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Transcript of the Leader of the Opposition the Hon John Howard MP election campaign launch speech

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Leader of the O pposition

■ $ .

18 February 1996




Thank you, Peter Costello, to Tim Fischer, my friend and colleague, the Leader o f the National Party, Tony Staley, the Federal President o f the Liberal Party, to my many Parliamentary colleagues and friends, fellow Australians. It is with an immense amount o f personal pnde and also an enormous amount o f humility that I bring together today the

essential argument as to why, after 13 long and difficult years, this nation o f ours needs emphatically a change o f government. '

It is appropriate that this launch be in the City o f Ryde, not just because it is located in my electorate, although that shouldn’t be forgotten but, more importantly than that, Ryde is really a microcosm o f modem Australia. I think on any fair measurement for a long time Ryde contained the largest number o f returned service men and women from World War Π o f any municipality in Australia, Yet added to that, over the years since the end o f

World War Π, other communities have come in their tens o f thousands, many wonderful people from Italy in the years immediately after the war, followed by people from Korea, from China and, indeed, from the four comers o f the earth.

Ryde is a great example o f the success of a post-war multi-racial Australian society and I’m very proud to reflect upon the contribution that my Party, our Party, the Liberal Party, made to the great nation building after World War Π. Don’t any o f you ever be lectured by the Labor Party about racial tolerance - never ever. It was our Party that broke down the White Australia policy. It was our Party that extended the welcoming arms to the

Indo-Chinese refugees in the late 1970s. Today is an occasion for all o f us, as proud member; and supporters o f the Liberal and National Parties, to reflect upon the heritage o f our two Parties, to reflect with immense pride and unyielding determination on what our Parties have stood for in the past, to remember the long and successful years o f

previous Coalition Governments. But, more importantly, to remember the values for which our Parties stand: the commitment to individual worth and decency; the belief


Parliament House. Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone (06) 277 4022 Fax. (06) 277 2055

that governments should serve all sections o f the Australian community and not just the privileged mates o f the elected government for the time being.

Thirteen years is a long time in anyone’s language but I don’t ask that the government be turned out simply because it’s been in power for 13 years. I ask that it be turned Out because we in the Coalition can do a much better job than them. In the time available to me today I want to trace with you the areas where I believe change is needed, where Labor has failed and where we will succeed, and in the process give to you a clear and compelling reason why, on 2 March, we should turn out the Labor Party and install a Coalition Government, install a Howard Coalition Government

When Labor came to power Australia owed the rest o f the world about $23,000 million. We now owe the rest o f the world $180,000 m illion Nothing, my friends, symbolises absolutely completely and comprehensively more than that disgraceful figure the total failure o f Labor’s economic management over the last 13 years. We have the worst current account deficit in the western world We have som e o f the highest inflation rates in the western world and, as every man and woman trying to ran a small business in the cities or in the country towns or in the rural areas o f Australia will know, w e also have

some o f the m ost pumshmgly high real interest rates in the world. All those things have got worse under the present government and we will never rebuild the strength o f this economy unless we make the changes that Labor is unwilling to make.

We can never build greater productivity unless w e have fundamental industrial relations reform. And let me say to you that industrial relations reform so far as w e are concerned is not built, as Labor lies that it is, on cutting people’s wages. They have done that over the last 13 years. Our policy is built on greater productivity, delivering higher wages and

increases in real income. I repeat the guarantee that I’ve given previously, that under the Coalition’s industrial relations policy anybody going into an Australian workplace agreement will be guaranteed the value o f what they would have received if they had

remained under an award in take-home pay terms. And I say to workers out there, if you hear a trade union official or you hear a Labor Party politician saying that Howard is gomg to take away your penalty rates, or your holiday loadings, or your overtime, don’t believe them because they’re at it again. They’re at their tactics o f old and they’re

untrue. We stand for better pay for better work

But wc also stand, my friends, for an industrial relations system where you encourage a sense o f common purpose at the workplace between the employer and the employee. We are root and branch opposed to compulsory unionism. Our industrial relations reform, which will be the corneistouc o f our policy to reduce the operating costs o f business, the

cornerstone o f our policy to improve the productivity o f enterprises - our industrial relations policy will lead to an improvement in the chronic situation on Australia’s ports

and wharves.

