Address to the Federal Council 2017

June 24, 2017
Speeches
Transcripts

Saturday, 24 June 2017

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, thank you very much.

Richard Alston, Federal President of the Liberal Party, Andrew Burnes, Honorary Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party. Andrew Burnes by the way, was reelected Honorary Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party. There has never been a contest for that job, ever. It is, and I can safely say from experience, the toughest job in politics and he’s doing a fantastic job. I think if someone ever put their hand up to contest for the position, the incumbent would immediately step aside. 

Andrew Bragg, Acting Federal Director of the Party, Larry Anthony, President of the National Party of Australia, all of my Federal Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues: Julie Bishop, Deputy leader & Foreign Minister as always you inspire us. Every time we see you on the world stage, you make us prouder. Thank you so much.

It’s wonderful to be here, as a resident of New South Wales, with the Premier Gladys Berejiklian, thank you Gladys for your leadership. Will Hodgman, Premier of Tasmania, thank you. Matthew Guy, the next Premier of Victoria. Tim Nicholls the next Premier of Queensland, Mike Nahan the next Premier of Western Australia and Steven Marshall the next Premier of South Australia. Alistair Coe and Gary Higgins the next Chief Minister of the ACT and the Northern Territory, welcome to you. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott welcome. Also with us today, although as he said, he hasn’t voted for many years and is not a member of any Party, but we’re honoured to have today at our Council, as we had, speaking to us last night at the dinner, General David Petraeus. Welcome General.

Now at the outset I want to express my thanks, and I know, our thanks to Tony Nutt for his extraordinary service to our nation and our Party over more than 35 years. He is stepping down as Federal Director, as you know, after a very, very long career and many achievements, including and not least, directing the 2016 campaign that returned the Coalition Government in a year in which very few incumbents were rewarded with reelection. So it was a great job.

Thank you Andrew Bragg for an outstanding job as Acting Director, taking up the role at very short notice including organizing this Council. I want to welcome Andrew Hirst as our new Federal Director.

We have a magnificent team. A great team of Ministers and parliamentarians, Members and Senators working for you, working for Australia in the Federal Parliament. But I want, today, to make a special mention of our Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who supported by our Senate leadership team, George Brandis, Mathias Cormann and Mitch Fifield, helped us secure the biggest reform to Commonwealth schools policy in our history.  Rather than a series of one-off deals, which has always been the pattern in the past, buying the acquiescence or silence of one group or another, reaching its apogee under the Labor Party that was inconsistent, not transparent, not needs-based and also – because it was a Labor Party policy – unaffordable. Instead of that, we now have a consistent, needs-based funding model.

This is an investment in our nation’s future. It’s a policy we can explain and we can defend. It has the potential, as we move on to the important issue, the most important issue I should say, which is the quality of education – what are we getting  for this massive increase in investment in our schools. We need to get Australian students to the top of the class. That’s where they should be. The amount of investment we have, must deliver better teaching and better outcomes and that is the second stage of the Gonski Review.

The funding wars should now be at an end. We have a fair, transparent, nation, consistent, needs based model. Now we’ve got to focus on making sure we get the teaching quality that our children deserve and that they get the results that they need to succeed in the 21st century. That is our commitment and that is the Gonski 2.0 review that is now underway.

Now as you know, it falls to the lot of Prime Minister and Ministers in the federal Parliament to be regularly scrutinized by the members of the Press Gallery. As you know, they’re always very generous in their appraisal. They’re always calling on me to admit things – generally what they’re calling on me to admit, is that we cannot get legislation through the Senate. You know, “why don’t you just admit you can’t this done, or you can’t get that done”? My reluctance is the subject of considerable criticism.

But you know something? We keep on proving them wrong. We do. They don’t go back and admit that they were wrong however. Admission is apparently only for us.

Despite the predictions that have been made about deadlock in the Senate, we have negotiated 126 bills through the Parliament in just 11 months since the election.

These include some of the most substantial reforms in a generation. Our reforms to schools funding about which I just spoke.

Our reforms to child care, tax cuts for small and medium businesses. How long is it since there was a tax cut for business? A very, very long time. Now, businesses up to $50 million, that’s all passed through the Parliament, will be receiving a tax cut this current financial year, almost over, businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million, next year up to 25, the year after, 50. Now what the Treasurer has delivered, are tax cuts that will ensure that employers of more than half of all Australians in the work force are able to get a better return on their investment, on their business. We know what they will do with that, because this is all that’s happened in the past; they will invest more and they will employ more.

