SUBJECTS: IBAC; National Anti-Corruption Commission; Climate chaos in the Coalition; net zero by 2050; National’s Mortgage Tax.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live now is Shadow Minister Jason Clare. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. I just want to start with these claims out of Victoria of rampant branch stalking by Anthony Byrne yesterday. What are your thoughts on it?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINSITER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: They’re awful revelations, there’s no other way to put what we saw yesterday. Corruption is like a cancer that eats away at political parties. Looking at that yesterday, I just think that makes the case even stronger for a National ICAC, a national anti-corruption commission.
Remember, Pete, where this all started: it was 60 Minutes and that great investigative journalist Nick McKenzie that ripped the lid off all of this. He did two stories last year; one on this, the Labor Party in Victoria; and the other one on what the Liberal Party was up to in Victoria. They talked about branch stacking there by federal Liberal Members of Parliament. We’ve got a Victorian anti-corruption body investigating this and it’s worth looking at the terms of reference to this inquiry. What they’ve got the power to do is to look at Victorian public officials.
If we’re serious about weeding out corruption at a federal level, whether it’s federal politicians or whether it’s federal public servants or whether it’s the businesses that interact at a federal level of government, then you’re going to need a Federal ICAC. And frankly, the Prime Minister has been doing everything he can to avoid implementing a serious Federal ICAC now for over a thousand days. He’s been shying away from this like Dracula from a wooden stake. What I saw yesterday just, I think, makes the case even stronger for the Federal Parliament to pass laws as soon as possible to set up a federal anti-corruption commission.
STEFANOVIC: Does Anthony Byrne need to resign?
CLARE: Pete, I’ll give you the same answer I’ve given you when you’ve asked me about revelations before ICAC here in New South Wales, which is it’s not appropriate for me to pre-empt an investigation that’s just started, but no one is above the law.
STEFANOVIC: Well, I mean, he’s breached rules and caused damage, which many would regard as irreparable. So how do you stay? How do you stay in the party? Would you be comfortable with him being in the party with that hanging over his head?
CLARE: Pete, I just repeat that same point. It’s not appropriate for me to pre-empt it. This was day one of the investigation yesterday, this has got a long way to go. I think you made the point in a previous interview that Mr Byrne helped to expose some of this corruption that was happening there, but it’s not appropriate for me to pre-empt what might happen next, but nobody’s above the law.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, just one more on this. Adem Somyurek, he’s tweeted this morning, he’s had a go at your colleague Richard Marles, actually, and he says, “despite being mad as a cut snake and telling porkies about others, Byrne was refreshing in that he admitted some of his misdemeanours. Time for people like Richard Males and other senior people to come clean”. I don’t know if you’ve seen that but what do you make of it on, what are your first impressions of that?
CLARE: I’ve got no comment to make about those remarks. I think there’s a more important point to make here: no political party is immune from the potential for people to corrupt its processes. We’ve seen that in the Labor Party, we’ve also seen that in the Liberal Party. 60 Minutes exposed that last year. But if we’re serious about weeding it out, then you’re going to need anti-corruption bodies at a state level and at a federal level to get in there and rip it out. We’ve got it in Victoria, you’ve got it in New South Wales, you’ve got it in every state. But we don’t have it at a federal level at the moment. Anybody who tells you this doesn’t happen at a federal level is just frankly naive, and its long past time that we set up a body with real teeth to help to make sure that where corruption occurs at a federal level, you stamp it out. And I call on the Prime Minister again, what are you waiting for? It’s been more than a thousand days. Pass the law, set up the commission and let’s make sure that we’ve got the powers we need at a federal level to stamp out corruption wherever it occurs.
STEFANOVIC: There is that argument, though, that you lose the presumption of innocence. Do you buy into that in any way?
CLARE: Look, no model is perfect. But what you do need is a body that has the power to investigate corruption and serious criminal activity. You need the power to be able to hold public hearings. One of the weaknesses with what Scott Morrison is talking about at the moment is that all of this would be conducted in private. I don’t think the public would buy that. When somebody is in the witness stand, you should be able to see what they’re saying. You saw that yesterday. You should be able to see that too in a federal body that should be set up as soon as possible.
STEFANOVIC: Some dirty stuff that’s going on in Victoria, isn’t it, Jason? I mean, what sort of concerns do you have about the timing now leading up to a federal election? Is this going to cause you problems?
CLARE: I don’t think anyone looking at this would be impressed. But I think everybody realises this is a problem not just in the Labor Party, but in the Liberal Party too. Remember that 60 Minutes story that Nick McKenzie did? He looked at the Labor Party, but he looked at the Liberal Party too. I think Michael Sukkar and Kevin Andrews were investigated as part of that story. This is a problem for both political parties in Victoria, one that needs to be weeded out as quickly as possible.
STEFANOVIC: And just one more on climate, Jason. The government, it’s looking like it’s getting close to some kind of agreement, the Coalition that is, on 2050 targets, but there also is reportedly improvements to the 2030 targets this morning and there may well be a push towards an existing commitment of above 35 per cent or around 35 per cent of 2030 targets. What do you make of that? Do you support it?
CLARE: Mate, who knows? This has been going on and on for ages now. We still have absolutely no idea what the Australian Government’s position is, or what they’ll take to Glasgow. This conference is in less than three weeks and we’ve got no idea what the Australian Government’s position is. Frankly, it’s now getting to the point where it’s embarrassing. Even Prince Charles couldn’t believe what was going on here. You’ve got other countries that are working on a plan to get to net zero by 2050. We’ve still got a fight going on here between the Liberal Party and the National Party about whether we should even be trying to get to net zero by 2050. Part of the problem is the Liberal Party in the National Party is still infested with people who think climate change is what happens when you get to Hawaii for a holiday.
I want them to fix this. I want them to catch up with where the rest of the country is. They’ve been telling the country for 10 years that if you take action on climate change, you’ll lose jobs, destroy businesses, and it will increase your bills. Now we know the opposite is true. If you don’t take action, it’ll cost jobs, it’ll destroy businesses, and it’ll increase your bills. Josh Frydenberg said the other day if we don’t take action, our mortgages will go up. And Matt Canavan said ‘good, maybe people should pay more for a mortgage’. So, there you have it. You’ve got the National Party talking about wanting to give Australians a Mortgage Tax. It’s time that the National Party and the Liberal Party caught up with where the rest of the country is, commit to net zero by 2050 and set out a plan for how we get there.
STEFANOVIC: Jason Clare, appreciate your time. Talk to you soon.