We haven’t done a formal roll call of our new members, so I want to do that first up this morning. Would you please welcome to the Joint Party Room – from Flinders Zoe McKenzie; from Bowman, Henry Pike; from Casey, Aaron Violi; from Hughes, Jenny Ware; from Dawson, Andrew Willcox; from Menzies, Keith Wolahan; from Nicholls, Sam Birrell; and from Flynn, Colin Boyce.
We must acknowledge our Senators, as well: Ross Cadell from New South Wales; Kerrynne Liddle is unable to be with us today, but a great achievement; and the incredible Jacinta Price from the Northern Territory.
Well, colleagues I think we’ve got such an impressive array of people here and the views, the comments and the engagement we’ve had already – it’s a great credit to you. It shows the diversity within our party room, the breadth of our coverage across the Australian nation.
There are incredibly important issues for us to deal with and whilst the Government’s enjoying a honeymoon and living high on the hog at the moment, many Australian families and small businesses are doing it very tough. And it is going to get tougher under this Government.
I think Australians are starting to realise that not all of the problems of course, particularly of the international making, are the problem of this Government. But we do know from the opening months of this Government already that they don’t have a plan and they don’t have a way forward for the Australian public.
It’s clear to all of us that Labor doesn’t know which levers to pull on the economy and that they are going to make a bad situation worse.
Our job has always been to clean up Labor’s mess, whether it’s in opposition or in government. Because many of us come from small businesses, many of us have worked hard to employ people to build wealth, many of us have a background in the economy otherwise, that really places us in a position that the Labor Party just can’t bring to the table.
I want to acknowledge all of you in this room for your support, for the way in which you have approached debate. There are some contentious debates around, and we are not going to be a party that will shrink from those debates. We will stand up for our principles, for what we believe in, and we will do it in a respectful way, and we will contribute to the national debate in a positive way.
Already we have been able to do that, as you know – and it’s quite unusual for an opposition to do this – but we’ve suggested our first policy, which addresses a very acute tightening of the labour market that has been evident to employers and workplaces across the country.
There is fruit and vegetables rotting on the vines, on trees, on agricultural properties across the country. There are aged care facilities where they can’t get the staff they need to provide the support to people who desperately need that care. There are small businesses where they can’t open for dinner because they’ve only got staff to serve a lunchtime meal. And the productivity loss, the way in which that is a drag on our economy, is something that the Labor Party can’t address.
We’ve suggested, in a very practical way, that one of the options would be to unleash those Australians who are on a pension, who choose to work, to be able to do so without losing their pension. It’s a ready workforce and the Government could adopt it tomorrow, but they haven’t done that.
And there are many reasons why it’s obvious that this Government has still got its training wheels on. I mean, the work around the relationship between the CFMEU and the Labor Party – a $10 million donation to the Labor Party from the CFMEU. You can see that the unions are back in town. You can see it on building sites and in workplaces across the country.
So, we’ve got a lot to do. We have to keep this Government to account, but we are going to be a positive opposition in terms of putting forward our agenda, and, as I say, we’ve already placed the first marker in the game.
So, thank you all very much all for being here.