PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 12443


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: 08/12/2001

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 12443




Thank you very much Madam President, my federal and state parliamentary colleagues, my fellow Liberals. Today is a wonderful day for the Liberal Party throughout Australia but it';s a particularly special day for the Liberal Party here in New South Wales. The federal result in New South Wales on the 10th of November was the best federal result achieved by our party in this State since the formation of the Liberal Party of Australia in 1944. It will not have escaped the attention of any in this room that on the 10th of November we, in fact, achieved for the Liberal Party in New South Wales a result better than that achieved for the Liberal Party in the election of 1996, which saw the defeat of the Keating Government.

So to all of you I express my heartfelt thanks. Can I particularly congratulate you, Madame President, both on your re-election unopposed as President of the Division, a very just and intelligent judgement by the rank and file of the membership of the Party. Can I also congratulate Scott Morrison in his maiden role as a campaign director in providing the organisational stewardship here in New South Wales for such an outstanding result.

There are many people who deserve thanks. I';m very indebted to Michael Yabsley for the work that he';s done through the Millennium Forum, and for many others in resuscitating the financial fortunes of the party. But I am always in the debt of the rank and file members of the Party organisation here in New South Wales. There have been plenty of post mortems and there have been plenty of reflections as to why we won. And we are undeniably entitled, for a short time, to savour the moment. All political parties toil to achieve their political and philosophic objectives. And when they do achieve the great prize in Australian politics of a third Federal victory in succession we are entitled just for a moment to savour that victory, to legitimately reflect with satisfaction and pride on what has been achieved and to ask ourselves why it happened.

I think it happened for three reasons I think first and foremost it happened because our Party, our Government was seen to stand for something. We stood for policies. Not everybody agreed with them, in fact, about 49% of the electorate didn';t agree with them. That is the reality of modern politics and something we should always bear in mind. But even those who didn';t agree with us respected the fact that we stood for something. And I don';t normally draw on the utterances of Greg Combet, the Secretary of the ACTU, but he made the remark that ‘I didn';t agree with him but at least Howard stood for something and went out and articulated it within the electorate';, the implication of course was that my opponent didn';t. So I think that is one of the reasons why we won.

We also won because over the last five-and-a-half years we have passed the test of good government. If you look at the history of federal politics in this country since World War II governments only get thrown out of office when there is an overwhelming feeling within the Australian community that they have failed the test of good government and the time has come for them to be removed. That happened in 1949, it happened in 1972, it happened with a rush in 1975 after only three years of the worst government this country has had since World War II. And never let it be, in this old sort of nostalgia be forgotten, it was a terrible government and it laid the foundations for much of the malaise that was to be the responsibility of subsequent governments to fix. It was sadly the judgement made in 1983 when the Hawke Government was elected and our Party was defeated and, of course, it was the judgement made in 1996. So we did pass the test of good government, not perfect government but we passed the test of good government. And that was dramatically illustrated in the support that we received within New South Wales, the support that we received in seats where the benefits of lower interest rates, of falling home mortgage repayments were dramatically apparent.

And, finally and very importantly, and I want to spend a moment on this because it carries with it great lessons for the future, not only federally but also at a State level here in New South Wales, we won because we had superior candidates. Far, far superior candidates. We had candidates who were part of local communities. We had candidates who were not seen as sausages produced by an insensitive, remote political machine but rather people who had worked hard and identified themselves with local communities. And if I were asked to identify one process or one collection of acts representing a process that here in New South Wales helped deliver the outcome that we achieved on the 10th of November, it was the systematic way the party went about getting the right candidates in the right places in 1995 in the lead up to the 1996 election.

When we were able to find and recruit people like Joanna Gash, who incidentally achieved the highest two-party preferred swing of any Liberal candidate anywhere in Australia. And just contemplate this, you have a seat, Gilmore, that was held by the Australian Labor Party until 1996 which now has a two-party preferred Liberal margin that';s better than Bennelong or North Sydney. Now I don';t know what that is a metaphor for. I hope it';s not a reflection on the sitting members in Bennelong and North Sydney but I do know this, that it represents a wonderful illustration of the outward expansion of the Liberal Party. And what the election, particularly here in New South Wales, was about was the outward expansion of the Liberal Party into areas that were previously not regarded as ones where we could be successful. So in that election Joanna Gash in Gilmore, Kerry Bartlett in Macquarie, Bob Baldwin in Paterson – welcome back, Bob, wherever you are – and of course Jackie Kelly in Lindsay, Ross Cameron in Parramatta and so the list goes on. Gary Nairn in Eden Monaro and all the seats that we won in 1996, at the last election, save and except for the seat of Lowe, which was lost in 1998 through the extraordinary behaviour of the former sitting member and that';s the only reason the seat was lost in 1998 – all of these seats, because Bob won back Paterson, all of those seats were retained with enhanced majorities. And the reason that happened was that we identified and supported candidates because they were the best people suited for the seat and the people most likely to win the seat. Another great illustration of my point is that another seat we won in 1996 for the first time and that is the seat that Danna Vale won from Robert Tickner, the seat of Hughes, every single polling booth in that seat was won by the Liberal Party on the 10th of November.

