Subjects: Visit to Western Sydney; manufacturing; Labor’s cost of living crisis; Labor at war over energy policy; Catherine King vs Chris Bowen on Labor’s energy policy shambles; Australia’s soaring energy costs under the Albanese Government; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; more Defence cuts under Labor.
I’m Melissa McIntosh, the Federal Member for Lindsay. Welcome to Emu Plains and Western Sydney, which is a powerhouse of Australian manufacturing. I’m so pleased to bring the Opposition Leader Peter Dutton back to Lindsay again – I think for about the third time – to meet the Opie family and Tristan and Alyssa that are doing such wonderful work right here in our community when it comes to Aussie-made and Australian manufacturing.
I’ve fought really hard to ensure that our local manufacturers have a seat at the table, that they are supported, and I know Peter believes in Australian manufacturing as well. So, we’ve had a great tour. It’s wonderful to have businesses – small family businesses like this – in my community, and thank you so much, Peter, for coming out to Penrith.
Melissa, thank you.
Firstly, thank you very much to all of the staff that we’ve met with this morning. Tristan, thank you for taking us on the tour. Melissa and I were able to have a chat with a few of the workers here, but also to see what’s really a world leading manufacturing plant here in Western Sydney in operation.
Western Sydney, as we know, is one of the economic manufacturing powerhouses of our country. There are literally tens of thousands of people employed across this region and it helps our economic activity, it helps our economy grow. Workers who are here are involved in a process which is allowing Australian companies to continue to buy an Australian manufactured product, and I think that’s incredibly important.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now – it’s an obvious statement – but the Liberal Party is a great friend of the worker of our country. The modern Labor Party is more interested in people living in the leafy suburbs in inner cities around the country, and we have policies which support workers and families and small businesses, and we want to see families, like this, continue to grow their businesses so that they can employ more people, so that the manufacturing doesn’t get taken off to other parts of Asia or other parts of the world. We want to see the economic activity remain in our country.
Now, at the moment, I think the Prime Minister’s clearly distracted away from many of the issues that are important to Australians. In particular, the energy debate rages: you’re seeing fights between Catherine King and Chris Bowen now. There’s a lot of internal friction going on in the Labor Party at the moment about what the future energy policy looks like in this country. But it’s clear that Chris Bowen is taking our country down a very dangerous path.
In this business, like many other manufacturing businesses over the course of the last 12 months, you’ve probably seen about a 30 per cent increase in electricity costs. Now, that’s going to be passed on to consumers and it’s going to result in higher inflation. Under Labor, interest rates will always be higher because they’re fuelling inflation and they’re keeping inflation for higher and for longer.
As we know with the OECD report and, as we know with surveys of manufacturing companies in our country, they’re less confident today than at any time since the GFC when Labor was last in power.
I think Labor is slowly choking our economy through the many decisions that they’ve made through two budgets which are making it harder for families. I don’t think there’s an Australian family at the moment – certainly not one in Western Sydney – that could say that they’re better off today than they were 15, 18 months ago when Mr Albanese was first elected. The decisions they’ve made are making it harder for families, they’re making it harder for regions, and, as we know, as electricity prices continue to go up, families and small businesses are the ones who are suffering.
If you think power prices have gone up significantly already under Labor, just be assured that your power bills will continue to go up exponentially under Mr Albanese and Mr Bowen because they’ve got a renewables-only policy which, as the regulator warns, is likely to result in a disruption to power supply and a continued increase in people’s power prices. Australians just can’t afford this Labor Government.
So, I really worry about what’s happening in our country in the economy at the moment. There are lots of reports out about the economy slowing, and I think Mr Albanese is distracted by all sorts of other issues – including the Voice – and over the course of the last 15 months he’s prioritised everything but Australian families, small businesses, and, in particular, manufacturing. I want manufacturing to grow in this country. I don’t want to see it have to go offshore where we’ll lose the Australian jobs and we’ll lose that economic activity.
I’ll just say in relation to some of the scenes that we’ve seen out of Adelaide and elsewhere where people are now protesting against those who are gathering peacefully to either argue ‘no’, in this case, or argue ‘yes’: we live in a free country, we treasure our democracy, it’s absolutely sacrosanct to our way of life, and I don’t tolerate for one minute Australians being abused by other Australians at those sorts of rallies. If you have something to say in our country, in any debate, in any political forum, you say it in a peaceful way.
