Address to the 142nd Victorian State Council, Ballarat

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Industrial relations, gambling, terrorism – Doorstop Interview, Hawthorn, Victoria
October 7, 2005
Australian Government Funding Deer Park Bypass
October 9, 2005
Industrial relations, gambling, terrorism – Doorstop Interview, Hawthorn, Victoria
October 7, 2005
Australian Government Funding Deer Park Bypass
October 9, 2005

Address to the 142nd Victorian State Council, Ballarat






To Helen Kroger, the President of the Victorian Division, to Robert Doyle, our State Victorian Liberal Leader, to Julian Sheezel and our Vice-Presidents and to the wonderful delegates. To Bruce Billson, I want to tell you, even though that lady was the Labor candidate, she was sane, she was in full possession of her eyesight and she has sound judgement. I might be a chick magnet Bruce, but you are a vote magnet down in the electorate of Dunkley and I want to thank you very much for those warm and generous introductory remarks.

Can I say to the delegates of the Liberal Party assembled here in Ballarat what a privilege it is for me to be here and to speak at this State Council. Normally John Howard would be here but he has other duties today and has given me the opportunity to come and to report to you – the members of our Party – on how the Government is going, how we see the political situation and how we think political events will unfold over the year which lies ahead.

I think he would want me to say on his behalf – and I certainly want to say it on my own behalf – it is the members that make the Liberal Party of Australia. It is the members that go to the branch meetings and stand on the polling booths and do the fundraisers. It is the members that give us the policy input. It is the members who do the voluntary work that makes this a voluntary organisation of people who freely believe in giving back to the community through the political process. I want to say to you, the volunteers of the Liberal Party, on behalf of us, the people who represent you and receive the benefit of your work, a very big thank you. Thank you for all that you do and please stay engaged in this, one of the great voluntary organisations that exists in Australia today.

Can I also congratulate our State President, Helen Kroger who has recently become the Federal Vice-President of the Liberal Party. It is a great tribute to you and it is a great tribute to the Victorian Division.

You know delegates, I have had the opportunity to report before to the State Council on the outcome of the last election. It was the best outcome in voting terms for us here in Victoria since 1990. Our best result federally in 15 years. We had our best result in the Senate since 1993, we won three quotas on our primary vote and didn’t need to go to preferences. Victoria was a big part of delivering a historic change in the Australian Senate as well as re-electing the Howard Government for a fourth term. And many of the books that have recently been written are now telling us the inside story of what actually happened in the Labor campaign. Some of those books are better than others but journalist Annabel Crabb has just written a book called Losing It where she says the result was worse [for the ALP] than anyone expected; much worse In Victoria, Labor picked up no seats but lost onethe Coalition improved its standing massively in Victoria; swings to the Government were such that by the end of the night not a single Coalition seat was held by a margin of less than five per cent. She called her book Losing It. We in the Victorian Liberal Party call that election result, winning it.’

And our minds go back to that result which was one year ago this weekend. One year ago, the last federal election. Do you know what that tells me delegates? It tells me we are now one-third of the way through this parliamentary term – the first year we need to take the necessary decisions, the second year we need to bed them down and the third year we go back into a campaign in 2007.

There is no time for complacency. There is no time to stop. Now more than ever we have to re-double our efforts to give Australians the kind of good government that we promised them, that they deserve, that they need, so that we can prepare for the next federal election in 2007.

And the challenges keep coming at the Government – left and right, domestically and overseas – and it is a Government that needs to constantly have on its mind the great welfare of the people of Australia, to prepare and to strengthen our country. Our minds go back to last weekend when a second terror attack occurred on the beautiful island of Bali just to our north. Again, Australians were killed in a terror attack on that beautiful island. Four Australians have been killed, many more injured. Many more Indonesians died last weekend because people, for whatever reason in twisted logic, believe they can advance a cause through the killing of innocents. Nothing will ever comfort the grieving families who have lost children or parents. But we must vow, on behalf of the living, on behalf of our fellow Australian citizens, that their government will do what is required to secure their personal safety against the threat of indiscriminate terror and killing.

We can take great comfort from the fact that the emergency response of Australia to the Bali bombing was first class. Within 48 hours people who were critically injured were taken to Singapore or to Darwin for medical treatment. In Bali the Australian funded hospital services were open to treat victims on the spot. The Department of Foreign Affairs were able to locate and open information lines from midnight last Saturday. Australian Federal Police flew out first thing on Sunday morning to begin forensic testing on the site. The gallant men and women of the Australian Defence Force flew in Hercules and medical teams to cope with the suffering and the damage.

Make no mistake delegates, terrorism is an attack on Australians and on our way of life. Terrorists can’t stand an open society. They can’t stand democracy and they don’t particularly like our prosperity. But it was not just an attack on Australia and Australians, this too was an attack on Indonesia, a great democracy as it now is. Indonesia is the fourth largest country by population in the world. It is the largest Muslim nation in the world. It is the third largest democracy in the world. It lies to our immediate north. And like us, it has embraced a democratic system of election. And like us – for that reason – is the target of the twisted terrorist mind.

Last month I had the opportunity to go to Jakarta and to visit President Yudhoyono and to talk to him about the cooperation that we are making – Australia and Indonesia – in the common fight against terror. He said to me that our countries have never been closer, our assistance has never been more valued. We must stand together, two democracies in this part of the world, against terrorists who want to destroy our way of life, and democracy in Indonesia. A big part of attacking Bali is to try and destroy the tourist economy of that island, to undermine the economic prospects of Indonesia and in a country of 220 million people with low standards of living. Democracy is a fragile flower that needs all the assistance and help that it can get and we can give it.

Delegates, we have also seen the terror attacks on the London underground a few months ago when young British born people armed themselves and went onto the underground in London with the object of killing fellow Britons. The chilling lesson that we have learnt from that episode is that terror doesn’t just exist overseas, it doesn’t just become a weapon in the hands of foreigners. Sometimes – even in a society such as ours or the British society – young impressionable people can be recruited and filled with hate and incited to violence.

Terror could be in our midst.

We as a Government believe that it is our responsibility to secure and to protect our own people. In a very successful Council of Australian Governments meeting between the Prime Minister and the Premiers recently a whole new agenda was put together to deal with the prospect of terror within our own midst. In some cases legal changes will restrict the liberties that we have taken for granted for a long period of time. Some of the measures that have been agreed on will allow the holding of people suspected of planning a terrorist event. Some of them will allow supervisional control orders on people who have undertaken terrorist training.

I do not underestimate the significance of these legal changes. But if we have learnt anything from Bali and from the London bombing, we have learnt this, we cannot be complacent. Our best means of addressing terrorism is intelligence:- the ability to try and identify those who would do us evil and prevent it from occurring before it happens.

We are going to need the assistance of the public in relation to this. We are going to need the assistance and cooperation of both levels of Government and local Government. We are going to need the assistance of moderate Islamic leaders. We need moderate Islamic leaders to state clearly and unequivocally that terrorism is never justified, that the killing of innocents is never justified, that there is nothing in the perverted doctrines of some terrorists that is faithful to an authentic understanding of Islam.

We need to be very clear as a society what we ask of our citizens and our immigrants. There are some values that Australia stands for now, has always stood for, and always will stand for. We will stand for a secular state which will be tolerant and open to different religions, which will respect equality for women, which will be committed to democracy. And we ask people who come to our country to embrace those values just as we embrace them. This is the story of Australia.

There is room in Australia for differences of political opinion and religious opinion and freedom of speech but that can only occur within a framework of democracy and law and tolerance and a civil society.

