Subjects: Energy crisis; emissions reduction legislation; asylum seeker boats re-starting from Sri Lanka.
The Coalition have now been in Opposition federally for a month, a month and one day, hey. That’s the new reality. It’s not a fun place to be in politics, is Opposition, and believe me, the job of being Opposition Leader is about as tough and as thankless as they come.
Peter Dutton was given the great honour of leading his Party, but now he faces the monumental task of galvanising the Coalition back into being a compelling political force. He joins me now from Brisbane. Thanks for joining me Peter. Congratulations on getting the leadership, but it’s a big challenge to try and force your way back into power.
Chris, great to be on the show. Thank you very much mate. You appreciate it. as much as anyone, what you need to do as the Leader of the Opposition. It’s a tough transition, too, for a lot of people, particularly if you’ve been in the ministry to come from government into Opposition.
It’s a change of mindset and approach and we’re transitioning into that and starting our policy formulation already. So people will be kept busy and there’s a lot of work ahead over the next three years to hold this government to account.
I think it’s going to be a tough time for our nation, unfortunately, and we want to support good policy, but I’m concerned at some of the missteps that the government’s undertaken already.
Yeah, there are a lot of challenges lining up already, some of them not of the government’s own making, some of them where they’re actually making some missteps, as you mentioned. But one that stands out to me, I was critical when the Coalition was in government leading up to the election, not having a big enough point of difference on climate and energy policy.
It’s so clear now with the energy markets still suspended as we speak, that we have an energy crisis in this country, that we need more dispatchable power, is forcing a stronger debate on energy affordability and reliability the real key to the Coalition getting back into government here?
Well Chris, the energy crisis, as you say, is influenced by global factors, no question about that, but the same global factors that exist today existed when we were in government. The triggers are there, the options and the levers available through the legislation to respond. I guess the point that I’d make is that every government has to deal with events.
There are all sorts of issues that come along domestically and internationally, and good governments are able to deal with those issues. Bad governments are at sixes and sevens on what to do, and I think that’s really been the case for Chris Bowen over the course of the last month.
I think he’s still got his training wheels on. He was a shocking Minister back in the Rudd-Gillard years with GroceryWatch and FuelWatch and boats arriving when he was Immigration Minister and I don’t think he’s learnt anything since then. So I worry that the government is making a bad situation worse and I don’t want that for our country.
As I say, we’ll support good policy, but at the moment, the government’s got the levers to affect that change, to try and stop the increase in prices and they’re not doing that.
When we were in government, electricity prices over the term of the Coalition government reduced by 8 per cent for households, 10 per cent for small businesses and 12 per cent for industry.
This government’s promising to decrease power bills by $275 – there’s not a chance that they’re going to be able to do that – and I think they’re going to drive prices up for households and as you say, that will be a very significant issue by the time of the next election.
It seems clear that the solution, what the energy grid needs and what our economy needs and probably what you need to focus on politically, is that we need to prioritise energy availability and affordability over emissions reductions.
Now let’s reduce emissions as much as we can, do our job globally on a proportionate basis, but surely we can’t prioritise these emissions reductions over our own energy reliability?
Chris, I just think you’ll see businesses making decisions to say, look, we can’t run a manufacturing business here in Australia if there’s no reliable source of energy for them. If they’re being asked to turn out the lights or to stop their manufacturing machines for a few hours a day, they just can’t work like that.
They will make decisions to shut up shop here and to take those jobs overseas – and the reality is that there’ll be higher emissions in other markets than what there would be in our own country – so there’s a worse outcome for the environment.
There’s certainly a much worse outcome for Australian workers because those jobs will be lost and we want to build manufacturing. I want to build jobs in this country and it’s really difficult to watch Labor at the moment, where Chris Bowen is saying that, you know, coal and gas has no place in the energy mix; the Energy Minister in the government is trying to say something different, but I think they’re trying to play to the West and to the East Coast on this particular issue or to the north and the south on the East Coast. It’s a mixed message coming out of the government.
We do need to drive prices down because we’ve got one of the highest costs of energy in the world and I don’t think that families anywhere across the country at the moment, given the price of petrol and cost of living expenses otherwise, can afford to see their power bills go up even more under Labor.
Yet, the only thing we’ve seen the incoming Labor government do in this space so far has been to sign a document to the UN pledging to increase our emissions reductions target for 2030 to 43 per cent.
I just want to show you what your Senate colleague Simon Birmingham said about an increased emissions reductions target just the day after the election.
[start of audio recording]
Should you now shift on your 2030 position?
David, given the given the fact that we are looking like we will exceed that 2030 position of 26 to 28 per cent, of course we should commit to being able to go further.
