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Saturday, 18 March 2017
Transcript

Doorstop Interview, Cairns

Subjects: CEOs letter on same sex marriage; One Nation.

E&EO…………………………………………………………………………………………..

PETER DUTTON:

I'm pleased to be here in Cairns today to support the LNP and to support in particular Tim Nicholls and Deb Frecklington who I think are a great team and who will make a great leadership team at the time of the next state election.

I wanted to just make some further comment in relation to some of the reporting over the last couple of days of the CEO open letter to the Prime Minister.

I want to make it very clear that in Australia we all deserve to participate in debates regardless of the issue in a way that is sensible that is free of coercion or bullying and I want to make sure that it is done in a way that is respectful.

It doesn't matter whether the issue is same sex marriage or whether it is some other important issue.

The fact is that people who are elected to Parliament or people who are individuals expressing their view in that capacity have the right to contribute to those debates.

Companies who are publicly listed, who are using shareholders' money to push a particular point of view or to use an iconic brand or a multi-billion dollar business to push a particular view in these debates is unacceptable.

It's equally unacceptable for organisations like GetUp! who are affiliated very closely with the Greens and the Labor Party and the CMFEU, it is unacceptable for those organisations to bully companies into particular positions or indeed into submission.

We cannot accept this politically correct notion that somehow it is okay for online bullying and for online extortion of companies, blackmailing them into submission and not allowing them to partake in a debate or not because they face the threat of having their product boycotted.

I mean this is Australia and we value freedom of speech, we value the ability of people to contribute to debates, but we don't want multi-billion dollar companies with all of their resources buying into, in particular, social debates and that's my call.

Certainly, very clearly, I think for people to hear the message that the party went to the election with a policy, the Prime Minister has been very clear in relation to this issue and the policy will stand and we aren't going to be bullied into action or non-action by CEOs or anyone else.

We want to have a civil debate on any of these issues and it is unacceptable that people would use companies and shareholders' money in publicly listed companies to try and throw their weight around in these debates.

JOURNALIST:  

Minister, I just wanted to be clear is it your position that companies should have no ability to voice their views in a debate, because then you've just said you're worried that companies are getting bullied into  being able to take part or not take part from organisations such as GetUp!, So would prefer that there be no involvement from the corporate sector?

PETER DUTTON:

I'd prefer for the companies, publicly listed companies to stick to their knitting and that is delivering the services for their customers and providing a return to their shareholders.

I spoke about Telstra during the week, I've spoken about Qantas today – great Australian companies, led by good men, led by good boards and they are publicly listed companies presiding over shareholders capital, they're responsibility is to deliver a return on that capital and to deliver services to Australians.

And Telstra, for example, has a lot of work to do to continue to live up to community expectations and service standards and if they've got money left over at the end of the quarter, they should be putting that money back into the hands of shareholders, back into their business or support the philanthropic causes that they support now.

There are lots of philanthropic support that companies across the country apply to our medical research institutes, sporting organisations and the rest. That is legitimate exercise of their resources, but it is not legitimate for those companies, their CEOs, to be putting a particular position under the banner of the listed company.

Mr Joyce and others, Mr Joyce is an exceptional CEO, he's a good person, I know him personally and I have no gripe against him, but if he has a particular view on any issue it should be expressed as an individual and it's at the same time that these companies aren't out there arguing for tax reform or arguing for flexibility in industrial relations or the rest and the difficulty is that you have got companies that are being pushed one way or the other by organisations like GetUp! and that is unacceptable. It is coercion and a bullying and it's unacceptable.

JOURNALIST:

What's the difference between in say these CEOs putting their name in an open letter in support of marriage equality and say a minerals council putting in newspaper ads against the mining tax, why is one oaky and the other not?

PETER DUTTON:

Because that's their core business. Their core business is to deal with the business model that they preside over, the interests or their shareholders and their customers that's their interest.

