Subjects: Visit to Bosco Football Club; the Coalition’s positive plan to improve sporting infrastructure and promote female participation in sport; the Prime Minister’s public holiday thought bubble; housing; Labor’s splits on AUKUS; nuclear power; the Government’s failures on cost of living; one year of falling real wages under Labor.
Welcome, everyone. It’s great to be down here today at Bosco Football Club. This is in the heart of the electorate of Hughes. Bosco Football Club has a very proud tradition of soccer playing. It has over a thousand registered players – 35 per cent are women, and I’ve just been told that over ten teams have made it through to the grand final for next weekend. So, Bosco is one of our very strong clubs down here in the Sutherland Shire.
I am really delighted here to be joined today by the Shadow Minister for Youth, my good friend Angie Bell, and also the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, who is down here today to talk about our $250 million investment into changeroom funding, particularly to help our girls to increase their participation in all sports.
Jenny, thank you very much. Thank you to Angie as well for being here. Angie does a great job in our Shadow Portfolio of Early Childhood, and also in Youth. But, Jenny is a great local member here in Hughes.
I’m really pleased to announce today that the Coalition – if elected at the next election – will fund $250 million to provide support to sporting clubs just like Bosco here. I want to say thank you very much to David and Jackie for hosting us; for the leadership that they provided at the club, to the Mayor as well. The Council here own the facility and they work very closely with the local sporting groups. As Jenny pointed out, thousands of kids in local communities just like this are involved in sport – but we want more to be involved.
Everybody’s enjoying the success of the Matildas at the moment, who are doing an incredible job off the back of the Diamonds winning the World Cup, and obviously off our women’s team in England picking up The Ashes there. They’re an incredible inspiration for young women, but for young boys as well, to be involved in sport.
What we do know in our country – particularly given the rapid acceleration of female participation in sport over recent years – the facilities just haven’t kept up. There are countless stories of young girls turning up to sport on a Saturday morning, getting changed in the car park, or in the back seat of the car, or between the two doors open on the car. We’ve all done it as parents with our kids. It just shouldn’t be the case in 2023. There should be parity between the change rooms for boys and for girls. In the facility here – which to the great credit of the council in terms of what they’ve provided already, but there are three shower roses in the change room there. The girls just won’t use it because there’s no privacy, there’s no dividing screen, and it means that they jump into the car wet, muddy, cold, and head home in a circumstance that doesn’t encourage participation and it doesn’t encourage or facilitate safety.
So, I think the program that we’ve put forward is a sensible one. We’re asking for a 20 per cent contribution from clubs and we’re asking that states and territories match that funding. I’d ask the Prime Minister to come out and to confirm the Government’s support for this programme as well. If he sees fit to fund more into the program, well that’s a great thing, and we’ll work closely with the Government because I think this is one of those issues where there should be bipartisanship support.
The Prime Minister’s obviously spoken about declaring a public holiday if the Matildas win. Our programme is a promise whether the Matildas win, lose or draw – and I don’t want to see him jinx the Matildas because they’re on such a great run and we want to see them win against England (the night after) tomorrow. We want to make sure that they get through to the final, but Australians are proud of them for what they’ve achieved so far and hopefully for going on to win, but we’re not fairweather friends. We want to make sure that they can hear Australia roaring for them.
I also believe very strongly that in the current financial situation that Australians are in at the moment, when you struggle to pay your bills; whether it’s your electricity bill, your gas bill, your insurance, your mortgage, small businesses are in the same boat. Down at the local fish and chip shop or the local barber or whatever it might be – those businesses are struggling to pay their overheads and their increasing electricity costs at the moment. A one-off public holiday costs the economy about $2 billion, and we think a more lasting legacy – a more sensible use of money of the taxpayers to really pay tribute to the Matildas success, and the success of the Diamonds, and the Ashes team, and many others across a number of codes – would be to invest this money into the upgrading of clubhouses, because that will be a lasting legacy over decades and will benefit millions of young girls and boys right across the country. So, we’re proud to announce that today. We’d ask the Government to match it and to come on board with our proposal, and I hope that they can do that sooner than later.
The final point is that in the cost of living pressures that families are facing at the moment, the reality is that many of these clubs will have to do this work anyway and they’ll pass on the cost – either through extra fees that they charge parents to sign up each season or indeed through a levy that they would levy against families. So, we think there’s a cost of living pressure relief here as well in the announcement that we’ve made.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Mr Dutton, National Cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss housing. What’s your advice to the Prime Minister and Premiers on options to slow rising rents and get more people into homes?
