Speech by The Hon John Howard MP

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Thank you very much Kerry for that very warm introduction. Geoff Selig, the State President, Graham Jaeschke and Barry O'Farrell the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales who is already doing a very, very fine job in taking the fight up to the Iemma Government and can I say how much I echo the remarks of Kerry Bartlett. If you want a glimpse of what federal Labor would be like in western Sydney have a look at what state Labor is like in western Sydney.

My friends, I want to come here and say to all of you who've been such wonderful and loyal supporters of the Party and of me and of our federal team over a long period of time that in the next few months we do face a tremendous fight in order to retain office. But it is a fight that we can enter with enormous conviction and enormous confidence and we don't enter it with enormous confidence and enormous conviction merely on the basis of what we have achieved over the last 11-and-a-half years. We are entitled to look back over the last 11-and-a-half years and point to a remarkable record. We are entitled to look at the strengthening of the economy, we're entitled to look at the increase in living standards, we're entitled to look at the fall in unemployment, we're entitled to look at the fall in interest rates. But all of that belongs to the last 11-and-a-half years. The reason why I will say to the people of western Sydney and the reason why I will say to the pe ople of Australia that they should elect the Coalition at the end of this year is that the Coalition can offer the Australian people a better future and I want in my few moments available this morning to examine some of the areas where I believe the future that we offer the Australian people is brighter and better than that offered by the Australian Labor Party.

The foundation of any future for any country has to be of course the strength and the vitality of its economy and this is an area where nothing that I have heard from the Labor Party would indicate that it can offer the Australian people a better and brighter future than we can. Labor's principal economic alternative policy is in fact to roll back one of the great areas of economic reform that this government has undertaken in the last 11-and-a-half years. If a future Labor government rolls back the workplace relations reforms of this government that will do immense damage to the Australian economy and that's not a mere flight of rhetoric, it is a statement of reality. If you bring back the unfair dismissal laws you will slow the growth in jobs. You will stifle the enterprise of a lot of small businesses. You will be rolling back for the first time in a generation a major economic reform. You'll be saying to the Australian community as well as to the rest of th e world that this country has lost its stomach for economic reform. That to me does not constitute a brighter future than the one that we offer. We've heard a great deal about the affordability of housing. We all know that buying the first home is the most difficult purchase that most people undertake in their lives. It has long been the case, it's not something that has suddenly arrived in the last couple of years. It has long been the case that assembling the deposit and raising the money to buy your first home is an enormous challenge. That challenge of course would be made infinitely greater if interest rates were to go up.

We hear a lot of debate about interest rates in the Australian community. Let me remind you that over the last 11-and-a-half years housing interest rates have averaged about 7 and three quarters per cent. They averaged a full five percentage points more in the 13 years of Labor government and they reached a height of 17 per cent in 1989. Does anybody imagine that a brighter future of higher interest rates under a Labor government would be a recipe for a better future for the Australian people, for the Australian home buyer? I can think of nothing more calculated to make housing affordability more difficult in the future than a significant rise in interest rates and you might ask that what's the evidence that interest rates would be higher under a Labor government than under a Coalition government? Well there are two pieces of evidence. The first piece of evidence is they're always been higher in the past and that's a pretty good piece of evidence. I mean, 12-an d-a-half, 12-and-three-quarter per cent versus 7-and-three-quarter per cent. According the maths I learnt at Earlwood Public School that's higher, not lower. Now that's the first thing, piece of evidence. The second piece of evidence is that Labor's industrial relations policy would increase inflationary, I'm sorry, would increase wage pressures and therefore inflationary pressures which would lead to higher interest rates because Labor will take you back a centralised wage fixing system.

