Subjects: Dismantling of Home Affairs portfolio; electricity prices; David Littleproud, Leader of the National Party.
Every Thursday I speak to Peter Dutton. He now is now the Federal Opposition Leader and he’s on the line. G’day.
Good morning Ray.
How’s life in Opposition?
It’s been a busy week actually. It’s a lot of preparation, a lot of work obviously looking at our Shadow Ministry at the moment and just watching with bemusement actually as the government is making excuses around the numbers, the economy that they’ve inherited, and now their attempts to tear apart the Home Affairs Department. So we’re really concerned about that, but it’s been it’s been a busy week, mate.
Let’s deal with this decision that you’ve raised here, splitting Home Affairs. The AFP, AUSTRAC and others will fall under the Attorney-General’s portfolio. Now, Mark Dreyfus hasn’t been a fan of Home Affairs from the time it was first formulated.
No, he was opposed to it and frankly, it’s because he’s got an ego sky high. He’s considered a QC, as you know, and the thought that he could only be Attorney-General I think has been quite offensive to him. So he’s torn Home Affairs apart.
The problem is Ray, this is exactly what happened in the Rudd-Gillard years where all of the agencies were working separately. So, one of the huge successes that we had out of the Home Affairs portfolio was in the child protection space, and all of the agencies working together; AUSTRAC providing the information about financial transactions that paedophiles were purchasing different videos and travel and all sorts of things, and that intelligence led into what the Federal Police were doing and the Australian Crime Commission and it led to some pretty phenomenal outcomes.
I just worry that by going back into this siloed arrangement, Anthony Albanese might be making Mark Dreyfus happy, but it’s going to make us less safe as a country and we’re going to have less capability in tracking down these crime groups who, I think, have really feared what we had created in the Home Affairs Department.
But, you know, in the Rudd-Gillard days they had them in separate agencies and they cut money like there was no tomorrow from the Federal Police and AUSTRAC and Customs, etc. at the time. So I’ve got a real concern as to what will happen in the budget for these agencies as well, and you shouldn’t be spending less in law enforcement at the moment.
Drugs are coming into our country at a record rate, and you’ve got all of these crime groups as we’re seeing in New South Wales and around the rest of the country involved in the distribution of the drugs and kids and families are the ones that bear the brunt of that.
They’ve treated the portfolio with contempt already, even before they split it up by giving it to a rookie in Clare O’Neil. I mean, I’m not reflecting on her ability, but it’s a tough gig when you don’t know too much about, you know, being a Minister in the first place.
I think that sort of belled the cat for me when they announced Clare O’Neil in the Home Affairs portfolio, I knew that they were going to break it up because again, with all due respect to Clare, I’m sure she’s nice person, but she doesn’t have the experience or the ability to run a big department like that.
And as I say, Mark Dreyfus has been central to pushing back on Home Affairs. When he was Attorney-General last time, I mean there wasn’t a single law that he passed in the national security space to try and protect us against terrorism.
Yet we had over 20 bills and laws that we introduced to deal with the scourge of terrorism – which hasn’t gone away. I mean we know that over their time in opposition, Labor voted 80 times against the measures that we had put in place to strengthen our borders.
So, there’s a lot that they can do wrong and as we’ve said, it’s not just the economy, but the national security picture, which is always at risk when Labor’s in power and I fear that that’s the space we’re in the moment.
One of the problems I see that Jim Chalmers, the Treasurer, is laying the foundation for tough economic times ahead. I think for the next three years all we’ll hear is that it’s your fault. When I say not you personally, but your government’s fault, that they are in the position they are.
But we hear today about gas, electricity prices, a very big concern – and now they’re warning about shortages. In the UK already I think 100 providers have basically shut the doors and there are people in Australia saying, oh we aren’t going to take any more customers or you know, we’re telling people to go elsewhere because we don’t have the resources to deal with them.
At the same time, the Prime Minister came to power by saying, “oh, my main concern or one of my main concerns was climate change.” And so if we shut down more coal-fired power stations, as is the want towards 2030, we don’t have anything really to replace it.
I mean, the sun’s not always going to shine. The wind isn’t always going to blow. So, what’s the answer? Someone asked you about nuclear the other day, and I think you said, well, we haven’t really formed a, you know, opinion on it or where we’re going with it. We can’t you simply say ‘let’s shut down the coal mines’ and hope to god that by 2030 something else turns up that we can rely upon to keep industry and households going.
Well, of course you can’t Ray, and we’ve got to have a sensible conversation about this. I mean people who want to go to 100 per cent renewables – well that’s fine – but as you say, if we get a couple of weeks of wet weather and the battery doesn’t last any more than a couple of hours, well, you’re out of out of electricity. And if the gas supply is not there, the Labor and Greens have been opposed to discovery of new gas fields and so you don’t have that extra supply coming into the market, exactly at the time that you would need it, then we are going to be in trouble and prices will go up.
People have to brace themselves for what electricity prices are going to be over the next three years given Labor’s energy policy. But they don’t want you to use electricity and that’s why they are pricing it higher and higher – and the trouble is that people just can’t afford it. If you’re on a fixed income as a self-funded retiree, or a part-pensioner or a pensioner, or if you’re in a family where you know you’ve got lots of expenses going up otherwise, you can’t afford the electricity bill to double, which is what happened when Labor was last in power.
