Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday, 27 January 2016


SUBJECT/S: Republic, GST, Tony Abbott, penalty rates, multi-national tax.

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, with me now is the Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare. Jason Clare a lot to talk about today, first of all on the republic I see your colleague Jim Chalmers this morning saying that Malcolm Turnbull is a no conviction politician, this is in the wake of the comments made on the republic. But isn’t Mr Turnbull right that this is not a first order issue right now. They want the focus on the economy and reform.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well there are two types of politicians, there are politicians who get involved in politics because they want to change things for the better and there are politicians who run for Parliament just for power, they want to get a job in Parliament and it’s becoming increasingly clear that Malcolm Turnbull is one of those people.

Is it the most important issue in Australia at the moment? No. But are we capable of debating a lot of issues at the same time? Yes of course we are, and I think it’s pretty disappointing that Malcolm Turnbull after arguing for this in the ‘90s being a champion for making Australia a republic, now becomes Prime Minister and gets the chance to do something about it and suddenly drops it like it’s hot. I think a lot of Australians will be disappointed with the lack of courage that he showed yesterday.

GILBERT: But isn’t it fair to say that most Australians would recognise his credentials on this issue, they know he is a republican, they know he has given more to the cause than anyone.

CLARE: That’s why people will be so disappointed. Malcom Turnbull is behaving like one of those NASA Saturn rockets at Cape Canaveral, taking off and discarding fuselage as it goes into space. He has discarded his long held views on an emissions trading scheme, then gay marriage and the importance of voting for that in the Parliament and now on the republic. I think people thought that in Malcolm Turnbull they would get real change. All that’s really changed so far is the Prime Minister’s letterhead and that’s why the Australian people are going to be so disappointed Kieran.

GILBERT: His position as you know, he’s had this position for a number of years now that he believes the right time would be after the reign of the current monarch. It’s not something he whistled up on the spur of the moment yesterday, he’s been saying this for years. This is his view, he’s the one who gave the most to the cause in the lead up to the referendum in ‘90s and this is his view now.

CLARE: Well here’s the thing Kieran, you don’t make big change by just waiting for someone to die, or just waiting for a date to occur. In 2020 it will be 250 years since Captain Cook arrived at Botany Bay, but if we want this change to happen, you can’t just wait for someone to die or wait for a date to occur, you’ve got to argue for it, you’ve got to persuade people. You’ve got to build momentum and the most important thing you need, if you want Australia to become a republic, if you want to change the Constitution, is you need the leaders on both political parties, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader to agree and to be prepared to argue for it. Finally we’ve got that. We’ve got a republican in a Prime Minister and a republican in the Opposition Leader as well as state Premiers prepared to argue for this, and when Malcolm Turnbull finally gets the chance to do something about it, he squibs it.

GILBERT: Isn’t it fair though for him to say my priority is the economy. This is what it’s about- it’s about reform, it’s about innovation and growth. To be honest, it’s fair to assess that most of the electorate, that that argument will resonate with them. They might be supportive of a republic down the track, it’s not a third or fourth order issue.

CLARE: Well Malcolm Turnbull said he’s prepared to argue the case to increase the GST this year, but he’s not prepared to argue the case for a republic. I didn’t see him marching in the streets in the 1990s arguing for a GST. He was marching in the streets arguing for Australia to become a republic. But now he has become Prime Minister and it’s not a republic he wants Australia to be, he wants Australians to pay over $8,000 in GST per year if you are an Australian family, and I think that most Australians will be surprised by that and pretty disappointed.

GILBERT: Now Tony Abbott is speaking at this group in New York, he’s copped some flack, his sister she’s disappointed by it, by his decision to speak at an anti-gay, anti-abortion event, this group has that platform – this event is about family values to be clear. Why is it wrong for Tony Abbott to be speaking to a group of conservatives, we know his position when it comes to same-sex marriage and so on. Isn’t it well within his rights to be speaking to Americans on this?

CLARE: Sure. He can do whatever he likes. I know it’s not traffic issues in Warringah, but if he wants to go overseas and speak to groups about his views then he can certainly do that. Let me say something positive about Tony Abbott, at least he’s got the courage of his convictions. A bit like John Howard, love him or loath him at least you know where Tony Abbott stands. He did stupid things as Prime Minister like knight Prince Philip, but it shouldn’t have surprised any of us given his long held views about the monarchy. What will surprise and disappoint people is that the person who has replaced him is afraid of his own political party and doesn’t have the courage to do the things that he says he’s believed in for so long.

GILBERT: Before we move on from the republic, it does beg the question, what about Labor? You’ve been pro-republic for years. What did Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard do for 6 years?

CLARE: No doubt. We probably could have made the case more firmly and even stronger than we did. As I said earlier Kieran, this doesn’t just happen by a date arriving or someone passing away, you’ve got to argue for it, you’ve got to build momentum in the community. Peter Fitzsimons spoke to you the other day. He’s a great leader of the republican movement and I think it’s incumbent on all republicans – Labor, Liberal, Greens, Nationals whatever to coalesce and come together. Use the opportunity we’ve got at the moment with two leaders who both support a republic to try and build momentum for this in our community.

GILBERT: The Government is apparently looking at some work place changes. This is for medium sized companies with more than 20 employees to provide more flexibility for employers to trade off penalty rates for higher wages. If this is something which suits both parties, it opens up more employment, why will Labor go to a knee jerk Work Choices reaction, which inevitably you will.

CLARE: Well Kieran, we’ll have a look at it. We’ve said a number of times that if there are ways of simplifying things for small business then we are willing to look at it and work constructively with the Government, but if this is camouflage for cutting worker’s wages we won’t. But the problem the Government has in this area is that nobody trusts it when it comes to work place relations. Nobody trusts the Liberal Party when it comes to industrial relations because often flexibility is a code word for cutting workers wages. So if the Government brings forward measures which are constructive which build productivity, which helps small business, then we are keen to look at them. But if all they are a mechanism to cut people’s wages and cut penalty rates, then we won’t support that. We never have and we never will.

GILBERT: Let’s look at one final issue. We are almost out of time only a minute left. Apple the tech giant will announce its global numbers in about 5 minutes from now. We’ve seen them pay $85 million in tax despite $8 billion in revenue. Hopefully this tax audit comes up with a few more dollars.

CLARE: You would hope so, wouldn’t you. Here’s the biggest company in the world that made $8 billion in revenue in Australia last year and only paid $85 million in tax- that’s extraordinary. The other point I’d make Kieran is it’s even more extraordinary that this Government doesn’t have the courage to do something real about it. We’ve got a proposal in front of the Government which would make sure that multi-national companies pay $7 billion more in taxation to the Australian people over the next decade and the Government has rejected it out of hand. It should look at that again and do something serious about multi-national taxation.

GILBERT: They are, or they say that they are undertaking similar measures, and they have been leading the charge on that through the G20.

CLARE: The legislation that they put through the Parliament, we said okay, we’ll support that, but there is no number next to it about how much revenue it will collect for the Australian people. We’ve got an additional measure that we have put forward to the Government. It will raise an additional $7 billion over the next decade for the Australian people from companies like Apple and Google that we think need to pay their fair share of tax in Australia, and the Government has said no sorry that’s too hard, we are not going to do anything about that. Well I think that is pretty disappointing as well. People expect better from their political leaders when it comes to doing something serious about multi-national taxation.

GILBERT: Jason Clare, appreciate your time. We’ll talk to you soon.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.