KIERAN GILBERT: Let's bring in Andrew Clennell, now. He's speaking to the Cabinet Minister, Education Minister Jason Clare.
ANDREW CLENNELL: Jason Clare, thanks for joining us this morning.
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks, mate.
CLENNELL: I just wanted to ask you about Olivia Caisley's report just then. Anthony Albanese's former top bureaucrat when he was Infrastructure Minister, Mike Mrdak has prepared this secret report for the PM on how things can be improved when it comes to dealing with cybercrime. Was Cabinet made aware of this commissioning of Mr Mrdak? And where do you think the government's going on cybercrime?
CLARE: Andrew, what happened with Optus, what happened with Medibank shows us that the cybersecurity of a lot of Australian companies is not up to scratch. But nor are government rules and government laws here to protect Australian citizens. We made that point over the last few months. We've passed laws to fix some of those but there's more work to do here. You’ve got to be ever vigilant here. There's a lot more work that needs to be done. Cybercrime is the crime of the future. It's going to hit companies, but it's also going to hit government agencies as well. The days of focusing on cat burglars, we’ve still got problems there, but this is where Australians can have their personal information, their money hit, and I think government working with the private sector has got a lot more work that we need to do.
CLENNELL: But were you aware of this Mrdak report?
CLARE: I don't have any details on that report. Breaking news, I haven't been secretly sworn into the Home Affairs portfolio, but I make the general point -
CLENNELL: You used to work in the justice space, didn't you?
CLARE: About ten years ago. But the boss has made this point. Clare O'Neil has made this point. I think every Aussie knows now that we're about five years behind where we need to be here. There's a lot of catch-up work that has to be done and Clare O'Neil is on the job.
CLENNELL: All right, I wanted to ask you about changes to NAPLAN, agreed to by education ministers on Friday. There were reports the Curriculum Authority wanted people who failed to be called 'developing' and that was knocked on the head. Can you take us through that?
CLARE: We made some important changes on Friday. First, the NAPLAN tests are now going to be held in March rather than in May. Parents and teachers have said they want that because they want the test earlier, so they get the results and the information on where students are at earlier. Tests are all going to be online and the information that teachers and parents get are going to be in a simpler form that's easier to interpret and understand. There was a proposition put before us that that last group that's under the current model, considered students that are below the minimum standard to be called 'developing'. We rejected that and said that that's a group of students where we need to make it clear more assistance is needed.
That was the recommendation from parents, including Indigenous parents groups, who said, that's where you’ve got to zero in and provide more support. Make it clear to teachers that's where help is needed. Make it clear to parents that their children, if they're in that group, need more help and support. And make it clear to people who are leading policy reform, like me and other education ministers, that's where you want your money invested. There's always going to be children who fall behind at school. It's our job to help them catch up. If you're a child from a poor family or from the bush or an Indigenous child, you're three times more likely to be in that group. And so, as I've been talking about the next school agreement, I've said we want to make sure that we get all schools to 100 percent of funding. Funding is important, but so is what it's spent on, what it's invested in. We want to make sure we're tying funding to the things that are going to help children in that group.
CLENNELL: All right, onto the week in Parliament. We've seen some real roadblocks in the Senate last week, haven't we? Do you expect your mates Ed Husic and Chris Bowen to get up their legislation, Safeguards Mechanism and National Reconstruction Fund?
CLARE: I hope so. It sort of defies belief that the Liberal Party are opposed to the National Reconstruction Fund. We had Peter Dutton this week saying that the Liberal Party are the party of the working class, but now they're going to oppose legislation that's going to create more manufacturing jobs to help us to build more things here in Australia. That just makes a mockery of that argument.
CLENNELL: Just based on that, so we got Sussan Ley on it in a minute. I'm sure she'll say it's too broad a ministerial discretion around the fund. That's their argument. What do you make of that?
CLARE: Really, is that their criticism of it? After everything that they did in government, that's the reason they're opposed to it? This is legislation based on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Arm's length to government. Sussan can explain why they're opposed to this, but I think the pandemic taught us that we need to make more things here in Australia. When the pandemic hit and the borders were shut, we didn't have enough ventilators, didn't have a company in Australia that could make them. We had to do it from scratch. I think the two biggest places to get masks around the world were Milan, where the pandemic first hit, and then China.
There's a lesson in this for us. We need to make more things here in Australia. That means more manufacturing jobs. And if the Liberal Party are opposed to that, then that just shows that all this stuff about being the party of the working class is rubbish.
CLENNELL: Well, what about the Safeguards Mechanism?
CLARE: That's legislation that Tony Abbott put into place, that the Business Council of Australia says we need to make changes to to help to make sure that we get to net zero.
CLENNELL: Peter Dutton says this is compulsory, though, so it's a bit stronger than that.
CLARE: Let's be pretty brutally frank about it. I don't think Peter Dutton or the Liberal Party generally want to get to net zero. Australian companies are keen to do that. The Business Council of Australia leads that. But not just them, other business groups. I think 70 percent of companies are already on that path. This is one of the mechanisms to help to make sure that we get to net zero.
CLENNELL: What do you make of the Greens position on this at the moment?
CLARE: Sometimes the Greens make the perfect the enemy of the good, and if they're as committed as we are to making sure that we take real action on climate change, then this is one of the things we need to do to do it.
CLENNELL: All right, well, just on that. In the lead up to the election, you were the Shadow Minister pushing this $10 billion Social Housing Fund Report . Yesterday the Greens are set to join the Coalition in opposing the fund. They say it doesn't build enough social housing. What do you make of that?
