Monday, July 31, 2006

Mr Howard Addresses WA Libs

Thank you very much Julie for those very generous words of introduction. Danielle Blain, the wonderful President of the Western Australian Division of the Liberal Party, Paul Omodei, the Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia, with whom earlier this morning I had a very lengthy discussion about how we could work together to bring about a change in the political climate here in Western Australia. Paul and you will have my goodwill, and my cooperation, and my energy to help you in that task. And I know that I speak for all of my parliamentary colleagues in the Federal Parliament from Western Australia in saying that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We do meet here in Western Australia, here in Perth, this is I think the 11th conference I’ve attended as Prime Minister of this country. We meet at a time of remarkable prosperity, not only throughout the nation, but especially here in Western Australia. But we also meet under the shadow of great challenges. Here in Western Australia the impact of the drought is hitting very hard indeed on many of the hard pressed farmers of this State. And when I arrived here I had the opportunity of meeting the rural committee of the Western Australian Liberal Party to hear first hand some of the difficulties faced by Western Australian farmers. And I took on board some of the very valuable suggestions they made to me about how in a responsible way we might more effectively respond to the challenge of drought. It is a reminder that this is a dry continent and it’s a reminder that some of the greatest challenges Australia faces in the 21st Century, are not man-made, they are the consequence of the vagaries of nature and we must do everything we can to respond to them sensibly.

We, of course, also meet under the shadow of a very worrying conflict in the Middle East, I want to say something about that conflict. I want to repeat what I and the Foreign Minister have said on a number of occasions over the past week, and that is that there will not be a lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East until two things happen.

The first of those is that there must be an unconditional acceptance throughout the entire Arab world, without exception, of Israel’s right to exist in peace and stability behind secure internationally recognised boundaries. The entire Arab world, not parts of it, not the majority of it, but all of it, including Hezbollah, including Iran, including Syria and including Hamas, must give up forever the idea that the Israelis can be driven from their land into the sea because that will never happen, and that has to said and said very firmly.

The second condition is that there has to be an equally unconditional acceptance, including on the part of the Israelis, of the need and the justice in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. There has to be a two-state solution. The Palestinians are entitled to a national home, they are entitled to an independent state, and until those two conditions are met there will never be a lasting settlement, there will never be lasting peace in the Middle East.

Like everybody else I am appalled at the loss of life which is occurring at the present time. And despite some of the unreasoned and very ill-judged comments of some self-appointed leaders of community groups in Australia, the Australian Government, and particularly the mission in Beirut, has worked overtime to safely bring thousands of Australians out of that country. It has probably been the biggest mass movement of Australians overseas in our history, something in the order of four to five thousand Australians have been brought out. And it’s worth pointing out that the berths available exceeded by a factor of more than two to one, the number of people of wanting to come out. And I pay tribute to our diplomatic staff and particularly to the Ambassador in Beirut and her very hardworking people.

But like everybody else I am appalled at the loss of life. And if there is to be a ceasefire, and we all of course would like to see that occur, it will not be an effective or a lasting ceasefire unless there is the insertion into Lebanon of a large international stabilisation force, in sufficient numbers to be effective, and large enough to amongst other things bring about the complete disarming of Hezbollah. Because unless that occurs, and Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation – let’s not mince words – it’s a terrorist organisation. It’s not some kind of inspirational national liberation organisation, it’s a terrorist organisation, and unless part of the mandate of the stabilisation force is the reassertion of the authority of the democratic Government of Lebanon, and the disarmament of Hezbollah, any ceasefire will be short-lived, transitory and completely illusory. So yes, like every other human being, I deplore the death and destruction, like every other human being, I want to see peace restored. But if it’s to be lasting and effective in the first instance, it’s got to involve a big enough force to be strong, it’s got to be a big enough force to disarm Hezbollah and a lasting peace can only be based upon an unconditional acceptance by everybody of the two-state solution.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s impossible to come, as I do on a very frequent basis, to Western Australia without being imbued with that sense of enthusiasm, and energy, and hope and optimism, which has always been a feature of this State. But I find it in greater abundance now than I think I’ve ever found it in the 32 years that I’ve been in public life. And as I do on every occasion I address a gathering in Western Australia, I pay tribute to the disproportionate share of the national burden, which is carried by this State, and the enormous contribution 11 per cent of the population makes to the earning of our export incomes, and I acknowledge that. Can I also say that as the Federal Leader, and looking as I do, because we are now a little over half-way towards the next election, I want to underscore the extraordinary importance of Western Australian to the federal battle that is looming by the end of next year.

There is no state that will suffer more from the election of a Beazley-Labor government than Western Australia. But let me support that assertion by pointing out that the impact of the industrial relations capitulation of Mr Beazley to the trade union movement will be more cruelly felt in Western Australian than in any other part of the nation. His determination to destroy AWAs, his willingness to be told what to do by the building unions of this country, his opposition to the building and construction industry authority, his therefore complicit view that not upholding law and order in the building industry is acceptable, all of those things are poison to the economic future and economic progress of Western Australia. No part of our nation has benefited more from Australian Workplace Agreements than Western Australia. In the mining industry in Western Australia 43 per cent of people employed in the mining industry are on Australian Workplace Agreements. And if you think that all that is going to happen is that if a Labor government is elected, then the existing AWAs are going to be allowed to run out, and there’ll be no more new ones, then please think again, because Kevin Reynolds has already told Mr Beazley and told all of us that if Labor is to win then the union movement will have a look at all of the AWAs in existence and only allow those that are fit and proper to continue. Well I’m not, you know, terribly excited about his assessment of what is a fit and proper AWA.

