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Address to the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party of Australia: Sofitel Hotel, Brisbane: 19 April 2006:

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19 April 2006




Well thank you very much Bob for those very, very generous words of introduction Warwick and Kathi Parer, Lawrence Springborg the Leader of the Parliamentary National Party and Leader of the Opposition, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane Campbell Newman, my many Federal and State Parliamentary colleagues and can I particularly acknowledge the presence of my old friend and Liberal stalwart Robert Mathers and fellow Liberals.

Tonight I want to say something about what we as a team have achieved over the last 10 years. And it has been a team effort and that’s something that I will come to in a moment. But given what has happened today I think it is appropriate at the commencement of my remarks I say something very briefly about the unfolding situation in the Solomon Islands, particularly as we have dispatched and indeed as we speak some of the first of the ADF reinforcements will be landing in Honiara. What has happened is a reminder of the instability of the region in which we live. It’s a reminder that we live in a part of the world that carries with it the constant threat of failed states, and as a stable united prosperous nation in the region we know it is in our interest as well as the interest of the region that we prevent states from failing because failed states become the breeding grounds for all sorts of ideologies and attitudes and developments which can pose a threat to the stability of the whole region. We should remember that there are countries other than countries that are geographically part of the region which have an interest in involving themselves and gathering allies and partners in the region, not necessarily with the longer term interest of the region at heart.

And it is also the reality that the rest of the world looks to Australia to shoulder the lion’s share of the burden of providing support and stability not only for the people of


the Solomon Islands but also for other small nations which may find themselves in the same situation. The Regional Assistance Mission RAMSI to the Solomon Islands in 2003 was very successful. It was a partnership led by Australia but it did involve the contribution of other countries, of New Zealand, of Papua New Guinea, of Fiji, of Tonga and also contributions from some of the other very tiny states of the region. And it was remarkably successful. And these developments of recent days are a reminder that these sorts of commitments are long-term commitments. You can never sometimes put an end date on them and I am determined and all the members of the Government are determined that the good work that was done three years ago will not be undone by indifference in the face of what has happened over the past few days and we, by sending the forces we have, and by indicating a willingness to send more if they are needed, both military personnel and police, we are determined to send a message to those who would upset the democratic process in the Solomon Islands and upset the stability that we have brought to this country and through it, I believe, to the region send a very solid message to those people that they will not succeed. And I know that all Australians will wish the men and women of the defence forces and the men and women of the Australian Federal Police and the state police forces that are going to the Solomon Islands the best of good fortune and I know that they will be very much in the thoughts and concerns of all Australians as they go about their work. Work of this kind is never free from risk. No military operation is an operation that doesn’t carry the risk of physical injury or even death and we should always bear that in mind when we send young men and women abroad in our name and on our behalf.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight is an occasion to look back on the last 10 years. It’s an occasion not just to celebrate as some people have been kind to remark tonight celebrate what I may have achieved over that period of time. But it is first and foremost an occasion to celebrate the remarkable success of a Coalition between the Liberal and National parties because at the core of our success has been the unity and the teamwork of our two parties. I’ve been a member of the Federal Parliament for 32 years. I was a member of an earlier Coalition Government that was a strong united Coalition. But this Coalition has been, in my view, even stronger and more united and in thinking of the people to which I owe a great debt of gratitude I must start by singling out the contribution of the three National Party leaders who’ve served as Deputy Prime Minister over the last 10 years, of Tim Fischer, of John Anderson and currently as Mark Vaile. At every turn, they have been good friends, they have been supportive Deputy Prime Ministers and they have wonderfully energetic representatives of their own constituency in the interests of their party. The genius of our coalition has been based on a mutual respect, an understanding that although we are separate parties we are united in a determination to serve the interests of all the Australian community and at a political level united in our determination to make sure that the Labor Party remains in opposition as long as we humanly can achieve that wonderful goal.

