Subjects: Visit to the Central Coast; Labor’s offshore wind proposal in the Hunter that will decimate the local environment and economy; Labor’s cost of living crisis; nuclear energy; Labor’s slow roll out of support to the Middle East; the ramifications around Australia following the barbaric attacks on Israel; additional military support for Ukraine; Labor no friend of the critical minerals sector despite investment announcement.
Welcome Peter to Eastcoast Beverages. Thank you for coming up to our family farm.
Thank you mate.
You’ve got a big operation here, mate. Just tell us a little bit about the scale now and what’s happening.
My grandfather started the business over 50 years ago, just picking and packing citrus, sending it down to the Sydney markets. My dad and his two brothers essentially started squeezing that fruit, and three generations on we’re here, we’re squeezing, we’re selling and supplying customers throughout Australia.
Well Sam, thank you very much mate. I just want to say firstly to you and to your Uncle Mick and the other members of the family that we’ve met here, the Lentini story is an incredible one, and it’s one that we should celebrate more often in Australia – the third generation of workers here.
It’s an amazing story because it’s created job opportunities, it’s created economic growth within the region and there are many businesses in the supply chain, many families who work here directly, who are better off because of the hard work and the sacrifice that the family’s made over three generations.
The migrant story to our country is an incredible one and one that we should celebrate every single day. We’re the best country in the world for a number of reasons: our indigenous heritage, obviously, but our British settlement and the migrant story here represented today in an incredible operation – bottling juice and sending it all over the country. It’s a really great story and I’m very pleased to be here on the ground just talking to real people and hearing the stories – we’ve been to a number of locations yesterday at Port Stephens talking to some of the fishermen there as part of the fishing industry, tourism operators and others who are adversely affected by some of the Government’s decisions.
A business like this obviously is very energy intensive, but not just the business here, it’s the other elements that feed into the production. When you go into Woollies or Coles, or into Aldi or IGA, and buy a bottle of orange juice, it’s not going up just because there’s an increase in the price to produce oranges, there’s an increase under this Government in the cost of making the bottle. There’s an increase in the cost of fertiliser. There’s an increase in the cost of running cold rooms, and all of that is ultimately passed on to families and it squeezes the margins in businesses like this, which means it’s harder to put on staff and harder to make that next investment decision.
The problem for the Prime Minister is he’s never worked in business. He’s never had any interest in business. The only interest he’s got in business is how it can provide support to the union bosses. So, I think we should talk more about small businesses. I think frankly, instead of being obsessed by the Voice, as the Prime Minister has been over the course of the last 17 or 18 months, he should be getting out and talking to small businesses, to families around the country.
There are a lot of families who are struggling at the moment to pay their mortgages, to fill up their car when petrol’s, you know, over $2 a litre, diesel at the moment close to $2.30 a litre, people are paying more and more for their insurance premiums. The decisions the Government’s made in the last two budgets have made it harder for families, not easier.
Governments have decisions to make and there are always international events that will feed into the reality of economic policy, but as you know, under a Liberal Government, we always make the decisions that stand us in good stead to see through the good and the bad times.
Unfortunately, the Labor Party just doesn’t have that experience or that instinct because they’re all about the union bosses and never about the workers.
The modern Liberal Party is all about the Australian worker, about families, about people in suburbs, in regional towns. The Prime Minister can hang out with the elites as much as he wants, I’d much prefer to be out here on the ground talking to Australians who are working hard and the Liberal Party policies will be designed exactly to provide support to those people because that’s how we’ll grow our country.
The policies that the Prime Minister’s adopting at the moment are going to drive manufacturing offshore. We’re going to lose those Australian jobs and the energy policy is just going to continue to drive up people’s power prices, which is crippling families, but also a lot of businesses as well.
I’m happy to take any questions.
So what policies would you consider, the Coalition consider, implementing then to address these issues you’re talking about?
Well, we’ve started the debate in relation to the small modular reactors, around nuclear, that can firm up the renewables in the system. In Ontario, they’ve got about 60 to 70 per cent of nuclear firming up their renewables. They pay half the kilowatt hour rate that we do here in Australia. So, if we want to halve our electricity prices, we should look to the example as we see in Ontario and elsewhere.
The Government’s proposing three or 400 of these wind turbines just off the coast here. It’s going to destroy the tourism and the fishing industries. We don’t know anything about the environmental impact. They’re 260 metres out of the water and it requires an anchor point of tonnes and tonnes of concrete the size of a ship sitting on the seabed. You’ve then got cables running back to the beach, onshoring somewhere through wetlands and the Government hasn’t conducted a proper consultation process with any of the local industries.
So, I think the difference between the way that we approach policy and the way the Labor Party does is evidenced every day. Interest rates are always higher under Labor, debt’s always higher, and we know that this is a Government that just doesn’t have the solutions for families.
Just to some international matters now, if you don’t mind. To the Middle East: the Australian Government has announced it’s sending extra personnel and defence aircraft to the Middle East. Are you in support of that decision?
Well, you know, a couple of weeks ago we called for the Government to do this and quite frankly it should have happened before now. We knew that there was going to be a very volatile situation in the Middle East and the Deputy Prime Minister, the acting Prime Minister should have been aware of that and he should have been pre-positioning assets into Al Minhad and elsewhere in the region in anticipation of having to uplift Australians who might be stranded, dropping humanitarian support or providing support to our partners if requested to do so in other ways.
