Peter Dutton MP – referencing an increase in anti-Semitic attacks in relating to keeping the nation safe and secure

May 16, 2024

And, since Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack on Israel, there has been a 700 per cent increase in antisemitic incidents on our soil.

Mr DUTTON (DicksonLeader of the Opposition) (19:31): Tonight I want to outline part of my vision for Australia to get our country back on track, to keep our nation safe and secure, to make life easier and better for all Australians, because this Labor government has made life so much tougher for Australians, because this Labor government has set our country on a very dangerous course.

Almost two years ago Prime Minister Albanese was elected, promising a reduction of $275 each year in your power prices, cheaper mortgages and that you would be better off under a Labor government. All of those promises have been broken. This government has been focused on the wrong priorities, starting with the Prime Minister’s Voice referendum. Not only did it waste $450 million, which could have helped families with the cost-of-living pressures that you’re now facing, but the referendum also divided our nation. And let’s not forget that the Prime Minister called no-voters Chicken Littles and doomsayers.

Today millions of Australians are struggling to pay their bills. Even going to the supermarket and petrol station has become stressful for so many. Prime Minister, Australians are genuinely hurting under your government, and they’re not Chicken Littles. Electricity bills haven’t gone down by $275 as was pledged on 97 occasions; they’ve skyrocketed. The Treasurer will give you a $300 rebate, but he knows full well that your annual electricity bills have increased, in some cases by up to $1,000, since Labor formed government. Interest rates have gone up on 12 occasions under Labor, and a typical Australian household with a mortgage is $35,000 worse off—and that’s if you’re lucky enough to own a home. Under this Prime Minister, the great Australian dream of homeownership has turned into a nightmare. Even finding somewhere to rent is near impossible.

The government has brought in an additional 923,000 migrants in just two years. On the available data, the government has only contributed 265,000 new homes and units to accommodate those people. Then, of course, there’s Labor’s tax on the family car and ute. You’re having to fork out literally thousands of dollars simply for choosing some of Australia’s most popular vehicles—like the Toyota RAV4, including the hybrid, or the Ford Ranger—all because the government is trying to force you into buying an electric vehicle. If you want to buy an electric vehicle, that is your choice. But, if you choose to buy a vehicle that is a hybrid or a diesel, that is your choice, and it should be restored.

All of this has happened in a very short period of time, in just two years. Paul Keating famously said that when governments change the country changes. Prime Minister Albanese and his government have changed our country, but, as so many Australians can attest to, not for the better. You, your family, your children and our country can’t afford another three years of this government.

I know how to make decisions to get our country back on track. Tonight, I will remind Australians of the coalition’s economic plan to lower your cost of living and restore confidence to our economy. I will also outline several policies which Australians can expect from a coalition government under my leadership—policies to get power bills down and to shore up our nation’s future energy security; policies to help alleviate our housing crisis and revive the great Australian dream of homeownership; policies to improve workforce participation and health services; and policies to make our communities, our society and our country better and safer.

But, first, I’ll respond to the Treasurer’s budget from Tuesday night. As I’ve said previously, we’re an opposition which supports good policy and stands against bad policy. Since Labor formed government, we’ve backed more than 180 bills which have passed this parliament. But we’ve opposed some bills where Labor and the Greens have collaborated to pass legislation which is not in our country’s best interests. Just as we endorsed some sensible measures in Labor’s first two budgets, we do the same for its third budget—in particular, the $3.4 billion for medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the extension of emergency payments to support women and children fleeing domestic violence, which the coalition first established in 2021.

