minister, good morning, welcome to Breakfast.

JASON CLARE: God morning Fran.

FRAN KELLY: Follow the money, that seems to be the main goal of this taskforce. What can, and will, this taskforce do?

JASON CLARE: Well, you’re right it is about following the money. I’ve spoken to a lot of police in Western Sydney over the last few weeks, from Blacktown to Bankstown. They make the point that it’s all about money, you’ve got gangs shooting at each other over turf to sell drugs, but ultimately it’s about the money that you make. And there are two things, if we can give police more power to seize their assets, seize their cash and their homes, that makes a difference on the street, but also the work that Federal Government organisations, like the Tax Office and Centrelink can do to help give extra information to state police investigation, can really make a difference on the street.

So, in putting together this gang taskforce, we’ve been very keen to make sure that we don’t just have the state police and the Federal Police, but also have the Tax Office, Centrelink and Immigration there, all working together. What the Police Commissioner said yesterday is this is the way to fight crime.

FRAN KELLY: The Federal Opposition had labelled it initially a stunt, and says cross-border cooperation’s already happening, and cross-agency. Don’t we have state and Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission, and Customs for that matter, already working together?

JASON CLARE: We do, and we do it at the border. You might know about Taskforce Polaris, we spoke about it last year. And that’s been very successful, that’s state police and Federal Police working at the border, they’ve made a lot of arrests and seized a lot of drugs. But this is the next step, doing it on the street.

You would’ve seen, last week, that massive seizure of ice, the biggest in Australia’s history, about half a billion dollars worth of drugs seized. And that was the state and Federal Police taskforce working together. We’ve got to apply the same model on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane, and if we do that we can be more successful in locking up the people that are shooting at homes, and also seizing their assets.

FRAN KELLY: And when you say on the street, what do you actually mean. I thought that police, the local police, that was their job to do it on the street. Are you talking some kind of Eliot Ness force here?

JASON CLARE: What I’m saying is there are Federal Government agencies that can help them do their job. What police are telling me – extra gang intelligence, telling us what gangs are doing right across the country is important, because these people are part of chapters right across the country and overseas. From an intelligence centre based in Canberra, we’ll provide more information, more intelligence to do their job. Extra help from the Tax Office and Centrelink will make it possible for their investigations to be more successful. This taskforce will also look at what Australian gangs are doing overseas, their links to Asia, their links to Europe, their links to the United States, because what they’re pedalling on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane is coming from overseas.

FRAN KELLY: And so talk to us some more about that, because some of these bikie gangs, as you say, increasingly international operations. What kind of proof do we have that? What does that mean?

JASON CLARE: Well, I’m not going to foreshadow on the radio, Fran, everything that the Federal Police know, but needless to say, the gangs that are pedalling drugs in Sydney, and we’re talking about people who wear leather jackets and people who wear suits as well, aren’t just acting in isolation. They’re often overseas or talking to people overseas, that have got very strong links to other parts of the world. And so you can’t fight this in isolation, you need state police and Federal Police working together, but a key part of this taskforce is also working with organisations like Interpol and the FBI, because if we’re going to crack this, it’s going to require everyone to work together.

FRAN KELLY: This taskforce would need, obviously, cooperation with the states, and we haven’t seen a lot of that on a range of issues lately. Have you got enthusiastic consensus here? What kind of discussion did you have with the state premiers and police ministers before you made this announcement?

JASON CLARE: Yeah, that’s a really good question, because this is about working together, we’re only going to be successful if the police work together and the politicians work together. The people out in my neck of the woods really don’t care whose responsibility this is, they just want the shootings to stop. The Prime Minister spoke to Premier O’Farrell on the weekend, and I spoke to Minister Gallagher and got a great response. We’ve done some good work together last year with the work we did tackling the illegal firearms market and this is a logical next step and the Minister was very supportive of the approach that we’re proposing here with the national taskforce.

FRAN KELLY: You’re talking about your neck of the woods. You’re the Member for Blaxland, several of the recent drive-by shootings have happened in your electorate. Is this aimed directly at people in Western Sydney who aren’t feeling safe at the moment, and what are people in your electorate telling you?

JASON CLARE: Well, it’s very personal for me because these shootings are happening in the streets I grew up in, and this is an opportunity for me as a local member but also as the Minister to do something about it. But I’m conscious that this is not just a problem in Western Sydney. There’s been shootings in South Australia, there’s been 14 in the first few weeks of this year. There was a shooting in Melbourne just over the weekend, and people’s message is the same. We don’t care whose responsibility it is, just fix it. When you’ve got shootings in the middle of the night where kids are doing homework and people are laying in bed, they don’t want to hear politicians fighting. They want action, and that’s what this is about.

