Press Conference – Parliament House – Thursday 16 May 2024


SUBJECTS: Peter Dutton’s grim budget reply

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Well, that was dark. If you want to be Prime Minister of this country, you’ve got to do more than look dour and angry and bark at the camera. You’ve got to have something positive to say. You’ve got to have a positive vision for the country. And you’ve got to have details and costed policies.   

Anthony Albanese delivered three budget reply speeches and in those budget reply speeches he released 16 detailed policies. Peter Dutton’s now done three budget reply speeches and he hasn’t done anywhere near that.

He talked a big game tonight about immigration, but no details about what it would mean, how many jobs will be lost or whether it will plunge the economy into recession, or whether it would have any impact on immigration at all. And in a desperate attempt to play catch up on international students, he’s jumped the shark tonight.

He talked about the cost of living, but he didn’t offer anything to help people who are struggling to make ends meet.

He talked about energy prices and talked about energy policy. What he didn’t have the guts to tell people is where he was going to build those nuclear reactors, or how much it was going to cost.

And he talks about introducing national uniform knife laws, but he didn’t tell you that this policy is older than some of the things in my fridge. This is the policy that the Liberal Party released in 2010, promising to do exactly the same thing. Well, that was 14 years ago, they were in government for almost 10 years, he was the minister in charge of the AFP and he didn’t do it. If he didn’t do it then, why would you trust him to do it now?

The real message out of that speech is don’t risk Dutton.

If he’s the person who broke the migration system, why would you trust him to fix it? If he’s the person who ripped $50 billion out of the hospital system, why would you trust him to run the hospital system again? If he’s the bloke who wanted to charge you a tax to go to the doctor, why would you put him in charge of the health system again? And if he won’t tell you where he’s going to put all the nuclear reactors, why would you vote for him?

The message out of this speech is don’t trust Dutton.

JOURNALIST: Minister on the point about migration, you said it’s unclear whether or not the economy would go into recession, the impact that it would have on universities, what impact do you think it will have on universities and will it plunge the economy into a recession?

CLARE: The real question here is, has he released the PBO costings? Has he released any details at all? Presumably when you put out a policy like this, you’d get it costed. If the Labor Party did this and didn’t give you the costings, you’d rip our throat out, and deservedly so. If you don’t have the costings on this to tell you what it means for the economy, then this policy isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on.

JOURNALIST: The university sector was anticipating that Labor would increase the visa application fees for international students, which is a measure that Peter Dutton picked up on there. What happened to that idea? Why did you decide against it? And do you think it’s a good or bad idea now?

CLARE: The measures that we’ve put in place are designed to make sure that international education, which is a real national asset, that makes us money, creates jobs in this country, makes friends for us overseas, because when people come here to study and they go back home, they take that love for Australia back home with them. We’ve got to make sure that we maintain the social licence for that important export to operate here in Australia. Now as students have come back, so have the shonks. And that’s why the legislation I introduced into the Parliament today is about making sure that the system has integrity. It also sets limits or levels for each individual university, about how many students they can enrol each and every year. Now, as I said, Peter Dutton seems to be copying my homework here. He’s playing desperate catch up, trying to do something different. Really, all he’s doing is following our lead.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible].

CLARE: I said on Sunrise last week that Jack’s Law in Queensland is a good law. We’re seeing a rollout now in New South Wales. But the point I’m making though is they promised to do this 14 years ago. If they didn’t do it, then how would you trust them to do it?

JOURNALIST: Are you going to do something now?

CLARE: As I said, we’ve got state Labor Governments doing it. That’s a good thing.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]…Canada, for instance, have implemented temporary bans on foreigners buying homes to try and ease pressure on the market. That is obviously something a measure Dutton is proposing, is that something you would consider?

CLARE: How many foreigners do you think have bought homes in Australia in the last year?

JOURNALIST: 6,000 a year.

CLARE: It’s actually a bit less than that. It’s less than 5,000 in the last two years. So if he thinks that that’s the solution, tackling housing, then it was wrong I’ve got to tell you. We’ve increased the fees for foreigners to buy houses. We’re injecting that money into building more housing in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Today, Adam Bandt said that he expected Peter Dutton to punch down on migrants or scapegoat them for the housing prices, do you think he’s done that?

CLARE: What you saw in that speech is a bloke who’s got nothing positive to say about Australia. All he did was bag our Made in Australia policy. They’re dragging up old policies from 14 years ago. This is the party that told Holden to get out of the country. And they’re bagging of our Made in Australia policy. It makes it clear that this party has not changed. We want to make things in Australia. They just want to make things overseas.

JOURNALIST: Minister can I just get your response to this sort of cut through I guess line from Dutton that life is worse under Labor when you look at how much people are paying on their mortgage, their power bills, their fruit and veg, he’s right isn’t he?

CLARE: We know Aussies are doing it tough. We’re putting in place the measures in this budget to help Australians that are doing it tough. That includes a tax cut for every Australian. Under the Liberals, not every Australian would get a tax cut. Help with paying the electricity bill, making sure that we freeze the cost of medicine, reducing HECS bills by reducing indexation on HECS. What did Peter Dutton offer ordinary Aussies tonight that would make one bit of difference in paying the bills? The answer to that is zero.

JOURNALIST: Instead, he wants to see mining, especially in WA flourish. But he won’t support that $13.7 million dollar production tax incentives.

CLARE: Again, just evidence that this party hasn’t changed. The party that told Holden to get out of the country. It’s the same party now that doesn’t support those in businesses to make things here in Australia. We want to be a country where we don’t just dig lithium and copper and nickel out of the ground. But we make batteries here in Australia, that we create jobs for Australians. It’s pretty obvious from what Peter Dutton said tonight, that he’s very happy for solar panels and batteries to be made in China.

JOURNALIST: He suggested a slight detail that he wanted to cut the limits, the amount of foreign students in metropolitan unis. Do you think that opens a conversation to push more foreign students to the regents perhaps?

CLARE: I guess the key point there is slight detail. There was really no detail at all. The legislation that we’ve introduced is designed to help support all universities, make sure that we set levels for all universities, allow them to have sustainable growth and certainly over the long term. You didn’t see any certainty tonight.

JOURNALIST: You didn’t see any details, especially on the nuclear policy. And that’s what everyone wanted to see.

CLARE: Let’s be honest, there’s a civil war going on inside the Liberal Party at the moment. Everybody thinks that putting a nuclear reactor in their backyard is a bad idea. This is a policy that’s about as popular as a seafood milkshake. They are at war with each other. They don’t want to see a reactor in their backyard. And that’s why Peter Dutton wouldn’t announce where they’d go tonight.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

CLARE: You heard Jim talk at the Press Club yesterday about the three economies that Australia has had. The agricultural economy of the late 18th century, early 19th century, then, the industrial economy behind the great tariff walls, then the work that Bob and Paul did to open Australia up to the world. And now the fourth economy that will be a net zero economy. And that’s just one part of that.

The other part is what I’m doing in education. You know, I told you guys in parliament the other day, that under Paul and Bob and we saw an increase in the proportion of people finishing high school jumping 40% to 80%. I was one of those kids. In the budget we set a new target, and that is that by the middle of the century, it’s not just 80% of people finishing high school. It’s 80% of people going to TAFE or university as well. That we’ve got a workforce where about 80% of people have got tertiary skills. Now if we do that, that’ll create the economy and the jobs of the future. It’ll create the businesses of the future. If we’re going to have a future made in Australia. We’re going to have to make those skills in Australia. Did you hear anything like that from Peter Dutton tonight? All you heard was darkness. About as dark as Darth Vader. Thanks very much.