David, thank you very much for the kind words, for your friendship to many of us over a long period of time. The work that you’ve done for our country, particularly in the cyber security space, Macquarie Telecom has been a leader, an innovator, a huge employer, and our country’s been a great beneficiary of the investment that you’ve made.The dedication that you and your family have applied to a great Australian success story, and it’s great to see you continue your support of the LNP. So thank you. Would you please thank David Tudehope.
Well firstly, can I say it’s always very humbling to stand before an audience of the Liberal National Party. I joined this Party when I was 18 years of age – as you can tell, that is a long, long time ago. I ran for a seat in the 1989 state election as a Young Liberal. I was encouraged that if I stood up and put my hand up in a seat that nobody else wanted to run for, that I could win that seat, and of course as an 18-19 year old, I listened to some of that advice. I ran against Tom Burns and it was the election post the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and I’m not sure what the double digit swing was against us, but it was sufficient enough for me not to be elected in the seat of Lytton in those years. But with the support of many people in this room, with the support of my family and the values that have been instilled in me as a member of this great Party over a long period of time, I stand here very proudly before you today as Leader of the Liberal Party.
I want to say thank you very much to Lawrence Springborg. As he pointed out two years ago, we placed a lot of faith in Lawrence and over the course of my involvement in the Party – and many of you have been members of the Liberal National Party for much longer than me – but the values have always continued and been a constant in our Party. Even though there might be some points of difference around personality or policy, the consistency of what we believe in and what unites us has been there evident for all to see.
Yet, despite that and despite the consistency from our membership during different periods, there has been stability and instability in the organisation, and we can’t win government if the public sees an organisation which is unfit to govern. In no small part the success of this organisation has contributed to, most recently Adrian Schrinner’s success, his predecessors and all of those in the Brisbane City Council, but it’s led to the ability for David Crisafulli to be in a very strong position to be the next premier of this state, and as a proud Queenslander, for the sake of our state, we need change at the next state election.
David and his team have an authenticity, they have a dedication, a single purpose, they are hard working and they represent and adhere to our values. So to David and his team, I wish for the benefit of our state, that you can have every success at the next election – but that’s not possible without the leadership and the stability, Lawrence, that you provide, the members of state executive and those leaders across FDCs, the SECs and the Party unit – so to all of you, thank you very much.
We wouldn’t be in a position federally either without your support, and I wouldn’t be in the position that I am today without your support to go on to win the next election. I wouldn’t be in a strong position that I believe that we are today, because if we had a divided Party, if we had a divided Party Room, the first three or four questions of every press conference become about the latest leak in the paper, somebody positioning this way, somebody leaking against another colleague, and how do you support this one or that one? We don’t have that, and a large part of that is because of the leadership of David Littleproud and the support that he’s able to provide to his colleagues in the National Party and in turn to me.
I consider him a dear friend and a confidant and somebody who I’ve been able to work with very closely and I want to pay tribute to David, to his staff and to the members of National Party Party Room for working together with us hand-in-glove. We’re first amongst equals and we work together as a Coalition. I’ve adhered very strongly to the advice of John Howard and John Anderson and Tim Fischer and many others over a long period of time, to make sure that the foundation of our success is achieved through a strong Coalition. So David, to you and to the team, thank you very much for the work that you do.
Now equally, I’m incredibly proud of the team that I’ve got in Canberra and again, we wouldn’t be able to take the position that we’ve taken on the Voice, or in relation to nuclear energy, or in relation to policies that reflect our values without the support of my colleagues.
As they sit here; Phil Thompson – an incredible Member from Townsville – it’s a marginal seat, he’s a former soldier – served our country in uniform – and he’s turned that seat – I never say a safe seat – but Herbert is much safer and well represented Phil, under your control, so congratulations Phil.
To Bert van Manen; our Whip, who keeps them under control, makes sure all of our colleagues turn up to debates and the rest of it and always known as the ‘Beattie Beater’. Bert, thank you very much for the work that you do.
To Andrew Wallace; former Speaker of our Party. Again, close friend, confidant, national security expert, represents the Sunshine Coast with great distinction, and Andrew, it’s great to have your wisdom in our ranks, and I thank you very much for that.
Angie Bell; along with Karen Andrews at the moment, and Bert, working hard in the seat of Fadden – our most important fight in front of us. Cameron Caldwell is a great candidate, he served his community for 12 years, he’s a local councillor, he’s invested into projects which have created local jobs, supported local young people, he’s put money into PCYCs and other programs which have supported local crime prevention activities and the work of the police in his community. He’ll be a great federal member. But Angie, to you for the work that you’re doing in your portfolio, your support of Cameron, thank you very much for that.
