Address to the 56th Federal Council of the Liberal Party of Australia, Melbourne
Posted on Saturday, 30 June 2012
Thank you Julie for that uplifting introduction, but the next election is not about me, or even about us. It’s about our country. It’s about giving a great people the better government they deserve.
I acknowledge our president, Alan Stockdale, our director Brian Loughnane, our vice-presidents, our state presidents, and particularly the leader of the National Party, Warren Truss. I acknowledge our host, Premier Ted Baillieu, our newest premier, Campbell Newman, and I particularly congratulate the Liberal National Party on a historic win in Queensland.
I acknowledge all the senior members of our party present here today – a party that is bigger than any of us because it represents the dream of freedom and the love of country that runs like a golden thread through the history of our nation and of our civilisation.
I am proud to stand before you as the leader of the Liberal Party and as the leader of the federal Coalition.
It’s the greatest public honour that’s ever been bestowed upon me and every day I strive to be worthy of the faith that you have placed in me; and the faith that millions of Australians have placed in us as the standard bearers for the things that they believe in and hope for.
On behalf of the Liberal National Coalition, I assert these fundamental truths: Government should be at least as interested in the creation of wealth as in its re-distribution.
Government should protect the vulnerable – not to create more clients of the state – but to foster more self-reliant citizens.
And the small business people who put their houses on the line to create jobs deserve support from government, not broken promises.
And the people who work hard and put money aside so they won’t be a burden on others should be encouraged, not hit with ever higher taxes.
So my pledge to the young people of Australia is that the next Liberal National government will not swallow up your future by consigning our country to a generation of debt.
My pledge to the forgotten families of Australia is that we will never make your lives harder by imposing unnecessary new taxes.
And my pledge to everyone dismayed by attempts to set Australian against Australian on the basis of where they live or how much they earn is Sir Robert Menzies’ declaration that the class war is always a false war.
To the farmers of Australia, my pledge is that the next Liberal National government will recognise you as our first and best conservationists.
To the members of our armed forces, on the seas to our north, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, my pledge is that a Liberal National government won’t send you into harm’s way without our love, our prayers and the best support a grateful nation can give.
And my pledge to the workers of Australia is that your pay will be protected and that the businesses that employ you will have more chance to invest and expand.
Now the best thing anyone can do right now for the working families of Australia is take the pressure off their cost of living and keep their jobs competitive.
But from tomorrow, every problem we face will get worse under the carbon tax which is designed to go up and up and up.
It will raise every family’s cost of living. It will make every job less secure. But it won’t help the environment because Australia’s domestic emissions will be eight per cent higher – yes higher – by 2020 despite a carbon tax of $37 a tonne.
So ladies and gentlemen, soon enough, the Australian people will pass judgement on this bad tax based on a lie.
The next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax, it will be a referendum on prime ministers who tell lies; and when I say, during that campaign, “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead” Australians can be 100 per cent certain that I am telling the truth.
Now I am confident that the parties I lead can best represent Australians’ true interests and lasting values because we aren’t owned by anyone, we don’t recruit our MPs from a narrow political caste of former union officials and political operators, and we haven’t sold our soul to the Greens in order to cling to office.
From Menzies to Fadden, to Howard and Fischer, people could trust their futures to Liberal National governments. This is our tradition, a tradition that has consistently delivered the hope, reward and opportunity that Australians instinctively aspire to.
As liberals, we support smaller government, lower taxes and greater freedom; as conservatives, we support the family, and values and institutions that have stood the test of time; above all else as patriots we support policies that have been proven to work and that clearly make our country stronger.
A country where citizens count for more and officials for less: that’s my vision for Australia.
My vision for Australia doesn’t involve the national government telling everyone what they should do and who they should be. It’s giving individuals and communities a better chance to realise their own visions which will be as diverse as the Australian people.
Australians don’t need an official vision that they’re all expected to share. We need to know instead that all of us can have a go, and be ourselves, and be accepted.
