Ladies and gentlemen, it is marvellous to be here in Melbourne. It’s great to be here before the Victorian Liberal Party. It’s particularly good that my interstate colleagues, my federal parliamentary colleagues from other states are here in such numbers this morning. Obviously Julie Bishop, our Deputy Leader, Joe Hockey the Shadow Treasurer, Eric Abetz, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Malcolm Turnbull, the Shadow Minister for Communications, we are here in force along with Victorian federal members of Parliament, Andrew Robb, Bruce Billson, Greg Hunt, Sharman Stone, Kevin Andrews, Sophie Mirabella, Mitch Fifield and Tony Smith, Kelly and Josh and Scott and Helen Kroger and Dan Tehan, Michael Ronaldson. We are here in such numbers today because we want to salute the people of Victoria, we want to salute the Victorian Liberal Party. We want to support Premier Denis Napthine. We want to pay tribute to former Premier Ted Baillieu. But most of all we want to support Victoria because this has been a tough week for Victoria.
Thursday was a black day for manufacturing in this country. Thursday was a difficult day for Victoria because Thursday was the day that Ford announced that they were no longer going to be manufacturing cars in this country after 2016. Personally, I felt like I had been kicked in the guts. For 20 years my family has been driving great products from Geelong, from Ford at Geelong. The first new car my dad ever bought was a Ford Falcon station wagon from Geelong in Victoria. Holden versus Ford – this was the cultural divide of my generation. And that’s all going. That’s all going. But I do have a message of hope for the people of Australia, for the people of Victoria, for the people of Geelong. Tough times will pass because tough people will never give up.
This has been a very tough time for the people of Geelong. Ford on their way out. Alcoa and Shell under a cloud. But there is a future beyond the smoke stacks. The great city of Geelong will be a centre of medical excellence, it will be a centre of learning, it will be a centre of culture and if the right decisions are made about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it could be a city of administration too.
The salvation of Geelong, though, does not lie in the hands of big government. The salvation of Geelong lies in the hearts of great people. And government’s task is not to be a heavy-handed interferer in the daily lives of everyone. Government’s task is to get taxes down, to get regulations down, to get productivity up so that the great people of Victoria and the great people of Geelong can show the world what they can do. They can do it, if government provides a hand up rather than just a handout. That is what the people of Geelong will get from an incoming Coalition government should we win on September the 14th.
We are so lucky that we have a great candidate for the seat of Corangamite – Sarah Henderson. She is Geelong through and through. We are lucky that we have a great candidate for the seat of Corio, Peter Read who has served in our country in uniform and will serve our country in the Parliament. So my message to the people of Geelong is that Geelong will thrive and prosper again. We know the difficulties ahead but that just encourages us to work that much harder. So along with Sarah Henderson, along with Peter Read, I pledge myself to work for more jobs, more growth and more opportunities for the people of Geelong.
Ladies and gentlemen, it would be churlish to blame the current government for Ford’s difficulties and I don’t blame the current government for Ford’s difficulties. Ford’s difficulties have been accumulating for many years. There is the high dollar. There is the small domestic market. There’s the fact that too many decisions in the motor industry have been made by union officials and not by company management and shareholders. There is the stubborn reluctance of the Australian people to buy what is Australia’s best car, the Ford Territory, so there are all sorts of reasons why Ford has had difficulties. I don’t blame the current government for all of those but I do blame the current government for being such a bad government and I do blame the current government for making it so hard for people to manufacture successfully and to look to a manufacturing future with hope and confidence. I blame the current government for that. Because how can you have confidence in the future, in the economic future of our country? How can you when it is so hard to have confidence in the competence and the ability of the current Federal Government? So I blame the current government not for the demise of manufacturing at Ford, but I blame them for the carbon tax which has added $400 and more to the cost of manufacturing a car in this country. I blame them for the policy flip-flops, the green car scheme, started and then abandoned. The cash for clunkers scheme announced and not proceeded with. I blame them for the policy flip flops that have raised sovereign risk issues about our country for the first time in its modern history. I blame the current government for the massive increase in regulation and I blame the government for unleashing union power yet again into the heart of so many of our work places.
It’s not just the motor industry which is at risk because of the economic climate that this government has created. You only have to look to our regional agricultural centres to see ongoing problems. There are almost 1,000 jobs at risk in Shepparton because of the problems at SPC Ardmona. In some of our great fruit growing areas, orchards are being bulldozed and we have a government which is making a difficult situation worse, not better. This is the first rule of government – do no harm. Do no harm. This is the first rule and this is just the beginning of the things that the current government simply doesn’t understand.
Ladies and gentlemen, my friends, I am not here today to give you a litany of errors that the current government has been responsible for because you know all that. You’ve been watching. You’ve been listening. You know the mistakes the current government has made. The Australian people know the mistakes that the current government has made. I am here today to tell you, my fellow Liberals of Victoria, through you to tell my fellow Australians right around this great country, who want to be hopeful about their future and our future, I am here to say that it doesn’t have to be like this and it won’t be like this if there is a change of government on September the 14th. Because we have, over the last three years, been working on a strong plan for Australia and a strong plan for Victoria.
