Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 22 June 2021


SUBJECTS: Barnaby Joyce; Vaccine rollout; NSW State Budget. 

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live now here in the studio is Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Local Government and Regional Services. Jason, good to see you in person. 

STEFANOVIC: What do you make of what happened with the Nats yesterday? What’s your take out?

CLARE: It’s a reminder just to have brutal politics is and, I guess, the division inside the party. The other thing I took out of it was just the way the Parliament reacted when Michael McCormack did his farewell at the end of question time. He’s a thoroughly decent bloke, and you can see it from the way that the Parliament reacted. 

Two years ago, when I got cancer, I got a lot of messages from people, friends and family around the country and politicians in the building. I only got one message from one politician inside the Government. 

STEFANOVIC: It was Michael McCormack? Wow.

CLARE: Michael McCormack, and I reminded him of that yesterday. He’s a thoroughly decent bloke and we’re going to miss him. 

STEFANOVIC: Just carrying on, you know, in Question Time as if nothing had really happened. That shows us a strength of character.

CLARE: It would have been very easy for him to lash out and to expose the bloody feud inside the National Party, but he showed he’s the bigger man and it showed he’s a good, decent bloke.

STEFANOVIC: Does the Nationals Party become more dangerous now with Barnaby in charge? 

CLARE: I think it becomes more dangerous for Scott Morrison. Scott Morrison is a control freak, Barnaby Joyce is a chaos agent. We all know that. I think the chances now of the government being able to do anything serious on climate change is zero. Either Barnaby does a massive backflip and changes everything he said and believed in for decades, or a civil war erupts inside the broader Coalition. You’re already starting to see some of those Liberal backbenchers saying ‘Come on, we’ve still got to act on climate change’. You’re going to see that problem inside the broader Liberal National Coalition fester and grow now over the next few months. 

STEFANOVIC: It is also a problem for you in some seats such as the Hunter. Do the Nationals become much more dangerous for the Labor Party?

CLARE: I think the problem is Barnaby has made the argument for a long time that action on climate change is bad for the economy. Bad for jobs. The reverse is now true. If you fail to act, the risk is to the economy and to jobs. We’re now seeing the Europeans saying if Australia doesn’t take action on climate change, we’re going to whack tariffs on you. If the Europeans start whacking tariffs on us because we don’t take action on climate change, that means Aussies lose jobs. It’s bad for the economy and bad for jobs. When Australians, whether they’re in the Hunter, in Queensland, in Sydney or Melbourne, look at this, they shake their heads. People have had a gutful of the bloodbaths in Canberra where politicians keep on knifing each other. They’d be saying, ‘what are you doing about the things that are really concerning us at the moment?’. It’s not like we don’t have any problems, Pete. We’ve got a pandemic and a vaccine rollout which is pretty bloody slow.

STEFANOVIC: Tony Abbott referred to Barnaby Joyce as the best retail politician in Australia. How would you describe him? 

CLARE: Barnaby Joyce is unpredictable. Just ask Johnny Depp’s dogs. You don’t know what you’re going to get out of Barnaby. He campaigns well when he’s a backbencher on things that he believes in, like the kids from Biloela. He’s good at tearing things down, but not so good at building things up. And ultimately, that’s what politics is about. That’s why you come here, hopefully, to build things up. Like building up the vaccine rollout. 

STEFANOVIC: Could there potentially be women problem?

CLARE: There’s a culture problem in this building. Whether that’s a problem for Barnaby, that’ll be for others to judge. The government’s got a broader problem here. We talk about it all the time here, there’s arguably been an alleged rape in this building that was covered up for two years and we’ve now got investigations into the culture in this building and how to fix it. It’s no secret that there’s a big problem that the government’s got to fix.

STEFANOVIC: On the issue of the vaccine rollout, is there a percentage of full vaccinations in Australia that you would like to see reached before things can stay open, before you stop having border shutdowns, and that acts in itself as an incentive for people to actually go out and get the jab?

CLARE: I suspect the medical experts will set targets like that. We’ve seen that overseas. I’m not going to put a number on it because I don’t have that expertise, but we’re going to have to do something like that, Pete. It’s too slow. Six million people have had the jab in Australia so far. In America, they did that number just in the last week. We’ve got a problem at the moment where, on the front page of the paper, you’ve got the Premiers of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria saying ‘we’ve got to ramp down the vaccine rollout because they don’t have enough Pfizer’. How do we get in that situation? We’ve got to speed it up. 

We’ve also got to build that confidence. I was talking to a GP on the weekend who told me that people cancelling again because of the change again in AstraZeneca and who can take it. So speed up the rollout, build up confidence, and one of the long term things we’re going to have to look at is how do we incentivise younger people to get the jab, when eventually we got enough vaccine to get to 20 and 30 year olds. I saw there was a Foo Fighters concert at Madison Square Garden a couple of days ago.

STEFANOVIC: Great band. 

CLARE: Great, great band. 18,000 people crammed into Madison Square Garden, there would have been more if they could, but it was the first full concert at Madison Square Garden since March last year. The only way to get in is if you’re vaccinated.

STEFANOVIC: Then you’ve got flights heading across Europe now as well. I mean, we’re in danger. I should bring our viewers up to speed actually. Obviously would have just seen Barnaby Joyce arrive with his family, with Vicki and his kids to a short time ago. So that swearing in ceremony, that’s Bridget McKenzie there among some others too, that’s going to happen at eight o’clock, folks. So we’ll stay with you live as that happens. David Littleproud there as well. So just back on that point, Jason.

CLARE: You were talking about flights?

STEFANOVIC: Back on flights. I mean, are we in danger of getting left behind if our states are continuing to shut things down?

CLARE: Whether it’s the states shutting things down or our border being closed because we don’t have enough people vaccinated, which goes to your point about what’s that target. Increasingly you’re going to see people going on holidays from America to Europe and back and forth and Australia is still locked down, sitting at the GP waiting to get vaccinated. That’s a problem. There’ll be young people out there that will say, ‘look, I want to go overseas, so I want to get vaccinated’, but there’ll be a lot of other young people who have now got a massive mortgage, taken advantage of the property boom, who won’t see that as an incentive. There might be a need for other incentives to get younger people to get vaccinated.

STEFANOVIC: Just on property. You’ve got the New South Wales state budget that’s handed down today and Dominic Perrottet, he’s big on taking out stamp duty and cutting land tax. Is that something that you like the idea of?

CLARE: It’s a good idea. The average house in Sydney at the moment over a million bucks. Get rid of stamp duty, you can save someone 50 grand.

STEFANOVIC: But do you think that the danger of that is that… We might just take, sorry Jason, we might just take some live pictures here, mate and listening in to what’s going on with Barnaby Joyce. Sorry, mate. We got a minute left, Jason, but it’s amazing. We’re seeing these pictures, aren’t we. Barnaby Joyce was a backbencher 24 hours ago, and now he’s Deputy Prime Minister or is about to be. That’s what can happen.

CLARE: That’s Australian politics at the moment, has been for a long time.