Interview with Fran Kelly – RN Breakfast – Thursday, 25 January 2018


SUBJECTS: The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, ALP Reform, Bankstown Shooting, NSW Rail Strike

FRAN KELLY: Jason Clare is the Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment and he joins me now in the breakfast studio. Jason Clare welcome back to breakfast.

JASON CLARE: Thanks Fran.

KELLY: 12 months ago Labor seemed delighted that the U.S. had dumped the deal. “It’s over” you said, “Donald Trump has killed the TPP, the agreement will never exist” – that’s a quote. Clearly you were wrong then. Are you unhappy this deal has been resurrected?

CLARE: We said the trade agreement signed in New Zealand two years ago was dead, and we’ve been proven right. We said that –

KELLY: “Donald Trump has killed the TPP”

CLARE: We said Donald Trump wouldn’t sign up to it. We’ve been proved right. This time last year Malcolm Turnbull was saying he could convince Donald Trump to change his mind. He couldn’t. This is a different agreement, Fran.

KELLY: Well that aside, are you unhappy this deal has been resurrected? Or do you think it’s a good idea?

KELLY: What I said last year – what I said yesterday – is if a different deal can be put together involving the other counties, then we’ll judge it on its merits. We support trade. We support trade that creates jobs. It was the Labor Party under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating that opened up the economy. That created more jobs – that created more businesses by cutting tariffs.

What I said yesterday is what you’d expect a prudent Opposition to do, and that is show us the details. We haven’t got the text of this agreement yet. We’ll get it in a couple of weeks. I said we should see the details. I’ve asked the Government for a briefing. I’ve also made this suggestion to the Prime Minister, that we should get some independent economic modelling of the agreement so we know where the jobs will be created, how many will be created and what are the different parts of the economy that will benefit.

KELLY: What you said yesterday may be the words of a prudent Opposition. It may also be an Opposition biding its time. Because there is some pretty ferocious criticism of this TPP deal from within your own side of politics the ACTU is very against it, as are the Greens. So I’m wondering what are exactly your concerns. What are the issues that’s stopping Labor giving this version of the TPP a big tick now? Because if you support trade that supports jobs, well you heard the Prime Minister there, he says it’ll create thousands of jobs.

CLARE: I’ll give you a simple reason, we haven’t seen it yet. This was finalised in Japan 24 hours ago. It’s been negotiated in relative secrecy for the last few months – for the last few years. It’s now just been announced that it’s been finalised. It’ll be signed in March – then we’ll get the details. I don’t think you should expect an Opposition to sign up to a blank cheque. You don’t buy a car without seeing what it’s worth. We want to see the details, and I think that’s fair enough.

KELLY: But we do know some elements of this, and we do know what elements critics are concerned about. Do you share those concerns? One of the more contentious aspects of the deal, for instance, goes to labour market regulation, and here’s the Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo, speaking with us yesterday on breakfast.

 CIOBO: “I can absolutely reassure all listeners that there’s no dilution of the Australian Government’s, of the Australian Parliament’s, ability to regulate our Labor Market.

KELLY: So that’s the Minister. The Trade Union Movement disagrees. It says the TPP will allow unlimited access to local jobs by workers from at least a half-a-dozen of the countries signing this, access without market testing first to find Australians for these jobs. Would Labor ratify this Trade Agreement if market testing is watered down?

CLARE: We’ve heard some positive things about the agreement, we had the farmers and the miners come out telling us that there are good things in it for them. The ACTU has identified this concern which is about labour market testing. Just to be clear, the Government ratifies agreement like this, not the Parliament.

KELLY: It has to go through the Parliament, I know that you’re saying that the Government ratifies it, but you’ll need to look at deal elements of it.

CLARE: We’ll need to look at pieces of legislation to implement it, which will include tariff cuts and customs changes. What I’ve said about this is we that shouldn’t be removing labour market testing as part of trade agreements. At the moment, if an employer wants to bring in an electrician, or a carpenter or a plumber or a mechanic to Australia, first they’ve got to check if there is an Aussie that can do the job. I think that’s fair enough. That’s not protectionism, that’s common sense.

KELLY: And in this deal it is watered down, we know that.

CLARE: It is. They’ve waived that as part of the China Free Trade Agreement, the Japanese Free Trade Agreement, the Korean Free Trade Agreement. In all of those cases, Fran, we’ve said “look, you shouldn’t have done that. We think it’s going to take a Labor Government to come in and fix that down the track.”

KELLY: “You shouldn’t have done that”, is that as good as it gets? Will you support this if that’s in it?

CLARE: We’ve said a Labor Government, a Bill Shorten Labor Government, won’t sign up to trade agreements that waive labour market testing, and will go back and work with countries were the Government has negotiated this away to put it back in.

KELLY: Are you saying that if the TPP doesn’t have that testing in it, you may still agree on the TPP?

CLARE: What I’m saying is we will judge it on its merits and a good way to do this –

KELLY: We know this is an element of it, we know this as a fact.

CLARE: Yes and I’ve said that there are flaws in this agreement. I’ve encourage Malcolm Turnbull…

KELLY: But will Labor pass it with these flaws?

