Subjects: Nuclear power; Labor’s energy mess; Labor’s splits on AUKUS; the Prime Minister’s big talk on housing; Labor’s Big Australia Migration Policy; the Coalition’s positive plan to improve sporting infrastructure and promote female participation in sport.
Let’s take you live to Sydney now. That’s where we find the Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton. Thanks so much for joining me, Peter. You’re a Brisbane resident but you’ve got out of town because the Labor conference is on here in your hometown! Great to have you on the show anyway.
You just heard there from Peter Malinauskas talking about, really, the energy complexity. He’s probably one of the more sensible people in this room talking about the need to keep gas as a transmission fuel, but he’s pretty reluctant about the nuclear equation here. What do you think about that? What do you say to him?
Well Laura, look, I don’t think he’s reluctant about it at all. If you listen to the clever language that the Premier used then, it shows, firstly, he’s got a realistic understanding of what needs to be in the system to keep the lights on and to put downward pressure on prices. I worry about his own safety in that gathering because if they knew that he was in favour of nuclear energy locally, then I think he’d be in all sorts of strife! So, it doesn’t make any sense that we have just signed up to the submarines for AUKUS and we don’t have the ability to have a conversation about using that same technology on the submarines to reduce power prices in our country.
So, I think we should be very realistic about the fact that 32 other countries are using this technology – the small modular reactor, zero emissions, failsafe, it can be plugged and played into the existing network, you can turn off coal fired generation or once that asset’s retired, you can then distribute the energy into the existing network without creating 28,000 kilometres of new poles and wires. That’s why it makes sense, and frankly, that’s why it will be cheaper for Australian families.
Mr Dutton, before we even get to the nuclear debate, AUKUS itself is going to be debated here. There’s not an insignificant faction that is anti-war and actually wants to see that AUKUS money spent better. You’ve penned a column in The Australian today, but realistically, I mean, would it just be a bit of noise today and Anthony Albanese carries on as is?
Yeah, of course. I mean, you know, there’ll be theatre and there’ll be placards and people will be boisterous and express their view, but these deals are always stitched up in the Labor Party before the conference starts. There’ll be different factional leaders who put people in their box and corral others to support the position. So, I think there’s a lot of song and dance, but in the end there won’t be any resolution against AUKUS.
I mean, it’s interesting, of course, to point out that there’ll be great disappointment with a lot of these delegates because Anthony Albanese has been the leader of the hard left of the Labor Party for decades, he’s been espousing much of what they’re speaking about now, at this conference, and they thought he was going to continue that as Prime Minister. Well, I think he’s trying to walk both sides of the fence and I think as they know and as Australians are now finding out, the Prime Minister is a big talker, but he’s not a doer. He doesn’t deliver. He conjures up these plans and he gets out there and talks about it, but he never actually follows through with it. So, I think a lot of theatre, a lot of colour and movement, but in the end a bit of a damp squib I think.
Well there has been quite a bit of movement on housing. Yesterday we saw the Premiers and the Prime Minister agree to this ‘housing accord’, if you like. There’s a lot of money on the table. Do you broadly back this plan or do you have concerns about it?
Well, I just have concerns about the viability of what they’re talking about and the credibility. I’ve got no doubt that Premier Malinauskas, if he’s reducing taxes and he’s opening up new land supply, that’s going to make a difference, and I think we should support that, but the Prime Minister promised in October of last year that they had an ‘aspiration’ for a million homes. They’ve now increased that, after the discussion yesterday, to 1.2 million, but he may as well say it’s 1.5 million or 10 million because they’re not going to achieve the 1 million, they’re certainly not going to achieve the 1.2 million, and I think they’re just offering up a lot of false hope and promise at the moment.
The fact is that under the Coalition Government, at our peak, we had 149,000 new starts per year, on a yearly basis. That, under Labor, has dropped to 95,000. The number of first home sales or new home sales has dropped by 37 per cent in the last 12 months under Labor. So, there can be lots of good intent as they’re often is, but as we know, Labor just can’t manage the budget, they can’t manage money, they can’t manage the economy and they can put everything on their wish list, but they can’t deliver because they’ve had two budgets now to put in place policies that give you the economic settings that will encourage investment. Investors are fleeing the market because they don’t want to invest under Labor because they don’t know what new tax is coming next.
Yeah, I’ve got to say, I’m a bit worried about the ‘how’. How does each State Premier meet these individual targets? You already have a building industry under pressure, but by the same token, we had one of your (shadow) ministers saying this morning, well perhaps immigration should be put on hold in the short term to take that pressure off the housing industry. Isn’t that the opposite of what we need? Don’t we need these skilled workers in here to build these homes?