Let me tell you a little story, it’s a story about the hard working beef producers o f Australia, one o f the great rural industries o f this country. A couple o f years ago the Sizzler restaurant chain was contemplating buying American beef instead o f Australian beef, despite the fact that the American beef was 60 per cent dearer o ff the hoof.

But the problem was that once you got beyond the farm gate the cost o f meat processing, the delivery and the transport costs in Australia multiplied so that when you came to the point of purchase you turned a 60 per cent advantage for the Australian producer o ff the hoof into a 40 per cent price advantage for the Americans. N ow that is the result o f the rigidities within the supply system o f our economy and that is almost a parable o f the

heartbreak o f so many people, particularly in the rural industries o f Australia.

These are the reforms that Labor cannot tackle because they are shackled to their industrial past We hear a lot in this election campaign about the past and the present and the future. When it comes to industrial relations we are the Party o f the future Australia; Labor is the Party o f the failed past. There has o f course been no greater social failure from this government than o f course the tragedy o f high unemployment, particularly amongst the young. We now have a youth unemployment rate o f something like 27 or 28 per cent and in a modem, lucky society such as ours it ought to remain for all Australians a matter of national shame. 1 don’t pretend that it's something that can be abolished overnight and I don’t say to the Australian people today that, if I am elected, it can be abolished overnight. But what I do say to all o f you, my fellow Australians, is that we can tackle the root causes o f high youth unemployment and that is the need to generate more jobs, particularly within Australia’s small business sector.

All my life ! have believed in the importance and the place o f small business within our community. I came o f a small business background and I have remained ever grateful through ray life that my father had part o f that Australian dream at the time. He started with nothing and through sheer hard work he built a business And I am forever grateful for that kind o f attitude that he and tens o f thousands, indeed hundreds o f thousands or millions o f Australians have had.

I have always believed that the way to seriously reduce youth unemployment is to liberate the small business sector. That is why w e have placed such an enormous emphasis on doing things for small business during this election campaign.

To start with we are going to throw out Laurie Brereton's job destroying unfair dismissal laws. We're not going to leave a vacuum there. 1, and my Party, will have no track with employers who treat their staff badly. What we are going to do is replace that with a law that is fair to both sides. The reason that Ϊ am against the present law is that it has

actually destroyed jobs. I go to every part o f this country and men and women in small business tell me that they’re frightened to put on staffbecausc o f the operation o f these laws. 1 know there are many people inside the Labor Party who share their views, but because o f union resistance they don’t have the capacity to do anything about it


I am also going to do something practical to reduce the amount o f red tape that strangles the operation o f small business. I am going to establish a Smaljl Business Deregulation Taskforce and it will report to m e within six months o f the change o f government and its brief will be to reduce the amount o f regulation and red tape enveloping small business by 50%, during our first three years o f government

For small business, I also announce today that w e arc going to make reforms to the operation o f the capital gains tax system, to make sure that it does not act as a disincentive to investment and other job creating activities. We will do a number o f tilings. We w ill expand the availability o f roll-over relief frora one like asset to another. We will extend the r elief available when a house is inherited and w e will provide relief where a business is sold to provide for retirement

Those measures, com bined with ones that I have already announced, represent a determined and genuine commitment by the Liberal and National Parties, to liberating and re-energising the small business community o f Australia. As you know, not only our suburbs and our cities, but so many o f our regional and country towns depend for their

very econom ic survival, on the strengths and the vitality o f the small business sector. We will give new hope and heart to those people but in the process w e will generate job opportunities.


W e believe training programs and labour market programs arc a necessary component o f fighting youth unemployment and they will be retained under a Coalition government But the real thing is to provide people with the hope o f a real jjob when they come out o f those training schem es and the only real way o f doing that is to get the small business

sector in Australia going in a fashion that it’s never gone before.

