Australian Prime Minister Press Conference – Frankston

Prime Minister

Good morning. I’m Jodie Belyea, the Labor candidate for the Dunkley by-election. And I am here this morning with the Prime Minister, one day out from the by-election. We are at Jubilee Park Stadium. A place that Peta championed and delivered on. This is an incredible facility. Peta was a strong, wise and confident woman that represented our community. She delivered for Dunkley. And I ask the people of Dunkley to vote for me, because I too will deliver for Dunkley. I will be a strong, local, confident representative for the people of this great community. Over the next 24 hours, I will be out and about meeting and greeting local residents, letting you know that I will be a strong local voice on the cost of living, on housing affordability, on strengthening Medicare, and ensuring that young people in this community have access to education and fee-free TAFE. This is an incredible facility. And I would now like to introduce the Prime Minister to say a few words.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks so much Jodie, and thank you for being prepared to put yourself forward. Jodie Belyea is someone who is not a career politician. She’s a local mum, her son’s doing the HSC at Frankston High School. She’s someone who was recruited to the Labor Party by the late Peta Murphy. Peta Murphy was an extraordinary champion of this local community. This facility here is physical evidence of how effective she was as a local champion. She engaged in so many issues, of providing facilities and infrastructure for local young people. Of local roads, one of which was opened just near here, very recently; of free-free TAFE; of Medicare Urgent Care Clinics such as the one in Frankston that I visited, they’ve seen over 12,000 people get the care that they need for free with just their Medicare card – they didn’t need their credit card. The upgrades to Frankston hospital, the other infrastructure, health, housing issues that Peta Murphy championed. Peta Murphy also was a champion of fee-free TAFE. TAFE is something that Jodie Belyea has benefited from. And Peta Murphy, one of the things that she did, in extraordinary act of selflessness that said everything about who she was, she knew that she wasn’t well – she recruited Jodie to the Labor Party. She encouraged Jodie to stand as the candidate, should that be needed. We wish, and this local community wishes, that this by-election wasn’t happening, because Peta Murphy at age 50 has gone from us far too soon. She had so much more to give. I have no doubt she would have been a future Cabinet Minister. An extraordinary capacity to deliver for this local community, but deliver on such a broad range of issues. But she found in Jodie Belyea, someone who, through the Women’s Spirit Program was helping disadvantaged women in particular in this seat, someone who has spent a lifetime assisting the disadvantaged – particularly women but others as well, young people. This is a community that need a local champion. Jodie Belyea will be that local champion, I have every confidence that she will carry on Peta Murphy’s legacy. And one of the differences between Jodie Belyea and the other candidates in this by-election, is a she’ll be a voice in Government. Someone who can get things done as a voice in my Government, and not just be another bloke, sitting behind all the other blokes in Peter Dutton’s team. Opposing everything, being negative about everything, running fear campaigns. Jodie has run a positive campaign about strengthening Medicare, about fee free TAFE, about cost of living – not the least of which is what occurred this week, with the Parliament passing our tax cuts. Our tax cuts that will deliver a tax cut for everyone, even those under $45,000 a year. And by decreasing that first marginal rate from 19 cents down to 16 cents that flows right through the system. But we understand aspiration, which is why we made sure that the increases flowed through, lifting the $120,000 rate to $135,000 and lifting the top marginal tax rate as well for the first time since 2008. We understand that aspiration isn’t something that just applies to people who are politicians and people above $200,000 a year. Aspiration is something that all Australian families have, people want and aspire to something better for their kids. That’s what it’s about, This by-election is an opportunity to send another local champion to Canberra in Jodie Belyea, who will carry on Peta Murphy’s work. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Sussan Ley tweeted: ‘if you live in Frankston, and you’ve got a problem with Victorian women being assaulted by foreign criminals, vote against Labor’. Some have labelled in blatant racism and irresponsible. What’s your views on that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I find it extraordinary that Ms Ley has refused to delete that tweet. Yesterday showed the problem if you are just negative, if you just run fear campaigns, if you don’t worry about the facts, but you just shoot from the hip, get out there run a fear campaign – if you look at the questions that were asked in Parliament yesterday, it says everything about the problem with this 24 hour cycle, where you just have a fear campaign about everything and a solution for nothing. And that’s what Peter Dutton does. It’s all about scare campaigns. Doesn’t worry about the facts, doesn’t worry about the reality. And we know that people, including the legal system, has to be allowed to operate in this country. The police and authorities should be allowed to do their job, free of this pre-emptive political game playing. And I think that that tweet that you refer to, I think reflects badly on where the Liberal Party have gotten to in 2024.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you campaigned on the stage three tax cuts revamp going into this by-election. There’s some concern that those tax cuts will be swallowed up by cost of living pressures. Can you tell the people of Dunkley whether this is Labor’s final offering on tax relief going into the next election, or is there more in store?

