Subjects: Labor’s cost of living crisis; Labor’s immigration detention shambles; Labor’s migration review shambles; Labor’s Big Australia policy; High Commissioner Stephen Smith’s Australia Day cancellation; Ed Husic’s RN rant; China; Steven Miles.
Good morning. Thanks for coming today. I just wanted to make a few comments in relation to some issues which I think are really important for Australians as we go into Christmas.
The Albanese Government’s had 18 months to make decisions to help families and to make it easier for them – not only in terms of cost of living, but also keeping them safe – and unfortunately, they’ve failed at every turn.
What we know is that the Government has released 150 criminals into the community when there was no need to do so, making it less safe for Australians over Christmas. We know that some of them have already been arrested and we know that others, because of their backgrounds and their serious criminal behaviour, that they’re likely to offend against more Australian victims. That really is a very bad decision – as most Australians recognise – by the Prime Minister, who, frankly, is pretty weak on these matters.
Now, as it turns out, the Government has not yet formed the process for referring matters onto the court in relation to their preventative detention legislation, which, again, is quite remarkable.
So, it turns out that whilst there was urgent legislation, the Government didn’t have the background work done and this chaos and the chaotic approach of this Government when it comes to this border and migration issue, continues to be a huge issue, and it’s going to result, sadly, tragically, in more people becoming victims of these criminals.
If the Government hasn’t yet put together this law enforcement board, and they don’t yet have cases ready to go to court, they’re not going to get there before Christmas. So, the Government had a chance to put these people back into detention, and we don’t believe that even one case is going to come before the courts in the run-up to Christmas. I think most Australians would shake their head over discussions at barbecues over the course of this Christmas. I think people will be thinking that this Prime Minister has dropped the ball and made some bad decisions – particularly when it comes to releasing these criminals into the community.
It also turns out that the Government has talked with great fanfare about reducing the migration numbers in our country so that they can help bring down the pressure in the housing market. Now, we all need more houses in every community across the country because there’s huge demand, but as it turns out, the numbers in the migration programme aren’t going down – they’re actually going up.
In the May budget, the Government predicted that there would be some 130,000 – or there’ll be more than 130,000 than they projected in May – under the migration programme. And we know that they’re now predicting that there’ll be 1.625 million people – 1,625,000 people – as opposed to 1.495 million people in the May budget. So, how does Jim Chalmers look the Australian public in the eye and tell them a story about migration which is not true? The pressure that they’re putting onto housing is going to make it less affordable for families to get a home. It’s going to make it less affordable for somebody to rent a property, and I think Australians realise that this Government’s made decisions that are just making it harder for families.
Now we also learned today that there is, at a time where we’ve got huge shortages trying to get a tradie, a carpenter, a brickie, or a plumber, or an electrician, it’s hard and it’s also expensive, and the Government had the opportunity under the migration programme review to allow more tradies to come in – as we’ve done in decades past – to try and meet that demand, because at the moment you can’t build a house and you can’t get a renovation done in a reasonable time, at a reasonable cost, because of the massive shortage of tradies in this country.
So, the Government in a single decision is going to make it harder to find a tradie and more expensive to find a tradie, and that’s exactly the opposite of what this Prime Minister promised when he was elected in May of 2022. He said he was going to make life easier for people, and all of these decisions are making life harder for Australians. It’s less affordable when you go to the supermarket. We know that gas prices are up by some 28 per cent over the course of the last 18 months. Electricity prices are up by 18 percent and the Government’s made a decision now, which means it’s going to be harder and more expensive to find tradies as well.
I think it’s also worth pointing out that Stephen Smith – who’s the High Commissioner, and personally appointed by the Prime Minister – is ashamed of Australia Day and has called off Australia Day celebrations in London. I find this quite remarkable. How can you be the representative of our country in the United Kingdom and not believe in Australia Day?
The Albanese Government needs to call up the High Commissioner – I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing – but he needs to announce today that he made an error in judgement, that he made the wrong decision. You can’t have a High Commissioner who is embarrassed to be Australian. You can’t have a High Commissioner who says ‘we’re going to cancel the Australia Day celebration because we don’t want to hold this charity event any longer because he doesn’t believe in Australia Day.
The Prime Minister, the Acting Prime Minister, the Foreign Affairs Minister, should be very clear and they should direct the High Commissioner and any other High Commissioners or Ambassadors who have got similar views, that we celebrate Australia Day in our country with great pride. We’re the greatest country in the world and we should be prepared to celebrate it here in Australia and in our posts overseas.
I don’t think Stephen Smith is living up to the expectations of Australians, and the Prime Minister needs to show strength, not weakness here, and to call out the High Commissioner in London because it’s completely and utterly unacceptable.
Final point in relation to Ed Husic, who is flying off again this morning with comments that are offensive to the Jewish community here in Australia. Ed Husic always waits for Anthony Albanese to go on holidays and he makes these comments which are ill-considered, and I don’t think show any sensitivity to the Jewish community here in Australia.
