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Transcript 21552

Address to Liberal Party New South Wales Division State Council Blacktown, Sydney

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/12/2004

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 21552

Thank you very much John, Madam President Chris McDiven, Keith Queen, the President of the Blacktown Workers' Club, my parliamentary colleagues both Federal and State and my fellow Liberal and fellow Australians. This State Council meeting comes in the wake of one of the most remarkable election victories that the party has secured in the 60 years of its existence. It is an occasion as John said in which every member of the party around Australia is entitled to feel a very great sense of pride. Pride is something separate from hubris or triumphalism, pride is when you can look back with quite satisfaction on having achieved a result as a consequence of commitment and hard work over a long period of time. And there is no greater metaphor for the result on the 9th of October 2004 than the victory that Louise Markus secured here in Greenway.

I've said in the past few days that one of the greatest errors that my opponent made over the last year, was to reintroduce into Australian politics the notion of class. This is a proudly egalitarian nation, it is nation that rewards people according to their character, their hard work and the commitment they make to their community and to their country, not according to their social background, their religion, their race or any pretensions they might have to an inherited place in society. And that has been if I might say my friends, one of the cornerstones of the success of the Liberal Party over recent years. We have set out to do what we are, and that is perform as a party that represents all sections of the Australian community. I can honestly say that in the 8 and half years that I have been Prime Minister, I have never felt beholden to a section of the Australian people, I have only felt an obligation to do my best for all of the Australian people. We are proudly a party that believes in private enterprise, we are a party that believes in the capitalist system, we believe that people have a right to make a profit out of their hard work and to enjoy the benefits of that, provided they pay their fair share of taxes. We are a party that seeks membership and support from every section of the Australian community, we will always seek to promote good business conditions but we will never see ourselves as a party that is owned by the business community of Australia or indeed any section of the business community of Australia, and that is how the overwhelming majority of Australians want it to be. Australians have a great sense of achievement, they are proud of what their country has done and they are proud that they live in a country that gives them the opportunity if they work hard to get ahead, and to provide for their families a bounty and a level and a standard of living that they themselves might not have had when they came into the world. And that's been the Australian story for generations, it's an Australian story that the Liberal Party must always understand, and it's an Australian story that the Liberal Party will forget in the future at its peril, because the great thing about this country is that if you do work hard, if you do make an effort you can achieve some reward for that and you can get ahead. And it doesn't matter where you were born, it doesn't matter who your father was or what he did, what matters is the contribution that you make to your society. And it doesn't matter what your name is, or where your ancestors may have come from, they may have been born here or may have been born in Italy or Indo-China or in the Middle East, it matters not. What matters is the contribution that you are willing to make to this country, and that is a philosophy that the Liberal Party has I believe, responded to and articulated more successfully over the past years than our political opponents have been able to do, but it is something we must continue to work at. We must understand that there is no natural party of government in this country and the public will throw us out when they believe that we have lost touch with their needs and their aspirations. We must not take for granted that because we have increased our margin in the last two elections, that the next election is in the bag. True it is that the Labor Party needs a significant swing but let me remind you, if Labor achieves in 2007 the swing it achieved in 1998 it would just get across the line and tip us out of office. So from the very beginning and that really is now, we must work and build towards the next election. The greatest responsibility for that of course lies upon the shoulders of the Government and the members of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party, in coalition with out friends in the National Party. On the 1st of July next year, as John said, we will have control of the Senate in our own right for the first time in 24 years. A Government of the day will have control of the Senate in its own right, although it's fair to say, because of the predisposition of the Democrats and others to support the Labor Party on most of their policies and for the Coalition, then in Opposition to support them when they proposed sensible economic reforms, the reality is, that Labor in office enjoyed de-facto control of the Senate, something that's been denied to us over the last 8 and half years. And that gives us both an opportunity and a responsibility, it gives us an opportunity to implement the changes that we have wanted to implement over the last 8 and a half years. And I make it very clear to the Australian people that we will honour the promises we have made in areas like industrial relations when we get control of the Senate on the 1st of July.

