Subjects: Fadden by-election; Russian embassy; The Prime Minister’s divisive Canberra Voice.
Well it’s fantastic to be on the Gold Coast in Fadden to open the candidate for Fadden, Cameron Caldwell’s office, and to be here with the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton, who’s a regular visitor here on the Gold Coast. Always welcome. It’s fantastic to see so much support from across the community, so many Cameron Caldwell blue T-shirts here today on the Gold Coast, and it’s my great pleasure to introduce to you the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton. Thank you for coming to Gold Coast.
Well Angie, thank you very much. Firstly, thank you for the work that you’re doing here on the Gold Coast – not just in your seat and, frankly, not just on the Gold Coast – but across the country. As a Shadow Minister, the portfolio work that you’re doing is a great credit to you and we had a great visit to Southport, only a couple of weeks ago, talking about how we can engage youth and try and get them into jobs and into a lifestyle that doesn’t involve crime and doesn’t involve drugs and involves an outcome in their education and their work. It changes people’s lives. So thank you for the work that you’re doing.
I’m really excited to be here with Cameron Caldwell today. I don’t think we could have pre-selected a better candidate, a champion of the Gold Coast, and he’s a person that has a track record and runs on the board. He’s been a councillor for 12 years, he’s a champion of the northern end of the Gold Coast. He knows the area, he knows the people, he knows the issues and he has a real desire to do the best thing for his community.
He’s delivered before in relation to a number of issues. Firstly, in relation to projects that have created jobs here in this region, he’s worked for a council, and as an integral part of a council that’s delivered a balanced budget or a surplus and kept rate rises within CPI. He’s a man of great experience in delivering on issues that are important to community – CCTV, helping to keep communities safer than they otherwise would be – and as we know,under Labor at the moment, crime on the Gold Coast is a runaway issue. People are living, really, with the fear of the cars being stolen, their houses being broken into, and Cameron has been a champion for local residents and small businesses in standing up against that crime and the weak laws that Labor has in place.
But he’s done more than that for his local community, he’s also fought for local traffic issues and outcomes for infrastructure, and if you want an experienced person as your local member – somebody who can really take the issues of Fadden to Canberra – Cameron Caldwell is an exceptional candidate and he will be a great member for Fadden after the by-election on July 15.
I also want to make mention of the fact that, as Cameron pointed out on the wall before, the cost of living is a runaway issue under this government. The government’s made core promises to the Australian people in the run up to the last election, they’ve broken the key promises and as we know, under Labor, they will always mismanage the economy.
The decisions that the government’s made in relation to energy, the decisions the government’s made in their two budgets make it harder for families to pay their bills, makes it harder for small businesses to keep the staff on that they’ve got at the moment.
So, I don’t think we should underestimate the pressure and the pain that Australians are going through at the moment, and the government promised that they would bring down electricity prices – electricity prices are higher than they’ve ever been.
Here in Fadden on the 1st of July, the government predicts that your cost of electricity and gas will probably go up by about 25 per cent on top of an already very expensive bill; and every decision that Labor’s making at the moment is making it harder for families and for small businesses.
I think if you’ve got a mortgage at the moment and you’re coming off a fixed low rate interest rate onto a higher rate, you realise that you’re finding it harder and harder to pay that mortgage each month. The Prime Minister has made decisions, which means that as a country, we have a higher core inflation rate than any other G7 nation in the world besides the United Kingdom. So the problem for inflation is not coming out of the Kremlin, it’s coming out of Canberra, and that is putting real pressure on Gold Coast families.
So Cameron, I want to say thank you to you and to Lauren for being a great team, for contributing to the Gold Coast for the last 12 years – and well before that as a small business person. You’re a real champion of this local community. I’m really proud to have you as our candidate and it’s great to see Mackenzie here as well today, who’s on school holidays – and she’s having to help dad doorknock and deliver pamphlets in the letterboxes – so it’s not the best way to spend your holidays at your age Mackenzie, but you should be very proud of what your dad’s doing for his local community and what he’ll do in Canberra.