So, I think Mr Husic, if he’s got the guts to say something, he should say it when the Prime Minister’s in the country or when he’s at work so that he can refute what it is that Mr Husic’s had to say, because I think his comments today go too far, and he always waits for the Prime Minister to go overseas before he makes these comments.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Just on China, overnight, China lifted the tariffs on Australian beef. Do you welcome this news and congratulate the Government on achieving this breakthrough?
Well, we welcome the news, and we want a normalised relationship, but we shouldn’t sacrifice our values and our beliefs and our core equities. That’s the approach that we would support. We want to make sure that the relationship with China continues to grow because we have made a lot out of the relationship, China has made a lot out of the relationship financially, but we need to make sure that we stand up for our values, that we stand strong for what we believe in, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
You spoke about this before, but the construction industry has concerns the Government’s migrant changes won’t bring enough tradies and could delay housing construction. Do we need to bring in more tradies from overseas?
Well, what sort of Government, at the time of the building crisis, when you can’t get a tradie and you certainly can’t afford one, what sort of Government decides to close the door to tradies coming into Australia? It’s completely the wrong decision and it’s going to have a negative impact on housing affordability – the complete opposite of what the Government’s promising.
It’s the same as the rhetoric from the Government this week about cutting the migration programme. It turns out they’re increasing the migration programme by 130,000 people – over 1.6 million people – over the next five years. That is going to put huge pressure on housing, and if you think it’s hard to buy a house now under Labor, if you think it’s hard to pay the mortgage under Labor, it’s going to continue to get harder over the coming years and the decisions that they’ve made in two budgets, and now in the run-up to MYEFO as well, all of those decisions are making it harder, not easier, for Australian families, and that’s the complete opposite of what the Prime Minister promised the Australian public.
He promised that there’d be a reduction of $275 in people’s electricity bills, power bills continue to go up, and under Chris Bowen’s crazy rants at COP28, he’s going to put us in a position where there is a reliability issue in relation to energy, so that there’s the prospect of lights going out, but the bills are going to continue to go up and up under this Labor Government, and I don’t think that’s what people voted for.
And do you accept Stephen Smith’s explanation that the Australia Day event was cancelled purely for cost reasons?
No, I don’t. I don’t think it’s credible. I think Mr Smith keeps changing his story, as Penny Wong does, but we need to hear from the Acting Prime Minister – does he support this crazy decision? How can we have a High Commissioner who is ashamed of Australia Day? Australia Day as a celebration of our history and our heritage. Celebrate our Indigenous heritage, we celebrate settlement in this country. It is what, together, has made us the greatest country in the world. How can a High Commissioner be ashamed of Australia Day? The story put out by Foreign Minister Wong and Mr Smith keeps changing. It was about “sensitivities” and all sorts of things, but Australia Day needs to be celebrated and it needs to be celebrated at a significant Post such as that in London. If the High Commissioner doesn’t believe in it, then, frankly, I think Penny Wong needs to deal with it.
Australia Day is growing more and more polarising. You just said then it’s about celebrating Indigenous heritage. Obviously with the Voice vote we saw earlier in the year, a lot of Indigenous communities voted for the Voice, different to what the majority of the population voted. How can you celebrate Indigenous heritage sensitively when there are a lot of people calling for the date to be changed – particularly when you look at what has happened post-Voice Referendum.
Well, I think I speak for the majority of Australians here who are proud of our country. Recognise that we’ve got a history of Indigenous heritage, white settlement in our country, and all of that is to be celebrated. We have the institutions here in our country that make us a great democracy, we have freedom of speech, we have the ability to contribute in an egalitarian way in our country, and that is to be celebrated. So, I think the vast majority of Australians will be celebrating Australia Day, and I think the High Commissioner in London – if he’s not prepared to celebrate Australia Day, if he’s ashamed of Australia Day – then, frankly, I think he should be looking for a new job.
And lastly, in Queensland – Steven Miles will be Premier. Do you have any comments on that?
Well, I think most Queenslanders would be shocked that when they voted for Annastacia Palaszczuk at the last state election they were actually voting for the faceless union leaders who obviously run the Labor Party and run Queensland.
This is why the CFMMEU has so much power in Queensland and therefore while building costs are through the roof. It’s why we see extra numbers in the public service in Queensland, but not extra ambos and doctors and nurses, because the unions are in control.
I saw a comment yesterday from somebody in the Labor Caucus who rightly pointed out that if Steven Miles becomes Premier – which obviously now he will – he will be completely and utterly owned by Mr Bullock and the union movement, and that is not what Queenslanders voted for.
I don’t think the next state election can come around soon enough because David Crisafulli will lead a fresh new Government and he will have ideas and policies and a vision for our state which will put us back on path.
But Steven Miles, effectively, is a continuation of the failure of the Palaszczuk period and that means hospital problems, it means ambulance ramping, it means a continuation of the youth crime crisis. Steven Miles has been sitting around the Cabinet table at the right hand of Palaszczuk for nine years. He’s as culpable for the failures in Queensland as is Premier Palaszczuk, and I think now the union bosses have spoken, it demonstrates just how much power they have in the union movement and it demonstrates that Steven Miles is a Premier for the union bosses, not for the people of Queensland.
Thank you very much.