To Paul Scarr; who received I think it was only 99.7 per cent of the vote yesterday – so if you’re part of the point three, you haven’t got much chance. Paul has been a dear friend for decades and a man of great intelligence, contribution in our Party Room is always very much well thought through and very happy for your success yesterday.
Similarly with Susie McDonald; wonderful person Susie, and represented the North with great distinction. Congratulations yesterday.
To Andrew Wilcox; from the great region of Mackay of Central Queensland. Mate, thank you very much for what you’ve done and the stability that you’ve brought into your role. It’s incredibly important.
To James McGrath; what can you say about James McGrath? Many of you – if you’ve seen his car, the disgusting state of his car that he sleeps in, that he lives out of – it says a bit about him. What it says most about him is that he’s a servant and dedicated servant of our Party. So James, thank you very much.
I want to say to Scotty Buchholz; thank you Scotty for what you do, particularly for the transport industry, mate. It’s a wonderful thing, the passion that you bring to our Party Room for that sector and for the work that you do for your community.
Michelle Landry, again, and you’ll forgive me for going through the roll call, but I am proud of the team and many of the people in this room are part of the success. Michelle Landry has copped more, than any other Member of Parliament that I’m aware of, from the CFMEU. Now, I cop a bit from the CFMEU, but I give a bit back to them as well; but Michelle, one of the most decent people you could meet, has been hard working and really sweats for her community and the way in which she and her family have been treated by the unions and particularly by the CFMEU, should give us every reason that we need to continue to support her and our colleagues, to be successful and to take power away from that union at the time of the next election.
Ted O’Brien’s doing a great job in energy, I’ll touch on his work in a minute.
To Henry Pike; thank you very much mate, for the work that you’re doing in Bowman, and again, a great contributor intellectually, a great champion of conservative causes, so thank you.
To Col Boyce; again, fantastic mate that you’re part of our team. Sometimes state members don’t make the transition to federal and vice versa, but you’ve done that with great distinction. So, thank you.
To Gerard Rennick; Gerard, I want to say thank you very much – a tough day out for you yesterday mate – but thank you for being a very significant contributor to our Party over a long period of time. That work of course doesn’t stop, it continues right up until the next election, and your significant contribution, particularly to the taxation debate, a contribution that not all of us fully appreciate or understand because the depth of understanding and experience that you have is quite exceptional. So, my commiserations on yesterday, but well done.
Okay, well, that’s the end of my speech…I just want to say a couple of things to you and through you to the Australian people.
We’re going to face, what I believe is the most significant vote in our nation’s history in October of this year. The Prime Minister has set our country on a course to division – when he has an opportunity to unite us – he’s choosing the path of division and this is the most significant change that’s been proposed to our Constitution in 120 years. The founding fathers of our nation’s rulebook put in place a very significant double test, and they were very serious about whether change should be accepted to the Constitution.
We have a burning desire as an Australian people, and particularly those within this Party, to see better outcomes for Indigenous Australians. It breaks my heart to see the travesty that unfolds in areas like Laverton or Leonora, in Alice Springs, in Tennant Creek, where Indigenous Australians are living in squalor, where children are not going to school, where sexual violence is prevalent, where domestic violence is commonplace, where the police are exhausted and the social workers are out on stress.
I want to see a better outcome for those Australians. I don’t believe for a moment that the Voice is the way to deliver that. I believe very strongly that the design of the Voice, which we won’t know about until after the vote has taken place – in quite a remarkable approach by the Prime Minister – that we will ultimately end up with another layer of bureaucracy, which is the last thing that those women and children and men need in Indigenous communities. We need practical action. We need support to get kids back to school, to get people into jobs. We need the rule of order to be reinstalled, to be reinstated. We need to make sure that we can support those innovators and those entrepreneurs in those communities because that’s what will lift up Indigenous Australians.
The Prime Minister says to the Australian public that they can’t be trusted with the detail. Right at the start of this debate our Party Room took a decision – and it wasn’t welcomed by all – that we would ask respectfully the Prime Minister 15 questions. I wrote to the Prime Minister with 15 common sense questions on behalf of millions of Australians. To this day, I’ve still not received a response from the Prime Minister and the list of questions has grown day-by-day. Reasonable Australians, who may even be inclined to vote for the Referendum, including in the latest polling – 29 per cent of Labor voters who have indicated that they are voting ‘no’ – they’re asking their Prime Minister to provide answers to their basic questions. There’s been no constitutional convention – quite deliberately. The Australian public has been starved of the opportunity to contest ideas in this space.
