Subjects: The Prime Minister’s Covid Inquiry cop-out; the Prime Minister’s protection racket for Labor premiers; Josh Frydenberg; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal.
Thank you very much for being here. It’s great to be here with Anne Ruston, and obviously here to talk about a very serious issue – that is a broken promise by the Prime Minister to the Australian people.
The very significant issue of COVID needs to be properly investigated. That period of our history needs to be properly understood, and I don’t understand what Anthony Albanese and Daniel Andrews have to hide, but I think Australians heard the Prime Minister – when he was Opposition Leader – very clearly before the election, when he said that there needed to be an inquiry to get to the bottom of the decisions made during the course of COVID. It was a solemn promise that the Prime Minister made to the Australian people, and it’s his latest, and I think one of the most significant, broken promises that we’ve seen from this Prime Minister since his election.
There is a real trust issue now between the Prime Minister and the Australian people. People don’t trust the Prime Minister in relation to the Voice because he has deliberately starved information from them, and we’re going to an election on the 14th of October in relation to the Voice where most people would normally expect to have the detail before them – and they don’t – and that’s because of the Prime Minister’s decision to withhold the detail until after the Voice vote takes place.
So, there’s a theme that’s developing and a pattern that’s developing under this Prime Minister, and it seems to me the Government is lurching from one disaster to the next, and Australians are paying the price for that. We’ve seen Minister King and Minister Bowen out at each other’s throat earlier this week because their energy policy is dysfunctional and it’s resulting in higher power prices and less certainty within the supply market in our country, and families and small businesses are paying the price of that. So, in terms of broken promises, they don’t get much bigger than this one, and the Prime Minister owes it to the Australian people to have a proper understanding of what happened at a state and federal level in relation to COVID – the policies, the decisions that were being made. If we don’t learn the lessons of what happened during the course of COVID – good and bad, by every level of government – then how do we expect to go into the next pandemic not understanding what had happened in the previous one? It just doesn’t make any sense.
It’s clear that either the Prime Minister has been rolled here by Daniel Andrews and the Premier of Queensland, or the Prime Minister is just happy to make a mockery of his own words before the election. I think Australians are rightly getting angry at the Prime Minister because of the fact that he talks a lot and he does very little, but when he does act it’s actually against the national interest. It’s clear, here, that the Prime Minister is putting the interests of Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk ahead of the interests of the Australian people – and that is a very dangerous act for a Prime Minister to undertake.
Annie, I’ll hand over to you and ask you to make some comments, and then I’m happy to take any questions.
What we’ve heard today from the Prime Minister is that he’s prepared to have an inquiry into COVID that completely excludes the states and territories. We’ve been calling right from the get-go to say that if we are going to have an inquiry, you need to look at all aspects of the pandemic – particularly when you consider that many of the decisions that were made during the pandemic by the states and territories are the ones that probably impacted Australians the most, particularly detrimentally, whether that be the lockdowns, border closures, mandates and the like, which all had a very significant impact on Australians, were unilaterally the domain of state and territory governments. Yet today, we see in the terms of reference from this inquiry that those issues and those decisions have been explicitly removed from the scope of this inquiry. I think it’s a very damning indictment on the Prime Minister that he’s prepared to go to an inquiry without actually taking into account those things that have most impacted Australians’ lives and livelihoods.
The other thing that we also need to remember is the pandemic did not end on the 22nd of May 2022 – it continues on – and the Albanese Government also needs to answer questions about its continuing response to the pandemic, particularly in light of the fact that we have seen extremely high rates of deaths in aged care and we’ve seen vaccinations plummeting. So, I think today the Prime Minister has got a lot to answer about why he’s excluded one of the most important aspects of this inquiry from the Terms of Reference, and we need to call this out for exactly what it is.
This is nothing more than a witch-hunt against the previous Coalition Government, and it is absolutely a cop-out when it comes to holding the states and territories to account for the decisions that they made that impacted on Australians so heavily.
So, we asked this morning for the Prime Minister to come out and make sure that this inquiry was genuinely about Australia’s future preparedness, for any future pandemics, to make sure we learned the lessons of things that happened in the past, and to make sure it genuinely was delivering an outcome for the future. That is not what we’ve seen today.
Mr Dutton, many Australians feel like they’re just starting to move on beyond the quite traumatic period of COVID. Do you think Australians really want an expensive, lengthy inquiry into the decisions that were made? And what do you make of the argument that it would be inappropriate for a federal inquiry to scrutinise state decisions?
