Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor, & Employment Minister Michaelia Cash - Doorstop - Wednesday 6 March 2024

Thursday, 07 March 2024

Subjects: Visit to Western Australia; the Prime Minister’s new car and ute tax; Labor’s cost of living crisis; National Accounts data provides bleak outlook for Australia; nuclear energy; Ian Goodenough; Gina Rinehart’s birthday; the Prime Minister abandons better outcomes for Indigenous Australians following his failed Voice Referendum.



It is fantastic to yet again have the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton, and the Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor, here on a beautiful day in Perth, Western Australia.

We started out this morning with Peter Dutton addressing hundreds and hundreds of Western Australians at the Leadership Matters Breakfast, and then we've come down here this morning to New Town Toyota to listen very carefully to the people who actually understand the impact on the ground, the impact on the consumer of Mr Albanese's car and ute tax.

This is something that Mr Albanese doesn't want Australians to know, but I can tell you, when you come and listen to the dealers here, the people who every day deal with the consumers, they know their cars and their vehicles inside out and back to front; Mr Albanese's lie to the Australian public becomes more apparent.

Mr Albanese and Labor, can I tell you, they don't get Western Australia with their car and ute tax. They don't get just how big the state of Western Australia is. They don't get the distances that Western Australians, in particular in rural and regional Australia, have to drive on a daily basis. The cars that they drive: the SUVs, the four-wheel drives and the utes, they're the cars that they pick up and drop off their kids from school with, they're the cars they use every single day, doing their jobs, for the rest of us here in Western Australia. And what does Mr Albanese and Chris Bowen want to do? They want to make those cars more expensive.

You just look at the price hike, the tax that people will be paying, say, on an SUV and a four-wheel drive: up to $25,000. That's Mr Albanese's way of saying 'thank you' to Western Australians, upping the price of your favourite SUV or four-wheel drive by $25,000. When you look at a ute, I mean seriously, this is Western Australia – utes, they are driven everywhere, in particular by hardworking tradies, and they are looking there at jacking it up by up to $18,000.

So, Mr Albanese likes to tell Western Australians that he 'gets us'. Is Mr Albanese being serious? Mr Albanese, Chris Bowen and the Labor Government, they want to dictate – not just to the people of Australia, this is very personal, we're here in Western Australia – to Western Australians the type of vehicle they purchase. Well, we're here today to say to Mr Albanese, 'no'. Western Australians are not going to pay up to $25,000s more for their favourite SUV or four-wheel drive, and they're certainly not going to pay up to $18,000 more for their favourite ute.

Now, just remember, Mr Albanese, he snuck this policy out on the day that he did the backflip on the stage three tax cuts, and what did he hope? He hoped Australians would not know.

Well guess what, Australians do know. And as I said, when you have Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor here today on the ground in Western Australia, talking directly to dealers who talk on a daily basis to consumers and understand their vehicles inside out and back to front, yet again, what you have is just another Labor lie from a weak Prime Minister.



Thanks Michaelia.

It's great to be back in Western Australia again, for the second time this year, with Peter Dutton and Michaelia Cash, talking Labor's new ute tax and the impact that's going to have on Australians.

National Accounts are out today. They are a shocker, an absolute shocker. It's clear now Australians are experiencing a recession. GDP per person in Australia – economic growth per person – is going backwards. Economic growth per person is going backwards in this country. The only thing growing the economy anymore is population growth, which has been 670,000 in the last 12 months. Beyond that, nothing is growing the economy, and that is why Australians are experiencing a recession.

We also see in these National Accounts that Australian's standard of living has gone backwards since Labor came to power. Australians are poorer since Labor came to power. With a reduction in their real disposable incomes per person of 7.5 per cent in the last 18 months or so, and in that, Australians are seeing rising interest rates – 12 interest rate increases, of course – sharp price increases as inflation continues to stay above target, and it's amongst the most persistent levels of inflation, high inflation in the Western world, and of course, we've seen sharp increases in taxes being paid: 23 per cent increase in personal income taxes being paid since Labor came to power.

