Gary Biggs lives in the Tweed Shire and owns a small business. He is running as a candidate for the Liberal Democrats Party in the federal seat of Richmond.
Bay FM Community Newsroom host Mia Armitage interviewed Gary Biggs live on-air on Friday 6 May in the second part of a series of interviews with Richmond candidates. To follow is a transcript of that interview, which you can hear here.
[Ed note: The LDP policy platform is to remove restrictions on uranium mining, increase nuclear power generation and remove the targets on renewables.]
Milkshakes and affogatos
GB: Thanks for inviting me. I haven’t been to Byron for quite a while. I used to drive here often, I was managing the ten-pin bowling centre in Lismore. I drove down every week or so, used to pop in for a, what was it, a date and honey milkshake? Can you still get those down here? Because I remember that, very nice, and that was back in the days when the road wasn’t a half-an-hour trip from the highway. You know, it was just pop in and pop out.
MA: I’m sure you could get a date and honey milkshake if you’re-
GB: I’m on a mission to find Richmond’s best affogato. So far, you’ve got to knock off a little shop in Ballina.
MA: Rightio, date and honey milk shakes and affogatos, there’s a little bit of an insight into Gary Biggs, hopefully we’ll get a bit deeper than that this morning.
The Liberal Democrats: what’s in a name?
MA: Let’s start with the minor party that you represent, the Liberal Democrats. You know, for an inexperienced voter, some of these party names can be confusing, especially in today’s global context, we’ve got so much access to politics elsewhere in the world, particularly, of course, the US and the UK.
What’s the elevator pitch for the Liberal Democrats?
GB: Well, please disregard anything American because if you ask for a biscuit over there, you’ll probably get a scone. They’ve got the terms back-to-front. We are Liberal in the classic sense of liberal from Edmund Burke, of a JS Mill-type Libertarian Party.
We believe that you have the right to do pretty much whatever you want, provided you don’t hurt anybody else and on top of that, the government has no right to interfere with your liberty without proof-positive that you’re hurting somebody else. That’s our basic tenant and you can pretty much move everything else on from there. It appealed to me.
Lockdown angst from the QLD border
GB: During the lockdowns up on the border where I live in Terranora, I was locked out of Queensland for no particular reason. All the measures didn’t make sense, you shouldn’t lose your job because you don’t go and take a booster. That’s still happening in Victoria. We believe in moving the control from on high down to on low.
A good example of that was the cabinet with ScoMo, he got everybody together and what we got as a result of that was the worst of each state was put on every state and that’s a classic example of elevating the power to the top, you get fewer and fewer people making worse and worse decisions. So, we don’t like that, we say you should be free. If you don’t want to wear thongs I’m not in any state to tell you to but you might get cut feet.
Sorry, Great Barrier Reef… anyway, about that milkshake
MA: Okay, what role do you see government playing then? You’re running for the government, so I’m assuming you do believe in a government.
GB: I believe in the minimum amount of government possible. It’s more about outcomes than inputs. Every other candidate here promising you a billion dollars for this, a billion dollars for that. You’ve gotta see my email box, there’s thousands of things.
There’s not much I can do about the Great Barrier Reef from Richmond, and I’m certainly not gonna promise billions of dollars more towards it.
But I’ve been over to the council offices, there’s thousands and thousands of people paid more than most of the people working in Richmond producing things. They’re all running around and then the outcome of that is, well, we’ve had a flood and nobody’s dredged the river mouth to let the water out.
I walked across the Tweed River the other day, about halfway across on the sandbar. The video will be up on my page. So, how come we’ve got an outcome where we’ve got potholes everywhere, but we’re throwing billions and billions of dollars, and then run up trillions of dollars of debt without a sensible outcome. The outcomes that we need are roads we can drive on. You shouldn’t take half an hour to get from the highway into Byron Bay. It always took me ten minutes when I came in for my milkshake.
Won’t someone think of the potholes?
MA: Alright, I’m just gonna unpack some of those things that you’ve just said. So, let’s start with potholes. I mean, most of the roads around here are local roads. So they’re a responsibility of the local governments, councils. Yes, we’ve got some main roads like the highway that are the responsibility of state and sometimes federal governments. But most of the roads that have potholes are local roads. So, what has that got to do with a federal election?
GB: It’s a good example of how we don’t get a good outcome for our money. We should have crews. They used to come out after every rain. It’s going to be rainy. It’s going to be potholes we need to fix, we need the rivers dredged.
You can look at the same thing on a federal level. Most government departments have heads. The department’s earning half a million dollars each, people underneath them earning nearly the same, thousands and thousands of people all doing, what’s the outcome?
We’ve still got a housing crisis, and all they’ve done is print money. Now, I believe the figure is 60 per cent of all the US dollars that exist today were printed in the last two years*. Why do you think housing prices have doubled? If you make the money worth half as much, it’s going to cost twice as much to buy something. So, throwing more money at the government is not a solution to it. What we need to do is go and get better outcomes.
‘I’ll vote no a lot,’ says Biggs
MA: You also earlier mentioned your idea that there’s nothing much you can do from the seat of Richmond for a place like the Barrier Reef that’s outside our electorate. But in fact, one of your jobs if you get into government will be to vote on many, many issues that won’t necessarily impact your electors directly. So, what are you going to do, just abstain from voting?
GB: No, I’ll vote no a lot. If it comes to spending more money, or raising people’s taxes, the answer is going to be no.