This is wading into a space that has nothing to do with these companies and as I say Mr Joyce works hard, he presides over a great company and if he wants to spend his hard earned money in whatever way he sees fit that is completely and entirely acceptable obviously and I'd welcome people from both sides of any debate to contribute in a fair way.

I think it's unfair to use the brand of a publicly listed company, and indeed in some cases, the resources provided to that company by shareholders for these issues which are completely outside the domain of these companies.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]……reflecting the view of their customers though customer feedback etc?

PETER DUTTON:

Customers that fly on Qantas each day would have views, they'd be ambivalent about this issue, there'd be people strongly in favour, there'd be people strongly against, that's the reality. Their company is designed to provide services, not to provide public political debate and I think that's the lesson out of these things.

JOURNALIST:

But this letter has said explicitly we are supporting this because it is core business, it's good for our business, we want to attract good people, why are you saying, you're refuting that claim?

PETER DUTTON:

I mean what is the evidence of that.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any evidence that shareholders or passengers have chosen a different airline because of this?

PETER DUTTON:

No, I don't think they should. Qantas is a great Australian company, Telstra is a great Australian company, my point is that if they are a publicly listed company your charter is to provide services to your customers and return to your shareholders.

Now many of these companies are in a position where they've decided to sign this letter, many other companies have decided not to.

Now if some companies have decided to sign this letter because they're worried about a social media campaign or falling on the wrong side of GetUp! or the rest of it then again that is unacceptable, we can't have organisations that are affiliated with the Greens and the labour movement, Bill Shorten was a founding director as I understand it of GetUp!, this is not an independent body, GetUp! is essentially an affiliate of the Greens and the labour movement and their entry into these debates is obviously not helpful.

JOURNALIST:

Apart from publicly calling this sort of behaviour out, is there anything the Government can prevent it in future?

PETER DUTTON:

No it's not an issue for Government. It's not an issue for regulation.

It's an issue for responsible corporate behaviour and responsible corporate behaviour dictates that if you want to use the resources of your publicly listed company use it to the benefit of your customers and shareholders that's where it starts and finishes. You provide great philanthropic support to many great causes around the country for which we should all be very grateful, there are advances in medical research in this country that are only possible because of the philanthropic support either individually or corporately from many of these companies, but we don't want a precedent to be set where companies are either coerced or decide for their own views to enter into these political debates, if you want to run for politics, run at the next election and have your say.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have a problem with companies using shareholder funds to run a political campaign, and if so, did you express a similar view when mining companies used shareholder funds to campaign against the Rudd Government?

PETER DUTTON:

Well I just answered that question. I think it's entirely legitimate that a company protects its core business interest and if you're core business interest is in mining then you have a legitimate expense of your capital to protect that business and to grow that business. It's chalk and cheese.

JOURNALIST:

This letter did say that they were protecting their staff some of whom are gay, lesbian who would be directly affected by this; do they not have a responsibility to their own staff?

PETER DUTTON:

Again, I've pointed out the issue in relation to staff and customers.

JOURNALIST:

You've mentioned before that it should be left to politicians, elected representatives to make these decisions so therefore in the House do you think you should just have a free vote and get it over with?

PETER DUTTON:

Well the party's position has been very clear and we are not going to deviate from that position. 

JOURNALIST:

Minister, on housing, does the Federal Government support proposals to abolish stamp duty and replace it with a broad-based land tax?

PETER DUTTON:

I'm the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection so any questions on the economy should be directed to the Treasurer.

JOURNALIST:

Minister I just wanted to ask, you made some comments earlier in your first speech about One Nation. How does the LNP or the conservative side of politics target a party such as One Nation in particular in the lead up to the Queensland poll and do you believe that the LNP should go harder in their attacks against the party?

PETER DUTTON:

My judgement is the wheels are falling off One Nation. Pauline is a cult figure, but she's in the Federal Parliament, she can deliver nothing for the people of Queensland in the upcoming state election.