At the moment we have the best of both worlds. We have those sectors of the economy which can afford to pay higher wages, like the mining industry paying higher wages, but those higher wages because we don't have a centralised wage fixing system don't flow through to the rest of the economy and exert upward pressure on wages in areas of the economy where those higher wages cannot be afforded and that is the reason why we have this modern miracle of rising real incomes yet low inflation and relatively low interest rates. But that would disappear under a Labor government and when I argue they will always be higher under Labor than under us I am supported by the past and I'm also supported by a future projection of the impact of their alternative industrial relations policy because if you force unaffordable wage increase on firms there are two outcomes. One outcome is that employment growth slows and unemployment rises and the second outcome is that there is gener al upward pressure on wages and that leads to higher inflation which in turn produces higher interest rates. So it is no empty rhetorical gesture when I say to you that interest rates would be higher under a Labor government than under a Coalition government.

And the second area where I believe this government offers the Australian people a better and a brighter future is in the crucial area of national security and defence. The Labor Party only believes in spending a decent amount of money on defence when it is in Opposition leading up to an election. The Labor Party has never really believed in high levels of defence expenditure. We inherited in 1996 a defence force that was not run down in morale because the morale of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force is always truly magnificent, but we inherited a defence force that had been badly neglected by the previous government, so badly so that I said to the Treasurer and the Finance Minister in 1996 the one area that they had to put a circle around and they couldn't touch for expenditure reductions was the area of defence and I'm very proud of the fact that in the 11-and-a-half years we have been in government, in 11-and-a-half years we have lifted defenc e expenditure by 48 per cent in real terms, that's 48 per cent over and above the level of inflation and with the capital acquisitions that we have planned we are now in a stronger and a better position than we've ever been to fulfil the goals and the responsibilities of our defence forces. The defence, obviously of continental Australia, partnership with our coalition allies in various operations around the world and importantly a leadership role in stabilising the region in which we live.

In the area of national security Mr Rudd of course poses as somebody who always supports what the Government is doing to tighten security and to deal with potential terrorist threats, although you get the impression sometimes that he's playing a double game. He's out there saying I support the Government but he's got some of his underlings out there like the Queensland Premier trying to undermine what the Government is doing and I haven't forgotten that in 2005, the last major revamp of the security laws of this country, when they were introduced Mr Rudd said the purpose of the Government introducing these laws was to divert attention from the political difficulties it was suffering at the time in relation to the sale of the final tranche of Telstra and I also haven't forgotten and I know Philip Ruddock hasn't forgotten that the Labor Party is still pledged to repeal the new sedition laws which make it a criminal offence to incite many acts of violence by terro rist organisations. So you often have to look below the surface when you come to Mr Rudd's declarations regarding his total support for everything that this government has done in relation to national security.

In a third area that's so important to people in western Sydney and people all around Australia and that is the job prospects of the young, the job prospects of their children, we also offer a better and a brighter future. We have of course had a stunning degree of success in reducing unemployment. Kerry spoke of the reduction in unemployment in the electorate of Macquarie. In the electorate of Greenway unemployment has fallen from 8.8 per cent in 1996 to 4.5 per cent now in 2007. In the last year the long term unemployment rate in Australia, that's the people who've been trying to get a job for more than a year, the long term unemployment rate has fallen by 28 per cent. Now that is a remarkable achievement. Is Mr Rudd seriously suggesting that bringing back the unfair dismissal laws is going to accelerate further the fall in the long term unemployment rate? Because one of the reasons why long term unemployment has fallen so sharply over the last year is that m any small firms emboldened into taking on more staff have in fact given the hope of a job to many people who've been struggling for more than a year or two in order to find work.

