Joint Doorstop Interview with Peter Dutton, Angus Taylor and Nathan Conroy, Seaford - Friday 9 February 2024

Friday, 09 February 2024

Subjects: Dunkley by-election; the Government’s new car and ute tax; Labor’s cost of living crisis; the Coalition’s funding commitment to the Frankston to Baxter Rail project; the Prime Minister's shocking betrayal on the stage three tax cuts; Richard Marles’ war with Defence; the MQ-28A Ghost Bat program; youth crime; the rise of anti-Semitism in Australia.



Good morning everyone. Thank you so much for coming here to Frankston Mazda in the heart of Seaford.

I want to thank Brian, who is a representative of the auto industry, Angus Taylor the Shadow Treasurer and obviously the Leader of our Liberal Party for coming down and supporting me in my campaign. But also, thank you all for coming as well.

We're going to discuss this tax on choice, the tax on tradies and tax on the family vehicle, because we have been out and about speaking to people right across the electorate from Seaford, Mount Eliza, Langwarrin, Carrum Downs, and I know cost of living is the number one thing, and I know that this tax that comes in, in a few months time, will be a big burden on the local tradies and the families in Dunkley. So I'm now going to put it to Angus Taylor.


Well thanks Nathan. It's good to be here with you and Peter, of course, and Brian, talking about an issue that really matters to Australians, which is the pressures on their cost of living; because as I get it around Australia – I've made a point, right across this great country of visiting local Foodbanks – the thing I'm consistently seeing is people looking for help who would never have been looking for help a couple of years ago: families with mortgages, families who are working, who are struggling in a way that I haven't seen in my lifetime, and that's the reality of what we're seeing across this country right now.

Now, the hard numbers of this are devastating. The average Australian family has lost around $8,000. Eight thousand dollars in their disposable income, the purchasing power of their incomes in the last 18 months. And if you've got a mortgage, it's much, much higher. 20, 25, $30,000 hit to the disposable incomes of those Australians, and it's showing. They are having to work more just to get by, they're having to dig deep into their savings. That's an enormous amount of pain, a huge burden that Australian families are having to bear.

The truth is, we know that Labor's mismanagement of the economy has been right at the heart of this. We know that this inflation is home grown. Michelle Bullock, the RBA Governor, has told us that this inflation is home grown. We also know that hit to disposable incomes, that hit to the standard of living of Australians is bigger than in any other major advanced country in the world. We are getting smashed in this country by a Government that simply can't manage the economy. Labor Governments can't manage the economy and Australians are paying a price.

Now, on top of that, what they're proposing is to put a tax on the family car, to put a tax on the family car, and that's why we are here today. We know that what's being proposed here by Labor is a very, very aggressive schedule to move Australians away from the natural choice they make about the technology and type of their cars.

We as Liberals believe that every Australian should have the right to choose what sort of car they want to drive. It shouldn't be dictated to by a Labor Government, but that's exactly what this Government is proposing to do. We know that's how it's worked in other countries, they're proposing a penalty of $100 per gram kilometre, and we know that translates into a significant increase in the price of a car.

Do not believe Chris Bowen on this. Chris Bowen is the person who told Australians that we're going to get a $275 reduction in their electricity bills, and there is absolutely no sign of this. We've got a Prime Minister who has lied to the Australian people, along with his Treasurer, over 100 times in recent times about taxes, and they're going to do it again.

The truth is, they want to impose a tax on the family car at exactly the time when Australians need relief on the cost of living.


Look, just to be clear the AADA are franchise new car members. We do support fuel efficiency standards, but we believe these standards go too far and are too fast, and they will have an impact on affordability of new vehicles in this country, they will have an impact on our employees that our members employee – which is 60,000 odd, directly employed in our industry – and they will drive up the prices and reduce choice and available supply of vehicles in our market.

So, we are not supportive of these regulations, despite the fact that we think there should be a fuel efficiency standards introduced.


Thank you mate, very much. Thank you.

Well everyone, thank you very much for being here today.

Firstly, can I just give a big shout out to the very friendly team here Frankston Mazda for hosting us today and for the work that they do in the community.

