Peter Dutton joins us on the line this morning. Good morning Peter.
Eddie, good morning mate, how are you?
Good. Peter it’s an interesting time for you now because you came out yesterday and said well now I don’t have to be the hard man all the time because I have been given the portfolios where I have to go the knuckle for basically the 17 years that I have been in Parliament. What is it that you want the people of Australia to see you standing for if you become the Prime Minister?
Ed, I think people have seen me as the Immigration Minister, as the Home Affairs Minister and they’re tough jobs. We’ve got people that want to cause us harm, people trying to come across our borders, we’ve got people in Nauru and Manus and you are defined by all of those things, and as I said yesterday, it’s hard when you are doing a radio interview or you’re doing a television interview and you’re being asked questions about those serious matters to show a different side.
I think people do want to see a different side. It’s difficult in my situation given that we have got full time security to be seen out with family and those sorts of issues.
People make their mind up based on seeing you in those interviews where you are giving tough answers and making tough decisions, as opposed to maybe a softer side that people would see if they had an insight into that.
All of that you know hopefully can come and I can show people that because I want to put forward ideas that I think are going to be of benefit to Victorians, to all Australians.
Electricity prices at the moment – it’s a huge issue for families – opening the bills that they just can’t afford to pay, small businesses closing their doors and taking the jobs overseas, farmers that are in drought, people sitting in gridlock traffic, we need to get infrastructure right in our capital cities. So there’s a lot of things to talk about, quite different to the portfolio that I’ve had and I hope that I can do that.
Peter you have been on our show a number of times, but as you said often we get a little snapshot and we are asking you about some of the key issues in your portfolio, but as you said now you get a chance for the rest of the country to get to know you and in the time now. Can you just give us a snapshot of your background? You started as a police officer in Queensland, you’ve been serving in Parliament for well over 16 years in Cabinet; what do the rest of Australia need to get to know about you in the coming weeks?
Darc, I would say mate like a lot of people, I just come from a middle class family. Dad was a bricklayer, Mum worked a second job so that she could pay for school fees – so we didn’t have a privileged upbringing at all – but were brought up in a wonderful family environment – so family is incredibly important to me – small business as well.
I’ve always had a part time job and when I joined the police, I still had part time job interests, which I ended up going into full time after 10 years as a police officer and came into politics in 2001. I was Assistant Treasurer to Peter Costello and worked with he and John Howard – and John Howard is still a mentor of mine today – so I have done that.
Obviously I’ve been shadow finance minister and been involved in immigration and border protection and most recently Home Affairs, which covers ASIO and the Federal Police. So that hopefully is a pretty down to earth background and it gives me an appreciation of some of the struggles that people have.
I was talking to a butcher in my electorate the other day; he’s paying over $5,000 a month for his electricity bill at the moment and he just can’t afford to pay the bill before he pays a dollar for the apprentices, or for the lease, or for the other input costs into his business and he just doesn’t know how he is going to do it.
I think one of the things that we could do straight away in this next billing cycle is take the GST off electricity bills for families – where it would be an automatic reduction of 10 per cent for electricity bills and people would feel an impact straight away. It would be a down payment on other things that you could do to help reduce those electricity bills and the other thing I think we could do, frankly, is I think we could set up a royal commission into the electricity companies and into the fuel companies.
I just think Australian consumers for way too long have been paying way too much for fuel and for electricity. Something just isn’t right with these companies and like we’ve done with these banks, I think a royal commission has the ability to get to the bottom of what is fundamentally wrong in the system and what could help ease some of that pressure on families and potentially small businesses.
Peter, some people are going to look back and look at the fact that you voted against the royal commissions into the banks a bunch of times and that’s their jobs, they’re political journalists. I don’t want to ask about that sort of stuff. I just want to ask when is the challenge going to be again because obviously the reason that you are doing this PR and letting people know who you are as a person is because you are going to have another go at it. So is there a timeline? Is it going to happen this week, is it going to happen in the next couple of weeks? What’s the timeline?
