Subjects: Visit to Rockhampton; Labor’s energy policy shambles and failures on cost of living; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; union influence on Labor Party policies; the Deputy Prime Minister’s big spend on RAAF flights; Labor’s sweetheart airline deal that will keep airfare prices higher; ACCC court action against Qantas.
It’s great to be at Doblo’s today, and I have the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton here and the Leader of the Federal Nationals here, David Littleproud. They’re in Rockhampton today to talk to business owners, we’re going to talk about cattle, but also talking to people about the cost of living.
As we have seen under Labor, it has got worse and worse and they are in crisis over energy. As we have seen, Central Queensland is the hub for their renewable energy program and last week we saw in Brisbane, farmers outraged by what’s going on in Central Queensland with these wind towers going up all over the place, and solar fields and also what they’re doing up at Eungella in destroying that beautiful, pristine area.
So I think that Labor certainly haven’t got it right. They’ve just gone from disaster to disaster. We’re looking at blackouts over the summer – it’s going to be a long, hot summer – and they just cannot get energy right.
So it’s great to have the Leader of the Federal Opposition in Rockhampton to actually talk to him about what’s going on in Central Queensland, but also right across the State. So, thank you.
Well, thanks Michelle. It’s great to be here with you and with Peter Dutton, and the Coalition is out listening to the cost of living crisis – Labor’s triple whammy of cost of living crisis; whether it be your increase in your mortgages, whether it be your power bill, or be your food bill. This has all been created in Canberra – not from Vladimir Putin – but by Anthony Albanese and the policy levers that he’s pulled has pushed up your cost of living.
This is the real issue that Australians are worried about at the moment. They’re worried about how to make ends meet, and when you walk and talk to shoppers and you talk to business owners, they’re seeing that discretionary spend has already stopped. Inflation’s dropping only in discretionary spend. The fixed costs are still there, and the fixed costs, particularly around your energy bill and around your food bill, is because our food processors are paying three, sometimes four times more what they were 12 months ago, and they have to pass that on to you.
This doesn’t need to be fixed with just pouring more taxpayers money out into the economy. That only pushes up inflation – that’s the Labor way; $185 billion of extra spending has gone out that’s putting pressure and keeping your mortgage higher for longer – but what you need is some common sense driving down those levers that will actually drive down inflation, particularly when you look at what the what the drivers of inflation are – is your energy bill continuing to go up?
What we need is a sensible, rational policy. Not this reckless race of 82 per cent renewables by 2030. Their net zero plan is one for 2030. We have till 2050. We can pause and plan and get this right, and when we say ‘pause’, we don’t need to pause for years – we’ve got the sovereignty of all our resources. What we need is some common sense. What we need is a national conversation, and one of the proudest things I’ve done since becoming Leader of the Nationals was to ask the Prime Minister for a National Energy Summit to bring everybody together, all sides of politics; unions, industry, also energy experts, and explore all the options, because the options that Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese put in front of you at the moment, it’s costing you more. You can’t do it.
Twenty two thousand solar panels need to be laid every day, 40 wind turbines every month by 2030. There’s not the supply chain to back it up. So, the practical reality is catching up with their ideology, but unfortunately that’s not matching what’s coming out of people’s wallets. What’s being bled out is the practical reality of this government’s ideology, and we’re just saying, ‘here’s an opportunity for Australians to come together and to fix this problem – not with more money, but with commonsense’.
So, Peter Dutton and I intend to continue to prosecute that, and prosecute not just on energy, but also making sure there’s sensible policies around industrial relations, ensuring that businesses are empowered to continue to employ people because if they don’t, you’re going to lose your job and that cost of living pressure is going to be exacerbated even more if you don’t have an income to be able to pay the household bills.
We also want to make sure that we’re working proactively in ensuring that we have common sense solutions around labour – labour supply. Twelve months ago I went to the Jobs and Skills Summit, I took a pragmatic approach for the 30 per cent of Australians who live outside a capital city to go and to put their voice to that Jobs and Skills Summit.
