We have resolved this election. We’ve gone through this election with fiercely fought arguments, issues of policy, issues of principle and we’ve done so peacefully and constructively. And it is something we should celebrate but not take for granted, that here in Australia we settle these big political issues, we settle who sits in our parliaments, we settle who governs our country and we do so peacefully through our democratic processes. So above all, I want to thank the Australian people.
Earlier today Bill Shorten called me and congratulated me on being re-elected as Prime Minister. And I thank Bill for that call – he congratulated me and Lucy and I thanked him and Chloe for making that call and I have to say on a family note, when Bill called me I had our little granddaughter Isla on my left hip so she was a one-year-old witness to history when I was having that discussion with Mr Shorten.
It is an important thing to acknowledge and to reflect upon – the support of families. Politics, whether you are a leader or a candidate, or a member – politics is a full on business, very stressful business and families bear in many ways the greatest load. So I want to thank my family, Lucy and our children and grandchildren for the wonderful support they have given me in this campaign and throughout my time, my political life. And I want to thank all of the families around Australia who’ve supported all of the politicians and the members and the candidates in this election.
I want to thank all of the candidates that ran for the Coalition. Many of them have been returned, a number have not of course, as you know. We have had a successful election, in that we have won considerably more first preference votes than Labor – about 800,000 more first preference votes and according to the AEC’s latest two-party-preferred tally, we are ahead of the Labor Party but most importantly of course, we have secured the largest number of seats in the Parliament. We are a parliamentary system of government.
A number of our members, of course, have not been returned and I want to acknowledge them and thank them for their candidacies. I want to thank them for their service and acknowledge that they’re going through a tough time. It is a tough business and I want to acknowledge the hard work they put in and the disappointment they will be feeling.
I also want to acknowledge and welcome the new members. We have some great new stars coming into the Parliament and I want to welcome them. It will be a Parliament with many new faces, many new and younger faces in the Parliament. It is a living institution the Parliament of Australia and it changes and evolves with every election. So it will be a new Parliament and I believe a very exciting and constructive one.
I know that Mr Shorten said earlier today that he looked forward to seeking to reach common ground and I welcome that remark, I welcome that. Because it is vital that this Parliament works. It is vital that we work together and as far as we can, find ways upon which we can all agree, consistent with our policies that we have taken to the election, consistent with our political principles, that we meet the great challenges Australia faces. We need to ensure that we have a strong economy in the years ahead. We need to ensure that we maintain a successful transition from the economy fuelled up by the mining construction boom, to one that is more diverse. We need to ensure that Medicare and education, our health services, and all those vital government services are provided for and Australians feel secure that they are provided for and guaranteed. And at the same time, we have to ensure that we bring our Budget back into balance. These challenges are not easy, there’s no simple solution to them. But that’s why they need our best brains, our best minds and above all, our best goodwill in this new Parliament to deliver that.
I want to pay tribute, a special tribute, to all of the volunteers in the Liberal Party and National Party. Our parties, the Liberals and the Nationals are grassroots political organisations. They are not controlled by anybody else outside; they are not as Labor is - the political wing of the trade union movement. They are very much a volunteer grassroots organisation and they face big challenges here. The unions provided enormous muscle in people and in terms of dollars that has proved to be very challenging in many parts of Australia and there are issues that flow from that, which we will discuss no doubt over the months and years ahead. But right now I want to thank the dedication and commitment of the members, the volunteers of the Liberal and National parties who worked so hard over this long campaign.
I want to also thank all of the people that ran for Parliament. All of them, even those we absolutely vehemently disagree with. I want to thank all of the people that worked in this whole election process. This is a competitive area, there are always people that you disagree with, people that you wish had not run but nonetheless, when you view Australian democracy as a whole, this participatory democracy that we have, it delivers – it works very well and we should be very proud of that.
I want to also acknowledge the very constructive discussions I’ve had with members of the crossbench, in particular Bob Katter, Cathy McGowan – who have given a commitment of support of matters of confidence and supply. Andrew Wilkie who has said he would not vote to deny supply or deny confidence. And of course Nick Xenophon, with whom we’ve had very constructive discussions. It is my commitment to work in every way possible to ensure that the crossbenchers feel that they have access to all of the information they need and all of the resources they need to be able to play their role in this Parliament. And we will – our expectation is to reinstate the resource arrangements that were in place in the 43rd Parliament. Further work will be done on that, but I am determined to ensure that so far as possible, every member of the 45th Parliament feels that they are able to play a very constructive role and that their contribution is valued by me and by the Government – even if it is one for whatever reason we cannot agree with or support. Every member of the House and the Senate deserves respect, because they have been elected by the Australian people. They are representatives of the Australian people.
Now Australians expect my Government and my team of course, Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Nationals, my Deputy, Julie Bishop, his Deputy, Fiona Nash and all of our team. They expect all of us to work together with the whole Parliament, to deliver the good government, wise legislation, the sound policies that will secure Australia’s future. That’s my commitment. This is a great day today, it’s a great day to thank the Australian people for the decision they have taken in this election and to commit to them, anew our absolutely unrelenting determination to ensure that this Parliament delivers good government, wise legislation and builds on the strengths of our economy to ensure that truly our greatest days are yet ahead of us.
Prime Minister, when do you plan on going to the Governor General and later forming a Cabinet?
