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Remarks at the Griffith by election campaign launch



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PRIME MINISTEROF AUSTRALIA

THE HON TONY ABBOTT

REMARKS AT THE GRIFFITH BY-ELECTION CAMPAIGN LAUNCH Saturday, 1 February 2014 Brisbane Prime Minister E&OE Thank you so much. Well it’s so good to be here in this beautiful part of Brisbane amongst so many enthusiastic Queenslanders. It is a great honour to be the Prime Minister of this country and as the Prime Minister of this country one of the most marvellous things is to meet some absolutely outstanding people. We had the Australia Day weekend last weekend and as part of that weekend I met with all of the finalists in the various categories for Australian of the Year. I met with Adam Goodes - a sporting legend, a hero to the indigenous people of this country, someone who is doing everything he can to lift Australians from poverty to opportunity. I met with Fred Chaney - a former colleague, many of you would know him, similarly a man who after a half a lifetime in the Parliament capped off with a stint as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Fraser government, spent the next 30 years working for the first Australians. I’ve met some terrific Australians since I’ve been Prime Minister, but I tell you what, you go a long way to find a better person than Bill Glasson. Today, Bill is a candidate, but he is so much more than simply a candidate for the Parliament of our country. Bill has 30 odd years as a doctor behind him, not just as a medical specialist in the city of Brisbane, but as someone who every year has trekked out to western Queensland to spend weeks of his time working pro bono for people who otherwise may well have been blind. He’s served in the Army Reserve, he’s represented his profession at the highest levels including as President of the Australian Medical Association. He’s not going into the Parliament to promote his career, or to build his ego, he’s going into the Parliament to serve our country. I have never met a man with better or purer motives for going into the Parliament of this country. I’ve almost never met a man who is turning his back on so much to go into the Parliament of this country. An income, let’s face it, a reputation because Members of Parliament don’t always have great reputations unlike medical specialists and I tell you, if he comes into the Parliament he will lift the reputation of Members of Parliament. This is a man who is prepared to sacrifice to serve the people of Griffith and that’s one of the many reasons why I’m so pleased and proud to be here today. And so many others are here in this room who are led by the Premier of Queensland Campbell Newman, including the President of the Party Bruce McIver, including my old friend Dr Sue Page - formally of the Rural Doctors Association. So many people who know this man and love this man are here to support him, not just in the routine sense that if you are on the conservative side of politics you support our candidates, but we are here because we know this man, we love this man and we want to give this man an opportunity to serve our country, the people of Griffith in the Parliament of Australia. I first met Bill under very difficult circumstances. I’d been asked by John Howard to take on the job of Health Minister at a time when doctors were walking out of public hospitals right around our country because they weren’t confident that they could perform their duties and be looked after in the event that there was a legal problem and they faced the courts. Obstetricians were not delivering babies; orthopaedic surgeons were worried about doing their procedures; intensivists were thinking ‘can I go into my emergency ward, my intensive care unit’? It was a real crisis as opposed to the confected crises which we often see reported and talked about. This was a real crisis and suddenly I was called upon to resolve it. Well luckily, there leading the medical profession at that time was an outstanding Australian in Bill Glasson and what Bill did was he persuaded the doctors of Australia that the national interest was at least as important as their own. He persuaded the doctors of Australia, something that they all believe in their hearts, but just at that

moment some of them were inclined to forget, that patients come first. And yes, I had to do some things as well, I had to persuade the government that the government had to get a lot more involved in the insurance market than we’d ever been before, but nevertheless this man, Bill Glasson, got the hospitals of our country working again. And he didn’t just work with me, he didn’t just work with his fellow doctors right around our country, he worked with all of the state health ministers to bring that about and at the time every single one of them was a member of the other political party. So this is someone who has the capacity, not just to believe in things passionately, not just to have values and principles and ideals and aspirations, but he’s also got the capacity to reach out to everyone in our community and work for the national good and that’s precisely what we want in a Member of the national Parliament. You know, I was so thrilled when Bill decided that he would put his hand up for Griffith and it wasn’t the kind of seat that a candidate of this calibre would normally run for because at that stage the margin was something like eight per cent. It was occupied by a former prime minister, then foreign minister. It was the safest Labor seat in Queensland no less, but Bill said, ‘if I’m going to run for Parliament, I want to represent where I live. I don’t want to be one of those political mercenaries; I don’t want to be one of those people who goes in search of a big handle. I just want to represent the place where I live’. And he agreed to go forward and he was indeed selected and I was incredibly thrilled when I heard the news that Bill Glasson had been selected by the LNP to go for the seat of Griffith in Queensland. And the following Monday I rang him to say ‘Bill I’m coming up to Queensland in the next few days, let’s go and do a little bit of campaigning somewhere in your seat’. ‘I’m sorry, Dr Glasson isn’t here’ and I thought, ‘gee whiz, he’s just been preselected’. You know where he was? He was in East Timor - that’s where he was because he had a longstanding commitment to go and do ophthalmology for free, for the people of East Timor, many of whom would be in dire problems, in dire straits without his services. Was that in the newspapers? No, of course it wasn’t, of course it wasn’t. Now, the former member for Griffith wouldn’t roll up the leg of his trousers without calling in the cameras! And I say to the good people of Griffith, I say to the good people of Queensland - who do you want to represent you? Who do you think is best placed to do the kind of job that a local member is required to do? If you’ve got a problem, who would you rather talk to? Someone who has spent 30 years addressing the practical difficulties of people in their lives, or someone who’s spent most of their life up till now plotting and machinating and conspiring to get into the Parliament? Who do you want to represent you? Someone whose focus is on you, or someone whose focus is on the faction, whose focus is on the caucus? Do you want someone who’s going to talk to you of what’s in his heart, or do you want someone who is going to give you the party line? The answer could not be clearer. You want a decent Australian, a decent human being. A person who has served this country from his earliest years, to represent you in Griffith and I tell you, I hope, I hope that I have as one of my colleagues someone of that calibre. I love my colleagues and I am incredibly lucky. I am blessed to have such good friends and strong and supportive colleagues in Canberra, but I tell you what, we’re not so good that we wouldn’t be improved by having Bill Glasson amongst us. So finally, this is not my day, this is Bill’s day, but above all else I want this to be Griffith’s day. That’s what this is all about. It’s not about me, it’s not even in the end about Bill, it’s about the people of Griffith and who can serve them best. [ends]