Now, alongside that, we are seeing a confidence recession. Australians are losing confidence and this is showing up in the figures. They're cutting back on any discretionary spending they can, they're realising they're having to increase their savings, because they've lost confidence in the economy, and that's showing up sharply in the figures today – and we're seeing it on the ground. I was out at a charity provider yesterday, and we're seeing demand for financial counselling going up by over 70 per cent, increase for demand for food, for clothing, from people in dire, dire straits, in desperate situations. This is the harsh reality of a recession being experienced by hardworking Australians who simply can't get ahead under this Government.

We need a back to basics economic agenda. That doesn't mean imposing taxes on Australians' most popular cars, like here at Toyota. The HiLux – $14,500 dollars on a typical HiLux that people will pay additional to what they're paid under Labor's tax. We need a simple, back to basics, commonsense economic agenda which recognises that housing supply has to be able to keep up with population growth, and that's not been happening in this country. Which recognises that an additional $209 billion of government spending is not helping us get to that strong, low inflation economy we all need. We're not seeing a policy set in place, we're not seeing a plan from this Government, that's going to restore Australians standard of living. We need a plan to restore Australians' standard of living. That's what Australians expect and that's what Australians deserve.


Thanks very much Gus.

Firstly, I want to say thank you very much to Joe and the team here at New Town Toyota. His is a success that's been three decades in the making, employing 250 people and somebody who started with nothing more than hard work and a desire to create a business, and he's done that for his family and for his community, and it's a great credit Joe, to you, and I want to say thank you very much to all of those we've met with this morning, because this is a really important issue for Australians to understand.

We go to the next election, probably about 12 months away from now, with a very distinct pathway between the two Parties. Under Labor, people will pay $14,500 more for HiLux, under the Liberal Party, they'll pay for $14,500 dollars less for that HiLux than what Labor's proposing.

I don't think at the moment, as Angus pointed out, in an environment where people are feeling already in their own budgets, their own lives, their own small businesses, that things are really tight, that they can afford to go out and buy a new ute as a tradie, to buy a four-wheel drive because you want to go boating on the weekend or camping. People just can't afford in their budgets to find another $14 or $18,000 under Mr Albanese's new ute tax and new family car tax.

If somebody wants to buy an electric vehicle, that's fantastic, that's a great choice, if that's the choice for them. But if somebody wants to go and buy a D-Max, or they want to go and buy a LandCruiser, or BT-50, or a HiLux, or a Ranger, whatever it might be, the Government shouldn't be applying a new tax to those vehicles to make it look more attractive to buy an electric vehicle. In the end, we want choice for consumers, and people will make a choice based on their own needs.

If you're living in a regional area, or if you're living here in Perth and you're driving out to work each day as a tradie, or as a farmer, if you want a heavier vehicle, with a bull bar for example, because you're driving late at night, you're worried about animals on the road, you just need a four-wheel drive because you're going onto a farm or into a work environment where you need a heavier vehicle, you shouldn't be paying an extra $15 or $25,000 for that vehicle, as Mr Albanese is proposing.

I think Mr Bowen again, he was the mastermind of FuelWatch and GroceryWatch, he was Australia's most unsuccessful Immigration Minister – put thousands of kids into detention, people drowned at sea on his watch – the guy's a walking disaster, and here is his latest attempt to try and destroy our country. I just think Australians are starting to wake up to how bad a Government the Albanese Government is.

It's clear at the moment, with the figures that we've seen today, that Australian families just can't afford to live under a Labor Government, and there's worse to come. This is what you've seen from Mr Albanese in less than two years. Imagine what the next two years, or the next four years will hold…

I think it's very clear, from a Coalition perspective, that we do not support a new tax on cars and utes, and for tradies, they go to the next election knowing that if they vote for Labor, they're voting for an increase of $14,500 for the HiLux, or for the Ford Ranger. We also know that some of the vehicles are going to exit the market as a result of Labor's new tax on cars, the choice will be limited for families and for tradies and for business people, and I just don't think that's what people voted for at the last election.

I'm very happy to take any questions.


Is there a better way to support clean fuel emissions? What might be your suggestion?


