Subjects: Australia Day; Cyclone Kirrily; the Prime Minister’s shocking betrayal on the stage three tax cuts; the Prime Minister’s lack of leadership; Labor’s cost of living crisis; Dunkley by-election; ACCC inquiry into supermarket prices; Woke Woolworths’ and Cricket Australia’s Australia Day farce.
Well, everyone, thank you very much for being here today. I want to say to all Australians, I hope they have a great Australia Day tomorrow, and an opportunity to spend time with friends and family. It’s a wonderful day that our country celebrates, so I’m sure that many people have got barbecues planned and watching cricket and many other pastimes, and that is a great thing.
I also want to obviously mention, for those people in North Queensland, who are in the eye of the cyclone, that we’ll support the Government in whatever measure they decide to put in place to give support, in the pre-positioning of assets, the ability to respond to incidents – that’s critically important. So, we’ll support both the State Government, the Federal Government in relation to their activities to make sure that they prepare for what looks to be a very significant weather event, either a cyclone, and/or a significant rain event. So, our thoughts, our prayers are with those people in North Queensland and Far North Queensland at the moment, and we’ll see how that plays out over the next couple of days.
Well, the Prime Minister said to Australians today that he’d been listening to them over the course of Christmas and that he’d been to each State and Territory, but the reality is, if the Prime Minister hadn’t been preoccupied over the course of the last 18 months, he would have been out, as we’ve been out, to every State and Territory right across the country, talking to Australians, to families, to small businesses, who’ve had a consistent message, and that is that they have been finding it very difficult to balance their budget. They can’t manage the cost of living pressures under the Albanese Government, they can’t afford the extra $24,000 a year that they’re paying on their mortgage. People have been saying that now, Prime Minister, for 18 months, and the Prime Minister has done nothing about it. In fact, in two budgets, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to help Australian families, to reduce the cost of living, and instead he spent $450 million on the Voice. He was distracted by every other issue, he hasn’t put in place measures which have helped Australians, but he has made decisions which have hurt Australians.
I think Australians expect from their Prime Minister an honourable approach to the way in which the Prime Minister engages with the Australian public, somebody who is straightforward, honest with them. People voted in their millions for the Labor Party believing that we’re going to get tax cuts to help them with their cost of living pressures, and as it turns out, that is not the case.
The Prime Minister has knowingly and willingly lied to the Australian people, and I don’t think the Australian people will easily forget or forgive. The Prime Minister today was misleading in his Press Club presentation. It turns out that – and this was not mentioned in his speech – that over the course of the next 10 years, the Government will actually increase their tax take by $28 billion because of bracket creep. Everybody knows that as you work harder, you work longer, the longer you’re in the workforce, the older you get, promotions at work, etc; as you work your way up through the income levels, you are paying more and more, and the tax department is collecting more and more because of bracket creep. The stage one, stage two, stage three tax policies were designed to help millions of Australians.
We know that over the course of the next few years, it won’t be 1.8 million people who are affected adversely by the Prime Minister’s change, it will be something like four million Australians, and those aspirational young Australians, people who are working hard now for their retirement to provide support to their kids, they’re families who are going to be hit hardest by the Albanese Government’s lie. I think at the moment the Australian Prime Minister owes an apology to the Australian public, but he hasn’t given it.
Now, the other point that’s worth making is that the Prime Minister had 18 months to try and put in place changes within the tax system, or support around energy payments, etc., etc. He didn’t do that, as I say, because he was distracted for 12 months by the Voice and the wasted $450 million, but he’s also taken decisions which I think make it harder for Australians, and I think the Prime Minister owns all those decisions now.
We also know that the Dunkley byelection is on March 2. Now, people couldn’t work out why there was a delay in announcing the date for the Dunkley by-election, but it was obviously done so that the Prime Minister could get a couple sitting weeks in before people go to the polls in Dunkley on March the 2nd. I think the Prime Minister’s looked at polling, as I have, in relation to Dunkley, and I think he’s quite shocked by what he’s found.