The NFF and COSBOA said ‘we need 172,000 workers between then and now to put food on your plate – to take it from a paddock to your plate’. All Labor’s been able to bring in is 16,000 – not even 10 per cent – and yet they’re making it harder, not only with the industrial relations laws, they’re making it harder by scrapping our Ag Visa and then making the Pacific Scheme even harder for horticulturalists to use – taking away averaging provisions. They’re ripping up investment confidence from our farmers who mean they plant less, which means you pay more. It’s simple, simple, economics. You don’t need a 6,000 word essay by Jim Chalmers to rewrite economic principles. You need common sense. That’s what Peter Dutton and I, and the Liberal and National Party team will continue to prosecute because this is the most telling issue for every Australian out there at the moment, is how to make ends meet, and we intend to bring common sense, common sense solutions to make sure Australians understand there’s a pathway through this without spending more of your money. Thanks, Pete.
Thanks very much DLP, thank you to you. Michelle, thank you very much for having us back in Rockhampton. We were here obviously late last year with Shadow Cabinet; all of our Shadow Ministers up here just talking to local businesses and it’s why you’re seeing good policy come out of the Coalition now because we’re mixing with people in communities right across the country; in cities, in regional areas, in remote areas, in the suburbs, in towns and everywhere in between.
I think it’s why most Australians at the moment see a contrast between what’s a common sense, practical approach from Liberal and National Parties – as David points out – compared to the approach that the Prime Minister is taking our country on. It’s quite remarkable that the PM’s spending $450 million on this Voice Referendum when we know that in the end it will split Australians right down the middle.
The Prime Minister is embarking on a path which will divide our country, not unite it, and that is deeply concerning. I want to make sure that we have a respectful debate in this country and I want to make sure that it’s respectful through the provision of information and detail that people can understand before they cast their vote.
We’ve now got just under six weeks to go until the Prime Minister asks people to cast their ballot, but he’s got a giant I.O.U out there suggesting to people that he’ll give the detail to you once you’ve cast your vote. There’s nothing in our country’s history like this. It’s without precedent that a Prime Minister would go to a Referendum asking people to make the most significant change to our Constitution since Federation, but not provide the adequate detail, and people need the detail so that they can understand what it is they’re voting for. In the end, if they don’t know, then they will vote ‘no’.
I think the Prime Minister’s demonstrating that standing up alongside all of the elites in our country – the millionaires and billionaires – shouting at Australians, telling them that they need to vote ‘yes’, I think it’s counterproductive because it shows how out of touch the Prime Minister is with everyday Australians.
Everyday Australians at the moment are paying more for their electricity under Labor, they’re paying more for their insurance premiums under Labor, they’re paying more for their petrol under Labor and they’re certainly paying more for their mortgage repayments as well under Labor. The trouble is that we’re seeing it on the energy front and now on the industrial relations front today as well.
It’s clear that Tony Burke’s industrial relations announcement today is all about pleasing the unions and the union bosses, not the workers. The last thing Australian families need at the moment is extra cost. They’re already paying more under this government; every time they open their wallet, more money is flying out to pay for the same things that you could get for much less a price 12 or 18 months ago at the checkout.
The fact is that their energy policy – as Michelle rightly pointed out before – according to the energy regulator, is going to become unreliable. So, let’s just spend a second on that. So in the year 2023, Labor’s energy policy – their renewables only energy policy – is likely to result in brownouts or blackouts in cities across the country. We’re now getting advice that businesses, trying to increase their footprint, that is trying to increase their production, their economic productivity, trying to increase the number of people that they are going to employ; are being told that they can’t get that extra power to expand their factories.
We’re going to start to see shortly manufacturing move offshore. We already see sovereign risk under this government with countries really questioning whether they’ll invest into mining, which is the lifeblood of a city like Rockhampton and in Central Queensland here.
So, I think when you look at Labor’s track record over the course of the last couple of years, are you better off today than you were from when they were first elected? Is your electricity price cheaper today than the Prime Minister promised it’d be $275 when he came into government? Of course he hasn’t delivered on that promise. In fact, he’s never mentioned that figure since being elected.
So, I think there’s a lot for Australians to contemplate at a time when they’ve got a Prime Minister who knows what he’s doing in dividing the country and causing a lot of angst toward the back end of this year, and I think Australian families understand at the moment their Prime Minister has the wrong priorities. He’s mixing too much with the elites and too little with working families and with small businesses, because it’s clear under this government that families and small businesses are going backwards at a rate of knots.
I’m happy to take any questions.
The Prime Minister’s in Tassie today campaigning with the Yes Vote. Is it appropriate that Bridget Archer is out there campaigning with him to vote ‘yes’?
