Interview with Laura Jayes – Sky News – Wednesday, 7 September 2016






SUBJECT/S: Sam Dastyari’s resignation from the frontbench; G20 summit 

LAURA JAYES: Jason Clare the Shadow Trade Minister joins me now from Sydney. Jason Clare you are a New South Wales MP as well and I know you know Sam Dastyari well. Was this the right thing for him to do today?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: Laura politics is a brutal business and we have seen that on display this afternoon. Sam has said, and to his credit he said this from the very start, that he made a mistake and he has paid a very high price for that. It’s cost him his job on the shadow frontbench this evening. 

To his credit he made the point from the very start that he made a mistake. We should all remember in the context of this, as people run through the entrails of all this, the only reason this came up in the first place is because he declared this. That was the right thing to do. If anything good comes out of this hopefully it will remind people of the importance of transparency, of declaring things and that might act as a trigger for more reform when it comes to the transparent disclosure of donations to political parties and perhaps lets take it one step further, trigger that debate about banning donations from people who are not Australian citizens. 

JAYES: We’ll get to that in just a moment.

CLARE: Sure.

JAYES: He didn’t break any rules as you have pointed out. He didn’t even break the Labor Party’s internal rules on donations, that was made clear by New South Wales Labor this afternoon. So in your opinion why did he have to quit? Is it because the focus on Sam Dastyari was suffocating the Labor agenda?

CLARE: I think Sam answered that question in his statement, he said that this had become a distraction and I think most people looking at this over the last few days would say that’s right. Next week is the first anniversary of Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the leadership of the country, 12 months as Prime Minister. Peta Credlin was asked the question on Andrew Bolt’s program the other night, what has he done in 12 months and she couldn’t answer that question. We aren’t talking about that at the moment, we are focused on this issue. I think that Sam has made the decision that it is in the Labor Party’s interest that he take one for the team here and that we as a party and we as a country focus on the failures of this government. 12 months in office as Prime Minister and he’s done very, very little.

JAYES: We’ve seen the rules broken in the past, Bronwyn Bishop was acting within the rules as well, I think Stuart Robert also. Sam Dastyari is the third one. Does there need to be a rethink, a relook at the rules because they are not in line with community standards? 

CLARE: I think that’s right, I think that’s a fair point and I think it’s also fair to point out where things like that have happened in the past there has been an examination and a change to the rules and perhaps that should happen here as well. There are bigger things that we need to do as well. Keep this in perspective, we are talking about $1,500 there are much bigger problems that we need to address as well including millions and millions of dollars being donated by companies based overseas and not in Australia and hundreds of thousands of dollars being donated in lots of less than $13,000 dollars that are not fully declared. We don’t know where that money comes from. There is a lot that we can change. There’s a lot that we can improve and as I said at the start if there is something good that can come out of this, hopefully it will lead to electoral reform. 

JAYES: The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Reform, the new chair designate is Linda Reynolds, I had her on the show last night, she said that the Committee in her view is willing to look at this very issue but the amount of time in which donations need to be disclosed, there’s an 18 month leeway here, that wouldn’t seem like it is in with community standards as well.  

CLARE: Good point. I agree.

JAYES: Whilst Labor has been really pushing this point this week, and I think fair enough to do so, we have seen a point from constitutional lawyers today that says that if this is not carefully worded it could be challenged in the High Court on the grounds of free speech, so would take an agreement between the major parties. My question to you Jason Clare is if Labor feels so strongly about not accepting foreign donations and if the government doesn’t acquiesce to your request on this point, can Labor go it alone? Will you ban foreign donations to the Labor Party and go it alone?      

CLARE: There’s a lot in that Laura. The first thing I’d say is that it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of the Parliament to draft laws to properly ban foreign donations. Over 100 countries have done that. I see no good reason why legally we couldn’t put in place the reforms that are necessary.  Should Labor go on its own? We could do that but it would actually provide a free pass for the Liberal Party to continue accepting donations. I think we need a level playing field here.

