24 June 2017
Speech - #2017016, 2017

‘On their side’ Address to the Liberal Party of Australia Federal Council, Sydney

Check against delivery

Politics across the globe has been turned on its head.

In election after election we have seen conventional politics left standing at the polls.

Entrenched cynicism. Widespread disconnection. Broad based economic frustration and disempowerment.

Distrust of whether the system is working for them.

Our election victory last year, led by our Prime Minister, was achieved against these strong global political headwinds for incumbent Governments - an environment where the electorate is rewriting the political rules, rightly in their favour.

As a Government, as a Party, this is the new reality that we must face and embrace.

It means we cannot slavishly follow past political orthodoxies, simply because they worked before. The political and economic times have changed.

As a Government, as a Party, and consistent with our principles and values, we must lead and govern for the times we are in.

The times we face today are different to when we were last in Government. They have been framed by the tectonic global economic shifts of the past decade and what we have inherited.

Globalisation and technology has transformed the economic landscape - positively and negatively for Australians.

In Australia, the end of the mining investment boom has seen mining investment halve as a share of our economy, while our terms of trade fell by thirty per cent, punishing incomes.

The post-GFC world is one where growth has been hard won or non existent. Businesses have survived rather than thrived and wage earners have only had modest growth in their incomes.

In the three years to September last year, corporate profits in the National Accounts fell by 0.8 per cent on average every year, wages increased by just 2.8 per cent and inflation was running at 1.6 percent

This compares to ten years ago when profits rose on average by almost 12 per cent, wages increased by 7.4 percent and inflation was at 2.6 percent.

Before the GFC, despite the fact that living costs were actually rising quicker, wages and incomes were growing even faster.

When we are earning more we will always feel more in control of our own futures.

The fall in earnings post the GFC has made people feel more vulnerable to the many forces beyond their control.

It has also made them more acutely aware of the essential services they rely on, like Medicare, the PBS, schools funding and income support.

For many Australians, frustration with business as usual has led some to turn to protectionism - despite the fact that trade, foreign investment and immigration have been the prime drivers of Australia’s prosperity since John Macarthur bought some sheep.

It is our job to give these Australians hope. To assure them that they have not been forgotten, just as our Party’s founder did for a similar group of hardworking Australians seventy five years ago.

And to demonstrate that the principles, policies and solutions we hold as a Liberal Party can make the difference they are seeking for their lives, their families and their communities.

The twist for today’s forgotten people, though, is they have also chosen to forget us, the political class, making them much harder to reach.

Australians have collectively reached for the remote and turned down the volume on Canberra’s noise, which includes more than just politicians. The media are similarly ignored.

They are giving up on politics holding any value for them because too often, it is simply not relevant for them.

After ten years of political brawling, Australians are fed up with the “politics-as-usual” approach.

This means that outside the bubble of Canberra, it is increasingly not about the conflict of partisanship.

These are old political fights and battle lines that hold little if no interest to everyday Australians.

Australians have their own tribes, which usually have nothing to do with politics. And their views do not always fit neatly into our partisan boxes, and nor do they care.

The public is demanding to be better heard, better understood and to ensure we focus on what matters to them, not us. And above all they want results.

The challenge for us as Liberals is to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer about convincing Australians to be on our side, but to convince Australians that we are on theirs.

To crack through this thick ice, we must communicate candidly and with authenticity. And we must answer with our actions the questions that Australians are asking: “Do you get it?” “Are you on my side”

Our answer in this year’s Budget was “Yes”.

This year’s Budget began by acknowledging the impact of the changes taking place in our economy for many Australians.

That not all Australians had shared in our hard won growth. That small business owners had gone without to keep their businesses open and Australians in jobs.

That it’s been a fair while since most hardworking Australians have had a decent pay rise.

Importantly, we acknowledged this has put real pressure on Australian families, and for some, has even meant those families breaking apart.

And there is nothing more important to Liberals than the family.

In the Budget we set out to directly confront the claim and concern about whether our Government could be relied upon when it came to essential public services that Australians rely on, and we answered that call with an emphatic yes.

