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Transcript of address by Dr John HEwson leader of the opposition to the Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads branches of the liberal party

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Leader of the Opposition

18 October 1991




Bill Munroe, Bruce Francis, Malcolm Marshall and my

Parliamentary colleagues - John Bradford and John Teirney - other distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman.

It is a very great pleasure for me' to be here tonight, at Tweed Heads, for me to have the opportunity of launching our campaign for Richmond, to tell you that I was absolutely delight when Bruce Francis was pre-selected. A unique

candidate for a unique seat.

He has one task to perform between now and the next election and that is to ensure that Neville Newell, you might say, Neville who, he is a oncer. And that is your challenge Bruce, and that is to make sure that we actually gain this seat, as part of what I believe will be a very strong and widespread

return of the Coalition Parties to Government.

I might begin by acknowledging the considerable contribution that Ronnie Hodginkson has made to the Liberal Party in this area. She seems to know everyone of you in the room

personally and has done a fantastic job in getting a very large number of people out on this particular occasion. And it is indeed very encouraging as you go around Australia now, to see ever larger crowds in support of Coalition meetings.

And we therefore stand in very sharp contrast to the ALP at the present time, which is suffering quite dramatically from a loss of membership. All around Australia people are resigning from the ALP and I thought I should probably tell you tonight,

that this week we came across some confidential information that revealed that they had a national membership drive underway at the present time. Trying to shore up their electoral support as the basis to the next election.

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 77 4022


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Apparently there were three elements to this membership drive in the ALP. They have challenged every existing or remaining ALP Member to go out and find a new ALP member. If they do and those people become permanent members of the Party, then

they will refund their membership fees in the course of the next six months. In the very unusual occasion they can actually find two ALP members to join the Party, then they will allow that member to resign quietly in the course of the next six months.

And in the most unusual circumstances, they could find three very foolish people to join the ALP at present circumstances, then they promise that Bob Hawke will write you a letter, to say that you never were a member of the ALP.

I am pleased to have the chance to talk to you tonight a bit about what we as a Coalition are trying to do. We have, as many of you have said to us - as I have gone around tonight, I have received your correspondence, a lot of people have said, you seem to be running a pretty risky strategy. Why don't you

just sit back and be quiet and let them fall over and just walk your way into the next election, and that is obviously a very tempting suggestion as you look at the cut and thrust of

the political debate on the day to day basis.

But I want you to understand why we are doing what we are doing. Why we have taken the approach that we have taken and how we expect to succeed.

When I took over the leadership of the Party, 18 months ago, I had to begin with the reality that we had lost four federal elections in a row. We had also lost a number of other State elections and by-elections. There are obviously a lot of messages that we, as a Party and as a Coalition, had to learn

from that experience. But two particular things stood out to my mind, at the Federal level, that cost us the last four elections.

And the first * one was our lack of unity and our lack of

discipline. Our inability to manage ourselves in a way that gave people in the Australian electorate confidence. You might remember in the last election campaign, Bob Hawke used the line, if you can't govern yourselves, then you can't

govern the country." And that was very true and that was a principle reason why we lost. And so, I had to begin to

ensure that we built a united and effective and disciplined team.

Now, it will never be easy to do that, hut I am pleased to say that that has been one, I think, our greatest successes of the last 18 months. We now act as a team, think as a team and

operate as a team. I put it to you as well, that the

Coalition as a whole has never been better and more effective than it is at the present time.

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It is very good to work in close quarters with people like Tim Fischer and to be able to judge issues on their merits, rather than what is good for the National Party or what is good for the Liberal Party. And don't get me wrong when we have three cornered contests, I believe in competition, and we will definitely have a three cornered contest, I imagine, in the seat of Richmond.

But the competition is the key to our success, it is our best way of maximising the non ALP vote, for when we get to

Canberra and we operate in Canberra, we operate as a team. So, that unity, that discipline, that teamwork, has been fundamental to our success in the last 18 months.