So Wil, I was the hard man…you’ve become the hard man now mate, putting in the tough questions. Look mate I said yesterday I believed that I was the best person to lead the Liberal Party and I really want to address the sorts of issues that I spoke about before – try and get water out to farmers and making sure that we can help them so they don’t face the next drought – but the decision of the Party Room yesterday was that I wasn’t successful.
I respect the vote that took place yesterday, but as I said I am a backbencher. If I’m in the Ministry I am bound by Cabinet solidarity and you are part of that Westminster system of government, but I am on the backbench now. The decision was made yesterday and I want to talk about these sorts of ideas and then we’ll see what the future holds.
Peter The New York Times today is basically laughing at Australian politics, a couple of stories in there – not that we are governed by what is in The New York Times – but certainly it mirrors the general feel. They can’t understand why Australia of all places, that has got half of the country burning at the moment and in drought, can’t get an environmental policy that actually works and one that you quite rightly put there; doesn’t cost us all a fortune at the same time.
Do we need to get some sensible balance in and I suppose as a supplementary question; is this the reason why you are going after Malcolm Turnbull now? Do you just believe that there is no visionary way forward for where this country is going in these areas?
Well Ed, one of the points I made yesterday was that we need to be very clear and succinct about our message, about our policy ideas, about our vision for the country and at the moment I think people are struggling to understand what it is the Government stands for and we need to be very clear about the sorts of things that I’ve spoken about: taking the GST off electricity bills for families and pensioners and self-funded retirees would have an immediate reduction and help those people with their household budgets, having a royal commission can help people get to the bottom of what is wrong in a country where we have an abundance of natural resource, renewables, of coal, of hydro and yet we are paying some of the highest energy costs in the world and similarly for fuel. So they’re the sorts of things that we need to talk about.
To Malcolm’s credit he made an announcement only in the last week of a significant amount of money to help farmers with the drought. I thought it was a great announcement, but I think we need to do more and finding ways of getting water out to some of these towns – as we’ve done in decades past – has to the be answer.
The drought that is taking place at the moment is equivalent to a great depression for these farmers and it’s devastating to watch the livestock perish and they’re the sorts of things that I think we should be working on and if we do, I believe that people will strongly support the Government.
Peter I gave you a hard one before, so I will give you an easy one to finish up here today. What’s your favourite ACDC song?
Mate, this is the one where it catches you out…I’ve had about an hour and a half sleep last night and I am trying to catch up with you Wil, but I haven’t I’m sorry mate. You’ve got the gotcha of the day. I think “Listen like Thieves” was my INXS one when I was last in.
Yes, it was. That’s a good answer. Here is a tip for you Peter, don’t try and sing songs you don’t know the lyrics to.
That is good advice mate.
Peter just to finish up on as Wil said there. You had an hour and a half sleep and I don’t think you were lying in bed counting sheep – you might have been counting numbers instead – how important is it for Australia because as a citizen of Australia to be sitting here at the moment with the place in drought and with an election coming up in the next 12 months, to not have a government governing is for the seventh time or the eighth time in the last eight or nine years, is particularly galling.
We need everybody really on their toes in government, running the country. How long can we survive with this vacuum we have got at the moment?
Ed, we need to be fair and say that there is a lot being done for farmers and there’s a lot that’s been done by the Government, by the public, people have generously given to the farmers and there is an incredible amount that’s been done. We can’t make it rain, which is what ultimately they want and what will change the situation, not overnight, but it will point them in the right direction. So we’ve got to be fair about the situation.
My point is that I think there is more that we can do to try and help them now, but to help them through the next drought and make sure it doesn’t have the impact it is today. So it is a combination.
But we want stable government, we want the sort of policies and measures that I spoke about before and if we do that then I think people can have that confidence and look at the Government with an ability to deliver on the very important issues for them, for their families, for their small businesses because that’s how we employ people and how we grow the economy.
Peter we appreciate your time. You’ve been very generous with it. I get the feeling we might be speaking to you a bit more often. Good luck in the next couple of days. We appreciate your time.
Thanks boys, cheers.