Well, we know that if the Labor Party listen to the Greens and they impose a cap on rents, you’ll see less investors into the market. That’s what will happen. At the moment we want more investors in the market, we want more homes being constructed, we want more supply coming online – not just for renters, but for first home buyers and for others in the marketplace at the moment.
One of the problems that we’ve got is that the Government’s announced a migration program of about 1.5 million people over the course of five years – and we all welcome people into our country and we believe very strongly in a migration program – but those 300,000 people a year are coming in, I just don’t know where physically they’re going to live.
Australians already are finding it hard to rent a property, they’re finding it hard to buy a property at auction. I believe very strongly that the Government has to work with the local authorities and with the state planning authorities to identify additional land; particularly that within CBDs or within that close proximity to the CBD where we’ve already got public transport, there’s already infrastructure and jobs. Increasing density in those precincts is one possible solution, but there’s no silver bullet here.
What about perhaps like a rising rent cap instead of focusing on migration?
Well, again, if you’re a landlord at the moment and you’ve got a mortgage on your property and the rates go up and your insurance bill has doubled and you’re paying more for repairs when a builder comes or a plumber or electrician – I know a great electrician locally here if you need one as well, give a shout-out to Dave over there – but the landlord has to pay all of those bills, and if it doesn’t stack up economically, well, the landlord just doesn’t rent the house out, they decide to live in it themselves, or they decide to take their money out of housing and put it into the stock market or put it into their super or another investment class.
So, we want to incentivise people to invest into housing because it’s a huge multiplier for our economy. Tradespeople right across the country are a huge part of our economy and if we take away that building activity, it’s not only a negative impact on the rental stock and housing stock more generally, but it’s a big hit to the economy because if people aren’t renovating, they’re not buying white goods and they’re not investing into their community, then jobs are lost as well.
Would the Coalition be open to reconsidering its position on the Housing Australia Future Fund? Is there anything the Government could offer to change your position on that Bill?
Let’s look at what the Government’s proposing here. So, we’re a very strong supporter of social housing, very strong supporter of getting the supply – additional supply – and we are a very strong supporter, particularly first home buyers when we were in Government, allowing people to access their superannuation, which is their money, reinvesting the money back into super so that it compounds by the time of their retirement when they realise the sale and the profit from the sale of their house.
We’ve been very strong supporters of programmes with local councils to help bring additional supply online. But what the Government’s proposing here is a giant Ponzi scheme. They’re investing into the stock market and hoping that they get a return to invest into social housing. That that is not a sound policy. It’s also not a sound policy just to give state governments money when no additional houses are being built because you just have a displacement effect. If it’s going to additionally add to the stockpile of housing or to the pipeline of housing, well, that’s something you can consider, but at the moment when you’ve got the Greens saying it’s a terrible policy and you’ve got the Coalition saying it’s a terrible policy, you know that the Labor Party is off track here. I think they need to look at the design features and at the moment they’ve got a policy which is a dog’s breakfast, it’s not going to bring new housing on line, and I think frankly, if they put rent caps on, it will make a bad situation even worse.
What could the Government offer, though, to bring you guys on board?
Well, let’s see what they have to say at the summit, but we want to see additional housing, we want to see them working and coordinating more effectively with local and state governments instead of dictating to the other two levels of government, and let’s see what they’ve got to say.
AUKUS is set to be debated at Labor’s National Conference this weekend. Is there any risk in debating national security issues in a public forum like that?
I’ll just make a couple of points here. I mean, one is that the Prime Minister’s tried desperately to stitch together a deal to please the hard left of the Labor Party. They’ve already sold out Israel. We’ve seen the deal that they’ve made in relation to Israel, which has been roundly condemned by people of Jewish faith in this country. I actually think it’s a national disgrace that you put your party’s interests ahead of our national interests.
The second point is that the Labor Party has entered into the AUKUS arrangement – negotiated by us when we were in government – and they should be commended for that, and that people are questioning the wisdom of the AUKUS arrangement between our two most important allies; the United States and the United Kingdom, really reflects very poorly on those people.
The fact is that the Prime Minister has signed up to a deal for nuclear powered submarines, conventionally armed, and the idea of those submarines is that they provide a deterrence against any adversary, they will be the underpinning of our security and safety for decades to come, and they should receive bipartisan support. So, I’m alarmed that there are now 40 branches-plus within the Labor Party who are opposed to the AUKUS deal.
The Prime Minister has signed up to a commitment under AUKUS to dispose of the nuclear waste. We do that sensibly, we can deal with the reactor at ANSTO and deal with the nuclear waste from hospitals now, and I think the Government’s made a sensible decision. But the Prime Minister obviously is trying to stitch together a last-minute deal to stop people from speaking out. But I think it’s in our national interest that the two parties come together on the issue of AUKUS, and we’ve certainly taken that approach.