What this means is that the direction of the Western Australian economy, as well as the direction of the Australian economy, will be fundamentally affected and retarded if there is a rollback of our workplace relations reform. I’ve said repeatedly that today’s prosperity is a product of yesterday’s reforms, and tomorrow’s prosperity can only be purchased and secured by today’s reforms. And that is why our commitment to industrial relations reform, the changes that were made and came into effect on the 27th of March are so important. Because unless we continue that process of reform, the prosperity we now enjoy and take for granted will gradually wind down and begin to go in reverse. And there’s always a danger when things are going well for people to think there’s no need of any further reform. To say well everything is wonderful, unemployment is low, investment is high, our mining industry is going gangbusters, why should we worry about further reform? It is precisely when things are going well that you have to lay the groundwork for the next round of economic change and economic reform. And I promise you my friends that if we give up the reform process, and the nation will be giving up the reform process if it elects a Beazley-Labor government, the prosperity that we now have will over time dissipate and we’ll look back on a period of missed opportunity with very great regret.

The mining industry, the whole energy outlook in Australia is of course fundamental to understanding our economy and understanding the economy of this State. And if we are serious about our economic future we must be willing to debate all aspects of Australia’s energy potential. We have been blessed by providence with extraordinary reserves of energy in this country. We’re the largest coal exporter, we’re a massive exporter of iron ore, we have the largest deposits of uranium of any country in the world, we have very large supplies of natural gas. We are in that sense the energy envy of the entire world. And we do have the capacity, if we do it right and we do it well, to become an energy superpower. But it won’t happen automatically and it will only happen if we use and exploit our resources in an intelligent way. And it will only happen if we are courageous enough to look at all of the options, including the nuclear option. We’re courageous enough to look at whether it’s desirable to enrich uranium in this country, whether it’s desirable and economically sensible to have nuclear power stations. All of these things have got to be looked at. And we have been willing to say that, and you all know it’s right that we examine those things. And yet what do we have from our political opponent? We have Mr Beazley cloaking respectability as an economic reformer, because he wants to debate at the national conference of the Labor Party, a policy that was anachronistic and out of date 23 years ago when it was introduced.

The no-new mines policy of the Labor Party is build on the ludicrous notion that there’s good uranium and bad uranium. The good uranium that has absolutely no deleterious effects on anybody, and is as pure as the driven snow, is the uranium you find in the three mines that are now operating – that’s special – that really is you-beaut, fair dinkum, nice uranium. But the really nasty, bad, never to be touched, awful, horrible, un-Australian uranium, is everywhere else, including Western Australia. Now a policy more internally inconsistent and ludicrous, I couldn’t image. And it was adopted, what 23 years ago as a miserable compromise. The Premier of this State is still very much in favour of it. The Premier of Western Australia thinks that the uranium in his State is dirty and horrible. Yet the uranium in other states is pure and nice and something to be used and exploited. It is a very, very odd policy, adopted as a miserable compromise at a Labor Party national conference almost a generation ago. And yet we are now being invited to believe that the Labor Party is hurtling into the 21st Century energy debate by willing to, be seen being willing to re-examine it.

Now of course they will change that policy at the next national conference – I can’t imagine that they would do otherwise – however it contributes nought in terms of facing the reality of a proper debate about Australia’s energy. And we must as a nation, if we are to take full and sensible and responsible advantage of the great energy endowments that we have, we must debate all of the options which the Government has been willing to do.

Can I finally my friends say something about my wonderful team in the Federal Parliamentary party, and particularly here from Western Australia. This is the first conference I have addressed since we marked – I won’t say celebrated, that is far too exultant a word - since we marked the 10 years in office of the Government. And I said back in March, and particularly at the wonderful dinner that was organised here in Perth, I said that the secret of our success was that it was a team effort – and I repeat that. We have a great team, it’s not a one-man band and it can never be a one-man band and it won’t be because the value of a strong team is very, very evident. And I want to pay tribute to the strength of the team here from Western Australia. The Cabinet Ministers, the three Ministers, the Parliamentary Secretaries and so on, I want to pay tribute to all of them because of the great contribution that they have made to the workings of the Government. And to all of my colleagues here in Western Australia, and last election you delivered in spades, you held on to all the marginals and you won two more, and I visited over the past couple of days, Hasluck and Stirling, and I’ve seen the tremendous work that Stuart Henry and Michael Keenan have carried out in both of those seats since they were elected. I want to pay tribute, think Michael is challenging the record held by Mal Brough and Bob Baldwin of the largest attendance at a morning tea that I’ve been to – Mal’s in Queensland and Bob is in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales – he had something like 1092, well that’s the figure he gave me, it looked a pretty big crowd and it was a tremendous thing and Stuart of course has brought all those wonderful skills he learnt on the rugby field to his representation of the electorate of Hasluck.

But being somebody who is ever ambitious, I’d like to give the Division a goal, I’d like to give the Division a goal – as well as retaining all of the seats we now hold in Western Australia – of capturing Cowan and Swan at the next election. And I know that you will bend all of our energies to do that. But Danielle, you and Mark have brought great professionalism to the work and the leadership of the Division. I could not have been more grateful at the time of the last election for the professional help I received from the West Australian Division. The Federal campaign here ran like clockwork and it delivered in spades and it’s important. The next election will be a very hard election, please believe me. Anybody in this room who has the complacent assumption that we’re going to automatically win, Federal Labor is a pushover, please put that out of your mind. Federal elections in this country, except when there’s a huge shift in sentiment, are always very close. Federal Labor is always highly competitive and the next election will be no different.

So my friends again can I thank all of you for the support and the loyalty and the commitment that you have displayed. Western Australia is making a mighty contribution to the nation and the Western Australian Liberal Party is making a mighty contribution to our national political success. I thank all of you, I wish you well, it’s always great to be back in Perth.

Thank you.