In my 22 years in parliament, I have seen good and bad budgets. But the budget handed down on Tuesday night is one of the most irresponsible I’ve seen. Inflation is a huge problem for Australia. On comparative inflation, Australia is worse than the US, Singapore, Germany, Spain, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, South Korea, Canada, France and the entire Euro area. The reason interest rates have gone up 12 times is that the government can’t control its spending and its reckless energy policy. In three Labor budgets, the government has lifted spending by a staggering $315 billion, or $30,000 per Australian household. The Reserve Bank governor has sounded the alarm on inflation being homegrown, and she’s exactly right. In the last 48 hours, every credible economist has issued scathing assessments of this budget because Labor has us in an inflationary hole and is still digging. Make no mistake; any further interest rate increases that fuel inflation now will continue also to rest squarely on the shoulders of this Prime Minister and Treasurer. Magic-pudding spending and $13.7 billion on corporate welfare for billionaires doesn’t help the economy or make your life easier.

Let’s also be clear about Labor’s $300 energy rebate, which will cost the economy $3.5 billion. We will support this relief because we know Australians are hurting. But the government is treating the symptom, not the disease. Labor’s ‘renewables only’ policy is the reason your power bills continue to skyrocket. Here are some facts which show the troubling state of our economy: more than 16,000 businesses around the country have gone insolvent since 1 July 2022. Behind each of those is a family who may have lost their home and certainly have lost their savings. Productivity has plunged by 5.4 per cent on this government’s watch, and household buying power has gone down by 7.5 per cent, which you feel every time you go to the supermarket. Last year, Australians suffered the biggest increase in average tax rates of any citizens in the developed world. There have been double-digit increases for your essentials, like electricity, gas, milk, bread and rent. Tragically, so many more Australians are living in cars and tents. Because of spending in this budget, the economic outlook is one of deficits as far as the eye can see.

To alleviate cost-of-living pressures, we need to get inflation down. To get our economy back on track, we need a back-to-basics economic plan, and that’s what a coalition government will deliver. First, we will reign in inflationary spending to take the pressure off inflation. As a start, we will not spend $13.7 billion on corporate welfare for green hydrogen and critical minerals. These projects should stand up on their own without the need for taxpayers’ money if they’re worth the investment. Second, we will wind back Labor’s intervention and remove regulatory roadblocks which are suffocating the economy and stopping businesses from getting ahead. For example, we will not force large firms to spend more than $1 billion a year policing the emissions of every small business they deal with, as Labor is trying to do. We will condense approval processes and cut back on Labor’s red tape which is killing mining, jobs and entrepreneurialism. Only yesterday Santos indicated it will have to let 200 employees go because of slow project approvals.

I want mining to boom in Western Australia, and around the nation. More mining means more revenue. More revenue means more roads and less congestion, more schools, and more hospitals. A turbocharged Western Australian economy means more national prosperity. And we don’t need to give out billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to get mining projects started.

Third, we will remove the complexity and hostility of Labor’s industrial agenda, which is putting unreasonable burdens on businesses. For example, we’ll revert to the former coalition government’s simple definition of a casual worker and create certainty for our 2.5 million small businesses.

Fourth, we will provide lower, simpler and fairer taxes for all, because Australians should keep more of what they earn—and you’ll hear more about our tax plan ahead of the election.

Fifth, we’ll deliver competition policy which gives consumers and small businesses a fair go—not lobbyists and big corporations.

And sixth, we will ensure that Australians have more affordable and reliable energy.

Our economic plan, with its tried and tested principles, will restore competitiveness and rebuild economic confidence. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. I’ve run a small business, as many of my colleagues have, unlike most Labor parliamentarians. The coalition understands small businesses.

Tonight I announce that we’ll extend the value of assets eligible for the instant asset write-off to $30,000 and make this ongoing for small businesses. This will simplify depreciation for millions of small businesses by cutting red tape, boosting investment in productive assets, lowering business costs and prices, and driving productivity in the economy.

A respected senior journalist recently wrote that energy is not a part of the economy; it is the economy. The government’s renewables-only policy continues to drive up power prices. Electricity and gas prices have gone up by 18 and 25 per cent, respectively, under this government. You can see this rise in your household power bills. But the energy bills of farmers, of businesses and of manufacturers have also skyrocketed. That means the cost to make anything from food to furniture has also gone up. That’s why you’re paying more at the supermarket and at the shops.

