Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – Tuesday, 13 August 2019


SUBJECTS: Government failing to ‘bust’ congestion, Feta Cheese, Ferraris and the AUS-EU Trade Deal, Climate Change and the Pacific Island Forum

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining us now is Labor frontbencher Jason Clare for his thoughts on this story and other matters. Jason Clare thanks so much for your time. This call for more spending on infrastructure comes at a quite a good time for governments. I guess in the sense with rates so low as Governor Lowe said the other day, they can borrow for years with very low rates. So now is the time to be putting investment into infrastructure and in the long term.

JASON CLARE: How many times, during the election campaign did we get told about the government’s big plan to bust congestion, ‘congestion busting infrastructure’? What this report shows Kieran, is that that’s all rubbish. It shows that congestion is actually getting worse. It’s worse today than it was a couple of years ago and that’s going to get even worse in the future unless the government pulls its finger out and actually starts spending money, building the infrastructure that our cities need. The population is going up and the report shows that the government is not building enough infrastructure particularly in the outer suburbs, particularly where most Australians live to actually keep up with the population. If they don’t bring some of that infrastructure spending forward and do it quickly then the time people spend in their cars on the way to work and on the way home is just going to get longer and longer in the years ahead.

GLIBERT: So the surplus in your view needs to be secondary to following this prescription, which is basically borrow more to spend more on infrastructure.

CLARE: Well Kieran I don’t think it’s one or the other. The government has said the surplus is a priority for them but they’ve also said they’re estimating a surplus of $7 billion. It takes a long time to get infrastructure, big infrastructure projects off the ground. What they should be doing now is identifying the projects that they can bring forward so that they can actually do what they’ve promised, which is to reduce congestion and get more people into work, into jobs, and fuelling the economy. The economy’s weak, economic growth is the weakest it has been since the global financial crisis. You’ve got the Reserve Bank having to cut interest rates now down to emergency levels. The Reserve Bank Governor couldn’t be more clear that something needs to be done here. Now you’ve got an independent report from Infrastructure Australia saying congestion is going to get worse in the decades ahead unless this government actually does what it promised. One of the biggest broken promises of the last election I suspect is going to be all of that rhetoric about ‘congestion busting’. Alan Tudge can’t open his mouth without talking about ‘congestion busting’ projects. What this report shows today is that congestion is getting worse and it’s going to get a lot worse in the years ahead unless this government actually does something.

GILBERT: The EU trade negotiations it looks like food and drink companies will be forced to rename their products under this prospective deal. Is it worth it for the gains with this block of half a billion people?

CLARE: Well this is one of the tricky ones. I suspect what we will see today is that Australian farmers particularly Australian dairy farmers will be on edge about this. They’ll be worried about you know ‘if you can’t call feta feta, what do you call it?’ Buggered if I know. They’ll have to work through all of those difficult issues on that list. Madeleine King the Shadow Minister for Trade has been out and about talking to dairy farmers about just that. But it’s not the only difficult issue. One of the other things I suspect that the Europeans will want to cut is the luxury car tax on things like Ferraris and Lamborghinis. I think it will be a difficult argument for the government to make to say that we should be making Ferraris and Lamborghinis cheaper at a time where people are just struggling to pay the electricity bill. So there are a lot of complex issues at play here. We want to export more agriculture to Europe but this is a deal that should be more than just about ‘cows for cars’- more beef into Europe, and in response to that Europe being able to export more cars to Australia. The best way to make sure that it is, is to have independent economic modelling. The Europeans do that Kieran. They do an independent assessment of the deal, we should do that too. Here’s just another idea, instead of a deal that just helps business what about Australian tourists, so when you go on a holiday to Europe you don’t get charged exorbitant roaming fees for your mobile phone or charges at the ATM. That’s a great way to put together a deal that would be supported by the community.

GILBERT: Is it inevitable though that some will have to lose in order for the greater gain on this front?

CLARE: Well I suspect that some people will lose. So then the real question is ‘how does the government negotiate an outcome which is acceptable to Australian farmers and beef producers?’  The devil’s always in the detail and I think this is going to be quite tricky in the months ahead.

GILBERT: Final one on the 500 million dollar commitment over five years to the Pacific. This is going to be made by the Prime Minister in Tuvalu at the Pacific Island Forum. Is this a welcome initiative in your view? It certainly is welcome in the eyes of our Pacific neighbours.

CLARE: Well I suspect they’ll want more than just this. This is money from the existing aid budget. This is an important meeting that’s happening over the next few days. We have a special responsibility when it comes to the Pacific. We’re the biggest economy in the region. We’ve got to go out of our way to help our neighbours and our friends in the Pacific. I welcome what the government has done over the last 12 months or so in terms of extra investment in infrastructure, as well as the announcement that was made recently around waste, plastic waste. I think all of that will be welcomed. But it’s pretty clear that what the Pacific leaders want is real action on climate change and the fact is in Australia that emissions are going up not down. There seems to be very little evidence that this government is willing to up the ante on what it’s willing to do to cut our own emissions. And that’s going to be the hardest question that I think the Prime Minister will have to answer at the conference of Tuvalu over the next few days.

GILBERT: Jason Clare we appreciate your time we’ll talk to you next week.

CLARE: Thanks mate.