Subjects: Cost pressures on Australian manufacturing businesses; cost of living pressures; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; the Prime Minister’s Canberra Voice proposal; ADF medals/honours; the Coalition’s plan to ban gambling advertising.
It’s wonderful to be here at Yarra Valley Hilltop with Peter and Ted. I want to thank Laurie, Stan and Jason and the team here. They’re a real local success story; started 23 years ago, there was nothing on this site. Now employing over 100 people and using a lot of local products like strawberries here – so it is a great success – but there’s no doubt they’ve got challenges with rising energy prices, lots of input prices going up and demand starting to come off in this cost-of-living crisis. So, it was so important for myself, Peter and Ted to come out and hear first-hand about the challenges they’ve got, and I’ll now hand to Ted to share a little bit more about the energy challenges Yarra Valley Hilltop are facing.
Aaron, thank you very much. Wonderful to be here, especially with Aaron who is an absolute champion for this part of the world and of course, to be here with our leader Peter Dutton.
Food businesses right across the country are feeling the pain of Labor’s energy bills. This business alone has seen their energy bills jump by $200,000 since Labor has come to office – that’s up to 50 per cent increases in their energy bills.
Now, this time next year their bills might double yet again. This exposes the lie, which is Labor’s energy policy. It doesn’t matter how much the Prime Minister or the Energy Minister bangs on about ‘free energy’, ‘getting prices down’. The truth is prices are only going up. Families are feeling it and so too are businesses, and once businesses have their energy prices go up, well they lose their competitiveness.
Now, we know that food is one of our competitive advantages as a nation. We cannot have Australia’s food industry continue to cop Labor’s high energy prices. At this stage it’s clear Labor has no solution. It has no plan. There was not a single measure in Labor’s budget that will lead to energy prices coming down.
It’s businesses like this that actually sell the real product, the real sweet spot of the Yarra Valley to the world, that is being impacted. This is why we’re calling Labor out on this, and they need to come out with a plan. They need to get energy prices down. They’ve already broken their promise of reducing power prices for households of $275. Prices are going up. We found out last week through the DMO, the VMO, prices are only going up further. It’s going to get harder for families and, unfortunately, harder for businesses.
Thanks Ted. Firstly, thank you very much to Aaron for having us in his electorate today. Thank you Ted for being here as well. Energy is one of the biggest issues that our country is facing at the moment, and here at Yarra Valley Hilltop, I just want to say thank you very much to Laurie, Jason and the team.
As Aaron pointed out; significant local employers, but they’re also the lifeblood for many of the producers here as well. When you’re at the supermarket this week, pushing around a shopping trolley and you get to the checkout, you know you’re getting less for the same amount that you were spending 12 months ago, and the reason for that is, just think about the supply chain.
We saw a production line here this morning of strawberry jam. The farmers who are growing those strawberries have huge inputs and they’re all going up under this government. The energy that’s required to produce their fruit, it goes through the roof, so there’s an extra cost there when the product is grown. When it arrives here, the glass bottles and the plastic containers that it goes into, that is a very high energy intensive process for the manufacturers to make those bottles, so that is a higher input cost again for the business here.
When you look around us, it is an energy-intensive business. That’s the reality of food manufacturing. There’s a lot of gas involved, a lot of electricity involved, and when you get a business like this where their own electricity bill, on top of the electricity bill and the gas bill that the glass manufacturers have to face, and the strawberry producers etc; when you add all that together, that’s why under Labor you’re getting less and less for your buck when you go to Coles, or Woollies, or IGA, or Aldi. We just need to break it down to reality.
I’m just not sure that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer understand how tough Australian families are doing it at the moment. It’s not just the mortgages that continue to go up under Labor – because they’ve made the wrong decisions in their budget – so there is now upward pressure on interest rates, and at very least they’ll stay higher for longer. You’re paying more for your energy bill, and as we know, under the decisions that government’s made from the 1st of July across the country, power prices are going to go up again – and this is from a Prime Minister who promised to reduce your power prices by $275 per year, year-on-year, and it hasn’t stopped.
As Ted pointed out before, the costs for these types of business, which are energy intensive, will continue to go up – not by three and four per cent each year – but by very high double-digit figures, and they just can’t absorb that cost into their business. It has to be passed on to consumers and that’s why your grocery prices are going up and up under Labor.
I think we need to have a very hard look at the impact of the renewables policy that’s ideologically driven at the moment. We’re all in favour of renewable energy, but it needs to be firmed-up.
At the moment you’ve got a government who is conducting themselves like it were a Greens government. When Chris Bowen says that wind doesn’t cost anything and the Prime Minister says that solar doesn’t cost anything – have a look at your bill and see whether you think they’re telling the truth because I don’t know any Australian whose power bill or gas bill was cheaper today, than it was 12 months ago.
So, I think the government has a lot to answer for here and we are going to continue to put the pressure on them because I worry about people’s mortgages going up higher than what they have to be, and I’m worried about people’s electricity and gas bills going up higher and higher, and I’m very worried about food inflation as well because Australian families just can’t afford it.
We’re seeing a lot of evidence around the country at the moment, that under this government, Australian families and small businesses are really suffering.
I’m happy to take any questions.
The Race Discrimination Commissioner, in The Sydney Morning Herald, has called for politicians to steer clear of making race a focus of the debate. Worried that people (inaudible). Last week you said the Voice would ‘re-racialise’ Australia. Is that (inaudible)?