If energy is not affordable or reliable, more manufacturers will simply shut up shop. They’ll move offshore. We’ll lose the jobs and the economic productivity. And we’ll just re-import the products at a higher price. That’s Labor’s formula at the moment.

That’s why there’s been a threefold increase in the number of manufacturers who have closed their doors over the last two years. And for all of the government’s talk about a future made in Australia, their current approach has no chance if energy isn’t cheap and consistent and comparable to other competitive nations. Renewables have a role to play in our energy system; of course they do. But we cannot rely on weather-dependent energy alone. We need power 24/7, especially for our hospitals and for our factories and freezers that need to operate around the clock.

Concerningly, the government’s renewables-only policy will see 90 per cent of that 24/7 power switched off over the next decade. So it’s a fair question to ask, How are things progressing for the government’s plan for five gigawatts of renewables per year? Well, last year 1.3 gigawatts were committed, almost 75 per cent off target—another Chris Bowen special.

Rewiring our country will cost at least $1.3 trillion. Who will bear that cost? It will be you and your family, it will be farmers, it will be manufacturers and it will be other businesses. So if you think you’re paying higher prices for power today, they will only get much higher under a renewables-only rollout under this government.

Our nation has three energy goals: cheaper power, consistent power and cleaner power. We won’t achieve these goals under Labor’s renewables-only policy. But we can achieve all three, and we can do that by showing the leadership and following the top 20 economies of the world which are using zero-emission nuclear power or are taking steps to put it into the mix. Australia is the only one of the top 20 economies in the world not to do so. By ramping up domestic gas production for affordable and reliable energy in the more immediate term, we can help keep the lights on and push power prices down.

After two years of interventions into the gas market, skyrocketing prices and repeated warnings of shortfalls, Labor’s new gas strategy is just words on paper. There’s little chance of Labor bringing new gas supply into the system, because it’s ideologically opposed to gas and it’s more worried about winning votes from the Greens in inner-city seats than it is worried about people living in suburbs or in regional towns around the country.

Unlike Labor, a coalition government will speed up approvals to unlock gas in key basins like the Beetaloo; defund the Environmental Defenders Office, which is halting vital projects through lawfare; ensure gas is delivered to where it’s needed by reinstating the National Gas Infrastructure Plan; and commit to an annual release of offshore acreage for exploration and development in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

On nuclear power, some 50 countries are exploring or investing into zero-emission, next-generation technologies for the very first time. We hold the largest deposits of uranium on the planet. You have to ask yourself the question: do the Prime Minister and Minister Chris Bowen have it right, and does the rest of the developed world just not know what they’re talking about? I mean, ask yourself that question. Would you side with Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen or the rest of the developed world? It’s a fair question, and I think most Australians know the answer to it.

The government have ordered nuclear powered submarines, so it raises a reasonable question: why is the technology safe for our submariners but unsafe for our citizens? Because of nuclear power, residents in Ontario, Canada pay up to a quarter of the cost of what some Australians pay for electricity. With nuclear power, we can maximise the highest yield of energy per square metre and minimise our environmental damage. We do that by putting new nuclear technologies on or near the brownfield sites of decommissioned or retiring coal-fired power plants using the existing grid. There’s no need for all of the proposed 58 million solar panels, almost 3,500 wind farms and 28,000 kilometres of new transmission poles and wires.

Bob Hawke was a strong Labor leader who strongly supported nuclear power, as does John Howard, along with the Australian Workers Union and many others who have a vision for the future of our country, including some 65 per cent of Australians aged 18 to 34 years of age. Making Australia a nuclear powered nation is right for our country and will secure a future of cheaper, consistent and cleaner electricity. We need the right policy for you and for our nation.