Is there a danger, though, discussing that publicly?
Well, I don’t think it’s helpful, and I think it undermines the credibility of the Labor Party. When you’ve got a significant rump within the Labor Party who is opposed to the acquisition of these best in class submarines, which are designed to keep us safe. I think the Prime Minister’s sitting on a hotbed of activity within his party that’s not helpful.
I mean, we’ve started this conversation about small modular reactors that can replace coal fired power and can distribute on the existing networks. It’s zero emissions and it firms up renewables going into the system now. The Government’s renewables-only policies got us on a pathway to see lights go out, and if you think that your power bills have already gone up significantly under Labor, wait for the bill to come when they spend over $100 billion on 28,000 kilometres worth of new poles and wires. I just don’t think families and small businesses can afford the energy bills, the electricity bills under Labor, and I think a lot of people have not forgotten the fact that the Prime Minister only 15 months ago promised that he would deliver a $275 power cut to Australian families and all they’ve had under this Government are successive price increases.
Why do you oppose a public holiday if the Matildas were to win? And what would you do instead for them?
Well, as I detailed before, I think there are a couple of options here. One is that you can put an extra burden on small businesses with the public holiday, just an ad hoc one-off public holiday. It’s a cost of $2 billion to the Australian economy, mostly borne by small businesses who at the moment just can’t afford that cost. There are a lot of small businesses, restaurants and cafes and the like, that are seeing a downturn in their trading numbers, and that’s because families who might have gone out and bought a coffee and a muffin at the same time now might just do that once a week instead of each day or just cut down on, you know, large coffee to a small coffee. They’re saving money because they’re worried about the high interest rates under Labor, and that means that those small businesses are already doing it tough. If you impose a $2 billion penalty on those businesses in the economy, I just think it’s the Prime Minister trying to reach too hard for his Bob Hawke moment.
The thing about Bob Hawke’s declaration through the America’s Cup campaign was that it was it was spontaneous and it was genuine. It wasn’t confected and dreamt up days before. It wasn’t contingent on success, and I think the much better way is to go with a lasting legacy that pays a true tribute, a lasting tribute, to the Matildas and our other sporting greats, and allows an investment into sporting clubs like this one so that young girls can participate in sport: so that they can change with dignity, that they can go into the showers in safety, and that they can tell their sisters and their classmates that the best facilities are available to them at their local soccer club, or their local cricket club, the local footy club otherwise, and increase participation. Because if kids are playing sport, it means they’re more healthy. It’s good for their mental health. It’s good for their social interaction, for their gross motor skills and it’s a huge part of Australian life.
So, I think there’s a much better way than what the Prime Minister’s proposing, and I see even the South Australian Premier’s not in favour of the public holiday. Today Daniel Andrews refused to sign up to the public holiday. So, I think the PM’s stunt has failed and I think the opportunity now is for the PM to take up this policy which we’ve proposed today, so that we can support literally thousands of sporting clubs around the country to deliver those facilities and at the same time reduce the costs that otherwise are going to be passed on to those parents.
But some of those other states also have public holidays for say the AFL grand final?
Well, you can argue a public holiday for the Diamonds win, the Ashes tour by the men’s team; they were successful in their campaign – you could have a public holiday for that. I think the point is that the Prime Minister’s just announced this is a thought bubble and hasn’t thought it through and that’s why the Premiers haven’t signed up to it, and it’s why if you’re going to impose a $2 billion hit on the economy, particularly at a time when small businesses can’t afford it, I think you think you need to think through it properly, and I just don’t think the PM has done that.
Will tomorrow’s National Cabinet achieve anything?
Well, I hope there’s a discussion in relation to this policy, actually. I hope the PM can ask the Premiers to match the funding that we’ve announced today because that will give us a very significant sum of money to help support businesses, and I think tomorrow there should also be a discussion at National Cabinet in relation to wages growth.
It’s obvious today that families can understand that under Labor they’re going backwards. There’s no real wage growth. For each consecutive quarter over the course of the last 12 months, wages have gone backwards – and families know that under Labor they are going backwards and their small businesses are struggling, and I just don’t think Labor’s got the answers.
So, I hope that the Prime Minister can address some of those real concerns because at the moment I think most Australians know that they’re worse off today than before the Prime Minister was elected and I think he’s obsessed with the Voice and failing to concentrate, frankly, on the cost of living issues which are most important to Australian families at the moment.
Thank you very much.