Subjects: Budget in Reply; Labor’s cost of living crisis; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; Labor’s negative gearing shambles; Jobseeker; China; Fadden by-election; crime crisis in Queensland.
It’s great to welcome Peter Dutton here, the Leader of the Opposition, to Stothart Family Farms here at Bellmere. You’d all know the Taste N’ Go strawberries that are beautiful, Taste N’ See at Coles, and these guys are the ones who are responsible for it. Thanks, Dave.
So, locally grown here in Bellmere. Good to see a lot of Australian workers here. I’ll hand over to you, Pete.
Terry, thanks very much, mate. Well, firstly, thank you to Dave and to all the staff here. The Stotharts are a family that’s been farming here for about five generations, providing strawberries to the local community. They’ve been in a supply contract with Coles for some 18 years and they employ about 300 people. So, an incredible employer locally. They give a lot back to the local community and they’re a big multiplier and they’re like many other businesses around the country at the moment who are really hurting under this government – with probably a doubling of their electricity bill.
When you think about the amount of stock that they produce here, particularly given that they’ve got 300 staff, it’s a big operation. So, they’ve got massive cold rooms, the cold rooms can’t run for 60 or 70 or 80 per cent of the time – they need to run 24/7, and under Labor’s proposal at the moment, the power prices are going to keep going up, and in an inflationary environment, these businesses can only absorb so much cost, and they end up passing it on.
So, when you go to Coles and Woolies now, you’re noticing that you’re getting less in your grocery basket for the same amount of money or you’re spending more and more every week, and it’s not just groceries, it’s your electricity and gas bill. The Prime Minister promised Australians before the last election that he would reduce your power bill by $275 a year. He promised it on 97 occasions and has never mentioned it since. We know that not only have you not had a reduction in your power bill, but it continues to go up.
I think what’s telling as well is that out of the budget last Tuesday night – bearing in mind this is the second budget that the government’s delivered, the first one last October – they have delivered two budgets now, and no assistance for middle Australia. It was a welfare budget – fair enough, they’re providing support to people on lower incomes and welfare – but they completely and utterly missed out on providing support to middle Australia.
I’ll tell you what gives it away is that they didn’t speak anything about middle Australians in the run up to the budget. ‘Middle Australia’ was not mentioned once during the Treasurer’s speech last Tuesday night and I’ll tell you what, since then, he’s mentioned middle Australia 41 times and Mr Albanese’s mentioned middle Australia 15 times, because they know that they got it wrong and the Australian public knows that Labor has got it wrong, yet again. They can talk about being the representatives of the working class – they forgot about the working class and moved into the ‘trendy class’ a long time ago.
So, I worry about middle Australians being left in the middle of nowhere under Labor.
I mean, Labor is creating a working poor in our country at the moment. People are paying more for their mortgages under Labor, more for their electricity on the Labor, more for their gas under Labor, more for their insurance premiums, and they’re working harder than ever, paying their taxes and they’re going backwards and the government had nothing to support them in last Tuesday’s budget.
So, I think there is a lot that we should be very concerned about. There are millions of Australians who are hurting at the moment not knowing how they’re going to pay their rent or their mortgage repayments, and it’s clear that the government had no solution or answer for them in last Tuesday night’s budget.
I’m happy to take some questions.
Mr Dutton, there’s a new push within Labor to change the Party’s housing policies. Are you willing to look at even modest changes to negative gearing, or capital gains tax discounts?
No. There is a huge divide now between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and the backbench. The Treasurer is on the record repeatedly saying that if you don’t have a change to capital gains tax – when he talks change, he means an increase in capital gains tax – if you don’t have a change to negative gearing – when he talks a change to negative gearing, he’s talking about an increase in the tax that applies to property investors – the tax policy is not worth having.
Anthony Albanese’s coming out saying well he’s not going to change anything, and the backbench is at odds with the Prime Minister as well. So, at a time when Australians need the Prime Minister to step up, they’re involved in this internal wrangle that’s just going to kill investment.
This is exactly what they do in the mining sector. We wouldn’t be in surplus today without the revenues from coal, from gas, from minerals and resources otherwise in our country and Labor wants to kill the golden goose.
If you own a home now, and you want the price to go down, well, listen to what Jim Chalmers is saying. He’s got a solution for you. If you want your house price to go down, Jim Chalmers is working up the solution to it. It’s to kill off negative gearing, which will undermine investment. People who are renting at the moment who can’t afford to buy, I don’t know what happens to them if property investors decide that it’s an unsafe asset class.
We saw not too long ago the government announce, and reaffirm in the budget, that they would tax unrealised capital gains in people’s superannuation funds. So that is before you sell the asset, and you have the money from the sale, you’re required to pay tax. I mean, it’s absurd, but it shows what Labor brings to the table. None of them have been involved in small business or managing money, and when Labor runs out of money, they come after yours.
But you say you’re worried about middle Australia. Why should taxpayers be subsidising people with multiple investment properties? Couldn’t that money be better directed?