There will be no retreating or shrinking or falling back, we have a mandate, it couldn't have been plainer that we wanted to make it even better for small business by reforming the absurd unfair dismissal laws that are putting a flaw as it were on the level of unemployment below which it can't go unless there is further significant change. And all the other industrial relations changes and indeed measures that we've proposed in the past to exert a greater level of discipline in government spending, they'll all also be back on the agenda. And so indeed will be proposals which are consistent with the philosophy that we have articulated and outlined over past years. But we do not see our control of the Senate on the 1st of July as some authorisation to embark upon a crazy radical program that is against the interests of the mainstream of the Australian community. But equally we do not intend to waste the opportunity that has fortuitously and unexpectedly come our way, to do that would be to let down the millions of people who voted for us and more importantly it would be to let down the future of this country, because we live in an age where you cannot stand still. This country is strong and prosperous and successful, it is respected around the world and the reason that it's strong and prosperous and successful and respected around the world is that we have achieved the right balance between reform and tradition, between preserving what is good about the history and the culture and the beliefs and the values of this country, but also recognising that in a globalised world which is changed beyond all recognition from what it was when the Liberal Party was formed 60 years ago. Unless we are prepared in the areas that require change and reform to do so, then we're going to fall behind. I think around the world and I look at those economies that have adjusted, those countries that have embraced globalisation, they are the countries whose living standards have lifted, they are the countries that are beginning to win the fight against poverty and disease. They are countries that are taking advantage of the almost limitless opportunities that a globalised, economic environment offers. And the art of good government in the 21st century, at a domestic level is to preserve a balance between preserving the great worth of a nation's past, of not getting rid of something simply because it's been there for a long time, but equally to recognise that where change is needed that change must be embraced, as we recognised with our taxation system four years ago, as we recognised just after the Government was elected to office that in order to deliver a safer society, through the terrible catalyst of the Port Arthur tragedy, that we should do what other nations have failed to do and that is embrace on a national level uniform and more stringent gun laws, to recognise that a country has that has a proliferating gun culture is a country which is a dangerous country and it's not a country that we want to build for the future of our children and our grandchildren.

We had a great victory on the 9th of October and nowhere more so than here in the State of New South Wales. The number of Liberals in the State of New South Wales is a record in the history of the party. Our capacity since 1996 to penetrate and hold areas of this State, and none is more representative of what I'm saying than the western suburbs of Sydney, to penetrate and to hold areas of this state previously regarded as Labor Party heartland has helped to underwrite the success of the Government since 1996 and from those great moments in 1996 on election night when it became apparent that not only were we winning back marginal seats in regional Australia but we were going to capture the seat of Lindsay from Labor for the first time and so while we held those seats in 1998 and in 2001, Pat Farmer pushed the boundaries even further when he won the newly redistributed seat of Macarthur and of course in 2004 to see Louise win the seat of Greenway. It represents an historic transformation in political allegiance. But it's important we understand why it happened, it happened because we identified with the needs and the aspirations of the people of this part of Australia. As I said when I launched the Liberal Party's campaign for western Sydney a few weeks before the election, I said that the Coalition had done more for the workers of western Sydney than the Labor Party could ever dream of. I reminded them we'd given them lower unemployment, lower interest rates, higher wages and lower taxation. And while ever we continued to deliver on that program and while ever we continue to be a Government that is seen to represent Australia's interests overseas and nobody else's, then we'll continue to attract the support of people not only here in Western Sydney but also all around our great country.

