SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s Climate Change Backflip; Kevin Rudd; OECD’s PISA Education Report.

KIERAN GILBERT: GILBERT: We’re joined by Labor frontbencher Jason Clare, Mr Clare thanks very much for your time. We’ve heard and seen the developments within the Government over the last twenty four hours; they’ve suggested that Labor’s basically being overtaken by ideology, not listening to common sense when it comes to this issue. I want to get your response to that, particularly in the context of the ascension of Donald Trump, who himself is very sceptical about the need to deal with climate change and looks like he’s going to undermine the international Paris agreement.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: We’ve ended the year like we’ve started, haven’t we Kieran? At the start of the year there was a mutiny inside the Government about the GST, they forced Malcolm Turnbull to back down. At the end of the year we’ve got another mutiny, this time on climate change and once again it’s the right wing led by Cory Bernardi and Co. that are forcing the Prime Minister to back down on this, and back down quickly. This was announced on Monday and then they backed down on Tuesday. Britney Spears first marriage lasted longer than that, and that only lasted two days. They key message out of this is that it shows just how weak the Prime Minister is and how divided the Government he leads is.

GILBERT: Well the Government argues, and the Minister, Mr Frydenberg argues that they’ve never said that this was policy, this intensity scheme within the electricity sector, that this was misinterpreted.

CLARE: Well that’s not what they said on Monday. Malcolm Turnbull on Monday was saying that this was always considered part of the review and then suddenly Cabinet met in a hurry yesterday afternoon concerned about the revolt lead by Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi and someone said in Cabinet we’ve got to knock this on the head quickly, otherwise we’re in trouble. Remember Malcolm Turnbull had his leadership of the Liberal Party taken off him on this issue a couple of years ago. He must wake in fright almost every night that this issue is going to come back and take the leadership off him again one day and so they’ve decided to knock this on the head yesterday afternoon at Cabinet.

GILBERT: Is Labor now vulnerable on this issue though once again, when it comes to power prices

CLARE: No I don’t think so-

GILBERT: –and energy security particularly when it comes to renewables and so on.

CLARE: You ask most Australians and they’d say we need to take real action to increase the amount of renewable energy in our network and you ask most Australians and they’d say ‘hang on, isn’t Malcolm Turnbull the bloke who used to believe in putting a price on carbon? Isn’t he the guy who used to think that climate change was real and we need to take real action?’

One of the problems Malcolm Turnbull’s got here – and you talked about Trump, one of the reasons Trump was successful was because they thought this was a bloke who means what he says, who’s prepared to say what he really thinks. One of the problems Malcolm Turnbull’s got is he doesn’t do that. Once upon a time he believed in climate change and believed in putting a price on carbon, but he’s decided to ditch that idea in order to hold onto the job. Basically being led around like a prized bull at the Easter Show by the right wing of the Liberal Party saying to him you can have the job, you can be Prime Minister, but you’ve got to do what we say on this and everything else.

GILBERT: What is your response to the critique of Kevin Rudd, today he’s written in Fairfax papers marking his ten years since taking the Labor leadership that you won’t win by default. That you need to rise above the factional power plays of the union movement what are your thoughts on that this morning, on his assessment?

CLARE: I welcome the contributions of all former Prime Ministers to public debate in Australia. I think I’ve said to you before Kieran that I don’t think we as a country encourage enough involvement by former Prime Ministers in public debate and in public roles after they leave office.

Essentially what Kevin Rudd’s arguing in that piece today is that the Labor party needs to continue to modernise and reform, I agree with that and we need to make sure that we’ve got the policies to win the next election. We’re not going to win by default, that’s exactly right. We’ve got to have the policies that meet the needs of the Australian people. You’ve got a Government that’s tearing itself apart, falling apart at the seams at the moment and we need to be ready to govern come the next election. The other point he makes in that article –

GILBERT: It’s a bit of a dig at the incumbent though isn’t it, a former union leader who just recently put one of his own factional allies in the senate, Kimberley Kitching?

CLARE: Kieran, the other point I want to make here that Kevin Rudd makes in that article is that we can’t assume blithely that Malcolm Turnbull is going to be the Prime Minister come the next election. I think he’s right on that.


CLARE: He makes that point that the Liberal Party are just as likely to take him out before the next election if the polls continue to go south for him and I think that’s absolutely right. We need to work on the basis that it’s very likely that Malcolm Turnbull could get rolled before the next election by his own party.

GILBERT: What about your leadership though, because this is a dig at Mr Shorten is it not?

CLARE: No, here’s the big difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party, we’ve learned the lessons of the past, we’ve put in place rules that make sure that you don’t have a repeat of what’s happened before. The party membership as a whole, thousands and thousands of people decide who the leader of the Labor Party is in the Australian Parliament, rather than just Members of the Parliament itself. It’s different in the Liberal Party and if they see the writing on the wall and see that Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity is going south at a hundred miles an hour like we’re seeing it is, in large part because he’s a bloke that people think doesn’t stand for anything then it’s very likely, I think that they’ll make the decision closer to the next election to get rid of him. 

GILBERT: But again I put it to you that this is about the critique of Labor and the approach of your Leader, Mr Shorten, a former union official, someone who just recently put one of his own factional allies into the Senate without any sort of democratic process.

CLARE: Let’s be fair Kieran, Kevin Rudd is arguing in that piece about the need for reform in the Party. There’s been significant reforms that have been made to the party under Bill Shorten’s leadership. One example is removing the rule that you have to be a union member to be a member of the party. Something I’ve argued for, for a long time. Makes a lot of sense, it’s now been done. That doesn’t mean that there’s not more reform that needs to be done and I’ve argued for community preselection’s on a larger scale. But what’s even more important than internal reform is making sure that we’ve got the right policies, for middle class and working class Australians to make sure they trust us come the next election to be ready to govern.

GILBERT: I want to ask you finally, just quickly we’re almost out of time but I do want to get your thoughts on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). It’s found that our year nine students have fallen well behind, a year behind in fact on maths, ten months when it comes to reading, seven months on science. This is all over periods over the last decade when both parties were in power and at the same time funding in real terms has gone up. What’s going wrong here?

CLARE: Well hopefully this report will shake us out of the complacency we’re in on this issue. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about tax reform, industrial relations. I’m sure next year the Government’s agenda will be dominated by talk of company tax cuts and more industrial relations changes. We need to focus on this, because it’s what we do here in our schools that’ll determine the sort of jobs our kids will have and as you rightly point out this compares us to the rest of the world, particularly our region in Asia and we’re just not cutting the mustard. We’re falling behind those other countries and it means our kids are going to have a harder chance getting the jobs we need for the future.

Investment in our schools is a key part of this. Only about 10% of the Gonski funding had gone into schools at the time of this report itself, it’s a key part of this, but it’s not the only part. Teacher quality, teacher training is a big part too and what you see in this report is that Singapore and other countries in Asia are flogging us when it comes to science and maths, and unfortunately I’ve got to tell you Kieran, you go and have a look at our schools and one in four maths students are taught by a teacher who doesn’t have maths qualifications or one in three science students are taught by teachers who don’t have science qualifications. Our policies we took to the last election are about addressing that and that’s the sort of thing the Government should be taking up as well.

GILBERT: My interview with the education Minister on that issue again for our viewers that’s coming up at about quarter past nine, EDT once again. Jason Clare we’ll talk to you soon.