We’ve always supported a balanced migration program that’s well planned, and the trouble at the moment, I think, is that there’s just not the planning in place. So, you go to an auction now or you go to a real estate agent to try and rent a unit or a house, you’re in a queue, and it’s difficult – as many Australians know.
If you’re going to bring 300,000 people a year in every year over the next five years – a population bigger than the city of Adelaide – then you need to plan for it and you need to do it at a time when if those people – 300,000; 6,000 people a week – are going to be joining the rental queues, you need to have the stock available because otherwise rents just continue to go up and the stock is not there for people to buy or to move into if they’re purchasing a home.
So, we’re in support of migration, it just needs to be properly planned. It’s like the Prime Minister’s promise to reduce your power price by $275 a year, every year, well, he’s never mentioned that figure since being elected. So, I just think he talks a big game and ultimately Australians pay the price for his inaction.
Well, is the balance right now, then? If we’re talking about 300,000 migrants coming in over the next couple of years, call it three to five years, is that right? Because we know that businesses are still crying out for skilled workers.
Yeah Laura, look, I think the labour market is in transition at the moment. I mean, speaking to some big companies who have a retail presence in Australia, you know, a move away from meat into chicken, no extras in the basket when they’re turning up at the checkout because people just don’t have the disposable income. Great to see a lot of women going back into the workforce, but the reality is that in many of those cases it’s because they just can’t balance the budget under Labor on one income, even if, you know, the husband or the wife is working two jobs, the spouse has now had to go back to work as well, even if they’ve got young children and it wasn’t their intention to go back to full time work because they just can’t put food on the table.
In that market where you see a contraction – particularly in the retail sector, you’ll see unemployment go up, and the Government in this budget predicts that unemployment will go up. So, I think there will be a different picture in 12 months’ time sadly, than what we’re seeing at the moment. So, it depends on the prevailing economic conditions to answer your question as to what the right mix will be. It’s not just the skilled worker, but unskilled as well. In the current environment where you’ve got food, you know, fruit and produce rotting on vines and on trees, they just can’t find workers to go and do that work. Now that likely will continue to be the case even if the economy sours further under Labor decisions, but I think you’ll see a very different picture in 12 months’ time than what we’re seeing at the moment in the labour market.
Alright, before I let you go, we’re all on the Matildas bandwagon. We’re going to stay here for quite some time and I know you’ve been on it as well. I’ll tell you what, as I was here in Brisbane, walking to one of the live sites last night, I’ve never seen so many middle-aged men wearing jerseys with women’s names on the back and it was so good to see! Are you one those? And, more seriously, you made it announcement about more money for team sport. What have you felt during this period? Have you really seen the kind of, you know, this ‘ponytail revolution’ and have you seen and want to harness what you’ve experienced over the last three weeks?
Well, Laura, I’m happy to wear the jersey, but no lycra, you’ll be very happy and relieved to hear. I think the excitement has just been palpable. I know with my own daughter, Bec’s now 21, but those role models, that inspiration – and not just for young girls, but for young boys as well – that’s the true legacy of the Matildas campaign in this World Cup.
We made an announcement that we thought a fitting legacy for the work of not just the Matildas – I mean, the Diamonds have won their World Cup, the women’s team in the UK with their success in the Ashes series – across every sport and every endeavour, the participation rates, the involvement of young girls in sport has just skyrocketed. The netball numbers are unbelievable and you know, soccer continues to be on the rise, but AFL, union, league, etc. etc., cricket, tennis, every aspect is being a big part now or a bigger part of people’s lives.
So, we said, you can’t have in that scenario, young girls turning up to a sporting event and getting changed in the carparks because there’s no changerooms for the girls. They’ve got to go and use the boys’ toilets, or we went to a sporting club earlier this week where there are three shower roses, but there was no privacy, no cubicles, and they just say, ‘well, the girls won’t go in there to shower in that environment’.
So, we’ve said that a Coalition Government would provide $250 million worth of funding. We want it matched by the states and territories, ask for a 20 per cent co-contribution from the clubs themselves, and we think that we can lift up those facilities so that there is parity and there is an incentive for those girls to participate.
It also means that the families won’t be paying the levy that they’d otherwise have to pay because the clubs are going to have to do the work, the upgrades, the renovations, in any scenario. So, I think it’s a sensible proposition. I hope the PM can pick it up and there should be bipartisan support for something like that because that’ll be a great legacy for millions of kids playing sport for decades to come.
It certainly would be, and it sounds like a no brainer to me. Peter Dutton, thanks so much for your time. I think it’s safe to return home on probably Saturday morning. We’ll see you soon.
Thanks Laura. Once the CFMEU pack their bags up I’ll be right! So, I’ll see you soon.