Television Interview with Tom Connell – Sky News – Tuesday 2 June 2020


SUBJECTS: US protests; Housing Stimulus Plan.

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Let’s get to my next guest in the program Shadow Minister Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare. We’ll get of course in a moment to what’s happening in your portfolio, but first of all, your response to what’s happening in the US, in particular this address from Donald Trump. It canvassed everything from tributes to George Floyd to signing the Second Amendment and saying we’ve got to dominate them on the streets. What did you think?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: All of those images are hard to watch. America is a country that I love, but it’s so divided between black Americans and white Americans, rich and poor. And when you have events like the death of George Floyd, it can just ignite all of that violence that we’ve seen. I’m hopeful that peace will return to the streets of America very soon, but I’m less confident that America is capable of dealing with those deep-seated divisions that have caused this in the first place.
I’d encourage listeners to have a look at the speech that Robert Kennedy made after Martin Luther King was assassinated back in 1968. That night America burned, there were riots right across the country and Robert Kennedy made a speech on the back of a ute to a largely black audience in Indianapolis.
He talked about a white man killing a black man. He reminded that audience that a white man had killed a member of his family. He said that America had a choice, you could revert to violence and revenge, or you could choose love and compassion. That night while America burned, Indianapolis went to bed peacefully. That gives us an indication, Tom, that words matter, and that strong leadership full of compassion can help to settle this sort of violence.
CONNELL: How would you assess Donald Trump’s leadership right now?
CLARE: Look, I’m an Australian politician. It’s not for me to comment on what American politicians are doing. But what I guess what I’d say is this. I thought the words of George Floyd’s brother were the most eloquent we’ve seen in all of this. A man whose brother has been murdered – I don’t think there’s much doubt about that – who urged calm, who urged restraint, who told a community that is up in arms and violent to stop the violence, and that if you’re angry, and if you want your voice to be heard, then make it heard at the ballot box. You know, for a man who’s just lost his brother in such a brutal, awful way, I think they’re words that I hope all Americans will listen to tonight.
CONNELL: It’s fair to say you’re not seeing echoes of Robert Kennedy though in Donald Trump right now.
CLARE: Look, unfortunately, there’ll probably only be one Robert Kennedy. Perhaps the greatest man not to become US president. It was a great missed opportunity. But the words he uttered that night I think should speak across the ages to the power of leadership to be able to quell violence and bring a community together. And I’m hoping that’s what we’ll see in America over the next 24 hours.
CONNELL: Robert Kennedy, of course, giving that speech as a presidential candidate as you allude to, never got the job done. Let’s return to the domestic scene. Something you’ve been pushing for is some sort of stimulus for the housing sector. The reports today, they seem to be pretty well sourced, of minimum $20,000 grants to build new homes. Is that going to be enough? Do you think that will encourage people, tip people over from not building to building at $20,000 bonus?
CLARE: It will help Tom but it won’t do the job on its own. The analysis by Ernst and Young shows that it will help to create more jobs and keep more tradies at work. But what’s being predicted at the moment is that the number of homes this year will drop from about 160,000 down to 100,000, and that if grants are given to people, to encourage them, to build new homes that might mean that we top that up by 10,000 or 15,000, so it’ll help.
But we’ve still got the risk of tens of thousands of tradies losing their jobs, which is why Anthony Albanese and I and Jim Chalmers have been saying, you need a comprehensive plan. You need to do that, but you also need to do other things.
We should be using this opportunity to build more social housing. I think if the government eventually gets into gear and announces a package this week and announces billions of dollars to stimulate the housing industry, but can’t find one cent for public housing, can’t find one cent to put up put a roof over the heads of people who are sleeping in parks tonight, then that’ll be a massive missed opportunity.
CONNELL: That’s predominantly a responsibility of the states though right? Is that a message to them on public housing? The Federal Government’s doing the heavy lifting on overall stimulus already.
CLARE: I said this on Kieran’s program yesterday afternoon, the Federal Government working with the State Governments could encourage them to bring forward the budgets they already have for the next few years to build more social housing, and to renovate existing social housing. It is one of the things we did during the Global Financial Crisis, it meant that we were able to build 20,000 more social homes.
When most people think about public housing and homelessness, you know, they think about a drunk bloke with a brown paper bag sitting on a park bench. That’s wrong. The biggest group of homeless people in Australia at the moment are mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. One in 10 people who will sleep rough in Sydney tonight is an ex-servicemen or ex-servicewoman. Somebody who wears medals on ANZAC Day who served our country overseas.
There’s a big opportunity here to help to make sure that trainees keep working and don’t end up on the end of the dole queue, and also build a better Australia. Build homes for these people that are sleeping rough tonight.
CONNELL: The other aspect is renovations, which has been touted as a possible aspect that you can get cash grants for renovations to your home. It sounds a bit strange when you first hear it, but if you think of immigration falling significantly, you can give all the incentive you want. If you’re building a brand new house and no one’s going to be there, it’s going to be pretty hard to sell it. Would Labor back this scheme? It’s the sort of thing that might be a bit tricky to sort of roll out and there might be issues with rorts and so on. So if you back it, you might not be able to criticise the government in a few months’ time. What do you make of the idea?
CLARE: Tom, it’s the sort of program already running in the Northern Territory at the moment. The NT Government did this a couple of months ago, providing vouchers to people to encourage them to get a tradie over to their home to do extra work. We’d obviously have to see the details of it. I think the Master Builders Association said today it’s important that certain thresholds are put in place so that insurance is available.
CONNELL: And what is that? Let’s talk through that quickly. So, you know, if it’s your house is worth 1.5 million, well sorry, do your own renovation. We’re not going to have taxpayer funded pools out there, presumably in the suburbs, these sorts of restrictions.
CLARE: What the MBA was talking about is that if the if the total project is worth less than 20,000, then indemnity insurance wouldn’t cover it. So, look, it’s complicated, but what they’re saying is the details matter in a scheme like this. So, in principle, we welcome the idea, but we’re still throwing darts in the dark here. We don’t have any information from the government. The expenditure review committee’s meeting now, I think. So, I just urge the government to hurry up, give us the detail and make sure that all of these legitimate points that you’ve raised and others have raised are addressed in whatever package they announce in the next few days.
CONNELL: What about the pool’s issue? Would you be open to a pool being installed with a bit of taxpayer help if it keeps people in a job?
CLARE: Look, the fundamental aim is to keep people working, but the nuts and bolts of the scheme, I’ll wait until I see what the government’s proposing here. The obligation is on them to come up with something that’s going to keep tradies working, but also to speed up economic recovery. If we don’t do anything here, you know the key point, Tom, is that you’re going to have a lot more carpenters, electricians and plumbers on the dole queue, and a lot of small businesses hit the fence. No one wants to see that happen. That’s why we’ve been calling for action for six weeks.
CONNELL: It might be close. We will see and speak to you down the track. Thanks for your time today.
CLARE: Good on you. Thanks, Tom.