Subjects: Interest rates; cost of living pressures; the Government’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; Labor’s crab walking away from legislated tax cuts; Syrian repatriation; Liberal Party.
Let’s cross to Brisbane now and catch up with Federal Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton. Thanks for joining us Peter.
Let’s start off on the economy, this increase of only 25 points today, flagging more to come still, of course, but the stock markets like it. It seems more cautious and as we just heard from Gareth Aird at the Commonwealth Bank, it seems it’s less likely now that Australia will be tipped into recession. Is that your interpretation?
Well, Chris, firstly good to be on the show, mate. Thank you very much. Look, I think the markets obviously had priced in a 50 basis point move, it was 25, so there’s some upside in the market today. It’s cold comfort for a lot of people who are carrying a lot of debt. People have paid big prices for houses over the course of the last couple of years, and of course, it’s not just in isolation: people are now going to pay 23 cents a litre more for their petrol, their energy prices under this government continue to go up and up, and the whole basket of the cost of living pressures really becomes a very expensive reality for families. So, there’s some relief that it didn’t go up by the full half a per cent, but a quarter is a relief and as Gareth said before, you would expect it to be accompanied by a rate increase in November.
But to your point directly, I think the fundamentals of our economy here in Australia, just given the economic management of the Coalition over the last nine years means that it’s much stronger. Unemployment is at a 50 year low, our debt is relatively low compared to most other OECD countries and we’re in a much stronger position than the US and the UK, which I think are both certain to go into recession by everything you read and see at the moment. So, Labor would take a lot of bad decision-making – which they’re capable of, of course – in the Budget, to send us into recession. So, we should be very cautious, but I think the fundamentals here mean hopefully that we avoid a recession in our country.
Well, talking about Labor decisions, of course government spending is helping to fuel inflation. Inflation is the bogeyman. What level of government spending cuts do we need to see from Labor in this month’s Budget? Where should Labor look to cut spending?
Well, they went to an election, Chris, saying to families that they would reduce power prices by $275. They promised that on 97 occasions and Mr Albanese has never mentioned the figure since the election. So, there’s a lot of expectation in this Budget that will go to helping families with the cost of living pressures. They said they had a plan, we presume that we’ll see the plan in the budget, because there’s no plan being laid out at the moment. So, they will cut some programs, they’ll try and identify what they’ll describe as rorts and excesses of the previous Liberal government. But the fact is that they need to identify recurrent saves, we’ll see if they do that, and of course, they’ll be spending to please the unions – the ones that bought them to the table, and they have a lot of debt to repay to their union masters. So, let’s watch what happens on that front.
I’m worried that they’re going to increase taxes – particularly around superannuation. I’m worried that they’re obviously going to walk away from the stage three tax cuts – which would be a disaster for many middle income earners here in Australia. It would be a double-blow, given the pressures that we’re seeing on cost of living at the moment, to have an effective increase in their taxes under Labor. But Labor’s always been famous for taxing and spending. That’s what they do, and you can expect that over the next couple of years.
Well, on the stage three tax cuts, a lot of speculation about them possibly being reformed, revised, delayed. As you know, the Conservative government in the UK promised top end tax cuts just a few days ago and then reversed them – then back-flipped on them, because they’re in an inflation crisis there as well, of course. Have a listen to Jim Chalmers reflecting on that today:
But I do see what’s happening in the UK as a cautionary tale of getting that fiscal and monetary balance out of whack. We do need to ensure that spending in the budget – particularly in these uncertain global times – is geared towards what’s affordable and sustainable and responsible and sufficiently targeted. I think that’s one of the lessons from the UK.
Peter Dutton, does it sound to you like Labor is looking to make arguments about reconsidering those stage three tax cuts?
I think that’s a statement, if you read between the lines – remembering that Jim Chalmers got his doctorate studying Paul Keating and was Wayne Swan’s Chief of Staff – he’s pretty crafty with his language.
So, just to interpret that into normal day speak: they’re going to tax and they’re going to spend. And that’s exactly what will happen in this Budget. They will have all of the hype around cutting programs, but they are obviously walking away from the stage three tax cuts.
Now, that would be a significant break of faith with the Australian public, Chris, because there are many people who voted for them on the basis that they weren’t going to increase taxes and now we hear they are.
Many people voted for them on the basis that they knew energy prices were going up, but that Labor had a plan to bring them down, they’ve now broken that promise. I make this very important point: the stage three tax cuts here in Australia are very different to what Liz Truss has proposed and now walked away from in the UK. We do not abolish the top marginal tax rate under the stage three tax cuts here. What happens is that the marginal tax rate of 32.5 is reduced to 30 cents in the dollar and you abolish the 37 per cent tax rate. So, it means that for 95 per cent of Australians, they will not pay more than 30 cents in the dollar.
