Interview with Tom Connell – Sky News – Wednesday, 31 August 2016







TOM CONNELL: With me now is Labor frontbencher, in fact Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare. First day of business of this 45th Parliament and one of the first orders is going to be this Omnibus savings bill. You said you’d chip in for these savings during the election campaign, I know the bill has maybe shifted a bit from 21 to 24 but are you going to support it?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND DNORTHERN AUSTRALIA: We said that we would be constructive. We said that we would look at all of this. We made a series of commitments during the campaign. We want to test this legislation to see if it reflects those commitments. It’s a big bill about 600 pages worth, it has 24 different measures in it and as you point out it’s got different measures in it than what was announced by the government last week. I think it is legitimate and fair enough for the Opposition to say lets have a look at the bill in detail. It is introduced today, Parliament will sit again in two weeks’ time that gives the Opposition enough time to run the ruler over all of it, make sure it reflects the commitments that we made in the campaign.

We will be constructive Tom, in addition to this legislation we have offered the Government $8 billion of more potential savings over the forward estimates and $80 billion in savings over 10 years. We also offered them a solution out of the problem that they’ve got with the superannuation proposals as well. So they are all evidence of an Opposition that’s coming to the table for a very weak Government, with a one seat majority saying we are willing to work with you on this.

CONNELL: I know you are going to have more time and put it through Caucus and so on but so far it seems that no one from Labor is talking about a gremlin out of this Omnibus bill. We have seen broadly what’s in it, I don’t think you have read every page, nor have I to be honest. There’s nothing right now that’s standing out?

CLARE: The Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers will go through it in detail, line by line to make sure it reflects the things that the Government says are in it. Then be able to put that to Shadow Cabinet and Caucus for us to consider and debate when Parliament returns in a fortnight.

CONNELL: Negative gearing apparently was once on the mind of the PM and the Treasurer. The key policy issue for Labor here, isn’t it that maybe if you crafted your policy in a different way, there was lots of talk in the start when the Government was considering this, that maybe they wanted a cap on investment rather than scrapping it altogether except for new housing. Will you consider going to the policy front on this?

CLARE: We put together a well-considered, well thought through policy. We thought at the time that the Government was interested in doing this or doing something like it. The evidence now coming out is that in fact Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison were thinking about this but they were rolled by their Cabinet. It’s powerful evidence of the weakness of Malcolm Turnbull. This hasn’t happened to a Prime Minister in 40 years. Can you imagine a situation under John Howard and Peter Costello or Paul Keating and Bob Hawke, of being rolled in Cabinet where both the Prime Minister and Treasurer have supported a proposal?

The evidence on the front page of the newspapers today is that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison wanted to make some changes to negative gearing and they were rolled by the right wing of the party. All the more evidence that Malcolm Turnbull is in the lodge but it’s the right wing of the Liberal Party that has the power.

CONNELL: That’s the politics, but the policy?

CLARE: I’ll tell you what I think the real politics of this is, you’ve got Barnaby Joyce today saying that the Parliament has a responsibility to make hard decisions to repair the budget. Here you have an example of a piece of policy that we recommended that would have saved the budget $37 billion over a decade by making changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax reform and we have evidence now that the Government decided not to go down that path, not because they didn’t think it was good policy but because they thought it would be good politics to campaign against the Labor Party in an election. I think that’s terrible.

CONNELL: We’ve had that election and Labor lost it. So presumably if you want to get change on negative gearing up in the next few years you need an alternative.

CLARE: If you want to get changes to negative gearing up in the next few years you need a government that is prepared to put policy forward. At the moment we know they think they should do it but they are not prepared to do anything at all.

CONNELL: They’ve really slammed Labor’s idea in particular so  will you consider, it’s a straight forward question, looking at alternatives? We know the policy  you took to the election, fair enough but we’ve got a lot of time to go before the next, maybe.

CLARE: Something is better than nothing, but at the moment the Government is offering nothing. We’ve put forward what we think is the right approach but the evidence out of the stories in the newspapers today indicate that the Government thinks they should do something, knows that it will improve the budget bottom line but decided not to do it because they think it would be good politics in an election campaign.

CONNELL: So it’s the Coalition’s move on this basically?

CLARE: I’d like to see them reverse their position and support the original position of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and actually do something here but don’t hold your breathe.

CONNELL: Sam Dastyari’s payback, or he’s going to donate to charity $1670, this was initially he had to payback an amount for a staffing allowance he over claimed. It’s been paid back for him by a Chinese donor, does this strike you as strange? You’ve had these sort of occurrences before, presumably you make declarations, does it  seem like a strange thing to ask a Chinese donor for $1670?

CLARE: We all have to make declarations, I’m assiduous in the way I do it. I try to make sure that I am declaring not just what you’re responsible for over that $300 threshold but everything below. As politicians you’re always worried that you miss something or you make a mistake. Where you make a mistake you need to correct the record. Sam Dastyari has corrected it here. Chris Bowen made the point this morning, and it’s a point well made, that he declared this upfront.

I think we do need to put this in perspective. You have companies both Australian companies and foreign companies that are assisting politicians in much larger areas both in the way of travel but also in election TV ads. Some of those TV ads that you saw in the election campaign, in fact I’m sure all of them were either paid for by Malcolm Turnbull himself or they were paid through donations to political parties.

CONNELL: We are out of time. Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare thanks for your time this morning.

CLARE: Good on you, thanks Tom.