Subjects: Labor’s superannuation shambles; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on superannuation; the Treasurer’s Sunrise shocker on capital gains tax and the family home; cost of living pressures; Labor’s mobile black spot program; AUKUS; defence acquisition; Labor’s pork-barreling programs; Indigenous Voice to Parliament; Liberal Party.
Plenty of things to discuss today with Peter Dutton. As you know, Ray speaks to the Federal Opposition Leader every Thursday morning. He’s on the line for a chat with me today. How are you Peter? I hope you’re well.
I’m very well thanks Luke. How are you mate?
Yeah, good mate, good. In the words of Terry McCrann today, Treasurer Jim Chalmers has ‘gone from a trainee Treasurer to a train wreck this week’. He’s broken the trust of the Australian people. I was saying before the break just then that, you know, we’re all entitled to and inclined to give a new government a fair go, let them settle in, then do their thing. You expect them to do what they said before the election, and also after the election. But this has been an awful week for a federal government. I reckon they’ve lost a lot of trust. I’m pretty sure you’d agree with me.
I don’t think there’s any doubt about that and I think it goes deeper. I mean the government obviously has been at least looking at these plans for some time. You don’t get the costings in the detail that you’ve seen the government publish overnight. It takes months for Treasury to work through all of that detail and it’s only worked up at the urging of the government, at the request of the Treasurer. It points to, or it gives an insight into some of the thinking going on within the Labor Party and its Capital Gains Tax on your principal place of residence. Are they talking about take into consideration your principal place of residence for eligibility for the pension? They’re talking about negative gearing changes.
I mean a lot of this Bill Shorten was talking about as well when he was the Labor leader and at least Bill Shorten had the decency to be honest with the Australian public and released his plans before the 2019 election. Anthony Albanese didn’t do that. He went to the election promising one thing and as you rightly point out, Luke, he’s broken the trust that he has with the Australian people and I think there’ll be a lot of unease and it’s not just people on higher balance superannuation funds, it’s a lot of younger people and people who might not retire for another 10 or 20 years.
When you look at the $3 million that’s not indexed, it makes a big impact on people as young as 25. In today’s dollars, as the Fin Review points out, that’s about $1.2 million. So it has a broader impact than the government’s claiming and I really worry about them unsettling people about their decision to put money into superannuation, which should be a stable asset class.
Yeah, of course. Then you’ve got, you know, systems so the Prime Minister will when he finally pulls the pin, he’ll get a pension of around or higher than $400,000. I think to get that he’d need much more than a $3 million superannuation account.
What worries me Peter, is this; there used to be a time where, you know, you were encouraged to do well, go out there and create great wealth, you’ll pay your taxes and do your best; but just slowly it seems issue by issue, we’ve got the, you know, the kind of a lid on the jar being just tightened so you can do well, but don’t do too well. That really worries me. Shouldn’t we be saying to people, look, get out there and do your best and if you do your best, sure, you’ll pay tax, but we won’t stand in your way. We should be encouraging people to have as much as they can in retirement so that there’s no pensions paid. It’s just that Aussie thing – get out there and have a go. I’m worried we’re losing that.
I agree with you absolutely Luke. I mean the reason I joined the Liberal Party was because they believed in aspiration. I grew up in a family where mum and dad worked hard, we didn’t have much money and they enjoyed success through their hard work later in life. If you encourage people to work hard, in the end superannuation is your money. You’ve worked for it and it’s your money that goes into your account. I just think again, it’s sort of this socialist view or the Robin Hood budget, as they like to put it, that you tax people that have worked hard and redistribute that wealth to other people. I mean, we saw the real Jim Chalmers on Sunrise and on the Today Show yesterday where he wouldn’t give a straight answer about capital gains on the family home, and he wouldn’t give a straight answer about whether there would be more changes to superannuation. He was pushed back out a couple of hours later by the Prime Minister to tidy up and say, ‘well, hang on, I should have said this’.