That has been Economics 101 for a very long time. In fact even the Labor Party used to believe that. Even Bill Shorten used to believe that. Of course it’s very hard to find anything he believed in a few years ago that he still believes in, other than his own self-interest. But the fact is, that is driving growth. It is driving jobs. Jobs and growth is not just a slogan, it is an outcome. As we saw in the last jobs figures.

In addition to that we’ve extended the instant asset write-off for small businesses under $10 million turnover

We have reestablished the Australian Building and Construction Commission, we are restoring the rule of law to the construction sector. That twice rejected bill. To get the Senate to reject it twice, as a measure of my conviction and that that of my Government, we had to prorogue the Parliament and bring it back. The Labor Party was determined not to give us a double dissolution trigger on that. We got that trigger. We went to the election. We won the election and that bill is now law. If anyone doubted or questioned the need to restore the rule of law in the construction sector, I refer you to John Setka’s speech in Melbourne a few days ago.

When you have the largest single financial backer of the Australian Labor Party, a union run by thugs, which defies the rule of law, which openly has its leader in Victoria standing up and saying in a public rally, that they will follow, threaten and intimidate officers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Follow them to their sporting matches. Shame them in front of their children. Track them through the shopping centres when they go about the business. Tell people where they live.

This sort of thuggery and threats, this is what me must not accept. We do not, but I tell you, Bill Shorten does. This is Bill Shorten’s Labor Party. It is not the Party of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. This is a Labor Party controlled, owned by thugs. The most militant unions in the whole of the ACTU, they are calling the shots.

This challenge was what Menzies confronted 75 years ago in the darkest days of the 2nd World War, when he gave the Forgotten People broadcasts. We had a magnificent recreation of that broadcast only a little while ago in Canberra, of the Forgotten People single broadcast. There were many of them and I encourage you to read them all.

Menzies spoke about a future. A post-war future founded on the freedom of the individual, and on the small platoons; not the massed ranks of organised labor or the big end of town, but the farmers, the small business people and professionals. The people of middle Australia that Menzies ensured, by creating the Liberal Party, were to be forgotten no longer.

Our has grown and developed over all those intervening years, but the cornerstone of everything we do harks back to those early principles - the primacy of the individual and the importance of individual freedoms.

In his campaign address of 1949, Menzies defined these as freedoms as the freedom:

... to worship, to think, to speak, to choose, to be ambitious, to be independent, to be industrious, to acquire skill, to seek reward.”

To the dead hand of socialism, he offered an alternative that was as bright and optimistic, as socialism was defeatist and negative.

Remember too, the 1949 election was held in very challenging times. The world had emerged from the dark clouds of war and depression, only to face the chill winds of the Cold War and the grim prospect of a nuclear armageddon.

So that was the backdrop as Australians went to the polls in 1949.

Their choice was stark: increasing state control under Labor, including the nationalisation of banks, or opportunity and enterprise with the Liberal Party.

Australians rejected Labor. They chose not to submit to a government that offered to protect them by curbing their freedoms. Instead they elected a Liberal Government, that would protect them in threatening times while ensuring their freedom.

So our party was built on freedom, and it is freedom that links us today, with those who first gathered under the banner in 1944.

Those principles still guide us as we work to foster opportunity and security.

The opportunity to get ahead and to get back on your feet when times are tough, built on a foundation of economic and national security.

This is the big difference between our party and Labor: We believe Governments job is to enable you to do your best.

Labor believes – and they really do believe - that government’s job is to tell you what is best.

Menzies put this very well 54 years ago ,describing the political divide as between:

“those who believe that the national power of governments is something granted by free people to their political rulers, and those who believe in the all-powerful State which concedes to its citizens, such freedoms as it thinks fit.”

Don’t imagine that analysis is something that has become anachronistic. Consider this. When we had talked about the importance of cutting business taxes, our case for it has been utterly mundane. It has been conventional. It has been literally Economics 101. Governments have been reducing business taxes for years and are doing so around the world, for the very simple reason that it delivers and has been shown to deliver more investment and hence more employment, higher wages and more jobs. That’s how it has always worked. The Labor Party, as I said, used to believe that.

Every time Labor talks about our business tax cuts, they talk about us giving a hand-out to business. Now reflect on that. What they think, is that every dollar of profit that a government allows a business to keep, is a handout to the business.

They believe that the Government is entitled to all the profits of a business and that anything they retain after tax is effectively a handout. It is a thoroughly different utterly polarized view of the economy, of business, opf freedom, from our Party.

Now, we know that the first priority of every government is to protect our citizens. That is the number one obligation of the state, of the Government. The global threat we face from Islamist terrorism has been cruelly brought home to us again in recent weeks with young, innocent Australians murdered in Baghdad, in London and in Melbourne.

