Subjects: Cost of living crisis; Fadden by-election; spread of fire ants in Queensland; additional military support for Ukraine; appointment of RBA Governor; passing of Ewen Jones.
Good morning everyone. It’s great to be here with the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton, again, visiting the Gold Coast during this important Fadden by-election. This morning Peter and I have been visiting a local business that services the electorate of Fadden, a local family business, and one which is already seeing across their counters in retail, the impacts of cost of living pressures on their customers. Their power bill has gone up by 70 per cent in the last 11 months. They cannot bear all of the price rises, and unfortunately, have to pass some of those onto their customers, making life much more difficult for families to put food on their tables.
It is really quite sobering to see how the impacts of cost of living are impacting local residents, and I’m very proud that Peter has been able to visit the Gold Coast again today to see how cost of living pressures are real here on the ground on the Gold Coast and impacting the people of Fadden.
So, I’ll hand over to Peter now, I know he has a few words to say. Thanks for being here again Peter.
Well Cameron, thank you very much. Firstly, thank you very much to MacNab’s Butchery this morning for having us there. Really interesting business because they’ve got three locations on the Gold Coast. It was interesting to hear them say, and we’d heard this from a business just the other day, that they’re now getting an increased number of customers who have their credit cards declined when they’re paying for their bill. That seems to be an anecdotal account, at least, from a number of other businesses across the country.
So, the point is that the cost-of-living crisis that Labor’s created is really impacting in a negative way on families and small businesses. People are now starting to down trade, they’re buying cheaper cuts of meat, they’re buying mince or sausages instead of steak, and the reality for a lot of families is that their lives have changed quite dramatically over the course of the last 15 or 18 months.
When the Prime Minister promised in the run up to the last election that he would reduce your power bill by $275, the people of Fadden believed what he said. As it turns out, the Prime Minister never had any intention of delivering that price reduction in relation to your electricity or your gas bills, and he promised that it would be each year.
So, we’re now just past the first year of the Albanese Government. I don’t think the people of Fadden can say that they’re better off today than they were 12 or 15 months ago. There are a lot of small businesses who are starting to really feel the pinch, and as Cameron rightly points out, they’re passing as much as they can onto customers because they can’t afford to absorb all of the price increases.
Labor’s economic experiment has failed for Australian families. Labor’s energy experiment has failed for Australian families. A Prime Minister who promises you that your electricity bill will go down, and then on the 1st of July delivers a 29 per cent increase, is not somebody who has being genuine with the Australian people.
So, I think this Saturday people have an opportunity in Fadden to elect a local candidate with 12 years’ experience of delivering projects on the ground, local jobs, working with police and local community groups to try and help reduce the incidence of youth crime, in particular. He’s a person that has small business experience and has done a great job.
Now, Labor will continue their negative campaign – we’ve expected that, it’s what they do – and will it have an impact? Well of course it does – they don’t spend the money they do with the negative ads, if it doesn’t have an impact – but I’d just say to people of Fadden that there is a better way, and the better way is to listen to the positive message of Cameron Caldwell, to elect a candidate who’s going to be a very energetic and enthusiastic local member, somebody who will be a great champion for you in Canberra – and that’s needed more than ever because small businesses, families, are under ever increasing pressure because of the Albanese Government.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Mr Dutton, if the LNP retain the seat of Fadden with a slight swing towards the government, will you be happy?
I’ll be happy if Cameron Caldwell is elected as the next member for Fadden because I don’t want another union hack in the Labor Party in Parliament. I want somebody who has the proven experience to deliver for local residents and that’s exactly what Cameron does.
For 12 years, he has been a local champion, somebody who has rolled his sleeves up, worked hard with families, helped them through difficult periods, helped community groups, helped people with significant issues, and as we know, as Queenslanders, the Palaszczuk Government has presided over a situation now where people are worried about their cars being stolen, they’re worried about the incidence of crime, they’re worried about their houses has been broken into – and Richard Marles and Anthony Albanese laugh that off because they don’t understand the issues of the local residents here. A person who does is Cameron Caldwell and I think he will do well on Saturday.
We need to remind people to turn out to vote. In a by-election there’s always a reduction, and I hope that people will turn out in great numbers today, tomorrow and on Saturday and let’s hope that we have a really good outcome because I think Fadden deserves a great candidate and Cameron Caldwell is that candidate.
I’ve just had a look at Sportsbet, the bookies have got you at a $1.03. Do you think success looks like just winning or do you feel the pressure to increase that margin?
I think a three per cent return on your money between now and Saturday is not a bad bet, but you should gamble responsibly – would be my only other piece of advice. I think, you know, frankly, at the last state election, Queenslanders gambled with a Labor Government and the nation did at the last federal election in May of last year; and the problem is that the Australian public and the people of Fadden are now paying the price of Labor’s economic experiment, which has gone terribly wrong.
Let’s be very clear about it, to be in a position now where we’re still talking about interest rate increases after two Labor budgets, it demonstrates that they just can’t manage money and when they can’t manage money, they come after yours.
