Interview with David Lipson AM Agenda- Saturday, 10 October 2014






SUBJECT/S: Countering violent extremism; Malcolm Turnbull

DAVID LIPSON: Joining me now is the Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare, the Member for Blaxland, a seat in the heart of Western Sydney. Thanks for your time this morning Jason Clare.


LIPSON: Several homes were raided in your electorate this week in connection with the Parramatta shooting. What’s the mood there?

CLARE: There are a lot of people in the Muslim community that are fretting. A lot of people very worried, good people worrying that they will be blamed for the bad actions of one young man who went into a police station last Friday and murdered an innocent person. Someone, who it seems has had his mind poisoned, brainwashed by malevolent forces in our community. In the non-Muslim part of my community too, people fretting, people very fearful, worried about what it means for them and their children.

LIPSON: Is there any risk, do you think, of the social cohesion breaking down at all?

CLARE: Well there is always that risk and there is the risk that what happened last week could happen again. You don’t solve this through the sort of protests or insult slinging that we saw yesterday or might happen again today. The way you solve this is by working together. By leaders in our community, people right throughout our community working together. That’s the secret that makes Australia work. Not the sort of racist protests that we saw yesterday.

LIPSON: You are obviously an advocate of sensible discussion and discourse but when it comes to the sorts of things we saw yesterday, what may indeed be happening today in Bendigo, what’s your message to those people?

CLARE: I’m always in favour of discourse, I’m more in favour of action. I think there has been a lot of talk here, not a lot of action. We have got to look at what turns a teenager into a terrorist and what are the sorts of things that government can do, working with people right across the community to tackle a problem like that.

I don’t underestimate how hard it is, I don’t think we did it perfectly in government, it’s not being done perfectly now. It is made harder by the fact that what is happening overseas, in the Middle East is having a penetrating impact on our community, on some young Muslim men in our community but it starts at school. I remember David, in the wake of the police raids late last year I asked a federal police officer what is the first thing that we should do? He said that for a lot of teenagers fifteen, sixteen, seventeen and eighteen it’s all too late to be able to have a big impact on the way they think but if you start talking to kids at a younger age you’ve got a much bigger chance of having a positive impact. What I saw on the front page of the Daily Telegraph about running programs in schools I think is the right approach and it needs Federal Government support.

LIPSON: With those programs, specifically what are we going to be telling our young people? How do you steer them away from that direction? That’s the really hard part isn’t it?

CLARE: You’ve got to get to them before they even think about that as an idea. Before their friends talk to them about this as an idea. Before they read on the internet that Australia is not your friend, that it is your enemy and that you should be going overseas to fight in a foreign war. The secret of Australia is that we are all part of one big community, people of all different religions, coming together from all four corners of the earth to live in the best country in the world and that’s what we need to teach young people right from the very beginning of school.

In addition to that, because schools are not going to be the only places where we need to send this message, there is also work that we need to do on our streets and in our communities. Father Chris Riley’s organisation in my electorate runs youth outreach programs where they are on the streets, at railway stations and in the parks talking to young people. Not enough of our Muslim community organisations have got that skill or that experience to run programs like this but when you’ve got kids either being told terrible things by their classmates or reading some of the terrible bile that they are reading on the internet, then you need something to counter that. You need young, smart Muslim men and women on streets being able to counter that message and provide useful information to them and back to government and law enforcement. That’s why I think that youth outreach services need to be massively boosted here. It is a very practical way to get on the street, get on the ground and get a message out to young people that the sort of things that we have seen overseas and here in Australia are just not on.

LIPSON: You are suggesting, by the sounds of things, a lot more federal resources into these sorts of outreach services?

