Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 23 June 2020


SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; Dyson Heydon; Robodebt Royal Commission; HomeBlunder.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me now is the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Jason Clare. Jason, good morning to you. Thanks for joining us. So, it is Victoria but how much of a concern is that for you and for people in New South Wales? 

JASON CLARE: I think it should be a concern for everyone around the country. This is a wakeup call. It reminds us that this isn’t over yet. That the last few months haven’t been a bad dream. This virus is still with us and wherever there is a spike, wherever there’s a hot spot where we find people who have got the virus, we’ve got to stamp it out. That’s what the Victorian Government is trying to do here and we should be supporting their efforts.

STEFANOVIC: Do you think that Daniel Andrews is right to reintroduce those restrictions?

CLARE: I think our political leaders of all persuasions – Labor and Liberal – have done a good job around the country here. They’ve done a much better job than other parts of the world and largely that’s because we’ve listened to medical advice. Our medical practitioners and our chief medical officers have told us what to do and how to do it, and part of that is to be able to take targeted local measures where there is evidence that people have the virus, to make sure that people are not spreading it in the community. So I support the work the Victorian Government is doing. I support the work that all governments across the country are doing to try to keep Australians safe.

STEFANOVIC: I’ve certainly, from a personal point of view noticed that a lot of people have become complacent in recent weeks now the conditions are being eased. I put this to the health minister a short time ago and he’s not going that far, but based on what you’ve been able to see in your own observations Jason, have we become complacent? Not just becoming but have we become complacent?

CLARE: I think it’s true, Pete, that life’s getting back to normal and life’s getting back to the way in which we used to live. Everybody watching this would know, we’re standing closer to our friends and family than we used to. We are probably shaking hands again. I’ve seen people shaking hands and giving each other a cuddle. That’s human nature and I’m not criticising that, but we forget quickly and that’s why I said this wasn’t a bad dream. This really happened. We see in the paper today the examples that this virus is still raging overseas. We’ve done the right things here and shut the border, we are containing the virus when we find it but we shouldn’t imagine for a second this is over. That’s why I’ve said to you on many occasions there is a risk of a second wave. The virus can spread very quickly unless we take action where we find it to stamp it out. So the action that the government has taken here is the right action to protect people who live south of the border in Victoria, and for people who live right across the country.

STEFANOVIC: Well, does this energise Annastacia Palaszczuk’s argument to keep the border to Queensland closed?

CLARE: Look, whether it’s Queensland, Tasmania, WA, South Australia, I understand why all of those Premiers are being cautious. But I’d say to you what I said two weeks ago. Rather than have the Prime Minister and Premiers arguing at each other on Sky News or other forms of media, we’ve got a meeting of the National Cabinet on Friday and that’s the format that’s worked over the last few months to try and tackle some of these tough issues, and it’s the forum we should use to try and sort out these border issues. I’d like to see the borders open as quickly and as safely as we possibly can. We are one country. But I also understand the Premiers want to make sure they do that in a way that doesn’t increase the risk of the virus getting into their state in larger numbers.

STEFANOVIC: Just a couple of quick ones before we go Jason. This announcement, well this decision that came down on Dyson Heydon that found he sexually harassed up to six women. There’s a lot of legal matters here but have you got a view on that?

CLARE: Over the last few years we’ve seen examples overseas of men in powerful positions who have abused that power, who have abused that trust, and it seems like here is an example in Australia of that. There’s not a much more powerful position than being a Justice of the High Court. This is a pretty damning report. Can I congratulate the High Court and Susan Kiefel for the work they have done here. They have apologised to the victims and it’s a pretty brave thing for young women to stand up and tell the truth about what’s happened here. But this has got a long way to go, Peter. I suspect that we might see civil proceedings or maybe even a criminal investigation. So let’s see where this goes next. 

STEFANOVIC: There are a lot of people who seem to suggest that he had a bias against Labor, particularly when it came to commissions that he was a commissioner for. Did you ever see that?

CLARE: This is not about the Labor Party or the Liberal Party. It’s about sexual harassment. It’s about proper behaviour in the workplace and if you ask people in the legal fraternity, this was an open secret for a long long time. It’s taken a long time for this investigation to happen but I congratulate the High Court for the work they have done and the leadership they have shown here and once again congratulate the bravery of the women who have come forward in this investigation.

STEFANOVIC: Labor pushing for an inquiry into Robodebt. Jason, do you think you’ll get it?

CLARE: People died here.  People died. Hundreds of thousands of people were sent bills in the mail for debts that they didn’t owe the Commonwealth. A couple of years ago we were told this was an illegal scheme but the government kept implementing it. We need a Royal Commission to get to the bottom of this. To find out the truth. How did it happen? How do we make sure that something like this never happens again? That’s the job of a Royal Commission. Whether it’s the Royal Commission into child abuse or the Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess at the moment, these sorts of investigations are designed to find out what the hell happened and how do we make sure that this never happens again.

STEFANOVIC: Just the last one on public housing. You’ve been pushing for this in recent weeks, well for a long time. When it comes to public housing it’s a state issue right? So do you need to put more pressure on the states as well as the Federal Government? Is that how you can achieve that?

CLARE: Look, this is a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments. It’s like health and education. Both help to fund these public assets. And ultimately Pete, what I’m arguing for is action from the Federal Government to save the jobs of tens of thousands of tradies around the country. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, the whole lot. Now the housing industry is in crisis. Jobs are in a freefall. The package that the Government has put together is too small. That’s at a time where there are more than 100,000 public houses around the country that are in disrepair – full of mould, cracks in the roof, no carpet, a bunch of things that could be done. We need tradies in there doing that work now and we would save their jobs and build the sort of housing that Australians deserve.

STEFANOVIC: Jason Clare, good to get your thoughts. Thanks for joining us this morning.

CLARE: Good on you Pete. Thanks mate.