Can I just add one extra point here, you talked about transparency and real time reporting of donations.  We should be able to do that as well. We still have to wait another 12 months to find out whether Malcolm Turnbull donated $2 million to the Liberal Party campaign at the last election, to effectively buy the election. I think that if in the last week of the last election the Australian people knew that the Prime Minister wrote a cheque for $2 million to help keep the job that he’s got at the moment it might have changed the outcome of the election. Real time reporting of donations, especially when they include a Prime Minister writing a cheque for $2 million should be high on the agenda of this committee.

JAYES: Mr Clare if you talk about a level playing field here, and I understand that point, but we’ve seen what happened with Sam Dastyari, where there is so much public backlash, wouldn’t that be a level playing field if Labor went this alone, banned foreign donations, started real time reporting, wouldn’t there be an argument to say that there would be such a backlash on the other side of politics, it would probably work in your favour anyway?

CLARE: It could.

JAYES: But you’re not willing to risk it?

CLARE: We already have real time reporting in New South Wales, it’s the sort of thing I think both Parties should do. We already declare the donations that we get at that $1,000 level even though the Liberal Party refuse to do that. They should do that. I am hopeful that given that eight years ago Malcolm Turnbull said that we should ban foreign donations, that now he is in a position to make it happen that he will do that and I think it will require the two parties to agree to do this to make a real difference.

JAYES: Just one last point on this, there has been the point made today by John Howard even, that this would really limit the amount of involvement corporations would have in politics and he saw that in a bit of a bad light. Another point by Mark Textor in 2011 if you just have individuals donating to political parties it creates this culture where you’ve got to see these extreme right wing or left wing views to get people interested in politics. What do you think of that? 

CLARE: I disagree with what the former Prime Minister said, he’s talking about not just any type of corporation but he’s talking about foreign corporations. That’s all we are talking about here, foreign companies not donating to Australian political parties. 

Keep in mind we’ve had that we’ve had the head of ASIO, General Duncan Lewis, say that he is concerned about foreign entities donating to Australian political parties. So put aside what the Labor Party is saying here, it you’ve got the head of ASIO saying I’m concerned about this, then that should be good enough for both political parties to come together and say we are going to stop the donation by foreign companies to Australian political parties.  

JAYES: Jason Clare we’ve run out of time but as the Shadow Trade Minister, I really want to get one question in that is portfolio related because we have seen the G20 summit in recent days with President Xi warning against protectionism. What do you think about that given the make up of the Senate with Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson in particular really pushing that protagonist agenda? Do you agree with President Xi and is there a greater responsibility on the Labor Party to make sure there is bipartisanship on free trade agreements and the like?

CLARE: On the G20, I think the G20 deserves a lot of credit for what it did during the GFC. One of the things that it did was help to make sure that countries unilaterally didn’t raise their tariff walls, their tariff barriers. If that had happened we would have had a repeat of what happened during the Great Depression.

In the aftermath of the GFC we’ve seen a lot of people in a lot of countries around the world see their living standards drop or at least not go up which I think partly explains the rise of Trump, and Brexit and One Nation here in Australia. Trade and trade reform is not the reason why people are feeling the pinch and are hurting in developed countries around the world but it is a lightening rod for this. 

I think it is incumbent on responsible major parties the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party to champion openness and talk about how the big trade reforms we’ve made and let me put this in perspective, it’s not just free trade agreements, more importantly it’s those big tariff cuts that Labor did the heavy lifting on during the Whitlam years, the Hawke years and the Keating years, that are responsible in large part for the 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth we are celebrating today.

JAYES: Some would say that is a bygone era Jason Clare. We will have a broader conversation about this at another time.

CLARE: Next week. 

JAYES: Lets do it next week. I look forward to it. Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare thank you for your time.

Thanks Laura.