Dutton goes nuclear with budget strikes on energy and appeals to women

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has urged voters to hold Labor accountable for breaking electricity bill promises in his budget counter speech, while expressing support for new spending on child care and stronger measures against family violence on the ground for Australian women.

In a keynote speech to win back voters, Dutton defended the Coalition's economic record and denounced this week's federal budget as a "missed opportunity" in violation of Labor's election promise to cut household electricity bills by $275.

The speech endorsed government programs including support for flood victims and higher spending on medicine but did not state the position of extending paid parental leave from 20 to 26 weeks.

"We will stand against the broken promises of Labor," he said of the Coalition in his speech to parliament on Thursday night.

“We will have a clear, positive and bold plan ahead of the next election to take our country forward.

"And we will rebuild a strong economy for your family and our country."

Dutton blamed Labor for budget estimates for a 56 percent increase in electricity bills over two years and a 44 percent increase in gas bills over the same period, saying the Coalition could keep prices down.

In a controversial stance that has sparked attacks from the Labor Party, opposition leaders backed his call for a debate on nuclear energy as a way to provide reliable power without carbon emissions.

"When the prime minister says solar and wind are free sources of energy, your electricity bill tells a different story," he said.

"It's much more complicated than that. The technology does not yet exist at the scale needed to store renewable energy for reliable electricity at night, or during peak periods.

“Labor will phase out coal and gas before new technologies are developed and rolled out.”

Dutton cited Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US as countries all investing in small modular nuclear reactors.

"They are doing this to shore up energy security and to meet their zero emission targets," he said.

“The importance of creating affordable, reliable and emission-free energy is why the Coalition is seeking a smart conversation about the role this new age of nuclear technology can play in the energy mix.”

Albanians returned fire in an argument over the electricity bill in question on Thursday, ahead of Dutton's speech, by reminding the Coalition of its promise in the 2019 election to cut wholesale electricity prices by 25 percent.

Albanese cites figures from the Australian Energy Market Operator that show prices are rising instead.

The median price in Victoria was $91.90 in May 2019 and rose to $233.64 in May 2022. The average price in NSW rose from $79.12 to $320.48 over the same time. Prices in Queensland rose from $72.81 to $347.28, with similar gains in South Australia and Tasmania.

The figures, published on the AEMO website, mean the average in the eastern states is up 240 percent.

Dutton backed the Coalition's economic record by citing an additional 560,000 jobs in Australia compared to pre-pandemic levels and a $100 billion increase in budget in the previous administration's final year.

While Labor ministers have privately debated whether to continue with the $254 billion "phase three" tax cuts for a decade, Dutton has insisted the cuts should continue because families will need them when they start in 2024.

"The coalition will continue to fight for your tax breaks because it's your money, not theirs," he said.

He dismissed the budget's claim that the government would help create one million new homes from 2024 to 2029 as "unrealistic" and criticized Labor for introducing workplace laws to allow unions to negotiate with multiple employers in one industry.

"The last time unions used an industry-wide strike to pursue a sector-wide ultimatum was in 1982," he said.

Albanese had a personal advantage over Dutton of 53 to 18 percent when voters were asked to name their prime minister of choice in the Resolve Political Monitor earlier this month, and the gap is slightly larger among women.

Dutton used her speech on Thursday night to convince women she supports a crackdown on family violence and policies to help them in the workplace, reflecting her time in Queensland Police before she entered parliament in 2001.

"As a police officer, I see the best and the worst society has to offer," he said.

“I attended countless incidents of domestic violence. There's nothing worse than hearing calls for help from women or children as you get out of a police car and run towards a house.”

“As a nation, we celebrate our beautiful Indigenous history,” he said.

“But we should be equally proud of our British heritage and our migrant story.

"Many parents from across the country are increasingly concerned about the education their children receive in school."

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