Let’s call it and be honest about the Prime Minister’s motivations here. His motivation’s not to help people with cost of living pressures – he’s had 18 months to do that. His motivation here is to shore up his own position in his own leadership; because as we saw with Julia Gillard, when people look the Australian people in the eye and lie to them as a Prime Minister, people don’t forget or forgive that, and how could you trust anything this Prime Minister says as a result?
So I think he’s looked at the polling for Dunkley. I think he’s recognised that there are people on lower and middle incomes in Dunkley, and that this model that he’s changed, that he’s proposed today, is front and centre to trying to win political opportunity for the Labor Party in Dunkley. That’s what it’s about.
These changes, as they’re proposed, don’t come in until the 1st of July. The Prime Minister’s got five six-months for the legislation to be passed, but instead he wants to ram this bill through the Parliament before March 2 – the Dunkley by-election – because he wants to try and wedge the Coalition. That’s his motivation. He’s been in Parliament 26 years, he’s a smart political operator, but he’s now also a liar; and the Australian public know that he’s not motivated to help them, he’s motivated to help himself.
I think the Prime Minister is in all sorts of trouble. I think he’s panicked. I think he’s worried about his own position as Leader within the Labor Party, and as we saw with Julia Gillard, this is a slippery slope because I think Jim Chalmers and Bill Shorten have set the Prime Minister up for a massive fall. I think his leadership is terminal, and I think if the Prime Minister has a very significant change to make and that he wants to renege on an election commitment he’s taken to the last two elections, I think he should call an election and put the changed position to the Australian people and let them be a judge of his character; whether he’s fit to be Prime Minister of this country; whether they could ever trust him again.
I’d say to the people of Dunkley, and to the broader Australian people; if this Prime Minister is prepared to look your neighbour in the eye and lie to him or her, you are next. The Prime Minister has a huge credibility problem, he’s trashed his reputation for short term political gain. I don’t think Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek and Jim Chalmers and others are going to let the public forget that, and I hope that the Prime Minister can apologise for the lie that he has perpetrated here, but it was obvious today that he’s got no intention of doing that.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Jim Chalmers spent most of his time as Treasurer since being sworn in, warning about the dangers of inflation and the impacts of those dangers on the cost of living, and within a month of inflation seemingly being stabilised this is announced, and Jim Chalmers is quoting what he always described as the ‘independent Reserve Bank’ saying the inflationary impacts will be minimal, if not non-existent, despite all the misgivings expressed by the Governor’s predecessor, Mr Lowe. Who does the public believe?
Well Adam, I watched the Prime Minister’s presentation today. I thought it was a ramble, to be honest, particularly the Q&A session, but what it demonstrated was, firstly, the Prime Minister confirmed today that if the economic circumstances change, so will his position in relation to these tax cuts. So I don’t think the people of Dunkley or Australians have any assurance that if they vote for the Labor Party on March 2, or they vote for the Labor Party whenever the general election is, that these tax cuts promised today would survive the election. So, how do you trust a bloke who’s gone to two elections telling you that his ‘word is his bond’? And that he has made a solemn promise to the Australian public – repeated 100 times – and then walk away from it, and without justification because, again, as you rightly point out, the representation of Treasury and the Reserve Bank today is not accurate, and it’s not complete, and that’s why we’ve got a thousand questions to ask. There are more questions out of the Prime Minister’s speech today than answers.
I think we’ve got to understand, what does the Prime Minister mean when he says that, ‘COVID has an impact’? He knew about COVID, he knew about the impacts, he’s seen the economic predictions now in two budgets. He promised the Australian public on 97 occasions that he would reduce power prices by $275, he didn’t do it. He promised the Australian public that he would provide the detail around the Voice. He didn’t do it, he was deceptive and tricky, and now he’s taken it to the next level and I think he’s destroyed his leadership, and I think the Australian public at the moment, are really despairing about who really is the true Anthony Albanese, because at the moment we’re seeing a political charlatan, who’s prepared to do or say anything.
All I’d say with a judgement that you’re about to make about Anthony Albanese; look at what he says and contrast that with what he actually does, because he’s not a truthful person.
Given the cost of living crisis, what is wrong with giving lower income earners a bigger tax cut?