Beyond Labor’s energy crisis, we’re also facing a Labor created housing crisis. The great Australian aspiration of homeownership has become out of reach for so many. Now, it’s wonderful that parents, in some circumstances with financial means, can help their kids into a home, but I will never accept a situation where the only people who can afford to buy a home in our country are those with the support of their parents. The coalition is already committed—and tonight we recommit—to allowing Australians to access up to $50,000 of their super to buy their first home and extended this policy to separated women to help restart their lives. The money initially withdrawn from super will need to be returned when the house is sold, to support retirement, and in most cases it will be with an uplift that will see retirement even more secure.

But there’s more that we need to do. For almost 20 years I’ve chaired my local Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal. Two weeks ago, at our annual fundraising breakfast, I heard a heartbreaking account of a man in his 70s having to live in his car. It is such a soul-destroying experience. It’s sad, but it is not an uncommon story, and it’s one that I’ve heard at Foodbank and at many places around our great country.

Australians are struggling to find homes to rent and buy, and it’s not always due to a lack of money. Amidst this housing crisis, Labor is bringing in 1.67 million migrants over five years—more than the population of Adelaide in five years. We celebrate the contributions of migrants over many decades. We’re a great country because of what they have helped to build, and the great Australian achievement of modern Australia is something that we celebrate every day. But by getting the migration policy settings right, the coalition can free up more houses for Australians. The Prime Minister has promised to build 1.2 million homes by 2029 but, on the government’s current trajectory, they will fall short by 400,000 homes or 33 per cent. The Prime Minister is making the housing crisis much worse, and Australians need homes now. We are at an 11-year low of building approvals. To help Australians into homes, we need to make sure we prioritise them for existing homes, the homes that have already been built.

The other impact Australians are feeling from the Albanese government’s poor management of the migration program is congestion on our roads and pressure on our existing services, which are stretched, like trying to get to see a GP. Tonight I announce several measures a coalition government will implement to meet our housing crisis head-on by alleviating pressure on the housing market. We believe that, by rebalancing the Migration Program and taking decisive action on the housing crisis, the coalition can free up almost 40,000 additional homes in the first year and well over 100,000 homes in the first five years.

First, we will implement a two-year ban on foreign investors and temporary residents purchasing existing homes in Australia. Secondly, we will reduce the permanent Migration Program by 25 per cent from 185,000 to 140,000 for the first two years in recognition of the urgency of the crisis. The program will increase to 150,000 in year 3 and 160,000 in year 4. We will ensure there are enough skilled and temporary skilled visas for those with building and construction skills to support our local tradies to build the homes and units that we need across the country.

Similarly, we will return the refugee and humanitarian program planning to 13,750, closer to the long-term average. The humanitarian program will remain one of the most generous in the world on a per capita basis. Third, we will reduce excessive numbers of foreign students studying at metropolitan universities to relieve stress on rental markets in our major cities. We will work with universities to put in place a cap on foreign students and we will enhance the integrity of the student visa program by introducing a tiered approach to increasing the student visa application fee and applying it to foreign students who change providers. The usual CEOs and some of the big businesses may not like this approach, but my priority is to restore the great Australian homeownership dream.

While reducing migration numbers to ease pressure on housing, the coalition government will encourage thousands of people to engage more in the labour market. We recommit to increasing the amount that older Australians and veterans can work without reducing pension payments if they choose to do so, if it is right for them. We will double the existing work bonus from $300 per fortnight to $600. It is estimated this will benefit over 80,000 pensioners and veterans who choose to work. We will look to further expand the work bonus arrangements beyond this commitment, in consultation with older Australians and veterans and in consideration of labour market conditions prevailing at the time. Pensioners will continue to accrue unused work bonus amounts up to a maximum of $11,800, which can exempt future earnings from the pension income test. We will also lift the number of hours student visa holders can work by 12 hours a fortnight.

