Television Interview with Michael Rowland – ABC News Breakfast – Monday 9 May 2022

MONDAY, 9 MAY 2022

SUBJECTS: Second leader’s debate; Latest polls; Labor’s plan to get more people into teaching; Religious Discrimination Act; Labor’s commitment to hold a referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament; Election campaign colour.
MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Let’s go back to the fallout from last night’s second leader’s debate and bring in Labor MP and Campaign Spokesman, Jason Clare. He joins us now from Sydney. Jason Clare, good morning to you. 


ROWLAND: Everybody else is having their say, so I may as well ask you and I know you’ll say Anthony Albanese won the debate. But I want to ask you did voters really learn anything from both men shouting over each other repeatedly? Was that a good look? 

CLARE: It was pretty full on, wasn’t it? I think it could have used David Speers interruption superpowers there that might have helped to cut out some of that and get more of those answers that people crave. One of the things that sort of struck me, Michael was it had all the hallmarks of that first US presidential debate that we saw a couple of years ago with Donald Trump just yelling and being rude. You saw that from Scott Morrison last night. I think that turns people off. All that try hard bully boy stuff, it might work in the Liberal Party but it didn’t work last night. 

ROWLAND: We did hear a fair bit of raised voice though from your leader. 

CLARE: Well, you got to push back. You know, when someone’s trying to bully you or overpower you, you stand up to them. That’s what Anthony Albanese did last night. You come back with the facts. You come back with the truth. That’s Scott Morrison’s problem here, you had two leaders going head to head here. One of them had a plan to fix some of the problems that we have in this country. The other just had a pack of excuses, which shouldn’t surprise us, that’s been Scott Morrison’s stock in trade for the last three years. 

ROWLAND: Okay, let’s turn now to what is week five of the election campaign that kicks off with not one but two opinion polls pointing to a possible thumping Labor victory over the Coalition. Are you heartened by those numbers? 

CLARE: My advice to you, Michael and I know you don’t need it because you know this, is ignore the polls, treat them with suspicion. They were wrong last time. I suspect they’ll be wrong this time as well. I do think Australians are fed up to the back teeth with Scott Morrison and his government. I think they’re sick of the lies and the rorts and the incompetence. The fact is Scott Morrison can’t visit a whole bunch of Liberal Party electorates at the moment because he’s political kryptonite. If he turns up in some of these teal seats, then his own members will keel over and go into the foetal position. He’s got a problem that most Australians have worked him out and don’t want him as Prime Minister of Australia. But the next two weeks are a big opportunity for us to tell the story about how we can build a better future for all Australians with a whole bunch of different policies to tackle the sorts of problems Aussies care about. 

ROWLAND: Okay, one of the issues facing this nation in the future is education, with proper schooling of Australian kids. The Labor Party this morning has released a pretty significant announcement to encourage more students to go into teaching degrees. Tell us a bit about that. 

CLARE: There aren’t many jobs, there aren’t many professions more important than a teacher. I think we can all think of a teacher that shaped our life, changed our life. A quick shout out to Peter Valenti, if you’re watching today mate. I still keep in touch with Peter today, we still catch up a couple of times a year, teachers can change our lives. We’ve got two challenges at the moment, Michael. One, we’ve got a general teacher shortage. It’s expected that there will be, I think, a shortage of about 4,000 teachers within the next couple of years. And we’re not getting enough people who gets the top marks in the HSC, in their ATARs, going into teaching. If you go back 30 years, then 30% of the people who got top marks went into teaching. It’s now only about 3%. That’s in stark contrast to places like Finland, as well as Singapore. These financial payments are about encouraging more people to become teachers, because the evidence from the UK, the work that Grattan Institute has done, is that if you can get our best and brightest to become teachers, then it flows on. It helps our young people, our children to get better results and set them up for the future as well. 

ROWLAND: The Prime Minister over the weekend has strongly suggested in fact, he said that if re-elected, he’ll have another go at the Religious Discrimination Bill, but not necessarily straight away, also dealing with amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act to protect gay and transgender students from being expelled. What’s Labor’s stance on this? 

