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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Launceston: 30 August 2019: Tasmanian housing crisis; penguins; Tasmanian ALP conference

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SUBJECTS: Tasmanian Housing Crisis, Penguins, Tasmanian ALP Conference

SENATOR HELEN POLLEY: Well thank you everyone for coming. I'm delighted to say that we've got Jason Clare who’s been in Launceston this morning meeting with the Mayor and talking about issues that affect this community, and one of those that we know has impacted on Tasmania is the housing crisis that we have, the rental affordability and the ongoing issue of homelessness. So Jason?

JASON CLARE: Thanks very much Helen. This is my third visit to Tasmania in the last two months and the reason I've made these three trips is because Tasmania is in the grip of a housing crisis. Rents are through the roof. Tasmania now has the highest rental stress in the country and the number of people sleeping rough is up as well, homelessness is up. There's been a 20 percent increase in the

number of people knocking on the door of homelessness services and crisis accommodation services throughout Tasmania in the last 12 months.

Now this is a problem that the Labor Party has been talking about. It's a problem that Jacqui Lambie has been talking about as well. And eight weeks ago in Parliament Mathias Cormann the Finance Minister made a promise in the Parliament that within six to eight weeks they would develop a plan to do something to fix the housing crisis here in Tasmania. Well yesterday was D-Day. Yesterday was eight weeks since that eight week commitment was made. It’s come and gone and still nothing. We still don't have any information from the Federal Government about what they're going to do to fix this housing crisis in Tasmania. This is a crisis which is real. It's a problem that the Federal Government has made a promise to do something to fix it but we still don't have any details on what they're going to do to fix it. Winter ends this weekend, and just as sure as night follows day, winter is going to come around again and there's going to be people that will be freezing next winter unless this Federal Government pulls its finger out and does what it promised to do, and that is to fix the housing crisis here in Tasmania. And so today I'm here in Launceston calling on the Federal Government to keep their promise to Tasmania. Don't dud Tasmania and honour the promise you made in the Parliament to fix this housing crisis.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

CLARE: Well I've been asked this question a few times and I've said that I don't expect the Federal Government would wipe the debt because they'd be worried that other states would ask for their debt to be waived. But there are other ways to fix this crisis and it's open to the government to work out ways to build more social and affordable housing here in Tasmania, more crisis accommodation or short term accommodation and more long term accommodation. Now they said they'd come up with a plan to do this within six to eight weeks. Well that deadline ended yesterday and we still don't have anything from the government.

JOURNALIST: With that argument, there have been other states; I think it was South Australia that had its debt wiped so why (inaudible) how is that argument valid if a state has already had its debt wiped?

CLARE: Well again it's up to the government to make a decision about how they fix this. I'm not telling them how to do it, I'm just saying there is a crisis and you can tell that from the high levels of rental stress and more people homeless today than they were a couple of years ago. So I'm not telling them how to do it, I'm just holding the government to the deadline they set themselves. I didn't set an eight week deadline. Mathias Cormann set an eight week deadline and that deadline has passed. It’s now time to deliver.

JOURNALIST: What’s your reaction to the news that the State Government asked

for a homeless person’s belongings to be moved on (inaudible)

CLARE: I haven't got all the details, I think that story broke yesterday, is that right?

JOURNALIST: Yes, yesterday. I did that story this week.

CLARE: So I just make the general point here. You know we are a big wealthy generous country that looks after all Australians or at least we should. That's our job to make sure that we're looking after all Australians. And a big part of this is making sure that we've got homes for people to live in, a roof over people's heads, but also providing all of the necessary services to help people that are sleeping rough to be looked after so that they got the medicine that they need, that they've got the associated mental health services that they might need, drug and alcohol services, the whole box and dice. And we're a big enough, wealthy enough country to make sure that the services are in place to help all Aussies rich or poor.

JOURNALIST: What would Labor do if they were in power to fix this problem?

CLARE: Well here’s the nub of it. We're not in power. We lost the last election. We got flogged unfortunately. Our job now is as an Opposition to hold the Government to account. There's not going be another election for three years. So what our job is not to say look this is what we’d do. It’s to say look there's a government in Canberra who promised to fix it. They promised to fix it eight weeks ago. They said that they'd have a plan by yesterday. We've seen bugger all. We haven't seen anything since. So I come here to Tasmania today as part of the Opposition to say honour your word. Keep your promise. Do what you said you'd do and develop a plan to fix this crisis here in Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: Was it disappointing for Labor to lose Tassie seats at the last election?

CLARE: You bet. You know our ambition is to win as many seats as possible across the country. Here in Tassie and right across the country and we were unsuccessful. So we’ve got to learn from our mistakes and fight hard to regain the trust of the people of Bass and Braddon and the people right across Australia for the right and privilege to govern. But that election’s many years away. Our job now in opposition is to hold the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government to account. They made a promise to Tasmania to fix this crisis and it's really, you know this is very real. There's nothing more important than having a roof over your head.

JOURNALIST: So you’re criticising them for not having a plan for something that you don’t have a plan for either?

CLARE: No, I'm criticising them for breaking their promise, they promised...

JOURNALIST: But you don’t have a plan either.

CLARE: Well as I said we're in opposition. This is not a hard thing to fix. There's not enough social housing being built in Tasmania. When Labor was last in power at a state level here in Tasmania, we built more than 2000 homes for the poorest Aussies here in Tassie. Over the last four years, the State Government here in Tasmania, the Liberal State Government’s built 300 so there hasn't been enough social housing built to keep up with the growing population in Tasmania. Now I'm saying they may waive the debt, they may not waive the debt, but they've got to provide funds to build more houses. How they do that is up to them, they're the government that promised to do this - deliver on your promise.


JULIE COLLINS: Well of course this is devastating news and I think many Tasmanians would be concerned to hear that so many penguins have been killed allegedly by dogs. I think that both tiers of government, local and state government, need to do much more to stop this from happening again. This is the second time here in Tasmania we’ve seen such a mass slaughter of penguins and the government really needs to do something about it. That's up to the government to respond to this and to make sure that it's doing everything it can so that this doesn’t happen again.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask Mr Clare two questions? Why isn't Anthony Albanese coming to the Labor Conference this weekend?

CLARE: I might defer to Julie.

COLLINS: So Anthony would love to be here in Tasmania and he was scheduled to be here at our State Conference, but he will be travelling with the Prime Minister to Timor-Leste for the 20th Anniversary of that nation.

JOURNALIST: Okay, and one more question. How important is it for Labor to regroup in each state after the failed election this year?

CLARE: Well I touched on that in my earlier answer. It’s really important. We lost the last election, we’ve got to work out what we did wrong, learn from our mistakes and put together a team and policies to win the support of the Australian people come the next election. And that's no easy task. We have only won three federal elections since World War Two from Opposition. First under Whitlam then Hawke then Rudd. And the last election which many people said that we would win, we didn't win. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. And that means work here in Tassie and also work across Australia.

COLLINS: And it also includes people like Jason and I coming out and about, and

Carol, into Bass and Braddon more regularly and talking to locals about their needs and their concerns. And it's also about holding the Government to account which is also why we’re here today. What we need to do is listen to the community, to respond to the community and at the same time hold the Government to account and we'll be working hard every day for now to the next federal election to do that.