PRIME MINISTER: When it comes to cost of living, we’ll examine every day, every week, every month, what more we can do. That’s what we’ve done. We have, this latest measure is the tax cuts, but we have cheaper childcare that have delivered cheaper child care on average 11 per cent drop in costs of childcare for working families. We have paid parental leave, we have the Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, the tripling of the bulk billing incentive for Medicare, as opposed to Peter Dutton who wanted to get rid of bulk billing completely by having a co-payment every time people wanted to visit the doctor. We have our cheaper medicines policy where Australians have saved over $300 million. We have fee-free TAFE, where people have been able to get that start, or a restart in a new career, 350,000 places opened up last year alone. We promised 180,000, delivering almost double what we said we would do. Energy price relief, something that was opposed, like everything else, by Peter Dutton. We’ll continue, in the lead up to the Budget, to examine what more we could do. We asked for advice about cost of living measures and what we could do, without putting pressure on inflation. This week’s inflation figures are lower than market expectations. We had real wages increasing in 2023, far sooner than Treasury estimated. So, we’ll do what we can to put more dollars in people’s pockets. We want Australians to earn more and to keep more of what they earn. Peter Dutton wants Australians to work longer for less. That’s the real distinction in Australian politics. A Government determined to do practical measures, and an Opposition opposing every single one of them. Just running fear campaigns, never offering anything positive for the future. All negativity, no forward plans. I think people see that about Peter Dutton and we saw that demonstrated yesterday.

JOURNALIST: You say this is about sending your candidate to Canberra. Peter Dutton says this is about sending a message to Canberra about you. How much is this about you? How much responsibility will you take for the outcome, whatever it is?

PRIME MINISTER: I take responsibility for everything my Government does. I’m waiting for Peter Dutton to take responsibility for the debacle yesterday, where he made completely false accusations against one of my Ministers, where that was all they asked. One of the things that Australians will look at, and they probably don’t focus as much as the Channel Seven news crew do, is that throughout the last year, if you look at how many questions the Opposition have asked about cost of living, you could almost – it’s less than about five or six other issues, fear campaigns. They’re not interested in the lives of Australians and making a positive difference. And that’s what this is – an opportunity to send a message to Peter Dutton, they need to do better. They need to stop with the fear campaigns based upon half bits of information. They need to stop with the misinformation which they’ve been engaged in as well.

JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton says his candidate is the underdog, he may be right, but if there’s a swing of two or three per cent against you, that’s a moral victory for him. Is that true, or is this a win or win in your books?

PRIME MINISTER: The margin here is 6.3 per cent. The average swing away from governments between the Hawke Government and the election of my Government is 7.1 per cent. So, by-elections are tough for governments. The history is there. That’s 19 by-elections during that time and we’ve seen history – I’ve been in Parliament a while now, I remember the Ryan by-election. I don’t know what the swing was there, one of the colleagues here might remember, but it was pretty big. It was very much a safe Liberal seat. John Howard went on to win elections. And so by-elections are tough, but we’ve got the best candidate. We have got the only political party putting forward positive ideas during this campaign. And they have a candidate who has voted for the maximum rate increase not once, not twice, but three times. Someone who wants inappropriate development, wants to railroad that through, to change the nature of the Frankston Foreshore. They have a negative campaign, and they have a range of candidates, some of which are on the far right, all delivering preferences to them. So, we’ll wait and see. We’ll be campaigning very hard, but I’m confident that we had the best candidate. I’m confident that we’ve run the right campaign, and I’m confident that we are the political party in Australia that is being positive, that’s concerned about the future, that’s putting forward an agenda for the future. You can’t change the country for the better by just running fear campaigns.

