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Transcript: Breakfast Address



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TRANSCRIPT OF ΤΕΠΕ LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON JOHN HOWARD MF BREAKFAST ADDRESS, SWAN COTTAGE HOMES PERTH, 5 DECEMBER 1995

Thank you very much, Richard Cleaver, and to my parliamentary colleagues, o f whom there are many, and I particularly acknowledge the presence o f Peter Costello, the Deputy Leader o f die Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party, to all my other colleagues, many o f whom I am sure you recognise very readily, ladies and gentlemen. Can I extend to you, M r Cleaver, and to your colleagues who run this magnificent - 1 don’t dislike the ABC tike that, I assure you. Ladies and gentlemen, 1 really am delighted that you’ve made us welcome and it’s a great

pleasure for me to be here this morning. This is the fifth occasion that I’ve been in W eston Austral ia since being re-elected Leader o f the Opposition on 30 January this year. I said when I became Leader that I would not allow my political and parliamentary activities to focus me just in Canberra and Sydney and Melbourne but I would spend a great deal o f time

travelling around the different parts o f Australia.

One o f the first things, Mr Cleaver, that P d tike to say that is in my mind about what the next Government will do, the next Government that I lead will do, and that is that we’ll make absolutely certain that this country will not just revolve around the triangle o f Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. It’s a cliche but one o f the truisms to say that Australia is a big country and there are different moods and different attitudes o f people in areas like Western Australia and Queensland than there are o f people in Sydney and Melbourne. It is very

important that I state that and one o f the great criticisms that I have o f the present Government is its insensitivity to particular issues that affect people who live in the less populous parts o f Australia

I’m delighted to be amongst you and I share all o f the things that Mr Cleaver said about the contribution made in earlier years by the Menzies, Holt and Gorton Governments to complexes of this kind. It was the Menzies Government that trail-blazed and founded and inaugurated the very essence o f which literally hundreds o f thousands, probably close to a million, retirement places have been provided in different forms all over Australia during the

last 30 to 40 years. The introduction o f that concept o f matching funds from the Federal Government, that was trail-blazed by the Menzies Government and without it the quality o f life o f retired people in this country over the last generation-and-aTialf would have been fundamentally different and fundamentally more impoverished than it has been.

Parliament House, Canberra, A.CT. 2600 Phone 2774022

COMMONWEALTH p a r l i a m e n t a r y LIBR

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O f course I have a number o f things I want to say to you about the Coalition’s policy in relation to retired Australians. I want to say first and foremost, from a philosophical point o f view, we are Parties - the Liberal Party and the National Party together- we are a Coalition that openly and willingly and generously acknowledges the contribution that has been made

by retired Australians to the building o f this country. Most o f the people m this room have lived through some o f the most difficult times that Australia has seen. Almost all o f you in ibis room, almost all o f you, have lived through at least one war, many o f you through a Depression and many o f you through very difficult circumstances, quite a number o f you in the United Kingdom and other countries before coming here after the end o f W odd War Π.

You’ve all made a massive contribution and you’ve all shared the great post-war rebuilding o f Australia which commenced in the late 1940s and the early 1905s. Many o f you are the beneficiaries o f the great post-war migration, particularly from Europe, which started in 1946 and continued magnificently by the Menzies and other Coalition Governments.

So in a philosophical sense current generations o f Australians and future generations owe an enormous debt o f gratitude to you and you are entitled to ask o f a nation to which you’ve contributed so much - you’re entitled to ask for a level o f security, a level o f generosity and a level o f understanding which matches the contribution which you have made in your earlier years. There are many things that are important. Nothing o f course is more important to

retired people than a sense o f security and a sense o f stability in their lives, the opportunity to be amongst their family, their other loved ones and their friends but also the opportunity, i f they want to, to be by themselves for times o f quiet and reflection. The atmosphere o f a village like this provides you with that sort o f blend, that sort o f opportunity. When I think o f security I think naturally o f things like health. Good health is the most treasured asset that any o f us can possibly have. A major area o f Government failure over the past few years has been the way in which it has allowed the private section o f our health system to run down.

You can’t have a proper health system in this country unless you have a combination o f a strong public health system and an effective, functioning strong private health system.