CLARE: If that happens that's extraordinary. Sometimes the far left and the far right join up together. We've seen that on climate change in the past. You've seen that on the Voice, where you've got some people in the Greens and some people in the National Party just split off into the 'no' camps. But don't do it on this. This is a fund that's going to build housing for homeless Australians, people living on the street.
It's going to build affordable housing for nurses and it's going to build 4000 homes for women fleeing domestic violence. Women who've been brutalised and belted by their husbands, who go off to a refuge. 1,000 women – sorry 10,000 women got turned away from refuges last year because they were full. They're forced to sleep in their car or go back to where the violence is happening. If you talk to anyone in this sector, they'll say that you need more long term accommodation for women fleeing domestic violence. This will do it. And if Peter Dutton or the Greens oppose this, then I think they'll be rightly condemned by domestic violence groups right across the country.
CLENNELL: We saw this impassioned plea by the PM on a Voice to Parliament Thursday in Question Time. Things getting a little desperate here?
CLARE: I'm really hopeful that this will bring the country together. You know, this - it's a pretty simple question. Do you think that the Constitution should recognise the fact that Indigenous people have lived here for 60,000 years and should they be consulted on decisions that affect them? I think if you agree to both of those propositions, it's a no-brainer. And I really do hope that the Coalition finds it in their heart to get to this position. Even if they can't find it in their hearts, I hope they find it in their heads, because if they oppose this, they'll never win those teal seats back.
I think there is a majority support for recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution right across the country, but I think that there's even more support for it in those once blue-ribbon seats. Seats like the seats of Menzies and Turnbull and Abbott and others. Those teal members will be at those polling booths campaigning for the Voice. And if the Liberal Party is opposed to it, I don't see how they'll ever win those seats back.
CLENNELL: Have you, as Education Minister, had a look at the education situation in places like Alice Springs and other remote Aboriginal communities, and what are you seeking to do to address those problems?
CLARE: The Prime Minister made an announcement earlier this week of a $250 million fund of which investment in education will be part. Certainly the horror of what we've seen on our screens in Alice Springs has been fuelled by alcohol, but it runs deeper than that. What we're seeing is the impact of intergenerational disadvantage, part of that's education, part of that's lack of employment. And so I'm working on a package of measures that we can implement working with the Northern Territory Education Minister, but also education experts on the ground there, that they're going to make a difference hopefully.
CLENNELL: All right, Peter Dutton seems unconvinced that a Voice will address these problems, and he's also raising concerns about the Voice resulting in the High Court being tied up on a number of cases. What do you make of those two criticisms?
CLARE: I'd make the point to Peter, talk to Noel Pearson. There's not many people who know more about the education of Indigenous children in this country than Noel. And Noel says that a Voice will make a difference. He says that it will put the acid on people like me and other politicians to make sure that we're listening to Indigenous leaders and putting in place measures that are going to make a difference. So if he's not convinced by my argument, listen to Noel.
CLENNELL: All right, what about this High Court argument that he's thrown out there saying, who knows, will this lead to a bunch of Marbos and Wicks, I guess?
CLARE: I doubt it. I think he's looking for reasons to get to no rather than get to yes.
CLENNELL: All right, we saw Alan Tudge's retirement last week. What do you make of his demise and how do you rate Labor's chances in that by-election?
CLARE: I wish him well. Alan and I have been in the Parliament for about a decade. We haven't had a lot to do with each other until the last few months. But as Education Minister and Shadow Minister for Education Minister, we did a lot of good work together. So I wish him and his family well for the future.
It would be very tough for Labor to win that seat. I don't think a government has won a seat off an opposition in 100 years. It does strike me as pretty ridiculous that the Libs are saying that they're the underdogs in this seat. We had Scott Morrison working for us at the last election and we couldn't win that seat. So I think that shows you just how hard that would be. If the Libs are the underdogs in this election, then they got more problems than a by-election.
CLENNELL: All right, I reported earlier on Katy Gallagher's promise for no more 'jobs for mates,' closely followed by Tony Burke's appointment of a former TWU official and Labor candidate, Adam Hatcher, to head up the Fair Work Commission. Is this just spin from Katy Gallagher?
CLARE: I heard you say that and I quickly got my phone out and googled this fella, and he's the Acting President of the Fair Work Commission, and he was the Vice President of the Fair Work Commission for a decade.
CLENNELL: Appointed by Bill Shorten just before he lost office.
CLARE: But he's been in the job for ten years. Now compare that with what the Liberals did with the AAT. It basically became a retirement home for the Liberal Party. You know, at the last election -
CLENNELL: [indistinct] you all sort of do it, don't you? You saw Peter Dutton talk about the high moral ground. He was talking about the Voice, of course, but it seems to me Labor's trying on the high moral ground here, when, of course, you appoint Labour people.
CLARE: This is chalk and cheese. He's a fellow who's been doing the job for ten years. You had ex-Liberal MPs and staffers being thrown into the AAT like it was going out of style. You know those people who book a hotel room and on the way out they steal the towels and the fluffy coat? The Liberal Party was like someone who steals the bed, steals the television, steals everything in the hotel room as they were going out the door. Just bloody ridiculous.
CLENNELL: All right, finally, what did you think of Jim Chalmers' essay?
CLARE: It was a beauty. I think Paul Keating - there were a few people, probably, who sit behind this desk that had a crack at it. The point Jim was making was that good Labor governments work with business and work with unions for the common good. That's what Paul did. That's what Bob did. Paul Keating, Bob Hawke. And that's what we want to do as well.
CLENNELL: Jason Clare, thanks for your time this morning.
CLARE: Thanks, mate.