JOURNALIST: ASIO boss Mike Burgess won’t name the former politician who was recruited by an international spy ring. As a result, some say the Home Affairs Minister should. What do you think about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the idea that any Minister in my Government will just go out against the wishes of the ASIO Director-General I find quite extraordinary. I have confidence in ASIO. I have confidence in the Director General. I have seen the statement which he has issued and I have nothing to add. I will support our national security agencies and I think that all sides of politics should do that.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). It does cast a pall over all former serving MPs and some current?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it doesn’t over the latter quite clearly from the statement made by the ASIO Director General. But, when you have national security agencies, he doesn’t approve his speeches through the Prime Minister. He has been given a job to do. He does it diligently. And national security agencies act in the national interest. And I believe that it’s a responsible thing to do for politicians across the spectrum to back our national security agencies. And that’s what I will do.

JOURNALIST: Have you been briefed on who it is?

PRIME MINISTER: I will back our national security agencies. That is their job, and I will back them to do the right thing. And I think that one of the things that we need to do as a nation, is to build confidence in our agencies, not engage in short term politics or speculation, like some have done. That’s not responsible. I’ll act responsibly. I did so as Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Labor Party. I do so as Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Would it be irresponsible for anybody to name that person under parliamentary privilege?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I will be backing our national security agencies, and certainly I think that to speculate – we’ve seen the danger and the damage that speculation can do yesterday, where we had question after question based upon a falsehood. Now, I don’t know the individual that was involved in yesterday’s speculation. What we know is that it was wrong and I’m not aware of the Director-General, certainly, as you would expect, did not approve his speech or – he does what he believes is in the interests of national security. And what’s more, he’s explained in a clear statement why he did it.

JOURNALIST: Just back on Dunkley, do you expect to know a result tomorrow night?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s unclear. This will be a tight result. But I’m confident that we have the right policies, that we have the best candidate and that we have in Jodie Belyea, someone who will carry on Peta Murphy’s legacy as a strong voice for Dunkley.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve attacked Peter Dutton for being too negative. But on the issue of tax, only the Coalition at the moment has committed to taking a package of further tax relief to the next election. What’s your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER: Let me know what it is.

JOURNALIST: Well, they’ve committed to devising one.

PRIME MINISTER: Let me know what it is. Let me know what it is.

JOURNALIST: Will you do the same?

PRIME MINISTER: What, make some vague statement that something will happen sometime? Well, that’s not a commitment. That’s a joke. They moved amendments in the Senate and in the House of Representatives that referred to the principles of stage three. What that means is rolling back the commitments for low and middle income earners. What that means is middle Australia missing out on the tax cuts that we have put in place for July 1, a doubling of the tax cuts for average workers, making sure as well that no one misses out by lowering that first marginal rate. We know what their view is – they said they’d oppose it, then they said they’d roll it back, then they said we should call an election on the basis of these tax cuts before they’re carried. There should be an early election. Then they ended up allowing it to go through, but moving amendments about the old stage three that were aimed just at the top end, where people under $45,000 were not going to get a single dollar. Where average workers were going to get half of what they’re going to get now. These tax cuts that we’ve put in place are fair. They don’t like them, they oppose them and even after they voted for them, they were out there doing doorstops opposing them, and making these vague comments about how they would have a different plan. Well, the only way you get a different plan is two things. You roll back the tax cuts for lower middle income earners, or you go back to their old plan of big deficits. We inherited a $78 billion deficit and we turned that into a $22 billion surplus. That’s how you put downward pressure on inflation. Inflation peaked in the March 2022 quarter under them, at 2.1 per cent in that quarter. What we’ve done is get that downward pressure on inflation. We’re getting real wages increasing. We’ve got tax cuts beginning on July 1. The work that we’re doing will indicate to the Reserve Bank, which will make assessments, of course, but I want to see pressure taken off mortgage holders as well. We have done all of these measures, all of them have been opposed by those opposite. And now they say these vague statements about un-costed thought bubbles. I’ve got to say this – if we made a statement like that, I reckon the front pages of our broadsheets would look a little bit different from what they do today. I think that we would be subject, quite rightly, to scrutiny. And it’s about time people scrutinised the thought bubbles which are there, because that is all that’s there – fear campaigns and vague ideas. We have something real, and it will deliver real dollars into Australian pockets on July 1. Thanks very much.

/Public Release. View in full here.