Address to the 158th Liberal Victoria State Council

Fellow Liberals, coming to Victoria, the birthplace of our great party is always special and inspirational – the State that has given us Menzies and Bolte, and Costello and Kennett.

And today, the State in which the Napthine Government is setting the example for sound economic management, law and order, and building the infrastructure so desperately needed for the 21st century.

Fellow Liberals, your 158th State Council provides an opportunity to report to you, to you the membership on the achievements to date of your Federal Government.

 Any achievements to date would not have been possible but for the membership of our great party, now in its 70th year.

And your efforts right here in Victoria, which saw the election of Michael Sukkar and Sarah Henderson and the re-election of Jason Wood.  They are doing you proud in Canberra.

Now, as in any battle regrettably, there are the casualties.  I salute the efforts of the fine candidates, some of whom threw absolutely everything into their campaigns yet did not win.

And in taking the fight up to Labor, we have no better exemplar than Sophie Mirabella.  Her loss is keenly felt.

And our Government Whip in the Senate, Helen Kroger with whom I work on basically an hourly basis whilst the Parliament is sitting, will be sorely missed.

Tony Smith, your Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters might have to suggest something in relation to the way we elect our Senators.

But I trust that Helen and Sophie will have a lot more to offer our great party in the years ahead.

Friends, if you do want a snapshot on the achievements of our Government, can I suggest you just have a look at your own Victorian representatives in the executive?

Victoria has not only supplied a very able group of representatives to the executive, each one of them is committed to public service and has an innate appreciation of our motivating ethos.

First, my long-time friend and your senior Victorian – and I understand he gets that title by rank as opposed to age – Kevin Andrews.

He controls one third of the Federal Budget.  He protects our families and is driving fundamental welfare reform in line with the injunctions enunciated by Robert Menzies, when he noted in the We Believe document that fundamental to our belief system as Liberals is that “rights connotes duties” and that as Liberals, we do “believe in social justice”.

And it is the same framework which motivates Kevin’s Assistant Minister, Senator Fifield, with his responsibility in disabilities and aged care.

And as an aside can I say he is a fantastic Manager of Government Business and a vital part of the leadership group that meets every morning in the Prime Minister’s office, when the Parliament is sitting.

And how relentless has your Andrew Robb been in his pursuit of expanding trade opportunities for our country, which of course means more jobs.  What Labor couldn’t achieve in six years, Andrew Robb has achieved in six months.  His efforts have rightly been described as ‘a game changer’.

And Greg, thanks for that introduction.  But can I say of Greg, he is at the epicentre of rebooting our economy by getting the approvals process operating again, overseeing literally hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars’ worth of projects – four hundred in fact in total worth of projects are now being given the green light.

Under Labor, when projects were given the green light, it meant stop.  Under Greg Hunt, it means go.  And we need it.

And we’re not only looking after the big projects either.  Bruce Billson is championing the engine room of jobs growth – small business.  I doubt anyone has been as passionate, dedicated and laser-like in their approach to freeing up small business.  It’s been my pleasure to work with Bruce in that regard in the employment space.

But it’s not only in the business area in which we are concentrating as a government.  Senator Ronaldson has taken on the sensitive cause of the veteran community and fix some outstanding long term pension issues.  He’s preparing us for the centenary of ANZAC whilst looking after the administrative side of the government.  If only the AEC was as competent as its Minister.

And if all those achievers and achievements wasn’t enough, you’ve of course got your up and comers in the Government.

A couple of Parliamentary Secretaries to the Prime Minister, one charged with red tape reduction, 50 000 pages’ worth of it, $700 million worth of savings per annum to the business and non-profit sectors in our community.  And Alan Tudge: doing such a fantastic job in getting genuine justice for our Indigenous community.

And of course, the best all-rounder in the Senate, the Parliamentary Secretary charged with keeping our youth and education system on the right track, Senator Scott Ryan.  A better educated next generation will be a truly nation-building achievement.

So in short, can I say a pretty strong scorecard of achievers and achievements by any measure and all this, just from the Victorian Division?

Can I assure you delegates, that we all from the Prime Minister down consider it a great privilege to serve our nation in the Federal Parliament and the Government?

We fully recognise all this would never be possible but for the selfless support that you the membership and the thousands like you right around our Commonwealth extend to us.

So to you, Mr President, Tony Snell and congratulations on your re-election unopposed, and to your executive, thank you for the efforts and those of your executive for your willingness to serve.

Delegates, your Victorian representatives on the federal executive make a substantial contribution.

And whilst they act in the best interests of our party nationally, Alan Stockdale our Federal President and two of the four Vice Presidents, Tom Harley and Richard Alston are all wonderful stewards of our party’s interests.

And can I also note Danielle Blain’s presence here today?

To see the quality of our former parliamentarians serving as volunteers in our party is inspirational.

Can I also congratulate the efforts of the professional arm of the party and in particular, Federal Director Brian Loughnane and his staff, and State Director Damian Mantach and his staff?

Now, to my colleagues in the State Parliamentary Party, yesterday I was at a council meeting with Gordon Rich-Phillips and a scary thought came across my mind: ‘What if things went wrong in November?’

Delegates, we simply cannot let that happen.  Not only do you have a good government here in Victoria, we in Canberra are in lockstep with it – especially when it comes to infrastructure, like the East-West Link.

And then you have a look at what Labor does with infrastructure – just have a look at the desalination plant in Wonthaggi and the NBN.

