Interview with Laura Jayes – Sky News – Tuesday 3 March 2020


SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; Sports Rorts; Dick Payten.
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Let’s go live back to Canberra now. Joining me is Labor MP Jason Clare. Jason Clare, thank you for your time.
I want to ask you first about the Coronavirus. We’re seeing effects healthwise, we’re seeing the Reserve Bank expecting to react to it swiftly today. Is this a health crisis or a financial one?
JASON CLARE: Well I think the Chief Health Officer’s done a great job and I think the government’s done the right thing in following his advice. It is first and foremost a health crisis, and the Chief Medical Officer has done a very, very good job and we support the work that he has done. There’s a good health plan that’s been put in place, but there’s an economic plan that needs to be put in place as well.
JAYES: Is that economic plan in place? What would you be doing differently?
CLARE: Well the inside information Laura is that the government is now madly telling journalists here in Parliament House that they’re putting together a stimulus plan. That’s obviously needed. To be frank, they needed to put something like that six months ago when there was evidence that the economy was weakening. Josh Frydenberg has indicated that he’s talking about putting something together for businesses that have got problems with cashflow or might have to put staff off.
What I’d say there is I hope that whatever they put together, it’s a lot better than what they’ve put together for businesses affected by the bushfires, because that has frankly been a shambles. You had Andrew Constance on a minute ago. He made the point that I think only 20% of the businesses that have applied for the grants have got them. Only 5% of the business that have applied for loans out of the bushfires have got them too. You’ve got businesses shutting down on the South Coast right now. I told you the story a couple of weeks ago about Joel Alvey, the publican that runs the pub in Nelligen. He’s applied for grants, can’t get them. Doesn’t want a loan and he’s at risk of going broke unless there’s changes made to the guidelines there. Andrew asked for that a moment ago, and you know he’s damn right. There has to be a change made.
Yesterday Albo suggested wage assistance for businesses that are affected by the bushfires. We did that after Cyclone Yasi in 2012, that’d be a really smart, common sense way to help businesses that are affected by the bushfires and I hope that the Prime Minister will act on that today.
JAYES: We will keep a very close watching brief on that indeed. Something that Labor is keeping a very close eye on of course is the Sports Rorts scandal, if you want to call it that. It is dominating that Senate proceedings, it did yesterday. What’s the smoking gun here? I mean, the latest revelation is that the PMO looked at this spreadsheet, it changed it I think 12:40 on the day of the election. What’s actually wrong with this process?
CLARE: You know in corruption scandals, they normally say “follow the money”, and you can follow the money here to all of those marginal seats. But I’d also say “follow the emails”. The Prime Minister said he had no involvement in this at the start other than sending on some applications from local sporting clubs in his electorate. But we now know there’s 136 emails back and forth, back and forth between his office and the Sports Minister’s office. And now we find out that the day before the election was called, the Sports Minister sent a letter to him saying these are the grants I’m proposing to approve, and now last night find out they were still fiddling with all of this four or five hours after the election was called. That tells you two things: one, this was all about the election, it was all about trying to buy votes, and secondly that the Prime Minister lied. He said he had no involvement in this. That’s patently false. He’s up to his neck in this, and this is no small thing. This is $100 million bucks. I haven’t seen more money stolen since Ocean’s 11. The Australian people put up with a lot, they won’t put up with this sort of corruption.
JAYES: So what’s the end game here? Should the Prime Minister quit? Are you asking for him to resign? Bridget McKenzie’s already quit.
CLARE: Well here’s a start, he could release the 136 emails. If he’s done nothing wrong here, then release the 136 emails and show us all of the interaction between his office and the Sports Minister’s office. You just asked Christian Porter if he’d release the Gaetjens’s report, they should do that as well. If they’ve done nothing wrong, then they should have nothing to hide.
JAYES: Okay, again we’ll keep a close eye on that. Before I let you go Jason Clare, I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to a man who I know is very close to you. His name is Dick Payten, he was 98 years old. He is one of our war heroes and he sadly lost his life just last week.
CLARE: Yeah, he would have turned 99 in a couple of weeks time. Dick was a good friend of mine, and one of the last Kokoda veterans to survive. I’m sure the Prime Minister won’t mind me telling this story. About 8 years ago, Scott Morrison and I represented Australia at the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Kokoda, and Dick applied through the Department of Veterans Affairs to go along with the delegation of Kokoda veterans and he was rejected because he didn’t meet the medical test. And so Scott and I put him on the plane as a stowaway. We got him over there. We went to Bomana Cemetery where that field of tombstones is, where all the people who died at Kokoda lie. And we went to one tombstone in particular, that of his best mate Arnold Darling, who died there now 78 years ago. He had never been back there, never been to see his mate where he lie. It’s a very moving thing to see a man in his 90s cry at the tombstone of his best mate. He came back from the war, got married, had kids, but never forgot his mates. He embodied the spirit of Lest We Forget, ran the 7th Division Association here. I saw him on Saturday night and he said that he still had a “long way to go”. He passed away on Sunday night and I’d like to think that he’s on his way now to finally catch up with his good mate Arnold Darling.
JAYES: Well thank you Jason Clare, and thank you to Dick Payten for this morning reminding us, even posthumously, what is important. Thanks so much for your time.
CLARE: Yep, thanks Laura.