Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 18 November 2022






SUBJECTS: MH17 verdict; unemployment figures, Schoolies


NATALIE BARR: Eight years after the downing of flight MH17, a Dutch court has found three men guilty of murdering 298 people, including 38 Australians. The court heard a Russian-made missile brought down that passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014. The men – two Russians and a Ukrainian – have been found guilty and sentenced to life in jail. A third Russian was acquitted.

For their take, let’s go to Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you. Jason, what happens now to these men?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Real justice is hard to get. That’s the fact of the matter. I think these characters are going to be protected by Putin for the rest of their life. But I do remember what Julie Bishop said back when this happened. She did a fantastic job at the time as Foreign Minister. And she said that the families of the people who were murdered when that plane was shot down deserve answers. I think we got some of that last night.

I’m thinking this morning of Serge and Vera Oreshkin, who live in my electorate. Their son Victor was one of the 298 people who were murdered when that plane was shot down. I remember Serge telling me that they destroyed his body, but his soul never touched the ground. That plane had his suitcase on it, it was packed full of toys for his little nephews and nieces. They’ve been living that nightmare for the last eight years, something they can’t wake up from. But hopefully last night’s verdict provides some of those answers for them and for all of the families who lost loved ones when that plane was murderously shot down.

BARR: Yeah, Sussan, we heard Meryn O’Brien, whose son Jack was on board that plane, and she stood outside the court, and she said it doesn’t change anything; it is a measurement of justice. Because what can we do now to get these men who are being protected by Putin into any kind of jail?

SUSSAN LEY: Nat, the attack on MH17 was both a tragedy and a crime with 38 Australians killed, including Jill and Roger Guard from Toowoomba, where I was yesterday. And this is resonating right across the country.

There is some closure for the families. Australians must wrap their arms around the communities that were affected that still remember because eight years might sound like a long time, but for these families it’s as if it was yesterday. And we must as a country always stand up to bullies, just as we are standing with Ukraine as it is being bullied by Russia right now.

And that’s a strong message we can always send the world. So, some closure, but the pain never does go away.

BARR: Yeah, yeah, strong words. But it’s frustrating as all hell, isn’t it, that we can’t do anything to get these low lives.

Unemployment has fallen again with more people of working age employed than ever before, Jason, the problem here – I mean, we can’t get workers into this country, so that’s sort of good and bad, isn’t it? You know, that’s why the employment rate is like this. But wages are the big issue here.

CLARE: It’s good news that unemployment is as low as it is, but as we’ve said in chats before, Nat, it doesn’t tell the full story. The fact is we’ve got almost a million Aussies that are doing two jobs or more. You don’t do two jobs because you want to; you do it because you have to. And you would think when you’ve got unemployment at a point where it basically can’t get much lower, that you would expect wages to be roaring. They’re not. That tells you that there’s something broken here. And that’s what the industrial relations legislation that we’ve got in the Parliament is designed to fix.

BARR: Yeah, so they’re the IR laws. The Australia Institute, Jason, says that that’s going to lift wages by 1.6 per cent a year. Inflation’s at seven per cent, isn’t it? So, how’s that going to help?

CLARE: If you took that approach, you would never do anything to try and lift wages.

BARR: I mean, it’s good, but it’s not going to help much is what I mean.

CLARE: We’ve got some Australians at the moment who do some of the most important jobs in our economy who are the lowest paid. I’m thinking about childcare workers, for example, many of whom are on just above the minimum wage. Now, here in Victoria where I am, last year there was a multi-employer bargaining agreement where there were 70 different childcare centres who all got together, formed an agreement. The workers in those centres are now the highest paid childcare workers in Victoria. But it’s clunky. The way the system works is every single one of the 70 centres had to register that agreement separately. This legislation fixes that, makes it easier for some of the lowest-paid workers in Australia – who are more often than not women rather than men – to be able to get their wages moving again. I think that’s a good thing.

BARR: Yep. Sussan, unemployment rate low – good. But we have no workers. It is affecting so many businesses across this country, particularly over Christmas. And wages are a big problem. What do we do?

LEY: Well, I can give Jason some advice about what we wouldn’t do – and that is introduce Labor’s extreme industrial relations laws. Yes, wages are moving, and thankfully this Government inherited an incredibly strong economy from the previous Government. But it is inflation that is eating into your wage rise. So, what we need is productivity and efficiency in this economy and across the country.

And these industrial relations laws will add to strikes and cripple the supply chains and make things much worse for Australians. I mean, the fact is, Nat, that Labor is just forging ahead, steaming ahead with industrial disputes while these changes are towing our economy back to the 1970s. And the real issue is that their own budget forecasts demonstrate that real wages will not increase. So why – why – introduce industrial relations changes that, in fact, will hold back business and prevent a productive economy for our future?

BARR: Okay, well, they’re going to be introduced. We’ve just got time to talk about the first day of Schoolies kicks off tomorrow. Jason, how did you celebrate finishing high school?

CLARE: Gosh, it shows how old I am – I don’t think Schoolies existed when I was finishing high school back in 1989. I went straight from my last exam to my first shift at Sizzler waiting tables and making cheese toast. So, I can’t tell you how Schoolies went, but if you want the recipe for cheese toast, send me an email and I’ll flick it to you.

BARR: Right, and if you went to school with Jason and you have a different story, please email us. Sussan, we hear you were too cool for Schoolies. Were you?

LEY: Yes, I considered myself to cool for Schoolies. I was on the punk rock scene at the end of year 12 at Dickson College in Canberra. But I want to channel, Nat – I want to channel all the mums and dads today, to their children, they’re young adults – stay safe, have fun and call if you run out of money.

BARR: Yeah. You know what? I don’t think the kids need reminding of that, that’s for sure.

LEY: Definitely not.

CLARE: The other hot tip for Schoolies is keep away from the toolies. This is for the year 12 graduates, not for people who graduated a couple of years ago.

BARR: Yes, exactly. Good advice from both of you. Thank you very much.


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