This is what gladdens the heart of every Australian and makes us proud of who we are and what we’ve achieved.
Australians know that this is a great country… yes let down by a bad government… with its best years ahead provided more of us can come closer to being our best selves.
My hope is to lead a government that appeals to our values as well as to our interests and that helps people to feel more pride in our country.
My hope is that all my fellow Australians will feel safe in their homes, accepted in their communities and secure in their jobs.
My hope is that more Australians will feel that their lives are worthwhile and that their plans can be realised.
My hope is that Australia will shine ever brighter as a beacon of freedom and fairness in a turbulent world where people from anywhere, provided they are ready to join our team and accept our rules, can build a life for themselves and for their children.
My hope is that the indigenous people of this country will have more self-respect because they are less dependent on government.
My hope is that our country will count for more in the wider world with a stronger alliance with America, greater and more diversified trade with our partners in Asia, and a growing relationship with countries such as India making more of our shared attachments to democracy and the rule of law.
My hope is that Australians will come to think of starting a business as readily as they think of taking a job; and of buying shares as readily as they contemplate buying a new kitchen appliance; and that more of us will come to appreciate that economics is not a zero sum game where higher profits must mean lower wages and vice versa.
But it’s not enough to hope. Change for the better requires policies that are affordable, achievable and believable. People need to know how they can be funded, how they can be implemented, and how they fit with their own values and those of the government that’s delivering them.
So as a political movement that isn’t forced to reinvent itself from moment to moment, let me say that the policies that the Liberal and National parties took to the last election will be the foundation of the policies we take to the next one.
We will ensure that government lives within its means and we will reduce the Commonwealth payroll, through natural attrition, closer to its size at the close of the Howard government.
We will eliminate the carbon tax, we will eliminate the mining tax. There will be personal income tax cuts without a carbon tax and company tax cuts without a mining tax because we’ll find the spending reductions to make them sustainable.
We will reduce emissions through more trees, better soils and smarter technology, not a great big new tax on everything.
There will be national broadband that’s delivered more affordably and rolled out more quickly without a government monopoly and without relying on just one delivery mechanism.
There will be a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme so that mothers will have a more realistic choice to combine work with family; and we will seek a childcare system that’s more flexible, affordable and accessible.
We will co-operate with the states to deliver more independent schools and community-controlled public hospitals.
There will be incentives for employers to take young people and seniors off welfare and into work.
And ladies and gentlemen, we will protect our borders by restoring the policies that succeeded under the Howard government. Offshore processing at Nauru, temporary protection visas and the option of turning boats around where it is safe to do so.
Before the last election, we said that we’d end the waste, pay back the debt, stop the big new taxes and stop the boats. As things go from bad to worse, that’s even more necessary now than it was then. People understand that the only way to stop the boats is to change the government, because they know that Labor’s heart just isn’t in it.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Coalition has a four point economic plan to fix the budget, lower taxes, boost productivity and integrate more closely with the economies of Asia.
We have the six point plan to boost productivity and competitiveness: increasing workforce participation; boosting the efficiency of public institutions; establishing a level playing field for competition between big business and small; cutting red tape costs by over a $1 billion a year; boosting economic infrastructure; and restoring the balance in workplace relations.
These policies should result in a strong five pillar economy: with a growing services sector, a vibrant knowledge economy, and re-invigorated manufacturing industry as well as our traditional strengths in agriculture and mining.
More recently, as part of the Coalition’s plan for a stronger economy for a stronger Australia, I’ve made important additional commitments: there will be a once-in-a-generation commission of audit to consider every aspect of government’s effectiveness and value for money.
The states will have the chance to become one-stop shops for environmental approvals.
Within a decade, working with the states, 40 per cent of school leavers will study at least one foreign language.
Our immigration programme will focus on people who can make a contribution from day one in a job; and we will find ways of getting more private sector investment into infrastructure because people shouldn’t have to fight to get to and from work.
