Interview - Today Show
SUBJECTS: Crime in Alice Springs; Australia Day; Kanye West visa ban.
SARAH ABO: Welcome back. A raft of new alcohol restrictions will be introduced in Alice Springs as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese flies in to hold crisis talks with the town’s community leaders following days of growing pressure from the Opposition.
Joining us to discuss today’s headline is Education Minister Jason Clare and 4BC’s Scott Emerson. Good morning to you both.
ABO: Jason, I want to come to you first. Now, the PM obviously has been under quite a bit of pressure. We’ve seen and heard about the awful, terrifying incidents that are happening in the Alice. He’s standing firm in refusing to support blanket alcohol bans despite warnings from Indigenous leaders. Why do you think he’s not taking their advice?
CLARE: You’ve got a serious problem in the Alice, Sarah, and it’s fuelled by alcohol. Those restrictions that were put in place yesterday are immediate and will help. So will the extra money for police and the extra money for CCTV. But the Prime Minister said yesterday that he’s appointing a Regional Controller to the area to provide him with advice by next Wednesday on whether further restrictions are needed in the area of alcohol. I think you can expect that there will be more restrictions there, and we’ll take the advice of the experts on the ground.
ABO: So it sounds as though this is sort of the first step, I guess, in a process that’s going to roll out in coming weeks in the Alice. Scott, how confident are you that these takeaway alcohol restrictions will help? This is the first step that we’re seeing.
SCOTT EMERSON: Well, look, hopefully it does, because we know the situation there is just completely out of control. And you see the hand wringing from some will say, “Oh, well, we don’t want these bans and we don’t want a crackdown.” But, you’ve got to appreciate how dangerous, how violent that situation is in Alice Springs. You just have to listen to some of the locals there – they are living in fear. I’m glad to hear Jason is saying it’s a first step, because I think it can only be a first step. More will need to be done. I suspect that this won’t have that big an impact. I hope it does, but I suspect it won’t.
ABO: And that’s the thing, isn’t it, Jason. You look at youth crime really across the country; it seems to be centralised right now in the Alice, but we almost need to sort of make it work there first of all.
CLARE: In a sense, what you’re seeing in that footage that you’ve shown yesterday and today is really a symptom of a bigger problem there. You know, real chronic problems in the Alice, you only have to talk to the police or talk to people who are in accident and emergency at the hospital to understand that. Tackling the grog problem is part of it, but that is just the start. There are bigger problems there that are associated with education and unemployment as well. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been there as Education Minister as well.
ABO: Yeah, I suppose you’ve got a big role to play there as well. Now let’s move on to the Coalition accusing Labor of encouraging corporate Australia to change our national day by stealth, as companies give their employees the option to work on January 26. More and more people are choosing to work, including the Telstra and NAB CEOs, who are working tomorrow. Jason, your response to the Coalition on these accusations – are they right?
CLARE: My boss, the Prime Minister, has made it clear that Australia Day is staying on the 26th of January. I think this is what the Liberal Party do every year – if you google it, every year around Australia Day they try and pick the same fake fight about Australia Day.
There’s a reason that people come from all around the world to Australia – and that’s because we’re the best country in the world. And part of that is you can have this debate if you want to, you can celebrate if you want to, you can protest if you want to, you can go to work tomorrow if you want to, or you can have a few beers with your mates if you want to, before you crack on for the rest of the year, which is what I think most Aussies will do tomorrow.
Just a quick one, if I can, Sarah, which is to – a quick shout out to Dylan Alcott, who’s been Australian of the Year for the last 12 months. We select a new Australian of the Year tonight. He’s done an incredible job. What a legend. And, you know, I think today is an opportunity to thank him for everything he’s done for Australia in the last 12 months.
ABO: Yeah, he is absolutely incredible. The changes that he’s sort of tried to implement with the NDIS as well are really something, too.
CLARE: Big time.
ABO: That’s quite a legacy that he’s going to leave. Now, Scott, when we do talk about working on Australia Day, it’s really just about giving people a choice. I mean, obviously, this is a debate that comes up this time every year. But what’s wrong with giving people the right to choose?
EMERSON: Well, it is Australia’s national day. It’s our celebration. And Jason says, “Oh, well, it’s going to stay on the 26th.” But Albo’s gone out there and said you can celebrate, you can move it to another day if you want to have ceremonies, you can protest. I’m sorry, he’s the Prime Minister of Australia. This is our national day. He has to be a bit stronger than that. This is just a weak response from Albo. He doesn’t want to have the debate. He doesn’t want to put his fingers on the idea of changing the date from the 26th. So he has this kind of half-hearted response. The reality is the Government should come out and say, “Yes, we are celebrating on January the 26th, and we’re keeping that day there.”
ABO: Well, this is the problem, though, isn’t it? I mean, it’s about pleasing everyone, and you simply can’t anymore.
EMERSON: No, that’s exactly right. That’s what he’s got to – look, he’s trying to have a bet each way on this. And you’d expect the Prime Minister of Australia, if he wants to change the date, just be honest with Australians and say, “Yeah, we’re going to change the date, that’s my opinion,” rather than having a bet each way.
ABO: And just quickly, Jason, we’ve got the Coalition calling for Kanye West to be banned from Australia, if he’s to visit. I mean, obviously he’s made some pretty awful comments. What do you think? Should we let him in?
CLARE: Awful is probably an understatement, Sarah. I don’t know if he’s applied for a visa yet. But google it and you’ll see that he seems like he’s a pretty big fan of a person who killed 6 million Jewish people last century. People like that who’ve applied for visas to get into Australia in the past have been rejected. I expect that if he does apply he would have to go through the same process and answer the same questions that they did.
ABO: Absolutely reprehensible comments. And I think you’re right there – we shouldn’t let people like that into this country. But what do you think, Scott? Should we try and give him a chance?
EMERSON: No, ban him. Ban him. We’ve seen – and no, I agree completely with what Jason said there. Do a google search, see what he said. We don’t need him in Australia.
ABO: It’s that simple. Thank you both for your time. We’ll catch you again soon.