Interview with Fran Kelly – RN Breakfast – Tuesday, 15 September 2015





FRAN KELLY: Jason Clare is the Shadow Communications Minister. Jason Clare welcome to Breakfast.


KELLY: Has this next election just got a lot harder for Labor to win?

CLARE: No doubt Tony Abbott set a low bar. He was a hopeless Prime Minister.

KELLY: That’s what they said about Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

CLARE: I think most objective analysis would say that this was a right wing experiment gone wrong, and that’s why the Liberal Party has knifed a first term Prime Minister. But Malcolm Turnbull has been the Leader of the Liberal Party before. The people of Australia have seen him up close before and last time they made a judgment that this man was arrogant and out of touch and I think when they get a good look at him again they’ll make the same assessment.

KELLY: The same could be said of Kevin Rudd, that he’d been leader before and yet his party brought him back, invested your hopes in him. It’s exactly what the Liberal Party is doing isn’t it? Hard for you to criticise.

CLARE: What happened? What was the end result? We’ve seen this movie before Fran. First you knife the Prime Minister, then the leaks happen, then there’s an election and the Australian people kick you out. The difference is we have learnt the lesson. You realise we were punished mercilessly for doing this. The Liberal Party obviously hasn’t learnt that lesson from what we saw last night.

KELLY: The difference is the voters never warmed to Tony Abbott. I mean that’s what led to this shift. The polls never really picked up for Tony Abbott in government. The polls have showed for a long time that the voters feel very warmly towards Malcolm Turnbull, more warmly about Malcolm Turnbull than they do about Bill Shorten.

CLARE: You’re right that they didn’t like Tony Abbott but it wasn’t just because of the three word slogans. It was because of the way he’s managed the job of being Prime Minister. Remember, unemployment is up, debts up, deficit is up. These are the reasons that people were so angry with this government. All these promises made and then not delivered. What concerns me from what Malcolm Turnbull said when he was pitching for the leadership yesterday is, he said, this is all about style of leadership and I think he is dead wrong there. It’s not about style, it’s about substance and to say that it’s just about how you explain things makes me fear that the Liberal Party last night has just switched from a second rate John Howard to a second rate Andrew Peacock.

KELLY: What he also said was about getting the economic messages right, explaining it to the people, bringing them with you. He says business confidence needs a boost, that it hasn’t had confidence in the economic messages of the government, he’s going to change that and find a modern economic vision. Isn’t that a direct threat to you because Labor’s economic vision is looking anything but modern at the moment – that’s a key criticism?

CLARE: His big job for the last two years has been to build the NBN, he promised to do it for $29.5 billion, and two weeks ago we found that that had blown out to $56 billion, so it’s almost doubled in the space of two years.

KELLY: He says that’s your fault for getting it wrong in the first place.

CLARE: Of course he will say that. He will find a way to blame anyone but himself. But the reason that that has happened is because of his economic mismanagement. Under Tony Abbott the deficit doubled, under Malcolm Turnbull the cost of his second rate NBN has almost doubled.

KELLY: So Malcolm Turnbull is also promising a new style of politics, of political debate, of advocacy. We heard Simon Birmingham say too, a less partisan style of politics. Do you welcome that?

CLARE: Yes I do. If there is less partisanship, more bipartisanship, more willingness to work with the Opposition then that is a good thing.

KELLY: What about the other way around, for the Opposition to work with the Government?

CLARE: You see Bill Shorten day after day proposing ideas to the government. Yesterday it was in the area of domestic violence and even then Tony Abbott refused to take the offer up. So if there is more bipartisanship, that’s terrific. But it also requires the government to come half way, to look at our ideas and accept good ones.

One of the things that Bill Shorten developed with me was the idea of teaching coding to kids from kindergarten up. They are doing it England, America and elsewhere. We suggested this to Tony Abbott and he said it was a ridiculous idea. Malcolm Turnbull knows this is a good idea and he should take it up today.

KELLY: That’s exactly the sort of thing he’s talking about, modern, innovative ways to modernise our economy, to modernise our country. He might take all your good ideas and run with them and you’ll just say yes that’s a good idea, good on you Malcolm.

CLARE: That’s in the interest of the country isn’t it? That’s what people pay us to do. They tell us to come to Canberra and work together. And if government can actually say, look you’ve got a good idea Opposition we’ll take it up that’s terrific. But it also requires the Government to recognise that they’ve made mistakes themselves.

This is not just style, it’s about substance. They’ve buggered up key parts of the economy and you can see that from the unemployment rate going up and up and up. This is going to require a change in direction not just style.

KELLY: Malcolm Turnbull is promising a more consultative approach, do you expect that the heat will come out of this, and you say that they’ve got to be more bipartisan a great example on the table right now is Labor’s opposition to the China Free Trade Agreement and you’re kind of mealy-mouthed about it. You say you support the agreement but you want changes. The government says well we can’t really change it, it’s a deal signed. If there is anything that lags Labor as standing for an old fashioned economic approach it’s that position, isn’t it? Captive of the CFMEU the government could say.

CLARE: Fran here is the test for Malcolm Turnbull, we both support free trade, and we both understand that more trade with China and Asia generally is the key to Australia’s future. What we’ve said is that in addition to the agreement we need to make some changes to legislation to make absolutely certain that Australians will get the first opportunity to get jobs before we try and find employees overseas. That doesn’t require a change to the agreement. It requires a change to other legislation. Now this is a great example of where the new Prime Minister today can say, ok I accept that that’s the one issue you’ve got with this, I’ll make that change now lets get the agreement through.

KELLY: But what if they don’t believe that change is needed to be made? They’re the government, it’s an important trade agreement, is Labor going to stand in the way of it?

CLARE: If they refuse to do that it will show that Malcolm Turnbull is exactly the same as Tony Abbott, just with his head in the sand, trying to push things through rather than trying to consult and cooperate with other members of Parliament.

KELLY: Can Bill Shorten beat Malcolm Turnbull, or will there be pressure now on Bill Shorten’s leadership?

CLARE: The short answer is yes he can and yes he will. Think about this, Bill Shorten, during the last government, created the National Disability Insurance Scheme, something that in decades from now we will look back and rank with things like superannuation and Medicare. Now if he could do that a junior role, imagine what he can do as Prime Minister of Australia.

KELLY: So if Labor starts falling behind in the polls will you guarantee now that there will be no change of leadership, no leadership push?

CLARE: Fran this is the thing. Because of the changes we made to the way we elect leaders, the knifing of a leader like we saw last night can never happen again in the Labor Party.

KELLY: Jason Clare thanks very much for your time, thanks for joining us.

CLARE: Thanks Fran.