One of the problems of modern government is analysis paralysis. Projects are announced and never delivered because everyone has a right of veto rather than just a right to be listened to.
I want to say to you, the next Liberal National government won’t shirk the decisions necessary to deliver lower taxes, better services, stronger borders and modern infrastructure.
On day one of a new government, the carbon tax repeal process will begin. On day one of a new parliament, the carbon tax repeal legislation will be introduced. On day one of a new government, the navy will receive new orders to protect our borders and promote safety at sea.
So today, I announce a new commitment: within 12 months of a Liberal National government taking office in Canberra, big new infrastructure projects should be under way in our major cities.
After discussions with Infrastructure Australia and state governments, I can announce that the Coalition will commit $1.5 billion to the East-West Link road tunnel in Melbourne, $1.5 billion to the M4 East in Sydney, and $1 billion to the Gateway Motorway upgrade in Brisbane.
Commonwealth funding at this level should enable these projects swiftly to proceed in conjunction with state and private funding. These commitments will largely be met from within the Nation Building programme and supplemented by responsible savings.
We will work with the states and the private sector to ensure that these projects have started to go ahead within 12 months of the next federal election because the Australian people need to know that our great cities are no longer at risk of gridlock.
Our big cities are no less vital to our economy than our vast resource developments and can properly be considered part of our national economic infrastructure.
You see almost nothing builds confidence more than seeing cranes over our cities and almost nothing signifies progress more than new roads.
These three commitments complement those the Coalition has previously supported and today reaffirms: the Toowoomba range crossing, the Perth Gateway project, the Midlands Highway in Tasmania and soon, there will be further commitments in Adelaide and to the Bruce and Pacific highways.
Ladies and gentlemen, sensible people learn from the past but are never trapped in it.
One of the big achievements of the Menzies government was the Colombo Plan which brought to Australia for study some of the potential leaders of our region. The vice-president of Indonesia and the national development minister of Singapore, for instance, are recipients of Colombo Plan scholarships.
Sixty one years after it began, this remains Australia’s classic soft-power initiative in our region.
So today, I announce that within two years, under a Liberal and National government, there will be a new Colombo Plan that doesn’t just bring the best and the brightest from our region to Australia but that takes Australia’s best and brightest to our region.
We should better appreciate not just how much Australia can give our neighbours but how much they can give us, in cultural insights as well as in trade benefits. But that’s hard when there are, for instance, 17,000 Indonesians studying here but only some 200 Australians studying there.
So a modern version of the Colombo Plan, operating as a two way rather than as a one way street, and funded from existing resources, should reinforce our own and overseas future leaders’ understanding of all the things we have in common.
Ladies and gentlemen, back in 2007, the Australian people decided that they wanted to make a fresh start with a new government and I respected that choice even though I profoundly disagreed with it. In 2010, people were torn between profound disappointment at Labor’s failures and their willingness to give a still new government a fair go.
So my challenge, our challenge, every day between now and the next election is to reassure people that there is nothing wrong with our country that a change of government couldn’t improve. It’s to demonstrate how people could have greater confidence in our government and therefore greater confidence in our country.
You see I know what a good government is like because I was part of one. As a minister in the Howard government I established the Green Corps, which deployed thousands of young Australians on practical conservation projects.
I massively expanded work for the dole because unemployed people should have the chance to demonstrate what they could do, not just what they couldn’t.
I rescued the Job Network by teaching public servants to cooperate with community groups, not order them around.
I set up the Cole Royal Commission to bring the rule of law and higher productivity to the commercial construction industry.
I created the Medicare safety net and extended Medicare to psychology and to dentistry because I believed that Medicare should treat the whole person, not everything except the mouth and the mind.
