THE HON PETER DUTTON MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR DICKSON
JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH
JACINTA NAMPIJINPA PRICE, COUNTRY LIBERAL PARTY SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
17 October 2022
Subjects: Visit to the Northern Territory; floods; federal budget and the economy; the government’s scrapping of the Cashless Debit Card; ending the scourge of domestic and family violence; cost of living pressures on Australian families; the government’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; reports of Medicare compliance and integrity; Australia-Japan relations.
SENATOR JACINTA NAMPIJINPA PRICE:
Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price here, Senator for the Northern Territory. I’m very, very pleased to have our Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, here in Alice Springs. It means a lot to me. It is so important. We’ve faced so many different issues within Alice Springs, within the Northern Territory, but particularly here in Central Australia, where I feel it’s really important that certainly Canberra can understand what the issues are on the ground. So, I’m ensuring that Mr Dutton is being able to have conversations starting off with Lhere Artepe here, who are the Native Title representatives for Mparntwe, for Alice Springs, and surrounding area. You know, we’ve had some really good conversations about the needs – supporting our kids in this community, youth crime as we know is an issue, ensuring that our kids are educated. Education is a huge issue, to make sure that the kids here have the same opportunities as other Australian children. So, look I’m really really pleased to be able to be here today with Peter over the next few days here in the Northern Territory. It means a lot to me. So, thank you.
Firstly, Jacinta, thank you very much. Jacinta Price is an inspiration to many Australians. Her story, her experiences, her love of this country – quite remarkable. Right across every state and territory people see her as a leader in her community and her passion for her people, her desire to reduce violence, to see economic productivity, to improve educational and health outcomes, is a great credit to her and to all of those around her. So, Jacinta, it’s a real honour to be here with you today in Central Australia and I’m very pleased to be here just at the start of our tour, and I want to say thank you very much to those that we’ve met with already and will continue the conversation over the next couple of days.
There are many Australians at the moment who are in their darkest hour, particularly in flood-affected areas. I want to acknowledge the work of our emergency service workers, all of those who are providing support on the ground. There are many families, many businesses who are in the process of either cleaning up or waiting for waters to recede and, in some cases, they’ve lost their entire life’s work. I just say to all of those people in flood affected communities, please continue to listen to the warnings, wading into that water. It’s a natural response to stay at home because you want to protect your assets, but please listen to that advice. The experts have all of the modeling, they’ve worked through this in different scenarios, they have the best idea of how to respond, when to leave, when to stay in place and all that needs to be heeded to and really, it’s a very important message to convey.
It’s a very tough time and the scenes are confronting, but I know that the assistance will be provided, and I lend every support to the Prime Minister, to the government, to provide that assistance to people in the response phase now and in the recovery phase that will come over the coming days and months and, in some cases, years. That’s incredibly important.
Just one final point in relation to the economy. Dr Chalmers has been over to the United States. Yes, it’s a dire situation in parts of the world, including the United States, potentially over the next 12 months and in the United Kingdom as well. But Jim Chalmers needs to stop talking down the Australian economy. At the moment, Labor is killing confidence and that’s not what we need. The fundamentals of our economy remain very strong. We had nine years of Coalition government in our country, we had a 50 year unemployment low and the decisions that we made during our time in government have stood us in good stead to respond to the pandemic and now as we come out of this.
There is no reason for Australia to go into recession unless Labor talks us into recession or makes decisions that will drive the economy into the red. I want to – on behalf of the Coalition – provide every support that we can to get through a difficult 12 months. I think the next 12 to 18 months, in terms the economy, in terms energy prices, it’s going to be very difficult and we will support the government in sensible measures but Dr Chalmers needs to stop talking down the economy, because it will be an inevitable outcome if he continues to trash-talk the economy. That’s not in our country’s best interests, and really, he should step back from that and start leading. I’m happy to take any questions.
Mr Dutton, just to start with – are you able to share a bit about what you plan to do while you’re in the Territory?