Now of course the process didn';t stop. On this occasion we not only held and enhanced but we also added to our number very impressively with two quite outstanding victories. The second largest two party preferred swing in the nation was Pat Farmer in the seat of Macarthur. In fact of the thirteen seats throughout Australia that achieved the highest two party preferred swings to the Liberal Party, ten of those thirteen seats were in New South Wales which is a wonderful reminder of just how effective our campaign has been. And the other great victory, one that those of us who have sat through inane questions on education at Question Time was of course Ken Ticehurst';s wonderful victory in the seat of Dobell. As you know Janette and I for twenty years with our children holidayed at Hawks Nest. I';ve now worked out I can drive to Hawks Nest without going through a Labor seat. So thank you Ken, thank you to all of you.

And also, and I don';t say this with any animosity towards our Coalition partners and friends in the National Party, I';ve always been a staunch Coalitionist and I will remain a staunch Coalitionist and people who believe that we can govern federally without a close partnership with the National Party are plain wrong and do not have the long term interests of our side of politics at heart. But whenever there';s a vacancy under our arrangement we run a candidate, we reserve the right to run a candidate and magnificently we ran a candidate in Farrer and to Susan Ley what a wonderful victory she achieved on the 10th of November. Farrer was once a Liberal Party seat, it is again a Liberal Party seat, and I predict it will remain a Liberal Party seat for so long as Susan chooses to remain in public life and I';m sure that will be for a long time.

So ladies and gentlemen it has been a fantastic result. It is a result that always carries with it the responsibility of delivering. We have won a third victory, we have achieved the biggest two party preferred swing in favour of an incumbent government since 1966, since Harold Holt';s victory over Arthur Calwell in 1966 which is 35 years ago. Eight or nine months ago there were many political commentators who wouldn';t have given us any chance of victory. Eight or nine months ago there were probably many in this hall who wondered about our prospects of winning. Eight or nine months ago we set about addressing the reasons why we had lost the level of support that we needed to retain government and without in any way walking away from the things that we believed in, the things we regarded as important to the future of this country we began to address those concerns. We understood that people were concerned about petrol pricing. I knew that it was fundamentally due to high crude oil prices around the world but they wanted a gesture from the government that it understood the difficulty that was inflicting on ordinary families. We set about addressing concerns amongst self-funded retirees and we delivered on those responses in the federal budget in May of this year.

We continued of course to demonstrate our superior economic management skills. The decision taken early this year to double the home savings grant for first homebuyers of new homes has provided as the Reserve Bank indicated the other day a much-needed floor under economic activity. And as I look back at all of the decisions that have been made by the Government over the last year, that have added to federal expenditure, every single one of those decisions now viewed in the light of the weakening of the world economy and the impact of that weakening on the Australian economy has given a level of economic activity and economic growth that against the background of deteriorating world circumstances was absolutely essential. The proud reality is that this country is facing difficult world economic circumstances better than any other, and this country is in better economic shape as a result of our economic management than any comparable economy anywhere in the world.

I don';t pretend that next year will be without difficulty. The impact of the terrorist attacks in the United States on world economic confidence has been immense and that will have an effect and we can';t escape it, and that should be said and said very directly. But because of domestic measures that we have taken, because of the value of taxation reform, of industrial relations reform, of the super competitive nature of Australia';s exchange rate, all of those things have delivered to the Australian economy a strength and a resilience which will enable it as we did it 1997 when we stared down the Asian economic downturn, to stare down and see through the economic challenges of the next 12 months.

We do as a nation face the next three years safe in the knowledge that we have a strong economy also secure in the knowledge that we have built a network of relationships not only in our own region but also around the world that properly match the needs of Australia in the 21st Century. We are not a nation that sees our future only within our region, although it is primarily within our region. We';re also a nation that sees itself as having important linkages with Europe and North America. Our willingness to stand beside our American friends, and let us not forget as we meet here today men of the Australian Defence Force are at the very frontline of the final stages of the operation in Afghanistan against the Taliban and against the terrorists that the Taliban has been harbouring and supporting for so long. And let us remember and not forget that that conflict is yet to be finally resolved and finally won, and to understand and to always remember the danger that those men face in that very difficult terrain, in that very very difficult situation.