Well, that was the commitment the Prime Minister made to the Australian public, so this is a question of whether he keeps his word with the Australian public or not – and it seems that the Prime Minister’s word is not worth much anymore. This protection racket for Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk demonstrates that Daniel Andrews and Premier Palaszczuk have a lot to keep from the Australian public.
If there’s nothing to hide here, then why not let the sunshine in? I think the Prime Minister has made a deliberate decision to put the interests of Labor premiers ahead of our national interest, and that is a shameful act from a Prime Minister who’s been elected by the Australian people to provide support and to lead the whole nation.
I think most people will be quite stunned to understand that premiers who were responsible for lockdowns, the very number significant numbers of deaths in Victoria, the mental health issues that still lingered today in Victoria and elsewhere, are as a result of Daniel Andrews’ decisions – and that he would be excluded from consideration in this Inquiry, I think Australians are smart enough to smell a rat here and the Prime Minister has made a decision which is not in our national interest, and it goes against what he promised to the Australian public, and it’s obviously been rolled out this week as a giant distraction to the disasters around energy and the Voice that the Prime Minister is presiding over as well.
You’re saying this is a protection racket for the Queensland and Victorian Premiers, but even at the height of the pandemic, border closures were in place in New South Wales. Don’t they have answers here, as well, in New South Wales?
Well, it should cover every state, and it should cover the Commonwealth – and that’s what the Prime Minister promised, and now he’s gone back on his word again. There’s a theme developing here with the Prime Minister. I think he’s breaking trust again with the Australian public at a time when people have reasonable questions to ask.
I also think there is a public health issue here as well, which is incredibly important to highlight as Anne’s done. We need to understand the good decisions that were made. The Morrison Government made excellent decisions in relation to many aspects that kept our country in a much better position than most other comparable countries around the world. Where there were mistakes made, we should learn from those mistakes, and learn from the good decisions that were made so that we can be better informed the next time a pandemic takes place.
It just defies logic that the Prime Minister wouldn’t want to put our country in a better position to deal with the next pandemic, and he’s making a conscious decision not to have all of that information available to the Australian public. I think there will be literally thousands of families out there who lost loved ones during the course of COVID, who listened to and probably voted for the Prime Minister based on his promise for a proper, thorough investigation inquiry involving the Commonwealth and the states around the decisions made over the course of COVID. I think the Prime Minister’s broken promise with the Australian public is now becoming a very significant pattern of his leadership.
Should it be a Royal Commission?
It should be a Royal Commission. There’s no question about that. But let’s be honest about what’s happened here: the Letters Patent weren’t supported by Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk, and now you’ve got this concocted story from a desperate Prime Minister who’s telling you that an Inquiry should only go up to the period that he was elected.
As Annie rightly points out, there have been significant deaths since the Government has been elected under Mr Albanese in aged care facilities. There’s been a drop off in the number of immunisations that have taken place. So, it’s political at every turn. It’s a witch-hunt against the Prime Minister’s predecessor, with whom he’s obsessed, but it allows people who were front and centre of the decision making – including Annastacia Palaszczuk and Daniel Andrews – to ride scot-free away from this Inquiry.
I mean, it’s quite remarkable that the terms of reference would specifically exclude the States and Territories from consideration when they were such a significant part of the National Cabinet and the decision making process that took place. There would have been many decisions made by the Commonwealth Government based on advice from the States and Territories, and the Health Departments, and the Police Agencies at a state level, and that that would be excluded from consideration, I think it just shows the contempt that the Prime Minister’s got for the Australian people.
I was just going to ask on another topic: Josh Frydenberg sounds like he’s not going to be running for Kooyong again. Has he informed you of that decision?
Yes, mate, I spoke to Josh earlier today and I’ll probably catch up with him tomorrow. I caught up with him not too long ago.
Look, it’s been a weighty decision for Josh. I want to say thank you to him and to Amie and to their two young children. He’s got a very young family and he spent a lot of time in Canberra – particularly over the course of COVID, but a lot of time away from his kids as they were growing up. He had full time security for a period of time because of the racist slurs against him as a man of Jewish faith, and he went through a tough period.
