Television Interview with Andrew Clennell – Sky News Sunday Agenda – Sunday 10 April 2022


SUBJECTS: The federal election; cost of living; childcare; local manufacturing; the NBN; Aged Care; Fee Free TAFE; Labor’s skills policy; Housing Australia Future Fund; foreign interference.
ANDREW CLENNELL, HOST: Joining me now is Shadow Housing Minister and Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare from Sydney. Jason Clare, thanks for joining us. You’re far ahead in the polls, are you confident? 

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Look, we’re in the hunt. But this election will be tough, and this election will be tight. Don’t look at the polls would be my advice. I think we’ve all learned the hard way not to trust polls. We need to win seats, not polls. But we’re ready for this. I think the Australian people are ready for this. They’re sick of the lies, they’re sick of the incompetence. This really is the best country in the world, but we deserve a better government. And I think most Australians would agree this government does not deserve to be re-elected.

CLENNELL: All right, well you know what they’re going to say, they’re going to say, as I understand it, it’s a stronger economy. Labor will weaken the economy, that this is a choice between experience and inexperience. Either inexperience, or people who muffed the job last time. What do you say to that?

CLARE: Andrew, I think the biggest gap in Australia at the moment is what Scott Morrison says about the economy and what Australians are really feeling and thinking about it. The cost of petrol for the average family has gone up by a thousand bucks this year on what it was last year. The cost of childcare is 800 bucks more this year than it was last year. The cost of rent is $2,000 more this year than it was last year. So if Scott Morrison thinks that everything’s hunky dory, and that Australians have never been better off then he is more out of touch than I really think he ever was.

CLENNELL: Okay, okay, but what’s your solution to all that then?

CLARE: Well, we’ve got to cut the cost of childcare, we’ve got to cut the cost of electricity. We need to build more things here in Australia, if there’s one thing we’ve learned out of the pandemic is we need to be more self-reliant. We need to build first class infrastructure, including the NBN. You know, one of the greatest wastes over the last nine years of this government was ripping up fibre and building a copper NBN. They bought enough copper to wrap around the whole planet one and a half times. We need to skill up Australians. That’s why we’ve said that we would provide free TAFE courses in areas where we’ve got skill shortages. They’re the sorts of things we need to do if we’re going to boost productivity and boost economic growth in this country.

CLENNELL: You’re going pretty small target, though, aren’t you in this campaign, in the whole three years? Isn’t that a consequence of all your tax policies last time causing you to lose?

CLARE: Andrew, if Scott Morrison thinks that cheaper childcare and fixing aged care is small target, aren’t important, then he’s more out of touch than I ever thought he was. These are bread and butter issues that affect ordinary Australians every single day. And whether it’s cheaper childcare, fixing aged care, strengthening Medicare, free TAFE, more University places, building more affordable housing, making it easier for Australians to buy a home, a National Integrity Commission or an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. They’re the sort of sensible, serious common-sense plans that we’ve got. This government just has short term fixes, no long term plans. This is an old government, Andrew, they’ve been in power now for almost a decade. They’re asking for another decade in office. If they win this election, they’ll have been in power for longer than John Howard. And I’ve got to say this government does not hold a candle to John Howard. And we saw in the budget, that this government only has a plan to get re-elected – no long term plan here. The shelf life of most of the initiatives in their budget is shorter than a jar of peanut butter. I think the Australian people are craving a government that has long term plans for the future.

CLENNELL: Are they craving a government where half the team, as Scott Morrison puts it, are relics of the Rudd Government, including your good self?

CLARE: I think what we’ve got is we’ve got a team that’s led by a good and honest man with plenty of experience. He’s been the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Anthony Albanese is a straight talker, a hard worker, a problem solver, somebody who will be there in a crisis, not run away like Scott Morrison, he’s got a united and experienced team. And as I articulated a moment ago, we’ve got serious sensible plans for a better Australia, for everybody who lives in this fantastic country. By contrast, you’ve got a government which is incompetent, which has run out off puff and which is broken, you know, it is fighting with itself each and every day. Today there’s another story in the paper about Teena McQueen, the Vice President of the Liberal Party, saying the party might be better off if it loses a couple of seats held by quote unquote “lefty” Liberal Party MPs so they can get back to their core philosophy. If there’s one thing that Australians hate more than anything else, it’s when you’ve got a government just talking about itself and fighting amongst itself. And that’s what you’ve got with this government now.

