Subjects: Visit to Dubbo; Labor’s cost of living crisis; Labor’s energy policy shambles; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; the Prime Minister’s insincere last-ditch effort to salvage the Voice; youth crime in Dubbo and elsewhere in the country; housing; Michael Pezzullo.
Welcome to Dubbo everyone.
It’s great to be joined here today with my colleagues: the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton, the Leader of the Nationals David Littleproud and the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
It’s always a privilege as a local member of an electorate like mine to have colleagues come out and visit, talk to local people and understand what’s really happening out here in the heartland of Australia. So, I’m very pleased to have them.
I won’t say any more, but I might hand on to David and then we’ll go from there. Thanks very much.
Well, thanks Mark. It is great to be back in Dubbo and here at REDI.E. Great to be back with these guys who are doing such a great job for young people – particularly here in Dubbo – but right across New South Wales, in bringing them here, educating them, giving them hope, giving them direction, and this is the sort of success story that we as Australians should celebrate every day of the week. We should be so proud of their efforts and all that they’ve achieved.
But as Jacinta and I have been on the road for the last couple of days, talking a little bit about the Voice; the big issue that keeps coming back, in the centre of minds of every Australian that we’ve touched in regional and rural Australia, is the cost of living.
Inflation is still up there, and while it has reduced, what has reduced is people’s discretionary spend. What has stayed up is their fixed spend on their fixed costs, and they cannot get away from it because of the ideology of this government. Ideology, particularly on their energy policy, and as we saw today – we were out at a sheep processing facility – their costs are going up as well, which goes through to your grocery bill, and that’s a fixed cost Australians can’t get away from.
So, this is where the ideology of a reckless race to 82 per cent renewables by 2030 doesn’t meet the practical reality of what’s being bled out of Australians wallets. This is where we need to pause, we need to plan and have some practical application about what’s in front of us and the opportunities that Australia has. We’re not like Europe, we have sovereignty of all our resources. We don’t have to worry about Vlad turning off the tap, we actually can create our own energy and reliable energy, and reduce our emissions if we are bold, if we are courageous as a country, and I’m proud to say that the Nationals and the Liberals are prepared to have that conversation.
I wrote to Anthony Albanese to say, ‘let’s have that’ when I became Nationals Leader, he rejected it, and I’m saying that we’re all going to pay the bill, but regional Australia will also pay the double bill in the transmission lines and the agricultural production land that’s being wiped out.
So, our food security and your cost of living is going up, but we don’t need to flood money into the economy to pay for everybody to get through this cost of living crisis. We need common sense, and while everyone thinks that the Voice is the biggest issue in town, let me give you the 6-4: it’s people’s cost of living.
I can tell you that this is a government that has wasted 16 months focusing on ideology and forgotten about people’s wallets, and it’s time for Australians to really send a strong message to Anthony Albanese to think about them, rather than his ideology.
JACINTA NAMPIJINPA PRICE:
Yeah, thanks Dave. Look, it’s really wonderful to be back here in Dubbo. It’s been great to be on the road again, stopping off in Lithgow, Bathurst, Orange and now here of course.
David’s right, cost of living is a huge issue. Obviously I’ve been on the road, we’ve been discussing the Voice and engaging with people on the ground, and the general feeling is that Australians just want to get on with things – whether we’re from, you know, an Indigenous background or non-Indigenous background in this country. I mean, we’re standing here at a wonderful business that is about empowering all community members of all backgrounds, and that is the general feeling.
There was a young woman in Lithgow yesterday, Indigenous woman, who thanked me for being there, thanked us for being there, thanked us for putting up the fight to maintain an Australia that is united – and she’s worked in the child protection space and spaces with social services – as far as she’s concerned, dividing this country is not a great idea, and while the Prime Minister is so focussed on this Referendum, nothing else is getting done.
Let’s not forget, cost of living also affects Indigenous Australians, particularly our most marginalised Indigenous Australians. Everyone’s feeling that right now, feeling the pinch of cost of living.