CLARE: Okay. Give me a minute, Fran. I’ve encouraged Malcolm Turnbull to fix some of the mistakes he made in the original TPP. I’ve said to him he shouldn’t be waving labour market testing. This really peeves off Australians, it makes them angry. So this is a weakness, this is a problem in the agreement. It’s the sort of thing that it’s going to take a Labor Government to fix I think.

KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest is the Shadow Trade Minister, Jason Clare.

Can I ask you about Labor reform? Your ALP National President and frontbench colleague, Mark Butler, has lashed the control factional chiefs have of the ALP in a speech this week. He called for the end to the quote “backroom buffoonery by self-appointed factional warlords” and he said the old ways of machine politics will see trust in the Labor party continue to wither away. Do you back those comments?

CLARE: I think we have got to keep reforming to stay relevant. Any political party that just sets in stone the way it does things will wither away. And the reforms that we’ve put in place over the past few years have seen more people join the Labor party. We’ve had an increase in membership of 20 or 30 per cent…

KELLY: There’s still “backroom buffoonery by self-appointed factional warlords” according to Mark Butler.

CLARE: …By doing things like giving the power to Labor Party members to elect the leader of the Labor Party – the Liberal party doesn’t do that. The more power you put in the hands of members, the more people will want to be part of a political party like the Labor Party, and technology accelerating as fast as it is requires political parties, requires all organisations, to think about how they can adapt and change to remain relevant in the 21st Century.

KELLY:  So should the Labor Party open up further, which is what really Mark Butler is talking about? He’s talking about allowing members, ordinary members of the ALP, to be given a vote for party positions and for the Senate.

CLARE: I’ve made the argument before that reforms like community pre-selections, where we provide the opportunity not just for members of the Labor Party to pick a Labor Party candidate but people who vote for the Labor Party at each and every election to be involved, is a way for us to make sure that we’re selecting the best possible candidates to give us the best possible chance to win the next election. There’s a good example of the sort of reforms that open the Party up to make sure we remain relevant in the 21st Century.

KELLY: So you’d want that to happen?

CLARE: Well it’s already happening.

KELLY: Not everywhere.

CLARE: It’s not happening everywhere but it’s already being trialled and it’s proving to be very successful.

KELLY: Can I ask you about the shooting in the Happy Cup café in Bankstown. I think the café is just around the corner from where you work.

CLARE: It is.

KELLY: I don’t know if you knew the local lawyer? The man who was shot dead, gunned down on Tuesday afternoon but I’m sure you’re close to the impact it’s having on your area.

CLARE: Yes. It’s literally just around the corner from my office. We heard the helicopters flying overhead fifteen minutes after the shooting.

KELLY: It’s a shocking crime to happen in the middle of the day in downtown Bankstown.

CLARE: It’s scary. It’s shocking. Brazen. In the middle of the day, people sitting at a coffee shop and someone confronting a man and shooting him dead in the most heinous way. I knew the man. I walk past that shop all the time. I often would see him sitting there having a coffee with friends. I think his office was just across the road.

You would expect that it terrifies people who spend a lot of time living and working and shopping in that area. My father in law has coffee at the shop just down the road. The most important thing I can say Fran is that if there is anyone listening that was there, that saw something or that has access to CCTV footage that they can provide to the police please pass it on. Because we’ve got to make sure that this doesn’t go unpunished. We’ve got to catch the person who did this.

KELLY: Ok can I ask you about another issue that will affect your electorate too, people living in your electorate and other outer Sydney suburbs and that’s the train strike that is scheduled in Sydney for Monday.

There’s already going to be some elements of a strike today. Do you support the union’s demands for higher pay? The Government has put 2.75 per cent a year pay increase on the table. Which is more than many people are getting and have been getting for the last few years. Do you support the demands?

CLARE: Well let me give you an example of how it’s affecting my community already. The change in the timetable means that if you catch the train from Auburn to here in the city, the time it will take you to get here in now 50 per cent longer.

KELLY: The train timetable has made it worse?

CLARE: It’s made it worse by 50 per cent so the journey is much longer from places like Auburn. It means that train drivers are working 13 out of 14 days. I don’t like the idea of train drivers working 13 out of 14 days. I catch the train regularly, my wife catches the train regularly. You want to know that train drivers are getting a break and 13 out of 14 days doesn’t sound like a good idea.

KELLY: Ok but does a complete rail strike, the first in nearly two decades in Sydney on Monday. Does that sound like a good idea? Is it good enough for a city to be brought to a halt on the basis of what looks like a pretty flawed straw poll of union members? Even the union says the poll was imperfect.

CLARE: Well the only point I’d made is that it shouldn’t have gotten to this. This timetable was put in place last year. This dispute has been going on for a long time. It shouldn’t have taken us until this week to get to this. This should have been sorted out last year.

KELLY: It hasn’t been and we’re heading for it. Are you calling on both parties to step back?

CLARE: This is a state government responsibility. I don’t want to intrude upon it and tell people what to do. I just say this. It should have been sorted out a long time ago.

KELLY: Jason Clare thank you very much for joining us.

CLARE: Thanks Fran.


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