But I think the real Jim Chalmers was on display yesterday morning and as I say, it gives you an insight into their thinking, what they would do if they had a chance, particularly with the support of the Greens in the Senate. Assets that you accumulate, particularly if you do it according to the law – I think this is a really important point Luke – if you’ve invested into superannuation according to the law, and according to the financial advice from your accountant or a financial adviser, you haven’t broken the law. You’ve been incentivised by Liberal and Labor governments to put money into super, you put it in there and then the taxation changes. I think the principle like it applied with capital gains when it came in, frankly, there should be a grandfathering of those people and if you want to apply a new system prospectively, people invest according to that new law. But where you’ve encouraged people to put money into super, you’ve discouraged and disincentivised, in fact, penalised them if they pull the money out or prohibit them from pulling it out, and then you increase the taxes. That is not a system that people will continue to invest in and that’s why I think, you know, we need to be very realistic about the impact across the system of Labor’s announced changes.
In the end they create what they think will be $2 billion a year out of this. I don’t think it will be anything like this. Don’t forget that Jim Chalmers was standing there as the Chief of Staff to Wayne Swan when they introduced the mining tax, it killed off investment, but didn’t raise any money.
No money! yeah, yeah. I was talking to Sharri Markson yesterday about her piece about this pork barreling, dare I say it, on steroids, regarding phone coverage in the regions in New South Wales. Twenty six areas have received funding, 25 of them were in Labor held seats. Now, they almost made a sport out of potting the previous government, of which you were a part. To think that so early into their term they’ve turned their hand to this so-called pork barreling. We need an explanation here, don’t we?
Well, we’ve asked some questions in Question Time on it and we don’t get the answers. Sharri’s piece was fantastic in The Australian and the questions are there to be answered. I mean the Prime Minister went to the election saying that he wanted an integrity commission, he wanted transparency in government, the Teals ran all of those lines and the first act when they get into government is to make a decision to push all of the funding into Labor electorates. It’s hypocrisy and again, it’s a broken promise.
He promised on 97 occasions to reduce people’s power prices by $275. He’s walked away, never mentioned that figure since May of last year. So I think there’s a pattern that’s starting to build here and, you know, we will support the government where they get it right and where they do the right thing, but you’ve got to call them out where they make a decision that’s just not in our country’s best interest.
Yeah, absolutely. I was watching you talk to Peta Credlin last night on Sky and you got to the submarine question, and I don’t won’t to misquote you or misunderstand what you were saying, but I took from that that you thought the best thing to do was to get our subs from the US, perhaps not from the UK. There’s been some commentary from the UK saying, ‘oh, you know, we’ve, got great quality submarines here that Australians should get a hold of’. So, can you tell me the point you are making again, if you don’t mind Peter, and as a former defence minister you’d be well across this. So, what’s Defence saying?
Well Luke, we negotiated the AUKUS agreement between the Brits and the Americans, and I think it provides an underpinning of our security for generations to come. I think we should be very proud as a country of what we were able to achieve through AUKUS. The nuclear powered submarine was important because there is technology now that can detect the diesel submarine coming to the surface. It snorts, it comes up, it charges it’s diesel generators, and the beauty of the nuclear submarine is that it can lurk at great depths and it’s a big deterrence. If somebody thought they were going to attack Australia and they didn’t know where our submarines were, then they’re less likely to attack it. So that’s a big part of why we went with the nuclear powered submarines.
Now, the Americans shared that technology with the Brits in the 1950s and the Brits obviously, like the Americans, they’re family, incredibly important partners, but in my judgement you don’t want to go with a fresh design of a submarine, or of a frigate as we’re seeing the difficultly around the frigates at the moment. If you end up with a fresh design, the first in type, then you end up with delays and cost blow-outs – that’s what happened with the French submarine, long delays in the design and you end up having the first two or three that come off the production line not being as good as you would want and also being more expensive than what you want.