And it of course has been a sharp contrast to the other side, which is constantly fighting and scrapping amongst

themselves - particularly now of course, you have the leadership of the ALP - if you like, just about any policy issue that has come up in the last 18 months, the public squabble between Griffiths on the one hand and Ross Kelly on the other; or Button and Keating; or Hawke and Keating; -or - Hawke and the Arch-Bishop, or the Arch-Bishop and Hawke, you don't know who it has been, they keep fighting with each other or with outsiders. " ‘

They blame everybody else and we have sat there as a unified, disciplined team that has been able to get on with the job.

I think it is going to be very important when it comes to the next election, that they will be fundamentally divided, like we used to be in the middle 1980's. We have put all that

behind us, and that I think is the first element of what will be our successful return to Government.

The second one, the second reason why 1 think we lost, is that people never knew what was good for them. Now, that is a hard statement quite often to make to a Liberal Party audience, but it is very true. If you think back" over the last, as many elections as you like really, there weren't all many

differences, identifiable differences between us and the other side. And in particular, in the last two federal elections, there was a bit of conscious effort not to look too different and indeed, in _some of the areas where we were fundamentally different, like industrial relations, in the pressure of the election campaign, people went around saying, don't worry, we won't be too different, we won’t rock the boat, we aren't

really change things, every thing will be okay. And of course, when the electorate was present with a choice, of a divided Opposition, that wasn't all that much different to the Government, they of course took the devil they knew, rather

than the devil they didn't know.

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I felt very strongly, in coming into politics, that one of the great failings of our Party was our inability to get up and fight for what we believe in. And that is really what we have been about for the last 18 months, and we are doing that at a time where our economy, as Bruce said, is in its worst

circumstances, I believe, for 60 years. And I see now, that when John Kerin has gone overseas, he now has the courage to admit that it is in fact the worst recession in 60 years. But

it is a recession that is fundamentally different from anything most of us in this room have experienced in our lifetime.

You have to harp back to the 1930's, to see some of the

features of this recession, the massive debt, the massive balance of payments problems, the unbelievable numbers of corporate failures and personal bankruptcies. The problems in

the banking systems, our banks have got non-performing loans of $29 billion, they have only got $28 billion worth of share holders funds. It is a very deep seated, structural,

ingrained recession and there is no short term, quick fix, easy way out of it.

In that sense, we have to be prepared to argue in a very

honest and open way, exactly how bad things are, to get people to accept a sense of reality about1 our circumstances, before* we can go on and get them to believe in what can be done to turn this country around. And so misleading statements by the

Government over the last 12-18 months, about how things are on the mend, that the recovery is underway, we are on the pick up, every set of numbers is a beautiful number - all that nonsense distracts people from the fact that really do have to make some fundamental changes in Australia.

But it is not just an economic problem. It is the social problem as well. Just take one feature of our economic circumstances today, which is unemployment. Here we are at 10 per cent unemployment and the Government on their own numbers

says that we will go over 11 per cent unemployment in the course of tJha next six months. But. it won't just be one in ten or one in nine Australians who are out of work, it is the fact that there are a whole host οΐ people, another 500,000,

there are already a million out of work, another 500,000 people can't find enough work, they are working in many cases less than about 15 hours a week. But most importantly, perhaps our young people, one in three will not find a job as they come to the end of this school year. And if you look at

the Government's own numbers, at their own forecast out into the 1990's, you will be find some disturbing features of that circumstance.

If the Government doesn't change policy, our unemployment rate will still be over nine per cent in 1995-96. And the number of people who are long termed unemployed, that is long term in the sense of being unemployed for more than one year, there

will be over 300,000 people.

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You think about It. In that period, some of those young people, over that five year period will never actually start work, they will spend the five years looking for a job. So, it is not just an economic problem, it becomes a family

problem, a social problem. It spins off into crime, it spins off into youth homelessness, in spins off into drug abuse.

All those social dimensions are going to be major issues as a result of this recession, that Mr Keating said we had to have. And that is the challenge that we have to deal with and in those circumstances, a political Party today, and a political

leader today has no choice but to tell it the way it is and be prepared to get out there and fight for what we know needs to be done in order to turn this country around.