We shouldn’t be surprised, though, because the Prime Minister has set our country up to be divided. He’s been warned for months and months and months that he was embarking on a path right up to October 14 and likely beyond, which is splitting our country in two. We said to the Prime Minister that he should not proceed with this Referendum because Australians haven’t got the detail that they require to make an informed judgement. I think that’s why Australians are angry at the Prime Minister at the moment, because they’re being asked to vote on something that won’t be designed until after the election takes place. I mean, what sort of Prime Minister says to the Australian public, ‘I’ll explain to you what it is you’re voting for after you vote’? There’s a six month consultation and design process after October 14. Why couldn’t that have been done over the course of last six months so that people knew what they were voting for?
I think the Prime Minister’s putting the country in a very precarious position at the moment –both economically and in terms of the way in which he’s dividing the country. If the question being put to the Australian public at the moment was: ‘do you support recognition of Indigenous Australians in our Constitution?’, there would be 70 or 80 per cent support for it, but he’s taken a deliberate decision not to do that, and I think a lot of Australians are starting to understand that this Prime Minister is either all talk and no action, or when he does act, he acts to divide the country and to drive up power prices and drive up inflation. That’s something that the Coalition will fight against and all the way up to the next election until we win the next election, we’re going to be working hard to stop the bad decisions of the Government and to get our country back on track after the election in 2025.
I’m happy to take any questions.
In relation to the Referendum: there’s an anti-Voice rally this weekend in Sydney organised by a pro-Putin conspiracy theorist. Would you discourage people from attending?
Well, look, I’d condemn that protest action that we saw in Adelaide in the strongest possible terms, I really would. I think it’s an abomination that people would be inspired by Vladimir Putin to start with. I think it’s appalling that people would gather to call other Australians names and to threaten people as they did, but again, we shouldn’t be surprised because the Prime Minister has created a dynamic in Australia at the moment, pitching one Australian against the other.
The family discussions that are taking place at the moment where people are either strongly for or strongly against. The Prime Minister has set our country up to fail on October 14 and Indigenous leaders, I think, are increasingly becoming frustrated at a Prime Minister who won’t give the detail. So we’re operating in a vacuum at the moment where we know that the words are so broad, so liberal as to be open up to interpretation in the High Court that will cover every aspect of government policy, and all of those consequences – intended and unintended – are going to have a negative impact on the way our country operates if there’s a ‘yes’ vote at the next election.
So, I have the utmost respect for people who have made a judgement that they want to vote ‘yes’, but my very strong advocacy is that people vote ‘no’ because it’s unknown, it’s certainly divisive, it’s going to be permanent, and it’s not going to provide the practical outcomes that we all want for people living in Indigenous communities, in remote communities – particularly places like Alice Springs.
Do you think Cathy Freeman’s endorsement of the Voice will sway undecided voters?
Well, again, I have the utmost respect for Cathy Freeman, but there are lots of celebrities who are giving their support to the ‘yes’ vote. I think the average mums and dads out in the suburbs are the ones who are voting ‘no’, and they understand that they haven’t got the detail. They want the best outcome for Indigenous Australians, but they’re not going to sign a blank cheque. I think most ordinary Australians at the moment are just getting frustrated that the Prime Minister is deliberately withholding the detail, that he won’t give the detail and that the design doesn’t start on the Voice until after people vote on October 14.
Labor has scrapped a project you approved just before the last year’s election to acquire CAMCOPTER drones. Do you have a reaction to that?
Well, again, I think it’s another example of a Government that’s all talk and no action. The Prime Minister says, and the Defence Minister says, that we are living in the most precarious period in world history since the Second World War. I mean, just stop and pause and think about that for a moment: the Prime Minister has received briefings from our partners, our allies, from our intelligence agencies, from the head of the Australian Defence Force, and that advice is that we live in the most dangerous period since the Second World War.
If Australia is weak, we put ourselves in a very difficult position over the course of the next decade. If we’re strong as a country – and this is why we signed up to the AUKUS deal, if we’re strong as a country – then we can deter action and that gives us the best chance of maintaining peace and stability in our region and for our country.
So, what we know now is that the Prime Minister tells us that this is the most dangerous period since the Second World War and he’s cancelling defence contracts. He’s ripped a billion and a half dollars out of defence, and a capability which is required by Defence is now being stopped. We’re seeing projects cancelled. The Defence Review was nothing more than an exercise to try and push expenditure to the right. I think it’s contemptible, really, and I think that morale at the moment within the Australian Defence Force – the men and women who are shaking their heads at the Prime Minister and the Albanese Government – will be just further bewildered by a Prime Minister who says one thing and does completely the opposite. You can’t say it’s a time to ramp up our defence materiel and capability, and then start cutting programs. They should be investing more into Defence and they should be achieving the capability that we signed up to under AUKUS more quickly than otherwise might be the case. But I think our allies, the members of the Australian Defence Force at the moment are shaking their head at this Prime Minister because he’s all talk and no action.
Thank you very much.