We’ve got about 18 days left to go before the Referendum, and then we can get back to actually addressing our real issues as a country together without dividing us along the lines of race within our country.
But look, the general feel is that Australians want to get on with it regardless of their background, together as a community, not divided along the lines of race. There are solutions within communities. We know here at REDI.E, that they have solutions where they encompass the entire community to make sure everyone’s moving forward together.
Jacinta, thank you. Well firstly, thank you very much to Mark Coulton for putting on such a great visit in Moree and Dubbo, and we’ve spoken to a lot of people – particularly Australians who are doing it tough at the moment – and as David and Jacinta have been on the road as well, they’re hearing the same message.
Petrol at the moment – we passed a petrol station this morning: $2.34 a litre for diesel – and it comes on top of people paying more for their electricity bills under this government. There’s no sign anywhere in regional Australia of people getting a $275 reduction in their power prices, which the Prime Minister had promised them at the last election. There’s no sign of a reduction in gas going down – people are paying much more now than from the time that Mr Albanese was elected Prime Minister. People are paying more for their insurance premiums. People are getting less for their money when they pay at the checkout at Coles, or Woollies or the IGA.
I think it’s a really worrying time for Australians and I think the Prime Minister needs to start listening to Australians who need his help now more than ever. Not just families, but small businesses as well. Some of those small business families are facing exactly the same pressures in terms of all of their input costs, and many of them that we’ve spoken to as you go around have trimmed back everywhere they can. But if business continues to downturn under this government, they’ll start putting people off and unemployment will go up, and that’s exactly what the government’s predicted in their budget.
Don’t forget Mr Albanese’s had two budgets now to make it easier, not harder for Australians, and instead they’ve made economic decisions and decisions outside of the budget cycle that have resulted in inflation being higher – and that means interest rates remaining higher, it means your mortgage staying higher for longer – and there are a lot of worrying signs in the economy at the moment.
At the same time, you’re getting a government talking about this ideological attack in relation to industrial relations, which is all about pleasing the union movement and nothing to do with trying to make it easier to keep staff on and make it easier for employers to employ people.
So, if we see a downturn in the economy, at exactly the same time the government’s throwing a wet blanket over it with industrial relations changes, we’re going to see further increases in cost of living and Australian families are going to pick up that tab that Labor’s creating, and that is something the Prime Minister should concentrate on because as David rightly points out, the Prime Minister has spent the first 16 months of his term completely and utterly focussed on the Voice. He’s forgotten about Australians in the regions and in rural, remote, areas, in cities, in towns. This is a Prime Minister I think is completely out of touch with the Australian public.
I’m happy to take any questions.
How can we fix issues in Dubbo such as the crime problem without a Voice?
Well, a couple of points: you’ve got a lot of engagement from businesses like this, who are providing jobs. I want to say thank you very much to Peter and to the team here – inspirational people, and they’re actually providing real outcomes.
Any youth crime, in particular, is something that communities need to take very seriously. We’re seeing pockets around the country now, not just in Dubbo, but in places like Townsville, in Rockhampton, in WA, right across the country where we have communities that in some cases people are leaving their keys on the coffee table by the front door in case they get broken into. They don’t want people coming, kids coming, or people who have broken into the houses coming into their bedrooms. I mean, how have we got to that position? Nothing to do with the Voice. Let’s be very clear about it; it’s to do with a breakdown in law and order. It’s to do with the appointment of Magistrates by Labor Premiers who are civil libertarians who don’t impose proper penalties or provide deterrence to young people in that situation.
But we need to make sure that there are employment programs available, so that people, young people in particular, are engaged. We need to make sure that the schooling system is working effectively and keeping kids in school and off the streets, and we need to make sure that if they do steal a car, or there is wilful damage, that there’s a penalty to pay for that, and if not, why not go and steal a car the next night if you know you’re just got to get a slap on the wrist from the court?