So, my judgement was that the Brits, as you say, have an excellent submarine, but it’s coming to an end of life and the new SSNR hasn’t yet been designed and I think that we could get the American submarine much quicker because it’s an established design, it’s the Virginia-class, it gives us complete interoperability with the US. But look, as I pointed out yesterday, we’ll support the government with whatever decision they take, whatever submarine they take with.
My view is that we could get the Virginia-class sooner and at a lower cost, but ultimately Labor’s going to make a decision about which submarine they go with. But we will support whatever decision they take and it’s no slight on the Brits. I mean the Brits have been allies of ours forever, and for the sake of our country, I hope that’s always the case in the future.
Yeah. Final question; this idea that the Liberal Party is a broad church, I get that, but when there are members within your team who, for whatever reason, decide to support the government or take a view that’s different from their leader, it can look divided. It never happens to the ALP because, you know, they vote as one and if you don’t, then ta-ta. I know you’ve come to the defence to some extent of Bridget Archer, who apparently is being challenged or might be challenged at the next time there’s a poll. But, do you agree with me that, you know, a Liberal Party united looks a lot better than the Liberal Party, the broad church? What am I missing here and what can you do as Leader to convince us that you’re all heading in the same direction?
Well Luke, a couple of points. I grew up in the Liberal Party with John Howard and Peter Costello and I learnt a lot from them early on. John Howard did accommodate people with views similar to Bridget Archer and that’s my approach as well. People like Petro Georgiou and Bruce Baird and Judi Moylan, others in the day who didn’t support our border protection policies, voted against it, or abstained from voting. John Howard was able to run a very successful government and that’s how I intend to conduct myself as well.
There are different views in our Party Room on different topics and we respect that. As you point out, in the Labor Party you would have to resign as a member of the Labor Party if you voted against or crossed the floor on your Party and that’s their model, but the Liberal Party believes in individual freedom and choice and that’s an important part of our Party Room structure as well.
The final point I would make is that, I mean, you remember back to 2007 when John Howard lost. The Liberal Party tore itself apart. We haven’t done that since we’ve come into Opposition. We’re coming up toward the 12 month mark. The Liberal Party is united. We’re working very tightly as a team. My Shadow Cabinet is an incredibly united group of people and I’m very proud of that. I think frankly, we should probably get a bit more credit for the way in which the team is working together at the moment. You’re not seeing the leaking and the undermining that you saw in 2007, and that gives us the opportunity to put pressure on the government and to come up with our own policies. So it is a broad church, sometimes you can agree to disagree and I think that’s that’s a true Liberal value as well.
Yeah look, I understand that, but say for example, in an issue like the Voice, that you form a view and good on you for asking questions and, you know, it brings great shame to those that are having a crack at you for trying to get further detail. We all want to know more about what this will actually lead to, but if it comes to a vote and it ends up being successful, let’s say in the Senate, because two of the Senators hold a different view from the leadership. Aren’t we inclined to say, entitled to say, if you can’t manage yourself, as has been famously quoted before, how can we trust you to manage the country? There’s an inherent danger in being the broad church, even though I respect individual freedom.
Well, I guess we can cross that bridge when we come to it, but I just look at all of the stands that we’ve taken, the decisions we’ve taken, the policies that we’ve put out. We have been a united Party, a united Coalition. We work very closely with David Littleproud, the Nationals as well, and that’s reflected in the decisions that we make every day. So I think we can only be judged on our performance. The team is strong – including Bridget Archer – supports the call for more detail and we will continue to do that and our Party Room will settle on our position in relation to the Voice.
We’ve been out listening to a broad range of people and there’s a lot of concern even from Indigenous leaders, frankly, around the way that the Prime has conducted this debate, refused to release the detail. Frank Brennan and others have been out there criticising the form of words and worried about the interpretation that the High Court might apply to it. People want a practical outcome, not another layer of bureaucracy in the Indigenous policy area. So there’s a lot to discuss, but I work very closely with my colleagues and I respect all of them.
Okay. Good on you for getting around outback Australia too. I think that’s so very valuable for someone in your position. Peter, travel well. Good to talk again. Take care.
Thank you Luke. You too mate, take care.