Thu, 11 Apr 2024 - 17:23



Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts

Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy

Manager of Opposition Business in the House




11 April 2024

GREG JENNETT: Let's try to pin down the opposition's starting position on some of the initiatives that the Prime Minister outlined today, the future made in Australia. To do that, Liberal frontbencher Paul Fletcher is in Sydney now and he joins us as he regularly does. Welcome back to the programme Paul. The Prime Minister is saddling Australia up for what I think could be described as a paradigm shift in public investment in what he calls sovereign manufacturing capability here, especially with a focus on clean energy equipment. We do await further details, but do you agree it's necessary for all major economies to embark on this, just as Korea has, just as Japan has, and as the US has, too? 

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, of course, the coalition wants to see continued strength in manufacturing in Australia. Uh, we'll look at the details of this, but let's be clear. Over the years, a lot of public money has been wasted in schemes in which politicians and bureaucrats are dishing out money to companies to attract them to come and locate and to come and operate Now, if you want to encourage manufacturing, one good thing to do would be get energy prices down. Right now they're up. Mr. Albanese promised they'd be down by $275. They're up by over a thousand dollars. If you want to encourage manufacturing. And other good thing to do would be to make our industrial relations system simpler rather than more burdensome and complex, which is what has happened with two major union friendly and jobs, unfriendly tranches of industrial relations changes. And if you want to encourage more business investment, including in manufacturing, then you'd be aiming for, uh, simpler and lower taxes. So getting some of those basics right to attract capital and investment is likely to be considerably more effective than splashing around taxpayers money because bureaucrats or politicians have decided that some particular area of investment, they reckon, is one where you're going to make a motza - 

GREG JENNETT: All right, sounds like -  

PAUL FLETCHER: Too often, politicians and bureaucrats get those issues wrong. 

GREG JENNETT: Yeah, it sounds like you've got a few doubts there. Paul Fletcher a final one on this, because we do want to cover some other territory with you today. Is this partial nationalisation of manufacturing in Australia that you think is being outlined today? 

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, the Prime Minister was actually rather vague in what this is all going to involve. Um, but look, let's be clear. You need to have a very, uh, precise idea of where Australia's comparative advantage is. It's a big, global, intensely competitive world. There are lots of other nations throwing lots of money at this. You need to identify the areas where Australia can be competitive and frankly, private sector investors. If you're attracting private sector capital, that's a good sign that the market thinks you can be competitive. When it's taxpayers money being put in, the risk is that there's much less discipline and a lot of taxpayers money gets wasted and that is the worry that needs to be guarded against. You know, this is going in the opposite direction from the reforms of the Hawke Keating government, which reduced tariffs, which reduced government involvement in a lot of industries. And the consequence was a productivity boost continued by the, uh, the Howard and Costello changes. This is going in the opposite direction. So Mr. Albanese needs to make the case. Makes the case needs to make the case. Why is this going to work when demonstrably these kinds of approaches in the 70s and 80s led Australia to being in a position where it was described by then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as at risk of becoming the poor white trash of Asia. 

GREG JENNETT: All right, well, conceptual at the moment, we'll wait the picture to be filled out a little as we get closer to the budget, Paul Fletcher. Recognition of a Palestinian state. The coalition's been highly critical of Penny Wong throughout the week or since that speech anyway. Why is it reckless to contemplate an end to the Israel-hamas war and a Non-Hamas led Palestinian homeland afterwards? Isn't that exactly what the world will have to contemplate when the war is over? 

PAUL FLETCHER: Everybody supports a two state solution, but that requires both sides, both the Palestinian side and the Israeli side, to commit to the long standing and secure existence of the other side. And that is what Hamas has consistently refused to agree to. This chant from the river to the sea means driving the Jewish people out of Israel. It means Israel ceasing to exist That is Hamas's position. And that is why Hamas engaged in a violent terrorist attack that killed 1200 people, 200 taken hostage, many of them still being held hostage. If Hamas was serious about peace and a two state solution, it would release the hostages. It has refused to do that and what Penny Wong has done is reckless and irresponsible, because what she is essentially proposing is to reward Hamas for this appalling act of violence. 

GREG JENNETT: All right. Well, I think to be fair, release of hostages is a precondition that she has laid down. But can I just ask about your own? What preconditions would the coalition which, after all, supports a two state solution and long has what preconditions need to exist before you could be persuaded to adopt recognition? 

PAUL FLETCHER: Look, I'm not going to get into laying out a list of conditions and indeed we're not in government. But I would simply make this point, uh, unless Hamas is prepared to agree to the continuing existence of Israel, unless there are arrangements, in which both nations, Israel and, a future Palestinian nation can have a security guarantee and a confidence that they won't be attacked and invaded by the other, then there's a very long way to go. And unfortunately, that is something that Hamas has consistently refused to do. In fact, its position is precisely the opposite. It wants Israel to be abolished. 

GREG JENNETT: All right. Look on a related theme. Peter Dutton, your leader, gave a speech last night. It was broad ranging, but it dealt in its entirety with anti-Semitism and its rise in this country. He drew a comparison, or at least said Port Arthur in 1996 was akin then to what we're seeing on October 9th last year in terms of their social significance. Can you explain what that relationship is in that comparison between 1996 and October 9th, 7 last year.

PAUL FLETCHER: Last year, the point Peter Dutton was making and he was absolutely correct, was that there was a moment of truth with the Port Arthur massacre for then Prime Minister John Howard, who responded magnificently, introduced the gun law reforms which have greatly enhanced the safety of Australians ever since. Anthony Albanese faced a similar moment of truth when there was there were disgraceful riots, uh, the burning of Israeli flags, chants of kill the Jews and worse on the Opera House forecourt, an international symbol of Australia and Mr. Albanese essentially looked the other way. There is no doubt that anti-Semitism is on the rise. My electorate of Bradfield has the second largest Jewish community of any electorate in New South Wales. My Jewish constituents are telling me they are scared. They are fearful for their personal safety. I have been told that today by Jewish constituents. I am told this regularly. This is a significant problem and we need to see much more leadership from the Albanese government on this. But unfortunately, they've taken a very passive approach on this, and we need to see a strong statement of the importance of fighting against anti-Semitism and a strong commitment to the principle that Jewish Australians must feel safe in their own country, just as Australians of every background must feel safe in their own country. 

GREG JENNETT: Sure. And I again, I'm not speaking for them, but I am aware that on frequent occasions the Prime Minister and Penny Wong have made similar remarks. And I will clarify, yes, the comparison drawn by Peter Dutton, as you rightly point out there, Paul Fletcher was about events on October the 9th in Sydney, Australia, not the original October 7th, actions in Israel. Look, finally, Paul Fletcher, Julian Assange, the president, Joe Biden was asked what could well be an erroneous question. Do you have a response to Australia's request that you end Julian Assange's prosecution? The answer was we're considering it. What did you interpret from that? 

PAUL FLETCHER: I'll leave the interpretations of White House press conferences to people considerably more expert than me. I'll simply say the coalition has been consistent. Uh, we think this has gone on too long. But if it's to be resolved, that will require respect for the judicial processes in Britain, where Mr. Assange is currently in prison and respect for the United States processes and the position will not be advanced, in my view, by extraneous comment on either of those. 

GREG JENNETT: All right. We'll wrap it up there. Paul Fletcher, I think we did manage to get across everything we wanted to with you today. Appreciate it as always, and we'll have you back on in. I think it's about a fortnight from now. Thanks again. 

PAUL FLETCHER: Thanks, Greg.