CLARE: It’s the sort of thing that is done at the moment by a lot of state governments by departments of community services, they fund these sorts of outreach services at the moment. When I was the Minister for Justice I funded Father Chris Riley’s youth off the streets to expand their youth outreach services right across the country. It does good work. It really works. It is a practical way if you’ve got young people on the ground talking to other young people rather than community elders who might be a bit disconnected from young people in our schools or on our streets. It’s worked before, it can work again and I think it needs collaboration between the organisations that do it at the moment and our Muslim community organisations who might need the skills and support to be able to run similar programs.

LIPSON: What about Malcolm Turnbull’s message? His words? There has been a bit of a mixed view about what he said yesterday. Largely people are supportive of what he said, they seemed to think he got the balance right but Chris Kenny for example today in the Australian writes that we are more intent on political correctness than leveling with the public about the deadly threat that they face. What do you think about Malcolm Turnbull’s message and tone so far?

CLARE: I think he got it right. I was critical of the things that Tony Abbott said when he was Prime Minister and I think legitimately so. When Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, in February he made a speech at the federal police offices where he said that Muslim leaders need to speak up more and when they speak up they need to believe what they are saying. That had a devastating effect across my electorate and right across the Muslim community. He was effectively saying you’ve got to say what you believe and accusing them, effectively, of lying.

I spoke to state and federal police in the aftermath of that statement. They were pulling their hair out because their work gets a lot harder if Muslim leaders and members of the Muslim community aren’t picking up the phone and talking to them. So words matter. What politicians say matter. What Prime Ministers say matters and I think that the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had the right message yesterday, so I support what he said.

LIPSON: There really has been a noticeable shift in the tone of the debate since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, now this may change again much closer to the election, I imagine it will but for now things are pretty civil. This probably a tone you’re somewhat familiar with because you were his Shadow Minister when he was in Communications, you’re still the Shadow Communications Minister. Is this the sort of tone we can expect to see now? And I suppose the other question for Labor, does Bill Shorten need to lift at all to match that?

CLARE: I think there has been a collective sigh of relief over the last few weeks across the country, people are glad that Tony Abbott is gone. He was extremely unpopular but also there was this sense of extreme partisanship, this hyper-partisanship, this Abbottisation of Australian politics where both parties always disagreed with each other, seemingly on everything and the feedback I got from the community is that they have had a gutful of that. Whether it is one national security or whether it’s on economic management they desperately want us to find a common ground and work together. I did a lot of that working with Malcolm Turnbull when he was a Minister, now particularly in this area of the transformation of our economy by technology, I think there is a terrific opportunity for Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten to work together. Both men get it. Both men understand how important this is. It is not a boutique debate. I think it is as important as tax reform or industrial relations and if we don’t get it right then Australia will fall behind the rest of the world. The people of Australia are screaming out asking us to work together and I think there at least there is a great opportunity for the two parties to work together.

LIPSON: Just a couple of questions about Malcolm Turnbull’s email server a private server. As the Shadow Communications Minister do you have any issue with the Prime Minister sending emails through a private server rather than using what many regard what is a more secure government system?

CLARE: The question I am asking myself and I am sure many people are asking is why? Why is it necessary? Why does Malcolm Turnbull need to have his own server? What makes Malcolm special? Or what is he trying to hide? It seems that if this service is provided to all Members of Parliament, all Ministers and all former Prime Ministers then he should use the same system and if not, why?

LIPSON: He makes the point all MP’s use text messaging that’s not a government system, all MP’s or many MP’s also have their own email addresses as well so should it be different for the Prime Minister?

CLARE: All that is fine, I’ve got no problem with that but all former Prime Ministers have used the government server and the government system for email. Malcolm Turnbull is now the Prime Minister of Australia, if he is still doing this he should stop and use the government system. That’s what former Prime Ministers have done and that’s what this new Prime Minister should do as well.

LIPSON: Do you have a private email that you ever use aside from your parliamentary one?

CLARE: No, no, no just the standard one, go onto my website, you can click on the button and email me right now.

LIPSON: Jason Clare the Shadow Communications Minister great to have your company this morning, thanks very much for that.

CLARE: Thanks David.