Subjects: Visit to Aston; Aston by-election; Labor’s superannuation shambles; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on superannuation; the Treasurer’s Sunrise shocker on capital gains tax and the family home; cost of living pressures; Labor’s infrastructure funding cuts in Aston; Labor’s mobile black spot program; AUKUS; Labor’s pork-barreling programs; Australia Post.
It’s great to have Peter back here in Aston. He was here last week, we’ve been out and about again. We had a terrific morning with the Chinese Elderly Citizens’ Association, speaking to that community group that does such great work here in Knox. Now, we’re here in New Touch Industries. Real cutting edge advanced manufacturing, contributing local jobs and growing the local economy, which is very exciting.
I’ve been out and about every day door knocking, speaking to small businesses, and what we’re hearing time and time again is cost of living is crippling people in Knox. They’re getting very, very anxious that the Labor Government has no plan – and I’m going to be a champion for that.
Traffic congestion is out of control and they’re really disappointed that Labor sent them a clear message, that the people in Knox aren’t a priority, by scrapping those five infrastructure projects. That was backed up yesterday by Catherine King, confirming that funding wouldn’t be provided for those projects. So, I’m going to fight for them, because it’s simply not good enough that the Outer East is neglected under the Albanese Government.
I’m delighted to hand over to Peter.
Roshena, thank you very much. Well firstly, I just want to say thank you to all of the staff that we’ve been speaking with this morning. First year apprentices, some of the managers, and the processes here are really world class and they’re employing local people here in Aston. So, I want to say thank you very much to the directors, to the owners of the company, and to all of those that have shown us around a pretty impressive facility. There was a big investment made into this facility through the modern manufacturing grant. It enabled some additional equipment to be purchased, which meant that a new contract was able to be awarded and won by the company, which means that more people are employed here locally.
The local electorate here over the course of the next few weeks has a decision to make with the by-election coming up on the 1st of April. The Liberal Party has selected a candidate in Roshena Campbell, who has already hit the ground running. She’s out door knocking in the local community. She’s a champion for her local community here, wants desperately to fight hard for the important issues that families and small businesses prioritise.
This morning we were at a great event. I was a bit rusty on my table tennis skills, but I got there in the end and I think Kai, who was my partner took it pretty easy on me, for at least the first part. He had a few shots there that showed me up, but it was a good opportunity just to talk about local issues and the things that are important to people here in the electorate of Aston.
Just a couple of other things. Obviously, the government’s had a shambles of a week. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer are at war with each other. You saw a real insight into the thinking of Australia’s Treasurer on the Sunrise program and the Today Show yesterday. He let the cat out of the bag. I mean obviously for months, presumably since they’ve been elected, the government’s been working on these new taxes, not just on superannuation, but on negative gearing, on the family home, at a time when families are seeing an increase in the pressures on their own household budgets and their own small business budgets, because the decisions Labor’s made have forced up inflation which have made your mortgages even higher than they should be.
The government should be frankly working on plans that help relieve some of the pressure. Don’t forget that the Prime Minister went to the last election promising on 97 occasions that he would reduce your power bill by $275. He’s never mentioned that figure once since he was elected last May.
The Prime Minister went to the election saying that he would have no changes to your superannuation and now it turns out that the government’s got a secret hit list of how they can take money out of your superannuation fund, and allocate your money to other projects, including buying somebody else a house, but not allowing you to use your superannuation fund to provide a roof for you and your family.
I think that the government’s clearly got its priorities wrong. This is a Prime Minister who I think provided a level of reassurance to Australians frankly, at the last election; he said to them that he had a plan to help them with cost of living pressures, to bring them down – cost of living pressures have only got more and more expensive under this government. He promised that he would bring mortgage rates down, and on eight occasions that the Reserve Bank has met since Labor was elected, interest rates have gone up on eight occasions and they’re projected to go up even further. The Prime Minister promised, and I think Australians believed him, that they had no plans to change superannuation or tax the family home or to change the taxation arrangements. He looked the Australian public in the eye and he said that he had no such plans. As it turns out, the government’s been working on those plans from the first day they were elected.
In Aston here at the October budget, the first decision the Labor Party took was to rip funding out of Aston, out of those important infrastructure projects. There’s a budget coming up in May and we know that Catherine King yesterday, the Minister confirmed that the government will not even consider putting funds into infrastructure projects here in Aston.
So, I think Australians are rightly starting to question the Prime Minister, his sincerity. They got a glimpse into the real Jim Chalmers yesterday. Jim Chalmers was rushed back out a couple of hours later to try and tidy up the mess, obviously at the Prime Minister’s urging and it seems today that the Treasurer has gone to ground. He’s not up answering questions, not providing responses to the questions that need to be answered. There’s speculation even in relation to superannuation now that the tax could be applied to unrealised capital gains – so people paying tax in their super, even though you haven’t sold an asset and made a profit – if that’s part of the government’s plan, they need to rule it out immediately because people can’t afford to pay taxes on profits that they haven’t even realised. That would be an extra disaster, on top of the shambles that the government’s presided over this week.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Just on Aston, Catherine King said that the road projects couldn’t be funded because of the state of the budget. To what extent does the Coalition take any responsibility for that? As to why Wellington Road, Napoleon Road and Dorset Road can’t be funded.