I expect that will happen next week. Next week, that’s right.
You’re not tempted to be sworn in… [inaudible]?
Well the caretaker period is over now that the Opposition Leader has conceded and of course my Ministry are all sworn. But we will have a party meeting on Monday or tomorrow week. We have - the Governor-General of course, is representing Australia at the important events in France, including of course, Bastille Day celebrations or commemorations there. So we will - the swearing-in will be in the course of next week.
Do you feel like you’ve got a mandate or have you scraped over the line?
Well we’ve won the election. That’s what we’ve done, we’ve won the election.
Do you think you can govern for three years knowing that you are going to potentially have a crossbench of nine Senators with diverse views to negotiate with? It’s going to be one hell of a challenge is it not?
Well there were eight crossbenchers in the last Senate so what you’re saying is that there will be one more crossbencher in the new Senate.
And you dissolved them all.
There are always crossbenchers in the Senate. There is always going to be. The reason for the double dissolution as you know was because we needed to create the mechanism under section 57 where we could resolve the deadlock over the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation and the Registered Organisations legislation.
Can you get that through now, will you actually have a joint sitting of Parliament to get that legislation through?
Well let me explain how it works. The bills that were the subject of the double dissolution under section 57 are re-presented to the House of Representatives which will vote on them. I confidently expect they will be passed. They will then be presented to the Senate and if they’re passed there then they’re law. If they’re not passed there then a joint sitting can be held. Now we don’t know who is going to be in the Senate yet and indeed there are a number of seats in the House of Representatives that are yet to be finally determined although we have a higher level of confidence about almost all of them. So as to what the numbers will be, we await the determinations of the AEC and of course many of these Senators – future Senators - will have open minds on this issue and will remain to be convinced on the merits of either side of the argument.
Prime Minister, will you take up Bill Shorten’s offer of bipartisan support to allow electronic voting in future elections?
Ah, thank you, I’m so glad you raised that. Now I have been an advocate of electronic voting for a long time and I would commend you to the work of the New South Wales Electoral Commission which has been more enthusiastic than its Federal counterpart. Yes this is something we must look at. I’m absolutely - that’s been a passion of mine, or an interest of mine for a long time.
There are a number of other very important electoral reform issues that arise from this election. One in particular I just note relates to robocalls of which there were many, many, many millions. Some people were getting six, seven, eight, nine a night. These robocalls are basically unregulated at the moment. They don’t have to have authorization like a television advertisement or a newspaper advertisement, so they’re basically existing in a legal vacuum.
As you know there is an issue about text messages of which again there were many millions sent out. These basically operate below the radar of the mainstream media. I won’t get into the more contentious aspects of this today, but I think we say that if a television advertisement or a newspaper advertisement by law has to say ‘authorised by XYZ on behalf of the Liberal Party of Australia or the Australian Labor Party’ then so should a text message, so should a robocall.
Some of these calls had messages – had been extremely deceptive and were targeted to people most likely to be misled. So there’s a lot of learnings about this and I know that a number of the crossbenchers including Senator Xenophon for example, have got a very strong interest in it. So we need to have a very careful look at the way in which some new methods of political communication basically operating, effectively outside of the traditional legal requirements.
So yes, the answer to your question is yes, but there’s a lot more to look at as well.
[Inaudible]… is there a place for Tony Abbott in it?
I have obviously given consideration to the Ministry both before and after the election and as you know I have said that the Ministry I lead - I led to the election, will be the Ministry I lead after the election. Regrettably several ministers have not been returned and so there will be some changes but you shouldn’t anticipate large scale changes. The Ministry was assembled relatively recently following the retirement of Warren Truss.
On a personal note, what’s it like delivering your victory speech at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, not being able to do it on the night?
Well, I guess it’s always a good time to deliver a victory speech. There’s never a bad time to acknowledge the concession of the Leader of the Opposition. So, you know, it’s - I know many people probably think I’m probably an unduly sentimental fellow. A sentimental bloke perhaps. But I was touched, deeply touched by the fact that when Bill rang - I literally had my little granddaughter on my hip and my phone rang and I picked it up and oh, it was Bill, I wonder what he’s calling about? And it’s a reminder you know - it is a beautiful reminder that we are trustees, we are trustees, all of us, me and Bill and everyone else in politics, we are trustees for future generations. We are trustees for our little grandchildren and of course their grandchildren.
For me it was a very, a very powerful reminder of something I’ve said before which is that politics is not about us the politicians, it’s not about the media or the political commentators or the pundits or the pollsters. It’s about the Australian people and it’s not just about the Australian people today, it’s about their children and grandchildren because everything we do is about the future - everything. When kids come, school groups come to Parliament House which they do regularly of course, whenever I meet them, the first thing I say is this place belongs to you. Because it’s all about their future and so that’s something, that’s a moment I’ll never forget, not simply because Bill rang and made the concessions and congratulations that he did but that I was holding a one-year-old child in my arms.
I think that’s a great reminder of the trust that is reposed in us, in all of us, and in all of our political debates and often rancorous debates, we’ve got to remember that it’s the future of Australia that is in our hands and that is a glorious, a heavy and inspiring responsibility and it’s one that we should never, none of us, not one of us in public life, we should never ever forget. It’s their future that we’re working towards.
So thank you all very much indeed.