Subjects: Visit to Moree; Labor’s cost of living crisis; Michael Pezzullo; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal.
Good morning everyone. I’m really pleased to have Opposition Leader and my colleague Peter Dutton here in Moree – the most productive agricultural shire in Australia – and I’m really pleased that Peter’s coming to look at various issues.
We’re out here at Hugh and Sarah Ball’s property this morning, talking about issues around irrigation – particularly with the northern basin, and the changes that are coming through with the legislation that’s before the Parliament now.
We’re also going to be meeting with the council, talking about issues around inland rail. Later on having a look at some of the farmers that are actually loading trains directly from their farm – and it’s really important that Peter comes and sees where the real economic powerhouse of Australia is generated – and it’s been very, very useful so far this morning to see things, rather than just be briefed on them.
So Peter, welcome and I thank you for coming.
Firstly, thank you very much to Mark Coulton who’s been a longstanding friend and obviously very passionate about his local community here. Moree is an incredible town, and I want to say thank you very much to Sarah and the Ball family for having us onto their amazing property. They employ locals, they produce for our country, they provide support to many ancillary businesses who just couldn’t operate in towns like Moree without these sorts of farming operations, at the significant scale that they’ve got here and many other surrounding properties.
So, it’s great to be back in regional Australia, and it’s also important to be able to speak to Australians right across the country at a time where cost of living is impacting on every family and on every small business.
I just say to the Prime Minister; I know he’s got a lot of priorities, but he needs to prioritise families and small businesses – and the cost of living crisis that Labor’s created in our country.
There have been two budgets now, where the government had options available to them to help families, not hurt them, and instead the decisions they’ve made have forced up inflation and they’re keeping inflation up, and that means interest rates stay high – so that for small businesses, they’re paying double digits now for their overdrafts – it means that every input cost is going up because of Labor’s economic plan that has resulted in an energy crisis in this country, as well as sustained upward pressure on everyday prices that people are paying when they go to the supermarkets, when they go to the petrol station, when they go and pay their insurance premiums.
It’s just much harder under Labor than it was even 15 or 18 months ago, and part of that is because the Prime Minister has been completely and utterly distracted, absorbed and obsessed by the Voice, and I think most Australians are demonstrating that they’re more interested in how a government can make decisions that could help them, not hurt them.
Unfortunately, for Mr Albanese and for the Treasurer, for Jim Chalmers, they are making it a lot harder than it needs to be for Australians right at the moment.
I’m happy to take any questions.
What do you make of Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo’s texts about ministerial appointments being referred to the Public Service Commissioner?
Well, the Minister’s obviously announced that she’s referred it to the Public Service Commissioner, so that’s a matter for investigation now.
I’ll say in relation to Mr Pezzullo: he was my Secretary when I was in Home Affairs. I found him to always be professional. I found him – particularly as a person who had served both a Labor Government and a Liberal Government, he has plenty of friends on the Labor side, he was obviously Deputy Chief of Staff to Kim Beazley – and he conducted himself in a thoroughly professional way in my dealings with him, and that was my experience of dealing with Mr Pezzullo.
Do you think it’s tenable for Mike Pezzullo to remain at Home Affairs after the leaked text messages in the Nine newspaper?
Well, that’s an issue for the government. Obviously they’ve got an investigation underway, but if the Prime Minister doesn’t have confidence in Mr Pezzullo, he should say so.
This is an issue for the government to work out. I can tell you from my time as Minister, Mr Pezzullo served the government faithfully, as he did the Labor Party when they were in power, and he was able to, I think in all of his interactions, put the country first, and that’s what I think you’ve seen demonstrated in his work at Home Affairs.
He had a passion for Home Affairs because he believes very strongly in national security and border protection, he had a background in defence, and he served his country – both Liberal and Labor Governments – for many decades.
Do you want the government to investigate if whether those texts were leaked out of the NACC?
Well, I think the matter should be referred to the Australian Federal Police if there has been a leak of sensitive information, and that would be a matter for the Prime Minister to initiate.
Just on the Voice: the Prime Minister’s obviously announced a Joint Parliamentary Committee to develop legislation for the Voice – if of course a Referendum is successful. Are you in support of this idea?
