Interview with Laura Jayes – Sky News First Edition – Tuesday, 9 July 2019


SUBJECTS: Luke Howarth’s comments about putting a positive spin on homelessness, Tasmanian housing and homelessness crisis, Israel Folau and religious freedom, economy

LAURA JAYES: Let’s go live now to Jason Clare. He’s the Shadow Regional Services Minister, and a number of other portfolios he also has responsibility for. Jason Clare good to see you. First of all I wanted to ask you about something that’s just come to my attention. Luke Howarth has done an interview this morning talking about homelessness saying that there needs to be a ‘positive spin’ on it. Do you see it that way?

JASON CLARE: Yeah, not the sort of words I’d use. You know there are more people that are sleeping rough in Australia today than ever before. More people homeless than ever before. One in 10 people that are homeless are Australian veterans, people who served Australia in uniform. So rather than using rhetoric like saying ‘let’s put a positive spin on homelessness’, let’s do something real about it.  The fact is that all governments of different political persuasions haven’t done enough in the past. If people are out there sleeping rough, or if people are sleeping on friends’ couches, or in their car then that should tell us that there’s more we need to do.

JAYES: Kevin Rudd talked about this when he first became Prime Minister back in 2007. We’ve seen Jodi McKay the new Labor leader in New South Wales say the same thing. Jacqui Lambie has put a spotlight on it in terms of her negotiations with the Federal Government. I mean is it just more rhetoric from more politicians?
CLARE: I was talking to the people at St. Vincent’s the other day. They made the point that whilst we’ll never eliminate homelessness, that we can end homelessness for people if we’ve got the right services in place. There’ll be people who will find themselves homeless for different reasons. Sometimes it’s domestic violence and you need crisis accommodation. Sometimes you lose your job or you get behind in the bills. Sometimes it can be addictions to alcohol and drugs which can require more long term assistance.  In places like Tasmania that you just mentioned, we’ve seen homelessness jumped by about 20 per cent in the last two or three years. At the same time the cost of rent has gone through the roof. So it’s less affordable to rent a unit or a house in Hobart today than it is in Sydney. So all of that mixed together makes for a terrible toxic cocktail that can lead to people being on the street, or not being able to find a roof to put over their head. We need to do more about it. Jacqui Lambie thinks she’s got a deal from the Government to do something about it. I hope she’s right.

JAYES: So do you think the Federal Government should forgive that $157 million debt?
CLARE: I don’t think they’ll do that because they’re worried that other States will then ask for their debt to be forgiven. But there’s other things that the Government could potentially do to provide funds to get people off the street and into crisis accommodation, or to supplement the existing available crisis accommodation in Tasmania, but also potentially they could provide more funding for affordable housing in Tasmania. The State Liberal Government in Tassie has really dropped the ball. In the last five years they’ve only built about 300 affordable homes compared to the last state Labor government that built 2,000. That’s part of the reason for the problem in Tasmania.  If the Federal Government wants to do something to help here, and they’ve told Jacqui Lambie that they would help, Mathias Cormann said in the Parliament last week that they’ve done a deal and they’ll work out the details in the last few weeks. Josh Frydenberg has said there is no deal. I hope there is and I hope we can clear up that mess and that we get some action in Tasmania to get people off the street in the depths of winter, and make sure that housing is a bit more affordable in Tasmania in the in the months and years ahead than it is at the moment.

JAYES: Looking at religious freedom now. This is a debate I think that is going on in a number of lounge rooms right across the country at the moment. It is in the context of Israel Folau, right or wrong. Where do you think the Government should end up with this? Do you think there needs to be a religious discrimination act or a religious freedom act?

CLARE: I think you’re right, Laura that it’s being viewed through the prism of the Israel Folau case. That’s a bloody mess as far as I can see. It’s bad for Israel Folau. It’s bad for rugby union. It’s bad for gay and lesbian Australians that get caught in the middle of all of this. I think that there’s goodwill on both sides of the Parliament. I take the Prime Minister at his word that he wants to work constructively with the whole Parliament, the whole community to bring forward legislation that can address this in a way that provides balance that I think all parties to this debate want. How you do that is the difficult part. I see that there are members of the Government that are concerned at the moment that the Government is not going far enough. I understand there’s a draft Bill that’s being discussed with members of the Government. I’d urge the Government to bring the Opposition into their confidence and brief us on this legislation as well.
JAYES: What would you say? Would you be advocating for a bill of rights for example the United States experience?
CLARE: Not necessarily. No I wouldn’t. It’s difficult to have this conversation without seeing a draft proposal. I also think that the debate is more difficult once legislation is already introduced into the Parliament. So my suggestion to the Government would be, before you bring legislation into the Parliament to be assessed and critiqued and amended, sit down with the Opposition. Show us the draft legislation so we can provide our feedback as well. I think there are people on all sides of the Parliament who want to make sure that we get this right and make sure that the legislation strikes that right balance.

JAYES: Just before I let you go, Jason Clare. Looking at where the economic debate is at the moment. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the words of the RBA Governor, Philip Lowe have perhaps been misinterpreted by some. Do you support the Government’s kind of all or nothing approach, or do or die approach to maintaining this surplus? It is the year of the surplus and the Government seems hell bent of achieving that whether it’s an economic imperative or a political one.

CLARE: I can understand that the Government is determined to deliver the surplus. The last projections delivered in March, were that they’ll deliver a surplus of $7 billion. The key thing here though, is what more should or could the government take to make sure that the economy grows more strongly tomorrow than it is today. Economic growth is weak. The economic growth is the weakest it’s been since the global financial crisis – 10 years ago. This Government’s been in for six of those years. I think it’s fair to say the Reserve Bank has done all that it can. It’s cut interest rates now down to crisis levels. The cash rate’s now 1 per cent. I don’t think there’s much more it can do. So the ball is in the Government’s court. If they want to get more people into jobs, more people working longer hours tomorrow than they are today, then it’s going to take action from the Government. There’s not much more that can be done in the area of monetary policy to boost economic growth.

JAYES: Jason Clare, appreciate your time.

CLARE: Thanks Laura. 

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