Press Conference – Sydney – Tuesday 12 April 2022


SUBJECTS: 2022 election; Labor’s policy agenda; $500,000 paid to Alan Tudge’s former staffer; Morrison’s economic waste and mismanagement; Labor’s economic record; need for a National Anti-Corruption Commission; Labor’s Plan For Cheaper Child Care. 
JASON CLARE, LABOR CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: The biggest gap in Australia today is between the spin from Scott Morrison about how great things apparently are and the reality for a lot of Australian families that are struggling to pay the bills. The reality is a lot of Australian families are struggling at the moment. The reality is almost a million Australians are having to work two jobs at the moment just to pay the bills. The reality is that everything’s going up, except people’s wages. The reality is that real wages have gone backwards under this Government. And the reality is that things like petrol, childcare, and rent are through the roof. The reality is that for the average Australian family, with the average car, the cost of petrol is 1000 bucks more this year than it was last year. The reality is for a family with kids at childcare, childcare costs an extra $800 more this year, than last year. And the reality is for the more than 2 million Australians who rent, rent on average is now $2,000 more this year than it was last year. That’s the reality. That’s real money. That’s the real world in Australia today. And if Scott Morrison doesn’t get that, then he’s more out of touch than I realised. And the question for Scott Morrison to answer today is, what are you going to do to fix this? What are you going to do to lift real wages in Australia? And frankly, why should Australians trust you to do that at all, after almost a decade of deliberately pushing wages down? 

There’s another question for Scott Morrison to answer today. And that’s this, why was half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money spent in compensation to a former government staffer? He was asked this question yesterday, and he refused to answer it. In fact, he said it wasn’t his job to know the answer to that. Well, that’s wrong. He’s the Prime Minister of Australia. This is his Minister. This is his former employee. And this is your taxpayers’ money. Half a million dollars paid in compensation. If Alan Tudge did nothing wrong, why was half a million dollars in taxpayers’ money spent in compensation? And if Alan Tudge did do something wrong? Why is he still in the cabinet? These are real questions that need to be answered. This stinks. Alan Tudge shouldn’t be allowed to hide for the next six weeks. And if this government scrapes across the line, crawl back into cabinet. There are questions that need to be answered about this and the Prime Minister needs to answer them today. Happy to take a few questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese said that he made a mistake. Can you tell us why? Was it a moment of forgetfulness by your leader? Or has he not been paying attention to economic indicators?

CLARE: What you saw yesterday was a bit of honesty from an Australian leader. I think Aussies are craving that, they haven’t had honesty from the leader of this country in a long, long time. Albo fronted up, said he made a mistake and he owned it. That’s what Aussies do. They own it when they make a mistake. I think that showed real character. I think that showed a bloke who’s prepared to own their mistakes and take responsibility for it. Now contrast that with Scott Morrison, who never takes responsibility for anything, never admits that he makes any mistakes. I tell you what, it was a mistake to go to Hawaii when Australia was burning. It was a mistake not to order enough vaccines when the country was locked down last year. It was a mistake not to order enough rapid antigen tests, when meat and fruit and veg were running off the shelves of Woollies, and Coles, and Aldi. And it was a mistake not to make sure that there were helicopters there to help people that were trapped by the floods, when they were forced to hire their own helicopters. That was a mistake that had real life consequences. The problem we’ve got here is a Prime Minister, who not only refuses to admit he makes mistakes, and he makes plenty of them, but refuses to even take responsibility for anything. Or he just blames other people, says it’s not his job. I gave you an example of that a moment ago, where you’ve got half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money paid in compensation for something that’s happened in a ministerial office, and the Prime Minister says I’m not going to tell you what happened. On the first day of this election campaign, Scott Morrison said he’d be upfront with Australians. And on day one he’s covering up. I’m saying on day two, Prime Minister, come clean.

JOURNALIST: How concerned are you and your colleagues about the impact that (inaudible) forgetting yesterday will have on your chances of winning this election?

CLARE: Not, not at all. I’m happy to compare Labor’s record on the economy to the Liberals record on the economy any day of the week. The fact is, under the former Labor Government, unemployment on average was lower than under this Liberal Government. Under the former Labor Government economic growth was higher on average, than under this Liberal Government. And under the former Labor government, real wages grew faster and stronger than under this Liberal Government. That’s the record if you want to compare economic management between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. And if you want to talk about tax, the Liberal Party love to talk about tax, the fact is this, the highest taxing governments in Australia in the last 30 years have both been Liberal, this one and John Howard’s government. I don’t think Australians would expect us to take lectures on economic management from the Liberal Party any day, and I certainly won’t. Not after all of the rorts, and the waste of taxpayers’ money by this Government. You start with sports rorts, you go to car park rorts, they promised to build car parks in Josh Frydenberg’s electorate at the last election, one of them in a place where they’re closing down the railway station. He promised $64 million in car parks at the last election. Now to try and hold on to his seat, he’s promising not to build them. But it’s not just that. It’s the rank and obvious waste of taxpayers’ money from spending 30 million dollars on a block of land in Western Sydney for Western Sydney Airport that was worth 3 million dollars . It’s spending five and a half billion dollars of taxpayers’ money on building submarines that don’t exist. It’s spending 20 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money in the teeth of the pandemic for companies that made a bigger profit during the pandemic, companies like Harvey Norman. It’s getting their costings wrong, on JobKeeper to the tune of 60 billion dollars. The biggest mistake in costings that I think we have ever seen from a national government, let alone this, spending 50 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money on a copper version, on a copper art version of the NBN. This government ripped out the fibre, bought enough copper to wrap around the world one and a half times and built an NBN out of copper. And now they finally realised they’ve made a mistake and they’re going back, pulling it out, and putting fibre in. I’m not going to take lectures on economic management from this Liberal government.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Albanese should have been better briefed by his staff about key economic figures? 

