Subjects: Visit to Victoria to meet with multicultural community leaders; Anthony Albanese’s broken promises on tax cuts and power bills; Labor’s millions in donations from the CFMEU; Labor’s Jobs and Skills Summit; defence spending; mandatory COVID isolation; childcare; Anthony Albanese’s Shaquille O’Neal stunt.
We’re here today with Peter Dutton, the Opposition Leader in Dandenong. Can I say, Dandenong’s probably the most multicultural suburb in Australia, so it’s absolutely proper to have you here today Peter, and also at the Tamil Association in Victoria.
The great thing about this community centre here, under the Safer Communities Fund program, all the security gates around and the closed-circuit TV cameras came from that program, which myself and Peter led for so many years and doing such great work.
To have so many people from our various multicultural communities today to meet Peter and talk about some of their concerns, and issues from so many different groups, whether it be the African, the Afghanistan communities, also our great friends from India, Bangladesh, China.
It was just great to have so many here today to speak to us and meet Peter as the Opposition Leader.
Thank you very much. It’s fantastic to be here and I want to say thank you to all of the community leaders for their input, for their engagement. Some amazing stories and we’re keen, obviously, as a Party to see a greater diversity within our ranks and at the three levels of government, to see more people from different community backgrounds and different stories that they can tell in the Federal Parliament.
Those perspectives are important to us as a Party because the multicultural community here, as is the case across the country, shares values with the Liberal Party. We believe very strongly in the sanctity of the family – in whatever form that takes – we believe in small businesses, of entrepreneurship, of the drive that people have to see their communities grow and their country prosper and so there’s a natural affinity with many of the groups that we’ve spoken with today.
I want to say thank you very much, Jason, to you; you’re a real inspiration and a great leader in the multicultural communities here in Victoria, but around the country, in your shadow role as well. There’s a lot of work that we will do between now and the next election to connect with and to renew friendships with people in multicultural communities and I’m really pleased to be here in this amazing centre. I want to say thank you very much to all those who attended this morning.
Now, a couple of things. Obviously, there’s a lot of talk at the moment by the Prime Minister around breaking his promise on tax cuts. We know a couple of things about this Prime Minister: he promises a lot before the election, but he doesn’t deliver when he’s elected. Anthony Albanese spent 26 years wanting to become the Prime Minister and he spent every day since being the opposition leader.
He promised on 97 occasions to the Australian public that he would reduce their power bills by $275. He made that promise here in Victoria, he made it around the country and he looked the Australian public in the eye and said that he recognised that they had rising cost of living pressures to deal with, in their families, in their small businesses, and that he had a solution. Every day since the election – over the last hundred days – he has refused to repeat that figure of $275.
It seems now, that this sort of course of conduct by the Prime Minister is to be repeated in relation to the tax cuts as well. The Prime Minister promised the Australian public before the election that he wouldn’t trash the stage three tax cuts – which would see 95 per cent of Australians paying 30 cents in the dollar or less.
The Labor Party now is talking about breaking that promise and walking away from those tax cuts, which would have an impact not just today, but as people earn more in their pay packets, over the course of the next few years – the next decade – they will creep up through the brackets and pay more and more tax under Labor.
The Prime Minister needs to come out and be absolutely certain that he is going to honour his commitment that he gave to the Australian public, because at the moment the weasel words from the Labor Party in relation to these tax cuts creates great uncertainty in the community and I think it needs clarity. The Prime Minister here is trying to walk both sides of the fence and the Australian public will see straight through that.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Mr Dutton, just with those tax cuts, new figures show that [inaudible] the tax cuts do [inaudible] wealthiest man. Given that, are the tax cuts really necessary?
Well, a couple of points here. I mean firstly, the Labor Party supported childcare to families who were on very significant incomes, well above $200,000. So they had a principle there of helping people in that situation.
