PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY 10 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Four corners investigation; JobSeeker; housing stress.
JOURNALIST: Your first reaction to the allegations on 4 Corners last night?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Obviously very serious allegations of inappropriate behaviour by senior Ministers in the Government and it’s up to those Ministers to respond to those serious allegations.
JOURNALIST: What do you think should happen?
CLARE: That’s a matter for the Prime Minister. Obviously, serious allegations have been made. It’s important when reports like this do occur, that they’re fully researched and tested, and that the individuals get an opportunity to respond. That seems to be what’s happened here, Ministers have issued statements, it’s now a matter for the Prime Minister to have a look at this and see whether it meets the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
JOURNALIST: From what you know of the allegations that were aired last night, is there a sackable offence?
CLARE: That’s a matter for the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: You talk about an investigation into what’s going on. Should they stand aside whilst that’s happening?
CLARE: That’s a that’s a matter for the Prime Minister. The Code of Conduct indicates that where there’s a prima face in case of a breach, then that should happen. That’s a matter for the Prime Minister, whether what was revealed last night constitutes that or not. I’m not sure if that’s the case.
JOURNALIST: Is a politician’s private life in the public interest?
CLARE: Well, I think the Australian people expect very high standards from politicians, and so they should. We’re paid by the taxpayer. Most Australians, I think all Australians, would expect that women are treated with respect here and know that they’re safe in this building. All political parties need to do a better job of making sure that women are treated with respect and feel safe in this building.
JOURNALIST: Jason, can I ask you: Larissa Waters just a short time ago said when it comes to staff, there is no such thing as consent. What do you make of that?
CLARE: I think Malcolm Turnbull made the point in the program last night, that there is a power difference between an employer and an employee. That is right, not just in this building, but right across employment whether it’s in a big company or a small company, or whether it’s in Parliament House. It’s very true that there is a power differential here. That’s the reason that Malcolm Turnbull instituted the changes to the Code of Conduct last year.
JOURNALIST: Are extramarital affairs in the public interest?
CLARE: I take the view that politicians need to apply the highest standards of behaviour. And if they don’t, they should expect to be scrutinized for it. There’s an old saying in this building to apply the Daily Telegraph test – expected that anything you do could end up on the front page of The Daily Telegraph and it’s sometimes does. The decisions that are made about what should appear on television are made independently by the media, including yourselves, including by the ABC. I made the point just a moment ago on Sky that this is a national broadcaster, it’s not the government broadcaster. They are and should act independently of government.
JOURNALIST: Are you aware of examples of this across the political spectrum?
CLARE: No I’m not, but I also make the point, that inappropriate behaviour wherever it is, whether it’s Liberal, National, Labor or Greens is just not on.
JOURNALIST: Just on JobSeeker, the Government’s going to extend it to March. Is that good enough?
CLARE: I’m glad to see they’re either extending it to March. We’d like to see it extended at the current rate to March. Remember, unemployment is getting worse, not better. We’re expecting more people to lose their job by Christmas so it’s important that it gets extended. But think about this: come the end of March, we lose JobKeeper and JobSeeker. The Australian people will lose JobKeeper and JobSeeker. When you’ve got a situation where you’ve got more Aussies out of out of work at the end of this year and early next year than exists right now, then that’s going to create a really big problem for a lot of Australians paying their mortgage and paying their rent. The Government’s got to make sure that the decisions they make in the next few months, don’t leave Australians worse off come April, May and June next year than they are now.
JOURNALIST: We spoke about an economic cliff happening at the end of September, that now just been delayed by seven months or so?
CLARE: I think that’s a fair point to make. You’ve got a new cliff in March and it’s not clear that the economy is going to be all rosy come March. Unemployment still going to be high. We could potentially still be in recession. Even if we’re out of recession, things aren’t great. Just ask anybody who’s lost their job, and for anybody that’s lost their job – and there’s more than a million Australians in that situation. If they don’t have that extra help come March, then it’s going to be harder to pay the mortgage, and it’s going to be harder to pay the rent. I’m the Shadow Minister for Housing and I’m very worried about people’s ability to pay the rent. We know over the last six months that not a lot of people got a rent cut or a rent deferral. JobKeeper has really helped in keeping people from being evicted from their homes but when that all ends, come March, there’s going to be a lot of people who have relied on that to pay the rent and to not get kicked out of their home that are going to really struggle to stay in their home.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. Thanks, Jason.
CLARE: No worries.