Well, the Prime Minister went to an election promising that there would be no changes. Now, if he’s proposing to change it, as Mr Chalmers is suggesting, and his backbenchers are demanding, then we should have some honesty from the Prime Minister. But at a time when families are hurting because of the cost of living crisis created by Labor, when families are hurting and small businesses are really under pressure because of the energy crisis created by Labor, you’ve got the Prime Minister and Treasurer now who are talking about ways that they can tax Australians more. So, when we say that a Labor government will always tax and spend – this is again evidence of it. If you don’t have investment properties, renters don’t have accommodation to rent. Let’s be very clear about it. For mums and dads who save and as part of their retirement income, they put some money aside, they buy a rental property, they rent it out, and that’s supplementing their income – particularly for people who don’t have a big superannuation balance – that is a perfectly legitimate investment for you to make. I don’t understand why the Prime Minister is being deceptive about this, but clearly there’s a big divide between he and the Treasurer at the moment.
Can you clarify how much the government thinks your JobSeeker policy will cost, given there seems to be a discrepancy? And is their estimation accurate?
Well, the government in their own papers, when they talk about their change to JobSeeker, estimate it at about $4.6 billion. So it’s a very significant amount of money, and the question is whether you want to provide support to people to stay on unemployment benefits at a time when we have 438,000 job vacancies in our country and over 800,000 people on the unemployment line, or as we’ve suggested, should you increase the ability for people to earn some more in part time work, maybe five or 10 hours a fortnight, a shift or two, to earn an extra $150? Which is a better situation than Labor’s proposing, where they’d be on $40.
We know at the moment that about 75 per cent of people on JobSeeker payments don’t declare any additional income, which means that they’re not working part-time, and, as I say, we’ve got massive vacancies. You move around the country and businesses in retail and tourism, hospitality can’t find staff. So, we want people off welfare into work, it’s better for them and it’s better for the country. In terms of costings, obviously our policy proposal is much cheaper than what Labor is proposing in theirs, and we’re happy to have the discussion with the government. We’ve suggested it in a bipartisan way, in a constructive way, because we think where there are 438,000 jobs that businesses can’t fill at the moment and we’ve got 800,000-odd people on an unemployment benefit, that it’d be better to incentivise them to go into work.
The Trade Minister says he’s optimistic about Australia’s relationship with China following his visit to Beijing. If everything is as positive as he’s making out, when we do expect to see China lift tariffs on some products?
Well, I hope that they’re lifted tomorrow because there are producers like this, in other commodities, including in wine and barley, etc., that have been unfairly disadvantaged – through no fault of their own. They’re hard-working employers, they’re small business people in many cases, and they’ve had their business disrupted or upturned because of the actions of others. I hope that the government can have a constructive conversation, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of our sovereignty or what we stand for or what we believe in, and that’s the reality of what the government needs to deal with at the moment.
Is tomorrow realistic, though?
Well, again, there’s a lot of spin out from the government at the moment. I think it’s realistic to expect that given there have been a number of meetings now, that there could be a lifting – but I suppose we don’t know until we hear more detail. None of us who are involved in the negotiations or understand the dynamic of that conversation.
Since Stuart Robert announced his retirement, he hasn’t turned up to Parliament and he hasn’t been taking questions from the media. Are you going to require him to turn up to Parliament or what’s going on with him? And who’s representing his electorate?
Well, I just don’t think that’s unusual at all. I mean, once Kevin Rudd announced his retirement from the Parliament, or Julia Gillard, the same story. That brings their public life to an end. There’s a pre-selection process that would be underway in both parties, obviously, to pre-select candidates, and there will be a decision made by the Speaker to set the date for the by-election. That’s the normal course of events.
He’s still being paid though, surely he should have to turn up to Parliament? He’s representing his electorate.
I just don’t think it’s a departure from any other approach since Federation. So, where there’s a by-election – I mean, it’s cleaner in the Senate because it’s a casual vacancy created and somebody can be backfilled into that position – but in the lower house, it necessarily creates a by-election, unless it’s very close to a general election, and that’s the normal course of events.
Queensland police have said that the controversial ‘sleeper’ chokehold can be used where it might prevent deaths. As a former police officer, what do you make of the controversial rule?
Well, that’s a matter for the Commissioner and for the Queensland Government.
And is appropriate for the Federal Police to be helping Queensland Police with this DNA testing after the issues that were discovered within the labs? Is that a good use of their time?
I think you’ll find a pretty collaborative approach between the Commonwealth in terms of the AFP and the states, and vice versa. A lot of operational experience that they share, and quite often they work on joint operations, so I don’t think that would be a departure.
But obviously there’s been a very significant failing in the system here in Queensland. It’s let down many victims of crime and I think at the moment, when we’re in the middle of a crime crisis created by Premier Palaszczuk, I think the Queensland public wants answers to what are very serious problems.
There are a lot of people who are living with great fear, people worried about kids breaking into steal keys, and they’re worried about a dysfunctional system that Labor continues to put band-aids on but isn’t going to change or make our state safer.
Thank you very much.