Well, the Liberal Party is the Party of lower taxes, and we’ve demonstrated that. I mean we dragged the Labor Party kicking and screaming to support stage one, stage two, stage three. Stage one and two were targeted at people on lower and middle incomes, and stage three was also about providing support to people with aspiration as well, people who were in households at the moment where they’re paying $24,000 or more extra for their mortgage under this Labor Government.
So, of course, we support Australians, and we support those who work hard so that they can keep more of their money. But when the Prime Minister came into office, to this point now, we know that Australians are paying 27 per cent more tax than when the Prime Minister was elected in May of ’22.
So again, I just think you’ve got to look past the rhetoric and the lies, and the reality of people’s lives – $15 a week is not going to cut it for families who continue to pay more and more for their energy bills under Labor. Fifteen bucks a week isn’t going to cut it when you’re paying $15-or-$25,000 a year more in your mortgage repayments under this Government.
So, do you believe the average Australian should get a tax cut? Surely $15 is better than zero?
Of course we believe in lower taxes, and we’ve demonstrated it when we’ve been in Government, but there are more questions than answers out what the Prime Minister said today, and we want to see all of that detail and understand whether he’s lying or telling the truth in relation to some of the assumptions, because now you just can’t take him at face value and you can’t believe a word he says.
So I want to understand from Treasury whether it’s inflationary, because if it is inflationary, as many independent economists are pointing out, his announcement today will lead to higher interest rates, or at the very least, interest rates remaining higher for longer. So families who are struggling and have seen 12 interest rate rises under Labor, they’re going to continue to see more and that’s the problem that the Prime Minister’s got.
So, I think he’s misled Australians again today in his Press Club presentation and I think he’s got a very significant credibility problem.
You predicted accurately that those wage rises introduced when Labor first came into power will be swallowed up quickly by inflation. Is there a danger that this could happen again, given that there hasn’t been any patience in terms of waiting to see whether inflation will stabilise over an extended period of time because, as you say, there’s an imperative to rush it through ahead of political concerns?
I guess the broader point I’d make here is that, it was always going to be harder under Labor, always going to be harder under Anthony Albanese, and we predicted that before the election. They don’t know how to manage the economy, they don’t know how to manage the budget, they don’t know how to put in place structural reforms in the taxation system that provides incentive. At the moment, they’re preoccupied, well, with the Voice, now with the ports and what we’re seeing with the CFMEU. Their objective is to please the unions, not the workers. To please the union bosses, but not the workers.
I think the Government is all at sea when it comes to understanding what to do when it comes to cost of living. We know that food’s up by nine per cent, we know that when you go to the supermarket now, you’re paying more for every grocery item because of the Government’s energy policy. Everybody in the supply chain is paying more for their electricity and gas under this Government and it’s being passed on. The businesses aren’t absorbing that, they can’t. The consumer’s paying more for every item when they go to the supermarket, you’re paying more for your insurance, petrol’s back over $2 a litre, and I don’t think that people could afford much more of Labor.
Do you think the timing of the meeting with Queensland Premier Steven Miles had with the supermarkets last week was suspicious in any way given today’s announcement by his Federal colleagues? They seem to be sheeting responsibility directly to the two major retailers. Do you think there’s merit in that?
Well, I think there’s merit in getting a better understanding of why companies like Woolworths are more focused on the culture wars than they are on bringing down prices. I think Brad Banducci and other CEOs should be more interested in a war on prices so that consumers can benefit from it, than a war on Australia Day or our days of national significance in this country. I think that much is very clear.
In relation to Premier Miles – I mean Premier Miles owns every decision of Annastacia Palaszczuk over the last nine years. He sat around the Cabinet table, he was her Deputy, sat at her side, made every decision from the Gabba on. So, if Steven Miles says that he’s got the answer, well, the fact is that he was part of the problem, and he created the problems that he now says he’s got an answer to, and again, I just don’t think he’s got credibility.
If you were to win the next election, would you repeal Labor’s stage three tax cuts?
Well again, I think what is important today is to concentrate on what is a huge betrayal by Anthony Albanese of the Australian people. We’ll have a look at all the details, all the facts, all the figures, make our position known in due course; but this has been done for purely political reasons. He’s done it because he’s panicked about his position within the Labor Party. He’s done it because he’s panicked with the Dunkley by-election coming up.