When I became Leader o f the Opposition just over a year ago, one o f the important policy areas 1 identified was the introduction o f policies and altitudes that would strengthen the role o f the family in the Australian community.; For most Australians, whatever our circumstances and whatever our attitudes on other things, it is from our

families that w e draw our greatest emotional and spiritual nourishment It is from our families that w e have sought the values that we take through life. It is our families that provide us with a roof over our heads and provide us with sustenance, as w ell as moral and emotional support.

I think all o f us recognise that apart from the other great qualities o f families - stable, united, functioning fam ilies represent the m ost effective welfare system that any nation can ever devise. I listen to a lot o f families. 1 listen to a lot o f people as I go around I spend a great deal o f my political time listening rather than lecturing, and the m essage I

get from families is that they want more choice. The m essage I get, particularly from young parents, is that life in the 1990s has becom e a constant! juggling act between the problems o f family, the responsibilities o f family and the responsibilities o f work and trying to get a proper amalgam, a proper balance is a challenge for many young parents in

the 1990s.

We need as a community to build and develop policies that recognise that w e are living in a different era now than w e were 40 or 50 years ago and the need to give families more choice, the need to give them the opportunity to more effectively blend their work and family responsibilities lies at the heart o f a sensible and comprehensive family policy.

One o f the reasons why we believe in a more flexible industrial relations system, is to allow individual employers and employees to work out the best times to do the job consistent with the family responsibilities o f the employee. You can do that under workplace agreements more effectively, more freely and more easily than you can under the rigidities o f the awards system.

But I have believed for a long time that one o f the great weaknesses m policy in relation to families in the modem Australia, is that our current taxation system does not adequately recognise the cost that we as parents all know and that is the additional cost o f raising children. That is why I announce today that we w ill begin a greater recognition o f that cost by some important changes to the taxation system which will o f direct benefit, particularly to low and middle income families.

Our changes will ensure that more o f the income o f families with children is tax free Wc intend to raise the tax free fteshhold for families, including couples and sole parents, by $1000 for each dependent child under the age o f 18 years.; This particular initiative will be targeted at families whose taxable income, families whose taxable income is less than $70,000 a year.

This particular initiative will be targeted at families whose taxable income, families whose taxable income is less than $70 000 a year. And to address in part the existing bias that I believe exists in the taxation system against single income families, we propose to raise the tax free threshold by an additional $2500 for single income families

including couples and single parents who have at least one child under five years o f age.

This particular initiative recognises that in the 1990s the frequent desired pattern o f childcare on the part o f many parents is a desire for at least the early years in a child’s life, for one o f the parents to be providing full time child care. 1 should add that our policy will retain the existing childcare cash rebate which is paid through the Medicare

office, and we do not propose to introduce an income test on that. We are in the business my friends, o f providing families with more effective choice. It is for parents to decide the best carmg arrangements for their children, not politicians, just as it is for parents to decide the best education for their children.

When you add the announcements I have just made to the health policy released last week, it represents a comprehensive but economically responsible attempt to provide relief to families raising children and as you examine the policy you will find that rt really is targeted to assist low and middle income families The benefits w ill be available

across the board in relation to the groups that I have identified. The health policy that I


announced last w eek o f course provides taxation rebates - $450 for a family with children, S250 for a couple, $125 for a single and 1 want to take the opportunity today to repeat a number o f commitments in the health policy area and let me say it so that it might with hope be beyond the powers o f misrepresentation o f my political opponents, it is firm and absolute Coalition policy to retain Medicare We will not only keep Medicare but we will keep bulk billing and we will keep community ratings and we will go a step further, an important step further. We will provide people with effective, workable incentives, properly targeted to take out private health insurance. As any student o f our health system will know · that the greatest pressure now being exerted on the public part o f our health system is the year by year haemorrhaging o f people out o f private health insurance. It was 61% in 1983, It is now 35% and falling and it was a former Labor Health Minister, Graham Richardson, who said that once you fell below 40% o f private health insurance, you really were exerting enormous pressure, damaging pressure on the public hospital system.

