Interview with Kieran Gilbert – AM Agenda – Wednesday, 15 March 2017



SUBJECT/S: Gas shortage, School results

KIERAN GILBERT: Now Labor have for its part has expressed support in this idea of a reservation for domestic gas usage, I spoke to Jason Clare the trade spokesman for Labor and asked him about the implications for Australia as a major exporter if a reservation were to be put in place.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: All options have got to be on the table. The impending crisis that we are facing is that by the end of this year or early next year, you’ve got Australian companies that won’t have enough gas to keep their business going, to keep their workers working, so all options need to be on the table.

We have said at the last election that we need a National Interest Test so when new gas production comes on stream, we should look at that proposal, see whether it’s in the national interest to reserve some of that gas for local industry or not. The government has rejected that in the past, now it looks like they’re willing to give that another look, I hope they do.

That’s a medium term solution that will help to make sure that local companies have got the gas they need into the future, but we have got a crisis on our doorstep right now – the risk that companies are going to run out of access to gas by the end of this year. This meeting that the Prime Minister is having today has got to fix this right now.

We have had a lack of leadership in this country, a vacuum of leadership by Malcolm Turnbull. He has been giving lots of lectures about energy but not really getting anything done. There is an opportunity today with the gas companies at the table, to say to them look we need some assurances, some commitment there is going to be enough local gas to keep local industry going.

GILBERT: But you can’t simply seize exports can you? I mean that would lead to a great deal of uncertainty not just for our companies but our trading partners, that’s not viable is it?


CLARE: Well we are not talking about doing something retrospective, there are contracts in place and they need to be met. There is a lot of gas being produced at the moment, more than ever before, and the point that I think most people who are looking at this are making is that most of that is going overseas. But we can’t let a situation occur where all of our gas goes overseas and local industry runs dry, and local jobs dry up. If that happens it will be totally counterproductive.

There is an opportunity to fix this today and we need the Prime Minister to stop lecturing and start doing. There is an opportunity for him to look the companies that are producing all the gas in the eye and say you’ve got a responsibility here to make sure that not only do you turn a profit but you also make sure that the Australian local economy keeps growing strongly as well.

GILBERT: We’ve got exploration bans in place and extraction bans in New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory when it comes to our gas supplies as well, would you join the government in urging those jurisdictions to lift those bans?

CLARE: Well that’s a decision for them to make. The Federal Government’s responsibility when it comes to coal seam gas exploration is where State Governments decide to do that, there is a water trigger in our environmental legislation that requires the Federal Government to look at that as part of the approval process.

Malcolm Turnbull said a lot of things about getting the states and territories to act here but I haven’t seen any evidence that he has actually sat down with them, got them around the table and asked them to change their minds. That’s the way you do this. You know you don’t run the country by lectures from Canberra. You’ve got to actually sit down with people and try and sort these things out.

A lot of the problems he is concerned about are right here in New South Wales. He has got a Liberal Government here in Macquarie Street. There is no reason why he couldn’t sit down with the Liberal Government here and try and sort the problems he is concerned about, right here in Sydney.

GILBERT: We are seeing, on another issue, reports today, a number of international studies showing our performance in schools declining again and one of the reasons is misbehaviour in the classroom. This is a big worry right across the education system not just the less well-off schools apparently.

CLARE: Looks it’s not new news. It was a problem when we were at school Keiran and it’s not easy to fix. I hesitate to comment on this because I don’t think gratuitous lectures from politicians fix a problem that is as difficult as this, it gets sorted out by the work of good principals and teachers as well as by parents in a school community sorting these sorts of problems out. But they are important to fix because unless you can hear what’s going on in the classroom you’re not going to learn properly. 

The other part of the news today on education which is not good, is the declining standards in science and maths. We are falling further behind other countries around the world.  Given that so many jobs are going to require maths and science skills in the future, that’s particularly concerning. For me as a politician that represents a disadvantaged community in Western Sydney I’m particularly worried that these results are showing that, the results for poor kids in poor communities are falling faster than anywhere else. It’s part of the reason why the Gonski model of funding is so important, it’s about injecting resources into the areas that need it most, to make sure that all kids succeed not just kids in wealthier suburbs. 

GILBERT: Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare, I appreciate your time as always.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.