Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Howard Addresses NSW Libs

Peter Debnam
Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
Thank you very much Geoff, Peter Debnam the Leader of the New South Wales Opposition, my many Federal and State Parliamentary colleagues and fellow Liberals. It’s always a pleasure for me to come and address the New South Wales State Council of the Liberal Party. I have been a member of this Division now since the late 1950s and much of what I know about politics I learnt in my early years as a member of the New South Wales Division. Many of the challenges that we faced in those days, although in number and composition were different from the challenges we face today, the principles that must be brought to bear in meeting those challenges have not changed over that 50 year period. And that is a consistent commitment to principle, cohesive response in public to political challenges, and most importantly of all, providing the people of Australia and the people of New South Wales with a vision about the future as much as properly articulating and debating the achievements of the past.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It’s impossible of course to address any public gathering in Australia at the present time without saying something about the tragic events that are unfolding in the Middle East. We could spend a long time debating the detail of it, but as with so many conflicts of this kind, two absolutely fundamental propositions come through. And until the international community and every part of the international community accepts those two principles and acts on them, and acts to bring about the conditions that those principles point to, there will never be peace in the Middle East.

And the first of those two principles is the absolute and unconditional right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state without fear of constant terrorism and constant invasion behind secure, internationally recognised and defensible boundaries. And the second great principle is the need for the emergence of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state. It is worth reminding the Australian public that those two principles have been part of the Liberal Party’s policy on this issue, for almost twenty years. It’s not something we’ve just adopted, we have always, or for many years rather, we have advocated a two-state solution. The Palestinian people do have rights, they do have a legitimate aspiration to sovereignty, and they must be supported by the international community in achieving that. But it has to be said that the current outbreak of hostilities has been the direct result of the provocative action of Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organisation, a terrorist organisation crossing the Israeli border and committing acts of aggression against Israel.

Now I know that there are many thousands of my fellow Australians of Lebanese background who are anguished and in a state of distress and concern about their loved ones in Lebanon. That is natural and it should be said, and it should be fully understood and fully respected by all Australians, and we are doing as a Government all we can to help evacuate from Lebanon, Australians who wish to come home. The situation of course is chaotic, it’s fluid, it’s changing on almost an hourly basis. But I can say, and the Foreign Minister Mr Downer at a news conference later this morning in Adelaide, will have something further to say about this. I can say for example yesterday, there were in fact, more berths available on the ships that had been chartered by the Australian Government, than there were people wanting to fill those berths. So much so, that we were able to offer assistance to a number of Swedish citizens, and it will be the intention of the Australian Government in future days if any spaces are available, they will be provided to citizens of other countries. And I take this opportunity, of publicly recording my thanks to the Governments of Great Britain and Greece for the assistance that they have provided to Australian citizens wanting to leave Lebanon.

But I do have to with the greatest of goodwill towards some spokesmen for the Lebanese community in Australia , I do have to reject the criticism that’s been made of the Foreign Minister and of the Australian Embassy in Beirut. I think the Australian ambassador in Beirut has performed extremely well. But in saying that, I do want to make it clear that I understand fully the anguish that Australians of a Lebanese background must feel in the present circumstances. Their grief, their concern, and their anguish is totally and completely understandable.

My friends, I want to take a few moments if I can to talk about our workplace relations reforms. I want to talk about them in the context of the enormous contribution they will make to guaranteeing a continuation of the 15 years of economic prosperity and economic expansion that Australia has experienced. And what is at stake here is a very simple thing, and it is whether we entrench the next great reform that is needed to further strengthen the Australian economy. Today’s prosperity is a product of yesterday’s reforms. Tomorrow’s prosperity will be, and can only be the product of today’s reforms. That is what is at stake in relation to these laws, and the promise of the Opposition leader Mr Beazley to roll back these laws, and more specifically to tear up our commitment to Australian workplace agreements, will do enormous damage to the Australian economy.

And I said in China and I will repeat it here in Sydney, his promise to tear up AWA’s is a dagger at the throat of the Australian mining industry. There is no sector of the Australian economy that is making a greater contribution to our current prosperity than the Australian mining industry. Even the Labor Party admits that, in fact they say that’s the only reason why the economy is doing well, which of course is nonsense. But it remains the fact that the mining industry is the source of enormous wealth for Australia now, and it will be the source of enormous wealth for Australia into the future. And the mining industry, particularly in Western Australia is very heavily dependent on Australian workplace agreements. They will go under a Labor Government. There will be almost a million of them by the end of next year when the election is due. And if we put one million Australian workplace agreements on the chopping block, there will be chaos not only in the mining industry, but in other sections of the Australian economy and we will be putting at risk the higher living standards, the higher wages, the better conditions, the incentive arrangements that are often part and parcel of AWA’s, and for which people have properly negotiated and achieved.