Second point is that obviously tax cuts provide support, not just to individuals, but to families as well. There are many people who might have a predominant wage earner within their family – whether it’s the wife or the husband or whoever makes up that relationship – and the benefit that is conferred on them through a tax cut is a benefit to all members in that family. So, I want to see people supported, I don’t want to see people dragged down and the Labor Party has this class warfare – as you’re seeing in the debate around industrial relations at the moment. I think there are a lot of small businesses and my job this week is, and frankly every day between now and the election, is to connect with small businesses across the country because they’re significant employers. I think the last thing that small businesses want at the moment is a Sally McManus or John Setka with their clipboard walking through your front door as a coffee shop owner, or as a dress shop owner, or whatever your small business might be, and having these union people impose themselves on your workforce. Economy-wide strikes would be devastating to the economy and a lot of people don’t understand what that means. But if you go back to the seventies, it’s crippling in an economy and it would be detrimental – not only to those businesses, but to the employees and to our broader society.
There are a lot of worrying signs coming out of this government at the moment and once they get through their honeymoon period, I think the Australian public is really going to question whether you can trust Labor and whether they’re going to make a bad situation worse, because the fundamentals of our Australian economy are very strong. I think the United States will go into recession. I think the United Kingdom will go into recession. I don’t think Australia will because the fundamentals here are too strong. Like Kevin Rudd inherited from John Howard in 2007, and as Mr Albanese has inherited from the Liberal Party in 2022, they’ve got a strong economy and it will take a lot of bad decisions, which of course the Labor Party is capable of, but it would take a lot of bad decisions to drive the Australian economy into recession.
I worry about families and small businesses at the moment and those tax cuts will be of assistance economy wide and it’ll mean that 95 per cent of Australians end up paying 30 cents or less in the dollar.
Liberal MP Russell Broadbent has said the stage three tax cuts should be dumped. Should the government proceed with stage three?
Well of course the government should proceed with them and Mr Albanese promised the Australian public. He looked people in the eye and he told them two things, in particular: one; that you’d be paying less tax because he supported the Liberal Party’s tax cuts, and two; he promised that their power bills would reduce by $275. He promised it on 97 occasions and since the election he’s never mentioned it and he’s walked away from that promise – and if he’s now trying to walk away from the tax cuts that were promised, that people voted for Labor on, then that is a significant break of trust and of faith with the Australian people and people would really, I think, quite legitimately doubt the next commitment that Mr Albanese made to them, whether or not he could be believed.
You touched on this briefly before, but advocacy groups and unions are calling on the government to bring forward its planned lift to childcare subsidies to January. Is that something that you would support?
Well, let’s see what the government’s providing by way of policy change. I’m not aware of any policy change at the moment. So, we’ll wait to see what they propose. But what I can tell you is that when we were in government, we supported childcare and choices for women in relation to formal and informal care arrangements. We invested a record amount in childcare. It’s an important investment because we want participation of women to increase and there’s a very significant economic multiplier in the economy if we can provide families with that support. So, we’re very supportive of measured responses and assistance and we would support sensible policy.
Is it a good thing that unions and business groups are working together at finding common ground on collective bargaining?
Well, I would wait to see what comes out of the Jobs Summit. If this is just a tick and flick for the union movement then that will be detrimental to workers and to the economy. I believe very strongly in workers’ rights and making sure that people are paid fairly for the work that they do, but the unions are more interested in the union bosses than they are the workers. And of course, the union bosses through their tens of millions of dollars of donations to the Australian Labor Party, pull the strings within the Australian Labor Party.
It’s very hard for a worker to get pre-selected into the Labor Party now. You’d need to be a union boss, and probably a secretary to be pre-selected into a Labor Party safe seat. If you look at the ranks – both the frontbench in the backbench of Labor Party – they’re full of union officials. Economy wide strikes would be crippling for businesses, particularly small businesses – disproportionately on small businesses – but also on workers.