We’ve got a Prime Minister who’s been obsessing over the last 15 months on the Voice and he’s taken his eye off the ball when it comes to economic management. They’ve made bad decisions and Australians are paying the price for that. There are a lot of Australians now, who thought they were voting for a Prime Minister who would reduce their electricity bill – instead Anthony Albanese is delivering another 29 per cent increase in your power bill from the 1st of July – and Australian families just can’t afford Labor.
You’re not concerned at all about any residual impact of the Coalition’s illegal robodebt scheme and which, of course, was presided over by the former member of Fadden. You’re not concerned about an impact on that front?
Well again, Labor can run their negative campaign. I want a local representative who’s going to be a hard worker and Cameron Caldwell is that person. I want somebody with 12 years’ experience of delivering already for his local community. Cameron Caldwell is that candidate. I want somebody who’s going to fight hard on behalf of the local residents in Canberra to get better outcomes, to get money for infrastructure projects, to provide support to the local police; his advocacy for the PCYC is going to be a very significant way in which we can counter youth crime and violence, Cameron Caldwell is that candidate. I believe very strongly that the people of Fadden will be weighing up who they vote for, and Cameron is a very strong candidate, he’ll be an even stronger local member.
So you want voters to remember the Labor government but forget the Coalition governments previous…
I’ve dealt with that question.
Mr Dutton, are you worried or not about the robodebt affecting voters?
Look, I think people are looking forward, not back, and I think people are looking at who will be their local champion. It’s an opportunity to send the Prime Minister a message that he just hasn’t done well enough in relation to the cost-of-living pressures that he’s applying on Australians.
It’s not by chance that interest rates go up under Labor Governments – that’s the reality. It’s not by chance that the core inflation rate in our country now is higher than every G7 nation except for the UK. We’re making decisions in our country that are driving up inflation and inflation going up means your interest rates go up. It means that small businesses are paying double digit prices, or costs for their overdraft and for their credit facilities – that’s being passed on to consumers. That’s why you’re paying more when you go into a grocery store, or when you go into a supermarket, or when you go into a butcher or a baker – that’s the reality of Labor. That’s the economic experiment that always goes wrong under Labor, and to be perfectly honest – and this is the feedback from pre-poll – that’s what people are concentrating on.
You see it in the published and private polling, the cost of living is 35 points ahead of anything else. The Finder survey demonstrated that 40 per cent of Australians in May, just the month before last, struggled to make their mortgage repayment. Now that wasn’t the case 15 months ago, but it is the case today under Mr Albanese and the reality is it’s going to get worse under Labor, not better – and that’s because they don’t know how to manage the economy, they don’t know how to manage money and Australians are paying the price for that.
Mr Dutton, do you acknowledge though, that the last Member for Fadden and the way that he conducted himself has left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth of voters in this electorate? Some of these people I’ve spoken to personally, they’re dyed in the wool LNP voters and it’s left a sour taste in their mouth.
Well again, I mean Labor can run all of their negative scare campaigns. I think…
This isn’t Labor, these are Liberal Party voters.
Well, the candidate standing for the LNP in the Fadden by-election on Saturday is Cameron Caldwell. That’s the choice that people have to make on the weekend. They’re not going to change the government, but it is an opportunity to send a message to the government that the government’s not doing well enough.
But more importantly than that, it’s about electing a candidate who will work hard for your local community, and for the people of Fadden they want a hard-working local member, and Cameron Caldwell is that member. He’s got a small business background, he’s a father, he’s been very successful as a councillor because he’s a great listener, he’s got a very strong work ethic, he’s delivered job creation projects in his local community, he’s delivered support to local groups, including those that are pushing back against crime, and crime is a huge issue in the electorate as well, we know that.
So, on Saturday, the name that is on the ballot paper for the LNP is Cameron Caldwell, and I would encourage people to support Cameron because you are electing a member that you want to be a strong advocate for you. When you’re sitting in congestion because of the Palaszczuk Government, you want somebody who can fight and push back against that. You want somebody who can argue for their local community and Cameron Caldwell is exactly that candidate.
In terms of economic impact, one of the major issues that’s being dealt with today – the federal biosecurity-related Ministers and State Ministers are going to be meeting to discuss the spread of fire ants, which is a major issue here on the Gold Coast as an economic one, as well as a biosecurity one, given they’ve now reached our beaches. What are your thoughts in terms of what needs to be done to address this?
Well, I’ll just make a comment, then Cameron, obviously has been working closely on this issue, so I’ll hand over to him. It’s clear that Murray Watt has dropped the ball and don’t forget that what Labor did in the agriculture portfolio when they were last in government was devastating for the cattle industry, and again, the fact is that unless it’s got a union flavour to it, a Labor Minister doesn’t have any interest – that’s the reality. Murray Watt lives, not in rural Australia, he doesn’t have any interest or understanding or comprehension of matters within his own portfolio, and I think he’s ably demonstrated that every time he opens his mouth.