There’s a big fight on and Labor will run a dirty campaign – we know that – that’s what they did at the last federal election, it’s what they do in by-elections, but this by-election is about electing a champion for your local community, somebody who can work hard, and it’s also about making sure that you deliver a message to the Labor Government that they’re not doing well enough on cost of living issues, on crime, on congestion and many other issues that are really important to you and your family.
Cameron, over to you.
Thanks Peter, and if I can firstly just say, it’s an absolute honour to have the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton here in Fadden. It shows the seriousness with which we are taking this by-election. To have the support of the Leader here on the ground in Fadden is a wonderful thing and a clear sign to the people of Fadden that we care about the Gold Coast and we care about the people of Fadden. So thank you Peter for joining me today.
If I can also just acknowledge Angie Bell and also Karen Andrews, my federal colleagues here on the Gold Coast, who have been a great support to me and have served this city well since they were elected to federal Parliament. So thank you Angie for being here today as well.
I was nominated as the candidate for the LNP just a couple of short weeks ago and I was very excited at the time to take on this challenge because we know that we need a good local representative who will take the fight down to Canberra for the people of Fadden. I’ve spent the last two weeks listening to the local community here in Fadden, and hearing what their issues are and the message could not be clearer, and it has now become clearer to me that I really need to be taking on this task for the people of Fadden.
As I’ve moved around the electorate over the last couple of weeks, people are talking about how much their hip pocket is hurting. The cost of living pressures are real, the cost of living crunch has arrived. There are still people who are about to get off fixed rate mortgages and know that they are in for a world of pain. Those mortgage costs are forcing them into making decisions about what food they put on their table.
We’ve seen the price of power going up a lot already in the last 12 months and, as Peter said, another jump about to occur on the 1st of July. These are real issues for the people of Fadden here on the ground, and I’ve heard that message loud and clear, and I’m very keen to take up the fight for the people of Fadden.
So, as we enter the early voting period on the 3rd of July, I’ll be asking the people of Fadden for their support to be their local champion in Canberra, and it’s now become clear to me that it’s very important that we have a good local representative who understands the issues on the ground, who’s going to fight for the locals here in Fadden, and it’s going to be my mission for the next few weeks to continue to listen to people and to ask for their vote come the by-election day.
Thanks Cameron. I’m happy to take any questions.
Mr Dutton, a very safe conservative seat historically, are you worried about any voter backlash based on the previous departing member?
Well, there’s always a big fight on in a by-election. The government obviously believes that they’re still in their honeymoon, and I think there’s a lot of hubris within the government –there’s certainly from the Prime Minister at the moment – I think the Prime Minister’s got a real tin ear to what’s happening in the community.
We’ve got the Prime Minister talking about all sorts of issues, he’s heavily engaged in international affairs and that’s fine, spends a lot of time on his plane overseas, but for people here on the ground, they’re really hurting, and the Gold Coast will be one of those areas most acutely hit because of the decisions that Labor’s made over the course of the last two budgets.
They had a plan and they had decisions to make in relation to the last two budgets. They could have relieved some of the pressure on families here on the Gold Coast. They haven’t done that, in fact, they’ve made it harder for families to balance their budget.
Families instinctively know it, and as Cameron pointed out, people will make decisions to stop going to restaurants and spending as much as they would have, or just keeping their hands in their pockets, which has a knock-on effect, and I really worry about the unemployment rate increasing and the impact on families being felt.
So Labor will run all sorts of scare campaigns on different issues, and there’ll be all sorts of red herrings, they’re very tricky in all of the dark arts, but what matters most to me, is that we elect in this seat of Fadden, somebody who knows the area well, is a local champion, has the runs on the board, has the experience, and in Cameron Caldwell, we have somebody with 12 years’ experience fighting on behalf of local residents on important local issues, and to have the strength of that character in Canberra, I think will be very important when people are making their decision on the 15th of July.
But are you worried about the previous member and the legacy that he’s left for voters?
