Doorstop Interview – Bankstown – Wednesday 23 March 2022


SUBJECTS: Cost of living; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund; superannuation; Kimberley Kitching; NSW pre-selection; housing crisis; National Integrity Commission.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Thanks very much for coming along to Paul Keating Park here in the heart of Bankstown. There are less than 50 days to go now until Australians start to vote and suddenly Scott Morrison has worked out that people are struggling to pay the bills. This isn’t a new phenomenon, Australians have been struggling with the increased cost of rent, groceries and petrol now, for some time. The cost of petrol didn’t just go up when Russia invaded Ukraine. For the average family with the average car, they’re now paying about 1000 bucks more this year for petrol than they were last year. It’s the same with childcare. If you’ve got a kid a childcare, you’re paying on average $800 more this year than you were last year. And if you’re one of the two million Aussies around the country who rent, you’re paying even more than that. The average increase in rent for Australians in the last 12 months has been $2,000. This is the biggest bill that 2 million Aussies pay every week and on average Australians are paying an extra $2,000 a year more for rent this year than they were last year. 

The only thing that isn’t going up are people’s wages. No wonder there’s almost a million Aussies today that are having to work a second job just to put food on the table. We’ve been talking about this in the Labor Party for years. I’ve been banging on about it in the Parliament telling the Prime Minister that we’ve got a housing crisis, that it’s harder to buy than ever before, that it’s harder to rent than ever before. And one of the flow and consequences of this is that there’s more homelessness today than ever before. Charities here in Bankstown and right across the country are seeing more people coming to them, reaching out for a helping hand, than ever before. Some of these families are people where mum and dad both have a job. But all we’ve heard from the Prime Minister now, for the last year or so, on this issue is radio silence, he has nothing to say about the struggle that Aussies have here and right across the country to pay the bills. Suddenly, after almost 10 years in government, with 50 days or less until Australians start to vote, the Prime Minister suddenly says that he’s going to have something to help you in the Budget. The Australian people are pretty smart. They know that if Scott Morrison really cared about them and their family, he wouldn’t wait until 50 days before the election, 50 days before people start voting, to help them out. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Can we start with cost of living, how much should fuel excise be cut by?

CLARE: Let’s wait and see what the government does in the Budget on that. We’ll have a look at everything that the government offers up there. But there are a number of things that the government could do right now if they wanted to help people that are struggling to pay the bills. The Labor Party has a plan to cut the cost of childcare. As I said, that’s gone up for the average family by 800 bucks this year than it was last year. They could pick up that plan. We’ve also said we’ve got policies that will help to cut the cost of electricity bills. If the government picked up our climate policy that will cut emissions more but one of the other impacts of that is it will cut the cost of the average Australian family’s electricity bill. If the government really cared about the cost of paying the rent for Australian families, they could pick up our policy, the Housing Australia Future Fund, that will build more affordable homes for Australians and right across the country.

JOURNALIST: So should any change to the fuel excise then be temporary, so it doesn’t drag on for years?

CLARE: Again, this is hypothetical. We’ve got to wait and see what the government proposes next week.

JOURNALIST: In regards to paying super, paying superannuation on government funded parental leave, it was a 2019 election promise. Why is the Labor Party now backing away from it?

CLARE: We’ll have more to say about that in the context of the election. 

JOURNALIST: What do you mean? 

CLARE: Well, we’ll have more to say about that over the course of the campaign.

JOURNALIST: Okay, so it’s like, but it’s about $200 million a year, a small price to pay?

CLARE: We’ll have more to say about that the context of the campaign.

JOURNALIST: Regarding, why is Labor so opposed to an investigation into how Senator Kitching’s complaints to colleagues and the workplace trainer were handled. Doesn’t the party owe her that?

CLARE: The last week and a half have been an incredibly sad time for the Labor family. Kimberley was a much loved and respected member of the Labor team. The funeral on Monday, I think everyone would agree it was a fitting farewell to Kimberley, to her life and everything that she achieved in public office. Out of respect for Kimberley, not all of the claims that were made have been refuted over the course of the last week and a half but I draw your attention to the statement that Penny, Katie and Kristina have made where they refute that. And also to the fact that Penny has made clear that in relation to a statement that was made some years ago, she issued a personal apology to Kimberley in regards to that.

JOURNALIST: Jason, you represent a Western Sydney seat. Can you see why there is some anger within the community that Andrew Charlton would be parachuted in to Parramatta?

CLARE: Well, nominations for the seat of Parramatta, for the pre selection for the seat of Parramatta, will open shortly, I’ll let that process take its course. In relation to Andrew himself, he is an outstanding individual, somebody with real Labor values who has been an extraordinary success, both in public life but also in the work that he’s done setting up his own business. More broadly, this is a community in Western Sydney that is very multicultural, people that come from the four corners of the world, who practice all the different faiths practiced around the world. Whoever has the privilege to represent the people of Western Sydney needs to understand that and respect that. Now, any individual will only come from one background, look at me. But I’m a person who does my very best each and every day to make sure that I properly represent the interests and the values and concerns of everybody here in the local community. Just on that, let me draw your attention to two individuals who we’ve elected and in a month and a half time we hope will make an enormous contribution to helping the people in Western Sydney. One is Sally Sitou, our candidate in Reid who comes from an Asian background. The other one is Zhi Soon, the candidate for Banks, another one from an Asian background. It is true that the Labor Party and the Liberal Party need to make sure that they select the best possible candidates who can make sure that they can represent the local communities in which they live and work to the best of their possible ability. I think that people like Sally and Zhi will make an enormous contribution to do that, and we’ll wait and see what the outcome of the pre selection in Parramatta. 