Might I also say we’re also in lockstep with our state colleagues with our commitment to stop the criminality, the thuggery, the intimidation and the ugliness of the union known as the CFMEU?

A union which has a history of breaking businesses, of breaking court orders, and I understand sometimes even breaking bones; a union whose ugly behaviour has no place in the civilised society of the 21st century.

Yet this very union finds itself being duchessed and supported by the Labor leader in this State, a Labor leader who cannot but be fully aware of the horror story that is the CFMEU in Victoria.

Yet he shepherds them into his personal Labor faction and into the Labor Party.

There’s that old saying: ‘You can judge a man by the company that he keeps’.

And I invite every man and woman in Victoria to judge the Labor leader by the company he not only keeps but actively sought out.

That of itself should disqualify the Labor leader from ever becoming Victoria’s Premier.

And from my perspective, ministerial council meetings on workplace relations would not be enhanced, to put it mildly, by a CFMEU representative posing as a Victorian Government representative.

So let’s be clear.  We don’t just want a Liberal Government in Victoria in November – we actually need it and desperately need it.

So be assured that your federal colleagues will do everything we possibly can to ensure that the Napthine Government is re-elected in November.  It’s not only in Victoria’s interests, it is in fact within the national interest that we achieve that result.

Now friends, we went to the last federal election with a pledge that the Coalition would deliver real change, that Australia could once again have a government it could trust, that Australia would once again be open for business.

After six years of division and dysfunction, Australians wanted a strong and united government that had a plan to build a strong, prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia.

That’s why we went to that election with policies to scrap the carbon tax, to scrap the mining tax, to end the waste, to get the budget back under control, to build the infrastructure of the 21st century, and to stop the boats.

Can I just pause there and simply say that in relation to stopping the boats that is in fact a cause for which all Liberals can be very proud (we’re not saying that we’ve stopped them yet). Make no mistake, there is no sense of social justice in my framework that says that one should give priority to those that bypass safe haven after safe haven and then pay criminals to get them to the front of the queue, thus displacing those that have neither the financial capacity nor the moral will to engage criminals.

And I simply say that the sort of vilification that Scott Morrison has had heaped upon him by certain elements is simply unfair, unjust and when you look at the situation, it is in fact Scott Morrison that is standing up on the right side, the correct side and the just side of that debate.

Ladies and gentlemen, for seven months we have been working purposefully, carefully and methodically to put in place our policies to help families by reducing their cost of living pressures, improving job security and delivering better services.

Now whilst we’re delivering on our plan, it’s clear that Labor has not changed.  They’re still talking about themselves, obsessing about their conflicts and they haven’t changed their policies.

Once upon a time, the representatives of the supposed party of the workers used to concern themselves with serious things: dignity of work, opportunity for battlers, to mention two.

These days, judging from what they write about themselves, they seem more concerned about whether they get the upgrades, whether they get to first class, or indeed, subtitles in their German opera videos – something I wouldn’t need – and complimentary pyjamas from the airline.

And despite recording its lowest primary vote in one hundred years, Labor is still committed to the carbon tax – a tax that costs every Victorian family an average of $550 a year and the Australian economy $7.6 billion worth a year.

Labor is still committed to the mining tax.  It’s committed to debt and deficit.  Labor is still committed to its so-called border protection policies that resulted in 50 000 illegal arrivals and even more shamefully, 1 000 deaths at sea.

And despite its former National President being sentenced to five years’ jail for fraud, Labor is still blocking our legislation that would protect honest trade union members from dishonest trade union bosses.

And despite its favourite building union, the CFMEU last week being fined over $1 million for criminal conduct, Labor is still blocking our plan to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission that will clean up this industry, especially here in Victoria.

The Australian people did deliver an emphatic verdict on Labor’s policies on the 7th of September.  They did so again in Western Australia last weekend.  Yet still, Labor has not changed.  It is incapable of changing.

I read with some interest this week reports that Labor’s newest Senator, Joe Bullock from Western Australia thinks average ALP members are, in his word, ‘mad’.  He went onto say, ‘Labor should be interested in regular people.  The Labor Party hasn’t demonstrated that they are capable of being trusted to look after the interests of working people and their families’.

It’s not often that I would quote ALP members with approval, especially to Liberal Party State Councils.  But yes, I heartily endorse Senator-elect Bullock’s most insightful analysis.

Every day since the election, we have been seeking to deliver on our commitments that you helped campaign for.  In just seven months, we’ve passed the legislation through the House of Representatives scrapping the carbon and mining taxes, we’ve passed the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation, the Registered Organisations Commission legislation, we’ve got temporary protection visas up and where does it all get stopped and blocked and halted?  In the Senate, with the Green-Labor majority.

And so, can I tell you we will continue to fight hard for the policies on which we were elected to make Australia a better country, the nation that she can be.  So whilst the Green-Labor majority in the Senate continue to block us and as a result, the two together continue to falter in the polls, we will continue to deliver the sort of government that Australia deserves.

And I can report to you that every single one of your federal representatives is doing their very best to make our nation the place that she can be.

But can I say, we are guided by our playing captain coach, our Prime Minister, our leader who has welded us into the election winning outfit that we became and now the purposeful government we’ve become.  He is as comfortable on his pushbike as he is at the despatch box in Parliament, as he is serving in remote Aboriginal communities, as he is brushing shoulders on the world stage.

Your support of him is appreciated and might I add, very well placed.  It’s been my absolute privilege to represent him at your State Council as we prepare to fight with you for the re-election of the Napthine Government.


About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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