So, there are many issues to it and it’s a complex problem and it plays out differently around the country, but they are some of the most significant aspects to the problem of youth crime in particular.
Is it something that the parents should be held responsible, or the carers should be held responsible for?
Well, there’s no doubt that parental responsibility is key here. If your kids are running around of a night time, then they are going to get into trouble. As Jacinta and I saw in Alice Springs, you’ve got a situation there where kids are living in very difficult circumstances. There’s a lot more that we should be doing as a community to support that, but a Canberra based Voice is not going to provide support to those families or to those kids to see them diverted into employment programs, or see them diverted into training programs.
So, I know that there’s some talk at the moment around local voices. Now, this seems to be the latest version of what the Voice would look like. It seems to me that the government is making up on the run what model they will adopt after, and this is the madness of not having a model constructed before you put it to the people. The Calma-Langton Report actually recommended that you do that local model before you go to the Australian people with a Referendum because they won’t vote for a model that they don’t understand. It turns out that Noel Pearson and others within the government have said exactly that in recent years. They’ve been warning Australians: ‘don’t vote for something you don’t understand what it is and how it will apply and whether it’ll be better or worse’. I think there are a lot of regional areas who are really worried about the Voice because they know that it’s going to be Canberra-centric.
Would you support the Voice if that idea of a ‘local Voice’ was concrete?
Well again, we’ve gone through all of this over the course of the last 15 months. We’ve said to the Prime Minister: a local and regional body, to advise government on issues – that’s a good thing, put it into legislation – that’s what many of the advocates have advised governments of both persuasions in recent years.
Most people have been of the common view that you shouldn’t put this to the Australian public, when the design of it doesn’t start until the Monday after the Saturday vote. I mean it doesn’t make any sense, and that’s why Australians don’t trust the Prime Minister because he says that this is just a ‘modest change’ – this is the most significant change to our Constitution since Federation – and he can’t even explain what it’s about, and now they’re chopping and changing as to what the model should be.
We warned the Prime Minister about this, and I think millions of Australians are shaking their heads at how a Prime Minister could divide the country the way that Anthony Albanese is at the moment.
Senator Price’s performance has been one of the talking points on the campaign trail. You’ll be meeting some voters with her and Mr Littleproud later today. Is there a danger for you that you might be upstaged by her?
There is every danger of that. There is every danger, and we’re upstaged by Jacinta Price every day. Well before this campaign started. I appointed Jacinta straight into the Shadow Cabinet because of her personal qualities, her skills, her ability to relate to people, and I think she has done a sterling job, along with Warren Mundine and others who have been involved in just being honest and open and frank with the Australian public.
So, I’m incredibly proud to call Jacinta a colleague and a friend, and she and Colin have gone through an enormous amount as a family. The abuse that’s been hurled her way, really has been shameful, and those people in the Yes campaign who have sought to denigrate Jacinta for her view, I hope that out of all of this, that they can reflect on their own shortcomings and try to be better people because I think Jacinta has been honest, decent, up front and she has struck a chord with the Australian public because of that very reason.
Your approval rating slipped. Does that rock your confidence?
Well, it depends on which poll you read yesterday – and I know which one you read, obviously – but you could have a look at the polls, and I think you can be in politics and you can sit on the fence – that’s one model, and it’s worked for Anthony Albanese for a long time – my preferred model is to stand up for what you believe in, and if you stand up for what you believe in, some people like you and some don’t, but what I’ve always done is sought to put the national interest first in any decision I’ve taken, in any portfolio that I’ve been in, and I won’t change from that.
I don’t believe it’s in our country’s best interests to proceed with the Canberra Voice. The Prime Minister is deceiving Australians, and I’m happy to pay a price for that because I believe very strongly that we live in the best country in the world and we should do everything we can to defend it. To defeat the Voice, that would be in our country’s best interests – let’s be very clear about it – because nobody knows what the Voice is or how it will work, and that’s why the Prime Minister has gone from a position of 60 per cent support, to 40 per cent support in a matter of months.