We’ve mourned the loss of four Australians killed in terrorist attacks, and we have seen so many other, shocking terrorist attacks. In Manchester, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Jakarta, the Philippines. And of course, the attack on worshippers outside a Mosque in London.  

My unrelenting determination and that of my Government is to do everything we can to keep Australians safe. To maintain our way of life, our values and our freedoms. We have the best law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies in the world. Since September 2014 they agencies have disrupted 12 planned terrorist attacks. I won’t go through them all, but there is one that we should reflect upon.

There was an attack that was being planned to let off an explosive device and take other murderous actions in the precinct of Federation Square and St Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of Melbourne, just before Christmas. That would have been a mass-casualty attack. That was found through good intelligence, good policing, good collaboration between federal and state agencies. The plotters are now awaiting their time in court. So we have given our agencies the resources – financial and legislative – powers to do everything they can to keep us safe. We do not set and forget. Wee have to be as agile as those who seek to do us harm. There is no room for complacency in this area.

We actively hunting down terrorists abroad in the conflict zone. Terrorists and those who seek to help them in Australia will continue to be monitored, prosecuted and imprisoned for as long as the law allows.

We have passed legislation to keep terrorists in prison after their sentences expire if they continue to be a threat to the community. They will not be allowed back on the street.

And we will not rest on this matter, ever. Since 2014, the Government has invested $1.5 billion in our law enforcement and security agencies. We’ve passed eight trances of new national security legislation. We’ve changed the law so that in the conflict zone, our Australian Defence Force is able to target and kill terrorists, whether they’re fighting on the front line with a gun in their hand, financing in the back office, or recruiting fighters through the malignant Islamist ideology they disperse online.

I want to refer for a moment now to the remarks of General Petraeus last night.

General Petraeus, as you know, was the Director of the CIA and commanded the Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has commanded Australian forces in two wars. One of the Australian soldiers he commanded, Andrew Hastie, gave a magnificent speech and vote of thanks after the General’s remarks at the dinner last night. But General Petraeus understood, recognising from the experience of Vietnam, the need to have a dynamic counterinsurgency strategy. That combination of strong force, but also working with the community. Recognising that the object of the terrorist is to divide us – therefore those of us who seek to defeat the terrorists, much make sure that we do not let them succeed and we build up our support and legitimacy and the legitimacy of those governments that we’re seeking to maintain, with those communities. Very, very subtle and effective approach to counterinsurgency.

The same lessons that General Petraeus learned and implemented in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq, the same fundamental principle applies here, when we fight terrorism. We must never let the terrorists divide us. They want us to turn on each other. Our best allies in the war against Islamist terrorism – and lets not be mealy-mouthed about this – this is largely, as the General said last night, a war within Islam. This is extremist fundamentalist, hate-filled people who claim to be speaking Islam, who seek to destroy the rest of that religion. To kill other Muslims and of course, most of their victims are Muslims. But also of course, to declare war, and they have declared war, on us – on Western societies as well.

But the key point that we have to recognize, and we do, is to make sure that we build stronger relationships and get strong support from the moderate forces within the Muslim community. Muslim leaders, whether its internationally, like Joko Widodo in Indonesia, or leaders at home who defy the terrorists and speak up for an Islam that is moderate, that is tolerant, that is democratic, they are our allies. Of course they are also critically important as our partners in terms of gathering the information we need to keep us safe.

This brings me to the point about Australian values. It has been a matter of great discussion lately. Now, we are an extraordinary nation, you know. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. The reason we are, is because our values are accessible to everybody. We don’t define our nation with reference to race, or religion or ethnicity. Our values are fundamental democratic ones; the rule of law, freedom, democracy, the equality of men and women, mutual respect. We know what those values are and they’re accessible to everybody.

We believe in our hearts – and I know that you do too – we all do, that at the heart of that Australian identity is Australian citizenship. In our nation, the most important office is that of Australian citizen. We honour that citizenship and we believe we should do more to emphasise the importance of citizenship and respect for it.

So we have – and the Minister Peter Dutton has presented this legislation to Parliament this week – we are seeking to reinforce our commitment to Australian citizenship. So that we will require that people who seek to become citizens, to be able to speak English. Now is that an unreasonable request? The Productivity Commission certainly didn’t think it was. Curiously enough the Labor Party – which now opposes it – used to think it was too. Another backflip.

We believe that those who seek to become Australian citizens should demonstrate that they share our values, not just fill in a couple of questions on a form in an office, like an administrative tick the box exercise. We believe that those who seek to become Australian citizens should be able to demonstrate that they share our values and have integrated with our community. You’re doing people a favour by asking them to do that.