Our plan for Victoria starts with eliminating the carbon tax because if we eliminate the carbon tax, we unleash an affordable energy future for the manufacturers and the people of Victoria. We allow Victoria’s great energy asset, the Latrobe Valley, to do its job, to provide affordable energy for Australia and for the wider world. If we eliminate the carbon tax, we also eliminate the coming threat of a carbon tax not just on power, but on heavy transport, which will be an added scourge to the difficulties that manufacturing and agriculture and all these sectors of our economy currently face. Our plan for Victoria continues with building the East West link. I challenge Prime Minister Gillard, if you are as Victorian as you say you are, commit $1.5 billion to the East West link and help to end the traffic gridlock which is afflicting this great city. Because every hour that the people of Melbourne spend in traffic, it’s an hour they aren’t working, it’s an hour they don’t spend with their families and it’s an hour they won’t get back and I say give back their time to the people of Melbourne!
Our plan for Victoria continues with the green army, working to restore our landscape, working to restore our foreshores, working on the Yarra Valley and on Port Phillip Bay. Riding to the rescue of the councils and the volunteer groups and the farmers that are doing so much for Landcare in this state but which need help and that’s what they will get from our green army, 15,000-strong.
Our plan for Victoria very importantly includes the full restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. To let the militant unions of this city and this state know that the rule of law must always prevail. Premier Ted Baillieu started the message when he deployed the police on the streets of Melbourne to deal with the Grocon boycott. We will re-establish the ABCC and finish the job. The law must be supreme. No-one is above the law.
Ladies and gentlemen, our plan for Victoria is a part of our plan for Australia. We will deliver a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia. This is how the Australian people will once more have the hope, reward and opportunity that should be everyone in this country’s birth right, that should be your birth right.
Our plan for a strong economy means getting taxes down, getting regulations down, getting productivity up and getting taxes down requires getting unnecessary spending down. This government says that it has just delivered a tough budget and sure, there are some painful elements in the budget that this government has just brought down. But you know it’s still raining money on the seat of Lyne, on the seat of New England. It’s still raining money on marginal seats, Labor marginal seats right around Australia. I see in the budget $5 million to insulate a church in a marginal seat in Adelaide. I thought this Government would have learnt the lessons from dodgy insulation schemes but no, they never learn, they never learn!
Our plan for Australia continues with stronger communities because while we respect the jobs that public servants do, yes of course we respect the jobs that public servants do, we don’t need as many of them in Canberra and we don’t need them running our schools and public hospitals to the extent that they do. Our plan for Australia has at its very core a cleaner environment because, ladies and gentlemen, we are all conservationists now. We all know that we have only got one planet. We all know that we’ve got to pass it on to our children in better conditions than we found it but we also know that Labor’s carbon tax is socialism masquerading as environmentalism. We all know you don’t save the environment by clobbering the economy and that’s what this carbon tax has done.
We have a plan for stronger borders and our plan for stronger borders starts with putting back in place the policies that were proven to work under the Howard Government. Let’s never forget John Howard’s achievement. John Howard inherited a problem and he crafted a solution. The current government inherited a solution and it has created a problem, a problem that is worse and worse than ever before.
Yes my friends, our plan for Australia involves modern infrastructure, the modern infrastructure of the 21st century. As well as the East West link, it involves WestConnex in Sydney, the Midland Highway in Tasmania, the Gateway Motorway upgrade in Brisbane, it involves the South Road in Adelaide, it involves the Pacific Highway and Bruce Highway and yes, our plan for modern infrastructure does involve a National Broadband Network but a National Broadband Network that is more affordable, more reliable and which will actually get here. It will actually be delivered for $60 billion less than the Government’s version.
