Release type: Transcript


Interview - Weekend Today


The Hon Jason Clare MP
Minister for Education

SUBJECTS: Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assassination; COVID 

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: Shock around the world this week as former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot and killed in front of a crowd while speaking at a rally. And then the inevitable question if it can happen in Japan, is anywhere safe? 

Joining us now is the Federal Minister for Education, Jason Clare and Nationals Leader David Littleproud. Welcome to you both. Jason, we'll start with you, on this show yesterday, the shadow home affairs minister Karen Andrews said it was only a matter of time before there was a similar kind of attempt here in Australia. Is that a worry that you share?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Well it's happened here before. It's almost 28 years since John Newman was gunned down in his driveway in Cabramatta. Still feels like yesterday for me. I was one of the last people to see John alive. I said goodbye to him in the Cabra-Vale Diggers car park after a meeting, I went home, he went home, half an hour later he was dead. I still think about that night. We've been so lucky in this country that what we've seen happen in the US and in the UK and now in Japan hasn't happened here, at least not in the last two decades or so. But that doesn't mean it can't happen. I represent a really multicultural part of Australia and people come up to me all the time and they say, I can't believe that I can just say g’day to you in the street, that in other parts of the world, politicians are surrounded by people with machine guns. We don't want to lose that. But we do need to recognise that the sorts of things that have happened overseas can happen here.

AZZOPARDI: David, Japan is the last place many people would have expected something like this. Do you think there's anything more that Australian authorities could be doing here to prevent similar kind of attempts?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, look, I have great faith in the Australian Federal Police and the intelligence they use around keeping us safe. And I'm with Jason I think, sadly, this potentially can happen and could happen again at some point in the future, but we've got to have faith in those authorities that they are doing the work. And I know there's times when you go to a function, all of a sudden you've got AFP around you and that's just basically because they've got the intelligence that someone wants to do harm. So, I think we've got to be calm about this, because I think the premise that Jason talks about is right. The more that we're free to be out amongst our constituents and to do that in a healthy and constructive way is a good thing and we’ve just got to trust those agencies but - and make sure that obviously all of us have it in the back of our mind. But we've just got to make sure that the longer we can keep the way we are, the better, and just have faith in the AFP and the intelligence agencies.

AZZOPARDI: Yeah, absolutely. I do want to take you now to the health crisis in Victoria. There was another code red there overnight, the ambulance service at capacity. David, is this good enough?

LITTLEPROUD: No, it's not. Look, the primary responsibility of any government is to keep its people safe. If they can't do that, that's a catastrophic failure. And it's not just in Victoria. Even here in Queensland, it's got the worst ramping in the country. State governments are given a lot of money through GST from federal governments, and it's not always about money, it's actually about management. So they've just got to get the job done and this is an abject failure of the Victorian government and we just need to see that these state governments get it right, because that is their primary responsibility, is to keep you safe.

AZZOPARDI: And this potentially means that there were triple zero calls that went unanswered. Jason, you're a dad, you've got two little boys. How would you feel if you were at home and that one of them needed an ambulance and you couldn't get a hold of any?

CLARE: Terrified, wouldn't you? You've got kids as well Jayne, and the same with you David. You would do anything when your kids are sick, throw them in the back of the car, get to the hospital as soon as you possibly can. And I know how much the hospitals are under pressure, both with the flu and with COVID at the moment. We've got to do everything we possibly can here. There's not much that's more important in the world than making sure that our health system has what it takes to keep Australians safe.

AZZOPARDI: So is this a failure, then, of the Victorian Government?

CLARE: Well, I'm not going to cast blame because I don't have enough detail on it, but it's really important that we've got everything that we need when people are sick. And it's not just the state government here, the work that federal government and state governments do to help to make sure that our hospitals have what they need is really important.

AZZOPARDI: Federal and state governments also work together when it comes to education, you're the Education Minister. There have been a lot of concerns this week in schools going back for a number of states tomorrow. Suggestions some classrooms could be half full because of COVID. Do we have our COVID settings right?

CLARE: I think we do. We do need to see more Australians get their third jab and their fourth jab. A lot of Australians got two jabs because they had to but haven't got their third jab. If you get that extra jab, it reduces the likelihood of you getting COVID, or more particularly getting really sick and ending up in hospital. So, I'd encourage everybody that's watching to get that third jab and if you're like me and you've turned 50, go and get the fourth jab as well, because it reduces the pressure on our hospital system, but it also helps to make sure that our education system and every other part of our economy works. Remember back in January when we didn't have enough rapid antigen tests, when truckies couldn't go to work, when the shelves of our supermarkets were left bare? If we make sure that as many Australians as possible get vaccinated, get the rapid antigen tests that they need, but also these antivirals that you were talking about earlier on, they help to make sure that if people do get crook, that they're at home, not in a hospital bed.

AZZOPARDI: Still dozens of people dying in this country every day. So this pandemic's going nowhere-

CLARE: Well it's still a killer and vaccination stops a lot of Australians from dying or getting really sick. But we do need to remind ourselves of this, that COVID is serious, it's still here, and it's still killing Australians.

AZZOPARDI: All right, Jason and David, thank you both for your time this morning over to you Charles.