Dealerships across the country, employ, as Brian points out, about 60,000 people and Australians take pretty seriously their purchase of a car. If you're a tradie and you're buying a BT-50 or you're buying a D-Max or a HiLux or a Ranger, the Albanese Government's ute tax is going to drive up the cost of purchasing that vehicle.

Let's be very clear about it; in New Zealand, the tax drove up the cost of a car by about $7,000 NZD. The Energy Minister Chris Bowen, talks about the Mazda CX-30, and he cited that – the model in the United Kingdom – it's not as fuel efficient as he made out. It's also $19,000 dearer than what it is in Australia.

In Australia we're a right hand drive market, there are 1.2 million car sales a year, so we're a relatively small market compared to some of the bigger markets like the United States, or some of the countries in Asia or in Americas otherwise. We know that there is a wide range of choice of vehicles here, and as the experts point out, Albo's ute tax is going to drive up the cost of buying a ute, but it's also going to drive down the choice that consumers have, because some of the dealers, some of the manufacturers, are likely to withdraw some of those heavy emission vehicles from the market.

Now, we have some of the highest efficiency standards in the world in terms of our vehicles, and people want to make sure that they can afford to buy a new vehicle, particularly if they're under pressure, and Australian families are under pressure at the moment.

This Government over two budgets made decisions which have made it harder for every Australian. As Angus points out, people are paying on average about $24,000 a year more just in mortgage repayments, and that's after tax dollars. You've got to earn 40 or $45,000 to get that $24,000 – that's 8, $900 a week for an average family to just try and find that money in their budget is hard – and it's not just your mortgage, it's insurance.

We know that under this Government, gas is up by 30 per cent. We know that fuel is up by at the moment, what locally, about $2.20 a litre, $2 a litre for diesel. We know that when you go to the supermarket, your grocery prices have gone through the roof under this Government, and the Prime Minister is so out of touch that he's now proposing a ute tax and a car tax to make a vehicle more expensive for families who can't afford to pay their bills at the moment.

So, I think this is a Prime Minister who is out of touch, and I don't think he's got the answer for the people here in Dunkley. Nathan Conroy's an amazing candidate, he would be a great champion for this local community in Canberra, and as Angus Taylor rightly points out, this is a Government that has made it much harder for families.

The average person, average family, is about $8,000 worse off under this Government, and they've only been in for 18 months. We just can't afford more time under a Labor Government, because the situation's just going to get harder.

I'm happy to take any questions.


What's your priority now? I mean, last week, this time last week, you were down at Baxter announcing the train line commitment, $900 million, big commitment there. But now you're talking about costs rising for car consumers. I mean, given that public transport and there's growth areas in Melbourne, but you're saying the rising cost of cars, what is your priority on this campaign at the moment? Public transport or vehicle costs?


Well, it's cost of living, and if you look at people's cost of living pressures under this Government, every indicator is bad. If you're in a budget at the moment, you're sitting down at the end of a week or fortnight or month and looking at all of your bills, you just can't afford another 2 or 5 or $7,000 on top of a new vehicle that you were thinking about purchasing; and if we lose jobs out of the car industry as a result of Albo's ute tax, if we lose choice for consumers, if price is driven up, that's not good for anybody in Dunkley or across the country.

But at the same time, we need to have an investment in local infrastructure, and Nathan Conroy has been a champion as the local Mayor, to make sure that investment goes into supporting families and supporting businesses, because we want people to have jobs and we want the economy to thrive locally. That's why it's important to have a modern railway system. A single line with an old diesel train rattling along it, is not acceptable in a community like this, and it puts this community at a disadvantage to many other areas closer to the city where Labor have a strong hold on those seats.

So, the Prime Minister talked about this rail project as being transformational, he promised it at three elections and now he's walked away from it – but I guess you wouldn't trust this Prime Minister from one day to the next.


Just on that rail line. How can we take that commitment seriously when your years of being in Government and the Opposition here in Victoria, won't even commit to paying the other half?