So, I think we’ve got to have a sensible, rational debate about it. If you shut off coal tomorrow, well you don’t have the firming…so you don’t have the electricity when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining. And as I say, if there was a battery that was available tomorrow, that had the capability of storing a couple of weeks’ worth of the energy source that you’d need for your manufacturing business, or for that city or that country town, fair enough; but the fact is that the technology doesn’t exist.
The investments into all of that, that’s fine, but I think we’ve got to have a bit of a frank sort of jolt into reality in Australia about where we’re headed. When you look at the billions of dollars being made by all of these traders on different renewable energy proposals – they don’t have any regard whether the lights go on or not – they’re making money and their return is out of the investments that they’re making.
I really think Anthony Albanese has to explain properly to the Australian people what it is he’s proposing here, because I think prices will go up and jobs will go offshore because if businesses can’t get assurances around electricity supply, and if there are brownouts or blackouts, and if their bills double, well they’ll just pack up shop and go to another country where electricity is cheaper, the supply is guaranteed and we’ve lost those jobs and that revenue income to our country.
So what I can’t understand and maybe you can explain in simple terms the contradictions. People saying, ‘well first thing we need to do is get rid of all those gas guzzling cars like Zali Steggall was driving. We need to get rid of those and replace them with electric cars.’ Well do people understand they’ve got to be charged? By electricity?
And if you want to drive a car from Sydney to Newcastle, or Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast, or down to the Gold Coast, you might get there, but you won’t get back – and you need to charge it and you charge it with electricity.
So I mean there’s a contradiction there. Yes, petrol’s dreadful, oil’s dreadful, gas is dreadful, but let’s go with electricity – because it’s not dreadful – but then it is because it’s only there via coal-fired power stations, if you want to have all cars of electric – and that’s just a contradiction in terms – I don’t understand it.
Well, all of what you have said is factually correct and it’s hard sometimes to have a rational conversation on this topic with people because you’re shouted down for being sort of a backward-looking person.
But the fact is that if the City of Sydney mandated electric cars tomorrow, if that was the will of the New South Wales Government or if Albanese Government decided to do that, the electricity grid would collapse because people plugging their cars in at 6:00pm at night when they got home, went inside to have a shower and have some dinner and sit down and watch TV and the energy grid, the peak load of that, it just scientifically can’t work – and then as you say, the electricity is coming from coal mines to charge that Tesla overnight.
Now, as I say, if the discovery is made tomorrow and the battery is something that can give the car a range of 700 kilometres instead of 270 – well fair enough – or 5,000 kilometres. People talk about plugging your house into your car – I mean let’s hope that happens one day. But I just think we need to have a sober conversation about this topic because, yes, we want to reduce emissions.
Yes, we want to be responsible environmentally – I mean that’s all a given, everyone has signed up to that – but I’m not going to stand by and watch families go broke because they can’t pay their electricity bills.
Their private health insurance is going up, their rates are going up, interest rates go up and it’s just it’s unfair because we’re signing people up to a model that just isn’t sustainable, and I think Anthony Albanese has to be honest about that.
You’ve got a new Coalition partner led by David Littleproud, another Queenslander, who doesn’t want to be the left, doesn’t want to be the right, wants to be in the centre. I thought that’s what the teals were all about? Or going left of centre as opposed to being in the centre. You’ve said, look, we are at the end of the day to represent the interests of people who traditionally have voted for what is best described as a Conservative party – although it isn’t always conservative on some of the issues.
Is that what your job is as Opposition Leader to lead people back to the path? I mean, I know you’ve spoken out about the ridiculous situation in the New South Wales State Executive – gosh strike me pink – I mean it was like they had a bet with Centrebet or whatever agency was about the time that Labor was going to win because they did their best to get their own joint beaten with legal challenges and a whole range of other things happening.
That can’t happen again. I mean it’s got to be cleaned out doesn’t it the State Executive and you’ve got to tell them, look; you’ve got to act in their best interest not to try and counteract us?
Well Ray that process in New South Wales is underway at the moment. I’m not going to tolerate that situation to be repeated again and I’ve been very clear about that. So we’ll resolve that matter.
People in local communities deserve to know who their candidates are early on. Plus we want those candidates out working hard in the local community to establish their credentials and to be in a position where they can win those seats.
If we don’t do that, then we can’t win the seats to clean up Labor’s mess in three years’ time. So that’s pretty obvious to me as to what needs to take place, and it will.
In relation to David Littleproud. I’ve known David for many years. He is a thoroughly decent bloke and I think he’ll be a great leader of the National Party. There are lots of issues for us to work on and I think is a point that he made the other day, is that he wants to be out there fighting for rural communities, which is exactly what the National Party is about.
He wants to be concentrating again on the sort of topics that we’ve just been speaking about; like let’s have an honest conversation about how the energy mix will work in this country and what the Labor and Greens proposal means. So, I think he’s got the commonsense approach. He’s a down-to-earth bloke and I think he’ll do a great job.
Okay. Well we’ll talk every week as we have done previously. It’ll be a different discussion we have than the one we had previously when you could actually make a difference, but let’s try and keep people honest. Thanks very much for your time.
Thanks Ray, see you mate.