Television Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – Wednesday 9 March 2022


SUBJECTS: Floods in Lismore; Prime Minister refuses to invite media on tour of Lismore; housing crisis in Lismore; Anthony Albanese’s alternative vision for Australia.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: A lot to keep across this afternoon. Let’s go live in the meantime while we wait for the Prime Minister, Jason Clare. He’s Labor front bencher and Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Jason Clare, thanks for your time. The PM to announce a national emergency during this visit. Do you welcome that step?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: I’d ask why has it taken so long? Twenty-one people are dead, Kieran. Lismore was underwater nine days ago, Brisbane was underwater 10 days ago, parts of my electorate were underwater this time last week. Why is it taken until today for the Prime Minister to finally act? And why does this keep happening? There’s a track record here with this Prime Minister that it always takes too long to act. Look at the bushfires. It wasn’t until we shamed him into action that he came back from Hawaii. Look at vaccines. It wasn’t until Sydney and Melbourne were locked down that he bought enough vaccines. Same with rapid antigen tests. He didn’t buy enough of them until Woollies and Coles were running out of meat and fruit and veg. We’ve got the same example here again today in Lismore. It’s taken until nine days after Lismore went underwater for the Prime Minister to finally announce a national emergency there. It just keeps repeating. It seems like the Prime Minister doesn’t learn anything here. It’s worse than incompetence. It’s just plain neglect.
GILBERT: So, tell me then what needed to be done sooner because we know the ADF has been on the ground, and I know there’s been various criticisms around what was done in the filming and the social media posts. But the substantive critique here, what more needed to be done when you’re looking at a flood, the worst, as the Premier says, in 1000 years.
CLARE: Think about it, mate. You’ve got people sitting on their roof for days with their kids and dog and an umbrella and no food and water. You’ve had the local community in Lismore have to hire helicopters to rescue them, people racing around in jet skis to save people’s lives. That’s why people feel abandoned. It’s the same sort of reaction that you saw from people on the South Coast of New South Wales during the bush fires. And after the bush fires, the Prime Minister said we needed new laws so that you could trigger a national emergency, coordinate action and get help to people who need it quicker. He should have done that last week, he should have done that in the teeth of this crisis when the water was hitting the roof. Not now. I’m glad that they’ve finally done it, but it should have happened last week.
GILBERT: Jason Clare, just stay where you are. We’ve got some comments being made by the community lead response they’re in northern New South Wales before the Prime Minister speaks. Some of them have jumped in front of the camera to say a few words. Let’s have a listen.
GILBERT: There you go, some of the local lead response wanting to have their two cents heard today. And understandably Jason Clare, if we go back to you for your thoughts once again, it has been an incredible local response to these floods. We’re seeing the protests there, not just locals though. A lot of climate change anger too in the face of the flooding. How much does that need to be front and centre in your mind?
CLARE: Can I give a quick shout out to those volunteers and there’s hundreds of them not just in Lismore, but up in Brisbane as well. There’s a lot more that are part of the Mud Army cleaning up afterwards. In my neck of the woods, Kieran, at the peak of the floods last week we didn’t just have the SES out there rescuing people out of cars, we had surf life savers from the Northern Beaches that were in our local community, helping to rescue people helping to make sure people are safe. We have people from South Australia SES coming over as well. A lot of great people with big hearts. That’s what Australia is all about. My criticism here is that after the bushfires, we were told the big lesson here is the Commonwealth needs to be able to act quickly to coordinate action and get help to people fast. That didn’t happen. Those volunteers were out there saving people’s lives because the Prime Minister didn’t act quick enough to trigger the National Emergency Declaration and get the people there that needed to be there on the ground as quick as they possibly could.
GILBERT: Now, apparently, there won’t be any pictures from the PMs morning meeting with the SES base and also, he went to a farm affected. Politicians should be allowed to go without fanfare, shouldn’t they, in terms of speaking to people, getting the reaction without all the cameras in tow every time?