And we are entitled to ask people who come to Australia to embrace those values. One of the things we ask them at citizenship ceremonies is we ask them to pledge themselves to Australia and its values. And we mean it because those values are the fabric that hold our society together and guarantee our freedom. This is a wonderful country because it has been founded on those values. Let us be totally clear, let us have no room for misconception here, these are the values of Australia, these are the values that we want to preserve, these are the values of a civilised society and we will defend them.

Delegates, a big part of securing our nation in a defence sense and in an internal security sense is through economic strength. Our country by population according to the UN has the 53 rd largest population of the countries of the world. Our country in population terms is about the same size as Ghana or Yemen or Mozambique or Syria or Romania. Twenty million people, about the 53 rd largest population in the world. But we may be 53 rd largest by population in the world, do you know that the Australian economy is the 13 th largest economy in the world?

Our economy is incredibly productive in per capita GDP. Our economy dwarfs Ghana or Yemen or Mozambique or Syria or Romania. In this part of the world we are the economic powerhouse. And it is the strength of our economy which gives us the capacity to defend our country in a defence sense and in a security sense. Economic strength gives rise to national security and security gives rise back to economic strength because it gives confidence for investment and confidence to consumers and confidence to build a stronger economy.

And delegates, it is not an accident that Australia has a strong economy. There was nothing God-given about this country that pre-destined it to be a wealthy country in this part of the world. There are countries that once were strong like Australia which have slidden down the league ladder of economic performance as we have been climbing up over the last ten years, overtaking countries in Europe in per capita GDP and other parts of the world.

Economic management is not an accident, it is not a fluke, it has to be worked at. And it has to be worked at on a daily, weekly, monthly, year by year basis. Over the last 10 years we have made some very important strides here in Australia. We have risen from the bottom half to the top half of the OECD in per capita income terms.

The UN Human Development Index lists Australia in development terms as having the third highest standard of living of 177 countries in the world. Taking into account per capita GDP, taking into account life expectancy, taking into account level of tertiary education, taking into account health services, third of 177 in the world. Over the last 10 years we have recovered our AAA credit rating for foreign currency borrowings. Over the last 10 years we have averaged 2.4 per cent inflation compared to 5.2 per cent under the previous government. Over the last 10 years we have had eight surplus budgets. Over the last 10 years we have repaid nearly $90 billion of Labor debt and we stand on the threshold of eliminating net Commonwealth debt in the next year. Over the 10 years of this Government there have been 1.7 million new jobs created in Australia. The country only has 20 million people and there have been 1.7 million new jobs created in Australia. Our unemployment is now at 29 year lows.

But we can’t sit back and say, that’s where we were and that is where we have come from and that is where we are now so we will just sit back and let it all run itself.

The AFL club that wins a premiership and says to itself, well, we are the Premiers, we are the best, we don’t have to do anything for next year, is the AFL Club that starts going down the ladder. The club that wants to go back-to-back says, we were the best last year but if we want to win next year we have got to do better again. We have got to find a few recruits, we have got to improve our fitness. If you don’t constantly improve you slide down the league ladder – you become the Carlton Football Club of the world economy.

And we want to be like the Essendon Football Club, we want to be moving up that league ladder. That is why it is important that we continue to work on improving our economy. One of the greatest areas where we could get significant economic bounce and productivity is further industrial relations reform. Further industrial relations reform has the capacity to improve flexibility, encourage agreements between employers and employees, encourage profitability of business and share that with higher wages for employees and get third party interference out of the workplace. Going back into the factories and the shops of Australia could give us a new productivity bounce, it could be the new recruit for the AFL team, to give you the pace in the midfield to be able to go out and to make these businesses faster and stronger and employment outcomes better.

You know, Kim Beazley claims that we have squeezed the lemon dry on industrial relations. Well, there is a lemon around but it is not IR reform, Mr Beazley.

The ALP, as I said in the Parliament, is about as modern on industrial relations as the Leyland P76. That is what they think the state of design ought to be but the workplace is changing. There are more women engaged in the workforce, more service industries in the workforce, it is a different world to what it was when trade unions were created 100 years ago. Prosperous societies are moving increasingly into knowledge based and skilled based and service based employment, with knowledge based and skilled based flexible employees.

Ladies and gentlemen, industrial relations reform has the capacity to deliver better wages, more jobs, more profitable businesses and a stronger Australian economy and that is why this Government intends to have another round of industrial relations reforms.

But we don’t forget the great battles that were fought in the past and the great heroes. It is 20 years since 1985, since a small confectionary manufacturer in the suburb of Glen Iris stood up for his company and his employees and the owner is here today. Fred Stauder stand up and take the applause. Twenty years ago, Fred, and you don’t look a day older which shows that if you eat hundreds and thousands every day you can live forever.

Delegates, there is one other issue that I want to cover today in my report to you. The issue of infrastructure. Infrastructure is going to be important for our country as we seek to build an economy for the future. With a growing economy we have growing freight and transport needs and it is important that we keep our infrastructure growing to meet those needs and that transport task here in Australia.

The Commonwealth Government takes responsibility in relation to roads for national highways, for Roads of National Importance and we have a system of assisting local governments with a programme called Roads to Recovery.

State Governments take responsibility for state arterial roads. And the Australian Government has announced a programme called Auslink which over five years set out a programme of over $12 billion to modernise Australia ‘s road and rail transport links. Under that programme we agreed to a set of improvements to the national highway, to Roads of National Importance that are important to the economic lifeblood of this country. Under that programme $2 billion is to be delivered here in the State of Victoria.

You know delegates, the largest programme that we agreed to under the Roads of National Importance was with the Victorian Government for the Scoresby Freeway, where we signed a written agreement to build a freeway through Melbourne’s east, to service a great part of Australia’s manufacturing belt and to get it up onto transport links which would be important for the Victorian and for Melbourne’s economy.

You know what the State Government did in relation to the Scoresby Freeway? It ran to a state election promising to build a freeway and then broke its contract, broke its word, took away the money and imposed tolls of the people of eastern Melbourne. I am an avid reader of political diaries. Those cold wintry nights in Canberra, away from my home and my hearth, I like to tuck up with a good book. And I came across diaries of a certain ex-politician and I want to share this diary entry with you. Some of you may not have read it.

27 th of April 2004, page 283 for the journalists of the Press Corps, a certain former leader – have a listen to his words. You don’t have to hear it from me, a certain former leader of the Federal Labor Party writes this:

27 th of April 2004. Nothing to cheer me up in Melbourne town, least of all our meeting with Bracks this morning, accompanied by Faulkner, Crean and McMullan. We tried to get him to reverse his broken promise on the Scoresby Freeway. He went to the last election promising a freeway and, as soon as he won, announced a tollway. No wonder people hate politics and politicians. Bracks has broken his promise, hoping the odium will wear off before the next State election.

Do we think the odium should wear off before the next State election?

Latham writes this:

We are copping the fall-out electorally – disastrous polling right through the eastern suburbs. We can kiss goodbye to any hope of winning La Trobe, Deakin, Aston or Dunkley, and Anna Burke will be lucky to hang on in Chisholm. I might as well not bother campaigning in the marginal seat belt of Melbourne.

Well that was a good decision I must say.

Bracks however was unmoved. Even when Faulkner put it right on him: The stakes are high in what we are talking about, you need to know Steve, this could be the difference between forming a Federal Labor Government and falling a few seats short. You need to think about how history will see that.’ Yes, a day of deep and abiding Labor history, as Bracks refused to help, not budging an inch. Sat there like a statue with a silly grin on his face.

Now the Labor Party of course will say to you these days, Mark Latham, who is he?’ You know, what credibility has he got?’ Delegates, I want to say to you, 12 months ago every single Labor Member and Premier was recommending Mark Latham to be the Prime Minister of Australia. Twelve months ago.