CLARE: I would say what I said yesterday. Or what I told Leigh Sales on 730 last night. Politics is not a pop quiz. Leadership is not a pop quiz. This is not a game of gotcha between the media and politicians. This is about real life. About what are the things that we can do to help real people. Leadership is about understanding what are the big problems in Australia and coming up with the solutions to fix them. I talked about them today. Cost of everything’s going up. Wages are going down. And so more Australians are struggling to pay the bills than ever before. Aussies watching this, Aussies thinking about how they’re going to vote, are looking for a party that have got long term solutions to fix their real life problems, and that is what Labor offers. Cheaper childcare. Cuts to the electricity bills that people pay each and every day. Fixing aged care, a chronic problem neglected by this government. Free TAFE so that we can skill up more Australians, more University places, more affordable housing, helping Australians to buy their first home, setting up a National Anti-Corruption Commission. God knows we need to bring trust and integrity back to Australian politics. The only way that’s going to happen is with a National Anti-Corruption Commission. And the only way that’s going to happen is if Labor is elected at this election. Or a voice for Indigenous people to the Australian Parliament. 

We’re offering serious, sensible long term plans to build a better future for all Australians. Now compare that to a government that is a decade old, asking for another decade in power that’s run out of ideas, that’s run out of puff, that only has short term fixes, no long-term plans, and spends most of its time fighting amongst itself. This government has become like a Christmas advent calendar. Instead of pulling out a chocolate every day, it’s a different leak, or a different politician coming out, sending out text messages attacking the Prime Minister. If there’s one thing Australians hate, it’s seeing politicians fighting amongst themselves in their own political party, focused on themselves rather than the Australian people. And if there’s something they hate more than that, it’s when they’re being taken for a ride, when their money is being wasted, when their money is being rorted to help themselves win marginal seats. That’s what you’ve seen from this government with sports rorts, that’s what you’ve seen from this government with car park rorts and if this government manages to scrape across the line at the next election, it will only get worse, not better. This government desperately needs time in opposition to fix itself up and sort itself out. Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask a couple questions just on Mr Tudge?

CLARE: Oh sure, okay.

JOURNALIST: The Government hasn’t been able to explain why Alan Tudge’s former staffer is set to receive over half a million dollars from the government. What do you think happened here?

CLARE: Well, what I think’s happened here is a cover up. Australians have got a right to know. This is a half a million dollars of their money. If Mr Tudge has done nothing wrong, why is half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money being paid out in compensation? And if he has done something wrong, why is he still in Cabinet? It’s not good enough for the Prime Minister to just say it’s not my job to know what the answer to this question is. He’s the Prime Minister of Australia. This is Australian taxpayers’ money. Australians have got a right to know what’s happened.

JOURNALIST: Let’s talk about confidentiality clauses. Is it reasonable for the government to hide behind that?

CLARE: What’s not reasonable is for the government to run and hide. And that’s what the Prime Minister is doing here. He’s refusing to answer questions because he doesn’t like the answers that he’ll have to give. It’s also not good enough for Alan Tudge to think that he can hide for the next six weeks and not answer questions about this. He can’t hide for six weeks. And then if the government manages to crawl across the line, to crawl back into cabinet. If he’s putting himself forward here for election, and if it is as it seems, that if this government manages to win this election that he will be back in cabinet as a cabinet minister, then the Australian people have a right to know what the hell has gone on here. What did he do? And why is half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money being paid out in compensation?

JOURNALIST: One more question on jobs, the government is pledging to create 1.3 million new jobs and says that will be jeopardised by a Labor government, can Labor match that? Could it achieve the same? 

CLARE: Just more desperate scare campaigns from a desperate dying government. We all want more jobs, we all want more secure jobs and we all want better paid jobs. The question for the Prime Minister today is – what are you going to do after almost a decade of pushing wages down to push wages up? Everything’s going up except wages. The Prime Minister needs to say what he’s going to do to help Australians pay the bills and help lift their wages. And I’ll just end on this; the other big scare campaign the government’s running today is about Labor costings. In the space of two or three days we’ve seen two absolutely contradictory scare campaigns. Couple of days ago, it was Labor’s a small target. Today, it’s a big target. You know, just a word of advice for the Liberal Party. Work out what your scare campaign is. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have small one day, big the other. Work out what your scare campaign is and stick to it. Thanks very much.