Subjects: Commonwealth Games; energy policy; federal politics; visa cancellations; funding for Bruce Highway works.
Most Thursdays I like to speak to the Immigration Border Protection and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. He sometimes comes to see me in the studios in Sydney, other times he's on the phone, but now we're at this…it's going to be hard to do this interview and be serious because we're sitting here overlooking the Broadwater, looking at beautiful Marina Mirage and the Fishermans Wharf and the pub where I like to go and Omeros Brothers, where we all like to go and eat – the most magnificent restaurant probably on the Gold Coast – with lovely people here. But I'll put that all aside Minister because we've got a few tough issues to get through…
…I thought you'd be wearing shorts this morning Ray. Where's your coastwear? What's happening mate?
Well look, I've got to say that I contemplated that, but the bagging I copped last time I wore shorts from my sartorially elegant colleague, Mr Jones – even though he's not dressed to his normal standard with pocket chief and tie – but I just thought I'd wear long strides, that's all, in deference to him.
Well that's nice and it's great to be here on the Gold Coast. We came up…I wasn't here for the opening last night, but I'm going to a little bit of swimming later on this morning and I've got to say the traffic was nowhere near what people projected it would be.
So if you're thinking about coming down to the Gold Coast, there's still tickets available. Great events coming up and the weather's spectacular. A little bit of rain last night, which seems to have cleared. So wherever you are in Australia, get down to the Gold Coast I'd say. Come and see some of the Aussie athletes in action.
I think inadvertently the organisers – and we know they have the best intentions because they want to promote it – but it happened in Sydney – I've got a vivid recollection of it – everyone said: oh look, you know, if you're a tradie and if you work, it's probably a good idea to take that two-week break and, you know, because the traffic – I was getting from where I live, outside of Sydney, to the Olympic Park in about three-quarters of the time it would normally take me and I've spoken to drivers this morning – a hire car driver just out the front of my apartment – and I said: how are you going? And I've met him before and he said mate; business is okay, he said, but I can get to the airport 10 minutes quicker by going the Gold Coast Highway. I think what they did, they warned people and unfortunately a lot of the locals have said: well, we'll go away for a couple of weeks, we'll go and see family in Brisbane or Sunshine Coast or inland and we'll leave it and it looks like the influx of visitors is not quite what they thought, so I'm with you.
I spoke to Phil Rothfield from The Telegraph last night. He was looking for a hotel to come up here next week. He said I can't believe the prices I can pay and Virgin particularly, I think he said, have got specials on. You come up from what I understand on Tuesday and go back Thursday or Friday and its $90 return flight. So obviously the airlines are responding to that as well.
Yeah well and we might have a problem with overstayers here too Ray. Sydney-siders coming up to Gold Coast. Maybe they'll want to stay here permanently.
I think you need to be more worried about the African nations who decide to stay a little bit longer than me.
Anyway let's get to it. I've taken a pot shot at your colleague Scott Morrison, as is my want. He's smacked down a backbench push for the Government to support coal-fired power, arguing high-efficiency coal does not mean cheap energy.
You see, look, he may well be right on facts and figures, but no one can contemplate that we load the ships up north of here in Queensland, or south of here at Newcastle, we send these ships to Japan, to China, to Indonesia and to India, where they're building coal-fired power stations at the rate of about 10 a year and we're closing them down. Although Alinta might have a bit to say about Liddell, we hope, as they put a formal offer to AGL.
But I know it's not the business of government to get into business, but this is an essential energy. This is a crisis. If we don't have enough power, if the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine and we rely upon wind turbines and solar and we don't get enough of either, we're in strife.
Well Ray, there was a butcher in my electorate from Brendale the other day that summed it up for me. He said before I pay a dollar in rent, before I pay a dollar in wages, I'm paying $5,200 a month in his electricity bill – which he wasn't paying anywhere near that even two or three or five years ago – and he says mate, I just can't afford to keep the lights on. He said I've got cold rooms to run and that's what we've got to come back to.
I mean people get their electricity bills each month or each quarter – whether you're in a household, whether you're a self-funded retiree, a pensioner, in a small business, whatever it is – you can't afford it. If you're on a fixed income and you see your power bill doubling over the course of a couple of years, you can't afford it.
We have an abundance of natural resource, as you say. We should have some of the lowest electricity prices in the country and instead we've got some of the highest and you look at some of these state governments in South Australia where the lights are going off. Queenslanders remember what it was like when we had power strikes in the '80s, when the SEQEB workers went out on strike. People went without power for days and days.
We need to have reliable energy, not blackouts. We need to have cheaper electricity and cheaper gas and I don't care where the energy comes from, I want to make sure that we can afford to keep those small businesses in business and pensioners and self-funded retirees can afford to turn on the air conditioner in summer or winter.
You're an old-fashioned politician. You know that if you want to be part of Cabinet, you've got to show solidarity and that doesn't mean you agree with every decision of Cabinet or the Prime Minister take, but it's a position that you hold strongly. I understand that. I understand it. In fact, you said, I think earlier this week in relation to the Prime Minister: if you don't have that loyalty, resign from Cabinet.
Well I think many of the people connected with the Monash Forum are from the backbench – there may be some agitators in Cabinet, I don't know – but I think you're also a realist, as well as being someone who obeys convention.
The way the Newspolls are going – and I know this is your worst possible fear and the fear of many conservatives – it's almost a fait accompli, barring some seismic shift, that Bill Shorten will be in The Lodge. It's almost a fait accompli.
