Subjects: Visit to the Riverland and Murrayland; Indigenous Voice to Parliament; Jim Molan AO DSC; cost of living pressures; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; Chris Bowen’s energy and gas supply shambles.
Peter, good morning. Thanks so much for your time and good on you for coming to SA. Obviously, the floods have been the biggest issue here for the last couple of months and we know that Albo’s been here as well, but we thank you for coming. You’ve been in Renmark and you’re in Murray Bridge today, yeah?
Good morning, Penbo. Well, it’s good to be back in South Australia and it was good to meet yesterday with some of the local mayors and also some of the local tourist operators just to hear first-hand on the ground, their experience – how we can help, and also the lessons learned, so that you know how better to respond at the next event and how we can get them back up on their feet as quickly as possible.
The big issue at the moment on the federal stage is the discussions around the Voice. Are you any closer, Mr Dutton, to forming a position as to whether the Liberals will back this or not?
Interestingly here today our state opposition leader David Speirs has gone close to giving what sounds like in-principle support to supporting the state Voice that the Malinauskas government is proposing.
Well, obviously in South Australia, the proposal here is to legislate for a Voice. The proposal’s not to change the South Australian Constitution. So, that’s quite different to what the Prime Minister’s proposing. Once it goes into the Constitution, as you well know, it can’t be changed unless it’s put again to the people. So, we want to end up in a situation where we can improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. Everybody has that in their hearts. The question is how you can deliver it, and I think I’m in the category, like millions of Australians, where, if we’re being asked to vote for change of that document, of the Constitution, then we just want the basic details of what the Prime Minister’s proposing. The PM’s now saying, oh, it’s not his proposal, it’s a proposal of Indigenous leaders and he’s just putting forward. He can’t answer the basic details and now we find out that after a radio interview, he’s doctored the transcript so that it says something different than what he actually said. So, I just think when you start to look tricky and you’re deceptive in your answers, people really ask ‘well, why’? I mean, what’s the need for that? If you’re proposing something that you believe in, then argue for it and put the details forward so that people can be properly informed about their own decision.
Well, one of the revelations of the interview in question was that even in the event that the referendum does fail, that the Prime Minister would consider legislating the Voice. The revelation in The Australian this morning is that if he was to do so, he’d do it with the backing of the Teals, which then would put you in an interesting position. Would you then campaign on repealing the Voice or would that be something you’d consider?
Well, I just think we’ve got to do one step at a time here. At the moment there’s talk of a referendum later in the year. We’ve asked for detail, just the basic detail, let alone the intricate detail. The Prime Minister refers to the Calma-Langton report – it’s 272 pages, but the government hasn’t adopted that report, and it’s not as if the Prime Minister is saying, ‘well, if you vote yes for the referendum, it gets up, then this is what will implement – he hasn’t said that at all. So, it’s disingenuous to say ‘oh, all the detail is in this report’, it’s not.
The other point about the report is that it provides options to the Prime Minister and to the government. We don’t know which options the government’s talking about adopting. So, nobody’s going to sign up to a blank cheque, whether it’s on the question of a change in the Constitution or legislation. I mean, the Teals might take a decision that they just vote for anything, sight unseen, but we don’t want to end up with an ATSIC, and I want the situation that we’re seeing unfolding in Alice Springs at the moment to be the real priority. You’ve got kids up there who are too afraid to go home at night-time because of the sexual abuse rates and the violence within families is quite horrific. So, they’re not going home of a night-time. They’re committing crimes out in the streets of a night-time and then sleeping during the day and not going to school. The Mayor up there is speaking with a very loud voice, has asked the federal government for additional federal police resources and the Albanese government has said no.
So, I just question if you’re not listening to the voices of Indigenous Australians now, on what is probably the most important issue to resolve, when will you listen to their voice? And more importantly, is it about a voice being heard and not acted upon at the moment and would that just happen if you’re setting up a bureaucratic structure out of the Voice? If it’s going to change the situation for those young kids on the ground, then different scenario, different story.
But the Prime Minister can’t answer those questions. He can’t answer the question about, if you put it in the Constitution, what does the High Court do in their interpretation, if they say, well, the Voice can have a say over other matters, including defence and foreign affairs and border protection and other priorities within the budget? These are all questions which are reasonably being asked, which the Prime Minister at the moment refuses to answer.
Peter Dutton, the vacancy, the Liberal Senate vacancy in New South Wales that has been created with the sad passing of Jim Molan. The conservative powerbroker in Victoria Michael Kroger suggested that perhaps Tony Abbott should fill that position. Is that something you’d like to see come to pass?
Well, I commented on this yesterday. I mean, Jim Molan was an amazing Australian, he joined the Australian Defence Force when he left school, he served our country in uniform for 40 years. He was a Major-General, he was recognised with a Distinguished Service Cross and he was recognised by the Americans with the Legion of Merit and did a great job as a Senator for New South Wales.
His funeral is next Wednesday, and his family is still grieving. I was speaking to Anne the day before yesterday, his wife, and they are going through a tough time – as you would expect – losing a husband or father, grandfather. So, I think it’s a time for respect, to be honest. I think all the speculation, those people that are talking about it, need to cool their heels.
I’ll make further comment on it after the funeral but there is a process to go through and we will go through that. But at the moment, it’s a time to reflect on an incredible life, an incredible Australian, and somebody for whom we should be very proud served as a Liberal Senator. I’m very proud to have called Jim Molan a good mate and I want to celebrate his life and respect his family at this moment.
Just finally, Peter Dutton, I mentioned the floods at the start. Obviously, locally that’s been a huge issue, but I think the number one concern more broadly that our listeners have had over the last six months, particularly probably going back to when the economic impact from the war in Ukraine started to be felt, is the cost of living.
Do you think that there’s anything more that can be done at the federal level to ease the sort of pressure on family budgets that people are experiencing?
Well, Penbo, I think cost of living is the biggest issue that our country faces at the moment and over the course of the next 12 months, as a lot of people are coming off fixed mortgages of 1.8-1.9 per cent and are going on to 4.8 or even higher than that, they’ve got big mortgages and lots of cost of living pressures. So, those people are really going to be doing it tough. If their electricity bill and their gas bill continues to go up and up every quarter, then they are going to find it hard to pay all of those bills. The Prime Minister promised on 97 occasions at the last election that he’d reduce power prices by $275. He’s never mentioned that once since being elected in May.
So, you’ve got a situation at the moment where the government is taking gas out of the system at a time when we need to increase supply. Pretty basic economics – if you’ve got increased demand from businesses and from households for that gas and you restrict the supply at the same time, prices are going to go up. They’ve imposed this crazy system, this sort of Frankenstein system of price caps and market interference, but on producers, not retailers.
Chris Bowen belled the cat yesterday when he said ‘don’t expect prices to come down’. Well, if prices aren’t coming down, what the hell are they doing? That’s what they promised they would do and that’s what we thought the market intervention was about. He’s now preparing people for bills to go up, not down. At the same time, a lot of players right across the industry are talking about blackouts in our country and manufacturing businesses having to turn off one shift so that we can get through the peak period in the afternoon and the early evening. That’s unacceptable in our country. I want to see renewables in the system, but we’ve got to be able to firm them up otherwise of a night-time the lights are going out. So, I think there’s a reality coming into the energy debate over the course of the next 12 months and I want to see downward pressure on households, not increased pressure, which is what the Labor Party is doing at the moment. They’re making decisions that are pushing interest rates higher than what they would otherwise need to be, and I think that’s a real concern for families as well.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, thanks very much for joining us this morning on FiveAA.