The Labor Party would want to think very, very carefully about taking our industrial relations system back to pre-Hawke-Keating into the 1970s. As I’ve said, it’s very clear that Sally McManus is no Bill Kelty. She’s not a pragmatic person, she’s a zealot, and if you look at the work of John Setka in the CFMEU and the tens of millions of dollars that they’ve donated to the Australian Labor Party, their conduct is absolutely reprehensible and small businesses don’t want those people marching through their doors, thumping the desk and threatening business owners and employees demanding that migrant workers must sign up to a union. That’s not where we are in the year 2022 in our country and we should call it out.
Just quickly on defence vehicles. Should the government scrap Defence’s Infantry Fighting Vehicles program, if that is what’s recommended?
Well, if the government’s planning on ripping money out of defence at the time of the next budget, they should be upfront about that because now’s the time where we should be investing more into defence, not less.
The Government’s been clear about the intelligence that they’ve read, and it was no different to what I was reading as Defence Minister. It’s a worrying time and we need to be realistic about the investments that we need to make and all of the rhetoric coming out from the Defence Minister at the moment is all fine, but it needs to be backed up by investment into capabilities across the three services of defence and I would be very concerned if they’re going to pull money out of any of the programs. But if they are let Mr Albanese be upfront about that, because again, he promised at the election that they wouldn’t take money out of defence and if that’s another broken promise from this government, then I think that is a real break of faith with the Australian people.
Scott Morrison has agreed to comply with an inquiry into his secret ministries, will he still contribute to discussions in the Party Room while that investigation is ongoing?
Yes, of course he will.
Health service unions are calling for the nation to scrap mandatory COVID isolation entirely ahead of National Cabinet. Do you support scrapping it entirely or do you back the New South Wales Premier’s push to reduce it to five days?
I’m happy to listen to the health advice, but clearly now we’re moving into a phase where the isolation period will reduce and the arrangements otherwise that were in place at the height of COVID, will start to unwind and I think that’s what the community expects and it’s what the Premiers and the Prime Minister should deliver; listen to the health advice, but be sensible about its application.
We are now going to have to live with COVID, I think, for many years to come and we’ll see more advancements in the treatments, we’ll see more advancements in the immunisation program and that’s all a good thing, but people need to get back to work and people need to reunite with their families here in Victoria, across the country, indeed across the world. There are a lot of people who, here in Victoria, suffered under Daniel Andrews and many of them unnecessarily. I think many Victorians, many friends of mine here in Victoria still wear those scars of the worst of Daniel Andrews at the time of COVID. I think many people won’t forgive Daniel Andrews for that.
So, there’s a new pathway ahead now and Dominic Perrottet has been a sensible voice all along in relation to taking the next steps and as we’ve taken those steps, the decisions have been vindicated. We’re seeing cases come down. I don’t want to see anybody suffer from any disease, not from COVID, not from anything, but we have to live now with COVID and that’s the approach I think we should take.
Just one more question, if that’s ok?
Anthony Albanese has defended the use of Shaquille O’Neal as part of the Voice to Parliament campaign, saying the NBA star approached him, not the other way round. Do you see the issues raised by others, including Country Liberal Party’s Jacinta Price and Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe?
Look, to be honest, I was gobsmacked and I really think it was a slap in the face of Indigenous leaders who have been trying to get in to contact Anthony Albanese, I thought it was quite a remarkable and bizarre event to be honest and that Anthony Albanese wouldn’t be listening to the voices of Indigenous Australians who are expressing their concerns about the lack of detail.
Don’t forget, Mr Albanese started out this journey by saying that you could vote on the Saturday on this referendum, and he would give the details on the Monday. Now, clearly that was untenable, he backflipped on that, and what I worry about is that at a time when we want to be very serious about reconciliation and providing support to those in Indigenous communities and from my perspective, making an absolute priority of reducing violence against women and children, you’ve got a government that’s making it up on the run and it’s clear that even the most basic of details at the moment, the government hasn’t prepared for and can’t answer.
So coming in with a slick advertising campaign is not going to be a substitute for answering legitimate questions that Australians – including Indigenous Australians – have in relation to the Voice.
I think it’s frankly time to stop the stunts and to start to answer the questions and that’s what the Australian public deserve.
Alright, thank you very much. Thank you.