Well look, one of the things that we need to have in this debate is a respectful debate. I can respect that people are going to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I’m not going to shout at them like the Prime Minister does. People will look at the information and they’ll make their own judgement. We’ve been clear in relation to our Party Room’s position in relation to those on the frontbench, those on the backbench.
But in the end, this is about a proposal being put forward by the Prime Minister. It’s divisive, it’s going to cost half a billion dollars to run this election campaign – I think that money would be better off being spent helping families with their electricity bills, helping families with the cost of living crisis that Labor’s created.
The Prime Minister, I think, is very obviously – and I can say this I think because most Australians now, the penny’s dropped – Anthony Albanese’s no Bob Hawke. This bloke’s not across the detail. Bob Hawke would have the guts to stand up and to argue the case, to give Australians the detail. He would have thought through it properly; it wouldn’t be on a wing and a prayer. I think the Australian public is starting to understand that Anthony Albanese is probably out of touch with most things that he’s experiencing, or that he’s had a dabble in over the course of the last 18 months.
Do you think his leadership is tenable if the Voice doesn’t pass?
Well, I think the most important thing to concentrate on at the moment is to make sure that the Australian public has the information they need to cast an informed vote. The Prime Minister needs to show leadership by providing that information.
You can’t go to a referendum six weeks out with no information on the table and him saying, ‘Oh, this is just an idea. It’s a simple proposition. You don’t have to worry about the detail. We’ll sort it out later on’. Australians aren’t stupid and the Prime Minister treating Australians like mugs, I just don’t think is going to fly because people want to have a respectful debate. They want the information so that they can make an informed judgement and whether they vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’; I respect that.
I’ve looked at it very closely, I wrote to the Prime Minister in January this year asking 15 pretty simple and basic questions on behalf of millions of Australians. He’s still not replied to that letter, has still not answered those questions.
His campaign is spending their first day in Tassie, which is a state that keeps voting or polling that they’re going to vote ‘no’. People are saying that the No Campaign looks like it’s asleep at the wheel in comparison with you guys here. What do you have to say to that?
Well, I just say look at the polling where it is at the moment, the No Vote’s considerably ahead. But I think this is going to be a tight contest. The Prime Minister’s mixing it up with the elites, they’ve gathered together $100 million from millionaires and billionaires across the country, from union bosses and from other elites, and they’re shouting at Australians telling them that they need to vote ‘yes’. One hundred million dollars is a lot of money and it is going to change votes because I think they’ll use that money to try and bully people into voting ‘yes’.
All I’d say to Australians, respectfully, is please look at what is on offer. It’s the biggest proposal to change our nation’s rulebook. We live in a stable democracy. Why would we want to risk our system of government? Canberra already moves slowly enough. This would be another wet blanket on Canberra decision making, which would not be good for the economy.
As we’ve seen over the course of the last 16, 17 months, Labor has had two budgets, they do not have a clue when it comes to managing money or the economy and Australians are seeing that at the moment through higher prices because every economic decision that the Labor Party’s made has forced up the cost of living that families are experiencing. People recognise that every time they come to a great business, like Doblo’s here in Rocky.
The PM says he won’t seek to legislate the Voice if the referendum fails. Is it not a missed opportunity to vote against this proposal and risk not having a Voice at all?
Well, I’m strongly in favour of constitutional recognition. I think there would be a unifying moment for our country if the Prime Minister showed the leadership to change the question in October to recognition and to drop the Voice.
People don’t trust the Voice, they don’t understand what it means. They’re concerned that the High Court is going to have a field day with it. It’s a broad set of words which encompasses the ability of the Voice to comment on every aspect of government deliberation, and it’s going to significantly change the way that our system of government works – but it’s not going to change for the better the outcomes that we want for Indigenous Australians in remote communities like Alice Springs. So, I think that’s what we’re facing at the moment.
Why after the last 24 hours, of all places, have you ended up in Rocky?
Well, firstly, I’ve got a very dear friend in Michelle Landry in Rocky. I’ve got relatives in Rocky – I’m going to catch up with a couple of them for a quiet beer this afternoon – and then we’re visiting businesses, talking about the cost of living pressures because I think it’s the biggest issue on Australians minds at the moment.
I think when you speak to customers in businesses like this, they cannot believe that the Prime Minister is spending a half a billion dollars on the Voice when they are struggling to put food on the table, they’re struggling to pay their mortgages. So, I think it’s important to get out and talk to Australians, to move away from the elites of the capital city where the Prime Minister spends most of his time or on, you know, a plane off to another international destination. I want to spend my time listening to real Australians so that we have a plan ready to roll when we’re elected at the next election because we will have a huge Labor mess to clean up.