And if it is politically difficult to do that, or if your popularity falls, if the polls collapse, you have got to keep going. Because we will never get anywhere in this country if we continue to pretend that we are the lucky country and

something is going to come along and save us. We have to start paying our way in the world and we have to start dealing with our problems ourselves, nobody else is going to come through. There aren.t any knights on white chargers. It isn't going to happen, unless we do it ourselves. And we are doing that finally in an environment where the electorate is particularly cynical - and why wouldn't they be.

I mean, they have had politicians coming along for years, promising them quick fixes, big fall in interest rates, massive increases in jobs and all the other things that you could easily say, but could never easily deliver.

You look at the last survey of the standing of politicians, done by the Bulletin magazine - we ranked right down the bottom of the social structure, above the media, but only just. Got to be fair, because the television is here, we were below the television journalists, they ranked above us, but we

were above the print media and we have got a long way to go to re-build confidence in us and our poli-tical system. Now, people are starting to focus on the fact that these are very deep seated problems - the economic problems are deep seated,

the social problems are deep seated and we have a Government that isn’t addressing any of them.

It is drifting along, fighting and scrapping amongst itself, worrying about who is going to get the top job, not worried at all about the million people that are unemployed. A

Government that governs in the interest of just a few people and clearly doesn't govern in the interest of the great body of the people of Australia. When you think about, just go back to the last election, think of any issue that has come before the Government and ask yourself, which was deal was

done. Which group benefited at the expense of the rest of us.

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When they came to the television ownership rules, straight after the election, one particular person benefited, to buy back a television station he sold some time before for a $1 billion and buy it back at $230 million or whatever the price was.

Our aviation policy is run by one or two people - mates of the Government. Any reform that is required in Australia, like on the waterfront, or in the transportation system, or in telecommunications, is blocked by a few people - Bill Kelty, Martin Ferguson and the leadership of the union movement, that

are protecting their mates, looking after some better better jobs in those industries. Stopping the Government from getting on and governing. And of course, when it comes to development projects, they are bascially being sold out to the

leadership in the green movement.

Deals were done in the last election and the one before, to deliver preferences, second preferences in Sydney and Melbourne marginal seats, and the deal was block Coronation Hill, block Wesley Vale, make sure these projects don't get

off the ground. And the hypocrisy and the dishonesty and the lies that were told about issues like Coronation Hill in the course of the last five years, are- almost unequaled in our 1 political history.

There you have a Government that is run by deals, run by mates, run by a few special interests, while everyone else goes backwards.

The average Australian has gone backwards, their living standards have fallen consistently in the last ten years. The average tax payer is seeing all their money go out the door, frittered away in support of some of those activities or an excessive welfare expenditure - $0.91 in every $1.00, of

taxpayers dollars today is paid out in social security and the average Australian has been left high and dry.

How, that is our challenge as a Party. We have start to offer people a different kind of system, a different process of Government, a fundamentally different economic structure and we have to start to build hope and a sense of national purpose

that people can identify with. Now what disturbs me with Australia, is that we are a country that really has got an abundance of natural resources. We have a lot of advantages,

very well educated and articulate workforce. We have a great place to live, a great climate, a lot of natural resources. >

We have every opportunity there if we won't to take advantage of it. Yet, over the years we have fallen behind, we have sacrificed our living standards, we have marginalised ourselves in the eyes of the world. To use one example that

was referred to, in relation to South Africa. What a mockery, the Prime Minister's attitude towards South Africa.

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Giving effectively, Nelson Mandala veto power over our position, to run foreign policy on the basis of emotion and ego and what is good for domestic consumption. Not in what is in the best interest of the people of Australia and that is the sort of system that they built and that is the sort of

system that has got to be changed. And so against those challenges, with the economy and the social pressures and the changes in the political system, we have to develop a strategy not only to win the next election, but clearly a strategy to

be able to govern this country in a completely different way.