I've spoken frequently since the election of the importance of a proper sense of humility and responsibility about the task that lies ahead of us. We are elected for one thing and one thing alone, and that is to do good things for all of the Australian people. We are not elected to live out some personal sense of aggrandisement and self-satisfaction. We are not elected to tell the Australian people what to do or what they ought to believe. We are elected to respond to their wishes and their hopes and where appropriate through passionate advocacy and leadership to put the case for necessary change and reform. And it's been my experience after 30 years in politics that the Australian people will always embrace reform, even a major reform, if they can be satisfied of two things - if they can be satisfied that the reform is in the best interests of their country, and if they can be satisfied that the reform is fundamentally fair to all significant sections of our society. And they are the two things that you judge a reform by, it's no good saying to the Australian people the time has come to turn things upside down because something we've been doing for the last 30 or 40 years is getting a bit old and boring and let's have something in its place. If you want radical change in this country you have to tell the Australian people how it will make Australia better and you've got to reassure the Australian people that it's going to be fair to them and to different sections of the community. And if you do that our experience has been that you can be successful. That was the case with taxation reform, it's the case with other economic reforms that we've undertaken and that will be the test that we will apply to reform in the future. Because the reform task is never done, you really have but two choices, you either continue reforming where necessary and pushing forward, or alternatively you start to go backwards. I know it's tempting, people say gee things are going well, the economy's good, unemployment's at a 27-year low - 5.2 per cent last Thursday, could go even lower if the Senate got out of the way early next year. Very tempting to say well let's just sort of sit back, don't do anything John, it's terrific at the moment, don't spoil a good story. The only problem is the story starts to go off if you don't keep pushing forward. And that is why come the 1st of July we'll be pushing sensibly and soberly, but nonetheless purposefully, in order to bring about change and reform.

And of course over the next three years we have the opportunity abroad to further consolidate the way in which we have rebuilt and rebalanced our foreign relations. I heard a lot during the election campaign from the Labor Party about a thing called triangulation. I can never quite work out what it was about, it sounded a very convoluted phrase but apparently it had something to do with avoiding all the major issues like the economy and national security and talking about something else. Well can I say of that theory of politics, two things - it avoids the main responsibilities of government and it clearly doesn't work. And I saw the major proponent of that policy, a man called Dick Morris, not to be confused with Grahame Morris, who many of you know, and Dick Morris, who's an American, said that really there's nothing modern governments could do about the economy, certainly not Australian governments, and that really there wasn't much point talking about the economy. And that was before the election, I don't think he's going to be invited back to Australia in the near future.

But over the last eight and a half years we've done a little bit of triangulation of our own in relation to our foreign policy, we've rebalanced, we've recognised that the most immediate and important area for Australia is of course the Asia-Pacific region. But we've always recognised that this country has great historical and political ties with the nations of Europe and with the United States and North America. And you never have to choose in your foreign policy between history and geography, it's a question of seeing Australia as maximising opportunities all around the world. And no country has attracted more attention from me and from my Government in trade and political terms over the last eight and a half years than, for example, China. And the way in which we have simultaneously taken our relations with the United States to a new plane and a new high, but at the same time have developed a very close economic partnership with China is an illustration of the capacity of this country to diversify and to reach out to different parts of the world.

So we do commence this new term with a great sense not only of humility and a great sense of responsibility, but also a great sense of hope and a great sense of optimism. We presented in the campaign an essentially optimistic view of the Australian people. We took the view that the balance sheet of achievement of this country is an enormously positive one. Yes, we have made great mistakes as all nations have done, but overwhelmingly we have become, and have been for so long, a nation of achievement, a nation of tolerance, a nation of welcome, a nation comprised of people from the four corners of the world, and a nation that has every reason to be proud of its history and the contribution it has made to the great fights for freedom and liberty that have overtaken the world at such terrible cost over the last 100 years. So we approach the next three years with a tremendous sense of optimism and hope.

