Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 19 August 2022


SUBJECTS: Bali bomber; Employment figures.

NATALIE BARR: Well, a man who helped assemble the explosives used in the Bali bombings in 2002 will walk free from jail early. Umar Patek was sentenced to 20 years behind bars in 2012 for his role in the catastrophic attack that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. He will be allowed to walk free this month for good behaviour. This October will mark 20 years since that devastating terror attack.

Joining me now in the studio are Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you.

Jason, this must be so distressing for so many Australian families to hear this morning. Did the Australian government know anything about this?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Not to my knowledge. This would be crushing news for all the mums and dads and brothers and sisters who didn’t have their friends and family come home 20 years ago. This bloke is a mass murderer. He killed 202 people, killed 88 Australians, or at least is one of the people who made it happen. I think we all would have thought this bloke would be rotting in jail for the rest of his life.

We were at this desk, Sussan, talking a month ago about Aussies coming back from Bali washing their shoes at the airport. Twenty years ago 88 Aussies didn’t come home at all. Now, I don’t think any of us would want to see this bloke ever see life outside a prison cell.

BARR: Sussan, he almost – he could have got the death penalty. Now he’s being released not just a little bit early for good behaviour; he’s being released 10 years early, apparently because he’s been deradicalised. What do you say to that?

SUSSAN LEY: It’s just a kick in the guts for every single Australian, including the families who lost loved ones. And I am sick to the stomach for those 88 Australian families of the ones who died. And I actually I think, Nat and Jason, that the Labor Party needs to make urgent representations to the government of Indonesia to say this is not good enough and that this needs to be fixed.

BARR: Is that something our government would consider?

CLARE: I’d leave that to the Foreign Minister. I think we’ve learned, unfortunately the hard way with for example the execution of Australians in Indonesia, that they’ve got an independent legal system and they’re a country like us that makes their own decisions. But everybody waking up today would be thinking exactly the same thing – that the punishment needs to fit the crime. This bloke killed 202 people. He shouldn’t be getting out of jail.

LEY: And I think the Prime Minister waking up today needs to pick up the phone and make those urgent representations to counterparts in Indonesia. And never mind the niceties of diplomatic relationships – this is important and this matters to every Australian.

BARR: Yeah, surely – I mean, we’ve got the Prime Minister coming up so we’ll obviously ask Anthony Albanese this – but surely, as Sussan said, we can pick up the phone and say we are not happy.

CLARE: I suspect that that will happen. I’m just making the fundamental point here – and we saw it, I think, when Tony Abbott was Prime Minister and we made representations about the Australians that were executed there – even when we do that, Indonesia will make their own decisions. That doesn’t mean this is right. This bloke should rot in jail for the rest of his life.

BARR: Yep, okay. Well, the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will join us after 7 o’clock this morning. So we’ll definitely put that to him.

Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in almost 50 years. The jobless rate dropped to 3.4 per cent in July for the first time since 1974. Can you remember that? However, the total number of people employed also fell by 41,000 with the amount of full-time jobs down by around 87,000. Jason, wages only rising by a tiny bit – 2.6 per cent. How is Labor addressing that little picture?

CLARE: Yeah, unemployment’s going down. That’s good. But the full picture, there are still a lot of Aussies that are working two or three jobs. So, a low number, while it’s good, it conceals the fact that a lot of Aussies are working multiple jobs. They do that not because they want to but because they have to. We’re not seeing wages go up enough at the moment. For more than 2 million Aussies on the minimum wage or who benefit from an increase in the minimum wage, they got that boost recently, the increase in the minimum wage. That’s a good thing. But as Tony Burke said yesterday, if you’ve got unemployment so low and wages not responding by going up, that suggests that something is broken here. In particular, that enterprise bargaining between workers and employers is not working the way it should. This is one of the things that’s going to be talked about at the Jobs Summit two weeks from today.

BARR: Yes, Sussan, what is the solution here? Because you have – we’re being told basically half a million jobs in this country are up for grabs, and we are doing stories every day saying, “We will train you. We will give you a $5,000 sign-on bonus,” but still they’re going begging.

LEY: There are thousands of job vacancies. What I’m hearing from small businesses as I travel up and down the country is they just can’t get the workforce they need. Now, we have a good proposition for the government, which is to allow veterans and pensioners to work additional days and hours without affecting their pension. And we know that we have people with a lifetime of skills built up who would be financially penalised if they took an extra days’ work. But there’s the workforce. There’s part of the solution. We don’t need a jobs and skills summit and all the subsequent bureaucracy that is surrounding that. This is a measure that could be adopted by the government right here, right now.

BARR: You’re addressing that anyway.

CLARE: We’re saying it’s on the table. It’s one of the things that we should look at. Cheaper child care is a good idea as well, because you’ve got thousands and thousands of mums and dads watching at the moment who aren’t going to work because child care is more expensive. They’re all skilled up ready to work to fill those jobs. If we can make child care cheaper that will help as well.

But there’s a lot of more that we need to do. Every business I speak to – Sussan’s right – is screaming out for skilled workers. So, what we do in training people up at TAFE, at uni is important. I’ve announced 20,000 extra uni spots to try and fix this this week as well. Migration is going to be part of the mix as well. There’s no one single thing. There’s a lot that needs to happen.

LEY: It’s so important, though, that the migration piece, the skills piece, the training piece is done with industry and the people who run the business actually at the centre of the discussion.

CLARE: We do, I agree with you.

LEY: Because what we’re seeing is the unions are coming to the table. And they should always have a place at the table, but let’s make sure that the people who need the workforce actually get to say what they need.

BArR: Exactly.

CLARE: Business leaders will be there at the summit. The only people that won’t be there are Peter Dutton and the Liberal Party.

BARR: Exactly. And we have covered that. But everyone needs to be there because this is one of the biggest problems facing this country.

CLARE: You bet.

BARR: Thank you both for your time this morning. Coming up we’ll have more after Sunrise.


Media Contact: Korena Flanagan – 02 9790 2466