CLARE: We support the introduction of legislation to deal with religious discrimination. You know, I’ve got to tell you, as somebody who represents a really multicultural part of Australia, in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, I know that people get discriminated against based on their faith, whether it’s the cross they wear around their neck, or whether it’s the hijab that they wear in the streets, I see and hear stories of people being discriminated against. So we should be taking action there. We should be good enough and capable enough to be able to do this in a way that deals with all sorts of discrimination and doesn’t discriminate others more by trying to solve one problem. We should be able to do all of that. I fear that what the Prime Minister is doing here is trying to tackle one issue, not another. One of the consequences of that though, is he’s got a divided party. He’s got his own members here, saying that they’ll cross the floor again. 

ROWLAND: So Labor if it wins, what, you’d change both, you’d bring in a Religious Discrimination Bill and also at the same time amend the Sex Discrimination Act? 

CLARE: Albo’s already made that commitment, Michael. I think he was asked that question a couple of weeks ago. We should be able to tackle both of these problems at once. Remember, we have some of the highest rates of teenage suicide in the world. Some of the most vulnerable kids here that are affected by this debate, are relying upon us to act with maturity, to act with a bit of wisdom here, and I think it’s not beyond us as a parliament to do it. But, again, whether it’s on this issue, whether it’s on the establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Commission, or an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, it’s going to require the election of a Labor Government in two weeks time to make it happen. 

ROWLAND: Okay, just speaking on the Indigenous Voice in Parliament, we had Roy Ah-See, one of the Uluru Dialogue leaders on the show a bit earlier. The Uluru Statement from the Heart, people are ramping up pressure to at least get the Uluru Statement discussed in the election campaign. I know Labor has committed to a referendum for a Voice in the Constitution. But why not set a set a date? Why not say you’ll do it within 6 months or 12 months to at least say there’s going to be some action if Labor wins the election on this very important issue for so many First Nations people. 

CLARE: I agree, mate. Indigenous Australians have been incredibly patient. They’ve been waiting a very long time, too long for this. Our Constitution won’t be complete until it recognises and has within it our Indigenous brothers and sisters and recognises a history of more than 60,000 years. We also need to entrench in it that Voice to Parliament. What Albo’s said is that’s our top priority. He was asked by ‘Speersy’ on Q&A last week, what about a republic? He said, look, that’s important, but not as important as this. This will be our top priority. 

ROWLAND: Excuse the interruption, if it’s so important, why not be more firmer about if Labor wins, saying you’ll do it within this specified timeframe? 

CLARE: Well, I think most Australians would agree here, the key here is, let’s make sure not only do we have a referendum, that it passes, I can’t think of anything worse than it failing. I’ve got a lot of confidence that it would pass. But there are a couple of boxes, you got to tick there. One, you want to make sure that the two major parties aren’t campaigning for two different outcomes, that you bring the two major parties together, and that you develop a campaign in the community to build the energy and momentum for change here. Now we can do it. It takes political will to make it happen. The only way it will happen though, is if we win the election in two weeks time. 

ROWLAND: Okay, finally, do you reckon Anthony Albanese is getting a fair go from the traveling media pack? 

CLARE: It’s an interesting environment being in those packs, you know. There’s a lot of yelling, a lot of shouting. I just make the point that if you want a parrot then go to the pet shop. If you want a leader then ask questions about one of the big challenges that this country faces. Rewind two weeks ago, Michael, to that Sky debate and think about what people were asking. They weren’t asking gotcha questions, they were asking, how can you help me? How can you make it easier to buy a home? How can you help me with my child with autism? How can you help me with my parent going into aged care? And on all of those issues, Labor saying we get it, we understand it, we’ve got a plan to fix it. Contrast that with the Liberal Party who either says everything’s fine, or just make up excuses and blame somebody else, or say it’s not my job. 

ROWLAND: Jason Clare, thank you. I’ll pass on your debate recommendation to my colleague, David Speers. I’m sure he’d be very happy to hear that. Thanks for your time. 

CLARE: Good on you, thanks mate.