Interview with Sabra Lane ABC AM – 24 February 2012

Topics: Labor leadership

SABRA LANE: Jason Clare, there is a mountain of opinion polling out this morning showing Julia Gillard cannot lead Labor to victory on these current figures. Will that influence the way caucus votes on Monday?

JASON CLARE: Sabra, I don’t think so. I come from New South Wales and the story of New South Wales is that if you keep changing leaders then it ends up ending very badly the vote keeps going down and as we know in New South Wales we ended up getting flogged.

There is a truism in politics and that is that division is death and a lot of the great things that the Labor Government has done over the past 12 months, over the past 18 months, have been camouflaged by division inside the party and it’s also camouflaged a lot of the failures and a lot of the flaws of Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party.

So, it’s important to sort this out and to sort it out once and for all on Monday morning.

SABRA LANE: On these polls though, Newspoll and Nielsen, Labor is clearly unelectable right now; how can you turn that around in 18 months, especially given the level of hatred that we’ve seen in the public debate?

JASON CLARE: Well you turn this around through a lot of hard work. The lesson from New South Wales, the lesson elsewhere is that if you keep changing leaders you don’t fix opinion polls, you fix it by a lot of hard work, by doing the sorts of things that Labor governments are elected to do.

The Labor Party is the party of working people. We need to do and continue to do the sorts of things that help out working people, whether it’s increasing superannuation, cutting income tax, increasing the pension, or whether it’s getting rid of things like WorkChoices. They’re the things that Labor governments do and that’s our responsibility now – to sort out the leadership issue on Monday once and for all.

SABRA LANE: For the record, you’ll vote for Julia Gillard?

JASON CLARE: Oh you bet, yeah. The Prime Minister has always had my support and I’ll be voting for her on Monday morning.

SABRA LANE: Could you work as a minister under Kevin Rudd?

JASON CLARE: Well that would be a decision for whoever is elected by the caucus as prime minister on Monday. I think it’s an enormous privilege to serve as a minister in a Labor government.

SABRA LANE: Senator Mark Bishop says the party will be obliterated if it sticks with Ms Gillard. He admits he supported the dumping of Mr Rudd in 2010 but he says that was a horrible mistake.

JASON CLARE: Mark and I disagree on this; we agree on many things but I guess we disagree on this. I think if Julia Gillard is given a fair go after Monday then we’ve got the opportunity to make a very strong case to the Australian people.

But the fact is there’s been disunity in the party and you don’t have to be Nostradamus to work out that where you have disunity you’ve got problems in a political party – it hurts us and it just helps the Liberal Party. That’s why people that are members of the Labor Party or voted for the Labor Party at the last election must be tearing their hair out in frustration, they want us to get this thing sorted out.

And the important point in all of this, whether you support one side of the argument or the other, is that this is all finished on Monday and we go forward as a united team; that won’t be easy but I think it can be done. The important thing here is that the destabilisation has to end after Monday and there is no second, third or fourth ballot.

SABRA LANE: Mr Rudd has said that he would renounce his ambitions should he not win on Monday but Senator Bishop’s flagged a possible third candidate might emerge later this year should the bad polling continue; what’s your response?

JASON CLARE: If this sort of stuff keeps going, my view is it will destroy the Government and it’ll hurt the Labor party for a generation. Whether you’re a member of the party or whether you’re a Labor voter, I think you’d be sitting back today saying this has just got to end on Monday. And after that, that’ll give the government a fair chance to make its case to the Australian people.

I think Mr Rudd has done a very good thing by saying yesterday that there’ll be no second challenge. I think that’s the right thing to do. It’ll mean that whoever is elected leader of the Labor Party on Monday has a fair go, has a fair chance and that’s why I think it’s important that we sort this out once and for all on Monday.

SABRA LANE: The level of public vitriol at Mr Rudd’s taken many people by surprise. Senator Bishop says the public isn’t responding very well to this at all. Has that been a mistake; should ministers have modified their criticisms of Mr Rudd?

JASON CLARE: Look it’s not the approach that I would take, or that I’ve taken. Other people have had their own experiences and they’ve expressed them publicly, it’s not mine. I was a backbencher in most of the Rudd government. I’ve worked very closely with Julia Gillard as a minister in her government and I have to say my only experience as a minister is very positive – Julia Gillard’s been an exceptionally good prime minister to work with.

SABRA LANE: What happens if the disunity doesn’t end?

JASON CLARE: Well if it doesn’t end, it means the destruction of the Government; it’s as simple as that. If disunity continues it will destroy the Government. It will mean Tony Abbott becomes prime minister and it will hurt the Labor Party for a generation or more.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare, speaking with Sabra Lane.