Well, we’ve approached the Voice debate in a respectful way. We’ve listened to Australians, worked our way around the country listening to the concerns that people have. I have the greatest of respect for Australians whether they’re voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The Prime Minister telling people that they’re hard hearted or others within the Labor movement suggesting that people are racist because they’re voting ‘no’, all the celebrities out there telling people what they should think and how they should vote, frankly, it’s all been counterproductive.
I think the Prime Minister finds himself in a position now where he’s turned 60 per cent support for the Voice into 40 per cent support for the Voice – that’s of his own making. There are now more than one in three Labor voters who are voting ‘no’ on October 14. That is of the Prime Minister’s own doing. He’s driven people away from the ‘yes’ vote to the ‘no’ vote because, let’s be very frank, he hasn’t given the detail and this has been a deliberate strategy. The heart’s mind is already won. All of us want a better outcome for Indigenous Australians, but they can’t get people’s minds across the line because people want to know what it is they’re voting for.
The bipartisan committee that already existed was a complete and utter farce. There wasn’t one word that was amended as a result of that bipartisan committee’s work and the recommendations that they made.
Let’s be very frank about it; the Prime Minister is playing political games here. This is an 11th hour desperation move to try and salvage the ‘yes’ vote, and I don’t believe it’s going to work because people don’t see the Prime Minister as being sincere. He’s not sincere when he says that this is just a ‘modest change’. Australians know that that’s not the truth, they know their Prime Minister is not being honest with them. There’s been no constitutional convention and people don’t know – including in Indigenous communities – how the Voice will impact them – whether it will be negative or positive.
I believe very strongly that the Prime Minister should have done the work in a bipartisan way right at the start before he made the initial announcement at Garma, but it’s obvious that he’s now trying to desperately find ways to suggest to people that there can be a bipartisan position, when all he’s done, right from day one is divide Australians. A Prime Minister who divides his country knowingly, really has many questions to answer.
Do you commit the Liberal Party to being part of this joint committee?
What I commit to is that we will respect the outcome on October 14. I believe that the country is going to vote ‘no’ – that’s my strong advice to people – to not trust this Prime Minister. I don’t think you can trust him.
I think now he’s out at the 11th hour saying that he wants a bipartisan committee. There was a bipartisan committee. The bipartisan committee made recommendations – the Prime Minister didn’t listen to one word of it. He didn’t amend anything off the back of that committee. So, why would you trust him now? And I think millions of Australians at the moment are shaking their head at this Prime Minister because he’s just not being honest with them.
There are concerns though if this Referendum doesn’t pass, there’ll be a further divide between non-Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Australians. What do you think about this?
Well, I think it’s entirely predictable and totally regrettable. We’ve been advising the Prime Minister for months not to go ahead with this Referendum.
The question that should be put to the Australian people is: ‘do you support recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution?’. I think there’d be 80 per cent support. It would be a unifying moment, but we have pleaded with the Prime Minister not to go down this divisive path, and the Prime Minister, I think for his own political purposes, saw that there would be a wedge in this against the Coalition or thought that, you know, he could through some tricky manoeuvre, not give the detail and the people would just vote for it on the vibe. Australians wont. And all of the analysis that I read, commentators from the left and right, publishing over the course of the weekend, they miss, most of them, this vital point: it’s turned from 60 per cent support to 40 per cent support because the Prime Minister won’t give the detail. It’s as simple as that. There are Labor voters now, in increasing numbers, who are turning against the advice of their own leader, and when you get that situation, yes, it does divide Australians.
So, our job after October 14, when I hope the Voice is voted down, will be to help unite the country, because at the moment the Prime Minister is taking our country on a divisive path, he’s not giving the detail, which is a deliberate strategy and I think Australians at the moment are saying, ‘well, why isn’t the Prime Minister more concerned with the issues and the priorities of my family, of my small business?’, ‘Why is he obsessed with the Voice?’, And ‘why have they had two budgets now where they’ve made decisions that have made it harder for Australians?’.
If the Referendum is successful, will your Party support future legislation?
Well, I’ve been clear that we will respect the view of the Australian people if they’re voting ‘yes’ at the election. I hope that they vote ‘no’ and I believe that the No campaign will win in the end because of the support of literally millions and millions of Australians who just don’t have the detail to make an informed judgement.
Alright, thank you very much.