In relation to the fire ant issue, it’s a very significant issue, particularly for a tourist destination, and I worry that the Palaszczuk Government has refused to make decisions and provide investment and support to the Gold Coast City Council, which is now going to result in a much bigger problem and a much more expensive problem to fix. So Cameron, I’ll hand over to you.
Thanks Peter. There is no doubt that fire ants are providing a huge risk to agriculture, to families, to business, and to tourism. This is because of the inaction of the Labor Government. Had they invested and acted quickly and early, we may have been able to avoid this issue, but unfortunately they’ve let it go and it is now going to become an expensive and difficult repair job. We just don’t know how successful future steps will be now that the fire ants have gone so far through our city. It has been said that this is the greatest biosecurity stuff up since Labor introduced the cane toad to Queensland 84 years ago. We need to see real action to get rid of these fire ants.
We welcome the meeting of Agriculture Ministers today, and we hope that we see real action to make sure that these fire ants are eradicated from our city because we do not want to see continued damage to our agriculture industries, to families trying to play in parks and playgrounds, and sporting fields on the weekends, and to the tourists who want to come and visit our beautiful beaches. So, we urge the State Government to take firm action to make sure that this problem can be addressed.
One for Mr Dutton, there’s been 30 per cent decrease – well the AEC told me – 30 per cent less people compared to the last federal election have pre-polled. Looks like residents are kind of hesitant to send a message from either side. What would you want to say to those public going out to vote?
Well, I think the obvious point is that there’s just not the awareness around a by-election that you get with a general election, and that’s been the case since Federation. So, the AEC is conscious of that, they do more advertising, but it is an opportunity just to encourage people to remember that it’s compulsory to vote, and turn up to one of the pre-polling booths, or on Saturday morning and support Cameron Caldwell because he’s a great local candidate.
I’ll just make a comment in relation – I thought I might have got this question – but on the government’s decision to support Ukraine with additional Bushmasters. When I was Defence Minister we made the decision at the request of President Zelenskyy to provide the Bushmasters, and we strongly support the government’s decision to supplement that and more is going to be done, as the Prime Minister points out, because our support of Ukraine started early and it should continue late.
We want to make sure that we can support Ukraine pushing back against a dictator and a barbaric character like Putin who is intent on slaughtering men, women and children in Ukraine. It’s the decent, honourable thing for us to do, and as a country we should be proud of our support of Ukraine and it should continue until success is achieved and victory declared by the Ukrainian side.
Are 30 Bushmasters satisfactory? Or do you think there should be more?
Well, I think as some of the commentators have pointed out, it could have happened six months ago, it should have happened six months ago, but we’re pleased that the government’s finally made the decision. There are other requests that Ukrainians have with the government at the moment, and again, we would support the government in being generous in the defence materiel and the equipment they’re providing.
But make this important point, that defence needs to be reimbursed for the expense. The money just can’t come out of the Defence portfolio and Defence cut back in other areas of their training or their acquisition of the equipment that they need as well. So, it’s important for the government to make sure that Defence is reimbursed for any support that that is provided.
Would removing Philip Lowe threaten the independence of the RBA?
I’ll just say on the RBA appointment; there are a number of candidates obviously that the government would be considering at the moment. The most important thing, given the significance of the Reserve Bank of Australia, is the independence of the Governor. We can’t have a situation where the government is appointing somebody who is familiar to the government, in the sense that they’ve worked very closely with Ministers, or with the Treasurer, or with the Finance Minister. We can’t have somebody who has been appointed by the Labor Party, or indeed by the Coalition, to a senior position within government.
It needs to be somebody who is independent, who has the best interests of the Australian public in mind. It’s a job, as we’ve seen during Mr Lowe’s experience, and many of his predecessors, it’s a tough and thankless job where they become the messenger that gets attacked because they increase interest rates as a result of decisions, bad decisions, made by the government.
The government has made bad decisions, and Mr Lowe has had no choice but to increase interest rates as a result of those decisions made by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. So, we need somebody who is independent and, on that basis, the Coalition wants to be in a position where we can provide bipartisan support because we shouldn’t underestimate the significance of the institution of the Reserve Bank of Australia.
It’s been supported by both sides of politics for a long period of time. We’ve gone through the floating of the dollar, we’ve gone through the independence of that position, and it shouldn’t be compromised by quasi-political appointment by the Treasurer or the Prime Minister, and that’s the basis on which we’ll have our discussions with the government.
Could I just make a comment in relation to Ewen Jones, the former member for Herbert, who’s passed away overnight. His children who are in their twenties, or around about that age, his beautiful wife Linda, and others will be grieving terribly today, and our thoughts and sympathies go out to Ewen’s family. He was an iconic character. He was a life of the party, a former auctioneer, a great local member, a real character, a true north Queenslander and a good friend to a lot of us. He’ll be sadly missed and I’ll be putting out a more formal statement later on, but I wanted to note that this morning.
On the performance of senior public servants, given the findings of the Robodebt Royal Commission, do you think Kathryn Campbell should be in such a key role advising on AUKUS?
Well, that’s an issue for the government to decide, and no doubt there are all of those considerations taking place within government at the moment. All right. Thank you very much.