Subjects: The Prime Minister’s bad decisions and wrong priorities; resources sector going backwards under Labor; Labor’s energy policy shambles; the Government’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; the Government’s failures on cost of living; Labor’s plan for foreign citizens to join the Australian Defence Force; hate speech; the Teal Party.
I’m delighted to welcome the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, Member for Dickson, on the programme. Happy New Year to you, my friend. I tell everybody you’re my friend, so I can’t hide it, and I don’t want to.
Well, I’m very pleased to hear that! Happy New Year to you too, Gary. It’s great to talk to a friend – long-standing – and you’re doing a great job on 4BC mate, so, nice to be on the show with you.
Now, the Federal Government and cost of living. The Prime Minister ‘just doesn’t get it’, you say. Tell us, why?
Well, I don’t know whether the PM’s talking to average families or small businesses across the country, but all of those that I speak to are finding it much harder now than it was 18 months ago when the Prime Minister was first elected. He promised the Australian public that he would reduce power prices by $275. I can’t find an Australian who has seen a reduction in their power prices by $275 since the Albanese Government came into power. They’ve had two budgets now where they’ve made decisions that have actually made cost of living pressures go up, not down, and the Prime Minister starts the year by saying, ‘well, I’m going to ask Treasury and Finance to come up with some ideas about how we might help people’, well he’s been in government almost two years. He promised the public that he had a plan when he came into power, to reduce power prices and help with cost of living, and they’ve made decisions which have forced up inflation and therefore interest rates. It seems that they just don’t have a plan to help people deal with the reality, and it’s a tough reality for a lot of families, particularly if they get credit card bills and school fees and everything else next month or this month.
Peter Dutton, I think the best plan would be for government to get out of people’s lives. Government constantly intervening, as they are, the way they are changing our mix of power generation. I think that’s at the heart of all of these problems. Everybody I talk to just says it’s an add-on cost on everything. Everything we buy, everything we try and do.
Well, I think you’re spot on, Gary. I think that’s the reality. We can pretend that the battery is going to last for 24 hours, or 24 days when it’s raining and that we don’t have the solar or wind power being generated, but that’s not the reality. AGL has just spent $190 million on a battery in South Australia that lasts for between 1 or 2 hours. Now, we’ve got to get people through the hours of darkness. You’ve just got to deal with the reality of the energy transition and the energy mix.
We’ve spoken about many other nations comparable to Australia who have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, zero emissions nuclear technology, which can firm up the renewables in their system. But the Government is proposing – at a cost of $1.2 to $1.5 trillion – to roll out 28,000 kilometres of new poles and wires, these wind turbines that communities don’t want, and it is going to result in higher power prices and less reliability. So, there’s a greater likelihood that power goes out or there’s a disruption. The Government’s already telling businesses to wind down their manufacturing during the peak hours when people are coming home from work and want to turn the aircon on, or turn the TV on, or start dinner, get the kids ready for bed. So, we’re losing productivity as a nation.
The most important point, as you make, is that when the farmer’s cost of electricity goes up to run the cold rooms or the cost of insurance goes up, all of that is passed on, which is why you’re seeing higher prices at the checkout now, and the Government’s energy policy of ‘renewables only’ doesn’t just impact on your own household electricity bill, but also every small business in supply chain. It’s not just the strawberry grower, it’s not just the person providing fertiliser, or the seedlings – it’s the packaging, the plastics guy, the person who’s producing the bottles – all of them have additional energy costs to pay under this Government as well, and it’s all ultimately being paid by the end consumer. That’s why people are seeing inflation as a huge problem in our society, and it’s not going away.
It seems like on all fronts – things we make, things we grow – the Government’s view seems to be ‘just import it. We don’t need to do anything more in Australia except consume’. I don’t know where the money’s coming from?
