Subjects: Speaking with local families regarding cost of living pressures in Woody Point; Labor’s bleak budget; the government’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; gas supply; domestic gas price cap; Syrian repatriation; U.S. rotational deployment of B-52 bombers to Australia; AUKUS and AUSMIN.
Good morning. We’re down here at Butcher Baker Coffee at Woody Point on the Redcliffe Peninsula and it’s wonderful to have the Federal Opposition Leader the Honourable Peter Dutton here this morning with us.
This morning we’ve been talking to local people, a conglomerate of people from across the area and hearing about their cost of living increases. Increases in electricity, increases in fuel, increases in rent. Things are going up, all while wages are low. What we saw last week with the Labor Government’s first budget was no answers to that. More of the same. They promised to reduce electricity by $275 a year and instead it’s going up by over 50 per cent. It’s just not good enough. These people are hurting and that’s why we’re here listening this morning.
I’ll hand over to Peter to say a few words. Thank you.
Luke, thanks very much. Look, it’s great to be here at Woody Point. I want to say thank you to all of the people we’ve been speaking with this morning. Young mums, just talking about the issues and the difficulties that are really mounting against young families under this government. Talking to self-funded retirees and pensioners about an array of issues, but predominantly, just the real pressure that people are feeling.
A lot of people heard the Prime Minister on many occasions – in fact, 97 occasions – say before the election that power prices would go down by $275. Now, the problem is that the Prime Minister has never mentioned that figure since the election. I think there is a level of growing disenchantment of people who are really dismayed that the Prime Minister was so adamant that he was able to deliver this promise, and people voted for him on that basis, and now, it really becomes a question of trust.
There is talk this morning that the government may walk away from other election promises and even a promise made in the most recent budget, where a million houses were promised. Now, the Minister is talking about that just being aspirational. So that promise has not even lasted a week.
So, I think this government is making a lot of it up on the run at the moment and Australian families just can’t stand for that indecision, because they’re the ones that are going to be paying the bill that Labor delivers to them.
So, there’s a lot that we can support and agree with as an Opposition. I’ve stated a lot of that in my Budget In Reply speech. But the here and now, trying to help people in a very difficult circumstance, is really what falls on the government’s shoulders and at the moment it seems that they’re making a lot of this on the run.
Happy to take any questions.
Do you support a gas price cap?
What’s clear to me is that the government said that they had a plan when they went into the election and they should have detailed that plan in the budget last Tuesday night. Now, since that time, they’re saying, well, we might put a tax on gas exports, we might put a cap on prices, we’re not in favor of supply of extra gas into the system, which would bring down prices, and the difficulty is that I don’t think any of this has been explained.
So, let’s see what the government is proposing because at the moment it just sounds to me like a lot of this is made up on the run. If they had a plan to cap gas prices, why wasn’t that plan announced in last Tuesday’s budget? Why wasn’t the Australian public provided with the detail? It seems that they’ve been in a state of panic since the Tuesday night budget, because it’s gone down so poorly, and they are now starting to make up this sort of policy on the run.
Well, that reminds me more of Whitlam than it does Hawke and I think a lot of Australians, particularly when they see the predictions of what will happen potentially in the United States, the United Kingdom, and across Europe over the course of the next 12 months to two years – they thought this Prime Minister had a plan to deal with that and there was no evidence of that plan – not in the budget and not any day since.
Just in relation to that. Do you have concerns about the implications for investment?
These are all the things that the government needs to explain. If the Prime Minister is considering a price cap, if he’s talking about the industrial relations system – where economy wide strikes could take place – if inflation is going to be rampant under this government, if power prices are going to go up by 56 per cent, if gas prices are going up by 44 percent, the Prime Minister needs to explain all of this and how he’s going to deal with it.
There’s no sense saying that there’s a problem. He has been elected to fix the problem. If there are issues around investment, sovereign risk that he’s going to create, then he needs to explain that to the Australian public. But at the moment, all we’re seeing from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are thought bubbles and that’s exactly the way that Gough Whitlam operated back in the 1970s. I don’t think our country needs that here and now.