Again, we're very happy for electric vehicles to be the choice, if that's what people want to choose, but we don't have to tax the HiLux to drive somebody into making a decision to buy an electric vehicle. The electric HiLux doesn't exist. There's no sense pretending that the tourism industry in WA, or across the north of the country, across the centre of the country, with people in caravans, there's not an alternative for those people at the moment to have an electric Nissan Patrol, or an electric Toyota LandCruiser, or Prado. It doesn't exist and the range is not there. I hope it comes and I'm sure it will, but it's not there yet.

So, we're very focused on reducing emissions, making sure that cars are fuel efficient, but we're not into great big new taxes, which are just about winning votes in Sydney and Melbourne, in inner city seats from the Greens because the Labor Party is worried about the rise of the Greens. People in WA shouldn't be whacked with a new tax because Anthony Albanese wants to win votes in inner city Sydney and Melbourne.


There are major coal fired power plants due to exit the system on the east coast by the end the decade. You're talking about nuclear power. Can nuclear be built quick enough to replace those coal fired plants? And if not, how soon will the nuclear be a viable option?


Yeah, well it's a good question. So, I mean let's look at the situation at the moment. Every analyst is talking about a disruption to energy supply – that means brownouts and blackouts under Mr Albanese's 100 per cent renewable policy. It means that they're trying to turn the old system off before the new system is ready, and if you do that, not only will you have that disruption to supply, you'll have an increase in prices. Families already under this Government haven't received a $275 reduction in their electricity bills, they've had a near 30 per cent increase in their electricity bills, gas is up by almost a third and it's just the start.

The point is that under Mr Albanese's energy policy, the prices have gone up already for your electricity bill, but they're going to go up much more and there's a likelihood of disruption, which means that for a lot of manufacturing businesses, they're just going to say, 'I'm going offshore, because it'll be cheaper to manufacture there and we'll just re-import the product to Australia'. Which is madness because we lose the jobs, we lose the economic productivity, and we lose the taxes that ultimately pay for our schools and our roads and police and the rest of the social services.

Our plan is to make sure that we have a firm basis of energy. That means that we want renewables in the system, but we have to firm them up when the solar panels aren’t working of a night time, when the wind turbines aren't blowing. We need to have a baseload of energy, which in 19 of 20 G20 countries is nuclear, or is about to be nuclear. Australia is the only country that hasn't looked at this latest technology nuclear, to firm up renewables in the system. In Ontario, people there, like people here in Perth – same families composition, same small business people – in Ontario, that family is paying half of what the family is paying here in Perth for their electricity because of nuclear power. Why wouldn't we consider it as a country? In the United States, there are companies who are leaving Australia now who are manufacturing to move to the United States, they're paying one third the electricity costs that they are here.

Like on the Voice, the Prime Minister says, 'well, there's nothing to see here', 'we're not going to have a debate about it', 'we won't give people the detail', 'we're just ruling it out'. I think Australians have seen through that, and I think it's incumbent upon the Prime Minister to start having an adult discussion in relation to what is one of the most important issues for our country to deal with.


Just on timings, [inaudible] are there any locations in Western Australia or across the Western seaboard [inaudible]?


Well, we'll talk more about some of the detail, including locations, as well as what we think could happen in terms of price and timelines, in due course.

I think the point that we're making at the moment is that Australians are paying through the nose for their electricity and gas bills, and they're going to pay more and more under Mr Albanese, and we have an increasing likelihood of disruption to power supply. That's devastating, not just for families, but for the local IGA, or the local butcher, or the local fruit shop because their cold rooms have to run 24/7.

I don't want to see families who are struggling at the moment pay even more for their bills, I want them to pay less. I want us to be able to firm up renewables in the system, and we can do that through the latest generation of nuclear technology.

We've said in relation to the locations, that we're only interested in looking at sites where there is an existing brownfield site that has an end of life coal fired generator asset. The beauty of that is that you can distribute the energy, the electricity, through the poles and wires that are already connected up to that site.

The alternative that Mr Bowen and Mr Albanese are proposing is that there is 28,000km of new poles and wires that have to be rolled out for their policy to work. Now, to put that into perspective, you're talking about a $1.2 to $1.5 trillion bill, and the Government's not going to absorb that. It's going to be passed on to consumers. So it's a massively important issue for our country to discuss.

