Interview with Lucy Breaden – ABC Radio Hobart – Friday, 5 July 2019

SUBJECTS: Tasmanian housing and homelessness crisis

LUCY BREADEN: There’s been a lot of focus on Tasmanian Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie this week and her move to support the federal government’s tax cuts – Jason Clare – what do you feel about Jacqui Lambie’s supporting the government ? 
JASON CLARE: Labor supported the tax cuts as well. The only people who voted against tax cuts this week, apart from the Greens who voted against it in the Senate, were the Liberal Party and the National Party. The Libs and the Nats both voted against bringing more tax cuts forward now. There’s a set of tax cuts that won’t come into effect for three years. We said look the economy is that weak at the moment that we need to bring more tax cuts forward now, and the Liberals and the Nationals voted against it.

BREADEN: It seems that Jacqui Lambie almost holds the balance of power here and that people like her and Andrew Wilkie are very important as independent members. Do you think that Labor’s been sidelined?

CLARE: No, not at all. Wherever we can make sure that we get a good outcome out of the debates in Parliament for Tasmania, and for other parts of the country then that’s a good thing. Everybody in Tasmania knows there’s a housing crisis there. You’ve got more people homeless than ever before. More people sleeping rough than ever before. Rental affordability in Tasmania is worse than any other part of the country. That’s a crisis that’s been allowed to get worse under this Coalition Government’s watch in Hobart and in Canberra. If we can extract something from this government to fix the housing crisis and get people out of the cold this winter then that’s a good thing.
BREADEN: What are you doing then?
CLARE: I support any action the government will take to make sure that we’re getting people out of the cold, building more homes and making more affordable housing available for people in Tasmania.
We shouldn’t let the State Government in Tasmania off the hook either. I mentioned this when I was in Tasmania last week. When the last State Labor Government was in power in Tasmania, they built more than 2,000 affordable homes. In the last five years the State Liberal Government’s only built 300. The State Government needs to pull their finger out and do more in this area. But if the Federal Government has done a deal with Jacqui Lambie to help out here then we need the details of it, and they need to deliver on the promises they’ve made.

BREADEN: What do you think that deal might be?

CLARE: It’s hard to tell. Last night the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that they’ve done a deal, and they’re going to work out the details of it over the next six to eight weeks. Then this morning the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg dodged questions about whether there was a deal done at all. So it’s hard to tell whether there’s a deal or no deal. What I’m saying is the government needs to clear this up. They need to tell the Australian people, in particular tell Tasmania whether they’re going to do anything about this, or whether they’re going to dud Jacqui Lambie. I think Jacqui justifiably thinks that this Government is serious about taking action and putting some money in fast to help fix the housing crisis in Tasmania. But it shouldn’t take six or eight weeks. They should be able to do something very quickly, and the sooner they act the better. Remember this is winter. It doesn’t get any colder in Hobart or in Tasmania than it is now. The sooner they take action the better.

BREADEN: Yesterday we spoke to Senator Peter Whish-Wilson and he says he thinks that Jacqui Lambie has been duped here by the government. Do you agree?

CLARE: Well we’ll have to wait and see. But if they dupe Jacqui Lambie then they’re duping Tasmania. You know they have made a promise here or they’ve given Jacqui Lambie the impression that they are going to take action here to fix the housing crisis in Tasmania. I hope they do, because anybody who’s looked at this carefully knows that Tasmania has a big problem with housing affordability. A big problem with homelessness. I hope that they honour the deal that they’ve made, but at the moment we still can’t get a clear answer from the government about whether they’ve made a deal or not.

BREADEN: If the government doesn’t come through with the goods here and waive that debt and then put that money back into public housing. What kind of message does that send Tasmanians?

CLARE: It would show them that this is a Government that can’t be trusted. As I said there are a number of different ways that they could help fix the housing crisis in Tasmania. Now they may decide to waive that debt or they may not. The Housing Minister suggested that he wouldn’t do that because then he’d be forced to waive the debt for other States. But he may do something else. The Government if they’ve done a deal might decide to find other ways to put money into Tasmania to fix the problem which is pretty obvious. More people homeless than ever before. More people struggling to find affordable accommodation than ever before. There’s more than one way to skin a cat here. The government has obviously made some type of commitment to Jacqui Lambie and I’m urging them now to make good on that commitment. Don’t dud Tasmania now that the tax bills are through.

BREADEN: Thanks so much for your time today.
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