Interview with Steve Chase – ABC News Radio – Friday 17 July 2015



FRIDAY, 17 JULY 2015



SUBJECT/S: Bronwyn Bishop; Engagement with Australia’s Islamic community; Q&A

STEVE CHASE: Now the ALP has been critical of Bronwyn Bishop over her treatment of your side of politics in the Parliament and there is a suggestion that she may lose her job over this issue. Is that something that the ALP will push for?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well Bronwyn Bishop is now an asset for the Labor Party because whenever people see her on TV it just reminds people about how arrogant and how out of touch this government is.

This is bad for Tony Abbott because a lot happens in politics every day and people hear a lot and forget a lot but you don’t forget things like knighting Prince Philip and you don’t forget things like Bronwyn Bishop getting in a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong for a Liberal Party knees-up. From my point of view, whenever people see Bronwyn Bishop now, they’ll remember just how arrogant and how out of touch this government is.  

CHASE: But isn’t the real issue here the rules? Because you have to concede your side of politics has also had to pay back money wrongly claimed because as Bronwyn Bishop said she thought she claimed what was within the rules. Surely what need to be clarified is the rules. We don’t seem to have an arbiter when these things come into the public domain.

CLARE: Well I think that’s right, I think that’s a fair point Steve. Any rules that say that it is okay to get into a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong for a Liberal Party fundraiser just aren’t good enough. It doesn’t pass the common sense test. There would be nobody listening today that would think that that’s good enough, that the Speaker should be allowed to do that and so if the rules need to change, they should.

CHASE: Well are you going to push for that because that would seem to be the way to take it forward, if you just don’t want to be seen like you are taking political points on this. 

CLARE: No I think that’s right and Nick Xenophon made the same point last night. I think that allpoliticians if they’d look at this for five seconds would realise that the rules need to be changed. 

CHASE: Now as I speak to you this morning, I understand that you’re about to go to an event in Sydney to mark the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. There is a suggestion that you’ve probably read about this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald that academics and police are concerned that right-wing extremism is emerging as an equal or if not greater threat than Muslim radicalisation. You have a lot of Muslim constituents, what do you make of that? 

CLARE: Well violent extremism, whether it’s right-wing or left-wing, whether it’s Christian or Muslim is extremely serious, made more serious by this point, when the community gets at each other’s throats, when people feel like there is an us and them mentality, when a community feels like they are under siege and that they don’t belong, that’s when even worse things happen. I worry very much about that because if people feel like they don’t belong in their own country then that can just exacerbate the problem that we already have.

CHASE: There’s also the issue too, that while I understand you have been away and I’m not sure if you’re across this, but the Australian Federal Police have actually cancelled a dinner I understand with some members of the Sydney Muslim community. Is that a development that concerns you?

CLARE: It does, it’s disappointing. You don’t fix these problems unless you sit down and talk to each other. If the police and senior members of the Muslim community in Sydney or right across Australia aren’t working together with each other, then we are not going to address some of the critical problems in our community.

These dinners are an important part of that, sitting down and breaking bread, forging relationships and this is not a good sign. It suggests that there is real tension in the relationship. 

I know just back in February this year when the Prime Minister made a speech where he said that Muslim leaders need to speak up more and when they say things they need to mean them, that went down like a lead balloon. People interpreted that in my community that the Prime Minister thought they were liars and it was counter-productive because the police to rely on information from the community and it meant that they weren’t getting the information that they really wanted. This suggests that there’s real tension in the relationship and we need to fix that. The way to fix that is to sit down and talk to each other not refuse to have dinner together. 

CHASE: Finally Jason Clare, you’re the Shadow Communications Minister and we’ve yet to hear your take on the Government’s ban on frontbenchers appearing on the ABC’s Q&A Program, as I’ve mentioned you’ve been away. That’s the government prerogative isn’t it, to appear or not appear on a particular program?

CLARE: Well if they don’t want to appear on Q&A, then that’s fine by us but a million people watch Q&A every week, it’s a very successful, very popular TV program and if Tony Abbott doesn’t want to let Malcolm Turnbull or other people on the program then he’s denying his side of politics a voice.

What’s more important, what’s more serious here is that he is now trying to tell the ABC how to run their business. The ABC is independent of government, the Act clearly states that Ministers and the government shouldn’t tell them or shouldn’t instruct them about programming and Tony Abbott now seems to be wanting to do that.

CHASE: But my take on that, wasn’t it a suggestion by the ABC Board on this particular issue about the Q&A program being under the aegis of news and current affairs that Tony Abbott wants to adopt?

CLARE: I think that’s right, I think the Board said that they want to do this. I think it’s an initiative of the Board and Tony Abbott’s responded to that by writing to Board saying that unless you do this, we are not coming back on the program. What the Act says is that this is a matter for the Board and it’s not a matter for Tony Abbott. He shouldn’t be instructing them what to do. Malcolm Turnbull whenever he’s been asked this question in the last 18 months has been specific and said section 8 of the Act says that I can’t interfere. Tony Abbott is now doing the reverse of that, he’s trying to interfere, it’s all about internal politics trying to talk to his own caucus who hates the ABC.

The problem Tony Abbott has got which I don’t think he appreciates is that most Australians love the ABC, including Liberal voters who love the ABC and just want the Prime Minister of Australia to focus on the big issues in this country instead of a TV program.