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Benchmarking and building for the future

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Speech by the

Deputy Prime Minister Leader of the National Party Minister for Trade

The Hon Tim Fischer MP

to the



Airport Hilton Sydney, 1 March 1991

(Check Against Delivery)



Today we have the Special Federal Council Meeting which was ordered by the delegates attending the Federal Conference last year in Canberra. I welcome you and look forward to the deliberations which will help guide the Party, both back at the State divisional level as well as the Federal Parliamentary Party and, because of the nature of the issues, the State Parliamentary National Parties.

The Federal National Party is one year young in Government this time around.

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of that fantastic Federal election result which saw the defeat of Keating and Beazley and Labor, the end of 13 years of hard labour.

The National Party is one year young in Government but 77 years old in wisdom and has stood the test of time well in contributing effectively and progressively to the fabric of this nation.

The National Party has delivered in Government from the successful single desk selling structure of the Australian Wheat Industry to the boosting of educational opportunities for isolated children and the provision of additional road funding through programs such as the Pacific Highway and the black spots.

The list is too long to go through now. I want to instead focus on the three key issues set down for today in reverse order:


Firstly, on the question of tax reform, this is a matter deserving ongoing debate and careful consideration. I state again, that a GST is not on the agenda for this parliamentary term. But further steps along the path of improving our tax system are most necessary and are being delivered.

A small step - in the first Costello Budget -was eliminating the fringe benefits tax anomaly on pastoral industry accommodation.

A much bigger step and one for all small businesses was the sweeping capital gains tax rollover concessions announced late last year - a concession that gives real and practical help for any small business trying to grow and meet new markets.


Once again, I will follow closely delegates' deliberations on Native Title. All options are on the table so far as the Federal Government and Prime Minister are concerned at this time.


I reiterate my strongly held concerns over the Wik four and their majority judgment in the

High Court of Australia in overturning the preamble of the Native Title Act with regard to validating pastoral leases.

Whilst I acknowledge the High Court has a huge volume of work and I also acknowledge the separation of powers, it is very healthy in a democracy to have a proper debate over judgments given, particularly when a crucial judgment was four/three.

The Wik section today will be handled by the Federal Minister with a great deal of the responsibility covering both primary industry and energy, Deputy Leader - John Anderson, and he has two senior officers of his department on the Special Federal Task Force, headed by senior public servant, Greg Taylor.

I might just say one other thing, without wishing to gazump the debate this afternoon, it is a message to the leafy suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne - do not be misled by soft TV footage and do not think you are divorced from this problem, it relates to all Australians.

I want to point out that our approach signalled in the Agenda does not mean to overturn and extinguish the Mabo judgment and the Native Title which may or may not exist in vacant crown land and elsewhere. However, we must recognise the need for reinstating the agreement reached between the former Government and Aboriginal leaders, as reflected in the preamble of the Native Title Act, extinguishing Native Title on valid pastoral leases.

It is and ought to be viewed as a somewhat conservative approach. In effect it is for limited extinguishment, but total extinguishment with respect to some categories of land.

I stand by my charleville commitment and for extinguishment which validates pastoral leases.

I also quietly but firmly say I will continue to debate the Wik judgment, whilst recognising as always the separation of powers. I will not be silent on behalf of my broad constituency.


Turning to the republic. This is a tenth order issue but it has the capacity to become a first order issue if Australia tampers with its Constitution without due consideration of all of the ramifications.

I chance my arm by assuming that the Party will carefully listen to both sides of the debate soon to be put forward by proponents and opponents of the republic and then will reach a decision on the resolutions, as many as possible in the time available, to help steer the Party forward.

I hope resolutions 1 and 8 are all dealt with today.

I would just reiterate what 1 said in January, and at other times:

The Party's existing position is in support of our existing situation and you do not

lightly tamper with your Constitution.

Any consideration of alternatives, as reflected by the resolutions, should be to judge those alternatives on their proximity to a Westminster form of Government.

I feel rewarded in the fact that the Party has agreed to consider and debate the matter and have speakers from both sides. That is all I ask.

Let me say ahead of the passage or otherwise of today's resolutions, they will firmly guide those who represent the National Party at the Convention.

I thank you for your help and support throughout a robust first year of Government.

The economy is indeed showing real signs of improvement and growth, including in many, but sadly not all, rural sectors, which will help the political settings for the next two years.

Good luck with the discussions and deliberations.

And remember, we are one year young in Federal Government and by 2001 we want to be five y ears old in Federal Government, not for the sake of so being in power, but because the Government has delivered comprehensively to our constituency.