I’ve answered that question.
If you’re not worried about it, then why haven’t we seen Stuart Robert yet, around Fadden?
Well, where’s the Prime Minister? I mean we haven’t seen the Prime Minister yet. So I don’t know whether he, again this hubris, he just thinks he can roll into the Gold Coast a week before the by-election and, you know, everybody will jump on board and they’ll just vote for him instinctively – I think people are over that.
I think they want to know that they have a local candidate here who’s going to be a good local member, and frankly, they want a Prime Minister of our country who cares about the concerns that they have. At the moment, the Prime Minister’s too interested in spending time in Canberra – in the Canberra bubble – and not getting out and speaking to people in the local community.
How confident are you?
I think by-elections are always a tight fight. I think that’s the reality, and as we’ve seen, after long periods of government, you always had four or five resignations and by-elections, that’s just the natural course of the political cycle.
But we have the opportunity here to refresh and to bring somebody into the seat of Fadden who will be a great local champion, and he will fight hard on behalf of Fadden residents when he’s in Canberra, and he will continue to do that. How do I know it? Because he’s got a track record and he has the experience to deliver for the northern end of the Gold Coast.
You had a pretty disastrous result in Aston. If we see the margin dwindle further than it already has here in Fadden, is that another reflection on what people think of your leadership?
I think you’ll always see in by-elections swings and that’s the nature of it. People know that they’re not changing the government. People know that there’s an opportunity to send a message to a government that’s out of touch.
I just say to the people of Fadden; are you better off today than you were 12 months ago when the Prime Minister was elected? I think there would be very few people who can say yes. There are many people now who are starting to question, was the Prime Minister telling the truth when he said to them before the May election of last year – on 97 occasions – that he would lower power prices by $275. He’s never mentioned that figure once.
I hope when it comes to the Gold Coast, eventually, hopefully before the 15th of July, I hope that you can ask him the question; ‘Prime Minister, why have you not mentioned the figure of $275 since you were elected? You promised to bring down power prices and all that’s happened because of the decisions you’ve made is that your electricity bill’s gone through the roof’.
On another topic, a Russian diplomat is illegally squatting at a site near Parliament House in Canberra. He’s got diplomatic immunity so he can’t be arrested, what should be done, in your view?
Well as you know, we supported the government’s decision in relation to the Bill that went through Parliament, and that was designed to make sure that we could deal with what’s a very significant, but sensitive issue.
We’ll provide support to the government to make sure that our national interests are upheld and properly served. People should conduct themselves according to the law, and people, regardless of what country they come from, should have regard for the laws of this country. If people are acting outside of that, then there will be a decision for the Australian Federal Police and ASIO and the other agencies to make. But we will support the Government in whatever decision they take that’s in our national interest in relation to what is obviously a sensitive issue.
Does this signal a further breakdown in the relations between Australia and Russia?
There will be a breakdown in the relationship with Russia whilst ever somebody like Vladimir Putin is in control of an administration that is at war with innocent men, women and children in Ukraine at the moment.
The slaughter that’s taking place there this very day, we should remind ourselves of it, and I think the government should step-up its effort to provide the defence materiel that’s being asked for at the moment by the Ukrainian Ambassador and by the Government of Ukraine.
I think in President Zelenskyy we have a modern day hero and he is pushing back against a dictator, an autocrat, like Vladimir Putin, and we should be giving him support. I think there has been a significant lag in the support that the government’s given.
One of my proudest days as Defence Minister was when we were at Amberley Air base and we provided support through the first Bushmaster delivery to the people of Ukraine. It’s saved lives, it’s helped in their effort to ush back against the Russians, and since then there’s been a go slow from this government and I don’t understand why.
What more should the government do though today to resolve that situation?
Well, they’ve got options available to them under the law. There are diplomatic options and representations that can be made, and they’ll weigh up all of those equities, including obviously the presence that we have in Moscow and they’ll make decisions and we will support those decisions because that’s in our country’s best interests.