Well, I don’t know how you continue as a productive economy into the future. The Government’s taking decisions now that are seeing new mines stifled, basically. They don’t want to see any mining. If you take the mining away, we don’t pay for schools, or for roads, or police, or the health system. We can’t say, in relation to aluminium, for example, or concrete, there’s a strong view that the concrete sector won’t survive here domestically, or the production of silica, which is a key element into solar panels or plastics and aluminium etc., etc.. So, if you drive all of that offshore in this pursuit of trying to please Green voters in capital cities, then all it’s going to happen is that we re-import the product because we’re not going to stop using aluminium or cement. It’s a nonsense. The product comes back in from Asia somewhere, it’s probably been produced with higher emissions into the atmosphere, but it’s certainly going to come back at a higher cost.
Somehow, Anthony Albanese believes that consumers can just keep sucking it up, well they can’t, and those businesses are a lost to Australia. We lose the manufacturing where we should be trying to build up manufacturing value adding along the supply chain, and I just don’t think the Prime Minister is in the real world when it comes to where families and small businesses are at the moment.
Well, he’s visiting Australia today and indeed Queensland as well, and he’s going to be confronted by the reality that you know, because you live here. But the thing that I find astonishing is that 72 projects worth $68 billion across coal, iron ore, oil and gas stalled in the past year. These projects have long lead times. On top of that is the removal of the cap on the price of coal, which is going to drive up electricity prices as a result of that disappearance. There was a cap put on there to make sure that Australians weren’t paying what the world market was demanding, or was willing to pay rather, for coal around the world. So we’re now going to be subjected to that. The only way for electricity now is up! And not necessarily reliable.
Well, at a time, as you say, when you’ve got families who are facing extra pressures in their budget in every item of daily living. We have an abundance of natural resource in this country, and we’re paying the highest energy costs in the world, and as we know, Australia’s inflation now is higher than any G7 nation. The Reserve Bank Governor has belled the cat here when she said that this is home grown. So, you’re not seeing inflation hold up as it is in Australia, elsewhere in the world, and Australians know that that’s because of the policies that the Government’s implemented over the last couple of years.
They should be trying to provide support to families instead of making it harder. The Prime Minister’s got himself in this vortex at the moment where if he puts more money into the economy and gives people more money, then inflation is going to go up but he has created the inflationary problems to start with.
You’ve got Chris Bowen and Tanya Plibersek, Gary, as you rightly point out, saying that ‘these projects aren’t viable’, that ‘we’re not going to support any new mines’. Well, our country without that royalty payment from the mining companies, without the company tax that they pay – they pay about $1 in $3 of company tax – our economy just doesn’t survive. Not only that, you’ve got partners who for the first time are saying that Australia looks like an unreliable supplier. That’s never happened before.
So, I think they’re killing the golden goose, and I think families will see a much higher price for their electricity given the policies of the Albanese Government over the next couple of years and, as I say, at time when we should be trying to reduce power prices.
It’s hard to stomach. Peter Dutton, equally the Defence Act was what, 1903? I know you were proud to be Australia’s Defence Minister, and you did a great job in there. Defence was reoriented under your watch, but now we’re hearing – I just can’t believe this – that we would allow foreign citizens to serve in the Australian Defence Force. Surely we can’t do that?
Well, I mean the most amazing thing here, Gary, is that this came as a surprise to the Prime Minister it seems as well. So he was asked about this in a press conference a few days ago and it had been aired by Matt Keogh, the acting Defence Minister, that the Government was going to make a change and allow non-citizens to join the Defence Force, as you say, which is without precedent unless you’ve got highly specialist skills and you need to enlist somebody who has a special skill that the SAS would require or otherwise. It’s very rare that it happens. But they were talking about opening it up to non-citizens.
Now, that would be the biggest change to Defence recruitment and the biggest change to the face of the Australian Defence Force. It raises all sorts of questions around integrity of our intelligence systems, what our partners say about us sharing information with non-citizens.
You would have thought that the Prime Minister had been consulted or would have been a driver, or would have had knowledge of this proposal, but as it turns out, the Prime Minister knew nothing about it. He said, ‘well, you’ll have to ask the Defence Minister about this’.