It’s one thing to have a plan. You’ve got to have the people to put the plan in place. We have great members of Parliament here in Victoria and right around Australia. We really do. We have outstanding members of Parliament who have done so much for their communities and so much for their country. We’ve got Russell Broadbent sitting in the audience who I’ve only just noticed because Russell very modestly does not like to hog the front row. We have also got marvellous candidates. You know, I think I can honestly say that no opposition has ever had the quality of candidates that this opposition does going into an election. Right around Australia, we’ve got farmers, we’ve got soldiers, we’ve got police, we’ve got teachers, we’ve got doctors, we’ve got nurses, we’ve got business people. The whole range of modern Australia has put its hand up to run for us. We’ve got a former Father of the Year in Ron Delezio running in Sydney. We’ve got a former Mother of the Year in Bernadette Black running in Tasmania and if every single one of our candidates is elected right around the country, the most common name in the Liberal Party room will no longer be Bishop or Smith or Cameron, it will be Nguyen. I’m delighted to see the number one Nguyen, John Nguyen, our candidate for Chisholm here in the audience today. John is a partner in an accounting firm. He is the child of refugee parents who came to this country the right way, not the wrong way and doesn’t it say something about this marvellous country of ours, that people can come here from all over the world, from every sort of culture and background and aspire to sit in the Parliament of our country. So, John, it’s great to have you here today. You are sitting next to Michael Sukkar, a professional in private practice with a young family from a migrant background. There is Emanuele Cicchiello , another from a migrant background, deputy-principal of a local school. Michael Sukkar is running for Deakin. Emanuele is running for Bruce. We have got Jason Wood. Great to see you here, Jason. You are wanting to get the daily double, as it were, to win a marginal seat, not once but twice, and you will. We have every confidence in you, Jason. We have Donna Petrovitch running in McEwen. Donna is prepared to put at risk a safe seat in the Victorian Parliament to contest a highly marginal seat in the Federal Parliament. What kind of a commitment to your country is that? But all of our marginal seat candidates are demonstrating their patriotism, whether it be Greg Bickley, a small businessman running in Bendigo, John Fitzgibbon, who is kind of like the Rupert Murdoch of Ballarat, running in that seat. We are very lucky to have such candidates and I look forward to working closely with every single one of you, every week, every day, every hour between now and September the 14th to try to make sure not just that your dreams come true, but the people of Australia’s dreams come true and we wake up on September the 15th with a better government.
I know – and I know that had none of you are taking anything for granted. None of you are taking anything for granted. Yes, the polls look good right now. Yes, you can feel a mood on the streets for change. Yes, you can sense a tide that is moving our way but we all know that a week is an eternity in politics, let alone 113 days. \We all know how much can change in a very short space of time. We all know that winning government from opposition is like climbing Mount Everest and yes, as I look around, I can see Sherpa Tenzing and Sir Edmund Hillary here, I can see you all here striving for that summit. But we haven’t got there and we won’t get there unless we work as we’ve never, ever worked before.
You know the Australian people don’t expect that much of government. They don’t expect that much of government. We expect more of ourselves than we do of government and that’s part of our strength as a people. But we do expect a few things of government. We expect government to be competent and we expect government to be trust worthy. If a politician says there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead, we expect that politician to mean it. If a politician says there will be a surplus in 2012-13, we expect that politician to deliver it. And we expect politicians and members of Parliament and ministers in governments to be much ready to tighten their own belts than to expect the Australian people, the forgotten families of Australia, to tighten theirs. That’s why I was so proud last week in the Parliament to be able to say to the Australian people, if the Coalition is elected, you will have tax cuts and you will have benefit increases and you will have pension increases, without a carbon tax. So those tax cuts and those pension increases that turned up on the 1st of July last year, they will be real because no-one will lose a dollar and yet everyone will lose a carbon tax. Everyone will lose this tax that’s adding ten per cent to your power bills, nine per cent to your gas bills and which is cascading through the economy. We can do that because Andrew Robb and Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann and Arthur Sinodinos have done the hard yards of budget management, have done the hard yards of examining government expenditure to find the things that are low priorities and eliminate them so that things which are the highest priority for Australian households and families, easing the budget pressure, can become a reality.
As I said, the people don’t expect that much of governments but they do expect a decent Cabinet process and I am proud that I have my best people on my team. I am proud that I have Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull in my Cabinet and frankly I am embarrassed for a once great Labor Party that you’ve got people like Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson sitting on the backbenches because they are no longer prepared to work for this Prime Minister. What an embarrassment. What a humiliation. What a shame for a party with such a history. The people expect their government to bring Australians together. They don’t want false class wars. They don’t want false gender wars. Least of all do they want a situation where the Government is now trying to stir up a false birthplace war in an attempt to gain cheap political advantage.
One of the worst things this government has done has been the absolutely and utterly unwarranted campaign against people coming to Australia on 457 visas the right way to make a contribution to our country. An absolutely unconscionable campaign, which Simon Crean himself has called by the right name, he says it’s dog whistling. That’s exactly what it is. This is a government which has completely surrendered to the people smugglers. This is apparently a government which apparently doesn’t mind people coming to this country illegally and going on welfare, now manufacturing an unconscionable attack on people coming to this country legally and working and paying taxes from day one. Well, I say shame on this government. Shame on this government. Australia will always be the most welcoming country on earth to anyone coming here who wants to join the team and who wants to be, in the immortal words of Sir Robert Menzies, a lifter not a leaner. I say welcome to this country.
So ladies and gentlemen, we have a task ahead of us. A little over 112 days left. The people of Australia are looking to us. They don’t necessarily want us to luxuriate in the Parliament. They want us to spend every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year working hard for them. That is our task. That is our challenge.
It’s not about us this election. It is about the people of Australia. It’s not about making someone a minister or a Prime Minister. It’s about helping every single Australian to be the very best that he or she can possibly be. It’s about helping you to be your very best selves in the months and years ahead of us. That’s our challenge. That’s our task – to give a great people the better government that a great country deserves. So I say to the people of Australia, we will not let you down. We won’t let you down today. We won’t let you down any of the days ahead of us. We won’t let you down. We will give you the better government you deserve