Subjects: rising business energy costs, Aston result, the Voice, TikTok, Parliamentarian careers, housing issues
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, hello, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here today with the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Ted O’Brien. I’ve invited Ted to come here to the Gold Coast to visit some of our manufacturers here who we know are being impacted by rising electricity crisis. Day after day, I get called into my electorate office from individuals and businesses who are suffering from increased cost of living, and most particularly for increases in electricity prices. Some of our businesses on the Coast have faced increases of up to 350%, so they are huge increases to electricity prices. What we’ve seen today is some businesses that have managed to help reduce their prices over the longer term by investing in solar panels. Looking at solar energy, that’s great for those businesses that have the capacity to be able to invest in the solar panels and who own the building in which they’re operating from. Other businesses don’t have the opportunity to do that because they are renting, leasing premises, which means it’s very difficult for them to invest in any measures that will reduce their cost of electricity. So it’s been great having Ted O’Brien here so that he can meet with our businesses here on the Gold Coast, understand the impact of rising energy prices, and I’ll invite Ted to say a few words would.
TED O’BRIEN: Thank you very much, Karen. Absolutely delighted to be here on the Gold Coast. And no matter the fact that the Gold Coast really is a piece of paradise, people here are doing it tough and businesses in particular because of energy prices, they’re doing it tough. There’s no substitute for being on the ground and hearing stories from real people and real businesses. And we have heard stories today of businesses seeing their energy bills go up by over 350%. Come this winter, bills will go up a further 20%. Right now businesses are on their knees. We cannot afford to see manufacturing leave the Gold Coast. We can’t see what are seeing manufacturing go elsewhere. You know, as Australians, we should be proud of our manufacturing sector – as Queenslanders we should, and those on the Gold Coast should, some of the businesses we’ve seen today are first class, feeding into high technology industries that are keeping Australia safe, we need these industries to prosper not to be carrying the lead of more and more price increases from an energy perspective. You know, the government made a promise to the Australian people. Albanese promised power bills would come down by $275 per household, $275 -instead power bills have just been increasing ever since. And Gold Coast residents are looking forward now, unfortunately to another 20% increase come winter. We have to make sure we hold the government accountable for its promises to drive power prices down. Otherwise, we are gonna see residents and businesses on the Gold Coast and right throughout Australia, continue to struggle with that. Happy to receive any questions.
QUESTION: Are rising energy prices the government’s fault.
TED O’BRIEN: The government made a promise to the Australian people that it would decrease the price of energy. $275 was gonna be the cut in your household power bill. Instead, prices just keep going up. The Albanese government makes decision after decision, which is driving prices up. It doesn’t matter which industry expert you talk to ,or be the ACCC or the market operator, they say the key problem to energy prices is supply. We need more supply, especially of gas, but the government is killing off supply. The government is taking action, which is making the situation worse and driving prices up. This is the problem.
QUESTION: So are you saying that we need more cold fire power stations or you know, what do we need to do to rectify the situation? Right now?
TED O’BRIEN: We need to have an approach of all the above. We’ve met today with people who are investing in clean energy solutions and those who have the capital to invest in clean energy solutions, they are reaping the benefits. And that’s why when we were in government, the Coalition was so supportive of clean energy. Right now what this country needs is more supply of that transition fuel of gas. Now every expert is pointing to it, but as the government tries to restrict supply of gas prices go up, Australians pay the price.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, we saw Saudi [inaudible] join a number of gulf countries, crude oil production. Given that’s something well outta the federal government’s control, what domestic measures could be undertaken to reduce that impact other than say a pure subsidy like the Coalition did, when in government?
TED O’BRIEN: There’s no doubt that where there are global energy challenges, it’s up to the federal government to manage the domestic fallout. Again, what we see with OPEC is a decision being made, which is restricting the supply of key fuels. It’s up to the government now to provide relief. But the problem we’ve seen with the Albanese government is they promised one thing and deliver another. Before Christmas, they were promising households, energy relief. Households haven’t seen that. They said they’ll sort it out by March, it’ll be flowing by April. That’s not happening. So what we need is a government that will understand the problems of businesses of residents and be prepared to take action where there are problems created offshore, there are global issues, they have domestic ramifications. It’s up to the government to manage those domestic ramifications.
QUESTION: You’ve been chatting with local businesses here on the Gold Coast, um, and you mentioned that you wanted to keep manufacturing here on the Gold Coast. Have businesses indicated to you that they’re at threat?
TED O’BRIEN: Look, there’s always a risk with businesses that when costs get too high, they lose their competitive advantage, especially where they are competing with overseas companies. We can’t forget that we are part of an international trading environment and Gold Coast businesses who are involved in manufacturing often compete internationally – where their costs go up, they lose their competitive advantage and they too are at risk. The last thing we want to see is Gold Coast businesses losing their market share and getting to a point where they might be at risk of closing.
QUESTION: And is it given, well guess what our colleagues have been saying over the weekend from Aston is that perhaps the cost of living message the opposition was putting in place at the by election didn’t quite hit home yet? Is it your view that that sort of political attack line will continue from the opposition point of view? Is it just a matter of time before the public starts blaming the federal government <inaudible>?
TED O’BRIEN: At the end of the day, as a Coalition, we will always be very constructive where we can, but critical where we must. And when it comes to the Albanese government’s impact on cost of living, we have to be critical because they continue to take decisions which make it harder for Australians here, even on the Gold Coast, it is people who can afford it least, that are paying the most. And this is the problem with Labor’s measures. We make our decisions based on principle and based on what’s in the best interest of the Australian people and our nation, that has been our focus to date and that will continue to drive our focus moving forward.