Amidst our cost-of-living crisis created by Labor, people’s health and wellbeing are suffering. That is why we are committed to restoring the number of Medicare subsidised psychological sessions from 10 to 20 on a permanent basis. As health minister I increased hospital funding year on year. I also established the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, which, to this day, provides billions of dollars to medical research projects. Indeed, when I became health minister in 2013, we inherited a bulk-billing rate from Labor of 73 per cent and increased it to 84 per cent. When we left government, bulk billing was 88.5 per cent. What Labor tried to hide in its budget and a figure that wasn’t mentioned by the Treasurer is that bulk billing has decreased under Labor to 77 per cent, an 11 per cent drop. Always look at what Labor does, not what they say they will do. The health of all Australians, particularly given our ageing society, is always a priority for the coalition. Last year, I committed to an investment in best practice for women’s health issues, including endometriosis. Tonight I welcome the government’s commitment of $50 million in this budget for longer consultations for endometriosis and pelvic pain. The coalition will continue to support measures for women’s health, particularly in primary care settings. More needs to be done to support women’s health, including for menopause and perimenopause. We will continue to develop and support good policy to this end. We will work with the RACGP, AMA and other stakeholders who want to see more support for women in our community.

Concerningly, Australia is facing a looming shortage of GPs—some 11,000 by 2031. We need more GPs, especially in our suburbs and in our regional areas. Junior doctors who enter general practice earn about three-quarters of the salary of their counterparts in hospitals. Working with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Medical Association, a coalition government will invest $400 million to provide junior doctors who train in general practice with incentive payments, assistance with leave entitlements, and support for prevocational training. We’ll also make sure that we support better outcomes for Indigenous Australians through the health system. Led by Senators Liddle and Nampijinpa Price, we will provide practical solutions to improve education, health and safety outcomes for Indigenous women and children, especially in our most disadvantaged remote communities.

In recent times, under this government, our nation has been rocked by many shocking and tragic events. The stabbings at Bondi were truly horrific, where six people were murdered. There have been knife attacks on a bishop in Western Sydney and a man in Perth by radicalised youth—incidents reinforcing the enduring threat of extreme Islamism. There have been 28 women killed in violent circumstances this year alone. More than 150 hardcore criminals, including murderers and sex offenders, were released from immigration detention into the community by the Albanese government, with some already having reoffended. And, since Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack on Israel, there has been a 700 per cent increase in antisemitic incidents on our soil.

Australians are unsettled by crime on our streets, ruptures to our social cohesion and threats to our national security. A coalition government will provide much-needed leadership in tackling knife crime. We will work with states and territories to develop uniform knife laws across all jurisdictions, laws which will give police the powers to stop and search using detector wands, like Queensland’s ‘Jack’s law’, and laws which will limit and restrict the sale and possession of knives to minors and dangerous individuals.

As a former police officer, the horrific scenes of beaten women and distraught children I encountered stay with me to this day, as do the memories of taking women who were shaking with fear to shelters and safe homes and helping them relocate with their children to safety. It’s why I’ve dedicated much of my career to protecting women and children. It’s why, as home affairs minister, I established the $70 million Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation and recommit to doubling its size.

Recently, Molly Ticehurst, a 28-year-old mother from New South Wales, was murdered because her violent ex-partner was on bail. Our bail laws need to be tightened in this country, and, under a coalition government that I lead, they will be tightened. Offences relating to partner and family violence generally fall under state and territory legislation, but there is also a role for the Commonwealth to play. A coalition government will make it an offence to use mobile phones and computer networks to cause an intimate partner or family member fear for their personal safety, to track them using spyware or to engage in coercive behaviours. We will toughen the bail laws that apply to these new Commonwealth offences.

