Interview with Kieran Gilbert – AM Agenda – Wednesday, 22 November 2017


SUBJECTS: Cabinet leak and Royal Commission into the Big Banks, National Energy Guarantee, marriage equality and religious protections

GILBERT: Welcome back to the program. With me now the Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare. Mr Clare thank you for your time.

CLARE: Good morning Kieran.

GILBERT: Let’s go first of all to the discussion around the royal commission, a bank royal commission. They’ve fundamentally, I mean obviously internal discussions within the Government, a few tensions in the lower house in terms of crossing the floor from George Christensen and so on. But fundamentally isn’t the argument from the Prime Minister right? That if you have a royal commission it’s going to be a lawyers picnic, cost a lot of money but have outcomes similar to what they’re doing anyway?

CLARE: Well Kieran why did he have a royal commission into the detention system in the Northern Territory? It’s a ridiculous argument to say you can have a royal commission about one thing but not another.

I think the real story today is that Cabinet met to discuss caving in on this issue and it appears on the front page of the Daily Telegraph today. That tells you just how divided this Government is. That you’ve got members of Cabinet leaking on the Prime Minister straight out of Cabinet.

No wonder Parliament isn’t sitting next week. It’s not that he can’t trust members of Parliament to not vote against the Government and vote for a royal commission or that he can’t trust his own party room to try and do him in next week. He can’t even trust his own Cabinet not to leak against him once they walk out of the Cabinet room. That’s the situation we’ve got with this Government today.

GILBERT: It’s a fair point because it’s not a good sign when you’ve got leaks immediately after Cabinet on, particularly on an issue as sensitive as this one but fundamentally the argument about pushing ahead with such an expensive measure on a pillar of our economy which we know they’ve been less than – less than the standards that many would have hoped for from them. However a lot happening already in terms of executive standards and other efforts to crack down on the bad behaviour. Why go ahead with such an expensive option?

CLARE: And more to do. And more to do to get to the bottom of this bad behaviour to make sure that it never happens again. Just have a look at the other royal commissions just recently into institutionalised child abuse and the recommendations they’ve come forward with as well as the recommendations into the Northern Territory and the juvenile justice system there. These types of investigations get to the truth and Malcolm Turnbull unfortunately wants to do everything he can to avoid getting to the truth of what the big banks have got up to here.

All Australia knows that this is necessary and the more he delays, the more he paints himself into a corner, the more he shows just how elitist and out of touch he is.

GILBERT: He’s got a lot of endorsement for the National Energy Guarantee and the Minister Josh Frydenberg from sixteen industry, business groups, the ACTU, welfare, environmental groups. I mean they’re all getting on board. It’s time for Labor to do the same isn’t it?

CLARE: Well what they’ve said is they want to see the federal government and the state governments work together. They want to see compromise there. They make the point that all we’ve got is a concept at the moment and that’s a fair point. All we’ve seen is an eight page document. But ultimately you need policy for business to have the confidence to invest. We’re still waiting on more detail – hopefully we’ll see more from the Government in the days ahead.

GILBERT: Frontier Economics has released modelling today as we heard from Josh Frydenberg earlier talking to David Speers and we’re hearing there’s $400, this modelling showing a $400 benefit for the average household. $120 benefit specifically in relation to the energy guarantee itself.

CLARE: I don’t think you’re going to see people dancing in the street at the idea of getting $2 back next decade.

KIERAN: But at least it’s going down.

CLARE: Here in NSW energy prices went up by 20 per cent on the first of July. That’s a couple of hundred extra bucks that the average family has to pay here in NSW. People are already copping it in the neck here in NSW and other parts of the country. $2 back a week next decade is as Phil Coorey said in the paper today “modest”, at best.

If Malcolm Turnbull wanted to do something to really help people with their energy bills, then at least for pensioners he could ditch the bad idea of getting rid of the Pension Energy Supplement. For a couple of pensioners that’s $550 a year that they get to pay their energy bills. Malcolm Turnbull wants to rip that from pensioners. He should ditch that bad idea today.

KIERAN: Mr Turnbull has announced that Philip Ruddock will chair a committee looking at the religious protections in terms of religious freedoms in the wake of their legalisation of same-sex marriage, which is imminent. Do you welcome this move? Philip Ruddock the Chair supported by others on that panel, such as Rosalind Croucher the President of the Human Rights Commission and eminent Jesuit scholar and lawyer Frank Brennan.

CLARE: I think they’ve said that would report in March of next year?

KIERAN: Yeah, that’s right. Early next year.

CLARE: The idea of separating this out so that we can pass laws on marriage equality this year and look at the issue of religious freedom next year makes sense. We don’t need to deal with both of them at the same time. You don’t need to slow down the passage of the marriage equality legislation. So that’s a good thing.

KIERAN: It’d be welcomed by your electorate too, wouldn’t it?

CLARE: My electorate’s a very socially conservative electorate. They voted no. I’ve always known that they would vote no. There was a lot of people surprised about that. I wasn’t because I know my community very well. But the sorts of issues that this committee will look at will be of interest to all Australians.

I’ll only make just one important point. Freedom of religion is already in our constitution. Whatever we do here we have to make sure that one form of discrimination is not replaced with another form of discrimination.

KIERAN: Will you face a political backlash in your seat for going against the result in the seat of Blaxland.

CLARE: There may be some people that decide to cast a vote against me because of that. But in general elections what happens is that people tend to vote on lots of different issues from jobs to education, to health, to whether the like Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten. I’ve voted consistently and spoken consistently in favour of marriage equality. If I changed my mind now I think I’d be legitimately criticised across the board for stating a commitment to a principle and then turning my back on it. Back in 2013, when there was a federal election there were flyers in letterboxes criticising me and calling on people not to vote for me because of my position on this issue. I ended up getting a swing to me at that election.

You can’t take anything for granted. You’ve just got to try and be a good Member of Parliament, working for your local community. That’s what I’ve done so far, that’s what I’ll continue to do.