If you look at what's happening in the United Kingdom at the moment, the Labor Party there is saying to the Tories, to the Liberal Party there, you've got to get more baseload energy, you've got to get more nuclear into the system, not less. That's the reality of other markets where you can have a mature conversation, but we've got a Prime Minister who's too weak to have the discussion and too weak to stand up for what's in our national interest.


Ian Goodenough used parliamentary privilege to criticise members of his own local branches. Is that an appropriate use of Parliament's time and will you be asking him to stand aside from the Liberal Party?


Well, I'll just say that Ian Goodenough a) is a very good and dear friend, he's served his community loyally, as he has done the Liberal Party, and I think Ian's been in the Parliament long enough to see the examples of people who do the wrong thing by the Party and tarnish their reputation. Ian's not that person. He's given us a commitment that he'll be with the Liberal Party. There's no question about that.

We've got a lot of seats to win in WA, and we must, because I want to see Western Australia thrive. I want to see the economy here expand, I want to see businesses employ more people and create more economic activity. That's what Ian's signed up to as well.


What sort of share of the energy market would you see coming from renewables long term, under your nuclear plans?


Well again, we've been doing a lot of work on this policy over the course of the last 12, 18 months. We'll release more of that detail in time, but it's clear now that the next election's not just about the difference in prices of cars.

So, if you vote for Labor next election, you're paying $14,500 more for a HiLux than you will if you vote for the Coalition. If you vote for the Labor Party at the next election, you'll end up with a guarantee of higher electricity bills. Under a Coalition government, over the long term, we believe that we can reduce energy prices and guarantee supply, and if we disrupt supply, then that is devastating for families and for businesses as well.


The Greens have released the housing policy to take to the next election. Would you be willing to support any element of the Greens housing policy and will you be releasing your own housing policy?


No, no, we won't. We don't take economic advice from the Greens because they're economically illiterate and they are the Party of choice for the Labor Party.

Don't forget that the Labor Party at the moment, is driving up the price of utes and family cars with their great big new tax, because they want to win votes off the Greens in Sydney and in Melbourne in the inner-city suburbs.

We're not going to sell our country out. I'm not going to sell out Western Australia the way that Anthony Albanese is, by applying a massive tax to cars and utes that will destroy businesses. Look, what's going to happen, the tradie here in Perth who's coming down to buy a new vehicle, he might have expanded his business, he and his wife have worked hard to employ now another two staff, so they want to come down and buy three utes; they're going to pay an extra $52,000 under the Albanese Government. They can't afford to absorb that cost. So, when you call for the plumber, or when you get the electrician around, or you want an extension priced, or you're buying a new home, that cost is going to be passed on to you.

As Angus pointed out before, there's $209 billion worth of extra spending under this Government in just 18 months. That's why inflation is higher here than in most comparable countries, and that's why you're paying more for your interest rates, and therefore more for your mortgage.

It wasn't too far from here, at Optus Stadium, where Anthony Albanese as the Opposition Leader, promised that your mortgages would come down. The Reserve Bank's met on 19 occasions, interest rates have gone up on 12 occasions, and on seven occasions they’ve left them where they are.

The Greens and the Labor Party are blood brothers, but they're hopeless at managing the economy. If you want to pay more for cars and utes and you want to pay more for electricity, vote for Anthony Albanese, but I don't think your family can afford another three years of Anthony Albanese.


Just on nuclear energy. The lack of evidence for small modular nuclear reactors being commercially viable – does that mean that your Party's going to look at making, kind of, larger nuclear plants a centerpiece for your nuclear policy?


I think again, the most sensible economic approach here, as Bill Gates has pointed out, is to maximise the yield per square metre of impact on the environment of energy. So, if you can achieve closing down that coal fired asset, bring an end of life to that asset, and you can replace it with a new technology that's zero emissions, that has the ability to firm up renewables and to reduce prices for households and for small businesses – why wouldn't you contemplate that?


So, bigger plants could maybe play an important role than those smaller modular [inaudible].