Well, we're 12 months off being in government, and we believe very strongly that Victorians want this railway link. I mean, who was arguing for a diesel rattler on a single line when there is an electrification option available? The duplication of the rail line, 1,750 new car parks, to provide support to commuters. The Prime Minister described it in three elections as transformational and as being a huge win for the local community, and now refuses to even talk about it and has withdrawn his support from it.

I think there's a huge difference between the two parties at this by-election. In Nathan Conroy you've got somebody who will fight hard for his local community and on their behalf when he's in Canberra. He understands as a young father and husband, he understands the pressures that families are under, under this Labor Government. He has the vitality, he has the drive, he has the imagination and the vision for his local community, and we've got a Prime Minister who is so far out of touch he's now proposing a new ute tax to drive up the price of your HiLux or Ranger or D-Max or BT-50, and I think people are not going to reward that.


Just to Bonita's point though about the Victorian Opposition. Have you spoken to David Southwick or John Pesutto about this commitment and actually asked them to commit to it? Because last week when you announced it, they said that they don't want to throw all eggs in one basket at this point in time.


Well Simon, I have spoken to John Pesutto about it, and I think they're being a prudent Opposition. I think their position is that they support the project. They've got to make sure that they can afford it – and don't forget that Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan have almost bankrupted this state.

I mean, the Labor Party here, at a local level, have made horrible decisions over a long period of time which have had a negative impact on Victorians. Victorians want a good State Government and unfortunately the Andrews-Allan period has driven the finances into the red, and it's limited the options that they have as a State Government to support sensible projects.

They put billions of dollars into inner city projects, but they won't support local families in communities like this, and I think that's the difficulty that they've got at the moment.

This is a sensible project and locals here want to support a rail line. The Prime Minister, as I say, on three elections, strongly supported it and said it would be 'transformative' in the local area. We don't understand now why he's changed his word again.


What feedback are you getting on the ground in regards to stage three tax cuts? Is it a big issue in Dunkley, do you think?


Look, I think everybody's going to take every dollar they can get at the moment because under this Government they're paying more for everything. That's the reality. They're getting $15 – it doesn't start until July – let's be very clear with the people of Dunkley: the Prime Minister's promise doesn't start until July. At the Press Club speech he said if circumstances change, he might abolish this tax cut. So you don't even know whether it will last beyond the next election if he's successful, and people are happy to take 15 bucks a week, but they know that they're paying $15,000 more a year in their mortgage, or $25,000 a year more in their mortgage, they're paying more for every item when they go to the supermarket because of the decisions of this Government, and the energy policy is so reckless that people's energy prices keep going up, when the Prime Minister promised a 97 occasions, they'd go down by $275.

This is Chris Bowen's latest energy policy announcement. It's a tax of thousands of dollars on a ute. Tradies are going to cop it right between the eyes, and already they're doing it tough, and I don't understand why the Prime Minister is so far out of touch, that to try and please Green voters in inner city seats, he's going to slug tradies in outer metropolitan areas around the country.


So the average taxpayer in Dunkley is going to get I think $478 more under Labor's tax plan than the stage three tax cuts. Why should people vote for Nathan Conroy, given if the Coalition had its way, taxpayers wouldn't be getting that money?


Well, Nathan's part of a government, part of a Party that when we were in Government, we provided stage one and stage two. See the thing that gives it away is that this is stage three we're talking about. So stage one and two were $200 billion worth of tax cuts, including the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset, that provided $200 billion worth of tax cuts to people on low and middle incomes.

Now, the Prime Minister said his word is his bond, and he promised on 100 occasions that he would support the stage three because it went some way to addressing bracket creep, it provided support to people with aspiration, and it provided an incentive for people who worked harder that they would keep more of their money instead of paying more taxes.

But he broke his promise, he's destroyed his credibility, and Australians at the moment under a bad Government, who are driving up the prices of everything, including utes and cars, will take every dollar they can. But the $400 a year that you speak of, which doesn't start until this July – so it'll be $400 over the 12 month period – we know that families are $8,000 worse off. We know that they're paying more for their mortgages because interest rates have gone up 12 times under this Government, and a lot of Australian families just can't afford another term of the Albanese Government.