We don’t need more spending, more waste, more anything in the government level, we need less. We need more efficient government. We believe in smaller government.
Like Kerry Packer said, every time you pass a law, you take somebody’s privileges away. I believe that if you repeal the law, you’ll be giving somebody their privileges back and that’s what I’m going to Canberra for, to tear up a heap of laws.
Dredging the council
MA: You’ve just quoted Kerry Packer. That’s a man who had a lot of privilege, a lot of power and a lot of wealth. Are those the kinds of people that you represent?
GB: I represent everybody. But everybody’s been oppressed. We all pay a rate. Whether you rent a house, you’re still paying the rates because the landlord pays it out of the money you give them and what do they do with that money? There’s not even a dredge put into the bar when we really need the flooding fixed. I’ve sent aerial photos in 2017 to the Tweed Shire Council of the Tweed River pretty much blocked up. Nothing. I got a nice green response about sand or something but it wasn’t a result.
MA: If you want to embark on infrastructure type projects, like dredging, you’re still gonna need revenue, infrastructure projects aren’t free.
GB: No, dredging is not an infrastructure project, that’s just plain maintenance that should have been done. The ability should be in the efficiencies of the council but if it made an infrastructure project, it would be like the on-ramp at Kirkwood Road in Tweed Heads. It was promised to us dozens of times, it’s been half-made for the last 30 years and it hasn’t been done. That’s an investment in getting rid of the traffic out of South Tweed Heads, Banora Point, Kennedy Drive, you name it. So that’s an investment, which is saving us money. It’s a very different thing.
Dr John and his flat income tax: 20 per cent
MA: If you want to make investments though and if you want to pay for maintenance, like dredging of a river, and you don’t want to have taxes that are too high, how do you get that balance right between getting enough revenue to maintain the sorts of services that the public expects, and not taxing people too high?
GB: Our policy on tax is fairly simple. We want to raise the tax-free threshold to $40,000 and then make it 20 per cent. After that, go ahead, make as much money as you like. Now, you say how can we fund all that? We’re planning on a ten per cent cut in the bureaucracy straight up and a one per cent cut after that.
The head of our party… I sat up last night till eleven o’clock listening to Dr. John [Humphreys] lecture about economics. I feel like, being a politician, I’ve been on economics course. He is brilliant and his policies all add up in the end.
MA: So you’ve got an economist at the head of your party.
GB: Absolutely. He’s the president and he drills every candidate on ‘no, this is foolish, you don’t go that way, because it doesn’t stack up economically’. He loves sitting up late at night having big, big chats about economics and that’s what I did last night.
So, I think you’ll find all the Liberal Democrats policies add up, and we’re a very different party to all the others, because we’re not promising trinkets and tokens of this and that for every other thing. We’re promising sensible things. We’re the only honest party except perhaps The Greens because they’re promising to increase your taxes and I don’t know if you want to vote for that.
Liberal Democrat warns of ‘scary’ inflation
MA: They also say that they’ve got all of their policies costed by the independent parliamentary budget office.
GB: But the trouble with that is, and Dr. John pointed this out last night, you can forecast whatever you like out for years. But it’s basically, unless they’re talking about making a surplus in this term of government, I mean in the next two years, if the government balanced their budget, the deficit did take care of itself over time… the trouble is, they keep adding and adding and adding to the deficit, and printing more and more money and if you’ve got more money chasing goods, inflation is on its way, and everybody should be buckling in because it’s going to be scary, where the inflation is going to be after the COVID panic of, you know, throwing money at absolutely everyone and everything.
Biggs to preference ‘Uncle Clive’ and ‘freedom candidates’
MA: Gary Biggs, you’re not the only one running for the seat of Richmond who’s really concerned about economics and what you call maybe bureaucratic administrative waste, if you like. [There’s Independent candidate] Nathan Jones.
GB: And it’s great that we’ve got seven freedom independents running. Yeah, I’d be happy if any of them get in. Yeah, I’ll preference them all ahead of the major parties.
MA: Have you made any preference deals?
GB: The party did a deal with Uncle Clive [Palmer, United Australia Party] and their stated aim at the time was very much on freedom.
MA: Did you just call him Uncle Clive?
GB: Yeah, I’ve been asking for some of his money, but he won’t send any because, well, I’m aware I’m a first-time candidate in a first-time party in this electorate.
MA: And he’s already got his own candidate running.
GB: Well, he can pay for whatever he wants, he can get his candidates and buy a few of them perhaps. But we need people, we need volunteers and anybody who wants to volunteer to help me, maybe give out some how-to-vote cards, whatever, please jump on my website and shoot me an email or whatever and we’ll get you out front of the polling booth to help us out because I think it’s important that we do differentiate ourselves from the other major parties, and the way they’re going it’s a track to nowhere. It’s like the rest of the things to nowhere in Richmond that I’ve been pointing out.
The Biggs deal-maker
MA: One of the questions that I’m putting forward to anyone who’s an independent or representing a minor party, and therefore is hoping to get a seat on the crossbench, if you like, are you going to be prepared to work with either of the two major parties that you’re proposing people put last?
GB: Oh, yeah, I’ve made thousands of deals in my life, if ScoMo or Albo comes up to me, whatever deal happens will be in the benefit of Richmond, that’s for sure and some of these things that have been put off forever might get done.
* The US government has approved approx. $US5 trillion in funding programs over the past two years, with analysis of the spending and potential economic impacts recently published via The New York Times. Data on printed US dollars is available via the US Federal Reserve.