No, the point is that we'll have a look at each of the sites, which we've done and we'll provide that advice in due course. But there are different solutions depending on the capacity that you need at those individual sites, and this is my point about having the most efficient use of that square metrerage, or that hectare of land. Making sure that you can get the maximum yield of energy, so that we could have a less environmental impact and there's less economic damage.

As we're seeing at the moment, the 28,000km of poles and wires that the Prime Minister's proposing, they go through prime farming land, they go through national parks. Under our plan, there's none of that because you've got an existing distribution network already. It not only saves $1 trillion, which ultimately is going to be paid for by taxpayers under Mr Albanese's plan, but it means that you don't have that environmental impact.


Did the Reserve Bank go too far with it's interest rate hikes?


I think the Reserve Bank has to respond to the economic dynamic created by the Government. At the moment, we know that the Government has been responsible for an environment that's inflationary. So, core inflation here is higher than it is in most other comparable nations. Let's be very clear about this. That's why the Reserve Bank Governor says that the issue of inflation is a problem that's 'home grown'. When she says that she means, 'well, this is a Government that has pumped an extra $209 billion into the economy, and that has forced up prices'.

As Angus pointed out before, 670,000 people you're bringing into an economy in a 12 month period. If you can't rent a house at the moment, if you know that your mortgage repayments have gone up by $24,000 after tax with this Government, you know it's because they've had the biggest migration intake in our country's history, and the Reserve Bank can only respond to the settings that the Government puts in place.

I don't think Mr Albanese has a clue when it comes to the economy or what he's doing. I don't think he's got the ticker, I don't think he's got the strength to lead our economy and to make the tough decisions to keep Australian's safe, and that's it.


Just on your last trip to Perth for Gina Rinehart's birthday – did you use any taxpayer resources on that trip? Any staffers? Any Comcars or security detail with you on that trip?


Well, my security detail operates exactly the same as the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. So, that's all well established...


Do you think it's appropriate using taxpayer resources to attend a [inaudible]?


I was very proud to be at Gina Rinehart's 70th birthday. I consider her to be a dear friend, a great Australian and Australia's most successful businesswoman. And if people in the Labor Party want to trash Gina Rinehart, as Australia's most successful businesswoman, let them instead of making background comments, come out and say that. I think the fact that Gina, through her companies employs literally thousands of people here in WA, provides billions of dollars through tax payments and receipts to the Australian economy; if people want to speak negatively about her, then that's an issue for them. I actually celebrate the fact that we have an incredibly successful businesswoman in our country. She's a friend of mine. I was happy to go there at my own expense to her birthday, and I don't resile from it at all. I think it's important that we celebrate, as we've done with Joe today, employing 250 people, a small business owner who started with nothing and now has an investment that he's just made of $25 million into this site. There are tradies...


It doesn't sound like it was just at your expense. There were taxpayer funded resources [inaudible].


The airfares were at my expense, there was no accommodation. I flew back on the redeye so that I could be back into Melbourne at 4.30 the next morning. So that's how it works.


Have you seen the video of the three Indigenous kids detained by a home owner in Broome?


I haven't seen it.


Is the Government partly responsible for the disparity in regional Indigenous relations?


Well, I think there's a very strong argument that when the Prime Minister put forward the Voice at a cost of $450 million, that divided the country, there was an expectation that this Government and Minister Burney would be doing something to improve the situation in Indigenous communities. Instead, they trashed the cashless debit card, which has seen a rise in assaults, domestic violence, violence against children, violence against women, and public drunkenness. That's the reality.

Now, you speak to the local mayors, they're very concerned about what's happening in their communities, people who are victims of crime, are very concerned, rightly, about, some of the decisions that have been made at a state level, but also a federal level as well.

I think the Prime Minister's all about what can win him votes in inner-city Sydney and Melbourne. He's got no regard for what happens in the regions. No affinity with people who live in regional areas. He doesn't understand Western Australia, which is evidenced by the fact that he's now proposing a great big new tax on cars and utes. And I think Australians are starting to understand that life under Mr Albanese is not easy, and it's going to get harder over the next three years if the Labor Government's re-elected.

Alright. Thank you very much.