Subjects: Federal Budget; Budget in Reply; housing; JobSeeker; Labor’s Big Australia Migration Policy; Fadden by-election; Queensland youth crime; the Prime Minister’s Canberra Voice proposal.
Thank you very much for being here this morning at Brendale. We’ve got a pretty busy week right across the country just talking to Australians who have really missed out in this budget.
I think it’s clear to all Australians that this is a budget that’s inflationary and at a time when we didn’t need more inflation in the system, that’s exactly what the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have delivered.
It’s a budget which is going to keep interest rates higher for longer, for families and for small businesses. These are all people who thought they heard the Prime Minister say before the last election that he had a plan to work out how to help families.
It’s obvious that this is a welfare budget, that’s fine, but for millions of Australians they are missing out. There are millions of Australians at the moment who are the working poor, Labor’s working poor. These are people who work hard, they go to work every day, they’re two income families in many situations, they’re struggling to keep their heads above water because their power bills keep going up under this government, their gas bills keep going up under this government, and they are worried now about their jobs, because the government also projects that not only will inflation be a problem over the course of the forward estimates, but also that unemployment will be a problem.
The government estimates that 175,000 Australians will lose their jobs over the course of this next four years. So, I think there is a lot of concern and a lot of people who are very worried that Labor clearly just doesn’t have a plan for them.
As I said last Thursday night, nobody in the country at the moment can say that you’re better off today than you were 12 months ago when Mr Albanese was elected Prime Minister. In fact, most people have gone backwards and that is a real tragedy for those individuals, for our country as well.
As you move around the country, one of the biggest issues still remains energy prices. Go into any of these local businesses, cafes, butcher shops, restaurants, all the rest of it. The reality is that you’ve got people who just can’t afford to pay their bills and I really worry for those businesses, because all they’re doing is when they’re crunched, they’re passing that cost on to consumers, which is inflationary and making it harder for people to just balance their budgets. So, there was nothing in this particular budget for those Australians. Millions of them are missing out.
I’m happy to take any questions.
You’ve accused the government of not having a plan for migration numbers, but you’re blocking the Housing Australia Future Fund that would build 30,000 homes over the next five years. Is that the kind of politics that makes people frustrated?
Well, let’s be clear about Labor’s plan here. I mean, it’s a giant Ponzi scheme. It’s not going to deliver the houses that Labor’s talking about and you’re talking about social welfare houses. This is not a single house that’s going to provide accommodation to one of the 1.5 million people coming here over the next five years. The reality is that the government had no plan in the budget to bring more housing stock online. When you find it hard at the moment to get a rental, or you find it hard to buy a house, that problem is just going to be compounded many times because Labor is not producing any more stock into the system, any more housing stock. All they’re doing is making it harder for people to find rental accommodation, making it harder for people to buy a house. I think, forget all of the Labor spin in relation to that issue, the fact is that they are making it harder for Australians who want to rent a home, who want to buy a home.
It seems like both the Opposition and Labor agree that we need more houses, but what would you suggest to have the infrastructure in place to build the homes for those people?
Well, again, you need to respect the fact that we have three levels of government in this country, and it doesn’t matter whether it was the Howard government, whether it was the Rudd government or the Gillard government or any government since then – we’ve all struggled with trying to encourage local councils to release land and for the state governments not to get in the way of that land being released.
There are a lot of environmental overlays now that could stop the land being produced, stop the density from being developed, and there are a lot of local communities who don’t want 20 storeys going up beside their apartment block or beside their house. So, that’s the difficulty, particularly when you’ve got a Big Australia policy like the Prime Minister’s announced in the budget.
There was no mention of that before the election and if the Prime Minister had a plan for a Big Australia policy, why didn’t he have the infrastructure plan to go with it? In fact, in this budget he’s cut money from infrastructure projects, which is going to make congestion more difficult, particularly in our capital cities and particularly in the outer metro areas where people are struggling. Every morning you go to work, every afternoon when you come home, whenever you drop the kids at sport or at school – you’re stuck in traffic.
Adding 1.5 million people, bigger than the population of Adelaide, over the course of a short five year period, at the same time taking money out of roads and taking money out of the infrastructure, that would relieve some of the congestion, you are going to make a bad situation much worse and I think Australians are starting to understand that.
The Business Council of Australia says it’s calling for a summit to encourage more build-to-rent properties. Would you support that?
Well, we support whatever process is going to produce an outcome. But don’t forget this government had a jobs summit where they tricked and cajoled business into coming to the summit and then nothing happened. They were hoodwinked because all it was was an opportunity for the unions to get out there and put their bid in and businesses were ignored.
