Rob Marks lives in the Tweed Shire, owns a small business and is running on Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party ticket for the federal seat of Richmond.
Bay FM Community Newsroom host Mia Armitage interviewed Rob Marks live on-air on Friday 6 May in the first part of a series of interviews with Richmond candidates. To follow is a transcript of that interview, which you can hear here.
You can also hear Rob Marks in person with at least eight of the other nine candidates for the seat of Richmond at a Meet the Candidates forum in the Byron Theatre on Monday 16 May from 6pm.
Anyone wishing to ask a question of candidates on behalf of a group or cause related to federal policy is invited to submit details to [email protected]
Tickets are free and available via the Byron Theatre online.
There’s something about Clive
MA: Rob Marks, what made you decide to join a party run by a Queensland mining tycoon notorious for failing to pay workers in a nickel mine there?
RM: Okay, loaded question. As far as I know, no one’s been unpaid or forgotten or overlooked. Number two, he says a lot of things that appealed to me. Like, people come and go, but ideas live forever.
He realised he couldn’t save his first wife from cancer, he can’t take the money with him and he’s spending silly money to make what he thinks is a contribution. And I admire that, at least he’s putting his money where his mouth is and, you know, talk is cheap but he’s actually bankrolling himself and a few ideas.
And the party is made up of disillusioned people from Labor and Liberal and Greens and we’ve got a pretty good combination of candidates and, I think, a great mindset of people that just want to make a difference, and have Australia the way we used to be when we were kids.
And I don’t think that’s naïve, I think that’s the genuine desire that people have: for the love of their country and their family. I’m in it because of my kids. I’m not happy the way Australia is. I remember when it was a better place and I’m only 53. So, we’ve got a lot of people in the party. They’re in their 70s and they have even greater recollection than me and they all want to make a difference. So, yeah, that’s my motivation.
‘We’re not voting for Clive, we’re voting for your local representative’ says Palmer pick
MA: How popular do you understand Clive Palmer’s politics to be on the Northern Rivers, which is so famous for its farming, artisan, Bohemian, surfer, creative and environmentalist communities and most of those communities are opposed to mining?
RM: Well, the funny thing is, I love the Northern Rivers. It’s an eclectic mix of people and they all have one thing in common, and that is they love life and they love the nature around them. And, you know, he’s made a few dollars out of mining, but that’s certainly not his primary focus.
And again, we’re not voting for Clive, we’re voting for your local representative. So for example, in this case, it would be me. We also happen to have a Senate candidate who’s sixth on the ticket, but also is a member of Richmond. He lives in Ballina and he’s a highly intelligent, very well-traveled, educated man that has several patents to his name and he’s been in public service all his life, he was in the army for about 25 years.
So again, you know, the motivation, it’s not about Clive, people aren’t voting for Clive, they’re voting for true representation. We’ve had LNP in the seat for years, we had three generations on, nothing much got done. And you know, now we’ve got Labor. And again, you know, we’ve got things, infrastructure, hasn’t been spent, but that’s long overdue. So I just think that the love of everyone’s back door and nature and the way we live, and they’ve realised there’s got to be an alternative and that’s what I’m providing.
What’s so good about the old days anyway?
MA: What are United Australia Party’s top three priorities for the next Australian government? And before you answer that question, I have been onto the website, and I’ve seen the sort of rhetoric that you’ve used today, which is about a return to some sort of, to something in Australia’s history that you think was magical, and that’s been lost. But let’s not forget, of course, that it wasn’t that way for everybody.
I mean, we’ve had, for example, in recent years, a Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse, that’s hardly a time that we want to make a return to. We also didn’t have the right to vote for our First Nations people until I think it was, what, 1967. So that, again, not something that we would want to have a return to. Then, you know, we’ve got other people who would say that, well, there was a time in many states, when you could murder another man, if you’re a man, on the basis that you thought he was trying to come on to you, and you’re not a homosexual.
So, you know, we’ve got some things in the past that that aren’t really so great. So, when you talk about making Australia great again, what are you talking about? And again, what are the top three priorities for you or your party?
RM: You’ve got, there are two good points in there. In all of these occasions where there’s been massive changes in our national thinking, I think it’s where common sense has come to the front.
So, you’re talking about giving Aboriginals the right to vote. What a fantastic time that was. That was when Australia realised we were on the wrong path and it was a great time when we decided to make a step into the future. That’s better for the whole country.
In fact, when Australia was voting at a national level of change to the constitution to make it inclusive and recognise, as you say, our First Peoples, you know, South Africa was voting for Apartheid. So, I do think it is a great time in our country, because there was a great consciousness where we were, as a nation, we got together and said, let’s right wrongs.
So, you’re right. There were a lot of things that were bad going on in the country. But these were great times when as a nation, we stood together and said, let’s make a difference. Let’s make things better and that’s all about the experience of being fair and we have a very equitable society.
So, you see them as bad times, I see them as times where bad things were thrown out and good things were accepted as the norm and we embraced common sense. So yeah, I’m not ever, for one minute, saying, let’s go back to the bad old days, when do you never want to go backward?
I just want that collective consciousness that we’ve possessed at that point in time where we’ve made things better. I want to encourage that, I want that to flourish. I want us as a nation to keep choosing the right path, and to do the better things and a part of that, and a part of that, is reflected in the policies.
An end to higher education fees
And my greatest passion is I’ve got kids that have been in uni, in TAFE and I’ve got a son who’s an apprentice. My greatest bugbear is that we ask kids to invest in the future and they come out with a useless bloody tax debt around their neck called HECS.
Now, if a kid goes to a bank and says, I’m an entrepreneur, I’ve got a great idea, I’m going to save this country money, or I’m going to employ people, the bank won’t give them five bucks, they won’t lend them one dollar. But they’ll let you go into debt for $100,000 on the premise that you’re going to come out and get a job and a half-useless university degree when you’ve got no assets.
