Panel with Keith Pitt, Inside the News with James Morrow on Sky News
12 January 2023
JAMES MORROW: Joining me now is former Resources Minister and MP for Hinkler Keith Pitt, and Shadow Minister for Finance, Senator Jane Hume. Thank you both so much for joining us on the program today, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen was out in force today spruiking Labor's changes to mandatory emissions cuts, their sneaky carbon tax 2.0 and compulsory pollution cuts on business. Jane, I want to start with you on this. Chris Bowen. Is he looking for a Senate showdown here trying to get the coalition to back the government's plans to triple the carbon credit price cap. Will the Coalition be supporting these changes?
JANE HUME: I'm glad you mentioned the Senate here because of course, it's really the Greens that Labor are going to be looking to, to implement this and we know that the Greens have actually been difficult on climate policies and emissions policies in the past. So it will be interesting to see where they go on this but you're right, it is a sneaky carbon tax and it's three times the size of the carbon tax that was implemented by the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government and it is essentially going to affect manufacturers Australian manufacturers. Labor came to government saying that they wanted to support Australian manufacturing. They didn't talk to them about a safeguard mechanism that was essentially going to be a proxy carbon tax. And that's going to feed into domestic prices. It's going to reduce international competitiveness, and it's going to exacerbate cost of living. It's going to make doing business in Australia so much harder. So I think Labor have an awful lot of questions to answer to Australian manufacturers as to why they chose to do this now having promised the world before the election.
JAMES MORROW: And Keith Pitt these new safeguards, they have a particular sting in the tail for regional Australia. Matt Canavan was earlier today saying that 1000s of jobs could be at risk. A third of impacted jobs alone in Queensland, but we know also that plenty of other industrial and mining areas like the Hunter Valley here in New South Wales and other industrial areas in Victoria and South Australia will also be in the frame for a government that came to power on the basis of their promise to protect jobs as we move into an energy transition. What do you make of that?
KEITH PITT: Well, if you're a high vis worker in Australia, you've been betrayed. It's that simple. And if we look at what's on the line here, the resources sector alone, direct and indirect jobs, 1.2 million Australians, and they're going to be sent down the river by the Albanese Government. They're not interested in whether it's still profitable to be a coal mine, to be a gas producer, to manufacture aluminium. As Jane said, manufacturers will be less competitive that we've seen them step out today and they want carbon tariffs on imported products. Well, guess what? That what happens then? You get to pay more you pay more for white goods, you'll pay more for everything that's imported and then there'll be penalties on export products and resources as targeted around 450 billion in terms of its part in the economy, just this financial year. You throw in Ag about 70 or maybe a little bit more if you're fortunate. And what have you got, you've got a disaster for Australia. We've got a disaster for our economy. No net job losses from Chris Bowen. But you'll be caught in the net, your job will be lost, particularly for those in the regions of Gladstone, Rockhampton and Newcastle, Bell Bay and Portland and anywhere else.
JAMES MORROW: But Keith, it's not just you know, people in high vis industries we're gonna be doing a tough year Jan, I want to ask you about this because this has to do with every family in Australia figures released yesterday by the ABS showed November inflation up to 7.4% sparking fears of further cost of living crunch. Have we seen any indication from Labor on how they plan on tackling this and how concerned are you about this? Because economists are saying that much of this inflation is in the service sector where it tends to be stickier and harder to unwind then goods and services inflation.
JANE HUME: Once again, we went back when we went to the election with Labor saying that they had the solutions to the cost of living crisis that was facing Australians and since the election, it's done nothing but get worse and they have no economic plan to deal with it. Nothing about the cost of living crisis. That's why we have set up in the Senate, a cost of living committee that is going to go right around Australia speak to the energy providers and producers speak to the large retailers like Woolworths and speak to individuals to as to how the cost of living crisis is affecting them and find some practical solutions to deal with the cost of living crisis. Some practical policies that could be implemented without creating inflationary pressures. That's the objective to it and we have to do this because Labor haven't. They've come up with no economic plan and no solutions to the cost of living crisis. And everything they do, whether it be an industrial relations, whether it be energy, whether it be their environmental policies seem to be making a cost of living crisis worse here and the safeguard mechanism, as Keith said, is now going to create a new protectionist program, which is going to make imports more expensive as well. It seems to me that Australian consumers have been the punching bag for Labor's policies from day one.
JAMES MORROW: Well, indeed Jane it does seem to be that for someone who talks a lot about the Hawke legacy, he seems to want to be taking us back to the pre-Hawke Keating era. But Keith, I want to move on to an issue that's not economic, but cultural and constitutional. And I'm talking about the defining issue of 2023, the Indigenous Aboriginal Voice to Parliament. Now, what I thought was really interesting today was that the influential National Farmers Federation has chosen to remain silent on the issue and they're not going to follow the Nationals in opposing the voice but they say they're just gonna you know, do what they can to provide information about the debate to their members. Keith, what do you make of this decision from the NFF?