So, I pay on performance, not on, you know, the per word basis that the Prime Minister wants you to promise on. This Prime Minister’s broken 12 promises in 12 months with more to come. The energy prices are going up and up, and yet the Prime Minister promised, on 97 occasions before the election, that you’d see a reduction in your power bill of $275 a year. So, I wouldn’t look at what this Prime Minister says, I’d look at what he does or more importantly what he doesn’t do because that’s what’s making it harder for families.
Would the opposition like a seat at that build-to-rent summit?
Well, let’s see the detail of what they’re proposing, but we don’t want stunts, we want outcomes. The Prime Minister could pick the phone up now to state premiers, to local mayors, to get more land released, to get more development underway because there’s demand for it and if he has to tip in money for infrastructure, well, that’s something he should provision for in the budget. Because you can’t announce a Big Australia policy with 1.5 million people coming into Australia over five years, competing with Australians who can’t rent a unit or a house now, who can’t afford to buy a house now, you are going to put upward pressure on prices, both rents and home prices, at the same time that you’re choking supply.
This is why Labor, I mean, they just can’t manage money. This is what always happens – if you’ve got a great idea and you want to roll it out, as the Prime Minister thinks he has, then plan for it properly and if you need to provide support to those councils to develop the infrastructure, to put an extra lane in, or an extra sewage plant or whatever it takes to build that new housing development, well, that’s all planning that should have been in the budget, but of course it wasn’t.
The government now has had two budgets since it was elected – we’re coming up to the 12 month mark – and still they’re cutting money from infrastructure and they’re putting pressure on an already-congested environment. I mean, it’s very hard to reconcile, the thought might be there, but the execution is just not.
What are the costings of your proposed increase to the JobSeeker income free threshold?
Well, probably about half of what Labor’s proposing to their own measure. Now, in relation to the plan that was put forward on JobSeeker, I’ll just make this point: I was at a local business here this morning, it’s involved in apprenticeships. They’ve got first year apprentices who are leaving because they can’t afford their power bills and they can’t afford their rent, so they’re not finishing their trades where they’re currently working, and that’s a big problem. The government had no assistance for them.
So these are young people, 17, 18, 19 years of age, 20 years of age who have taken up an apprenticeship as a sparky or as a chippie or whatever it might be. They are getting no assistance from the government. They’re not getting $40 a fortnight from the government and yet the government’s been able to find money for the JobSeeker payment.
You’ve got 440,000 positions who require people to work in those positions at the moment. We’ve got over 800,000 people on the unemployment line, and the government’s proposing support to make it more attractive to stay in unemployment. I just think it’s the wrong time and the proposal that we’ve put forward allows those people to work five or 10 hours a fortnight and to get $150 or $300 – depending on how much they’re earning – into their pocket, which is going to be much better than the $40 outcome.
I think the government should consider it.
I just note on the weekend that the Treasurer was supporting our proposal, but Amanda Rishworth was bagging it. I don’t know who to believe. I presume the Treasurer has got seniority over Amanda Rishworth, but I just wish the government would get their lines together because this is a policy worth thinking about.
Last year we proposed a change which would make it easier for people on age pensions and veterans pensions, that if they wanted to work, they could work more hours without losing their pension. In a tight labour market, that’s exactly what you want. You want a greater supply of labour, and particularly for people who, I don’t know, maybe they’ve decided that they’ve retired too early or they’ve got a fixed pension and their bills keep going up, so they need to earn a few extra dollars. At the moment they’re reluctant to do that because they lose their pension. The government picked up that policy from us, they implemented about half of it and I hope that they can do the same in relation to what we’ve announced in response to this budget.
Mr Dutton, on the electorate of Fadden, we’ve seen a little bit of argy-bargy, I guess, play out in the papers today, as to who might be the candidate. Who’s your, I guess, or what kind of a candidate would you like to support?
Well Madura, I’ll just say that I saw the reporting today. I think what it pointed out was that we’ve got two excellent candidates who have so far nominated: one who is an established councillor, well-regarded, a hard worker in the local electorate, the other a doctor who works in an emergency department, who is well-credentialed, who works hard, and I would think that, you know, we’re very fortunate to have candidates of that quality and no doubt the prospect of others who might stick their hand up by the time nominations close at the end of this week.
Mr Dutton, do you stand by the previous government’s performance on immigration, given the findings of the Nixon Review and the Parkinson Review?
Oh yes, I do. I mean, this process is a joke and the senior people you speak with in the Department of Home Affairs are laughing behind the minister’s back. What she’s created is a political process. It’s a political review and politically motivated with no substance.