The government’s been elected to implement a plan they said they had. We haven’t seen it so far and I hope Prime Minister’s able to detail that.
In relation to Syria, is the repatriation of women and children ‘un-Australian.’
I think again, the Prime Minister needs to stand up and explain this. This wasn’t something that he said before the election he was going to do. The Prime Minister made no announcement before the election that he was going to bring back these ISIS brides.
Where you’ve been in the theatre of war, where your kids – through their formative years – have grown up listening to nothing other than a rhetoric and a hatred for our country, where you followed somebody who has been killed in the theatre of war because they’ve been fighting against our interests and our allies, the Prime Minister, I think, needs to provide an explanation and frankly, I think the Australian public demand an explanation from the Prime Minister as to the logic.
Does this increase the risk to the Australian public? The Australian Federal Police Commissioner has given evidence to Senate Estimates that to monitor one person over a 12-month period costs $3.8 million and requires the resources of 300 police officers – for one person. The likelihood of any of these women going to jail on everything I’ve read, seems to be quite remote. If somebody is charged with an offence, I suspect they’re not going to be in jail for a long period of time.
The Prime Minister can’t just say, ‘well, I’m not going to give you any of the detail, I’m not going to explain how we mitigate the risks here.’ I don’t want to see a terrorist attack in our country. If I was a parent or a grandparent, of course I’d want to see my daughter or grandchildren repatriated back to Australia, but the responsibility of the Prime Minister of our country is to make decisions that are in the best interest of our country and to protect all Australians. I don’t know that he’s been able to explain any of that detail yet and I think most Australians would want him to.
There’s been reports on the ABC about US nuclear capable B-52 bombers to be stationed in the Northern Territory. What’s your reaction to that?
Well look, it’s absolutely essential that the relationship with the United States continues to deepen because we live in a very, very uncertain period. As we’ve seen in Europe, President Putin has gone into Ukraine illegally, but he’s on the cusp of other atrocities there and the talk of a nuclear war in Europe is absolutely shocking to the world and we should do everything we can to stare it down. But equally in our own region, as we’ve seen with President Xi, he’s been very clear about his intention in relation to Taiwan and that creates a great deal of angst and uncertainty in our region.
So when we brokered the deal with the United States and the United Kingdom in relation to AUKUS, and as you see from the reports of my discussions with Secretary Austin, the Secretary of Defense in the United States, in the AUSMIN talks, there was agreement about cycling every platform within the American Air Force through Australia. To enforce the northern approach and to defend that and to deter anybody from taking action against us, is absolutely essential.
I want to see there being a greater cooperation with the United States, that is very important. It’s in our security interests, it’s in our national best interests, and any adversary would see Australia, if we were sitting here by ourselves as an island of 25.8 million people in the middle of nowhere, we have a vulnerability and it’s important for us to have a very strong relationship with the United States, the United Kingdom, with all of our other allies including Canada, India, Japan, and others who are equally worried about what they’re seeing in the Indo Pacific at the moment.
Was that plan considered under a Coalition Government and what was the reaction then?
Well, we stated publicly at the time of AUKUS and of AUSMIN that we wanted to see more of the assets from the United States Defense Force, including from Air Force visit into Australia. I think it would be fantastic to have them cycling through more regularly. There’s an economic benefit to Australia, but more importantly it provides support to us, it bolsters our security position in an uncertain time and that’s exactly the nature of the discussions that we had during the course of AUKUS and AUSMIN, where we had very significant discussions with the Secretary of the US Defense Force.
Now, in terms of the detail – I’m not going into the detail – but Secretary Austin at the time publicly said that they would be bringing those airframes through on a regular basis and I welcome it very much and we strongly support the government’s efforts in executing that plan which we devised under AUKUS and under AUSMIN.
Thanks very much.