I think Rocky is a great part of the world. I’ve spent a lot of time here over the years and it’s nice to be back here with Michelle. Whilst we are here, we’re going to celebrate her first decade of two or three in Federal Parliament. So, I think it’s a night that we will mark because one of the things you know about Michelle Landry is that she’s tenacious. She’s fought for jobs in her local community, she will really put a shoulder to the wheel to help families and businesses, and there are countless demonstrations of that. I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the years that Michelle’s just gone out of her way to help. So I think it’s good to recognise that tonight.
She’s also been under a lot of pressure from the CFMEU. You’ll remember the CFMEU because they have very strong affiliations with outlaw motorcycle gangs and other enforcers. Countless CFMEU bosses have been charged with criminal and civil offences. They drive up the cost of living because of their practices on worksites, which means that you’re paying more for your house, or more for your unit, or more for a kilometre of road, or for a nursing home. They’ve really personally attacked her over the years and I think that their conduct has been shameful, and as it turns out – as we saw in the last fortnight – they’re running the Labor Party and the Prime Minister doesn’t have the ability to stand up to them like Michelle Landry does.
Do you believe Richard Marles is misusing his access to RAAF special purpose flights? And as Minister, do you stop the reporting of special purpose flights?
Well, I just think the Deputy Prime Minister needs to be open and honest and answer the questions. There’s a lot of questions in the aviation space at the moment, including in relation to Qantas and Qatar. I think Qantas’ conduct in relation to many of their loyal and trusted customers has been very questionable, if I can be frank.
I’m a strong supporter of Qantas and I supported decisions that we made when we were in government during the course of COVID to the benefit of Qantas and many other companies. But I am worried about the reported conduct in relation to customers who are demanding refunds, people who can’t get their money back. I accept that there are exceptional circumstances, but other airlines including Virgin, to be honest, I think have conducted themselves in a more transparent way. I do think it’s time that Qantas accepted their responsibility in relation to their customers.
Frankly, I think it’s time for an honest explanation from the Prime Minister because over the course of the last seven days, the Labor Party has had seven positions when it comes to the decision around Qatar. Opening up those extra flights into Australia on Qatar, would mean thousands of extra tourists coming in, spending money in communities like this and it would mean a lot of discounting that would take place that would still keep companies viable, including Qantas and Virgin, but would help families, retirees and others who want to travel to see family or on vacations overseas; because again, I think that a lot of goodwill was expressed toward Qantas over the course of COVID, but I do think Australians have been paying way too high a price for airfares, particularly international airfares, over recent months.
I think the Prime Minister needs to stand up and be honest about this sweetheart deal between Qantas and the government. He needs to explain the decision in relation to Qatar and we see that he’s now duck shoving the issue across to Catherine King, but he’s the Prime Minister and he needs to answer the question and answer it honestly.
So do you think the government should now rethink its decision about Qatar?
Well, I think that they need to be transparent about their decision. Catherine King has had seven different positions in seven days. I mean it’s quite remarkable, and you know, people are asking all sorts of questions about the relationship between the Qantas CEO and the Prime Minister, what all that is about. Obviously, Qantas has been a very heavy supporter of the Yes Campaign. You know, there’s a lot of questions here and the Prime Minister just, you know, pushes them to one side. He promised an open and transparent government. He’s doing the complete opposite.
I was going to say, how concerning are these allegations from the ACCC that Qantas was selling thousands of tickets on cancelled flights?
Well, I think again, there needs to be a proper explanation from Qantas. I don’t think what we’ve heard so far is sufficient and I think Alan Joyce owes an explanation, and potentially an apology to the Australian public. There are many millions of Australians who are loyal to the Qantas brand, have supported Qantas through good times and bad and they expect to be treated with respect.
It’s clear that a lot of Qantas customers haven’t been treated with respect. They’re a great airline, we’re supportive of them, but it’s a two way street and I think the CEO of Qantas needs to provide a full and honest explanation to customers. If there needs to be recompense or there needs to be some sort of investigation, as the ACCC’s proposing at the moment, that results in corrective conduct, that’s an issue for the ACCC to advise on.
But I do worry about Qantas customers, and I do hope that the CEO of Qantas can provide a full explanation in relation to these very worrying suggestions.
Alright. Thank you very much. Thank you.