At a time of low wages growth and acute sensitivity to essential public services, we acted to guarantee Medicare and increase public school funding, both successfully legislated this past fortnight, and fully fund the NDIS.

And we did not do it at the expense of the Government living within its means, or our liberal values.

We pragmatically accepted the reality of $14.7 billion in savings measures that would not pass the parliament and found another way through, to retain the path back to budget balance, retain our AAA credit rating and keep expenditure growth at just under 2%.

And our pro growth agenda to create more and better paid jobs was not compromised, pressing ahead with our plan to reduce business taxes to support investment and initiate a new nation building infrastructure programme.

And we showed no fear of vested interests that sometimes assume falsely and without basis that they are untouchables. The large Banks and multinationals are not a Coalition-protected species.

As Liberals, no one group, no blind ideological allegiance, can be put above our duty to do the right thing for all Australians.

Our practical pursuit of a solution to the ongoing energy policy challenge is a further example of our dogged determination to get things done, as per the wishes of the public.

For an entire decade, “politics as usual” on energy policy, driven by stubborn ideology - whether a pathological fear of coal or a reluctance to accept the practical need to develop energy storage capacity and renewables - has failed to provide the one thing that Australian households and businesses need the most - Certainty.

Certainty that encourages businesses to invest, to increase the reliability and dispatchability of energy that will put downward pressure on power prices.

The Turnbull Government is doing and will do whatever needs to be done - free of ideology, agnostic to technology - to help households who only last week were reminded by their energy retailer that prices were set to soar upwards of 20 per cent.

But there is so much more to be done.

We must continue to assure Australians that we have their back, for whatever is coming their way.

We will not get a leave pass from the Australian people for failing to constantly connect with them and their concerns, just because we have been a competent government with a good record of achievement. Which we have.

Growth in debt has been reduced by two thirds. Growth in expenditure has been reduced to the lowest level of any government in the past fifty years. 230,000 jobs have been created in the last twelve months alone. The budget remains on a steady and responsible path back to balance. Tax cuts have been delivered for wage earners and small and medium sized businesses. And we now have the toughest anti tax avoidance rules for multinationals anywhere in the world.

And nor can we rely on the fact that the other mob would be a disaster, despite the fact they would be.

From debt to boats and home insulation scandals to over priced school halls, Labor were a write-off as a government - and would be again.

In the UK Election, Theresa May’s team and the vast majority of the UK media were brutal in their assessment and warnings against Jeremy Corbyn.

Yet UK voters didn’t care and turned out in larger numbers and voted for him.

Like President Trump, Corbyn took on the role of the authentic outsider; challenging a system that many voters did not think was serving them any longer.

But there is no joy in this for Bill Shorten and Labor. Just being the opposition is not enough to qualify Labor as an authentic alternative.

Bill Shorten is no political outsider. Nor is he defined by his authenticity. It’s no Coincidence his initials are BS.

Bill Shorten is not feeling Australians’ pain, he is seeking only to cynically exploit it.

Under Bill Shorten, Labor is the choice of the same old self interested politics - vested interests, special deals, protecting the big unions and their big deals with big business that work against workers, machine politics, Shanghai Sam, John Setka and the CFMEU.

The challenge for us is not so much to differentiate ourselves from Labor, but to differentiate ourselves from being the Party of ‘politics as usual’, which Labor represents.

This year’s Budget demonstrated that the Turnbull Government was on the side of Australians, on the issues that matter to them.

On the side of the small family owned & operated businesses who keep this country running.

On the side of the family with a disabled child who will now get the certainty they deserve from a fully funded NDIS.

On the side of parents and children in public and Non-Government schools alike who will now finally get increased and needs based funding.

On the side of the workers who will get jobs from our $75 billion infrastructure program.

On the side of young Australian families doing everything they can to save to buy their first home.

On the side of Australians who are under pressure because of rising power bills.

On the side of senior Australians who rely on the PBS and our Medicare guarantee.

On the side of the taxpayers who go to work every day to pay for our welfare system.

And on the side of all Australians who look to us to keep them safe in a dangerous world.

Our message to them is simple - in standing for your fairness, your opportunity and your security - The Turnbull Government is on your side and will remain on your side.