Our policy is one o f restoring the health and the vigour o f the contribution of the private section o f health without in any way diminishing the quality o f the public section. And the most important thing that has to be done is that we have got to stop the absolutely disastrous decline o f private health insurance in this country. It is one o f the real enduring criticisms that can be made o f bow the Labor Government has run health in this country, has run the health policy o f this nation, that in 1983 61 per cent o f all Australians were covered by private health insurance. That figure has now fallen to 35 per cent, and for every one per cent o f the Australian population that goes out of private health insurance, that adds another

$100 million, $ 100 million, to the cost o f running the public health system. The major reason - not the only reason - but the major reason why people have gone out o f private health insurance is that there is no longer any incentive to take it out. And therefore it is becoming increasingly costly, and we are very strongly committed - it was a commitment

made 18 months to two years ago and I repeat it here to you this morning - we are very strongly committed to providing people with an incentive to take out or to retain private health insurance.

That is one o f the cornerstones o f the policy that we will take in the health area. We are committed to the maintenance o f Medicare. We are committed to the maintenance o f bulk billing and to the community rating system. I make those things very clear because over the next couple o f months all sorts o f lies are going to be told about our policy.

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The current Minister for Human Services and Health will go around Australia asking people to believe all manner o f dreadful things about - all manner o f dreadful things about what we’re going to do. I want to mil you directly, out o f the horse’s mouth, so there will be no misunderstanding about it, we are going to retain Medicare, we are going to retain bulk

billing, we’re going to retain community rating, but we’re also going to do something to help people stay in private health insurance because a large number o f Australians value very much private health insurance. They value the access it gives them to the doctor o f their choice. They value it very much and they are prepared to skimp on other tilings. They are prepared to defer doing other things in order to keep that private health insurance. But they

would like a little bit o f help, a little bit o f incentive, a little bit of subsidisation, and we are going to provide an incentive and the manner in which we provide that incentive - it will be provided and it will be announced when the election campaign commences.

There are numbers o f other areas where I believe retired people have a right to feel aggrieved under present policies. There is an inequitable treatment under oar taxation system so far as self-funded retirees are concerned versus people who rely whole or in part on tile pension. Now in all o f these things we should not cease to treat people differently. We should seek to treat people in a fair and balanced fashion and we are very conscious o f the feet that self-

funded retirees in Australia are treated, so far as the taxation system is concerned, less fairly and less generously than are other sections o f the retired community. It will be one of our expectat ions to address that matter in the course o f the election campaign.

I mention those two issues because they are o f great importance but, in a broader sense, I don’t only seek the support o f the retired section o f the Australian community because o f particular policies that may affect them. 1 also ask for their support knowing that above all, and above their own legitimate particular interests and concerns, they are people who are

concerned about the future o f this country and their depth o f commi tment to Australia is bettered by no other section o f the Australian community. Many o f them put their lives on the line to defend this country, which has not been the experience o f younger sections o f the Australian population. So their credentials to express concern about the future o f Australia

cannot be surpassed by any other section o f the Australian community. The major reason why I believe this country needs a change o f Government is not because the Prime Minister is arrogant - though he certainly is. It’s not because I think on the basis o f some kind o f rotation system - the time has arrived for there to be a change o f Government, although many people may think that. But that’s not the reason why. They’re not the two reasons.

The two reasons why I believe that we need a change o f Government is that I no longer think that we are getting good Government, that as each years has gone by we are increasingly getting decisions which are made not in the best interests o f fee majority o f the Australian community but rather they are the interests o f the strongest pressure group at the time.

We’ve seen a couple o f examples o f th a t We’ve seen this chaotic attempt by the Government to do something about the Australian National Line, which is losing $2 million a month. The most sensible thing to do is to try and sell i t A lot o f people would regard it as an absolute miracle that somebody is willing to buy it - an absolute miracle. And yet, extraordinarily enough, the Government won’t sell it. They won’t sell it to P&O because the

unions say you can’t do i t And fee Prime Minister has simply been sidelined. He’s been rendered as stage extra while Jennie George and Bill Kelly and other say you may not sell fee ANL.