Well, a few things. I mean, the first and most important, is to listen and to learn, and to hear of many of the stories from people on the ground. It’s all good and well listening to bureaucrats and academics and others in Canberra, but it’s about getting out to look at what’s happening in our schools, to make sure we understand what’s happening on the fringe of the communities here, what support is being provided, what’s happening in the health services, what is happening in terms of youth crime – a big issue right across the country but including in Alice Springs here. Those and many other issues we’ll be able to discuss over the next couple of days.
Will you be going to any of the communities and the schools?
We will. I mean, Jacinta will talk a bit about that, but it’ll be an opportunity, again, I want to hear from those who are teaching kids and who are living with the problems and the opportunities on the ground. So, that’s all part of our catch-up and I hope that we can take that away and it’ll feed into the policy that we’ll put forward before the next election. But it also builds on what we were able to do before the election. I know Jacinta was a huge advocate for boarding school, for opportunities of greater education, for responding to crime, and we matched those words with our election promises where we promised to provide funding to different services. Again, I want to listen to what’s happening on the ground so that we can put together a very important policy by the next election.
Jacinta – what will happen to the BasicsCard and the other card? Is there going to be any changes to them?
JACINTA NAMPIJINPA PRICE:
So, at the moment, the government has decided to scrap the Cashless Debit Card, which is unfortunate as it is a superior technology to the BasicsCard. They’re maintaining the BasicsCard here in the Northern Territory and transferring individuals who were on the Cashless Debit Card back onto the BasicsCard.
You know, we fought hard to maintain the Cashless Debit Card because we know how it was supporting vulnerable community members, vulnerable women and children, to ensure that they had food in their fridge for their kids: that, you know, members of their family who are struggling with addiction weren’t taking their money from them, and now that they’ve gone back to the BasicsCard, they’re sort of restricted on where they can spend their money. So, they can’t, if they wanted to travel, they can’t go outside the Northern Territory. What we’re hearing from the government is that they’re going to bring back another form of card which is unfortunate because the way I see it is they’re just bringing back the Cashless Debit Card and giving it a new name.
But they made the promise at the election, so they had to fumble their way through to get this result. I was part of the committee that looked into the repeal of the Cashless Debit Card and we heard many people who were very concerned about the fact that they were saying they were going to get rid of the Cashless Debit Card. There was a lot of concern around that from vulnerable community members. So, I guess we’ll now see what that means for these communities with being put back on to the BasicsCard. It’s very unfortunate but we’ll continue to stand up for those vulnerable people going forward.
Jacinta, while I’ve got you here – I wanted to ask about the federal government’s plan to end family violence. Do you think it is realistic to be able to tackle it within this generation as they’ve suggested?
JACINTA NAMPIJINPA PRICE:
Well look, I mean, I support any efforts to be able to tackle domestic and family violence. I think the government has to make sure that they are listening to and taking their advice from people on the ground and vulnerable community members who have lived experience. I was in Tennant Creek just two weeks ago, where they conducted a march against domestic and family violence for the community members. They were determined to make those differences, so the funding and the support needs to go to those community members and organisations that are working together to end domestic and family violence. Certainly, I feel Tennant Creek is leading the way, in that regard, in the Northern Territory. There’s a men’s group that is being led here in Alice Springs, who also attended the march in Tennant Creek, and it’s really good to see those men on the front line who are involved, who are about changing behaviors. That’s where that sort of support needs to go and the funding needs to go. The resources need to make sure that they hit the ground, but not only that, it needs to be well understood in places like the Northern Territory, which was discussed at Tennant Creek last week, issues like payback, you know, the cultural aspects need to be acknowledged and communities need to be empowered to be able to deal with those cultural elements that lend themselves to causing more harm when it comes to domestic and family violence. But I’m very pleased to see places like Tennant Creek certainly moving in the right direction with that and so, again, we support that, we support any measures, but they have to make sure that the funding is being spent in the most appropriate ways. I will also say that women’s legal services, particularly in the Northern Territory, need as much funding as possible because these services – while they might not tick the indigenous box, they usually cater to a large group of Indigenous women, of 75 per cent here in the Central Australian Women’s Legal Service and they support victims as opposed to perpetrators. So, they really need to be a focus going forward as well throughout the Northern Territory.