And look back only a few years ago when they elected 11 members of One Nation party into the State Parliament, nobody can tell you what those people are doing today, nobody can tell you what they contributed to, what is the legacy of One Nation when they were last in government? They will promise everything to every Queenslander, but in the end they'll deliver nothing.

If you want to support a party in that is going to deliver in Queensland, and indeed nationally, support the Liberal National Party that's the solution to getting better infrastructure in the regions, it's a solution to law and order.

The Labor Party in Queensland under Annastacia Palaszczuk has got a great model, they are very smart and give them credit because they are doing nothing and the state is crumbling as a result. Capital is moving from Queensland to New South Wales where the place is booming, business is taking their workforce and families out of Queensland and going to New South Wales because there is an infrastructure boom going on in New South Wales.

Queensland is on its knees because of Anastacia Palaszczuk and that's why people aren't offended because she hasn't done anything and One Nation can do even less than what Labor does.

Labor is worried about providing advantage to union bosses not to workers and not to Queenslanders and it's becoming more and more obvious each day that One Nation whether its Pauline Hanson or her merry band of supporters it doesn't matter, they can promise lots, but they can't deliver anything.

JOURNALIST:

The Federal Government's made a fair bit of its workable relationship with One Nation in the Senate, you've just given a pretty strong attack on them, are you prepared to work with them or are they a party that can deliver nothing and do nothing ….[inaudible]…?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Pauline Hanson has been elected by the people of Queensland to be a Senator for this State and she does her work in the Senate. We've worked with her and we've worked with the other independent Senators on each piece of legislation. We can have a constructive relationship, we can negotiate Bills, we can get those Bills passed through the Parliament as we have.

But at a state level Pauline Hanson is not running at the next state election unless she is resigning her position as a Senator. Pauline Hanson will not be the leader in this state and most families in Queensland could not tell you the name of the One Nation leader in this state.

Who would be a Minister in the One Nation Government, who has the capacity to be the Treasurer or to be the Minister for whatever it might be, these people don't have the capacity so they're flying under a banner at the moment which is phoney and unless Pauline Hanson is going to run for the State Parliament then we need to identify who these people are that are signing up as candidates, what are their beliefs and should people vote for them in local electorates around the State?

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the state leader has the capacity to be a Minister considering he was formally a Minister with the LNP Government?

PETER DUTTON:

My prediction today is that Tim Nicholls will be an outstanding Premier of this state. I know Tim well; I've known him for a long period of time. He has the capacity to become a good Premier, he was a good Treasurer and he has the ability to turn this
State around for families and small businesses. He will deliver infrastructure in the regions across the State.

Look I live in outer metropolitan Brisbane, the place is in gridlock Monday to Friday and frankly at some stages on the weekend when you are running kids around to sport as well, Labor haven't delivered any tunnels, Labor hasn't delivered any infrastructure, they're living off the back of the decisions made by the previous Government and Queenslanders are suffering as a result of it and Anastasia Palaszczuk race is almost run.

She has to do things for Queensland, not just for the union movement and at the moment she is not and I have absolute confidence that Tim Nicholls will be a great Premier of this State and I think he'll demonstrate that.

JOURNALIST:

With all due respect that wasn't the question that I asked. I asked specifically about Steve Dickson who was obviously a former LNP Minister, are you saying he doesn't have the capacity to be a Cabinet Minister?

PETER DUTTON:

I don't see any evidence of leadership within One Nation. As I say people like One Nation because they see Pauline Hanson and she says things that people want to  hear, she doesn't deliver on it, but she says things that people want to hear and if that works for her good luck to her. 

But at some stage as we found out in 1998 that comes to an end. There was a crash landing of One Nation in 1998, there'll be a crash landing again of One Nation.

In the end it is only the LNP that can deliver and at a federal level it's only the Coalition that can deliver and I believe that Tim Nicholls and Deb Frecklington will be a great team here in Queensland.

Thanks very much.

[ends]