Subjects: The CFMEU’s radical push to join the Reserve Bank of Australia; the Coalition’s positive plan to improve sporting infrastructure and promote female participation in sport; the Prime Minister’s big spend on RAAF flights; the government’s failures on cost of living.
Peter Dutton time. We haven’t spoken to the Opposition Leader in a little while, but I wanted to have a talk to him this morning about a few things; including a radical union wanting to join the Reserve Bank of Australia and Labor agreeing to consider the idea.
So, the RBA board sets the official interest rate. They decide essentially how much we pay on our home loans. This move was pitched by the CFMEU at Labor’s National Conference over the weekend. The union’s construction division Secretary, Zach Smith, managed to get the government onside. They want people with a variety of skills and industry experience, including worker representatives, to have a say. But the idea has already received some backlash. Andrew McKellar from the Australian Chamber of Commerce says, ‘it’s a try on by a radical division of the union movement’.
The Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is on the line and he joins us now. Mr Dutton, good morning.
Good morning Ben.
Should the CFMEU have a seat at the table of the RBA?
Well, not if we want to retain the independence of the Reserve Bank of Australia and I think it’s one of the institutions that we need to protect. Not everybody likes them when rates go up, but if we have inflation staying too high for too long, we’ll continue to see cost of living pressures right across the economy.
So, the independence is absolutely sacrosanct, and also the skill set that’s required is crucial, Ben. I mean the CFMEU officials in their, literally hundreds, have been before the courts, have been involved in all sorts of allegations. They’re the most radical of the unions.
There’s a place for unions in Australian society – of course there is – but less than 10 per cent of the Australian working population outside the public service are members of the unions. So, the disproportionate influence of the unions within the Albanese Government is quite remarkable.
Yeah, the government didn’t say ‘no’ to them. They said ‘we’ll consider it’.
Well again, the Prime Minister at different times has been critical and then praiseworthy of the CFMEU. They are involved in all sorts of practices in the building sector, including abuse of women, stopping concrete pours, extorting businesses and bosses, that helps drive up prices of construction.
It’s not just in the residential sector, but talking to a builder the other day – building a commercial building – there was a 20 per cent difference between the CFMEU company price and the price that he could get from another builder. Now, the developer is not going to wear that cost, he just passes it on. So when you go and buy a unit, or if you’re building an aged care facility, or road construction, whatever it is; the prices are inflated because of the CFMEU and having them involved in one of the central economic policies in our country – I think frankly says that this government’s gone off the rails very quickly.
Well, it sounds like the ACTU President Sally McManus, doesn’t like the idea either, she says, ‘we want to maintain our independent voice in terms of being able to criticise decisions and thinking if necessary’. So, I don’t think that one’s going to happen.
Let’s move on to other issues. Matilda mania has been amazing over the last few weeks – record TV ratings, two million ticket sales, and you’re calling out the Prime Minister for stealing a policy idea because on the 15th of August you pledged $250 million for new sporting infrastructure across the country, with a focus on women’s sport – that was August 15. Four days later on August 19, Anthony Albanese announces a $200 million program to improve sporting facilities for women and girls. So, has he copied you?
Well, he probably has, but that’s a good thing. I mean in Opposition you can be small target, you can not develop policies, but we haven’t taken that approach, Ben.
The Prime Minister was really pushing this idea of a public holiday – a one off event – it would have cost the economy $2 billion, including a lot of small businesses who are facing the same electricity bills that a lot of families are now; massive increases and people are keeping their hands in their pockets because their mortgage rates are much higher under Labor or their insurance bills, etc.. So we thought it was a huge impost with not much benefit.
At the same time, you’ve got a big uptick in the participation rates of young girls in sport, which is a great thing, but those girls are still getting changed in the back of the car, or in a car park with the two car doors open – as all of us have done as parents.
We went to a club the other day where they had three or four shower roses, but no petitions, no division between the toilets, and the girls just won’t go into those boys toilets or the boys showers.
I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s a good lasting legacy – not just for the work of the Matildas – but the Diamonds, the Ashes team that won recently. It’s a lot of money and I think the point otherwise is that parents are having to pay for these upgrades and renovations at facilities right around the country, so it saves those parents from paying higher fees or levies that are levied against them.
I’m keen to know how much you think you’ve spent on flights this year because it’s been revealed that the Prime Minister has spent $4 million chartering RAAF jets since taking on the top job last year. Is your bill that much?
Well, no, it’s not; but it’s a lot of money, and to get around a country like ours, it’s difficult. I was in Perth last week and then you’re expected to be in Victoria for a commitment the following morning, or the following day and then on to New South Wales or Tassie. So, you know, you get criticised for not being at events and criticised for travelling to them. It’s difficult.
I think there needs to be a level of understanding and a level of transparency, but nobody should shy away from the fact that there’s a lot of money that’s spent on this. The Prime Minister obviously has spent a lot of time overseas since he’s been elected and there’s a lot of cost that comes with that, but the Opposition doesn’t get the access to the RAAF planes that the government does – so that means that we fly commercial mostly – and that still comes at a great cost, as I say, but…
…I think he raises a relevant question, doesn’t he? Anyone who’s criticising the use of the RAAF jets should outline which trip was not necessary. So, I think that’s a fair point, but there’s another issue as well as to who else is using these jets, because Defence is saying that the flight data is subject to security review, so therefore they keep the destinations of the trip a secret. Should we have access to who is using these jets, when and why?
Well Ben, I always thought as Home Affairs Minister that those decisions really are for the AFP, for ASIO, they make the threat assessments in relation to politicians, our families, etc. We have close personal protection or we don’t based on their assessments, death threats that you might get, etc.. There is, I mean the AFP for a while have been concerned about pattern of life issues, so publicly released information that, you know, people catch that flight every Sunday to Canberra, they get picked up from home at this time.
So, I think a lot of that should be based on the advice of the security agencies, but the default position should be transparency. You should be able to argue the use of the plane, or the use of the car, or whatever it might be, and you know, people don’t like their taxes being wasted, but there is an expense that’s involved in running the government, and if it is wasteful, if it’s an unnecessary trip, well, the Member of Parliament, or a Minister, or a Prime Minister should be rightly condemned.
On the issue of cost. We know the cost of living is a massive one for Australians at the moment. This was a topic of a question asked from Andrew Clennell to Anthony Albanese
I once stumped a PM over the price of petrol. Can you tell me what the price of petrol is roughly at the moment?
The price of – well, I don’t go and fill up my car, but it was around about $1.80 last time I did.
Well, it’s $2.10-$2.20 now.
What am I going to ask you about – bread? Or milk? Or something else?
Well, you can ask me about all of those and the fact is that they’ve all gone up. That’s the difficulty that families are facing that moment. So, you know, in the PM’s defence, he can’t be expected to recall every figure. I think the thing though that struck me about petrol is that if it’s been under $2, you’ve watched it – even just over the last few weeks where it’s climbed up toward $2.50 – $2.24, $2.29 over the weekend, and I mean people are right to complain about diesel, which has been more expensive than unleaded.
It’s hard for the PM to say, ‘well, I understand the pressure families are under and understand that they’re doing it tough’, but then not to have been observant enough to notice that petrol was going to become an issue over the course of the last month or so, because I think under $2, psychologically, people think; ‘well, it’s bloody expensive, but we can cop it’. But once you get over $2, over to $2.20, up toward $2.50, families are starting to leave the car in the garage at that point, and that’s the difficulty I suppose you face with that question.
We appreciate you jumping on the line Monday morning. Thanks so much for your time.
Pleasure Ben. Take care mate.