We make no apology for asking those who seek to join our Australian family to join us as Australian patriots. Committed to the values that define us and unite us. We are strengthening Australia by strengthening citizenship, by supporting the values that have made us the remarkable nation we are today.

Before I conclude my remarks about counterterrorism, let me make this observation about the nature of threat we face. We live in a world that is characterised by change, of a pace and scale unprecedented in human history. It is in large part driven by technology. The smartphones that all of us have here, which most of us could not bear to be without for more than a few  minutes, are only ten years old. The first iPhone was in 2007. Facebook which all of us are using – or I hope all of us are using – for strong political communication and effective communication, getting around the mainstream media and making sure our message gets direct to our supporters, Facebook was invented in a dorm room at Harvard in 2005. Its now got 1.5 billion accounts. There are so many more changes. We’ve seen the most extraordinary period, hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty. The economic transformation of our region. Of course, all of that depended upon the strong leadership of the United States. The Pax Americana its been described as. Its been based on the hard power of America’s fleets and armies, but above all on America and her allies like Australia, standing for those fundamental freedoms and values I spoke of a moment ago. Australian values, freedom, democracy and the rule of law. The right of small countries not to be bullied by big countries. The rejection of the proposition that might is right. We maintain that commitment, our Alliance is stronger than ever. As David Petraeus personified last night so eloquently, the commitment to it.

But equally when I talk about the rule of law, we have to recognize that there can be no ungoverned spaces. Ungoverned spaces pose great risk. General Petraeus made one of his observations last night, one of the lessons of the Middle Eastern experience in recent years has been that any ungoverned space will very shortly be filled by extremists and terrorists, unless action is taken to keep them out.

The internet cannot be an ungoverned space. We cannot continue to allow terrorists and extremists to use the internet and the big social media and messaging platforms – most of which are hosted in the United States I should say – to spread their poison. That is why when the Attorney General travels very shortly to the meeting in Canada with our Five Eyes counterparts, that is the closest intelligence collaboration in the world, between ourselves and the Americans, the Canadians, the British and the New Zealanders. One of the key focuses, as it will be at the G20 in a week or so, the focus on how we can ensure we keep ourselves and our children in particular, safe from these extraordinary tools. Wondrous tools that have transformed so many lives and have been such a blessing for mankind, are also being used by terrorists and criminals. They cannot be allowed to operate with impunity within ungoverned digital spaces online.

The rule of law must prevail everywhere online was well as it does today in the analogue, offline world.

Now the Government I lead is committed, as Scott Morrison described earlier, to providing the opportunities for Australians to achieve their best, built of a foundation of security that enables them to strive and thrive. That is the start of all our policies. The fundamental objective is to get more investment and more employment. As I said, we’re seeing very encouraging signs in the latest job figures.

We’re breaking down the barriers to employment, with polices that support those most in need.

We’re maximizing people’s ability to support themselves and carve out their own future.

We’re encouraging Australians off welfare and into the work force.

We’re strengthening participation requirements and we’re better targeting the Government’s support so it gives jobseekers what they need to find a good job.

We’re supporting employers to create more jobs. We’re reducing taxes on business to keep Australia competitive.

We are replacing the 457 visas with two new programs with much stricter entry requirements that ensure we can still bring the best and brightest in, while making sure Australians are first in line for jobs. Alongside the new visas, the $1.5 billion Skilling Australians Fund, will support young Australians to develop skills in priority areas through apprenticeships and traineeships.

All of that is restoring, building and enhancing the confidence in our immigration system. This is a fundamental foundation of our success of our nation. We are an immigration nation, we are as I said earlier, the most successful multicultural society in the world. One of the reasons we have been able to do that, is because the Australian public know that their government and their government alone, determines who comes to Australia and on what terms they come here. That is a fundamental requirement for any nation in exercising its national sovereignty; to be in control of  its borders and its migration program, whether it’s permanent or temporary

We have had no successful people smuggling expeditions for over 1,000 days. We have stopped the boats, stopped the people smugglers, restored confidence in our borders. And you know, we mustn’t ever take that for granted.

I want to stress this point about not taking it for granted. Labor cannot be trusted on migration. It can’t be trusted on citizenship. It cant be trusted on keeping Australians safe and their borders secure. We know that.

When you look at the consequences of uncontrolled, irregular migration flows or refugee flows in Europe, you see what happens. One leader after another in Europe has said to me that those flows of uncontrolled migration are an existential threat to their societies. This is not a small issue. It is a fundamental issue. We have secured our borders and in doing so, restored the confidence that Australians have, by keeping us safe, that is the foundation of our multicultural society.