CLARE: I don’t disagree with you on that. Most of the time politicians are out there on the ground talking to people and there’s no TV camera there. But you know things are bad when Scott Morrison doesn’t have a TV camera with him. You know that he’s terrified that there’s going to be some repeat of what happened in Cobargo, the forced handshake, or people that are going to give him a mouthful, and you can understand why. If you’ve been stuck on a roof for days with your kids and the dog, and you get rescued by the next-door neighbour, and you run into the Prime Minister on the street, you’re probably going to give him a pretty good mouthful. But I agree with Andrew, being Prime Minister is about fronting up. It’s about being there on good days and bad days, and it’s being prepared to talk to Australians, whether they’re happy to see you or whether they are angry that you weren’t there when they needed you. John Howard did that after the Port Arthur massacre, standing in front of farmers when you’re taking their guns off them is not an easy thing to do. But he did it. Scott Morrison is there where this flood hit worse than anywhere else, where people have suffered more than anywhere else, and I think it would be a good thing for him to do. I think he’s standing in the community would rise, not fall, if he was prepared to talk to the people that have been affected and let the TV cameras see it.
GILBERT: A couple of other questions before you go. You are the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. We’re talking about what the estimate is, at least 2000 homes underwater in northern New South Wales alone. How does that exacerbate an already very difficult situation in terms of affordable housing?
CLARE: It turns a crisis on the North Coast into an emergency. So, at the moment before the floods, the vacancy rate in the northern part of New South Wales was 0.5%. So, basically nothing left a rent. Now there’s 2000 fewer homes available for people to live in than there was two weeks ago. You’ve got hundreds of people at emergency centres, others sleeping at their friend’s house. There’s a desperate attempt going on in Lismore at the moment to clean up and clean out the motels so you can get people back in there. But for a lot of people whose home is unliveable, there’s 2000 of them on the North Coast at the moment, it’s going to be a long time before they can get back home. Thought’s got to be given to whether the Commonwealth Government helps fund bringing in temporary housing, whether it’s the sort of housing that the army have on standby, I’m not talking about tents, I’m talking about dongas or things like that, or whether it’s those mining camp facilities. People are going to need a roof over their head. And it’s got to be temporary, it can’t be permanent. Kieran, you go down the South Coast, there’s people who lost their homes in the bushfires that are still living in caravans on the site where the home was. One of the things that I hope the Prime Minister gets out of this is that you’ve got to get people back into their home as quick as you possibly can.
GILBERT: Now, just quickly before we go, I’ve got to ask you about the speech from Anthony Albanese. What do you say to the critique that the speech was heavy on slogans? Basically, a plan for a plan?
CLARE: I disagree with the point Andrew made. Anthony was emphasizing the policies that we’ve announced over the course of the last few months and in the last few years. The Liberal Party often criticises us and says we haven’t announced policies. Well, there they are. The overwhelming theme in Anthony’s speech today was the way in which you implement this. If you bring people together, you can get more things done. He talked about Bob Hawke. This country’s been through a crisis in the last two years, whether it’s natural disasters or Covid, and we’re going to need a lot of work and a lot of effort to rebuild. That’s going to require us working together: business unions and the community. That’s the model that Bob Hawke applied. It delivered Medicare and superannuation and 30 years of uninterrupted economic growth. What Albo is saying today is that’s the model that we would adopt. To be fair, that’s the way he went about being a minister, when he was Minister for infrastructure. It’s the approach we’ve taken to the climate change policy. Think about this, mate. Here’s a policy that’s been supported by the Business Council of Australia, the Farmers’ Federation, and the ACTU. Albo is saying this is what I’ll do if I’m elected Prime Minister in 10 weeks or so time. Now, compare that to the other bloke who just thinks the way to get back in the Lodge is division. Picking fights with Premiers, suing the WA Government with Clive Palmer in the High Court or picking fake fights with Labor in the Parliament over religion, or China. He thinks divisions the way to win the election. I actually think the Australian people are over that. They’re sick of being shouted at by this bloke and they’re looking for a Prime Minister who will work with them and bring the country together. That’s what Albo was talking about today.
GILBERT: Jason Clare, thank you. Appreciate it.