Mr Dutton, just on another issue, Richard Marles admits there is tension between himself and the Defence Department. As a former Defence Minister, is that a problem given the current global situation and the AUKUS agreement?


Simon it is a problem. When you start to see leaks out of the Defence Department against the Defence Minister, you know that there is a very significant problem.

At a time when the Prime Minister says – and quite rightly, I agree very strongly with him – that we are living in the most precarious period since the Second World War; to have the Defence Minister not on speaking terms with the Chief of the Defence Force or the Secretary of his Department, is completely unacceptable.

I don't know where Richard Marles is. He's missing in action, he didn't want to do media this morning, even though there was a $400 million announcement that some junior Minister that nobody's ever heard of, Pat someone? Went out to announce it, and where's the Defence Minister? On the day that a major defence announcement is made.

Now, we support the announcement that's been made today, but it would have been good if the Defence Minister had have been able to make it, instead of being in some witness protection program. We supported it because the Ghost Bat program started under the Coalition Government.

As Defence Minister, I remember very well the briefings and approving support financially for the project. It's an autonomous vehicle, it has lethality capability, and there's export opportunity in it. It's a multi, multi-billion dollar opportunity for our economy, and the Defence Minister is – I don't know where he is? I mean where is he?


Well, the PM just now up in Dingley just said, quote: 'Richard Marles is a great Defence Minister'.


But they always say that right before they get sacked. You’ve seen this movie before, haven't you? I mean please. What else is he going to say?


I'm just putting to you what the PM has just said.


Well let's, I mean, can we track him down? Do we know where the Defence Minister is?


Was he not on the Today Show with you?


He was not on the Today show this morning. Karl and I were very disappointed. Bill Shorten was there, they used to be great friends, but of course, Richard Marles now doesn't speak to Bill Shorten either.

So I think there is a whole lot of internal difficulty in the Labor Party, but you cannot have a situation where the Defence Minister doesn't have a functioning relationship with the head of his Department, and when you start to get leaks out of the Defence Department, when the diggers don't trust, or have confidence in their Defence Minister, when the Defence Minister starts shouting down or speaking in a rude way to the CDF, to the Chief of the Defence Force, let alone other people in uniform, that's not good for our country.


If you lose this by-election, will that have been on a vote on your leadership?


Well, it's a 6.3 per cent margin here in Dunkley. It's obviously a by-election because of tragic circumstances with the passing of a sitting member, and in that circumstance, you wouldn't expect a big swing. But in this by-election, we have somebody I would describe as a star candidate.

Nathan is 31 years of age, he's been in our country 12 years, he's got a young baby, his wife's involved in the community, he's a Mayor who has demonstrated his commitment to this local area. I think he's formed a great connection with the local community, and he would be an amazing local member who would fight on behalf of the local community and be a great advocate in Canberra.

You've also got a Prime Minister who can't keep his word, has destroyed his credibility, is now proposing a ute tax and a car tax that's going to make it harder for families, but swings are always hard in these circumstances.

All I can tell you is that Nathan will be knocking on doors and working day and night until March the 2nd, and whether he's elected or not, he'll continue to fight for this local community. But if he's elected, the people of Dunkley are going to have somebody in Canberra in whom they can have great trust and great faith that he'll stand up for their issues and what they want him to fight for.


Just in Queensland, the daughter of stabbing victim Vyleen White yesterday, she called for calm after reports of the African community in Queensland being harassed and abused. Are you concerned about those reports?


Well, I don't want to see anyone harassed or abused, but let's be very clear that in Queensland, in Victoria, New South Wales, elsewhere at the moment, youth crime is a very significant issue, and the Albanese Government is advocating an increase in the age of criminal responsibility, which means that so-called 'young kids' at 14, 15, 16, breaking into someone's house, stabbing somebody, going into their bedroom to steal keys, or to take a selfie with young girls sleeping in bed, the Albanese Government wants to raise the age of criminal responsibility, which is so far out of touch with victims of crime and the police, it's unbelievable, but that's what they do.

The Labor Government here under Daniel Andrews, in Queensland under Annastacia Palaszczuk and now under Steven Miles, they appoint these magistrates who want to give a wet lettuce response to these criminals who are coming through the courts on a daily basis.