So, I would look past all of that nonsense. You’ve got a minister, frankly, who, I mean, when you look at some of the comments that she makes in the chamber and outside, basically believes that she’s still at university. So, I wouldn’t take any of that too seriously. The government’s got boats on the water, they’ve got people who are arriving in record numbers on aeroplanes claiming protection when they get here. So, I think the government is barely holding our border protection policies together at the moment and we’ll see what transpires over the next few months.
Can I just about the Palaszczuk government, too? Just on their approach to the youth crime issue?
Well, I would just, you know, speak on, I think on behalf of a lot of Queenslanders. Look, a lot of friends and family I spoke to – even just over the weekend – a lot of people are living in fear in Greater Brisbane, in places like Bundaberg or Townsville or elsewhere at the moment. They’re worried about their house being broken into, they’re worried about their car being stolen. I just don’t know what the Premier is doing.
I mean, to ignore the reality of the youth crime crisis that she’s created in Queensland at the moment, I think is just showing that the Labor Government’s got a tin ear here in Queensland. I don’t understand why we’ve got the bail laws that we do. I don’t understand why we’ve got a rotating juvenile justice system that just allows people to, you know, check in and then check back out again and back out committing crimes.
We’ve lost lives here in Queensland because of the poor laws here in Queensland that basically encourage people to commit crime, not deter them, and I think there are a lot of people in Queensland at the moment who are just completely and utterly shocked at the fact that the Premier can’t get a handle on what is an issue that affects everyday Queenslanders.
Mr Dutton, just, I guess on your state colleagues, they voted with the government last week on a Path to Treaty and yet to make up their minds on the Voice on a state level. Are you calling on them to make a decision soon considering the length of time that has passed? And also would it be contradictory for them to say ‘no’ to the Voice now that they’ve said ‘yes’ to Treaty?
Well, that’s an issue for my state colleagues. So, the point I’d make in relation to the Voice is that we’ve just seen, frankly, a kangaroo court process with regard to the joint committee, there was no change of the words. The Prime Minister went into a conversation accompanied by the Attorney-General and the Solicitor General to tell the committee that the form of words they had was too ambiguous and would give rise to years and years of legal challenge.
Now, I don’t know how the Prime Minister in good conscience can go forward with the form of words that he knows are defective, because we’re talking here about constitutional change. The Parliament can’t out-legislate the Constitution. Once the Constitution is changed, it is changed forever, until you have another vote of the people. The founding fathers of the Constitution, when they put the Constitution together, it wasn’t just like a law that needed to pass the Parliament with, majority – with 50 plus one – they had a double majority in mind. That’s how important the Constitution is. It’s our national law book.
If you change it, they put in place a double test – you needed to get a majority of Australians and a majority of states, otherwise you couldn’t change the Constitution. That shows how serious it is when you’re contemplating a change to the Constitution, and the Prime Minister at the moment has a form of words which aren’t going to serve our country well, which are going to create a massive, big new bureaucracy, change the system of government as we know it, and I think it’s why more and more Australians are deciding to vote no, because the process for the creation of the Voice – I’ll just make this very important last point – the creation of the Voice and the way in which it will operate is not designed. The design process doesn’t start until the Monday after the Australian public votes on the Saturday. Now where else do you see that? Not in our history has a Prime Minister ever said to the Australian public, ‘I want you to vote on the Saturday and I’ll tell you what it’s going to look like on the Monday’. I just, I find it a very dangerous process because you’re talking about every element of government decision-making where the Voice will have to be consulted. It’s not just on Indigenous affairs and, to her credit, Megan Davis and others, who have been appointed by the Prime Minister, point this out that that’s exactly how it’s designed to operate.
So, how can you say to the Australian public, ‘vote on the Saturday, I’ll give you the detail on the Monday.’? It’s a six-month consultation process, so we have no idea what the Voice will look like in the end and people will have already been asked to vote on it. So, I think the Prime Minister has a lot of flaws in his approach and his logic, and I think he’s either after a wedge or he’s after some sort of grand moment of self-indulgence for himself, which, ultimately, will make no difference to Indigenous people on the ground, which is our number one aim, and even worse, it’s going to make our system of government bogged down in process, cost, and it’s going to be, you know, costly in terms of the time that it will take to create the laws in our country.
So, I think there’s a lot of debate to be had between now and October or whenever it’s to be held, and I would be surprised if Australians don’t start to question more why the Prime Minister doesn’t trust them with the information that they need to make an informed vote.
Thank you very much.