Television Interview with Tom Connell – Sky News – Monday 17 August 2020


SUBJECTS: COVID advice from World War Two veterans; Treasury and housing industry predict bloodbath; HomeBlunder.

TOM CONNELL, HOST: My next guest on the program is Jason Clare, the Shadow Housing Minister and he joins me now from our Sydney city studio. Thanks for your time. I might just play for our viewers first of all, there’s so much talk about whether or not people are willing to buy in to the common good, if you like, on COVID-19. We had some advice from some people who did it pretty tough during the Second World War. Let’s have a listen in.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: People are refusing to wear a mask, abusing police, abusing workers at Bunnings and talking about their human rights. Well, I thought I’d talk to two blokes who know a thing or two about human rights. They fought for them on the Kokoda Track and in the Pacific. Two World War Two veterans, Reg who is 97 and Bert is an amazing 104 years old.
REGINALD CHARD, WORLD WAR TWO VETERAN: To start with, do what you’re told and think of others, not just yourself. Because if you think of others, that’s what used to get us through.
ALBERT COLLINS, WORLD WAR TWO VETERAN: We must do what we can to obey those orders, to minimise the effect of spreading the disease. If you have to wear a mask, wear it!
CONNELL: A couple of Second World War Vets. Jason Clare, why did you decide to post that? Have you been surprised at the number of people either putting forward conspiracy theories or saying ‘hey, you’re impinging on my personal rights’ about what people are being asked to do on COVID-19?
CLARE: We’ve seen it with people abusing cops and people abusing the workers at Woolies or at Bunnings, but Saturday was 75 years since the end of World War Two so I caught up with Reg and Bert, two old mates of mine, to ask them. The real question I wanted to know was: what was it like the day the war ended? They gave me a surprising answer. There wasn’t dancing in the streets for them like we see in that old black and white footage. One of them was in hospital at Concord still recovering from malaria. The other one slept in and his parents didn’t have the heart to wake him up. But I thought to myself, these guys had to travel to the Pacific and their lives at risk for this country. We’re just being asked to stay at home and wear a mask. I was interested in what their thoughts were on this as two old blokes, two people who are really vulnerable if the virus gets them, and there’s a lot of wisdom in their answers: follow orders, stick together, if your work together, we’ll get through it. It’s certainly what helped them win the war, and it’s what will be needed if we’re going to get through this as well.
CONNELL: We often talk ourselves up, we’ve got a lot going for us as a country, but has it been disappointing the number of people that have responded the other way during this crisis compared particularly with, apart from Victoria, how well we’re going through it all and still at least complaints?
CLARE: You know, Tom, I reckon we’re doing pretty good. Aussies are the sort of people that if you say ‘look, you’ve got to do this because it’s going to help to stop people dying,’ people will wear a mask and from all the interviews I see on Sky from reporters in Melbourne it shows that people are doing that. It’s just a few ratbags at the edge giving lectures about human rights. These blokes know about human rights. And if you watched that video pretty carefully, there’s lots of people getting off Bankstown Railway Station that are wearing masks as well. The NSW Premier hasn’t mandated it here, but she’s recommended it if you’re on public transport. I caught the train on the weekend and I saw, I think, 95 per cent of people are wearing the mask on the train, wearing it in taxis, taxi drivers wearing it. I think we are pulling together. We’re never going to be as good as that greatest generation of Aussies like Reg and Bert, but I think we’re doing a good job and their message is one that we should all listen to.
CONNELL: There’s a call today within your portfolio: Master Builders Association say that there’s a 27 per cent drop in home building looming. It’s a huge sector in Australia and in our economy. You’re supporting this bid for more stimulus. Why do you think their plan is a good one?
CLARE: I’ve been saying for months that the housing industry is going to go off a cliff and the Master Builders Association has been saying the same thing. We’ve now got the forecasts that prove it. Their forecast today shows that instead of building 170,000 homes this financial year, it’s more like 125,000. If there’s a massive drop in the number of homes built, then that means that there’s lots and lots of jobs lost in the housing industry.  This is an industry that employs about a million people. That’s why I’ve been arguing for months that the Government has got to pull a finger out and do something here. 

The HomeBuilder scheme is too small, it’s rolling out too slowly and these forecasts from the Master Builders Association prove it. But it’s not just them, Tom. We asked this question of Treasury on Friday afternoon at the Senate COVID Committee. They said effectively the same thing. They said the number of homes built this financial year is going to go from 170,000 down to 140,000. That means jobs are going to be lost, tradies are going to lose their jobs, those small businesses that rely on the housing game are in trouble as a result of this, and the Government’s got to get their heads out of the sand and start pouring some concrete. Otherwise more tradies are going to end up out the front of Centrelink.
CONNELL: You’ve supported Master Builders Association on the stimulus call. You’ve also said the HomeBuilder scheme is not working. The MBA says it’s delivering and has delivered construction firms the best month in terms of sales in a decade and they want an extension. Do you support the extension? Is it a good plan, it just needs to keep going be on a bigger scale?
CLARE: It’s going to have to be extended. One, because it’s too small and secondly, because it’s rolling out too slowly. What the Master Builders Association data shows is that we were going to build 170,000 homes. Without HomeBuilder it would have dropped to about 115,000. HomeBuilder helps a bit – puts it up to 125,000. But we’re still losing thousands and thousands of jobs because not enough homes are being built.
CONNELL: Right, so more needed. You are saying you’d agree with Master Builders that this HomeBuilder Scheme on those numbers, that’s pretty effective. That’s a lot of homes. That’s a lot of jobs.
CLARE: We found out on Friday, Tom, that this was announced three months ago, it’s only got about another four months before applications close. There’s only been 247 applications so far and there’s been no applications approved. It’s all too slow. It’s just rolling out there too slowly.
CONNELL: I think there are 40,000 registered. It takes a while to get your ducks in a row to get a house going.
CLARE: Anyone can register. Builders can register, you can register, doesn’t mean you’re going to buy a home. What the Government estimate is about 27,000 people will eventually apply during the scheme. But the Master Builders Association, the data they’ve released today shows that this will lead to an increase in about 10,000 extra homes that wouldn’t have been built. So it helps a bit but it’s not enough. They’re calling for it to be extended. I think that’s going to have to happen, but even that’s not enough. That’s why they’re calling for the Government to put more money into community infrastructure and into social infrastructure.
Think about what we did during the GFC, Tom. The HomeBuilder scheme is one tenth of what we did during the GFC. We built more social housing, we repaired old government housing that was dilapidated. They’re the sorts of things the Government’s going to need to do now if they’re going to stop more tradies losing their jobs.
CONNELL: We have to leave it there, Jason Clare. Thanks for your time today.
CLARE: Good on you mate.