CLENNELL: All right, well, there’s another story in the paper, the alternative paper, The Sunday Telegraph, about a woman who was an associate of Chau Chak Wing, who was campaigning for Sally Sitou, and after Chau Chak Wing was named in the parliament withdrew from the campaign for Reid. Can you tell us about that?

CLARE: I think this person was a volunteer early in the campaign, as I understand it, now they have no involvement in the campaign, no contact with the candidate. The parties have always got to be on their guard. They’ve got to work with security agencies. And we do that, the Liberal Party does exactly the same thing. And I think you know, Andrew, Mike Burgess, the head of ASIO, has made the point on a number of occasions that he has no concern with any of our candidates.

CLENNELL: All right, Jim Chalmers said this week he was not wedded to a higher tax cap. Doesn’t that mean that you do plan to tax higher if you get into office?

CLARE: No. The answer to that is no full stop. He made that point that that is just an arbitrary cap that was set for political reasons, not economic reasons. 

CLENNELL: Then why did he say it? Why did he say it though? 

CLARE: What he has said, what I’ve said, what Albo’s said is it is just an arbitrary cap. We have no plans for any other tax changes other than when it comes to multinationals. And he’s also made the point, Andrew, that it’s a bit hypocritical of this government to try to mount a scare campaign based on this, given this is the second highest taxing government in the last 30 years – the only one that’s been higher has been John Howard. And in the last nine years of this government, they’ve increased taxes on a hundred occasions. That’s their record. The problem this government’s got is they can’t find a scare campaign that will stick. Our Aged Care policy has been backed by Mike Baird, the former Liberal Premier of New South Wales. Our childcare policy has been backed by Dom Perrottet, the Premier of New South Wales. Our climate change and energy policy has been backed by the Business Council of Australia and the Farmers’ Federation. Our housing policy has been backed by the Property Council and the Real Estate Institute. They’re trying to find a scare campaign to scare Australians out of voting Labor, and they’re getting more and more desperate each and every day. You’ll see them get more and more desperate as this campaign unfolds.

CLENNELL: All right. Well, we’ve seen a couple of gaffes over the last week. I’d say, Mr Chalmers is one, Mark Dreyfus on the 24/7 Aged Care Nursing is another. Why isn’t a guy like you, who they want out front and centre as campaign spokesman, further up the pecking order when it comes to this team than Shadow Housing Minister. Isn’t this the problem with the Labor Party? It’s the caucus who decides who’s in Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet.

CLARE: Mate, I can’t think of much more important than housing. I think the last two years have taught us that having a roof over your head is more important than having a mask on your face. The things that we needed to do to help protect Australians over the last two years involved providing a safe place for people to live. You know, over the last 12 months, 10,000 women and kids fleeing domestic violence were turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed. If we win the election, one of the things that we’ll get to do is set up a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund that will build 30,000 affordable homes for frontline workers, as well as homeless Aussies. It doesn’t get much more real or important than that. And out there at the moment, there are young people saving up for a deposit finding it harder to buy a home than ever before, because prices have gone through the roof. Over the course of the last four months, rents have gone through the roof as well. So there’s not much more important than putting a roof over people’s head or being able to help people to buy a home. But the fact is, Andrew, you made the point earlier on, the government doesn’t change very often. But people do change the government, when the government is incompetent, when the government’s run out of puff, or when the government is divided and fighting amongst itself. And this government is all three of those things at the moment.

CLENNELL: Just finally, and briefly, Scott Morrison thinks he can take your guy, he thinks he can, in six weeks he can take him down. What do you say to them?

CLARE: Australian people are pretty smart. I think they’ve worked Scott Morrison out. They gave him a go, three years ago, and I think they’re disappointed. I think they expected more from Scott Morrison with bushfires, with vaccines, with floods. I think most Australians feel like what you get with Scott Morrison is always too little and too late. He goes missing in a crisis, blames other people and never takes responsibility for anything, but always tries to take credit for everything. Australians have worked him out. And I think we’ll see that on Election Day.

CLENNELL: Jason Clare. Thanks for your time.

CLARE: Good on you. Thanks, Andrew.