And I can perhaps finish on a more personal note, personal in saying something about the quality of the people that the Liberal Party has sent to the Federal Parliament. All around Australia, particularly here from New South Wales. I do want to again thank Louise for the tremendous campaign that she ran here in the seat of Greenway, it was a great campaign and it was a campaign that brought a great morale boost and was a further vindication of the determination of this party to appeal to all sections of the Australian community. I welcome her, I welcome Malcolm Turnbull as the new Member for Wentworth, I want to place on record my thanks to John Tierney. John as you know will be a Senator, John will still be a Senator until the 30th of June and in the nature of the party's processes he was unsuccessful in pre-selection and he'll be replaced by an equally meritorious person in Connie Ferravanti-Wells. And I welcome her. The point I'd simply seek to make is that despite any personal disappointment he himself may have felt there was no more energetic, tireless, indefatigable campaigner for us on the 9th of October than John and I thank him very warmly for that. I naturally regret the defeat of Ross Cameron in Parramatta and I thank him for his contribution to the Party. And going outside the Liberal Party, but still within the Coalition in New South Wales, I do want to record my sadness at the defeat of Larry Anthony in Richmond who has been a wonderful colleague, a very good Minister and was very much the victim of demographic change through no fault of his own that seat has been lost. But to all the other colleagues from New South Wales who fought such wonderful campaigns, who increased their majorities, I mean I'm looking at some of these majorities and I'm thinking well I might get them to come and do a fundraiser for me. Peter Costello and I are looking at all of these majorities and are saying well, look I think we'll come and get them to do a fundraiser, so watch out Louise, yeah, get Bob Baldwin to come and do a fundraiser. But you know, this is the real secret of our success, it's the quality of people and as I sat and listened to the maiden speeches of the new Members from all around Australia, it was just remarkable the diversity that they bring to the Parliament, they bring the experience that Louise does, that Malcolm does, that Andrew Robb, who many of you know so well who's now the Member for Goldstein in Victoria, you think of the experience that David Fawcett brings, I think he's the first test pilot that's ever gone in to Federal Parliament, Kim Richardson, the new Member for Kingston in South Australia brings a wealth of experience as a former police officer, as a football coach and a community leader. And we have a research scientist from Western Australia, a Defence research scientist, these are the diversity that the Parliament has produced. And for the first time in years we now have some members in the House of Representatives from the State of Tasmania.

I finally want to express, as I have in the past, my great admiration, for the performance of the New South Wales Division of which I've been a member for more than 40 years. The New South Wales Division over the last few years under the leadership of Chris McDiven and Scott Morrison. I haven't seen a better campaign from the New South Wales Division in the time that I've been a member of the Party in federal elections. And when you think of where the New South Wales Division's Liberal representation was after the 1993 election, I think we'd been reduced to what eight seats, Liberal seats in New South Wales which is an appalling number when you consider the size of the state and the opportunities and since then starting of course with that tremendous surge in 1996 and let's face it, if it hadn't of been for the way in which our vote held up in 1998 we may have gone perilously close, held up here in New South Wales, we may have gone perilously close to losing power on that occasion. So I think this Division has been superbly run over the last few years, the resources, the organisational application, the support for the Federal Secretariat, the quality of the candidates, the willingness to deal with difficult issues, and there were one or two of those in one or two areas, one in particular, over the past few months, I think the way in which all of that was done and then to deliver that magnificent Senate vote and to deliver such high quality candidates I'm very, very grateful and I want to record my thanks to you Chris as the President, I think you've been a wonderful President of this Division, a really first class organisational leader. Scott Morrison is leaving us to take up a position with the newly formed national tourist body. Scott, you go with our gratitude, our good wishes, our thanks for a splendid job. As the parliamentary beneficiary on two occasions of your organisational skills I cannot speak too highly of your abilities. Being a state director, as Brian Loughnane said at the Federal Executive yesterday, is a pretty thankless job because if everything works well it's the Prime Minister or the parliamentary leader or whatever who's been responsible for all of that, and if everything goes wrong well of course you know if only headquarters had run it better thinks might have been better. But Scott, I've never really had any occasion to test that theory with you because you've always been very successful. But I think you've been a wonderful professional for the party and we owe a great deal for your organisational skills, I know we won't lose contact with you and we wish you well.

The last person I want to mention is the person who introduced me. We have won a great federal victory here in New South Wales and all over the nation, and that is terrific. And our focus of course will always be on important national issues. But a great challenge lies ahead in New South Wales. The Government in this state has lost fundamental credibility, the Government of this State is seen as failing in its responsibilities in the important areas of health and education and public transport. The Government of this State needs fundamental change and the only change that can be effective is a political change and I want to say on behalf of my Federal parliamentary colleagues that we will do everything we can to bring about a change of government here in New South Wales at the next State election. And to that end John we'll do everything we can to support you and your team in the mammoth task that lies ahead. We need a huge swing, but huge swings sometimes do occur. And certainly the ground is fertile, the opportunity is there, the anger is rising, and we all need to get behind John and his colleagues to bring about a change in New South Wales. So let us having won a great Federal victory, having won a great Federal victory let us all do what we can to replicate it here in New South Wales at the next State election.

Thank you very much and Merry Christmas, can I say that again, Merry Christmas, not seasons greetings, Merry Christmas.

[ends]

Transcript 21552