SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 25 MAY 2021
SUBJECTS: Peter Dutton’s office aware of Brittany Higgins rape allegations; Upper Hunter by-election; vaccine – all headline, no deadline.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s go live to Canberra now and joining us is Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Local Government and Regional Services. We’ve got a bit on. Jason, good to see you as always. I just want to begin this morning with this breaking news this morning on news.com.au. The report is that the AFP says that Peter Dutton’s office knew about the Britt Higgins allegation for more than a year before Peter Dutton was told. Again, this story is just bragging, I just want to throw that at you and see what your response to that might be.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: It raises more questions than it answers, doesn’t it? We’re now being told, breaking news, that Peter Dutton’s office knew about this in October of 2019, but he told the Parliament that he didn’t get told about this until February of 2021, 18 months later. How can that be the case? How is it that the staff in your office don’t tell you what’s going on? Is what happened in Scott Morrison’s office contagious? The same thing is infecting this government. They’re either incompetent or they’re lying, or both. This government’s got to come clean and tell us what went on here. They’re still claiming that they don’t know what happened here. It’s all a bit hard to believe.
STEFANOVIC: I was just ging to ask, do you find it hard to believe that Peter Dutton didn’t know?
CLARE: Yes. The way offices work in this building is that if something serious happens, staff tell you about it. I find it very hard to believe that a young woman was raped in this building, 50 metres from the Prime Minister’s Office, that staff in the Prime Minister’s Office knew about it, and now we know that staff in Peter Dutton’s office knew about it, but they didn’t tell their bosses? Come on.
STEFANOVIC: And so, what does this mean, then? If he did know about it.
CLARE: It means he’s misled the Parliament. If he did know about this, if he was told, and he told the Parliament that he didn’t know, then what he’s told the Parliament is wrong and he needs to come into the Parliament and correct the record.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, onto the fallout from the Upper Hunter by-election on the weekend, Jason. Joel Fitzgibbon lit a fuse yesterday. Do you have any doubts that he would walk?
CLARE: I’m not sure what Joel will do, but just put this in a bit of perspective. We didn’t win a by election on the weekend in a seat that we haven’t won in 100 years. Just put that in a bit of perspective. There was a swing against Labor, but a swing against Labor on two-party-preferred terms of three per cent. The swing against the National Party in this seat over the last few years in primary terms, has as been 50 per cent. Back in 2007, the Nats got 60 per cent of the vote in this seat. On the weekend, they only got about 30 per cent of the primary. So Pete, let’s just take a breath here, put it in perspective, what happened here is what we’ve seen in the Queensland state election, what you’ve seen WA, what you’ve seen in Tassie, and that is Premiers that have been involved in fighting the virus have been rewarded with victories in elections and by-elections. Just take a breath. We didn’t win a seat that we haven’t won in 100 years. Of course we’ve got to keep working hard, fighting hard to earn the votes of every Australian, but just let’s put that in a bit of perspective.
STEFANOVIC: You do mention 2007 there and you rightly point out that the Nats have lost a lot of their support since then, but hasn’t Labor lost half of its support since 2007? You must be worried about that.
CLARE: The drop in Labor vote in that seat compared to the National Party vote is much, much smaller. Joel is right when he says that we’re going to fight hard for the votes of blue-collar workers. We’re going to fight hard for the votes of all workers, whether they got a blue collar or whether they’ve got a white collar or a pink collar and no colour at all. That’s what we do in this building every single day, Pete. We’ve talked about this before. Last year, the Government tried to introduce laws into this Parliament to make it easier for bosses to cut people’s pay. That’s not the law of the land in Australia at the moment because of the Labor Party, because we stopped it. There’s a former Prime Minister, not long out of this building, who once said that workers should be like loaves of bread: that they should both be as cheap as possible. That’s what this Liberal Party thinks. The Labor Party is in this place to fight for workers, whatever collar they wear every single day. That’s what we’ve always done. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.
STEFANOVIC: Labor is divided, though, when it comes to energy policy and tax cuts as well. Is that a priority that needs to be addressed in your opinion?
CLARE: Again, I think that’s an overstatement. There’s always going to be a range of opinions in different political parties. We know where Joel stands on a lot of these issues. But frankly, I think the Liberal Party and the National Party are more divided on all of those issues than the Labor Party is.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, just a couple of quick ones, Jason, too. Talk of incentives that need to be provided to people to convince them to take up vaccines. What do you think of those? And what sort of incentives do you believe should be provided? Let’s call it a bribe, I suppose.
CLARE: We definitely need to get more people vaccinated. This is part of the problem. Look at what’s happening in Victoria: we find out that the virus is back there in the community. It’s a reminder just how vulnerable we are. One per cent of the community at the moment is fully vaccinated. Compare that to America, where 40 per cent of the country is fully vaccinated. We’ve got to hurry up and get more people vaccinated. This Prime Minister promised four million people would be vaccinated by March. It’s now May, almost June, and we’re still not at that number. This Prime Minister’s all headline, no deadline. Give us a deadline, give us a target, get people vaccinated, and if it requires incentives to get us there, then so be it. I’ve got an open mind about what will work. Part of the problem at the moment is we don’t even have any advertising. Scott Morrison, the advertising man from “where the bloody hell are you” hasn’t got an ad on TV telling people to get vaccinated. There are more ads in Sydney for Hamilton the Musical than there is encouraging people to go out and get the jab. That’s one obvious thing that the Government should be doing right away.
STEFANOVIC: What about vaccine passports? Plenty of talk around that this morning for interstate travel so you can still travel if there are state-wide lock downs, and we’re hoping that there isn’t with Victoria at the moment. But does that have merit?
CLARE: I’ve just lost you there, Pete.
STEFANOVIC: I’ll try one more: vaccine passports. Jason, is that something, to allow the free flow of travel interstate, is that something you’d support? We might have lost Jason Clare, but we almost got to the end there. Anyway, Jason, thank you. We’ll talk to you soon.
MEDIA CONTACT: ARLEY BLACK 02 9790 2466