I’ve been a minister for immigration and home affairs. They are demanding but rewarding jobs. I granted thousands of visas to sick children, to parents with medical conditions, to victims of sexual assault and to refugees who have gone on to become wonderful Australians. The public rarely hears about that side of the job. But, in those roles, you also need to make tough decisions. I cancelled more than 6,300 visas of dangerous non-citizen criminals, with a priority on those committing sexual offences against women and children, driven by my desire to make sure that they don’t harm any further Australians. If a minister doesn’t have the backbone to do that, they’re letting our country and our citizens down. I made our country and our citizens safer, and, as Prime Minister, I will do it again.

It will take a coalition government, once again, to stop the people smugglers and to deport criminals. It will also take a coalition government to turn the tide of antisemitism afflicting our country. Antisemitism is not just a threat to one segment of our community; it’s a threat to our social cohesion and to our democratic values. Some of the most strident antisemitic standard-bearers have come from our university campuses. We will also provide the moral and political leadership which makes it abundantly clear that we expect the law to be enforced readily, not reluctantly, against those inciting hatred and violence.

Tackling crime in our community also means doing the same online. There’s been an uptick in young Australians committing crimes where they’re filming and uploading their crimes to social media. A coalition government will make it an offence to post criminal acts online. Those convicted will be banned from using digital platforms and liable for up to two years of imprisonment. As a father of three children who all grew up in the digital age, I’m troubled by the material our children are exposed to. That’s why I announced in my budget reply last year that a coalition government will ban gambling advertising during the broadcasting of sporting games. However, I’m more worried by the criminal dark underbelly of the internet. At the fingertips of our children is a concerning volume of sexually explicit and violent material, as well as content designed to indoctrinate. We welcome the government’s belated decision to back our policy for an age verification trial. But unlike Labor, a coalition government will include social platforms like Instagram and TikTok in such a trial.

Authoritarian regimes like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are emboldened. They’re expanding their militaries, conducting cyberattacks and engaging in foreign interference. The Prime Minister and his deputy rightly say that we’re living in the most precarious period since the Second World War, a view echoed by our intelligence agencies and allies. Strenuous efforts are needed to maintain peace and to deter acts of aggression like those recently aimed at our Navy and Air Force. If the 1930s taught us nothing else, it was that appeasement and weakness of leadership do not end well. In this critical period of risk, I will offer our country strong leadership backed by a significant investment into the defence forces. Labor’s priorities are clearly wrong and, frankly, dangerous.

The government has announced an additional 36,000 public servants in this budget, costing Australian taxpayers $24 billion over four years. The coalition sees areas like defence as much more of a priority than office staff in Canberra given the precarious times in which we live and the threats in our region. We will re-prioritise Canberra-centric funding and make an additional investment into defence to rapidly enhance the capability of our men and women in uniform. We’re working with leaders in defence industry to identify projects and investments that can be made in Australia to keep us safe in an uncertain world.

I want to say to every Australian tonight that my vision is to get our country back on track, to make your life easier and to make us safe and secure again. The job of the Prime Minister is to be strong, not weak; to be fair and firm; to be compassionate and definite; and to unite, not divide, especially through referendums. As each day passes, this government increasingly shows how disconnected it is from the views, the values and the vision of everyday Australians. Labor has forgotten the main principle of governing. It isn’t the people who serve the will of government; it is the government who serves the will of the people.

I came to this parliament having served my community as a police officer and as a successful small business owner, employing 40 people. I’ve had the honour of serving Australians on the frontbench since 2004 in many portfolios under four prime ministers. My team and I have the experience to get our country back on track and to support everyday Australians. We live in the greatest country in the world, but at the moment Australia and Australians are being held back. Australians are being left behind, and they feel it. They’re being left behind by this weak Labor government who has the wrong priorities. Our country deserves so much more.

Ask yourself this question: are you better off today than you were two years ago?

Opposition members: No.

Mr DUTTON: Do you feel safer or more secure than you did two years ago?

Opposition members: No.

Mr DUTTON: When governments change, the country changes. Australians can’t afford another three years of the Albanese Labor government. The next election will be a time for change—a change for the better for you, for your family and for our country.

Debate adjourned.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard