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Address at community morning tea, Longford.

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1 September 2005





Thank you Rene, thank you Mr Anderson, thank you to my parliamentary colleagues, Richard Colbeck, Guy Barnett and John Watson, ladies and gentlemen. It is great to be back in Northern Tasmania. I have fond memories of Northern Tasmania from just under a year ago, but over the years I’ve been in Parliament, I’ve visited Northern Tasmania on numerous occasions. And Longford has a very special place in the history not only of Northern Tasmania but in the history of this state and therefore in the history of our country. It is true that when Parliament does not sit, one of the things I like to do is to travel around and get outside the major population centres. A few weeks ago I was in rural parts of South Australia, and last week and into the weekend I was in Adelaide. And today and tomorrow and part of Saturday I’m spending in various parts of Tasmania.

It is a way of talking to people who represent the entire community. It’s a way for me to absorb the views of people who don’t live in the major population centres such as Sydney and Melbourne and in the National Capital Canberra. It’s a way to say a few things about the Government’s goals for the country and it’s also a way of recognising the special problems and the special challenges of communities around Australia. Now I know that in recent days, Tasmania and not least Northern Tasmania has been heavily hit by some unexpected flooding. The old saying about it’s either one thing or the other in Australia often applies. We are desperately short of rain in other parts of our country and you feel as though you’d like to bucket some of it up and take it to the drier parts of New South Wales and Queensland and other parts of the country. And can I say, the area around Canberra is as dry as I have seen it for a sustained period in the 31 years that I have been a member of parliament.

But that is not the case of course in Tasmania. And I’m therefore, in connection with that, and understanding the particular problems of flooding and flood mitigation here in Tasmania, I’m very pleased to announce that the Federal Government will contribute an additional $685,000 for additional work on the Longford Levee under 1

the Federal Government’s Regional Flood Mitigation Programme. This funding is going to be matched by the Tasmanian Government and will be used to develop a levee system designed for a 100 year flood event. And the Longford Levee has already received $500,000 in funding under our programme since 2001 and the contribution I’ve just announced will bring the total Commonwealth Government commitment to the Longford Levee to $1,185m.

And when it’s completed, the Longford Levee system will help significantly reduce future property damage and losses and minimise the disruption to businesses and employment. And can I make the point that the Government’s decision was greatly influenced by the views put to us not only be Rene Hidding as Leader of the Opposition, but also by my Senate colleagues. But it is something that we will work with the Tasmanian Government to implement, because it’s a basic facility, it’s something that’s very important to this community. And I’m very pleased to have the opportunity being here today myself to make this announcement and to recognise and to sympathise with the people of this district who are grappling with the problem of flooding and the long term need to invest in flood mitigation.

Rene was kind enough to speak of the strength and good times in which our country is living. And despite the fact that there are areas of challenge and despite the fact that not everybody has enjoyed the prosperity of the past few years, it is true to say that Australia is going through a very strong period of economic development. And every part of the country has enjoyed it. The strong national economy has flowed through to the various parts of Australia. In the time I’ve been in Federal Parliament, I don’t think I’ve encountered such a sense of optimism here in Tasmania as I now encounter and that’s a wonderful thing. And it is evidence that when the national economy goes ahead, when the country is well managed at a national level the benefits will flow through to every part of the country.

And the strength of your tourist industry, the stability that we have now given to the forest products industry through the Regional Forest Agreement that I signed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government with the then Tasmanian Government back in 1997. The reaffirmation of that by me on behalf of the Commonwealth Government in the Federal Election campaign last year and then the conclusion of the long term agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government that I signed a couple of months ago with the Tasmanian Premier. The support for that agreement from the Tasmanian Opposition and the commitment therefore of people of commonsense and who have an interest in the future of Tasmania to the stability of that industry is very important.

I will never myself be party to decisions that take away from small rural communities the job security of industries which are so important to the future of those communities. And those who sit in glorious isolation in other parts of the country and make declarations that their fellow Australians living far from them should carry the burden, financial and adjustment burden, of their fleeting indulgences and interests; which is really a description of the extreme green position is not a position I will ever support. If people want to embrace an extreme green position, let them invest their own jobs and their own future in that embrace and not oblige others in whom they have no interest or no concern to invest their jobs and their futures. 2

The other thing that I’d like to say my friends before finishing and having an opportunity of having a cup of tea and meeting you is that visiting a small community such as this reminds me of the tremendous importance all around Australia of community organisations. I’ve spoken a lot in the time I’ve been Prime Minister of what I call the social coalition. I don’t mean the coalition between the Liberal Party and the National Party, that’s a political coalition and a very good one, and a very strong one. But I mean the social coalition between the Government and great welfare organisations, the business community and individuals. And what I’ve said very simply is this, there are some challenges in our community that no one section of our community acting on its own can solve and meet.

There are some things the Government can’t do on its own. We might have vast resources, we might have all the money that tax payers contribute so happily, so happily to the Government. We may have all of that but we can’t solve all these problems on our own. We need the help of the community, we need the advice and the experience of the great organisations, the volunteer organisations. And I’ve found that when it comes to getting really good advice about how to deal with drug addiction, how to deal with poverty, how to deal with domestic violence, how to deal with violence against women in particular you need the advice and the understanding of people who are dealing with it at a coalface level. You need the advice of the welfare organisations.

You also need to enlist the goodwill of public spirited individuals who believe, having got something out of life and having enjoyed the good things of Australia, they ought to be willing to put something back into the community. And we also need the philanthropic generosity of businessmen and women in our country. We have a lot of people in business who are very, very generous indeed. And we have tried over the years to make the tax laws a little easier to encourage them to be even more generous. And if you bring all of these people together and I certainly see it in the smaller communities where people work together. And it’s one of the great assets that this country has. And I want to take the opportunity today because I know that there are representatives of many of the community organisations of Longford here today, I want to thank you for the contribution that you make to our community and to the strength and the stability of the entire Australian nation.

This country is very lucky. That’s an old saying and it’s a true saying. But we have made our own luck to a large degree because we’ve learnt the knack of working together and we’ve understood that a classless society where people are treated on the basis of their character and on the basis of the contribution that they make to the community is a society that works together. So I want to say to all of those people who are here representing those organisations a very big thank you for the contribution that you have made.

And finally in recognition that there are some school students here today, and they of course represent our future. Can I say to them and to their teachers what a wonderful job our education system does for our young. Whether it is public or private it matters not. We have a strong public education system in this country. I am the product myself of a public education system. All of my school years were spent in a Government school and I’m very grateful for the education that I received. I also believe very strongly in supporting the choice and the right of parents to send their 3 4

children to the school they think is best according to their values and to their needs. And what we need in this country is not rivalry and envy between public and private schools but rather a recognition that they need to cooperate and a recognition that we should have choice.

And in that context can I pay a particular tribute to the teachers, not only of Longford but to the teachers of Australia. It’s a very demanding profession, it’s a very rewarding profession in terms of professional experience. Perhaps not as rewarding financially as some others. I think its one where more and more perhaps we should be looking to pay teachers on the basis of performance and contribution. But that’s another matter and I wont go into the detail of that. I simply want to say to all of you that teachers play a very, very important role. And I know the students here today when they leave school and go on in life, they’ll look back and grow in their

appreciation and gratitude to the contribution that teachers have made to their development as human beings and fine Australians.

I am delighted to be here today. I’m particularly pleased to be a guest of Rene Hidding, a person for whom I have great regard and a person who’s working very hard in the interests of the people, not only of his own electorate, but for the people of the entire state of Tasmania. Thank you very much and I will enjoy meeting you and having a yarn to you in the minutes that are left. Thank you.