My friends, one o f the great features o f this election campaign has been the commitment made by the Coalition parties to the future o f Australia’s natural heritage. We will yield to nobody in our concern to protect Australia’s environment. Protecting Australia’s environment has been no passing fad. It is now a permanently held value amongst all

Australians irrespective o f their age and I find as I go around Australia that the desire to protect and nurture our environment and to pass it on in better shape to our children and grandchildren is as deeply held amongst older Australians and amongst Australians in the rural areas o f Australia as it is amongst the young, and that is why w e have produced in

this campaign the most comprehensive environmental package ever laid out by any political party in Australia, W e’re going to spend an additional $1.15 billion on the environment and sustainable agriculture over the next five years. That will be funded in large measure through the creation o f the natural heritage trust o f Australia and into that

natural heritage trust we will pay $1 billion out o f the sale o f a one third share in Telstra.

That’s the instrumentality that I have been honest enough to tell you that we will sell one third of, and it's also the instrumentality that you know, that the other bloke if he wins will sell not one third but the whole lo t We will commit $318 million to a national vegetation initiative, $163 million to rehabilitate the Murray-Darling basin, $80 million

to protect Australia’s national reserves, an additional $279 million on Landcare and farm forestry and $ 100 million to clean up our coasts. N ow that represents tackling the basic bread and butter, ongoing environmental challenges o f this nation and I’m very pleased to announce today that out o f that allocated money, that 1 have informed the incoming

Queensland Premier, Mr Rob Borbidge that a Federal Coalition Government will provide up to $40 million to assist in protecting high conservation value areas in Cape York. The Coalition has welcomed the recently signed Cape York Heads o f Agreement and will support the facilitation o f the relevant processes on the proviso that they involve all

affected parties, including local communities, and are supported by the Queensland Government.


1 also have pleasure today, ladies and gentlemen, in furtherance o f our on-going commitment to the importance o f science within the Australian community, to announce that a future Coalition Government will restore the S20 million cut made by the Keating Government to CSIRO and that in addition, we will provide $90 million over three years

to restore Australia’s research infrastructure,

We hear a great deal, quite properly, about the importance o f the Asia Pacific region to Australia’s economic and political future. When I reflected at the beginning o f my speech on our political inheritance, on the great heritage o f the Liberal and National Parties, part o f that heritage and part o f that inheritance was that we were the people who trailblazed the association between Australia and the nations o f the Asian Pacific region after World War Two.

My Labor opponent didn’t discover the importance o f the region to Australia any more than it’s valid to assert that Australian history' began in 1972. It was John McEwcn, the Deputy Prime Minister in a Coalition Government, that signed the Japan-Australia Trade Agreement in 1957, in the teeth of fierce opposition from the then Australian Labor Party From then on measure after measure was taken by Coalition Governments to build

the association and the association with the region is really too important to our future to be the subject of undue political pomt-scoring or rivalry. 1 acknowledge the contribution that Labor Prime Ministers have made to building the relationship and they should acknowledge the contribution that Coalition Prime Ministers such as Sir Robert Meiraes and Malcolm Fraser made to the building o f that relationship. Caring for Australia’s

future occasionally means acknowledging that the other side of politics didn't get everything wrong.

And ladies and gentlemen, thai region is very important to us but it is not important to us to the exclusion o f our other associations. In many senses, in many senses ladies and gentlemen, our relationship with the Asian Pacific region represents our history and our geography coming together. As a nation we o f course carry with us a projection o f

Western civilization, o f our relationships with so many o f the nations o f Europe and o f course, we have deep historical ties with the nations o f North America who have been our great friends, particularly in wartime. Rather than seeing those associations as a liability, and sometimes when I listen to the Prime Minister he talks as though they are

liabilities, 1 sec those associations as adding something to the fact that we live cheek by jowl with the fastest growing region in the world And we enjoy a remarkable intersection o f history and geography and if we draw upon the strengths o f those associations we can give even more meaning to the permanent and fundamental

association that we wall build with nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia and all o f the other nations of the region. We must remember as a community that a share of the great economic growth o f that region is not ours as right, it’s not something that's suddenly arrived to take the place o f something else. It can only be ours if we work bard and we earn it, because other countries look, with beckoning eyes on that part o f the world and they will elbow us out unless we lift our economic gome at home, unless we lift our productivity, unless we lift our competitiveness.