We need a mandate to make fundamental change in Australia, fundamental economic change, fundamental social change. Because I will just not accept the fact that we should go on squandering our opportunities as a nation. We can be a major

player in our region, the Asia/Pacific region by the year 2000. We can re-establish our standing in that region and in the world. \

We can re-build our economy. We can re-build the

opportunities that ought to be there, in a country as rich as the one that we happen to live in. But we are going to have to make some very fundamental changes, very fundamental changes of attitude and we are going to have to have some pretty fundamental changes in policy^. Now, the policies that 1 we have put down, I put to you, are being said to be the most

radical policies every advocated by either the Government or an Opposition in the history of this country. But in the circumstances I have described it, we do not have any choice.

We do need for us to be prepared to change our industrial relations system, for example.

The Accord process hasn't worked. It has made it

uncompetitive in terms of the wage increases that people have got, yet the worker has gone backwards - what a great system! Most importantly, it has elevated Bill Kelty and Martin Ferguson into the Cabinet. Defacto Cabinet members, where

they are going to block any sensible piece of policy or reform, that ought have been pursued in this country. There is only one alternative, it is to move away from that system, back to where wages and conditions ought to be determined, which is at the workplace. Where the employer and the

employee can sit-down and together decide what is a reasonable pay for a reasonable day's work. How the profit can be shared over a period of time and until we do that, we are never are going to re-build a productive age in Australia.

That one change is fundamental and it is going to call for a completely different union structure and union attitude. We are going to change the law, we are going to outlaw compulsory unionism. We are going to outlaw closed shops and we are

going to facilitate the development of enterprise unions.

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I am not anti-union, I just reckon that the job of unions is to represent workers at the work place, not to be an arm of Government and that is the fundamental change we are going to make.

That industrial relations system will give employers a chance to earn more profit and it will give workers the chance to earn more money. And if you don’t want to believe me, just look at what Bernie Power, at Power Brewing. His average brewery worker earns $8,000 a year more than the average brewery worker in Australia. His productivity has boomed, his profitability has boomed and his market share has boomed. It

is not a bad model to follow, when you look at what can be done in industrial relations.

But changing the industrial relations system, as important as it is, will not be enough unless we back it up with a lot

other policy changes. Tax for example is fundamentally important. Now,· most people in this room can tell me what is wrong with the tax system. High tax rates cutting in a very low income levels. When you think, at $20,000 a year, you are

paying $0.38 in the $1.00 tax.

If you manage to get to $36,000, a· little bit above average 1 income in Australia, you are paying $0.46 in the $1.00 tax. No wonder people don't work harder, no wonder they won’t take a promotion, no wonder they won't get out there and take an

extra shift. Because there is no reason to do that when 50 per cent of it goes down to Canberra, to John Kerin or to Paul Keating, or to whoever. And of course, why would you save in Australia, a nation who desperately needs savings, desperately needs capital investment, has borrowed $165 million dollars of everyone elses savings. You wouldn't save in Australia, because when you put your money in a bank account and you take off the tax and you take off the inflation rate, you have

probably gone backwards over the last ten years. The tax system has to change, so we can restore incentive to save and incentive to work and incentive to invest and incentive to build a busihess and so on. And that is why we put so much weight on the goods and services tax, it is an essential part of that tax reform.

Now, I just came through the door down there and they said that I was going to attack workers by the goods and services tax. I didn't come into politics to attack workers. I

actually need workers to vote for me to get there. I'm obviously about improving the lot of workers. I'm obviously about putting more money back in the pocket of workers and I'm obviously about giving workers a bit more incentive and a more

hope in this country - and that's what is going to come from that tax reform package.

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As I challenged one of the people that was demonstrating down there - when you see that the package Is overwhelmingly in the best interests of the workers I hope you write me a letter and apologise for the fact that you were wrong. I'm sure they will do that. They looked like very genuine people. I'm told

a couple of them are in here tonight but I wouldn't be

prepared to say it.