QUESTION: Karen, there are reports Scott Morrison is considering pulling the pin and leaving Parliament soon. Would you welcome that? After multiple ministries, the multiple ministries scandals from last year?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, ultimately the decision that Scott Morrison makes will be his and his alone. I am on the record with what my views were last year and they remain unchanged.
QUESTION: What about Stuart Robert? I hear there’s rumours that he might be considering leaving.
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m not going to get into speculation about who may or may not be continuing to stand in parliament, that’s decisions for the individuals. I think what we need to do as a Liberal National Party here in Queensland, but more broadly the Liberal Party in Australia, is to spend our time listening to businesses, listening to mums and dads, listening to our youth, and making sure that as we put together our policies for the future, they are going to deliver what Australians need.
QUESTION: And I was wondering your reflections on the weekends byelection result, given that your seat McPherson, I don’t, I’m not political expert, but I don’t think you could call it marginal, but it could one day be it’s one on a 59% margin that could change over a couple of election cycles. What were your reflections on Aston in the context of looking in your own seat?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I’ve always treated this seat as if it was a marginal seat. So I work every single day in the best interests of the people who live and work here in McPherson on the Southern Gold Coast. So I’m very mindful of the fact that my job is to serve the people of McPherson. In terms of the Aston result, it is a long way from what we were hoping for. And I think it is a wake up call for us to make sure that we properly assess the policies that we took to the 2022 election. We look forward to the 2025 election with a range of policies that are fit for purpose for the Australian people. I’m very confident of the team that we have in federal parliament and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them.
QUESTION: Are there any specific areas you think the party should be looking at right now in terms of policy?
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely. Everything needs to be on the table at this point in time. We have just come through the 2022 election, where the Australian people gave their very strong verdict on what they wanted for the future. Now we need to reassess all of the policies that we took to the election and we will do that. That process is already underway, that process has been kickstarted in my own shadow portfolio of home affairs. So that work is well underway. We’ll be looking at policies that were taken to the last election, but more importantly we are looking forward. And as you have seen, in relation to the banning of TikTok on government devices, that was actually done clearly at the initiative led by Senator James Paterson, but which all the Coalition absolutely supported and got on board with. So we are not an opposition that is just sitting there biding our time. We are out there fighting every single day for Australians. And I am pleased that the Albanese government has listened to what the opposition has had to say on TikTok.
QUESTION: And I guess continuing on TikTok, if it’s not safe for government phones, should people or ordinary people have it on their phones?
KAREN ANDREWS: I would encourage the government to embark very quickly on an education campaign that is targeted at the demographic that use TikTok so that they understand what the implications are. Now some people will not be at all concerned about the amount of data that is able to be accessed by a foreign, but I would encourage people to look very clearly at how they are making sure that all of their data is protected. And I would discourage anyone from having TikTok on their devices.
QUESTION: Have you ever used it? Have you ever had a crack at TikTok?
KAREN ANDREWS: Oh, look, I have seen videos of TikTok and looking without a doubt, some of the things are pretty funny. Some of the things that you see on Facebook, some of the comments on Twitter can be quite funny as well too. But with TikTok there is a danger there and it is very different to the other platforms. So I do understand why it is so popular, but I am a ‘no’ to TikTok.
QUESTION: Just the voice discussion. Sorry, I’ve been talking to anyone else, have you formed a view on the voice ahead of the discussions tomorrow? And, if not, what are the key factors that you need to be satisfied on?
KAREN ANDREWS: So there are a series of meetings in Canberra tomorrow with the opposition. I will be listening very closely to Julian Leeser as shadow Attorney General, to the views that he has been putting, the changes that he’s proposing to the constitution in relation to what Mr. Albanese has put forward. What I want to do is make sure that the Australian people have the opportunity to voice their own view on the voice. Now, while some people may be supportive of the voice, other people are very concerned about what the impact may be on future generations. I think Australian speak as one when they say this, whether what is being proposed will deliver a better outcome.
QUESTION: And just coming back to places living, here on the Gold Coast there’s fears that it might even broached some of the stuff that we’re seeing in Sydney [inaudible] prices. So it’s not just businesses suffering but also residents. What are some of the unique, issues facing the Gold Coast and what are some, what are solutions that you can [inaudible]?
KAREN ANDREWS: So housing on the Gold Coast is extraordinarily difficult at the moment. Prices skyrocketed and they started to do that during Covid. And some would say that really caused the change here on the Coast when people from the southern states chose to buy site unseen and move up to the Gold Coast. Now, while I can understand why everyone does want to move to the Gold Coast, the reality is that the cost of housing in the southern states has been traditionally higher in the cities than what it has been on the Coast. So when people from the southern states were buying here, they had a different view of price structures here and they had more capacity to pay higher prices, which they did. We now have a situation where it is very difficult to even find somewhere to rent, let alone be able to afford it. So housing is a huge issue for us here on the Gold Coast, I would encourage further opportunities for land to be released so that new builds can be made. I’m not solely an advocate of high rises along the coastal strip here on the Coast because a lot of that housing is way too expensive for many of the people who wish to make the Gold Coast their home to live in. So I’m looking for solutions to provide affordable, reasonable housing for individuals and families here on the Coast.