Now we must also address the issue of energy security. There has been a long period of shocking failures of policy by Labor in the area of energy. It’s a long and sorry tale. You know for people that we have at the moment outrageous increases in the price of gas in Australia, which have threatened tens of thousands of jobs and of course, put enormous pressure on electricity prices and household budgets. How did it come to be? Here’s a good question, how did it come to be that a nation about to become the largest exporter of LNG in the world, has a shortage of gas on its east coast? How could that possibly happen? Of course, it’s pretty straightforward. What happened was, a federal Labor Government and a Queensland State Government, Labor Government, allowed export of gas, without paying  any attention to protecting the domestic market. A LIEBRAL West Australian government, many years ago, did protect their domestic market when they took steps to do so.

That was overlooked by the Labor Party in Government and we have had to step in, with strong measures to put restrictions on exports where there is a domestic shortfall demonstrated.

What we’ve seen too is a failure to take any account of the need to ensure that energy is affordable and reliable. We have seen baseload power go out of the grid without the efforts to replace it with similarly reliable power. South Australia is a classic example. The Labor Government there allowed the state to get into a position where it had 45 per cent of its generation coming from wind. It meant that at any moment they could get 100 per cent of their electricity from wind and the next moment, zero. The whole state’s electricity and energy supply depended on an extension cord to the La Trobe Valley in Victoria.

No planning, no economics, no engineering, all ideology and politics.

We are setting that to right. It’s not an easy problem to fix but only a Coalition Government can do it. With the Minister Josh Frydenberg, the Government is – one step after another – putting the elements in place to ensure our energy security. We are going to implement changes to the electricity market that will make supply more secure.

We’re also undertaking the second stage of Snowy Hydro. Angus Taylor’s grandfather was the head of Snowy Hydro when it was built and one of the things that Sir William Hudson recognized then, fifty odd years ago, was that there was a great opportunity to store electricity in those mountains with pumped hydro. So when I described the need for more storage – you’d think the Labor Party might have thought about that, pushing so much renewables – when I pointed out that if you’re going to have intermittent generation, you need somehow to store it. I talked about pumped hydro and we discovered that Snowy Hydro had done all the work. In fact Angus’ grandfather had done it all those years ago, they produced these dusty old plans. And you know, if we were prepared to build the projects with the technology of the 1980s, we could start today, but of course that wouldn’t be a good idea, we’ve got better technology. But it’s a great example of the leadership we’re showing. We are prepared to take the decision, the tough decisions, whether its about gas or the nation-building decisions such as with Snowy Hydro, to ensure that Australians have affordable and reliable electricity and gas and that we do so as meet our international obligations.

There is no prospect of the Labor Party ever being able to manage our energy future. They are utterly blinded, as they have demonstrated, by ideology and politics. The only way to secure our energy future is with engineering and economics. That is our commitment.

Finally can I say that whatever we do in the Federal Parliament – and I think all of us, all the federal MPs here at one time or another have said this to school groups as they come through – all of us have said to the kids: “This place is all about you. Everything we’re doing here is designed to secure your future”. That’s true. Everything we do is in order to ensure that our children and grandchildren have even greater opportunities than their parents did, and can realise their dreams, according to their own vision, in a free and prosperous and secure Australia.

Everything we do is about opportunity and security

The security enables the opportunity. The opportunity is founded on the freedom for which our Party stands.

The Labor Party’s vision, as we know, is one of control. But it is also one of recklessness. They went to the last election promising more tax but more debt. So they want to tax business more, and thereby discourage investment and jobs. They also went to the election with $16.5 billion of more debt. The only way we can ensure our children have even greater opportunities than we do, is to bring the budget back into balance, so we’re not flinging a mountain of debt onto their shoulders. To give businesses the incentive to invest and grow and to provide them with the security.

Whether it is with the largest expansion of the Australian Defence Force’s capabilities in peacetime, that we are undertaking.

Whether it is with the largest investment in the Federal Polices’ counterterrorism capabilities in more than a decade.

Whether it is by securing our borders, by standing up for our freedoms.

At every level, security and opportunity, delivered by our Liberal Government, informed by our values, true today as they were in Menzies era – only that can secure the future, manage the budget, relieve our children of the burden of debt and give them the chance to realise dreams even the proudest parents would regard as too ambitious.

Ours is the Party of freedom.

Ours in the Party of responsibility.

Ours is the Party of security.

We are delivering and will continue to deliver on those values and those freedoms for our nation.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]

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