Now, is that equitable? Is that fair? Is that good? You’re asking kids to invest in the future, and you’re going to trip them up before they even get out of the gates of University. That’s nuts. So, one of the policies is get rid of HECS, it’s not productive. It’s not good for the country. It’s not good for the kid that wants to invest in themselves.
So that’s my passion because that’s so close to home. As I said, I’ve got one son’s an apprentice, I’ve got a daughter who’s in higher [education], we’ve been through it, through this path. So I see in a lot of the policies that common sense and I see them reinvigorating the country. I see them as a great opportunity, as a collective, as a consciousness, where Australia says, well, we’re at the fork in the path, let’s choose the right path, make the country better. That’s where I’m coming from.
3% freeze on home mortgages
MA: What are your views on some of the other topics that are dominating mainstream media coverage of the federal election campaign? So, for example, we’ve got cost of living and I mentioned earlier, inflation has gone up more than 5% and wages, apparently only 2%. And then, of course, climate change is another big one. We haven’t talked about housing either today, but that’s another big topic.
RM: Well, again, housing is a big, another big bugbear, you know, every time a property is built, it employs 176 different people. So it’s 176 families that that are that have been fed and productive. That’s 176 people that go out and spend money and keep the economy going.
You know, the state government has relied on stamp duty, and federal governments have relied on tax to keep their housing system going. It’s the greatest chance of employment in the country. Not only that, you know why?
There’s so many people that are homeless, there’s people living in cars, and these are people that have jobs. You know, this is, this should never have happened. Now, the inflation is a furphy. The government has shut down the economy by closing small business, okay,and regardless of where you stand on COVID, that’s a fact.
Small business employs 75% of the population and the federal and state governments have shut down small business. They’ve strangled the economy, and then they’ve pumped it full of cash by way of payments. That’s what’s caused the inflation. It’s got nothing to do with the war in Ukraine and the price of oil, okay, that’s all a furphy.
So, the inflation that we’re getting now, you ask any kid studying economics at school and he’ll tell you, this is the outcome. This is what happens when governments do what they’ve done. So, inflation is not a surprise, but what it is doing, it’s squeezing the cost of living.
Now, the definition of mortgage stress is after you’ve paid all your bills, you’ve got $5 left in every 100 bucks, okay, at the moment 40% of Australians are already there, we just need an interest rate rise of 1% at the retail level, that’s what the bank sell it at to us, and the entire country would be in mortgage stress. So, one of our policies is we’re going to freeze mortgages at 3% for five years, again, a common sense policy that recognizes the importance of families and housing.
Half of our problems in this country could be solved if we just had more public housing. I mean, the level of homelessness is outrageous for a first world country. It’s unacceptable.
MA: I’m gonna interrupt you there briefly and we’re nearly out of time but Rob Marks, when you talk about a freeze on interest – was that a freeze on interest rates?
RM: We saying a 3% freeze on interest on owner occupied mortgages.
MA: Yeah, okay, l see, is the cap then for five years? Can the government actually do that though, considering that the Reserve Bank of Australia is supposed to be an independent body? The banks, at this point in time anyway, it’s up to them whether or not they even follow the Reserve Bank of Australia’s advice.
RM: Well, they usually don’t follow the Reserve Bank of Australia’s advice. I mean, their cash rates are 10 basis points, or 10 cents in the dollar. And they’re selling mortgages of three, three and a half percent. So, we’ve just had a Royal Commission that told us what we always knew, and that is the are banks screwing us right royally. So, there’s no reason why Parliament can’t pass off that, that makes the banks have a conscience.
Sustainable building key climate action says UAP candidate
MA: I’ll just let you return to some of the main priorities that you had there, you were talking about, you’ve mentioned an end to HECS fees and now you’ve talked about a cap on interest rates? I think, yeah, you were just about to get on to something else that you said was a was a main priority for you, unless you were going to get on to climate change because I did ask you about where you stand on climate change.
RM: Well, climate change is 100% real, anyone who says otherwise is delirious. Okay, we’re all allowed an opinion. But the reality is you can’t have an increasing human population and movement and for it not to affect the earth. The question is, how do we deal with it. So energy is a big part of that and everybody’s looking for a renewable source. But the other thing is, it’s also what we can do at the home level.
So the government needs to encourage us by way of incentives to provide us with the necessary tools that we can make a difference at the household level. And it’s not only about waste management, and again, I’m back to energy and the cost of electricity and where it comes from, but everything, the way the homes are designed, the way they’re built. We need to have sustainability building from scratch, from the ground up. It’s become a buzzword, everybody loves it, but half of us aren’t doing it and the rest of us that know about it can’t get access to what we need, because there’s no funding or there’s no, there’s no incentives to do it.
So we need we need a government that’s clever and smarter than the average bear, and just doesn’t sell us rhetoric, we need real on the ground efforts. Because exactly the failure is what we’re seeing in the rivers. Now we need dams. They spent 200 million bucks on building banks. It wasn’t enough, it’s just misplaced money. And we need the infrastructure: infrastructure, infrastructure.
No one’s worked out how to pay for it. And for a guy that’s in mining, he’s decided to put a 15% tax on exports of iron ore, which will pay back the trillion dollar debt and give us the money that the country needs for all this infrastructure spending. And he’ll be paying it as well.
‘Candidates, give me a call,’ says Clive Palmer candidate for Richmond on preferences
MA: What preference deals have you made or are hoping to make with other candidates for Richmond how-to-vote cards?
RM: Well, we’re still working it out. But I encourage the candidates, give me a call. Let’s have a – everything’s on the table. Everything’s on the table.