Well Simon, I’ll make this obvious point. When we were in government dealing with COVID, we provided JobKeeper to businesses like this that had to close, factories that had to close, restaurants that had to close because of the COVID restrictions applied by the Andrews’ Government. Without JobKeeper, those businesses would have closed. They would have gone into bankruptcy. The workers would have lost their jobs. That’s the reality.
Now, at the time that meant that we were going into debt because we hadn’t quite got back to a surplus position, but after Labor’s last time in government, when they racked up an enormous amount of debt, we had made decisions over the course of the period from 2013 that did mean that we had almost got the budget back into surplus. We got it back into balance and we were on our way to a surplus. COVID hits, so we didn’t have money in the bank thanks to Labor from last time they were in government and we did have to go into debt to pay for JobKeeper and to keep businesses alive and to keep people in work. The Labor Party supported all of that expenditure and they wanted more. They wanted more debt. So, let’s put into reality the circumstances of the last couple of years.
We had put money into the programs here, into the road funding announcements that had been made. Labor has ripped that money out and put it into Labor electorates. We’re seeing in relation to the blackspot program where Labor has made political decisions to take funding out of Coalition electorates and put it into Labor electorates.
What this by-election is about is a choice that the people of Aston have to make about the sort of local champion that they want for their local area. Roshena has demonstrated in her work as a councilor, in her work as a solicitor and barrister, in her work as a mum of three children, the ability to balance and to juggle all of that and to achieve significant outcomes for the local community. She has been out door knocking, listening to the issues and concerns of people here in Aston and she is going to be a great local member, a great champion for the community here. The Labor Party’s demonstrated already that they have abandoned Aston and there’s no pretence that they’ll come back and provide support, not in the October budget, certainly not in this budget upcoming.
Roshena, have you moved into Aston yet?
That’s under way. As I said, it’s my first priority. I’m committed to that. I’m making sure that I’m going to be a strong local voice who lives in the seat.
Catherine King also said yesterday that the Coalition had allocated just $200 million of the $1.3 billion needed for these road infrastructure projects. So how committed was the Coalition actually to getting these projects going?
That spending profile is no different to many other infrastructure projects. So, the claim is a complete nonsense – first point. Second point is that Catherine King made very clear yesterday that the Albanese Government, under no circumstances would fund the road projects here in Aston, and there’s no provision over the forward estimates, nothing in the out years, nothing within the programs. Catherine King couldn’t have been any clearer. The Labor Party couldn’t care less for people in this electorate.
We had put the initial funding in and as is always the case, when you’ve got a broader funding profile and programs, that’s where they’re funded from as the studies are done, as the commitments are undertaken, the contracts are signed with either a state government, local government or the private sector to roll those programs out.
I mean, it’s not even a fig leaf that they’ve tried to grab for. I thought it was actually an embarrassing performance by Catherine King, but it was a disappointing one for local residents here who are stuck in traffic morning and night. They just want to get home to see their kids. They want to get home to their families and they’re stuck in traffic for longer and longer under this Labor Government because the Labor Party has confirmed that there’s not a single dollar for Aston in relation to any of those projects.
On submarines and your comments just yesterday – why are you being so critical of the British submarines? Andrew Hastie has said that he’s very sympathetic to the British model.
Well Simon, I’ll just repeat what I said factually yesterday. That is that the first priority for our country is to defend our people and to make decisions with that in mind. The deal that the Coalition struck under AUKUS is historic. It will underpin security for our country for generations to come. It was only possible because of the relationship we have with the Brits and with the Americans and it’s allowed us to contemplate a nuclear submarine acquisition which was never possible before.
Labor never struck the deal under AUKUS and my point is that if we want to achieve capability as quickly as possible, then the Virginia-class, in my judgement, is the best option for us. There’s great capacity within the American system, particularly if we are able to pay for additional lines in Connecticut and elsewhere, including in Australia, to build Blocks here, to support the program development otherwise.
The third point is that the first of anything in defence is always problematic. So, if you’re talking about a frigate, if you’re talking about a tank, if you’re talking about a submarine, the new design always comes with delay and with additional cost, and that’s the risk around the SSNR project.
Now, I’ve also made it very clear on a number of occasions that we will support whatever decision the government makes. If they decide to go with the Brits, if they decide to go with a co-design, if they decide to go with the American Virginia-class, we will support that decision because we want the acquisition as quickly as possible. But my judgement is that there will be delays and there will be extra costs going with a new design and that was the problem with the French proposal. The design takes years and years and years.
Now, if the government’s come up with something that mitigates those risks, well, we’ll wait to see, but they haven’t given us the briefings in relation to it, but I’ve made my position very clear in relation to this.
