Address to the Menzies Research Centre - John Howard Lecture 2012, Sydney
Posted on Friday, 6 July 2012
Thanks very much Tom.
Well Prime Minister Key, former Prime Minister Howard, Excellencies, parliamentary colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.
Australia and New Zealand are independent countries but we are the international version of identical twins. We have the same language, the same values, and essentially the same institutions derived from Britain. Our issues, aspirations and even our internal disagreements are largely the same.
I shouldn’t pretend that there are never any difficulties at all between us. For instance, as Health Minister, I discovered that establishing a Trans-Tasman Therapeutic Goods Administration would be almost as difficult and drawn out as establishing the mutual recognition of professional credentials amongst the Australian states. Still, these were differences of detail, not of belief.
The relationship between Australia and New Zealand is about as troubled as the relationship between the United States and Canada. The challenge is not turning a fraught relationship into a fraternal one – because the relationship could hardly be more cordial than it is. Rather, the challenge is not to take it for granted.
The task is not to address any problems between us – because there really are none. The task is to consider the problems that we both grapple with – and to learn from the ways in which those problems are tackled on different sides of the Tasman Sea.
Over the past two decades, New Zealand has been an economic policy laboratory trialling measures that were subsequently applied in Australia too.
First, the Lange/Douglas Labour Government floated the dollar, removed farm subsidies, deregulated finance markets, cut taxes and tariffs, and introduced a GST.
Then, the Bolger National Government privatised government owned enterprises, introduced a form of work for the dole, and deregulated the labour market.
After almost two decades of reform, the Clark Labour Government abolished work for the dole, renationalised businesses such as Air New Zealand, re-regulated the labour market, and – in September 2008 – enacted a limited form of emissions trading scheme.
So I congratulate the Key Government for its work to restore strength and dynamism to the New Zealand economy by cutting tax, partially privatising government business enterprises, re-introducing flexibility into the labour market, and winding back New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme.
There has been a massive fiscal turnaround amounting to a five per cent of GDP shift. In this John Key has been the very model of a contemporary centre-right Prime Minister.
So there is much that those on this side of the Tasman can learn from conservatives on the other side.
Given John Key’s credentials as a reformer and as a restorer, it’s fitting that the Menzies Research Centre has chosen him as this year’s John Howard lecturer.
John Key has not only been a reforming Prime Minister but a reforming Prime Minister who increased his majority at last year’s election – as John Howard did here in 2001 and 2004.
And as the number of MPs tonight testifies, we in Australia look forward to learning from John’s domestic policy and, should the Liberal and National parties form a government, working closely with him on foreign policy issues.
Happily, ladies and gentlemen, Australasia has two votes in the councils of the world. Australia and New Zealand will be two distinct voices but I’m confident that for the next few years at least, we’ll be saying essentially the same thing.
So ladies and gentlemen, we are indeed very lucky to have as our lecturer tonight, John Key and I ask you to make him extremely welcome.