Our slogan, our catchcry, our credo in this election campaign is ‘Tor All Of Us” and we've chosen that ver>' deliberately because one o f the things that has occurred over the last thirteen years is that there has developed in Australia a sense that there are people who have an in, and there are people who are on the outer That government decisions are dispensed upon the basis o f rewarding past political support, and past political favours Laws are changed to suit privileged interest groups. Unelected people effectively have seats at the Cabinet Table and have more power than elected Cabinet Ministers and one o f the great desires that I have is to reeojranchise the mainstream o f the Australian community . It is to build within the government o f this country an attitude of mind where we listen to all, that we make decisions in the aggregate interests o f all o f the Australian people. When we talk of for all o f us, it also means that we have to represent all sections o f the Australian community. There is no hierarchy of preferment in die loyalties and commitment o f the Liberal and National Parties to the people o f Australia. Our loyalties lie to those born in this country and to those who've made this country their home. Our commitment is to people irrespective o f their race or their gender, their nationality or their religious beliefs. And it is our desire to have a special place in our community for the original Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people We will continue the process o f reconciliation. We will continue to put great emphasis, indeed increased emphasis on the importance o f lifting the health and educational standards of Aboriginal people and their job opportunities It is only by effectively addressing these issues rather than being driven by a politically correct agenda

in the area o f Aboriginal Affairs that we can deliver true social justice to the indigenous people o f Australia

My horizon has always been one nation o f many sources, but united in a common commitment to a decent fair future for all o f us. I want an Australia respecting a common set o f law to which all are accountable but from which all are entitled to an equal dispensation o f justice.

The very last thing l want to say 10 all o f you ladies and gentlemen is that policies and programmes are important, commitments should be carefully made and fully honoured but the most important thing that any government can do is to build a sense o f trust, a sense o f integrity, a sense of honesty and a sense o f commitment to the Australian

people That trust has disintegrated over the last thirteen years. The Australian people have been misled too often to believe that the last two or three times was an accident. The Australian people have been told things only to be disappointed after an election.

The Australian people have seen their fundamental commitment their fundamental trust m the value of commitments given by their leaders slowly erode. I want to change that i want to change it because 1 think it is important to the future o f our country that we rebuild a sense o f trust anti confidence in words given aund commitments made by our

political leaders. I have believed and my Party has believed that values in politics and values in political life are as important as bread and butter political commitments. And one o f the changes that I w ould hope to see after three years o f a Coalition government is that there has been some restoranon of the trust and confidence of the Australian people


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in the political process. Of course that means having an independent Speaker in the Ί I

in the political process. O f course that means having an independent Speaker in the House o f Representatives. And it also means no more Rostered Days O ff for the Prime Minister. And a lot o f overtime for the M inister, finally myjfriends it means more than that It means that public life once again represents a covenant or an understanding between the people and those who they elect It's an old truisjn but it’s still very relevant that governments are the servants o f people. Political parties don't exist» my Party wasn’t

created more than fifty years ago, and the National Party more than seventy-five years ago, to provide perks o f office for its members. They were created to express the aspirations o f the Australian people. They were created to represent the men and women o f Australia without fear or favour. They were created to represent all Australians and one o f the proudest things ί can say as the Leader o f the .Liberal Party and as the alternative Prime Minister o f Australia that if the Coalition wins on the 2nd o f March, the only obligation wc will owe is to all o f the people o f Australia. We are owned by nobody. Our only desire is to be given the opportunity to builjd a better Australia and a better future for all Australians. Thank you.


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