The point is that the tax system has to be changed in order to turn this country around. Over and above that fault we’ve got a lot of cost disadvantages in our industry: transport costs are too high; we can't get anything through the

waterfront because of the waterside workers and all their work practices. Like in Sydney they are earning $107,000 a year for 27 hours a week work. I think one of the real privileged in Australia - just happens to be a waterside worker

supervisor on the Sydney waterfront. No wonder we can't be cost competitive when you pay that sort of money. And in th$ transport system - excessive costs of transportation in a

country that is suffering from the tyranny of distance.

It is cheaper to ship a car from Adelaide to Auckland, via Yokohama, than it is straight across the Tasman sea. Crazy shipping rates; crazy practices in. the union movement that * give you uncompetitive waterfront charges. Railways - well

most of the railways around Australia are in desperate shape.

In Victoria it is cheaper to close the Victorian railways altogether and give every commuter a small car that it is to try and run the railway. I tall you that something

fundamental has got to be done about the rail system; cost disadvantages; telecommunications; waterfront; electricity generation; aviation. It doesn't matter what it is and the problem is similar - they lack competition; they've got

inefficient work and management practices; or they have too much government involvement, government ownership and government regulation. They can change and our policy package addresses them.

Over and above those cost disadvantages though there are a few other things you have got to do to start to turn this country around and some of those decisions are going to be difficult.

One of them is to actually develop a pro-business, pro­ development mentality. Not at the expense of the environment of course. You can satisfy, however, the toughest

environmental standards in most cases and a lot of projects will still go ahead. Wesley Vale, the pulp mill in Tasmania, satisfied the environmental standards that were set - the toughest in the world. The Government had done a deal with

the Green movement so they blocked it on foreign investment grounds. Coronation Hill satisfied the environmental standards that were set for gold mining in that part of the Northern Territory - but they blocked it on Aboriginal

heritage grounds.

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A man who doesn't believe in God suddenly believes In Buia and found a reason to block a project. And in doing so, the great irony is, denied the Jawoyn people the right they ought to have to self-determination, the financial prospects for the Jawoyn people were denied by that decision. And if got out of the way and let the negotiators of the joint venture - they may have decided to let mining go ahead.

I have seen a petition from 92 of them, to say that they would like to see mining go ahead. So we have to change that

attitude, no special deals with the extreme leaders of the green movement or the aboriginal heritage movement. Sure, take account of their concerns, but don't sell the country short in the name of some deal that was looking after your

political survival, as Hawke has done and not worry about the development that should be taking place and the jobs that should be created in a country like Australia.

Similarly, issues like immigration. Always a difficult decision in a country like Australia. A country that has been built on immigration and a country down the track, that is going to have to built on a lot more immigration. But in the near term, the worst recession in 60 years, we cannot absorb t

significant numbers of immigrants. " 35 per cent of them are going to end up on the unemployment list within a year. They are going to take jobs that would otherwise be available for people who are on the unemployment role in Australia, trying

to find work. And of course, a lot of immigrants dont' want to come to Australia anymore, they don't find it all that attractive, in a midst of a recession. So, we have to be

prepared to accept a lower number of immigrants in the short term. So, we are talking about a fundamentally different country, a fundamentally approach to Government. A fundamentally different set of values.

And to me, we do not have any choice anymore in Australia. We have to be prepared to argue those sort of policy changes and to fight for.them every day till the next election. Now, what I have give you in a very quick compass, the key elements of

that policy package, are all built on what we believe, as Liberals.

For years we have talked about, as somebody said to me

tonight, getting rid of socialism in Australia. I mean, they might be tearing down the Berlin wall and they might be eliminating communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, but I can assure that socialism is today under the Hawke

Government, alive and well in Canberra.

We don't believe in Government control. We don't believe in central control in Government. We don't believe in compulsioh and look at this Government now, Medicare levy - compulsion. Training levy - compulsion. Compulsory superannuation coming

down the track; Compulsory arbitration. But they won't abolish compulsory unionism.

