Subject: Dunkley by-election; Nathan Conroy – Liberal Party candidate for Dunkley; Labor’s cost of living crisis; Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary Coronation; Taiwan election; illegal tobacco; DP World industrial dispute.
I’m really pleased to announce that our candidate for the Dunkley by-election has been preselected today. Nathan Conroy is somebody known to locals as a champion, somebody who fights for the issues that are important to people here in the local community. He’s a person for whom there is a great deal of community respect, and along with Steffie and Callan, they are a beautiful family, and they understand the pressures that many families, and particularly small businesses and others, are under at the moment.
Obviously, the by-election is as a result of tragic circumstances with the passing of Peta Murphy. In the Parliament we had quite a long condolence motion where we spoke about Peta, her attributes and her contribution to this local community. The opportunity now, of course, for the local community of Dunkley is to preselect somebody or to select somebody at the upcoming by-election who is going to fight for them, who is going to stand up for them, because at the moment we know that in the Albanese Government, we’re just not getting the answers for local communities here in Victoria.
This Government came into power with a promise to reduce electricity prices by $275. In fact, the Prime Minister promised that on 97 occasions, and yet since then, we know that power prices have gone up by 23 per cent, and yet under this Government, workers are paying 27 per cent more in tax, and so the family budget just doesn’t add up.
When people go to the supermarket, they know that they’re getting less for every dollar that they spend, because the Government’s energy policy is driving up the prices of everything. This is a Government that doesn’t have the answers, and as a result, we’re seeing a big hole in people’s budgets and it’s growing. That’s why we need a real local champion, and Nathan, the work that you’ve done in your local community is well respected. As the Mayor of Frankston, you have been out there with your sleeves rolled up, listening to people, and that’s exactly the sort of local Member that I think the people of Dunkley want in Canberra. They want somebody who can take the fight up to the Albanese Government, who can stand up for their issues and the things that are important to them locally – the infrastructure, the housing, and to make sure that they fight on the cost of living pressures created by the Albanese Government.
So, Nathan, you might say a few words and then I’m happy to come back and take some questions.
Thank you, Peter.
Firstly, I want to acknowledge why we’re here, and that is the passing of Peta Murphy, who was a strong local advocate for our community.
Secondly, I want to thank the Liberal members for putting their trust in me to take this fight to Canberra. As Mayor, it gives me a unique opportunity to realise the important things that are happening on the ground and the things that are actually affecting people. The cost of living crisis is real. People are actually choosing between bills and food. When I grew up in social housing in the 90s, the struggle was real then, it shouldn’t be the case now. And more and more we see it. More and more people are becoming homeless because of this housing crisis, due to the cost of living crisis created by the Labor Government.
So my job is a community advocate. As a community representative, I want to hear from you. I want to listen to my community, to the things that actually matter and the things that matter to everyday Australians.
So, over this election period, please come up, please talk to me, because I want to take this fight to Canberra.
Well done, mate. I’ll just add on a couple of other issues, and then I’m happy to take questions.
I think every Australian is very proud of the fact that we will have our own Queen overnight. Princess Mary is somebody who has been, for a long period of time, capturing the hearts of people around the world. She’s obviously a very proud Tasmanian, but all Australians should be very proud of what she’s been able to achieve in raising beautiful children, in standing by the side of Prince Frederik, and as they ascend to the throne, Australians will have a very special place in their heart for that couple and for the work that they’re doing.
Obviously, also, with the election in Taiwan overnight, we welcome and congratulate the incoming President. Obviously an experienced Vice President, and particularly in a troubling time, it’s important that democracies are able to implement the outcome of the will of the people, and that’s what’s happened in Taiwan and we welcome that outcome.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Just a quick one for Nathan, if that’s okay? Your accent kind of gives away that you’re not Frankston born and bred! How long have you been a local? And what brought you here?
Yeah. I’m from Ireland, a place called Cork City. My wife is born and raised in Carrum Downs, and everyone here is born and bred in this area. I have been in the electorate for most of my time in Australia, and I’m a proud citizen of one country – and that is Australia.
And I guess how much of a challenge does the Liberal Party have on its hands? We’ve mentioned that Peta Murphy was a very popular and well-respected local Member. She gave her blessing to the candidate that Labor’s preselected. How much of a challenge is that?
Well, in the circumstances, it is a difficult by-election for the Liberal Party, but there’s no question in my mind that the local residents here recognise Nathan as somebody who has already demonstrated his ability and his determination to be a very strong local representative. To his great credit, at the same time that he and Steffie have brought beautiful Callan into the world, he’s been able to contribute day and night to his local community, and to be re-elected as Mayor demonstrates that he has an affinity with the local community, and importantly, he understands already the issues.
We were talking before, and he’s a huge success story, really – when you consider the fact that he’s 31 years of age, not half my age, but some days I feel like it may be case – so 31 years of age, he’s been in Australia for 12 years, and as a local Mayor, he has really stepped up to the plate. He’s been elected because he’s a strong voice for Dunkley, and he will be a strong voice for Dunkley in Canberra if he’s elected and I think the local people here want a champion and they’ve got it in Nathan.
Just on another matter. What do you think of the Government’s new efforts to crack down on illegal tobacco and vapes?
Well, again, I think this is one of those issues where the Government’s been asleep at the wheel for the last 18 months.
We had a very significant investment that we made into the area of detection, prevention, because we know that organised crime gangs are involved in illicit tobacco and in vaping, and they make huge amounts of money out of it. When we came into government, actually, the Labor Party had ripped money out of the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, all of the intelligence agencies, as well as Australian Border Force. We reinstated that funding, in fact, we put more funding in, and that’s what I think was required.