If the Referendum fails, would you back a legislated Voice?
Well, the Prime Minister has ruled that out. So, we’ve said earlier this year you would be much better to put the local and regional bodies into legislation and demonstrate how it would work, and that’s exactly what Calma-Langton referred to.
Now, remember when we asked questions of the Prime Minister at the beginning of this process about how it would operate; he said, ‘well, here it is: the Calma-Langton Report is the how-to guide’. Well, he’s never made any mention of the Calma-Langton Report since, because the Calma-Langton Report is not being implemented here, and they’re chopping and changing each day as to what the Voice means and how it will operate, but it’s fundamentally flawed.
They’re taking the Australian public as mugs, and I don’t think the Australian public are mugs. I think they’re calling out the Prime Minister for his deliberate action of withholding information.
You mentioned the role of Magistrates in youth crime. Would you look at tougher legislation that can support Magistrates in providing tougher punishments I guess, for those committing crimes?
Well obviously, local Magistrates are appointed by the state governments, and you’ve seen here in New South Wales frankly a better situation in terms of some of the appointments compared to, say my home state in Queensland. You’ve got an appalling situation with Daniel Andrews obviously in Victoria, and communities suffer as a result of it.
One of the most important things that governments do is appoint people to these key roles, and the Magistrates, wherever they are, need to reflect community sentiment, they need to reflect community values and standards, obviously have to enforce the law as Parliament’s pass it, but there needs to be a greater recognition of the angst that is the reality in communities at the moment, where people are worried about stolen cars, or violence, and we need to do everything we can as a community to come together to make sure that there are better options for some of these young people, than committing crimes.
You heard earlier from somebody – while you were sitting having coffee in the cafe – about the IPROWD Program and policing, what can the Federal Government do to assist that on local levels, not just on state levels, but on a local level?
Well, there’s support that we can provide through funding programs and there are many programs that we provided support to when we’re in government, and again, if you look at the success of a program like that, you want to be able to scale it up and you want to be able to prove it up – and that’s I suppose the principle in relation to the Voice. You need to be able to demonstrate how it can work positively and have a positive impact, but it’s clear the government hasn’t been able to do that work, and I think dividing our country has been a very, very bad outcome that the Prime Minister’s chosen.
Mr Dutton, on cost of living; obviously, one of the biggest pressures facing families here in Dubbo is housing prices and rental prices, and this does disproportionately impact our Indigenous community here. What would a Coalition government do differently to keep rental prices affordable here in the regions?
Well again, I mean you’ve got the responsibility of three levels of government here – so planning and coordination is important.
There’s a lot of work that we did through the First Home Buyer Scheme, which resulted in literally hundreds of thousands of young Australians being able to get into housing – so that provides some relief – but the planning laws at a state level and obviously town planning matters which are decided on by local governments; it works well in some parts of the country and very poorly in others.
There are debates at the moment, as you know, in Sydney about density and different debates in a place like Dubbo about greenfield developments. So the governments need to be able to coordinate, work together, have an understanding of what’s taking place – but don’t forget the Commonwealth Government can make it harder as well for communities like Dubbo because you’ve got now a migration program of one and a half million people over the course of the next five years. So you’ve got the extra 6,000 people coming in each week looking for housing – whether it’s rental or to purchase housing in some cases – and if you can’t get the supply picture right, then you’ll see homelessness go up and you’ll see people displaced, and it’s very hard to find the stock for Australians now, let alone if you’re bringing people in at that rate.
The Prime Minister says the investigation of Mike Pezzullo is ‘urgent’ and senior Labor figures are scathing of his actions, are you holding back?
Well, in relation to Mr Pezzullo, the government’s announced this referral and we’ll wait to see the outcome of the inquiry.
All right. Thank you very much.