As I look back on the last 10 years, and I try and distil as best I can what has been the reason why we have won four elections, and I think more than anything else it has been a determination to govern for the entire country and not govern for sectional or elite interests. One of the great strengths of the Liberal Party is that it is not a sectional party. There are many men and women from the business community of Brisbane here tonight and the Liberal Party and the National Party are unashamedly


parties that believe in business. We believe in profits. We in believe in enterprise. We believe in competition and we believe in a market economy. But we are not parties, the Liberal Party is not a party that is in any sense a branch office of the business community. We are not owned by any section of the Australian community. We are a party that proudly counts within its ranks, men and women from all walks of Australian life and one of the ingredients of our success is that we have governed as we said we would for the mainstream of the Australian community. I don’t want to spend tonight in my brief remarks regaling you with a whole list of statistics. There is a long and proud record of economic achievement. Undeniably, this country is a wealthier, more prosperous, more stable, more united, more cohesive, more optimistic country now than what it was 10 years ago. Undeniably Australia is a more respected country around the world than what it was 10 years ago, not only because of what we have achieved economically but also because we have been willing when it has mattered, to stand up and be counted and it will always be the determination of this Government to do precisely that.

I think one of the other reasons why we have been successful is that we have understood that good government is the art of the right combination of good policy and good politics. I often have a saying for my colleagues and that is this, ‘that it’s better to be 90 per cent pure in government, than 130 per cent pure in opposition’ and there’s a moral in that and that is that political life is a combination of the two. You must understand the desire of the Australian community to appreciate the reasons why reform and policy change is necessary.

We have been a party of reform, we are still a party of reform and this afternoon as I was thinking of the remarks that I was going to make tonight I lighted upon the front cover of the Economist magazine for this week and it came up with a headline ‘Another great week for Europe: paralysis in Italy, surrender in France.’ Now I say this with great affection for the people of those two countries. Let me assure you Santo, with great affection, great affection for the people that vote for those countries. But there is a legend in this and it was such a compelling front cover that I had to share that lesson with you and what the article, in what is one of the most respected journals in the world, was basically saying is that both of those countries are in some state of political and economic gridlock because for too long, governments of both the left and the right have put off necessary reforms. France has surrendered, the French Government has surrendered to those in the street who are opposing, what by the standards of Margaret Thatcher, the standards of the former National Government in New Zealand and certainly the standards of this Government are very mild industrial relations reforms indeed and the moral of all of this is simply that in a globalised world in which we now live, no nation can afford to turn its face against necessary reforms and many of you have heard me say in the past that economic reform is rather like participating in a foot race towards an ever receding finishing line. You know that you will never get there, but you also know that if you don’t keep running towards that finishing line, the other blokes in the race are going to run past you.

We are now competing in a race with a world that is being transformed almost every year of our existence. In 10 or 15 years time or perhaps earlier, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the epicentre of the world’s middle-class will not be located in Europe and North America, it will be located much closer to home in India and China. By the time those years go by there will be somewhere between 400 and 800


million middle-class consumers in those two countries and that reality is transforming the way in which nations in our region react to each other, it’s transforming the dynamic in which industries operate, not only in those countries, but also in our country.

This carries great opportunities and great benefits for Australia, we have resources, both of those nations need those resources, they need them in great abundance and they need them on time, and they need them safely delivered and we are good at all of those things. But it also carries the obligation of this country to compete and to understand that just as we sell to other countries, those countries themselves will want to sell to us and it means that our industries have to adjust and to make changes. Because if we don’t do that, if we don’t undertake the necessary reforms, then we are going to lose the competitive edge that we now have. Some people said to me last year when we were bringing in the industrial relations reforms, they said to me, ‘John, why are you doing this? The economy is stong, the budget is in balance, you’ve got a healthy majority, you’ve just won an election, why don’t you just take it easy and have a breather and leave it all alone, let it look after itself?’ That of course would have been a recipe for ultimate failure, because you can never rest in the reform process, you must always keep going and the reason why we persevered with the industrial relations reforms and the reason why we stuck to our guns in relation to those reforms was that we need to find new avenues for productivity and new competitiveness, that we are in 2006, living off the reforms of earlier years. We need in these years to deliver the reforms for people in later years to live off and that is the process that goes on and on. And in a globalised world where no nation can seal itself off from competition from around the world, that is why constant reform and constant change, where it’s appropriate, is something that we have to undertake.