KEITH PITT: It seems the NFF is going to abstain. Clearly there's a lot of disruption and disharmony amongst the NFF members as well because they know what this will mean. You'll look at exactly what's going on. We saw a safeguard mechanism changes yesterday from Labor, which will result in my view in enormous land grabs for all sets by big companies. You've got Tanya Plibersek, saying that she's going to put 30% of the country and lock it up for environmental purposes. You'll potentially get a voice in the Constitution, which will have an impact on High Court decisions down the track. I mean, what's left, we expect to get 5 million more people to live here by 2030. Farmlands going up from the sounds of things. Look, I think the NFF should just get into this. Pick the position that they want to pick and move on. I know what the people I'm talking to are looking for. They will be voting no. They think we are one people. We are one country, we're all equal. And the proposition from Labor is trust us it'll be okay. Change the most important document in our country, and we'll fix it later.
JAMES MORROW: Indeed, and Jane, Peter Dutton, we all know sent a letter to Anthony Albanese earlier this week asking for more details on the voice. But the Prime Minister still isn't budging. He's just saying well, no, the detail is all there. And yet, Parliament's going to make up the detail is having it both ways there. Give us a little bit of insight into what's going on. On the Coalition side of things is the opposition leader going to keep punching this button and keep pushing Anthony Albanese for more detail on this.
JANE HUME: Well, of course he has to push him for more detail because we haven't actually seen a model presented Anthony Albanese, this faux outrage and indignation and implications that if you don't sign up to the Voice blindly, then somehow you're either ignorant or ill informed or a bigot, now this is outrageous. There are certain questions that need to be asked and answered about what it is that we're changing in our national document. What the implications of that are, and asking questions doesn’t make you ignorant or ill informed or a bigot and directing people to 270 page documents, and saying the answers are all in there. Well, maybe they are, except for the fact that Anthony Albanese hasn't signed up to the Langton-Calma document that said that that's our policy and even if he did there are still answers to questions to be answered in there as well because it doesn't give definitive use options in there. There are working groups, there are communicators. There is so much information out here and yet there are basic questions that still need to be answered. And most Australians fall into one of three camps. Either they’re wholly sold, they want to be signed up to the Voice no matter what it is. There are some that will never be signed up, that's fine. But there is a large proportion of Australians that wants to be open minded want to be generous of spirit of goodwill, in the middle that say I just want to understand this a little bit more telling them to go and read communicates telling them to go and read 275 pages and say your answers are all in there. And if you don't read them, you're just lazy. I think that's really unfair. They are setting this up to fail. They're setting it up to fail through their demands.
JAMES MORROW: Indeed, and I mean, you know, this whole pattern of both we're seeing the model is out there but we're not signing up to it just seems very as you say disingenuous. Keep going over to you though for a second because the Prime Minister was in PNG today, becoming the first foreign leader to address their parliament. PNG is a close physically close and otherwise close and important neighbor. How much of this trip is really all about deterring China? Is that just simply the main game for everything that we're doing in that part of the world right now?
KEITH PITT: Our relationship with Papua New Guinea is absolutely critical in terms of our national security, in terms of our relationships. Into the North, PNG knows that they've got a interesting political system up there. I've been there a number of times, both pre and post elections, and we do need to maintain that strong relationship and I'll give Anthony Albanese credit where it's due. It is important the Prime Minister's take their time to work into the Pacific and talk to those leaders. And we know what China is trying to do throughout the Pacific. We know their intention. They have a long term strategy. This is about what's in our national interests and our close friends in the Pacific. We're all part of the Pacific family. We need to make sure that that relationship continues to be strong as it was under the coalition to be frank.
JAMES MORROW: Indeed, and I mean, I think even what you said there was important credit where credit's due I do think this government has done a pretty good job with foreign policy. So you know, absolutely good on them for that. But then I want to ask you about this other issue that Australia continues to face and jobs crisis, that tourism industry. is calling for an overhaul of Working Holiday Visa saying the fees are too high and to turn backpackers they out of the workers for coming in. Is this an area where the government needs to reform to fill the workforce shortage or should we be focusing more again on boosting domestic skills or maybe isn't both?
JANE HUME: Well, this is a decision for the government to make whenever you make changes to visa arrangements or immigration programs. You have to make sure that it is in the national interest that it won't damage the skills of jobs in Australia and also that there is integrity around the system. It does seem however, a strange that you would walk into government and abolish the agricultural visa which made it so much harder for people in regional rural areas to get workers and then at the same time and then same breath start talking about the the backpackers visas, what do you call it the working holidaymakers visas, you know, you really it does seem like that they would have their cake and eat it too. The most important thing though, is that we've made sure that there are workers there but those that regional and rural areas that need them, but at the same time we have the skills and the jobs for our local people as well.
JAMES MORROW: Jane Hume very well said. Thank you both Jane and Keith Pitt for joining us tonight.