But he’s contributed in a very significant way to our country as Treasurer and as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party he’s made a very, very significant contribution and sacrifice to the Liberal Party of Australia, and for that, I’m very grateful. I know I speak on behalf of my colleagues and our branch members across the country – there’s a great affection for, and affinity with Josh, and we wish him well in the next stage of his career.
He’s obviously impressed the people that he’s gone on to work with, and that’s why he’s been offered a promotion there. He’s a young man, still, and hopefully he can work his way back into public life at some point, but he’s announced today he’s not going to contest the seat of Kooyong at the next election. We thank him for what he’s done for our country and for our Party, and we wish him every success in the next stage of his career.
On the Voice, it’s reported today that a board member from Advance said that if the Voice succeeds, Australians would have to pay to live in the country, so the Stolen Generations is a myth. Does it make you uncomfortable that people like this are associated with the No case?
Well, look, I think the main thing that the Australian people have got to listen to is not fringe beliefs, not radical theories on either side, they need to consider the facts before them. Do they have enough facts provided to them so that they can make an informed judgement?
There’s a hearts and minds campaign that’s necessary to pass a Referendum, and it’s why most of the Referendums put up by Labor Governments just don’t pass, because instinctively all of us want a better outcome for Indigenous Australians. So the hearts campaign is like pushing on an open door. Do you want to see a better outcome for young Indigenous kids? Of course you do. Do you want to see the infant mortality rate improve and to be comparable with people living in the capital cities? Of course you do. Do you want to see less truancy rates, less crime rates, less incarceration rates? We ache for that outcome. So the hearts aspect, we’re all signed up to.
The problem is the Prime Minister is not starting the design until the 16th of October. The design of the Voice should have been before people voted, and so it’s hard to win people’s minds over when they don’t have the detail before them. I think the Prime Minister has made a terrible, terrible error in misjudging the Australian people and now misleading the Australian people.
When he says that the Voice is a simple proposition, if it was a simple proposition, one in three Labor voters wouldn’t be voting ‘no’ in this upcoming Referendum. It’s not just Coalition members, and now Green supporters as well, who are saying they’re not going to vote for the Voice. It’s clear now that the vote is in freefall, and it’s in freefall because of the Prime Minister’s lack of leadership – not just in relation to the Voice, but we’re seeing it in relation to other matters now, including today.
So, I think there’s a lot of explaining to do. The Prime Minister has been warned about dividing our country, but he’s continued down this path. You can’t go into a situation asking the Australian people to vote for something that they just don’t understand. Elites on the Yes side and people like Alan Joyce and Anthony Albanese and other successful billionaires and people that feel that they can try and speak from on high about what Australians should do – if they don’t provide the detail, people won’t support it. So, stop lecturing people, Prime Minister, and stop misleading them by saying that this is just a ‘simple proposition’, when it is a very, very significant change being proposed to our Constitution, and that’s why he’s been repeatedly warned in relation to it.
Do you advise ‘no’ supporters to go to rallies on the weekend being organised by a pro-Putin, anti-vaxer?
No, I don’t. No. That’s madness and I’ve condemned that. Anybody who’s pro-Putin has significant issues and they should seek help for those issues because it’s a dangerous situation that we’re seeing in Ukraine at the moment and anybody that supports Vladimir Putin in the carnage that he’s undertaking in Ukraine at the moment needs to reconsider their position. But I would encourage people to go to peaceful, lawful rallies, conducted by No campaigners and listen to the very serious concerns and hesitations that those people have. I’m talking about people in the suburbs, I’m talking about people in regional areas. Not inner city elites – they’ll vote for the Greens and they’ll vote for the Voice, many of the companies, you’ve seen, the banks now signing up.
I mean, imagine the audacity, to be honest, of bank CEOs out there telling Australians how to vote on the Voice. What business do they have telling Australians – who are paying higher interest rates and higher fees to the banks – how they should be voting in an upcoming Referendum, which is the biggest proposal since Federation in terms of how our Constitution should operate? I think the arrogance and frankly the contempt that these people have for the Australian public – this view that you hear from the elites, including the Prime Minister and Alan Joyce where they say, ‘look, if you just read slowly and maybe if you read the document twice, you’ll be as smart as us and you’ll understand it and you’ll vote ‘yes”. Well, I think Australians are much smarter than the Prime Minister realises, and I think Australians are going to vote this thing down because they know it’s bad for our country and it’s not going to deliver the outcomes that we all want for Indigenous Australians in those remote communities.
Thank you very much.