And if the Labor Party does win the election, and don’t let anybody imagine that that is a far distant prospect. The Labor Party is always competitive at a federal level. If the Labor Party were to win the next election, all of our industrial relations reforms would be killed off. Because Mr Beazley’s industrial relations policy is even more pro-union than was Mr Keating’s. The Beazley industrial relations policy would hand back control of Australia’s industrial relations laws to the unions of this country and we all know how eager Mr Combet is to resume control of the Australian economy. We all know, because he said so, and he can’t wait to get his hands back on the levers of Australia’s industrial relations system. Because the commitment Mr Beazley has made for the absolute primacy of collective bargaining means that unions will be able under a Beazley government, to inject themselves into every single Australian workplace whether invited or not. Now I have no objection, I never have and I never will, have any objection to a union being involved in a workplace or negotiating on behalf of workers where that is the wish of the workers in that workplace. Nobody can have a legitimate objective to that. But what I do object to is the absurdity of a proposition that at a time when less than 20 per cent of the Australian workforce in the private sector chooses to belong to a trade union, we contemplate the introduction under a future Labor government of changes to the law that will allow unions to inject themselves into 100 per cent of Australian workplaces. And that is what is at stake, and those are the sort of issues we must carry to the Australian people on workplace relations over the months ahead.

Because we have seen over the last three and half months since the laws were introduced, a ludicrous, dishonest, and completely unprincipled fear campaign, designed to create the impression that through the introduction of the laws, the job security of 11 million Australians was at risk. Bill Shorten the National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union said that the new laws represented a green light for mass sackings. Mr Beazley has said that the jobs of 11 million Australians are vulnerable as a result of the new laws. It’s funny about those two predictions, because the statistics, even though it’s early days, and we can’t guarantee that the current level of unemployment will remain exactly where it is; the statistics in the early months of operating the new laws, suggest otherwise. Over the last three and half months, we’ve seen 102,000 more jobs created in Australia, a 102,000. Some green light, some mass sackings. So at 4.9 per cent, our unemployment is at a 30 year low. The truth is and every man and woman in this audience that runs a small business knows it , the truth is that getting rid of those old unfair dismissal laws will result in the creation of thousands of new jobs in the Australian economy. Those old laws frighten people out of taking a chance on more staff. We’ve now created a situation where people will take a chance and employ some more people and if some of it doesn’t work out, well those that have been employed and stay, will be the winners. And that is the natural order of things in business, and every international study of repute will show, that the countries that have rigid laws in this area, designed to protect people, actually end up creating higher levels of unemployment. And I have not the slightest doubt that as time goes by, the wisdom of abolishing those unfair dismissal laws will be validated, and validated in a very emphatic fashion.

I’ve probably used this analogy before, or this metaphor on many occasions, but I will use it again because it does encapsulate that of what is at stake, and that is that economic management and running an economy is very much like being involved in a foot race towards an ever-receding finishing line. You never quite get there, you can never feel that you’ve done everything that you’d like to do or you need to do, but you know that if you stop trying, you are going to fall behind, because there are always some other energetic participants in the race, that will go past you. And the idea that is articulated by the Opposition Leader, that somehow or other we don’t need any more economic reforms, the idea that we can turn back the clock on industrial relations, we can turn back the clock on university reforms, we can turn back the clock on health reforms and still somehow or other, have the fabulous prosperity and good economic conditions that this country enjoys at the present time is a grand exercise in national delusion. We do enjoy a very strong economy, we are the envy of the world. We are where we are now as a result of two things; the hard work and the imagination, and the adaptability of the men and women of Australia, whether they are employers or employees, and we are a wonderfully adaptable group of people, we Australians. So the first prize has to be given to the men and women of Australia, because of what they have done over the last 15 years. And the other reason we are where we are now is that as a nation we have had the courage to undertake difficult economic reforms, and if we stop now, we will condemn to future generations, a lower standard of living that this generation enjoys. And the greatest obligation that the current generation of political leaders in Australia has is to pass on to a future generation, the opportunity for a higher standard of living, or at least the maintenance of the prosperity that we now have. And we can only do that if we persevere with reforms. And workplace relations reforms and other reforms are all about locking in, for future generations, the prosperity we now have. We’ll be subjected to fear campaigns, our policies will be misrepresented. Our policies will be derided and attacked by our political opponents.

But know this my friends, in the end, the winner in the political debate and the political argument, is always that side of politics that has the courage to articulate and argue for what is good for the future of this country. And when political parties retreat to the past when political parties invoke fear campaigns to aid a retreat to the past, those political parties are found out by the Australian public. These reforms like all of our other economic reforms, are designed to guarantee a stronger, more prosperous, Australian community. We have levels of economic achievement and success that were undreamt of 20 years ago. But I would like to dream, and all of you would like to dream, that that can go on, and that we can make it even better. But you can only do that if you take the actions in government to entrench prosperity. Prosperity doesn’t fall in your lap, it has to be worked for, it has to be earned and unless we are prepared to do that, and we are prepared to do that, we’ll fail a future generation of Australians. And I will not have that said of me or any members of my Government. And I know that you will not have it said of the Liberals of Australia, the Liberals of New South Wales in 2006.

Before I finish, can I say how delighted I am to share the platform with Peter Debnam. We are moving towards a state election in New South Wales, and gee we need a change of government in this state. There is a mood for change in New South Wales; of that there is no doubt. But we face an enormous challenge. The swing we needed is gigantic, the number of seats required to be taken from Labor is a very significant number indeed, but the quality of the candidates chosen thus far is very high and I want to say on behalf of all of my federal parliamentary colleagues to you Peter, we will do everything we can to get rid of the Labor government of New South Wales, and to install a Coalition Government under your leadership. Thank you.