You know, they say today that you can’t believe a thing that he writes in his book. Twelve months ago they were recommending that the people of Australia make him Prime Minister. I want you to bear that in mind when you hear them make a recommendation at the next election for someone to be Prime Minister. Their judgement is not good. I do not believe that was a good call and I don’t believe there are many people in the Labor Party today that believe that Mark Latham should have been elected Prime Minister 12 months ago.

Well as we know the Victorian State Government, as Mark Latham said, broke their promise and brought themselves into odium and our commitment to the Scoresby Freeway, which was undimmed, cannot now go ahead. And we have had to consider what we should do about that. What should we do? Should we say that because Steve Bracks and Peter Batchelor broke their agreement that they won’t be getting the money that was outlined? Well, the other State Premiers say we should. No other State Government has ever broken one of these contracts before, not in the history of joint funding. A few of the other Premiers have been onto me and have said, well if they don’t want the money and they break the contract there are plenty of projects in our state that ought to get it.’

And you can imagine you might feel that way too if Peter Beattie signed up to jointly fund a freeway and broke his agreement and refused the money as a consequence. You might feel that Queensland shouldn’t be compensated as a consequence. And so we have had to consider this very, very carefully and I have come to the conclusion that there is no reason why Victorians should suffer additional fallout from the broken promise of Steve Bracks and the repudiation of the Victorian Government’s contract.

So today I am announcing that the Australian Government has allocated $265 million to the Deer Park bypass.

This was a project which was identified under the Australian Government transport plan, Auslink. Money was not allocated for completion prior to 2009 but today’s announcement to fully fund the project within the current Auslink plan pulls funding forward three years and means work can start in 2006 and be completed by 2009. As a consequence of that, that choke point in the west of Melbourne, which feeds onto the Western Highway and affects the commuter links between Melbourne and Ballarat, by 2009 can be replaced with a state-of-the-art freeway. It will be 9.3 kilometres of freeway standard bypass running in a new alignment from the Western Highway at Caroline Springs to the Western Ring-Road in Sunshine West bypassing 10 kilometres of a speed restricted section of the Western Highway containing 20 intersections and six sets of traffic signals.

Now delegates, I ought to pay tribute to a few people who have been instrumental in this project and in securing this project. As I said, the problem for the Federal Government was we had already entered into an agreement which was broken over Scoresby. We are now offering to enter into an agreement for the Deer Park bypass and I want to say this to the Victorian Government. We are offering $265 million to build the Deer Park bypass. Don’t for a moment think of putting tolls on that bypass.

Michael Ronaldson and the Victorian Senators have played a very big part on this decision but I want to also pay tribute to Robert Doyle and his team. Robert has been lobbying the Federal Government in relation to these projects. He has announced the policy which will deliver real benefits to the people of the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and I think there is going to be a very clear choice in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne at the time of the next State Election, between the tolling promises of Mr Bracks and the innovative policy announced by Mr Doyle. After announcing that policy he turned around and he came back to the Federal Government and he also was instrumental in lobbying the Federal Government in relation to this Deer Park bypass.

I want to say to the people of Ballarat, that the Committee for Ballarat has also been very, very effective in this decision and I want to say to the people of Ballarat that the Federal Government will fund this commitment to ensure that that bypass is built, to improve the transport links to Ballarat as part of modernising Australia’s infrastructure, in order to deliver real economic benefits and real commuter benefits and to improve transport links into the great city of Ballarat.

So delegates, we have before us one year completed of this Federal Parliamentary term. We have in front of us two years to go. We have a reform programme which will strengthen the Australian economy. We have the great reform opportunities of industrial relations. We have a country which is strong and determined to protect its security. We have a Government which is focussed on national security and economic security. Why? Because we want Australia to be the best country that it can be, we want to have rising standards of living, supporting strong health care and strong education and improved infrastructure.

The Australian people need and deserve good government. They need and deserve good government, they need and deserve Liberal Government. That is why we are in politics and that is what we remain committed to do. Thank you very much for your time.