Television Interview with Kieran Gilbert – SKY News Afternoon Agenda – Monday 15 November 2021


SUBJECTS: Housing crisis in the Hunter and regional Australia; Scott Morrison lying about his lies. 

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: One of the key battlegrounds of the upcoming election is the New South Wales Hunter region, obviously known for the resources factor, but there are many, many other issues at play in terms of the electoral landscape of the Hunter. Joining me live now is the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare. Jason Clare, thanks for your time. One of the things you’ve been looking at during your visit to the Hunter has been, really, the cost of living. And it’s not just the housing prices in the capital cities that are soaring right now. Talk us through what you’ve picked up there.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINSITER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: It used to be the case that housing in the capital cities was expensive, but it was cheaper to live in the regions. That’s not the case anymore. House prices have jumped by 20 per cent right across the country in the last year, but in the regions, it’s skyrocketed. Here in the Hunter its jumped 30 per cent. On the Central Coast, it’s the same, it’s jumped by 30 per cent. Down on the South Coast of New South Wales, it’s even more. They’ve jumped by 35 per cent on average. Some towns have seen prices jump by as much as 40 or 50 per cent. It’s the same thing up in regional Queensland, same in regional Tasmania. So, if you own a home, it’s terrific. You’ve seen the price of it go up. But if you’re a young person living in the regions trying to find your first home, you’re finding it harder and harder and people are looking to move out further west or further north just trying to find an affordable place to buy.

GILBERT: One of the issues that we normally associate with the big cities is the issue of homelessness. Is that also more prevalent these days in places like the Hunter?

CLARE: Yes and you’re seeing people that have gotten jobs and going to these homelessness services here for the first time ever. Just as house prices have jumped, so have rents. Rents in Sydney have jumped by five per cent in the last year, but they’ve jumped by three or four times that much here in the Hunter. It’s the same on the Central Coast as well. That means that once you pay the rent, that biggest bill you’ve got to pay every week or every month, there’s less money to pay the bills or put food on the table. Talking to charities here today, they said that they’re meeting people for the first time, that have got a job, a well paid job, and they’re coming in asking for help to pay the electricity bill. The homelessness organisation that I caught up with here in Cessnock say they’re seeing three times as many people this year as they were last year, and they’re not Robinson Crusoe. I heard the same thing on the South Coast last week. As the pandemic has encouraged people to move out of the cities because they can work from home, they’ve moved into the regions, and we’re seeing the cost of housing go up, we’re seeing the cost of rents go up, and tragically, you’re seeing more homeless Aussies in the region than ever before. I heard tragic stories today about people living in tents, people paying $200 a week to live in a caravan that’s not connected to electricity or water. Down on the South Coast, the Women’s Refuge in Nowra told me they’ve got six beds, they’re all full, and they’ve got 60 women on the waiting list. That should tell you that it’s a crisis. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we’ve got a housing crisis in regional Australia.

GILBERT: Given that context, how important is it that Labor, you know, listens to the likes of Joel Fitzgibbon the Member for Hunter at the moment, he’s not re-contesting the next election, to say that you are with the resources workers in that seat? It’s obviously crucial to help transition and to stick with them on what is going to be a time of transition over coming decades for that that part of New South Wales.

CLARE: Oh, you bet, for everybody that lives here. Whether you’re a coal miner, or whether you’re an IT worker and you’re working remotely here, you’re seeing it and feeling it, this cost of living pressure. Buying a house is the biggest cost you’ll ever have in your life. Paying the rent is the biggest cost you’ll have in any week or any month and for the government to say that the economy is roaring and everyone’s happy means they don’t get it. They don’t understand that people are copping bigger cost now, bigger than they were last year, and for the government to just turn a blind eye to this shows that they don’t really understand the pressures people are under here. 

We’ve got a National Cabinet, Kieran. It’s designed to deal with crises. It did a good job by and large in focusing on the pandemic but at the next meeting, this should be on the agenda. I can’t think of too many bigger issues across the country that the government should be working on, and issues that require state government and federal government to work on together, than a housing crisis like this. Aussies are struggling out there to pay the bills after they pay the cost of either the mortgage or the rent. Now there’s the prospect being talked about yesterday of interest rates rising. God forbid, you can imagine that. As expensive as housing is already, if interest rates go up, people will be forced to pay an extra five or maybe even $10,000 a year at a time where wages are going up just to keep the banks from the door. This is a real issue. It’s harder to buy than ever before, it’s harder to rent than ever before and there are more homeless Aussies today than ever before. It should be on the agenda of the next National Cabinet.

GILBERT: The Government though, just on that resources issue, they say they’re the friend of resources off the back of Glasgow, obviously, wanting to try and reiterate that message today. Barnaby Joyce at Singleton holding a doorstop alongside a coal train to make that point. Is that something that resonates in places like where you are?

CLARE: I think the people of the Hunter, like the people of Australia, have started to work these blokes out. They say one thing in Glasgow and another thing here in the Hunter Valley. This phony election campaign that kicked off last week in the Hunter might have started here but I think that Scott Morrison is going to wind up the hunted in this election. The best example of that is the big lie that we saw exposed last week about electric vehicles. A couple of years ago, he said that electric vehicles are crap and we’re going to end the weekend. Now, last week, he says, ‘Oh, they’re the best thing since sliced bread. We want you all to have them’. We’ve got video of both those things but he lies when he’s asked about whether he criticised electric vehicles. This bloke doesn’t just lie, he lies about lying. I think the Australian people have worked him out. They’ve worked out this bloke is full of it. So whatever he says, whether it’s on coal mining in the Hunter, or whether it’s on housing in regional Tasmania, they know they can’t trust a word that comes out of his mouth.

GILBERT: Jason Clare, joining me from Edgeworth, New South Wales in the Hunter of New South Wales. Talk to you soon. Appreciate it.

CLARE: Go on you. Thanks, mate.