Does it surprise you, what you’re seeing on the ground there? It’s not something you often see?
Well, it’s disappointing, but I think it shows a flagrant disregard of international law and common decency, to be honest. I think that’s what the world is seeing from Vladimir Putin at the moment, and the Russian staff, or diplomat, or I don’t know his status, but whatever it is, should vacate the site and should adhere to the laws of our country.
In relation to the Voice, are you asking for the Referendum to be delayed because you think it might help the ‘No’ campaign?
I think the Prime Minister has made a catastrophic mistake here in starving detail from the Australian public. I think there are millions of Australians who just want to know what it is they’re being asked to vote for.
This is the biggest change to our Constitution in 120 years, it’s a new chapter being inserted into the Constitution, it means that our whole system of government will change because the Voice, as Megan Davis and others have pointed out – these are the hand-picked people by the Prime Minister who sit on the committee that designed this thing – they have been very open about it.
By its very design, the Voice is going to have the ability to have a say on every area of government responsibility. The expansive words that are being put into the Constitution can’t be undone by any bill that passes the Parliament. Our nation’s rule book is the most important thing in our country at the moment – let’s be very clear about it – and it has been from 1901. It’s allowed us to be a free and democratic nation, it’s allowed a freedom of speech and it’s allowed the rule of law to be enforced that is the envy of the world. People come to our country because of the system of government we have.
The lifestyle here in Fadden is the envy of many people around the world, and if the Prime Minister is proposing a Voice, which is going to be a Canberra-based Voice, then he needs to explain how it will work, and at the moment, his decision to not provide that detail means that it’s going to be lost, in my judgement, and on all of the evidence that we see at the moment, or in the best case scenario for the ‘Yes’ case, it’ll be 51-49, which means, in effect, that our country is split down the middle.
The Prime Minister is making a decision at the moment which is dividing our country, not uniting our country. What we’re saying is that the two parties could come together, provide constitutional recognition, and we could work together in legislation around the Voice to allow local and regional bodies to be heard, so that we can make a positive and practical difference on the ground in those Indigenous communities.
All of us want a better outcome for Indigenous Australians, particularly in regional and remote areas, but at the moment the Prime Minister is taking our country down a divisive path. He says that our international reputation will be harmed, and that the reconciliation cause will be set back if the Referendum is unsuccessful in October. I agree that it sets back reconciliation and if the Prime Minister is set on that course going to an election, or going to a referendum election, knowing that it’s going to fail, and that reconciliation will be set back, he should delay it or pull it back all together.
We’ve asked decent, respectful questions. I wrote to the Prime Minister more than six months ago asking 15 questions on behalf of millions of Australians – still no response. We asked Minister Burney over 20 questions in Question Time this week, no coherent response.
The legal uncertainty and ambiguity here is quite remarkable and to change the Constitution in this way is without precedent. There’s been no Constitutional Referendum, there’s been no guarantees, and there can be no certainties or guarantees about the limitations because by design it does cover every area of government. So, I think the Prime Minister needs to really take a long, hard look – stop the hubris – and start acting in our country’s best interests.
This morning on radio, you said you’d use the winter break to reflect on your behaviour, in the same sentence you accused the PM of having a glass jaw. Doesn’t that show that you aren’t taking the Speaker’s plea for better behaviour seriously?
Well, I think if you have a look at the interview and if you look in the context what I had to say in response to a question from Sabra, she spoke about comments made by the Speaker and I made the very important point that the Prime Minister himself at the start of this parliamentary term said that he wanted a ‘kinder, gentler Parliament’, and yesterday he’s in the Parliament yelling personal abuse, unsubstantiated, at me and others.
Frankly, there are millions of Australians at the moment – including Indigenous Australians – who have taken the decision to vote against the Voice, or are at least sceptical about it, and the Prime Minister shouting them down, or saying that they don’t know what they’re talking about, I find unacceptable and I think frankly, the rank hypocrisy from the Prime Minister here is quite remarkable.
All right. Thank you very much.