[end of audio recording]
There you go. Moderates in the Liberal Party already talking about increasing emissions reductions targets. Will the Coalition in Parliament oppose the legislation of a 43 per cent target for 2030?
Well Chris, we went to the election and we had a very clear policy. Millions of people voted for us on that basis. That was that we didn’t support the legislation and that is our position. People have voted for us in good conscience on that basis, and that’s what we will stick to. So I’ve been clear about that. When we were in government, there was an enormous amount that we did to invest in renewables, to invest in emissions reductions and as Simon was pointing out there, the Coalition had a 26 to 28 per cent decrease as our target. That will be exceeded and we will work out shortly just by how much, maybe up to 35 per cent, so I think we’ve got a good story to tell.
But if we’ve got an economy that is contracting, if inflation becomes a very significant issue as it’s promising to be, not just here but internationally, if our economy is going into a tighter period, then the last thing you want is a Labor government in charge, spending too much money, driving up inflation and interest rates, at the same time that they’re making policy decisions that will make it less reliable for people when they turn their lights on, either at home or in their businesses, but it will also drive-up electricity prices. And, as I say, I just don’t think for pensioners or self-funded retirees or for families or for small businesses that they can afford Labor’s increase in their electricity prices.
Don’t forget that when Labor was last in power, electricity prices went up by double and under us, as I say, for households they dropped by 8 per cent. So you can see – this is the point I was making earlier about events that come along – I mean Labor always is the unluckiest party in government, things always happen on Labor’s watch. The boats start, well, the boats started because they trashed Operation Sovereign Borders, the policy that we had in place that was working.
We have an energy crisis in the opening days of the Albanese Government. Well sure, but it was because Chris Bowen wasn’t able to make the decisions and to keep the thumb on the energy companies, who were who were testing Chris Bowen, and played him like a fool.
Now just on this on this energy crisis.
This always happens on Labor’s watch.
Now with what you’re saying on the energy situation, then obviously you’re going to oppose this 43 per cent target – as you say, that’s what you took to the election – you must be concerned though about reports that you’ll have some moderate Liberals might want to cross the floor on that issue, of all issues.
Well Chris, we’re not a government in exile. We’re an Opposition and we will be a credible alternative in 2025. I believe very strongly that we can beat Mr Albanese in 2025, but we’ve got a lot of work between now and then and we’re not going to put ourselves in a position where we’re trying to be a government operating, you know refusing to accept the outcome of the last election.
The government has a majority in the Lower House and they have the support of the Greens in the Upper House – that’s the reality. This is not a hung Parliament, where one person can cross the floor from the Coalition to stifle our agenda or to put in place roadblocks to stop particular outcomes. Our job is to work out what our policy will be by the next election.
The government went to the election with the 43 per cent, people voted for them on that basis, but equally for us, we’ve got a mandate from the supporters that voted for the Liberal Party and I’m not going to be disrespectful to their position. The Liberal Party is a broad church like the Labor Party and we’ll have those discussions internally.
Just on border protection, few people know that issue as well as you do. The government’s done the right thing so far with Operation Sovereign Borders, turning boats back. Are you worried, though, that if they do go ahead and legislate to get rid of Temporary Protection Visas, that could increase the pull factors from Sri Lanka and other nations?
Chris, I promise you they will rue the day that they do that. It will be a disaster and already you are seeing, as I say, the boats starting – not because Sri Lanka has gone into an economic spiral over the course of last four weeks, the economy and the circumstances in Sri Lanka have been very difficult for at least the last eight months – and the Labor Party can’t blame what’s happening in Sri Lanka for people making a decision to pay money to come on boats to Australia.
They know that there’s been a change of government. They know that this government has a Leader who has, for the last 25 years, spoken against Operation Sovereign Borders and they understand that, the people syndicates are very smart. They have video clips, they package up what Anthony Albanese said or I’ve said or Scott Morrison said back in the day, and they market that through social media and people pay money.
They’re paying money at the moment, not because of what’s happening in Sri Lanka, but because of what’s happened in Australia, that there’s a change of government; and the last thing I want to see are boats restart or people drowning at sea.
Labor had the formula. Operation Sovereign Borders had very important limbs; turning back boats where it’s safe to do so, but importantly, as you say, the Temporary Protection Visas – that is absolutely essential – and if they pull that limb, Operation Sovereign Borders falls over.
So when they say that they support Operation Sovereign Borders, they don’t. They support their own version, which doesn’t have Temporary Protection Visas and that will be their undoing, I think, when it comes to boats. Tragically and regrettably.
Let’s hope they don’t do it. Thanks for joining us, Peter. I appreciate your time.
Thanks Chris. Take care mate.