Over the past few months, and it will continue, the policies the Government has adopted in relation to illegal immigration has come under attack from various quarters not only here in Australia but also around the world. This is not an easy issue and I want to make it very clear to you that the Government';s resolve to remain, to retain its present policy and its present approach is absolute. We will not be altering our policy on that issue. I saw yesterday that the Victorian Premier said that we should abandon, the Victorian Premier Mr Bracks said that we should abandon the so called Pacific solution, in fact he said it should never have been started in the first place. Well can I say to Mr Bracks and can to I say to all people who agree with Mr Bracks that if you don';t have a policy of saying to people smugglers, to asylum seekers that we are not going to allow people to be processed on the Australian mainland, if you abandon that policy what you are really saying is that in future we will bring asylum seekers onto the Australian mainland and have them processed there. And once that occurs you will be sending an invitation to the people smugglers to resume their trade with renewed vigour and renewed enthusiasm. Now I don';t pretend that the pipeline has dried up. But there is evidence that our policy is having a deterring effect. There is evidence that we are achieving the objectives of that policy. But it will remain a very very difficult challenge for this country and I want to record here today the appreciation the Australian Government feels for the cooperation of a number of nations within the Pacific area.

Madam President there are one or two other, shall I put it, domestic things that I would like to say. The first of those is that now that we have won the federal election, and now that we have done so well federally here in New South Wales, it is only natural and proper that the party organisation should turn its energy and attention to the next great political battle that lies in front of the party organisation here in New South Wales, and that is the challenge of the state election that will be held in a little over 12 months. And to you Kerry and to all of the members of your team, I want to say that we will do all that we can at a federal level to assist you. Can I make a charge and plea to the party organisation here in New South Wales. Having done so well federally, can we take some lessons from that federal victory. Can we understand that we won very well here in New South Wales because I found in the 6 or 9 months leading up to the federal election, I found a level of cooperation between different sections of the party that I haven';t seen for several years. Can I therefore make a plea, as I suppose somebody who from the New South Wales Division can occasionally make himself heard above the clamour of political debate and political exchange, can I make a plea to all of you in very very simple terms. If you want to win the next state election, put aside for good the divisions that have wracked this party and this division too much too often and for too long over recent years.

Emulate what we have done over the last 6 or 9 months - you will not win the next state election unless you have the right candidates in the marginal seats that you need to win from Labor. And you will not get the right candidates in those seats if they are chosen on the basis of a division of factional spoils. If you do that, you will not succeed. If you do what we did in 1995 and you go around and find candidates that have a community identification, you find people who can gather local support, you find people similar to Jo Gash and Pat Farmer. And they are out there wanting to support us. The people of New South Wales, given the right encouragement, want to change government. They are starting to grow tired of the present administration. But don';t imagine the present administration in New South Wales is a pushover – it is not. It understands the needs for responsive politics. It knows it';s in difficultly and that';s why it';s changing a lot of personnel and changing a lot of attitudes and a lot of policies. Nobody should imagine that there is a natural momentum coming out of the federal result. People do vote differently at state and federal levels. And people suggested that our defeats in Western Australia and Queensland were because the Federal Government was unpopular in those two states. Well the 10th of November put an end to that proposition. And the reality is that people look at each state quite differently. And they look at federal and state differently. And I think we have a great opportunity here in New South Wales but its important that we work together in unity and it';s tremendously important that in choosing a candidate the only thing that matters is the capacity of the person to win back the seat. And our great challenge is to find 15 really first class candidates. Even if a number of them now are not members of the party that does not matter. We';ve got to find the right people. We';ve got to be open minded enough to do that because the Australian community wants people who identify with the electorates they represent. And we proved that on the 10th of November and we need to do that at a state level.

And we also need to spend the time between now and the next state election articulating in detail what we stand for. You can';t persuade people in the last 6 weeks of what your policies are. The most pathetic thing to me about Kim Beazley in the last election campaign was running around almost with that sandwich board declaration this is what I stand for. Well if you haven't in five and a half years told people what you stand for, you can';t do it in five and a half weeks. And I think we have a responsibility starting now to spell out the alternatives that we offer to the people of New South Wales.

So ladies and gentlemen it';s a great pleasure to address you today. I have spoken on many occasions to this State Council. I would have addressed this body more than any body - I would have addressed this forum rather more frequently than any other forum within the Liberal Party anywhere in Australia at any time in my life. I feel at home here because this is my political home. I';ve been a member of the New South Wales Division since 1959. I value my membership of the Liberal Party very very deeply. It';s a precious thing to me. I believe very deeply in the Liberal Party organisation. It';s gone through difficult times. We need to have more members. We should use the momentum of the federal election to recruit some more people. I know it';s hard. But it';s easier when you';ve won. It';s awful when you';ve lost and if we are to maintain any ongoing momentum out of the 10th of November for our party organisation, it ought to be in the area of membership.

So my friends thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done. I congratulate all of you again on delivering such a wonderful result. But remember what delivered it. It was good policies, organisational unity and outstanding candidates. And if we can carry that winning formula forward, Kerry can have the wonderful pleasure of addressing you and speaking to you after a successful election. So merry Christmas to all of you. It';s a wonderful privilege to lead this party of ours. It';s a great privilege beyond all expectations any man can have to be the Prime Minister of Australia. And with your support we have won a famous victory and one that I very happily share with you because it belongs to you as much as it does to all of my colleagues. Thank you.

Transcript 12443