I think for a Prime Minister to lie to the Australian public the way that Anthony Albanese has – I don’t know how he recovers from that – because people might have a dim view of politicians, fair enough, but the fact is that the blatant lying like this – I’ve been in Parliament for two decades, I’ve served under four Liberal Prime Ministers, I’ve observed four Labor Prime Ministers very closely – the only thing that comes close to this is Julia Gillard’s betrayal. It destroyed her reputation, it destroyed her leadership, and the Australian public could never trust her again. The fact is that Anthony Albanese now has made exactly the same mistake.
At the end of the day, how do you campaign against legislation that will give the average worker a tax cut?
Well again, we’ll make our policies known in due course, but we are the Party that implemented stage one and stage two tax cuts. The LMITO was introduced by the Coalition. We are the Party of lower taxes. The Labor Party is the Party now of ripping $28 million, over the medium term, from Australian taxpayers, to pay for their problems. Labor always has a tax problem because they’ve got a spending problem. They’ve just put 10,000 more public servants into Canberra at a time when Australians believe that that money would be better spent helping them. They’ve done all sorts of inflationary things in their budgets, and they’ve made the situation bad for Australians.
I get that Australians are hurting, and I want to get into government so that we can manage the economy effectively so that people can get back to providing support to their families, to making sure the small businesses grow, to making sure that our economy prospers, because Labor is in the process of trashing our economy, of trashing people’s budgets, not just families, but small businesses, medium businesses as well. Those businesses are passing all of their cost increases – because the energy policy – onto consumers. That’s what’s driving inflation, and that’s why people can’t manage their budgets at the moment because they’re working harder, they’re working longer, they’re doing more overtime shifts and they’re going backwards under this Government.
That’s why the Prime Minister’s starting to panic, because every Labor Government stuffs up the economy and this Government is in the process of repeating exactly the same mistakes of Whitlam and Hawke and Keating.
Just further to your comments earlier about cultural division. The second test is underway against the West Indies in Brisbane today. What do you make of Cricket Australia’s decision to censor the mere mention of Australia Day tomorrow, at a time when tens of thousands of Australians are turning up with their flags in the green and gold to cheer on the national team in what’s regarded as the national pastime? Do you think Cricket Australia should have stayed out it?
Of course they should’ve stayed out of it. You’ve seen a big backflip by Nick Hockley in the last 24 hours. I know Nick well, he’s a very decent person, a very good cricket administrator, but he’s not a politician and he’s not there to tell Australians what they think about Australia Day. He’s not there to tell people whether they should celebrate it or not celebrate it.
Australia Day means different things to different people. To me, it’s a great celebration of the wonderful success story of our country; of our Indigenous heritage, of our British inheritance and of the migrant story of our country. There are literally millions of Australians, including many cricket followers, from the subcontinent, who are now Australian citizens who celebrate the anniversary of their citizenship on the 26th of January.
I just don’t believe this self-loathing and this desire to please people on social media who are in the minority is productive. It’s not. Two thirds of Australians support Australia Day. People recognise that we’ve got a blemished history, like every other country, like every other civilization; but if we want to help Indigenous people, if we want to make sure that we are the best country into the future, we’ve got to move beyond this and we’ve got to make sure that we recognise that Australia Day will be celebration for some. Those who don’t want to celebrate it, that is entirely their right in our country. Do it peacefully, but that’s the reality.
For corporates and others to want to enter this space because they think it’ll make them popular on social media or they think it’s what the marketing people want to hear. That was the mistake that Brad Banducci made. Again, good person, but his job is to bring grocery prices down. His job is not to tell Australians whether they can celebrate Australia Day.
That’s my very strong view, and I don’t think, again, the Prime Minister’s passed the leadership test here. The Prime Minister is the weakest leader I’ve seen in two decades. Lies to the Australian public, he doesn’t have the guts to stand up and say that he believes in Australia Day and that’s why I think people, including in Dunkley, will mark him down because he’s misled them, he’s lied to them and he doesn’t have the strength of character to stand up for our country and to make sure that we’ve got a great future.
Thank you very much.