Now that is not about top end taxpayer benefit. It’s about delivering a very significant benefit to those families who are going to be struggling to fill up at the bowser, struggling to pay their childcare fees, struggling to pay for their grocery bills each time at the checkout. It doesn’t start until 2024 and that’s why it’s a very important element of public policy as we come through the next couple of years. Calendar ‘23 is going to be difficult, and as we go into 2024, that activity that is generated by those tax cuts for those households – being able to go out and spend again in the economy – in a responsible way, or to pay down their mortgage, is going to be incredibly important at that point in the cycle.
That’s why I say events always come along to every government. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Liberal or Labor government, you’re always defined by the events of the day and how you respond to them – and Labor always gets the economic calls wrong. I’m worried that if they abolish the stage three tax cuts, the economic benefit that we would see in the economy otherwise evaporates and we would have downward pressure on household income at exactly the wrong time.
Let’s shift away from the economy for a moment and we’ve heard some of your colleagues – some of your frontbench colleagues – talk about, raise concerns really, about the repatriation of ISIS brides and their children from Syria back here to Australia. We know there are risks, of course, but should this be happening or not?
Well Chris, we were able to bring back some orphans, as you know, and we did that in a responsible way. It was a very significant operation undertaken by the intelligence agencies at the time and there was a package of assistance wrapped around each of those children and that has been a successful integration by all accounts.
What Labor is talking about doing now is bringing over 50 people back, including adults and including male children of 15 or 16 years of age. So, we haven’t got all of the detail yet. All we’ve heard is a thought bubble from Tanya Plibersek who claims to have sort of a moral authority on these matters.
But what we have to do is what is in our country’s best interest, not just those children who are – I mean, it breaks your heart to see kids in that environment – either born into that environment or dragged by their parents irresponsibly into a theater of war, and we have a responsibility to Australian citizens, I accept that. But the resources that are required by the Australian Federal Police and by ASIO to monitor somebody 24/7, I mean, you’re talking literally millions of dollars each year on each individual case.
Over the next five to 10 years there are a number of terrorists who have committed terrorist attacks or were planning to commit terrorist attacks, in our own country, who are being released from jail. ASIO and the AFP have already warned about the drain on their resources and the risk to the broader community of those people being present in our society.
So, Mr Albanese needs to stand up, and explain exactly what it is that they’re proposing here – how old these children are, bearing in mind that they’ve been indoctrinated in a camp environment where many people who have committed terrorist offences are living or many people who are planning to commit terrorist offences are living in the tent next door. You need to be very realistic about the threat that we face as a result of this decision and let’s hear from the Prime Minister about what it is he’s proposing.
Also, that’s what he can say publicly, what about what can happen privately? You obviously know these issues intimately as a former Home Affairs and Immigration Minister. Has Labor offered you an ASIO or ASIS briefing on exactly what’s transpiring here?
No, they’ve offered no briefing. In fact, I had security briefings in the last fortnight with the agency heads and there was no mention of any of this. I’ve requested a briefing from the Director-General of ASIO and he’s been generous enough to facilitate that later this afternoon, which I’ll be asking a lot of questions in, and the Australian Federal Police Commissioner is not able to do it today, which is perfectly reasonable, we’ll do that as soon as possible.
Alright, let me just finish off on a general political point. You would have heard about, read about, seen some of the commentary around the CPAC conference of conservatives in Sydney on the weekend. Plenty of Liberal MPs and former MPs there in attendance and speaking, but a lot of speakers arguing that the Liberal Party has lost its way, that it’s abandoned its conservative values. What do you say to those people?
I reject it, to be honest, Chris. I think Nick Minchin – who was a key figure within the Howard Government – nailed it on the weekend in his contribution. He was heckled by some people within the crowd but there’s an element there of One Nation and Palmer supporters and an extreme right element that frankly is on the fringe of the political debate.
The people I’m most interested in representing are the Howard battlers, the tradies, and people that are working hard, that believe in freedom of choice and all of the values that the Liberal Party represents.
I was brought up politically by John Howard and Peter Costello and that’s exactly how I plan to lead the Liberal Party – both in opposition and in government in three years’ time. There are values that I stand for that aren’t trendy or aren’t going to fade over time. They’re in the best interests of keeping our country advancing forward – the national security issues, the economic issues that we’ve spoken about – they are timeless values of the Liberal Party.
We have to appeal to a broad section of the Liberal Party, a broad section of the broader Australian community and that’s how we are going to win the majority of seats that we need to form government after the next election. Locking in 15 or 20 per cent primary vote is a way to keep yourself in opposition forever.
There are a lot of people who offer free advice at the moment, Chris, I’ve got to say, who have never formed government, have been members of parliament but have never been ministers in the government, let alone Prime Minister. So, they’ve got all sorts of theories on how we should win the election. What I want to do is stand up for the values that Menzies created this Party for and that Howard and Costello and other leaders since John Howard have fought for. That’s the way that we’ll win the next election and by calling out the hypocrisy of the Labor Party.
A lot of people need to start turning their sights on the Labor Party as opposed to fighting internally and I’m just not going to tolerate that or stand for it or deviate from the path that I know is right for our Party.
Well said, Peter Dutton. I don’t think you’re in any danger of being accused of being ‘woke’.
Thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it.
No chance of that! Thanks, Chris.