So my friends we are entitled, for a moment, to reflect with gratitude on what has been done over the last 10 years. We should always remind ourselves that we have been successful politically because we have avoided the errors of hubris, we have avoided the belief that somehow or other we were elected because we were a superior group of men or women. We were elected in 1996 because the Australian people desperately wanted a change of government, the Australian people were aching for a decent alternative to the Labor Government in the mid-1990s. We presented ourselves in many cases as an unknown group of men and women. I was identified with a number of causes and things in which I believed and believed passionately. We put together a strong alternative plan and the Australian people invested a great deal of trust in us. But we will lose that trust just as strongly as we enjoyed it in 1996, if we lose touch with the needs and the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the mainstream of the Australian community, it’s the families of the suburbs of our cities, it’s the families of our regional towns, it’s the country folk who are struggling with the adversities of drought and the distorted world markets which make rural life so difficult. It’s their interests and the interests of the mainstream that they represent which must be our constant concern and our constant mission to respond to.

I mentioned a few moments ago the debt that I owe to the three National Party leaders that I have served with as Deputy Prime Minister and I do also tonight want to say thank you to all the members of the Party organisation, and I think particularly of the tremendous contribution that the Queensland organisation of the two parties has made to our success. We had no better result, anywhere in Australia in October 2004 than


we had in the great State of Queensland. The election, of course, of our fourth Coalition Senator from Queensland in Russell Trood was a wonderful achievement and to have people in other states say how on earth did you get four elected in Queensland and I said well it just shows what good judges of character and government the people of Queensland are. And some of my rugby league friends say to me, I suppose John when it comes to the State of Origin you barrack for New South Wales and I said no, I said, after how kind the people of Queensland were to me at the last election I’d never dream of barracking against the Maroons.

But it has been a wonderful contribution. The campaign that was waged under Bob Tucker’s stewardship as President in 1996, the wonderful campaigns that have been run since and can I say what a fantastic job I think Geoffrey Green is doing as the State Director of the Liberal Party here in Queensland and how really delighted, how really delighted I am that my old friend from the days in Kingston, Warwick Parer, is President of the Party and the partnership he has forged with Bruce Scott, is very important to the political future of the Coalition here in Queensland. To all of my wonderful Queensland parliamentary colleagues, Ian Macfarlane who is the senior ranking Queenslander, my other ministers and all of my senators and members. It has been a great team effort, and I do as I have on other occasions particularly mention, in a broader Cabinet context, the wonderful contribution of Peter Costello as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and somebody who I believe has been the best Treasurer that Australia has had. And may I also pay a particular tribute to the wonderful work that Alexander Downer has done. Alexander and Peter, apart from myself, are the only other members of the team that have been in the same positions as they were appointed to back in March of 1996.

It has been a great 10 years, it has been a great 10 years politically for the Liberal Party and the National Party at a federal level. We are entitled to point to a strong economy, the lowest unemployment in more than 30 years, but above all of that, I think we can point to a sense of optimism and self belief that I find stronger and deeper and more enduring as I move around this country than at any time in the 32 years that I have been in public life. My mission in politics and particularly my mission as Prime Minister has been to identify with the hopes and the aspirations of the average Australian. There is no finer human being on earth than the average Australian, a person who brings together a combination of character traits of independence, of resilience, of compassion, of judging a person on his or her worth and somebody who is prepared to extend a helping hand to somebody who genuinely needs it and you find within the average Australian a distillation of those qualities I do not think that you can find anywhere else in the world.

For me, every day of having been Prime Minister of this great country has been an immense privilege. It is the greatest privilege that any person can possibly have and can I say to all of you for the wonderful support and loyalty that you have extended to me over the last 10 years, I extend my great thanks and finally and very importantly because she is here tonight, can I say to you Janette again thank you very, very much for all the support and help and advice and counsel and wisdom that you’ve extended over these last 10 years.

And finally, it has been a great team effort and tonight is a wonderful occasion here in Brisbane to reflect as we are entitled to do but very importantly as we go from this



gathering tonight re-dedicate ourselves to the service of all of the Australian people according to the principles of our two great Coalition parties. Thank you.