Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 2 September 2015







SUBJECT/S: Canning by-election; two years of Tony Abbott; Australian jobs

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now, Labor Frontbencher, Jason Clare, for a look at the issues of the day. Jason Clare, an interesting situation this morning, both sides of politics rejecting this story that I have reported this morning that Julie Bishop told Cabinet yesterday that Labor is not putting in as many resources as they had anticipated to win the Canning by-election, Jason?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well, Kieran, tell me this is not another leak out of Cabinet, is it?

GILBERT: Well you can make your own judgement out on that one.

CLARE: Isn’t that the interesting point. You’ve got another example of a Cabinet Minister saying something in Cabinet and then Ministers walking out of Cabinet and rushing to get on the phone and talk to a journalist about what happened in Cabinet. You’ve got a Government which is leaking like a broken gutter.

Of course the Labor Party is going to fight hard in Canning. Of course it’s going to be a hard fight. This is a 12% Liberal seat. The average swing in a situation where a Government member has died is 2.5%, so it’s going to take a heroic effort to get a big swing to win that seat. We’re fighting hard there, Tania Plibersek was there yesterday, Bill Shorten will be there tomorrow. But I think the really interesting point in all of this is once again, Cabinet’s met and as soon as Cabinet’s finished, Ministers have rushed out and leaked the contents of the discussion of that Cabinet meeting.

GILBERT: There’s a suggestion that Tony Abbott is avoiding Canning, well he’s not is he, today he’s there, he’s going to be there for a second time. That’s just the same a Bill Shorten, so that attack at least from Labor is redundant.

CLARE: Well I think he needs to be there, he needs to convince people that they should vote for the Liberal Party because if the Liberals do lose this seat, Tony Abbott’s toast. After so many mistakes whether it’s Prince Philip or Bronwyn Bishop, if Tony Abbott loses the seat of Canning in two weeks, then surely the Liberal Party will get rid of him. I think the bigger point that should be made though is that it’s not just Tony Abbott, it’s the whole Liberal Party and all the members of the Cabinet that are responsible for the things that are going wrong at the moment. Debt is up, the deficit is up, unemployment is up and taxes are up, and you can’t just blame Tony Abbott for that. It’s all the Ministers around that Cabinet table that are making those decisions, leaking the contents of those conversations that are responsible for all of the mistakes that have been made by Tony Abbott’s Government.

GILBERT: Well I guess the question is, is the Labor Party, though looking at a medium term strategy here at the general election where you are going to have a new seat created in the more favourable areas for the Labor Party in the north of Canning where this seat, Canning, is going to be split, therefore your candidate, which you’d say is a strong one, he will likely be in the Parliament anyway if that’s the case.

CLARE: You’ve got to fight to win every election, whether it’s a by-election or a general election and we will do absolutely that. I’m just making the point, this is a tough seat to win, a 12% margin, the average is a 2.5% swing and it’s going to take a massive effort to be able to unseat the Liberal Party here in this by-election.

This Government is now two years old. On Monday, the Abbott Government turns two years old. They’ve made a lot of mistakes. As I’ve said, debt is going up, deficit is going up, unemployment is going up. They’ve made a raft of errors, whether it’s trying to put a tax on people going to the doctor, or cut the pension, or try and weaken or undermine the Racial Discrimination Act, the list goes on. And there’s an opportunity for the people of Canning in a couple of weeks’ time to send a message to this Government, and there’s an opportunity for the Australian people next year to blow the candles out on this bad Government.

GILBERT: In terms of Canning, there are apparently 10,000 fly in/fly out workers who are very much sensitive to the prospects of the China Free Trade Agreement. In that context, should Federal Labor now be listening to Daniel Andrews, Jay Wetherill and even Simon Crean, a former colleague of yours, a former Trade Minister, who says this is a good deal and that it should be delivered and Labor should get on with it basically?

CLARE: I think everybody supports more trade and supports more trade with China, it’s good for jobs, it’s good for business, but surely it’s fair and reasonable to ask a few questions which is what the Senate is doing. And surely it’s a fair enough statement to say that before foreign workers come to Australia to do work, we should test to see if Australians have got the skills and ability to do those jobs. Now under this agreement, the way that it works at the moment –

GILBERT:  But you can’t revoke it. Common sense would say that there’s no way that Labor would try to repeal or block or revoke this deal.

CLARE: Kieran, you don’t need to change the trade agreement to sort this problem the Government has created out. You can do it by separate legislation. Under the way they have put this trade agreement together, at the moment the Government may test the local market before foreign workers come in, but they’re not obliged to. Craig Emerson made a useful contribution to this yesterday, he wrote a piece in the Financial Review that said you can fix this problem quite easily through separate legislation, and if the Government is interested in making sure that Australian workers get the opportunity to get these jobs, then they should work sensibly with the Opposition to fix this problem.

GILBERT: Jason Clare, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.