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We also believe in markets, they don't. They don't believe in market basis, they believe the Government ought to do it. They don't believe in individuals, they believe in

institutions, they believe in giving money to universities, rather than giving money to students, for example. They have a fundamentally different concept in the way this place ought to be run and of the values that we hold.

And what we are doing with our policy package is giving you a chance to fight for the value you believe in. Individual enterprise, equality of opportunity, instead of equality of outcome, which under Hawke has been the lowest common

denominator. Markets and competition, rather than Government regulations, that is what it is all about. And those policies that I put to you, are designed to re-build the business community, re-build private sector, initiative and activity.

Reduce the size and role and influence of Government. Eliminate the compulsion and giving individuals some choice. Re-establish concept by excellence, which has been driven out of our education system and in our attitude to work. Getting us to believe in ourselves for once in our lives, instead of

losing our confidence and losing our nerve as has happened in this recession.

As I was coming tonight, I recognised that I had received this letter from a couple of people, who in the letter said, that they weren't able to come tonight, to this function - Eileen and Philip Clarke, who I am very pleased to see have in fact been able come tonight. The letter was an apology, having received an invitation to come, they said they wouldn't be able to get here because of ill health and I am delighted to see, at their age, 87 and 78, they have made the effort to be here.

I would just like finish by reading you a paragraph of the letter that they sent to me, and I sought their approval to do so. It sums up what I have said tonight.

The letter, after the apology, goes on to say:

"..we are both true blue Liberals and speaking for myself personally, I am a great Menzies admirer. For him to represent us overseas was a joy, as I thought he was so dignified. I was a very proud Australian. Now, at my

age, I am devastated at the way Australia has gone down hill. It is just a third world country and I am afraid it will get worse.

Something has got to be done to get the average

Australian out of the bad habit of welfare. I could see this present situation coming years ago, as we, being a young country, could not afford these handouts.

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I hope and trust that your present team Is not going into the next election for self interest, but with an ardent desire to get Australia back on its feet. It is going to be a tough job, but it has got to be done. Politicians on the whole have a very poor image, so lets get some

real honest statesmen in there and let us again be proud to have good leaders.

On behalf of all of us who have worked hard to be

independent, to get together as a team, to act as one, to get Australia back to being the best country in the world to 1ive in".

Now, Eileen and Philip, I just want to assure you, that the big change has taken place in the Opposition in the last 18 months. There is that there is core group of people, within the Shadow Ministry, as well as the great bulk of the

parliamentary team itself, that is now absolutely dedicated to doing what you just said. We came into politics, many of us in the last few years, actually to make change. We were embarrassed about what was happening to our country and

recognised that somebody had to be prepared to stand up and to. fight for what we as Liberals believe in.

Now, the going is going to get incredibly tough between now and the next election. We have already seen a pretty heavy going election campaign. They have already started to throw a massive amount of dirt and they are going to keep throwing it

and it is going to be, without doubt, the toughest election campaign, I believe, this country has seen for decades. It will also be, the first time in decades that there has been a fundamental difference between the Government on the one hand

and the Coalition Party on the other.

And we will fight on the issues and we will fight for what we will believe in. And my challenge to you tonight, is to give Bruce Francis the sort of support he is going to need to be part of that team and to get ready for a good fight between now and the next election.

And when they get out there, throwing the mud and calling us names and attacking us as individuals, as they attack any one of us, they attack all of us and they attack all of you. As in the past, our greatest failing as a Party has been that we have actually let that happen to us. We have let it get under our skin, many times people sat back and said yeah, that is not bad what Keating is saying, or his abuse is amusing.

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My challenge to you is to actually get stuck into them and when they turn up the pressure on you, turn it up back on them another notch and they will go one more time, so you go one more time. Because, unless we function as an integrated team

that believes in itself, we are not going to win the next election.

Unless, we believe in ourselves and fight for what we believe in, I don't think we deserve to win the next election and we certainly don't deserve to govern this country. So, that is my challenge to you tonight.

Let’s get off our tails and get stuck into them.