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And the same thing applies in relation to the handling o f the CRA dispute. My argument very much, ladies and gentlemen, is we are no longer getting good Government I'm not asking you to change the Government because it's our turn. I'm not asking you to change the Government because you might think the current Leader o f the Government is arrogant -

although he is. They're not the reasons. The reasons why I believe we need a change o f Government is that we’re no longer getting good Government, and that the Coalition can provide Australia with much better Government That’s the reason why you change. You change Governments when you think Australia will be better and not on any other basis. I’ve got a group o f people here today who will provide this country with better Government They’ll provide this country with Government that is committed to governing in the interests o f the whole population and not for the noisiest pressure groups but the one that is able to put the maximum weights on the Government at a particular period o f time.

I’ve got a group of people here today who have a varied experience in life. Many of them have been in business. Some o f them have been in academia. Others have been involved in other occupational pursuits. We’re not a narrowly based group o f people. We’re not all trade union officials. We’re not all former political party apparatchiks. We’re not all former

public servants. We’re not all former academics. There’s nothing wrong with any o f those classifications although I suppose I might draw the line at Labor Party apparatchiks. You don’t expect me to be enthusiastic about them. But as for all the others, I la v e no difficulty with them. The point I make is that we’ve got people in our Party who have an

understanding of how business works. They have an understanding o f how Government works. They have an understanding o f how the professions work but, most importantly o f all, they have an understanding o f what concerns the Australian people. We’re here today as a Shadow' Cabinet to have a meeting here because I’ve made it a habit over the last few years

o f moving our Shadow Cabinet meetings around Australia and not having them all in Canberra or Sydney or Melbourne, so that we have the opportunity o f meeting a cross-section o f the Australian community as we move about because Government must retain contact with their community. There’s nothing worse (Iran a Government, a Prime Minister or a senior Minister in the Government losing contact with the people who’ve elected him or her. You

must listen to what people to say and you must allow them to talk at you, as well as you listening to what they have to say.

Ladies and gentlemen, can I wind up these brief remarks o f mine to say again how delighted I am to be amongst you this morning. I want to congratulate those who conceived this village, tiiis marvellous complex. I want to congratulate the on-going work and make it very plain to those who run this complex that the future Coalition Government o f this country will remain

very very strongly committed to on-going support o f retirement villages and on-going support o f the sort o f quality o f life and security and peace o f mind and personal happiness and personal stability that independent living, hostel accommodation and nursing home accommodation provides. It is an old saying, and it’s been said very often, that the quality o f

a nation, its decency and its character is very heavily determined and veiy largely judged on how it treats its retired people and the more elderly sections o f the community. That is a view that I’ve always held to very strongly.

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I have within my own electorate o f Bernielong in Sydney the largest retirement village o f the Jewish community m Australia, the Sir Moses Mtmtefiore Jewish Homes, funded in very much the same way as this - and it’s a magnificent complex and it's a magnificent tribute to the sense o f community o f that part o f Australia and it’s also a reminder o f the tremendous

contribution o f Governments o f our persuasion to the concept o f subsidised assistance from the Government. I want to make it very clear that a future Coalition Government would be very supportive o f endeavours such as this. You’ve been very generous to allow us to come here. We appreciate it very much.

Before I conclude you will forgive me one timely local political commercial, and that is that this village o f course is right slap bank in the middle o f the electorate o f Swan. Swan is the most marginal seat in Western Australia. It’s held by 0.2 per cent Kim Beazley was so confident o f bidding it at the next election that he’s gone to another seat. I’m delighted to

say that the Liberal Party candidate, Don Randal!, is here today. Don is down there and I unashamedly ask all o f you to vote for him. £ unashamedly ask all o f you to vote for him. He’s working his insides out trying to get elected. He’s walking the streets o f Swan and knocking on - doing about five or six hours’ door-knocking three or four days a week, which

is a terrific effort Pd like to have him as a parliamentary colleague. Could I just say that people who are disposed to vote for the Liberal Party - this is an occasion not to do other than vote for the endorsed Liberal Party candidate. It’s very important that he win because it’s a seat that we should be able to pick up and it’s a seat that I think Don will represent in a quite magnificent and a very very effective way.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much and the very best o f luck to all o f you, and it’s been a great pleasure to be amongst you. Thank you.