Every single one of these initiatives reflected the enduring values of our party and, I believe, the best instincts of our people: appreciation of the natural world and a determination to leave it to our children in better shape than we found it; belief in the importance of work and of people having the chance to make a contribution to our community; respect for people’s fundamental right to go about their ordinary business free from fear and the prospect of coercion; and a conviction that people deserve the best services that a humane and decent society can reasonably provide for them.
Famously, the Howard government found $96 billion in Commonwealth debt and turned it into $70 billion in net Commonwealth assets. It inherited a $10 billion budget black hole and turned it into surpluses averaging almost 1 per cent of GDP between 1996 and 2007.
But I have news for everyone in this room, those surpluses weren’t just John Howard’s and Peter Costello’s.
They were Abbott surpluses and Hockey surpluses and Bishop surpluses and Turnbull surpluses and Robb surpluses because we were all senior members of the government that delivered them and have the same commitment to prudent, orthodox, administration that’s always been the hallmark of Liberal and National governance.
So ladies and gentlemen, I am not asking the Australian people to take me on trust but on the record of a lifetime and an instinct to serve ingrained long before I became opposition leader: as a student president, trainee priest, Rhodes Scholar, surf life saver, volunteer fire fighter, as well as a member of parliament and as a minister in a government.
I understand that the prime ministership should not be just the realisation of personal ambition or the vindication of years of plotting but the most effective way to bring about a better Australia.
And through all the partisan contention of the past two years over the carbon tax, border protection, the speakership or the health services union debacle, the Coalition’s aim has always been to promote more effective policy and greater integrity in public life.
Ladies and gentlemen, at a low ebb in his prime ministership John Howard declared that politics was a hard and unforgiving business but it was also the highest and noblest form of public service. I have always tried to be ambitious for the higher things not, for the higher office, and did not enter politics to become prime minister but to serve my country.
Now every member of my team understands that politics is a calling not a job. The hours are long, the responsibilities vast, the pressure unrelenting, the gratitude uncertain but the reward is the privilege and honour of representing tens of thousands of our fellow Australians and making a difference to their lives.
So I’m pleased to say that the people running for us – the new candidates running for this great party at the next election are a snapshot of contemporary society. They’re community leaders who reflect the dreams and the diversity of modern Australia.
Sarah Henderson, for instance, was a progressive journalist, she is now running for Corangamite because a Coalition government will give women and our regions a better deal.
John Nguyen is a partner in an accounting firm, originally a refugee who came to Australia the right way, not the wrong way and he’s running for Chisholm because a Coalition government will give every Australian the best chance to get ahead.
Angus Taylor is a Rhodes Scholar, a company director and an adviser to governments, running for Hume because he thinks the best way for him to serve our country is in the parliament.
Christian Porter, a minister in a successful state government running for pre-selection in Pearce because he’s confident that the best way to shape our nation’s future is to be part of a national government.
Andrew Nikolic has worn our uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan and is running for Bass because that’s the best way he can fight for our future.
There is even ladies and gentlemen an independent member of the New South Wales parliament, now running for New England, because he now admits that the best way to help regional Australia is to be a member of the federal Coalition.
So ladies and gentlemen, should the Liberal and National parties form a government, our objective will be to build on the strengths of modern Australia because all of us are the products of an Australian life.
With Margie, I have tried to give our three girls a good start, paying a mortgage, wrestling with school fees, juggling bills.
Work, family, community; doing things for love, not just money; acting out of ideals, not just interests; these are the mainstays of most Australians’ lives. They provide the strands of meaning and purpose which criss-cross and interconnect millions of times to form the fabric of a strong and cohesive society.
This is the country I cherish: where “hope, reward and opportunity” is more than a phrase. It’s our future.
Now the bigger the challenge our country faces, the greater the honour in being charged to meet it.
The next election can now be at most a little more than a year away and we are ready.
Whenever it comes, I am confident that the Liberal Party has earned the chance to govern our country. It will be a big job ladies and gentlemen, but we are up to it.
Thank you so much.