Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 11 May 2021

TUESDAY, 11 MAY 2021

SUBJECTS: Budget; Liberal’s record deficit; Family Home Guarantee; need for Government to invest in housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence; First Home Super Saver.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s go live now to Jason Clare. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning. A short time ago we heard from Simon Birmingham, the Finance Minister, he’s outlined what the Budget is going to be. It’s going to be focused on COVID economic security, investing in essential services. Is he hitting the right marks?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: I guess we’ll have to see tonight. They’ve been pitching this for weeks as a women’s Budget. You’ve got to really ask yourself the question, if it wasn’t for Brittany Higgins, whether this would be a women’s Budget. The extraordinary bravery that she’s shown over the last few months, as well as the allegations about Christian Porter and Andrew Lamming and Craig Kelly’s office, and all of the criminal accusations. Everything that we’ve seen over the last few weeks has forced the Government to pull out some of the policies that they’ve just neglected or rejected or refused to put in place over eight, long years. Let’s see what comes out of all of that tonight.

STEFANOVIC: $53 billion better off, though. It’s quite the economic recovery.

 CLARE: Let’s be clear about this, Pete. This is still the biggest Budget deficit in Australian history, the biggest Budget deficit in Australian history. Hopefully it puts to bed tonight, all of the rubbish that we’ve been hearing for more than a decade about debt and deficit disasters. This deficit that the Government will hand down tonight is three times the size of the biggest deficit we used to get Australia out of the GFC, to stop a recession and to save all of those jobs. So hopefully, we’ll have an end of all that rubbish debate about debt and deficit disasters after the Government hands down the biggest deficit in Australian history tonight.

STEFANOVIC: Is this a pre-election Budget?

CLARE: I don’t think you’d have to be Inspector Clouseau to work that one out. It’s pretty obvious from what the Government’s doing here is that they’re trying to fix a lot of problems that are on their books. I think the pollsters have come in and told them that. They’ve told Scott Morrison, “you’ve got a problem with women voters, they don’t support you, you’re going to have to pull out all those policies you’ve rejected for the last eight years”. But Aussies aren’t stupid Pete. I don’t think a wall of money can hide everything that’s happened in this building over the last six months, and they’ll work out what the Government’s trying to do tonight. Nothing they do in that area will pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people.

STEFANOVIC: So much of our recovery is dependent on international travel resuming but there appears to be a lot of confusion in this space at the moment. These are, of course, still very uncertain times. But the Government is now pushing back its forecasts for international travel to resume in any kind of significant way until the back half of next year. What do you make of the messaging that’s coming out of the Government at the moment, and when would you like to see those borders opened?

CLARE: It’s chaotic, isn’t it? On Sunday, we were told that the place was staying shut by the Prime Minister, on Monday the Treasurer said that we’re opening up next year. What is it? All of this stuff is hypothetical. Until everybody’s vaccinated, all of this is hypothetical. Over the course of the whole year, we’ve only vaccinated, I think there’s been about 2.7 million shots in arms in Australia. In the United States, there were that many vaccinations yesterday. That many people were vaccinated in the United States yesterday, in one day. At the rate we’re going at the moment, at about 400,000 jabs a day, it’s going to take us two years to vaccinate the entire country. We need to hurry this up.

STEFANOVIC: They’ve picked up a lot of speed, though. 

CLARE: We’re going to have to hurry it up a lot more. Otherwise, you’re going to have America open, you’re going to have Europe open and back to work, and Aussies are still going to be sitting in the doctor’s surgery.

STEFANOVIC: You mentioned women before, of course. A lot more money is going to be outlined for women and this Budget too, and I do want to ask you about how single parents can buy a home with just a two per cent deposit. That’s going to support up to 10,000 single parents, and it’s mostly going to be women, and there’s going to be a guarantee that comes off the back of that what. What do you make of that announcement?

CLARE: The problem with this is it’s tiny. This policy is so small, you can barely see it. There are a million single parent families around the country. You mentioned 10,000 it’ll help. It’s only going to help two and a half thousand a year. To give you an idea about how small this policy is, in a Budget that’s rolled out tonight that’s worth hundreds of billions of dollars, guess how much this policy costs the Australian taxpayer? Three hundred grand, 300,000 not 300 million, it’s only $300,000. Now Josh Frydenberg could pull that out of his own pocket. He could pay for this policy with his own salary in almost one year. It goes to show that this is maximum hype and minimum help for people who desperately need it.

STEFANOVIC: What should it be?

CLARE: Well, there’s a lot more that needs to be done to help people buy a house. It’s harder to buy a house today than ever before. One of the groups that got missed out entirely in this policy are older women. Mums whose kids have left home, they might have got divorced, and in the settlement, they don’t have enough money to buy a house, and they’re forced to rent for the rest of their life. They get absolutely no help from that. There’s another group of mums who’ve missed out so far in this Budget, and that’s mums and kids fleeing domestic violence looking to put a roof over their head. Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, Pete, 10,000 mums and kids fleeing domestic violence got rejected from refugees because there wasn’t a bed. When I go around the country talking to people who work in refuges, they tell me they’re full, people are staying longer than ever, it’s worse now than they’ve seen in 30 years. That’s because it’s not just that there’s not enough refuges, but there’s not enough long-term accommodation, to put people who need an alternate place to live because they’re victims of domestic violence. If this is a Budget designed to help women, then it needs to focus on that. 

STEFANOVIC: Well, the funding for domestic violence services has doubled, essentially gone to about $680 million at the moment, which seems to be a pretty significant improvement. What do you make of that kind of shift?

CLARE: Any investment there is welcome. But if the government is serious about improving women’s physical security, then that needs to start with a roof over their head. Nothing is more important than having a roof over your head. If one in three women can’t get housed when they’re fleeing domestic violence then you know something’s terribly wrong, and it forces people back into a dangerous situation. That’s why everybody who works in this sector says that if you’re serious about keeping women safe, getting people out of dangerous situations, then you need to put a roof over their head. That’s why I’m hoping that we’re going to see a real investment for the first time by this government in long term social housing to provide a safe place for women and children fleeing domestic violence. If they don’t do that tonight, well frankly, they’ve failed. 

STEFANOVIC: What about lifting the First Home Super Saver from $30,000 to $50,000.

CLARE: That was another thing the government announced on the weekend. This is a scheme that hasn’t had a lot of take up, not a lot of people have opted in to use it. I think the average amount of money that people are pulling out around about 13 or 15 grand, rather than the cap, but we’ll have a closer look at that. It’s the sort of scheme that has potential but I think needs a lot of work on it to fix it and make it more user friendly for the Australians who want to use super to save up a deposit.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Jason Clare, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Appreciate your time, as always. 

CLARE: Thank you.