Instead, the Government’s taken their foot off the pedal, and you’ve allowed, over the course of last 18 months for these organised crime groups to really take hold. It’s no mistake that in Labor states around the country, you’re seeing a blowout in law and order problems, it’s because Labor is always soft when it comes to crime and law and order.
That’s been demonstrated here in Victoria under the Andrews Government – it’s been demonstrated elsewhere – and I think Victorians want to raise their kids in safety, in an environment where they don’t have to worry about what organised crime gangs are up to, whether your car’s going to be stolen, etc., etc. I think the Government’s really taken their eye off the ball, as of course they’ve done with the cost of living pressures that families are really acutely feeling at the moment.
And on another matter, again, should Tony Burke intervene in the DP World industrial dispute and force a resolution? And are you concerned about the economic impacts if the issue’s protracted?
I just think this is an issue of national importance. There are already concerns, obviously, with what we’re seeing in the Red Sea at the moment about supply chains, and companies are warning us about the impact of a disruption to those supply chains. So, every item that you buy from Bunnings that’s not manufactured here in Australia, comes here on a ship. If you disrupt that, or if you disrupt the supply of motor vehicles or plastic parts or componentry for medical devices, etc., then that has a huge and negative impact on Australians and on the Australian economy.
It’s clear that this is an issue of national importance. Not only should Tony Burke intervene, but the Prime Minister should intervene here as well. I know that the Prime Minister’s been obsessed on every issue but the important ones for Australians. But this is a critical issue, and it’s becoming more and more desperate as each day goes by. So, the Prime Minister should insert himself into this dispute.
The unions obviously feel emboldened with Tony Burke as the Minister, because they’ve been given the green light for all sorts of thuggish behaviour and strikes and go-slows, etc. but it is not in our country’s best interest to see hundreds of ships lining up offshore, not able to offload their produce or their goods. It’s bad for Australian businesses because, ultimately, if you don’t have the goods to sell, then you aren’t going to be employing staff in that business. The Prime Minister has the ability to pick the phone up to the union leaders to get this sorted out.
You’ve welcomed the result of the Taiwan election. Are you concerned that we could see an increase in tensions across the Taiwan Strait?
Well, again, I think most Australians and most people, particularly in our region, want to see a status quo in relation to the relationship between Taiwan and China. We don’t want to see it go beyond that, we want peace in our region. As the Prime Minister rightly points out, this is the most precarious period in our part of the world since the Second World War. We have to be realistic about threats. The Chinese Ambassador’s inflammatory words the other day should really make people understand and comprehend what’s going on. It’s a very difficult period in history, and Australia needs to be strong, to be standing up with our allies, which is why we should be working more closely with the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and others in the Red Sea at the moment. If we’re going to ask for there to be peace in our region, then we need to be a contributor to those that want to bring peace to our region. That’s why, I think, the continuation of the arrangement in Taiwan and that relationship is important.
Back on Dunkley, do you expect to be down here campaigning a few times between now and the by-election?
I will certainly be down here in Dunkley – and with bells on. I almost got a nurse from Callan before so we’ll be working on the next few weeks as well. I was saying that my little boy has just finished Year 12 so it’s hard to get cuddles out of teenagers, I can tell you, but, it’s a beautiful thing to see young kids and young families – that’s what our country and indeed what our Party is all about. The Liberal Party always is at its best when we’re fighting for families, when we’re fighting for small businesses, when we’re making sure that business is not intruding into the lives of Australians.
At the moment, the Government is letting families down, letting small businesses down, and their energy policy of the ‘renewables only’ is driving up electricity prices. It’s going to come at a cost of $1.2 to $1.5 trillion, and people’s electricity prices and gas prices – gas has gone up by 29 per cent under this Government. They’re going to continue to go up under this Prime Minister because in two budgets, he’s made decisions which have made things more expensive at the supermarket, at the petrol bowser, when you pay your insurance bill, and every bill is continuing to go up on the Albanese Government.
I think that’s why the people of Dunkley want a local champion. Nathan Conroy is that person and I really congratulate you, Nathan, on your success. We’ve got a tough few weeks ahead of us. I believe that we can get there, but this is a tough by-election because of the circumstances – the tragic circumstances – that give rise to it. We’ll be working hard, listening, and one thing I know about Nathan having read a lot about him and spoken to a lot of people about him, is that he’s a great listener, and he’ll be listening to people as he’s knocking on doors and going around the electorate, and I’ll be joining him for a lot of that as well.
Thank you very much. Last one, yep?
Your last by-election in Victoria didn’t go so well in Aston. What are you going to do differently this time to ensure a different result?
Well, I think, again, this is a by-election where Australians can send a message to the Prime Minister. This is an opportunity for people in Dunkley, for Victorians, to send a very clear message to the Prime Minister that he’s not doing the right thing when it comes to their family budgets. He’s making it harder and harder for Australians. Under this Government, people have had 12 interest rate rises. For an average mortgage you’re now paying $24,000 a year more in after-tax dollars under this Prime Minister. I think they’re the issues that people will be voting on in this by-election.
I think the people of Dunkley will be sending a clear message to Anthony Albanese that $450 million on the Voice – which distracted him from making the decisions to help people with their cost of living pressures – is not going to be rewarded. I think there was a huge opportunity here in Dunkley for people to send a clear message and a strong message to Anthony Albanese that he’s not getting it right, that he’s not listening to their priorities – in particularly around cost of living. I think they’ll send a clear message that they want a local champion who will listen and work hard for them and represent their interests in Canberra and that candidate is Nathan Conroy.
Thank you very much.