Back to you, Mr Dutton. Pressure on households is getting worse and the government’s warned that the cost of living effect of the floods could worsen that. What would you be doing to alleviate those pressures?
I’ll just come to that in a second. In relation to the family and domestic violence, I think this is an aspiration that our nation should strive for. It is unacceptable, any single act of domestic violence being perpetrated against a woman or children or any individual in a relationship. We will work with the government, but we’ve got to get the money down to the services. As Jacinta said, there are some services which are making a difference, are shifting the dial and we’ve got to cut through the bureaucratic red tape. There’s good intent. There has been for decades on both sides of Parliament on this issue, but we’ve got to get better outcomes. Those of us that have been to incidences of domestic violence, those scenes are horrific – and they stay with you, particularly where children are involved. We have to do something as a country to make sure that this doesn’t span generations and to make sure that we can intervene in a meaningful way to look at innovative practices, but also to fund those that have been demonstrated to make a difference. The Coalition will support the government in every and any endeavor to make sure that we can reduce that violence, but we need to move the money out of Canberra and get as much of the dollar flowing down to community services, as is humanly possible.
Look, in relation to the cost of living pressures, I mean, every Australian at the moment is seeing it in the petrol price that they’re paying, the gas price, the electricity price, and the trouble is that the Australian public heard the Prime Minister say before the election that he had a plan to bring down power prices and to bring down the pressures on families around cost of living. Now, the Prime Minister promised on 97 occasions before the election that they would reduce power prices, if elected, by $275. The Prime Minister has not mentioned that figure once since the election. Yes, there will be pressures, there will be domestic and international pressures on the economy and those events have to be dealt with by every government, by every budget. So, instead of making excuses and talking down the economy, Jim Chalmers should lay out the plan that they said they had before the election. They knew that things were going to tighten up overseas, they knew interest rates were going up, they knew the level of debt, they knew the unemployment rate, and they said they had a plan to address all of that and so far we just haven’t seen that plan. The Budget now is the opportunity to demonstrate that but I suspect many Australians like me are very skeptical about whether the Prime Minister will keep these promises or not.
Just in relation to the report surfacing today about the reports that doctors are rorting Medicare by billions of dollars each year and billing dead people and falsifying records to boost profits. How concerning are those reports to you?
Well, I mean, any fraud of any nature against the Commonwealth, obviously, is an attack on taxpayers and the money that they earn, the hard work that they do to pay for their families. A big chunk of their pay goes to taxes which ends up paying for services. I would be very surprised if these rorts are as widespread as claimed. I think many Australians who know their local doctor well, know that they are hardworking individuals. The system should pick up those who do the wrong thing, because ultimately, it makes it harder in a finite budget to deliver the services that are needed to people who are sick and most in need. So, if people are rorting the system then they’re really robbing from taxpayers and they’re doing a further disservice to those patients that they’ve taken an oath to serve. We’ll continue as a country to run one of the best health systems, but we can only do that if it’s affordable and if people are ripping off the system, then they can expect to be fined and, in some cases, go to jail.
The ABC has confirmed Japanese media reports which say Anthony Albanese and Japan’s Prime Minister will sign a new security declaration when they meet this weekend in Perth. Would you back or move to issue a more ambitious joint statement on security and do you think it should include a specific reference to China?
I would very much support a strengthening of the relationship between Australia and Japan. As you know, in the Morrison Government we were able to revive the Quad which is a very important relationship with India and Japan in particular. Japan is very clear about threats to their own country and the Senkaku Islands and elsewhere. They are a natural partner, a natural ally, and the relationship we have with Japan is as strong as it’s ever been and many of us have been working on that relationship for a long period of time. So, I would support the Prime Minister in any relationship with Japan that would see us working more cooperatively, exchanging intelligence, interoperable exercises. The way in which we can work more closely together is important because it will provide further opportunity for peace to prevail and to continue in our own region.
Thank you very much.