So, it’s come too late, but we support the Government’s decision ultimately, and this is why the National Security Committee should have met right at the very start, because these are the decisions that when we were in Government, we were able to make in the NSC process.
It seems to me that Anthony Albanese is running a process very similar to Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, where there’s a level dysfunction that’s obvious within the Government now. One side of Government’s not talking to the other, and I think all of them frankly, have been obsessed, so obsessed with the Voice over the course of the last 17 months. It’s not just the economic policy that they’ve got wrong, but it’s also defence policy, home affairs and other areas where we’ve seen neglect over the course of the first half of this term.
So what more do you think could be done to get Australians out of Gaza?
Well, the Government will have to make those decisions based on the intelligence and the advice to them. As days and weeks go on, it’s harder to respond because the likelihood of the conflict increases, and that’s why the Government should have been moving earlier and providing that support. Every military strategist could tell you that the northern border between Israel and Lebanon was going to be difficult, that Hezbollah were going to be moving in to try and take advantage of the atrocities committed by Hamas.
The Prime Minister didn’t have much interest in this issue, which is probably why the Prime Minister of Israel still hasn’t taken our Prime Minister’s call, which I think is actually a national embarrassment.
Many other world leaders have stood up and stood with Benjamin Netanyahu, with the Israeli people. Our Prime Minister was late to the table, and I think the Israelis have noticed the fact again that the Prime Minister, having been obsessed with the Voice, just responded in a way that was ham-fisted. I think the Jewish community here in Australia recognised that very soon after the Prime Minister failed to respond.
To the Muslim community in Australia, we’ve just heard from our colleagues in South Australia that the Islamic community there has raised concerns about recent incidents where fires have been lit in mosques. They believe that they’ve been racially motivated. Will you call out those kinds of incidents?
Well of course. We condemn any act of violence or any act of discrimination or racism on any basis. I’ve been clear about that for my 20 odd years in Parliament. We don’t discriminate against people because of their religion, because of their race, because of their sex, or on any other basis, and any Australian who resorts to violence or intimidation should face the full force of the law, and I’m sure that those matters are being investigated by the police as they should.
To Ukraine, the Government’s offered an additional $20 million in military support. Is that enough do you think?
No, it’s not. I really think you’re seeing the colour of the Prime Minister here and it’s pretty pale, I might say. I think the weak response from our Prime Minister in relation to support for Ukraine leaves a lot to be desired.
We made the initial decision very early on to provide Bushmasters – 40 of them to the people of Ukraine. They’ve saved lives, and we should be doing a lot more to provide assistance to the people of Ukraine. We don’t want to see men, women and children slaughtered by Russian forces under the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin. We want to see the Ukraine liberated, and that happens more quickly if they’ve got the defence materiel support that they require.
This Government has been very, very slow to act. I don’t understand why and they should be doing more to provide support in the Ukraine because it’s important that President Zelensky prevails here.
This would be a huge propaganda win, let alone the humanitarian crisis that would be created if Putin was successful in taking Ukraine. It would have a knock on effect to broader Europe, and that’s why you’re seeing countries now engage with NATO in a way that they haven’t since the Second World War, been interested in the events in Europe.
So, these are very serious times, and when the Prime Minister says that this is the most precarious period since the Second World War, he’s dead right, and I agree absolutely with that analysis.
The Government’s ripped a billion and a half dollars out of defence funding in this country, and they’ve delayed acquisition of necessary elements of acquisition for defence, for the three services, at a time when we should be accelerating our acquisitions.
Again, I think Richard Marles and others have been completely and utterly distracted by the Voice over the last 17 months and it’s why this Prime Minister is just never across the detail and so out of touch with ordinary Australians.
Just lastly, the Government’s also announced a $2 billion expansion in critical minerals financing. Is that needed?
Well look, I really welcome the announcement, but the Government is not approving any new sites. The companies we’re speaking to at the moment are taking capital away from Australia and not setting up new projects and taking it elsewhere in the world. These are global companies. They’ve got limited capital in their balance sheet and they will go where there’s no risk. There’s sovereign risk now for our country with very trusted partners like South Korea and the Japanese, and that is the first time that we’ve seen that.
The industrial relations changes are sending a shiver down the spine of all of those mining companies, and they’re now not proceeding with projects. So, the Government on the one hand hits the accelerator and then taps the brakes, and they don’t have any commitment to the mining sector, and the people of Western Australia have woken up to this and realise that Tanya Plibersek and Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese of the hard left of the Labor Party, are no friends of WA or the mining states otherwise.
There’s enormous wealth to be generated for our country. The silica plant in Western Australia is likely to close under Labor’s energy policy. It’s one of the key elements of course into solar panels and the Government has no regard for that whatsoever, and if we’re going to close down manufacturing and make it harder for companies like this to continue to operate, it’s no wonder people are switching off Anthony Albanese.
A lot of Australians are just asking themselves at the moment; where did Anthony Albanese go that I voted for in 2022? He’s a completely different bloke and a shadow of its former self and is making all sorts of decisions, but they’re the wrong decisions for our country and a Liberal Government will clean up Labor’s mess and we’ll make sure that we get our country back on track by helping families and small businesses.
Thank you very much.