FRAN KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, it’s 18 minutes to eight and our guest this morning is Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare. Jason Clare, half the TV networks are broadcasting from Rooty Hill today. Obviously you can’t control that, but has this Prime Ministerial visit to Western Sydney become a bit of a circus? It certainly looks more like an election campaign than anything else.

JASON CLARE: Well, as a boy from Western Sydney I’m glad we’ve got a bit of attention. I know it’s not true of you, Fran, but not a lot of media often focuses on Western Sydney, so it’s good that we’ve got attention. I think it’s great we’ve got the Prime Minister out here. I represent the seat of Blaxland, Paul Keating’s old seat, and for 11 years John Howard never visited the seat once. And, you know, my view is Prime Ministers should get around the country, see what life is like right across the country. That’s what the PM’s doing, and the announcement she’s making today about putting over a billion dollars into the completion of the M4 is the sort of thing that we really need.

FRAN KELLY: Isn’t it the sort of thing we usually get in an election campaign too? A billion dollars for a motorway? That’s – it sounds like an election promise to me.

JASON CLARE: Well, it’s something that’s really needed out here, something that should’ve been done a long time ago, but people who live in Penrith or Parramatta, they get really frustrated when the M4 finishes at Concord and then you’ve got to fight your way through Parramatta Road to get to the city where your studio is. The road should go all the way there, and with that – a little bit like the conversation we just had on crime – is going to require the state government and the federal government to work together.

FRAN KELLY: In a seat like yours, at Blaxland, most people are born overseas or their parents were born overseas. What do they take from the PM’s message last night – we will put Aussie workers first, we will stop foreign workers being put at the front of the view – front of the queue?

JASON CLARE: Well, thank you for the question, because Blaxland’s a place that’s got an unemployment rate double the national average. A lot of people in Blaxland do it really tough. The work that we’ve done over the last five years has helped to make sure we didn’t have a repeat of what happened 20 years ago when unemployment rates were up at 15 or 16 per cent. We’ve created close to a million jobs over the last five years, and that’s really important. The message the Prime Minister was making yesterday is that this is a party and this is a government which is focused on jobs and jobs first. That’s really good for my local area, it’s great for Western Sydney, but it’s great right across the country.

FRAN KELLY: Is this language getting pretty close to dog whistling, though?

JASON CLARE: No, well, I think there’s a very, very big difference between the Prime Minister saying she supports creating jobs in Australia and some of the things you’re hearing from the Opposition in the last few days.

FRAN KELLY: There are seven electorates in Western Sydney where a minority speak – a minority of people speak English at home. The Liberal Party has been pre-selecting migrants and the children of migrants in this area. The last state and local governments, they won – Auburn Council had a migrant Liberal mayor, Smithfield an Iraqi-born Liberal, the Liberal MP for Granville is Maronite. Labor’s Federal MPs across these seats are largely from Anglo background. Are constituents going to identify more with migrants as their candidates? Is this a problem for Labor?

JASON CLARE: I think if you have a look at all of the Labor members right across Western Sydney, almost without exception you’ll find these are men and women who were born and bred in Western Sydney. I can only tell you my personal story, born and raised in Cabramatta, went to Cabramatta Primary School and Canley Vale High School. I was the first person in my family to finish school or go to university, and so with people that know our area very well, I sat in a classroom with kids from all around the world because Cabramatta was a place where refugees and migrants came.

And so I understand my community very well, and I think it’s the job of a local Member of Parliament to represent everyone, people from different parts of the world and different faiths.

FRAN KELLY: But surely also to reflect some of those? And if a minority speak English at home, I mean, that’s an experience you don’t have and many of your – most of your colleagues don’t have.

JASON CLARE: No, but it’s your job and it’s your responsibility to understand that, and that means talking to people, it means sitting in their lounge room, it means breaking bread, understanding their issues and making sure that they’re properly represented in the Federal Parliament.

FRAN KELLY: Jason Clare, thanks very much for joining us on Breakfast.

JASON CLARE: Thanks very much, Fran.

FRAN KELLY: Jason Clare is the Minister for Home Affairs. He’s also, as we were just discussing, the Member for the Western Sydney seat of Blaxland.