As the Police Union President, Ian Leavers has pointed out, bail is a privilege. If you've committed a crime against somebody, if you've committed a violent crime against somebody, if you've stolen their car – probably their second most valuable asset – if you've broken into someone's home and destroyed their sanctity and made a family live in fear, you don't deserve to be out on bail. And yet you've got the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who's advocating to the state Attorneys-General that the age of criminal responsibility should be increased. I've never seen a Government more out of touch on cost of living, on crime and on other issues that are important to Australians.


Can I ask you about the leaking of a WhatsApp group? All the people who are allegedly in that anti-Zionist group has leaked that out, and more broadly about the tactics being used by both sides in this heated debate?


Look, I've seen the reports of the Herald Sun of the list of Jewish-Australian citizens, whose names were leaked on this list so that they could be targeted by protesters.

The anti-Semitism in our country is a disgrace and it shouldn't be tolerated, and sadly, when we saw those horrible images on the Harbour Bridge in Sydney of 'where are the Jews?', and 'F the Jews' and all of that conduct, it has no place in our country. It was a day of national shame. Frankly, the Prime Minister should have stood up and unequivocally condemned it, and called it out.

I think as many people in the Jewish community here at the moment are shaking their heads at the Prime Minister's weak response, it gives rise to a view that that this sort of behaviour is tolerated, or that we can push the boundaries, and that there's a moral equivalence.

There are still babies being held in caves by Hamas. The Hamas terrorist group is a listed terrorist organisation in our country, and they have created a situation where people are being killed. And in our country, those people who are involved in anti-Semitic behaviours, who are naming people of Jewish faith – not because of anything they've done, just because of their religious belief or because of their heritage – frankly, if that is not something the police are looking at now, then I believe they should urgently look at it. If the laws need to be beefed up then they should, because it shames me to say that people of Jewish faith in our country at the moment, many of them living with great angst, and we've seen a situation where security has been bolstered at Jewish schools at synagogues, at supermarkets, that has no place in our country in the 21st century at all.


Queensland Police Union boss, Ian Leavers, he's called for the deportation of all serious juvenile offenders who are non-citizens. Are you comfortable with where the law is at in regards to that at the moment?


Well, when we were in Government, I deported more rapists and serial criminals than any Minister since federation, and I believe very strongly and very proudly that we live in the best country in the world, and we have an amazing migrant story in our country – it's part of the success – but we should welcome those people who are willing to abide by our laws, adhere to our values, celebrate their heritage of their culture, but I don't want a situation where we are importing criminals and problems from other parts of the world.

We need to have a migration system that encourages and supports people who are acting according to the law, which is what every Australian citizen is expected to do, and if people have committed crimes and they're non-citizens, then they do face deportation.

The Government's dropped off, as we know, the number of people that have been deported from our country, and that in part is why you'll see a rise in crime in some areas because particularly sexual offenders are recidivist offenders. They'll go out and repeat again. I can remember looking back through many of the cases where a young girl had been raped or a young boy had been sexually assaulted, and it wasn't the first time, it was the fifth or sixth victim, and for the life of me, I couldn't understand why that person, as a non-citizen, hadn't been deported before.

But this Government's gone soft on deportations and soft on law and order, and the Attorney-General's advocating an increase in the age of criminal responsibility, which means more of these young criminals will stay on the streets for longer.


Sorry, my question was about youth offenders, them being deported. Is that currently happening? And would you like to see that happen?


Well, there are laws in relation to ages and to the provisions within the Migration Act. If the police are advocating for changes, then I'm sure the Government can consider those, and there'll be some circumstances where people are able to deported, there'll be others where they can't because they're stateless or they're under protection orders, etc.. That's all for the Government to consider, but, I think it's indisputable that the Government has gone soft on the deportations of criminals in our country, and sadly, tragically, there'll be more Australian citizens who fall victims to these people.

As we know, just before Christmas, the Government was releasing hundreds of people into the community who had committed serious, serious offences against Australian citizens. So I wouldn't take anything they say too seriously.

Thank you very much.