Interview with Patricia Karavelas – Thursday, 24 September 2015






SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plan to get Australia started, NBN, Royal Commission

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Jason Clare is the Shadow Minister for Communications and was part of the Shorten sales team this afternoon. Thanks for joining us. 


KARVELAS: Mr Shorten’s job has got a lot harder since Malcolm Turnbull was made Prime Minister, hasn’t it?

CLARE: I think there is no doubt that the country is breathing a sigh of relief after Tony Abbott lost the Prime Ministership. He was extremely unpopular. People are saying thank God he is gone. We have now got a Prime Minister who speaks in full sentences and says he wants to have a real debate with the Australian people and I welcome that. One part of that is the work I’m doing in trying to make sure that we are doing what is necessary to create the jobs of the future. 

KARVELAS: Can I just ask, because I am genuinely really fascinated by the language Labor front benchers like yourself and Bill Shorten are using around this issue. It’s unusual that a first term Prime Minister would be removed like this. There is no talk from Labor about this being a bad thing, about this being undemocratic in any way. You’re applauding it. Can you explain to me the political reason that you are making this decision to talk so positively about what has happened, the party room removing a first term Prime Minister?      

CLARE: I made the point last week, it’s interesting the Liberal Party have faceless men as well apparently. We didn’t know this until last week but apparently they do and it’s pretty obvious now that everything Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop said about this being a bad thing seems pretty hypocritical given that they have done the same thing.

Labor learnt a terribly hard lesson by making this mistake when we were in Government and I think the Australian people –   

KARVELAS: You’re saying it is not a mistake?

CLARE: No, no I think the Australian people are thinking two things. One, happy Tony Abbott is gone because they didn’t think he was a great Prime Minister and they were right to think that but two, I think they will think the same thing they thought a couple of years ago, which is that when political parties go and get rid of their own leader they think that that is a pretty ordinary thing to do and it should be up to the electorate to make that decision.                   

KARVELAS: Tony Abbott wanted to be the infrastructure Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull has already positioned himself as the technology Prime Minister. He’s got a lot of expertise in the area and he’s created a new Ministry for Industry, Innovation and Science. Do you feel intimidated by this? Is this why you made this announcement today?          

CLARE: No I don’t. I think we’ve got a real opportunity now Patricia. You’ve now got two leaders in Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull who understand how important this is. There is an opportunity we have got to seize here. When Tony Abbott was Prime Minister and we made announcements about for example introducing coding into the curriculum for primary school students, he joked about it and said it was a silly idea. Malcolm at the time said it was a smart idea. He understands this as well as Bill does and there is a real opportunity here, I think, for the two parties to come together and work together on some big reforms that will set us up for the future.   

KARVELAS: Can you explain this idea in your announcement of a ‘startup year’. Are final year uni students really the ones you should be giving this benefit to?

CLARE: It’s one part of a series of policy proposals to help build the skills that we need. Before I go into the detail of it, here’s the challenge that we have got – we don’t have enough people in Australia coming out of our TAFEs or universities with the skills they need for the new jobs being created and they are in the areas of science and technology. Last year we brought in 20,000 people from overseas to do IT jobs because we are not producing enough through our universities. So the long term solution is to make sure we have got more people at primary school and high school learning science and technology and mathematics but at university we have got to encourage more people to go from the classroom into startups and setting up their own businesses. What we know is that most of the jobs that will be created in the future will be in companies that don’t exist now. Startups, tech startups in particular, are sorts of business that can grow exponentially.    

KARVELAS: And you are also planning to give out 4,000 new visas to bring entrepreneurs to Australia and keep them here. What would the rules for that program be?

CLARE: Patricia do you want me to go back and just tell you a little a bit about how this startup year will work at university?

KARVELAS: Well you can expand on it; I was just interested on the other element as well.

CLARE: So let me give you a bit of an explanation about that. Lots of universities have incubators, places where when students graduate they can get selected to set up a business, normally a tech business with one or two people there. What this is, is a HECS-type loan, where you can draw down like a line of credit using this money for technology development prototyping, market testing and the like. Then when you are making money, you pay it back like you do with HECS. It is an idea that has come from talking to universities and talking to startups around the country. It is an example of us looking for good ideas by talking to the people on the ground. With the visas, we got this idea by looking at what has worked in the United Kingdom with the Cameron government, where they tried to get smart people with good ideas in other countries, to come and set up their businesses in the UK and also encourage students who have come from other countries to the UK and have done a science or a technology or an engineering degree to stay there when they finish and set up a business there. We have seen that work in the UK and we said well if it works there let’s see if it works here in Australia as well.    

KARVELAS: Earlier this week, I spoke to the new Communications Minister Mitch Fifield who told me the Turnbull government was technology agnostic on the NBN. Do you think that’s a good thing to see this kind of agnostic approach?

CLARE: Well the big problem with the NBN is that its rolling out slower than Malcolm Turnbull promised it would, it’s now costing twice as much as he promised it would as well. In Opposition they said look we can do this cheap, we could do it for less than 30 billion. It has now blown out to 56 billion dollars and Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott said they could get it done by the end of next year. We now know that it’s going to take until the end of 2020. So there are a lot of big promises but unfortunately they are failing to deliver. 

KARVELAS: On another few issues just before I let you go, one of your own party elders, former Victorian Premier John Brumby said today that a hike in the GST is inevitable and that state leaders shouldn’t be able to hold up changes to the tax. Do you agree with either of those statements?

CLARE: I agree with Paul Keating and Peter Costello. Both of them think that the answer isn’t increasing the GST. This is usually what people on the other side of politics go to. The Labor Party has had a pretty consistent view on this since 1993. We have said that there is a need for tax reform. It’s just not this and it’s just not the GST. There is tax reform needed with the way in which we tax multinational corporations in Australia. There is tax reform needed with superannuation tax concessions for people who have got millions and billions of dollars in superannuation. We’ve also said we are happy to look at negative gearing and other things but GST is one of those things where we can’t see the argument. 

KARVELAS: Finally on another issue, another two weeks of Trade Union Royal Commission hearings have been scheduled for next month. Is Bill Shorten set for some more sleepless nights? This will put the Opposition leader under a lot of pressure again.

CLARE: Well Bill Shorten said last time when he was asked to appear before the Royal Commission he was happy to assist. I think he was there for two days and was asked about 900 questions and answered them. If he is asked to attend, I’m sure that he would be happy to attend. But just from reading the reports this afternoon Patricia, it seems that the Royal Commission has not asked him to attend.   

KARVELAS: Jason thank you so much for joining me

CLARE: Thanks very much.

KARVELAS: And that’s Jason Clare, he is the Member for Blaxland in Western Sydney and the Shadow Communications Minister