Doorstop Interview – Ashfield – Sunday 15 November 2020


SUBJECTS: Social housing, Trade, China 


JASON CLARE: Thanks very much for coming along. It’s great to be here with Reverend Bill Crews at the Exodus Foundation. Bill’s a hero for so many homeless Aussies here in Sydney and right around the country. I can’t think of many people in Australia who have done more to feed and help homeless Aussies than you Bill. Thank you for letting me come along today.


REVEREND BILL CREWS: Thank you, you’re welcome. My foundation welcomes you mate.


CLARE: Well, we’ve had a little bit of a look around before today’s press conference, just seeing the work that you do putting food into hungry bellies, providing a roof for people who need it, and providing medical support and assistance, dental care, medical care, flu shots, and just the love and support that every Australian needs. 


And in terms of talking about housing, Aussies who desperately need a roof over their head, today, we’ve had a fantastic announcement by the Premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews. He’s announced just this morning a massive investment in public housing. I think it’s the biggest one off investment in public housing by any state government in history, more than $5 billion. 


I can only imagine the sort of change that that’s going to mean for so many Australians in Victoria, putting a roof over the head of people who desperately need it. It’s a win win. It’ll put a roof over the head of people who need one, and it will create jobs for tradies who desperately need work. The housing construction industry is on the way down at the moment, fewer homes being built and tradies needing work. And building social housing is going to create a roof over the head of people who need it, but it’ll also create work for those tradies. 


This should also hopefully be an impetus for other state governments around the country to fund social housing as well. The NSW Government has got their budget on Tuesday and I really hope the NSW Government puts more money into social housing, to build more social housing, and repair social housing. 


I’ve been campaigning for months around the country on the need to fix the rundown social housing that we see right across the country, places that are full of mould and leaks and rot. Places that no Aussie should be forced to live in. I think a quarter of all the social housing around the country is full of mould and leaks and rot, holes in the roof, holes in the wall. That’s 100,000 places right around the country that we could be fixing right now and creating work for tradies. 


And the announcement in Victoria today doesn’t let the federal government off the hook either. We need them putting more money into social housing as well. The more money we put in, the more houses we build and fix, the more people we help and the more tradies we’ll create work for. So I’ll keep fighting to get the federal government to put their hand in their pocket and help build and repair more social housing as well. We’ll keep going right up to the next federal budget and right to the next federal election. Bill, I’ll hand over to you.


REV. CREWS: Thank you. So many people in social housing come here to have their showers, like they can’t even shower in where they’re supposed to sleep. We have to give them bedding, we find so many of them have accommodation, you wouldn’t believe. We also get over 40% of the people we work with here at times are women escaping domestic violence, they’re sleeping in cars around there, and often the car is being repossessed next week and we have to try and find somewhere for them to go. So that social housing is critical. It is just critical. And if you give someone a house with supports 90% of them will stay there and the amount of money that’s spent looking after them outside of that falls away. 


If we could just provide enough social housing and the madness is that there are so many jobs that are needed. You need plumbers, you need carpenters, you need brickies, you need trades people, you need just ordinary people who can carry bricks so that houses can be fixed. And this would be a wonderful way to get two bangs for your buck. You spend the money, improve the social housing, you get the homeless off the street, and you give jobs to people who really need them. I cannot believe in 2020/21 in Australia we allow people to live in mould ridden shacks, where anything can happen to them and their children. So many of the people come here are just vulnerable, so vulnerable to being attacked. And the social housing that they got, they need to be updated so that they can be properly looked after. Thanks.


CLARE: Thanks, Bill. Okay, my throw it over to questions. Johno.


JOURNALIST: Thank you very much. You mentioned the Victorian announcement on social housing which has been a significant level of funding. The Federal Government keeps saying that this is a state government responsibility, why should it become a federal  responsibility too?


CLARE: The federal government’s excuse is that this is the responsibility of the state governments. This is the wrong way of looking at it. It’s not about whose job it is, whether it’s the federal government or the state government’s job. It’s about the jobs of those tradies – carpenters, electricians, plumbers who are running out of work. We could be creating work for them right now. Building social housing and repairing social housing, and putting a roof over the head of Aussies who desperately need it. 


You know, one of the great things that happened in the last few months through COVID-19 is that a lot of the empty hotel rooms and motel rooms were used to put a roof over their head of homeless Aussies, people who are sleeping in our parks and our streets sleeping rough. Well as the virus ebbs away, people are being thrown back out on the street. Now, surely, we could do better than that. We’ve shown that if there’s enough political will, we can provide a house and a home for people who desperately need it. This is the way to do it: build more social housing, build public housing. 


And the key point I want to make here is we did this 10 years ago, we did it during the global financial crisis, the Federal Government under Labor put more than $5 billion into building and repairing social housing. We built 20,000 more homes, and we repaired 80,000 homes. And if we do that again, it means more homes for people who need it. More lives changed for the better, and more jobs for tradies who are running out of work.


JOURNALIST: The Federal Government today, is going to be signing this RCPA, Regional Comprehensive Partnership Agreement between not just Australia, but 13 other nations, including China. Given what we’ve seen in the Mekong area with China using its so called dangerous debt diplomacy to build up and ramp up construction of dams. Why aren’t problems, the issues, the fault of the Chinese Government. Is everything the fault of the Australian Government when it comes to this relationship Jason?


CLARE: Before the last election, we committed as a matter of priority to see the conclusion of this trade agreement. I’m glad that it’s finally been concluded after eight years in the making. We’ve got to wait now to see the details and see what’s in it. The bottom line is that more trade creates more jobs. Hopefully this is an agreement that’s going to create more work for Aussie workers and more exports for farmers, manufacturers and other businesses. 


This agreement doesn’t fix the problems that we’ve got with China. We’ve got big problems with China at the moment, problems getting goods into China. And it strikes me that it’s pretty extraordinary that after being in government for seven years, this Government can’t get anyone in Beijing to answer the phone. 

When Australia had the same problem with America a couple of years ago, and Donald Trump was threatening to put tariffs on Aussie steel, the Prime Minister picked up the phone and talked to the US President, Premiers spoke to Governor’s, Australian businesses spoke to other business leaders in the United States and the problem was fixed. Now, when it comes to China, our biggest trading partner, it seems like when there’s a problem, no one answers the phone. And that’s pretty hopeless, given that this Government’s been in power for seven years, They know how important this relationship is and can’t find anybody to talk to in China.


JOURNALIST: But it’s not the Australian Government not picking up the phone. What has the Australian Government done that could have possibly upset Beijing?


CLARE:Well it takes two to tango that’s absolutely right. I’m not saying that the Chinese Government aren’t at fault. Seems like there’s been some things that the Chinese Government has done here, which has made it really difficult for Aussie exporters. But the bottom line is when you’ve got a country, which is your biggest trading partner, and we make one in three dollars in trade from China, then you got to lean into it and make sure that you’ve got the contacts in China to fix things when there’s problem. There is obviously a big problem here. It could cost Aussie jobs. It could cost exporters key markets. And so there’s an obligation on the government to work out how they’re going to fix this. Otherwise we lose jobs and exporters have got to find another place to sell their goods.


JOURNALIST: Is this agreement the solution?


CLARE: We’ll have to wait and see the details of this agreement. More trade means more jobs. The fact that this agreement is being concluded is a good thing, but we’ve got to see what’s in it. But this on its own is not going to fix the problems with China. There is a problem, there is a serious problem. We can’t get anybody to answer the phone in Beijing. And you’d think after seven years in government, this Government would have a phone number that works in Beijing. 


JOURNALIST: Okay, thanks very much. 


CLARE: Thank you.