You won't be the Minister for Immigration, you won't be the Minister for protecting borders. There'll be someone else doing it who won't do as good a job. We'll get 50,000 people on 1,000 boats or more over a space of time. We'll have Chris Bowen as treasurer. We'll have Tanya Plibersek from the left having a major say as deputy prime minister. I mean there has to be a change.
Now the Prime Minister said quite clearly when he challenged the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott; he likened it to the 30 Newspolls, but he also said economic management. Well we're in more debt now than we were back then and that may be not his fault, but the simple fact of the matter is the punters in this room, the people here today – with the utmost respect – and the people listening across Australia; if they listen to this station I think most of them don't want a Labor government after what happened with Rudd-Gillard-Rudd, but you're staring down the gun barrel of it unless there's some sort of shift.
Well Ray you've got to look at – and as you say, it's a polite way of you saying how old I'm looking – but I've been in politics for 16 or 17 years and I've watched, particularly over the Howard years, where things can change…as I say, a week's a long time, a day's a long time in politics. That is the reality.
Now we're up against it at the moment, but we've got a good story to tell in terms of the management of the economy. Yes, we inherited enormous debt and we want to be doing more in terms of putting more into different areas of public policy, but we inherited a large debt. We've got a Senate that is near-impossible to work with to try and get the changes through to deliver the savings or put the Budget back on a path to surplus. I think we've done a remarkable job with the economy, to be honest.
I think though, over the course of the last couple of years, the dramas in the Senate, the problems around personal issues and all the rest of that has taken a lot of oxygen out of the message.
But I take seriously – and I said it the other day again – I accepted an offer from Tony Abbott when he was Prime Minister to be in his Cabinet and I only did so on the basis of loyalty to the leader. If I can't be loyal to the leader, then my judgement is I resign.
Now I've accepted the same commission from this Prime Minister and I do it on the basis of loyalty as well and I need to work as part of a team to turn it around. The work we're doing in trying to make energy prices cheaper, trying to manage our borders – all of that is important – but as you say, at the moment, we're on track for a Shorten-led government and that would be a disaster for our country.
I understand that the captain goes down with the ship, but surely there's a point in time, as the captain's singing Auld Lang Syne as his head disappears below the waterline with the executive staff on the ship say: captain, we'd love to stay with you, but there's a boat over there and we're getting on it and we're getting out of here.
Well Ray, as I say, from my perspective mate, I don't serve in the Cabinet if I can't be loyal and I think that as a team we can defeat Shorten. I think there is a huge hesitation and a proper hesitation within the public's mind about who Shorten is, what he represents.
The people behind him are all the same people that served on the frontbench for Rudd and Gillard. Yes the boats would restart. There's no question about that. They're already agitating to change that policy and it would be a disaster and they're the sorts of decisions that people need to contemplate, the sorts of issues that people need to consider before they make a judgement at the next election.
Back to your portfolio. I spoke about a Korean sex offender who was sentenced to four years non-parole. He was living on an expired visa in this country and this dates back to a fair while ago. I think back in 2015.
A mentally-ill Korean sex offender will serve at least one year in jail for each of four women he attacked on the streets of Sydney – four years. Yongseok Ji pleaded guilty to nine counts of indecent assault and so it goes on. It occurred between January and July of 2015. He was sentenced by Judge Helen Syme.
Now he'd been living in Australia unlawfully since 2014. He has some sort of mental illness allegedly. He'll be deported, one would hope. But since November 2014, he'd been living in Australia on an expired visa. He was then taken to Villawood Detention Centre in 2015, but a month later your Department gave this bloke a Bridging visa.
Now I know we can all make blues, but given they gave him a Bridging visa and the offences occurred from January to July the next year, a monumental blunder's occurred here surely.
Well Ray, if you have a look at the facts – and again I may be a decision-maker in relation to this case because we would…
….well that's if you're still the Minister in a few years' time…
Well that's a fair point. But somebody like this would be deported in the normal course of events at the end of their jail sentence and we would initiate proceedings as soon as an appeal period had been over and the matter finalised in the courts and the sentencing dealt with.
So in terms of this particular case or others like it; Bridging visas are given when people make applications, even if there's been an expired visa and that's the way in which the legal system operates here. People have a legal right under the law to make application for a Bridging visa. They may be detained and held in custody until they can be deported, or they may be released back out into the community, depending on the circumstances.
So I'm happy to have a look at the full facts here, but this is – as we've discussed before – there is a need for a review. We need to look at people having their fair day in court, but frankly there is a lot by way of legal protection and rights that go with visa applicants and I think the system can be a lot tighter than what it is.
On a positive note to finish things, you announced the Government will fund a vital upgrade to the Bruce Highway for listeners in Queensland. That's pretty good news for those travelling from the Sunshine Coast. It would reduce congestion around Murrumba Downs and Griffin and take pressure off local roads. When will this all get done and how long will they have to wait to get relief?
Well hopefully it's on its way shortly. So there's been huge growth through that area, through Murrumba Downs, Kallangur, up into Griffin and North Lakes and whatnot. So Luke Howarth and I have been pushing hard for a long period of time to get this funding.
It's on State Government land, so we've offered 80 per cent of the funding. Hopefully the State Government comes up with it shortly, but at the moment, it means that a lot of people have got to rat run through Murrumba Downs up to Kallangur and then onto Anzac Ave onto the Bruce Highway. So that causes a lot of congestion locally. I think this will get people out of cars, back home more quickly and it's a good outcome.
Okay. Good luck at the swimming. Good luck for the Games while you're down here and we look forward to talking to you next Thursday.
Thanks Ray. See you mate.