We had the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Linda Burney at the Press Club during the week. She was asked a series of questions; no coherent answers. She outlined priorities around health, around jobs, around education – they’re all important priorities and we all share those priorities – but the problem is, it’s not reflected in the words being put to the Australian people. It’s not confined to those issues, and anybody that believes that Thomas Mayo – as one of the 24 people hand-selected by the Prime Minister to represent the Voice – is going to confine himself to those four priority areas, is kidding themselves. The system of government as we know it now, our system of democracy, changes dramatically. That is an accepted reality.
So today, I wanted to say thank you to you, and I wanted to say thank you to the Australian people for the way in which you’ve engaged respectfully in this debate. So have we. We’ve asked reasonable questions, we’ve been howled down when we’ve done so. We’ve been called all sorts of names from the Labor Prime Minister, Labor Ministers, activists within the space, but we’ve not responded in-kind – and I want this to be a civil debate in the run up to October – but I want the Australian public to have a proper understanding of the path the Prime Minister has us on.
We’re proposing a path of unity. That is first achieved by the Prime Minister stepping back from what he sees as his moment in history, and it’s an opportunity to recognise Indigenous Australians in our Constitution – for which I believe there would be 70, 80, 90 per cent support from the Australian public – that is the unifying moment this October.
We can listen respectfully, but more importantly act on the advice that we receive from those women, those men, the elders within Indigenous communities and provide support around the key areas. We can do that in legislation tomorrow. The Prime Minister has the capacity to do that, but now is time for the Prime Minister to reconsider his position, because the Prime Minister says to the Australian public that this will set back the cause of reconciliation if the ‘no’ vote is successful; that it will tarnish our international reputation and yet knowingly, the path that he has us on, where there will be, in my judgement, the judgement of pollsters and experts around the country, a no outcome; if he has us on that pathway with the outcomes that he predicts, it’s incumbent on him as a Leader of our country, to act in the national interest, and that action is first evidenced by him stepping back from the divisive path that he’s on at the moment.
Now, there are corporate Australians and there are sports stars and there are elites in capital cities, Green supporters, all of the moralising that’s going on at the moment, but I just say to the Australian people that this is a decision for you to make. Don’t be influenced by somebody even for whom you have great respect as a sporting champion in football, or cricket, or whatever it might be. Don’t be influenced by somebody who’s on a multi-million dollar package, who is the CEO of a publicly listed company, whose life is far removed from yours at the moment.
The biggest issue for the Australian public at the moment is the cost of living crisis. The economic experiment of the Labor Party is failing. It’s hurting Australian businesses and we’re going to see a spike in unemployment. We’re already seeing – through the course of two budgets now – decisions that have been made which will make it harder, not easier, for the Australian public.
People’s after tax dollars are dwindling quickly because of the influence of their energy policy and because of decisions that they’ve made which have forced up, not driven down the price of electricity – which is why Ted and I, and many of our frontbench and backbench colleagues are wanting to have the conversation about nuclear energy in our country because it’s in our country’s best interests.
The Prime Minister can shout down Australians, whether it’s over the Voice, whether it’s over economic policy, whether it’s over energy policy, but he’s not going to silence Australians and our Party is more united than ever for the reasons I outlined earlier. This is a marathon that we’re on at the moment, but we will be successful at the next federal election.
It’s hard for people to have imagined 12 months ago, but that is the path that we are on now. There’s a lot of hard work ahead of us, but with your support, with the wonderful character of people in this room, the sacrifice that you make from family time, from time with your business and your causes otherwise, you’re here because you believe in our state, in our country, and I’m truly appreciative for that work. If we continue to be unified, we continue to work together, then we will be successful and successful we must be at the next election.
So, thank you to all of my team, but most importantly, thank you to you, and thank you to all Australians who are providing significant encouragement to us at the moment as we continue what is a very important pathway for our country.
As I said in my opening remarks, this is the most important vote that Australians will cast in their lifetime. We have the opportunity to protect the institutions and to protect the values and the certainty of our democracy, of our system of government. That is what is on display over the course of the next few months. I welcome you to be part of that debate, to be part of that fight, to be part of that cause, because ultimately we live in the greatest country in the world, and it’s because of men and women and other Australians just like you.
Thank you very much.