But the first consideration, of course, is that AUKUS wouldn’t be possible, we wouldn’t be getting any nuclear submarine if the Labor Party was still in power because when they were in power they reduced spending on defence to the lowest level since 1938. We increased spending on defence to above 2 per cent of GDP and obviously we’re waiting for the Review at the moment because there are a lot of frustrated suppliers out there, and members of the ADF who want that funding confirmed so that they can continue their acquisition to provide deterrence and to keep Australia safe.
Pat Conroy says though, your comments were irresponsible and the Brits have come out overnight and have been quoted in The Australian basically saying that these comments are irresponsible. What’s your response to that?
Well, I just don’t think there’s any basis for that. Pat Conroy of course, is a political operative sent out there as a junior woodchuck by Richard Marles…
He is Defence Industry Minister…
Well, he was probably sent out there by Richard Marles, I suspect, who didn’t want to come out himself for whatever reason. I suspect Richard didn’t want to talk about superannuation yesterday…
It is a defence industry matter though?
Well, defence industry is crucial and it did incredibly well under a Coalition government. At the moment they’ve hit the pause button through the Defence Review which keeps getting delayed and I worry that when you see a lack of that investment, or a lack of commitment, as you always see under a Labor Government, it results in job losses and the inability to continue that production line. So, just like in this business, they need orders coming in so that people can remain employed and you can continue to have that output. So, I wouldn’t be surprised at Pat making political comments, but everything I’ve said, I think, is firstly in our country’s best interest and secondly, based on the facts.
Going back to the superannuation [inaudible]
The point that I would make about superannuation, and you’ll see these figures in The Australian Financial Review today; somebody who’s 25 years of age, with the figure that the government’s announced of $3 million, but not indexed, means that by the time that they retire, the cap would be in today’s dollars about $1.2 million. Now, that sounds a lot of money and it is. If you’re in retirement at 70 years of age and interest rates are 2 per cent and you’ve got a million in superannuation, that’s $20,000 a year, that’s not a lot. You would have to be supplemented with the Age Pension and maybe you’ve got other investments that you’ve been able to make outside of superannuation.
But the point is that when Labor runs out of money, they always come out of yours and it doesn’t matter what seat you’re talking about. There are a lot of people who have worked hard, including in factories like this and the owners here, if they decide to retire, they might own this factory in their superannuation fund, or they might have financial advice to roll it into their super fund; if they’ve made decisions according to the law and people have invested according to the law, Labor changing the rules afterwards makes it very difficult and it sends a bad message to younger people as well because the younger people who we’re encouraging to put extra into their super, you end up with a situation where they don’t want to put that money in and they don’t want to have the uncertainty around whether or not the rules will be changed because it’s going to affect their retirement. That’s the problem with what Labor’s proposed. It’s not just people who’ve got a bigger balance in their superannuation.
I want to stand up for Australians if they’ve got $30,000 or $300,000 in their super fund, because it’s an important asset to try and provide support for them in the future and most importantly, it’s their money, not the government’s money. It can’t be a play thing for Labor Governments.
If you’ve worked hard and you’ve put money aside into superannuation and you’ve sacrificed spending elsewhere, you haven’t bought a new car or decided not to go overseas, but to put extra money into your superannuation, you shouldn’t be penalised by a Labor Government who has run out of money and starts now to come after yours because it starts here, and then it goes to the next rung down and the next rung down after that, because they need more and more money because Labor always taxes and spends.
Roshena, how would you rate the performance of the former member for Aston, Alan Tudge?
What I’m hearing is that he did a lot to deliver for the community. He delivered a lot of support for community groups, for sporting groups and the people of Aston are saying to me that what they’re looking for now is someone who’s going to keep listening to them and delivering local. So, I’m going to use my experience as a councilor listening to communities, as a barrister fighting for people and make sure that I’m out there every day listening to the priorities of this community and then making the case to make sure they get delivered on.
What’s your take on the government’s review of Australia Post, including moving away from delivering letters?
Australia Post has an important community service obligation and they need to meet that obligation. I understand the difficulties that they’ve got because, as you know, in your own household or small business, you’re not posting as much as you used to. Lots done by email, even signing a contract for a house or for a rental agreement you can now do digitally. So, it becomes – with those fixed costs – difficult, I understand that, but the obligations need to be met. The government needs to provide what support is required to make sure that that business is sustained.
At the same time, it’s important to point out that Australia Post, through their parcel delivery business, has a very profitable element to their business because of online shopping and people are utilising that service more and more through StarTrack and others.
We were able to manage those competing interests when we were in government and the government needs to give that guarantee to people in Aston, to Australians more generally, that Australia Post will meet their community service obligations, deliver mail on time, and to do it in a way that’s affordable for Australians, and particularly pensioners who still want to send a Christmas card or a birthday card to their grandkids, still want to write a cheque and remit that. If that’s people’s choice, well, that’s a choice they can make and they should be supported in doing that.
Do you think a legislated CSO [inaudible] should change?
Well, if the government believes that they should be changed, then they should explain that to the public; but again, there’s an obligation that’s been longstanding. The business model, clearly of Australia Post has changed significantly, like many businesses in the digital age, but they need to cope with that and they need to put in place whatever support mechanisms are necessary because people will always have that requirement to send a letter and that’s their right to do so. Thank you very much.