I think there is a very important point to make in relation to the Voice debate – and I’ve made it before – that is that there should be a respectful debate on both sides of the argument. The Prime Minister out there name calling people and others suggesting that people are racist because they don’t support the Voice – it’s completely and utterly unacceptable. Racial abuse of any nature is not acceptable, but we should point out that there is a rising level of frustration, I think is the best way to put it, from Australians who want to understand what it is the Prime Minister is proposing in the Voice.
There’s not an honest conversation going on from the government at the moment and people want to be trusted with the information so that they can make an informed judgement. People can vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the Voice that will be entirely their decision, but they’re asking from the Prime Minister that they just be given the facts.
The reality is that the design of the Voice doesn’t start until the Monday after the Saturday – after the vote’s taken place. I think a lot of people are scratching their heads as to why that would be the case. They want to know whether it’s going to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, whether it’s going to be a practical body, where those solutions can be found quickly, or whether it’s just going to be another layer of bureaucracy.
If the Prime Minister continues down this path of deliberately taking information back, or refusing to give information to the Australian public, or doing it in a deceptive way, then I think that level of frustration will continue to build and build and build, and that is not how a debate about the most significant change to our Constitution should be conducted in our country.
Are you worried that the Liberal Party’s position on the Voice will affect the re-election chances of MPs in marginal seats?
No. I believe very strongly that in our business, the public expect us to be honest and to adhere to our values and to stand up and argue for what we believe in. If you sit on the fence in politics you end up believing in nothing and you end up, I think frankly, being a burden to your own community. People that I’ve watched over a long time in Parliament – John Howard and others – they have stood up for what they believe in and that’s exactly what the Liberal Party is doing now.
I believe very strongly in constitutional recognition and if the Prime Minister wants a 1967 type outcome, then go with the proposition that’s before them, the Prime Minister now – that is constitutional recognition. There is overwhelming support. I think there would be 80 per cent support for it in the community. But there’s not overwhelming support for the Voice and it’s a bridge too far because we don’t know the detail and we don’t know that’s going to provide the practical outcomes for Indigenous Australians that we all burn for.
I think it’s very deceptive in some of the ads, when you’re seeing them on television at the moment, where it’s talking about recognition, but it makes no mention of the Voice. That shows you that there’s either a problem with the brand or people are deliberately keeping the information from Australians. I just don’t think Australians will cop that.
So in terms of the Liberal Party’s prospects, our prospects are at their peak when we’re honest with the Australian people, when we stand up for what we believe in, when we adhere to our values, and when we argue for it in a respectful way and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Jacquie Lambie says (inaudible).
To be honest, I looked at this issue very closely as Defence Minister and I don’t see what facts have changed. The reality is that there is a criminal investigation that’s underway at the moment and that should have privacy. Allow the investigators to do their work and don’t impede their work. So, an administrative process can run its course, but it should run its course after the criminal process has been dealt with because it can taint witnesses, it can deal with matters, or bring matters to light, that can impact in a negative way on a case that may be before the courts over the next couple of years.
The onus here, to be honest, is on Richard Marles to show leadership as the Defence Minister. You can’t just go around wanting to be popular with everybody, he’s actually got to make decisions and make decisions in our country’s best interests, and support our veterans, not work against them.
Don’t line up with bureaucratic processes over the interests of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force. These veterans have fought for our country and they deserve the support of the Defence Minister and they’re not getting it from Richard Marles.
Mr O’Brien, in terms of policy, how would the Liberal Party address rising electricity and gas prices?
It’s a good question because in the last term of the Coalition alone we saw household prices go down eight per cent, businesses 10 per cent, industry 12 per cent. Labor has come in and prices have skyrocketed and they’re only going to get worse.
The Coalition put the importance of supply and industry at the centre of its policies. We’ve been saying from day one with the Labor Government, we need more supply, more supply, more supply, especially of gas, but instead, the Labor Party has been ideological and they have attacked the gas industry. As a result, we are seeing a restriction in supply. Price is a function of supply and demand. You restrict supply like Labor is, prices will only go up.
Mr Dutton, just finally, the proposed ban on gambling advertising during (inaudible) was quite well received. What are the chances of finding a bipartisan solution to this?
Well, I really hope that we can, and I’ve offered an olive branch to the Prime Minister. Very keen to work with the PM on gambling advertising restrictions. What we proposed was that there’d be no gambling ads on television for an hour before a game, during the game and for an hour after.
I just think on a Friday night or a Saturday night, or a Sunday, during the week, when you’re watching footy with your kids, you don’t want to be talking about the odds and ‘multis’ and about a gambling conversation; you want to be talking about the form of your players, about the prospects of your team, about what’s happened during the course of the game. It’s not sort of a prudish approach. Everyone enjoys having a bet now and again, but we’re introducing younger and younger Australians into a gambling culture, and a lot of Australians when they develop that culture from a young age, will have problems with it later in life.
I think it’s reasonable, given the saturation we’re seeing on our televisions at the moment, that what we’re putting forward is something the Prime Minister should consider. Now, he’s ruled it out, I don’t know why, and that’s an issue for him, but I hope that he can reconsider that because I do believe that families would support what we’re proposing.
If the Prime Minister is proposing to go further, we’re happy to consider that, but my judgement is that if you’re sitting at home on Friday night after a long week of work and you just want to enjoy pizza, or a bit of take away with the kids watching your footy team, I don’t think you want to be bombarded with gambling ads and that’s what’s happening at the moment, and I think it should change and we’re prepared to support the government in relation to that.
Alright, thank you very much.