JOURNALIST: In saying that though, and I understand there is a balance between finding the best candidate but to quote someone from a member of the Labor Party, a multimillionaire, a white man from the eastern suburbs, does that best represent the local people in Parramatta? Wouldn’t there be a preferable suitable local candidate?

CLARE: Well, nominations will open shortly and that will be open for individuals within the party to nominate.

JOURNALIST: Do you support a rank and file ballot?

CLARE: Look, in normal circumstances, of course, we support a rank and file process. But remember what I said at the start of this press conference, there’s less than 50 days before people start to vote. So, it’s important that we make sure that we’ve got candidates in the field as quickly as possible. There are a couple of seats, a couple of Senate positions that need to be finalised quickly. That’s in stark contrast to the Liberal Party which has got a civil war breaking out there and they haven’t got candidates for most of the seats here in Western Sydney, including my own,. But processes need to be finalised quickly to make sure that we’ve got candidates in the field.

JOURNALIST: There have been branch stacking allegations in Parramatta, should the local branch be overridden?

CLARE: That’s a matter that’s been dealt with by the New South Wales party. On the issue of rank and file pre selection and how you select the candidate, I just make the point that we’re on the eve of a Federal election, less than 50 days before Australians start to vote. So, it’s important that we select a quality candidate as quickly as possible, so that we can stand up for the people of Parramatta in the Australian Parliament.

JOURNALIST: So, would you personally support Andrew Charlton in Parramatta?

CLARE: It’s not appropriate for me to wave a flag for any individual candidate. There’s a pre selection process that will commence shortly. And it’ll be finalised shortly. Let those processes take their course. I know Andrew is an outstanding individual, I can vouch for his integrity, and for his capability. I saw it in action when he worked for the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. I’ve seen it in the business community and the business that he set up and the work that he has done. So he’s an outstanding individual. But there is a process that will commence shortly. And there may be other outstanding individuals that put their hand up as well let that process take its place.

JOURNALIST: You also touched on rent, rents increasing over the year by up to $2,000. What would Labor do to address that issue?

CLARE: I’m glad you asked that question. It is harder to buy a house today than ever before, the cost of buying a house has jumped by about 25 per cent right across the country in the last 12 months alone. The cost of renting has gone up by 10 per cent just in the last few months. So, it’s harder to rent today than ever before as well. Housing affordability has got worse under Scott Morrison, not better. There are lots of things we need to do if we want to make it easier for people to buy a home, or easier for people to pay the rent, or to get more Australians who are currently homeless into a place. One of those things is build more housing, in particular, build more affordable housing, and build more social housing. Now, only the Labor Party will do this. 

At the last Budget, Anthony Albanese made it clear that we would set up a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund that would build 30,000 affordable homes and social housing dwellings over the first five years. That’s one of the things that we need to do if we’re going to put a roof over the head of homeless Aussies and if we got to build more affordable housing to make it easier for people to rent. Some of those homes are for women and kids escaping domestic violence. The biggest group of homeless today are women and kids, and most of them are fleeing domestic violence. If we win the next election, we’ll build 4000 permanent homes for women and kids fleeing domestic violence. It would be the biggest investment in permanent housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence by the Commonwealth government ever. There is a reason why refuges are full to overflowing at the moment, and why people are staying in refuges longer than ever before, because there isn’t enough permanent housing. So that’s just one of the things that that fund will do. But it will also build 10,000 homes for key workers, people like nurses and cleaners and aged care workers. All the research shows that if you get up early in the morning and put on a uniform, whether it’s a nurse’s uniform or cleaner’s uniform or an aged care worker uniform, you’re probably traveling a further distance to get to work than the average Aussie. They don’t get paid much so they end up traveling a longer distance to get to work. The Commonwealth Government can play a leadership role in building more affordable housing and building more affordable housing in particular, for the heroes of the pandemic, the people that kept us safe, the people that work hard, the people that don’t get paid a lot of money, and they’re people like nurses and aged care workers, cleaners, ambulance officers, police officers.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that fund would help reduce the you know the price of housing and renting?

CLARE: I think what that fund would do is provide more affordable rental accommodation for a lot of Australians. That’s one of the things we need to do. But this fund is the start not the end of it. If we win the next election, we’ll do what this government refuses to do and that is set up a National Housing and Homelessness Plan. Whether it’s the Property Council or whether it’s Homelessness Australia, everybody that has looked at this issue, says one: there’s a crisis, and two: we need national leadership and a national plan. And that’s what we’ll do if we win the next election.

JOURNALIST: Just finally as well. Will Labor commit to a bipartisan integrity commission?

CLARE: Well, we are the only party that you can trust them to set up a national anti-corruption commission if we win the next election. Before the last election, Scott Morrison said he would set up a national anti-corruption commission. It’s been more than 1000 days since he made that promise and we’re still waiting. Talk about broken promises. The Prime Minister promised before the last election to tackle corruption. The only thing he’s done over the last few years is spend taxpayers’ money on sports rorts, on car parks that were never built and wasting taxpayers’ money just to try to win marginal seats. If you’re serious about getting corruption out of Canberra, and there’s only one party to vote for at this election and it’s Labor, because the Labor Party is the only party that you can trust to set up an anti-corruption commission with teeth to get corruption out of Canberra. Thanks very much.