I just found it quite astounding. So, I just don’t think he’s got his mojo back and we’re seeing the Anthony Albanese from last year roll into this year, and the sad part about that is that Australians are paying the price for a Government that, I think, the wheels are coming off it, and frankly, on some of the basics including in relation to national security and energy security, I don’t think they’ve got the first clue.
Two more quick things, because I know you’re a busy man, as you should be: hate speech and the whole issue of, I think, the weasel words that this Prime Minister’s has used given all that’s happening in Israel. We’ve got to crack down on this. Some of the things that have been offered – I just can’t believe some of the words people are uttering. There are people within our midst who just seem to hate Australia, hate our way of life, and they’re uttering real hatred towards the Jewish community in particular.
Well, I think it’s unconscionable.
There are a lot of people of Jewish faith who are second, third generation Australian and they are being attacked and vilified and ostracised because of their heritage. That just doesn’t have any place whatsoever in our country. Regardless of somebody’s religion or their background, we’re not a country that discriminates on that basis.
Again, I find it difficult to believe that the Prime Minister’s allowed this to fester as an issue. People who were yelling for the Jews to be gassed, or for the Jews to be driven into the sea – this is just an abomination. If the Prime Minister doesn’t send a strong message, then people believe that you can continue to use that language. Hate preachers who are out there making similar sorts of comments.
I made a comment before Christmas that people who are here as non-citizens using that sort of language, I believe, were in breach of their visa conditions, and they should be deported from our country. The Prime Minister scoffed at that. We’ve had a build-up of the resentment and the anti-Semitism that we’ve seen, and I think the Prime Minister really needs to roll his sleeves up on this because if we don’t send a very clear message that we have zero tolerance for anti-Semitic conduct, then we will see a catastrophic event at some stage because we don’t want problems from the Middle East or anywhere else playing out in our country. People come here to enjoy a lifestyle, enjoy the benefit of a liberal democracy that we have, and if people want to bring their own problems into this country then, frankly, they don’t belong here.
No, they don’t – I think that’s right.
Now speaking about not belonging here; it seems like southern-based business people and the inner city woke from Sydney and Melbourne – they were very successful last election in stealing a few seats off the Liberal Party. The Teals, they call themselves, and they say they’re ‘independent’, but they’re just on this Green-Left agenda. They’re backing the Labor Party all the way. They’re targeting seats in Queensland. What’s your take on that?
Well, Gary, I think firstly, we should call the Teals out for what they are. They pretend to be disaffected Liberals, but they’re not, they’re Greens. They don’t run against the Labor Party, they don’t run against the Greens, they only run against the Coalition. When you look at the voting record of the Teals in the Parliament, they voted with the Greens in relation to the motion that would have properly condemned some of the anti-Semitic behaviour that we were talking about before.
Secondly, you’ve got a situation where they vote with the Labor Party and the Greens on seven, eight, out of ten occasions. When you look at the policies of somebody like Monique Ryan – Monique Ryan’s a Green every day of the week. In fact, she was actually was a member of the Labor Party at one point and found that they weren’t far left enough for her.
So, I just think you need to call people out so that if you think about voting for the Teal Party you can understand what it is that you’re voting for. You’re essentially voting for the Greens. I think people should go in eyes wide open, and on that basis, instead of being tricked into believing that they’re voting for a Party that’ll keep the major Parties honest – all of that is just nonsense and rhetoric. The fact is that they have an extreme agenda similar to the Greens, and most of them are called out on that basis.
So, I think, Simon Holmes à Court who is a billionaire, who wants to be a political player and is the brains behind this whole operation, wants you to pretend that this is just a grassroots movement and it’s not. It’s an organised political party. It’s run by Simon Holmes à Court who is a hard left Green and you’ve got a situation where they’re pretending that the candidates are moderate on the ground, but when they get into Parliament, they only support the Labor Party and the Greens.
I think on that basis, people should not vote for them and shouldn’t be tricked into or be deceived into voting for them, believing that they’re just a helpful independent candidate when, indeed, they’re just a Green in disguise.
Yeah. Part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Peter Dutton, good to talk to you. Thank you so much for your time. All the best for 2024.
Thanks Gary, and to you and your listeners, mate. Thank you.