If I could move to a fourth area, the area of health, now this is an area where the Labor Party's always said it could do better than us. Always, they take it for granted that the public regards them as better on health than the Coalition, but the facts and the experience suggest otherwise and they suggest that Labor would not offer a brighter future in relation to health. Labor is still committed to repealing the Medicare safety net. Labor's commitments to retain the tax subsidy for private health insurance must be taken at a very heavy discount. One of the very first things that the Leader of the Opposition did when he entered federal Parliament after the 1998 election was to vote against the introduction of the 30 per cent rebate for private health insurance because that was part of the election commitment we took in 1998 and it was only the vote of Senator Brian Harradine in the Senate that secured the passage of the 30 per cent private health insurance reb ate. So therefore anybody in western Sydney who seriously wants to retain their private health insurance and who wants to keep that 30 per cent rebate, don't trust Mr Rudd. Don't trust the Australian Labor Party, they have never believed in private health insurance, they don't believe in that great partnership between the public and the private which is so important to the health of Australians that they should not be believed. In a very, very fundamental area to western Sydney and indeed to all Australians, let me move to bulk billing for medical consultations. Only a few years ago the Labor Party was saying that there was a crisis in bulk billing in this country. Let me remind you that the national bulk billing rate, that's the rate across Australia in 1996 was 71.1 per cent, it is now 77.4 per cent. In other words in this most basic of areas relevant to the maintenance and the success of Medicare, this Government has been more successful in helping and strengthening Medic are than was the Australian Labor Party. And can I tell you that the bulk billing rate in the electorate of Lindsay is 91.6 per cent, 91.6 and in the electorate of Greenway not to be outdone it is 96.3 per cent. Now is Mr Rudd, is anybody in the Labor Party seriously suggesting that they can offer a better and brighter level of bulk billing than has the Coalition?

And the final area I want to touch on is the area of climate change and this is an area where we offer a better and a brighter future for the Australian people because we will do it in a way that is balanced, we will do it in a way that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions but not at the cost of jobs or at the cost of a reduction in economic growth and economic output and we'll also do it in a way that puts on the table every alternative energy source. You cannot have a sensible debate about Australian's climate change future without admitting that the possibility that over time nuclear power will become a source of base load power generation. It is unrealistic of anybody to pretend otherwise and what we offer is a balance. We offer the introduction of an emissions trading scheme that will be suitable for Australia's conditions. We will not be part of an system imposed on this country by an approach that is essentially Eurocentric and does not take full account of the fundamental differences between an economy such as Australia which depends very, very heavily on the resource sector both for energy consumption and also for its exports and countries around the world that have a vastly different economic structure.

I've chosen those five areas my friends to make the point that we on this side of politics offer a much brighter and better future than do our opponents and this election is overwhelmingly about which Party can offer the better and the brighter future. Much and all as we are proud of our record, much and all as we are entitled to point to the progress that this country has made over the last 11-and-a-half years, politics has got nothing to do with entitlement. Every election represents an application by a political party for another job and in presenting your job application you're entitled to present your resume and our resume is strong, our resume is something of which we can be proud but it is nonetheless a resume and what really matters is the crucial question, which side of politics can better guarantee our economic prosperity, our economic growth? Mr Rudd talks about the end of the mining boom, I talk about the continuation of the mining boom. Mr Rudd tal ks about winding back economic reform, I talk about maintaining economy reform. I talk about, or rather Mr Rudd talks about an approach to employment that doesn't respect the contribution of small business to employment growth, I talk about a future Australian economy where the continued growth of the small business community is central to the maintenance of our economic expansion.

Mr Rudd will lead a Cabinet 70 per cent of whose members are former trade union officials, I talk about an Australian society where the union movement like any other gathering of people is entitled to an honoured place but not a monopoly of power. There is some grievous contradiction in a situation where at time when only 15 per cent of the private sector workforce in this country belongs to trade union movement, yet 70 per cent of the members of a Rudd Labor Cabinet would be former trade union officials. There is something wrong not only because of that comparison, but because of the recognition that there are now more self-employed Australians than there are members of trade unions. Ours is a society that has changed dramatically over the last 30 or 40 years and the representation in parliament and the representation in Cabinet has got to reflect that change. Where are the small business men and women in the Australian Labor Party? Where are the people other than trade union officials? Where are the people who represent the broader aspects of the Australian community?

I am intensely proud of the broad mix of people - people like Louise Markus who had a background as a social worker, somebody like Jackie Kelly who had a background as a legal officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, Kerry Bartlett who was a school teacher and somebody who had a strong background in economics. The last election brought in policemen, it even brought in a bloke in Tasmania who had been both a policeman and a funeral director, albeit at different times. It brought in a few medical practitioners, it brought in people out of business, but wave after wave of those coming into the Parliamentary Labor Party now have only one distinguishing feature, and it's the same distinguishing feature, and that is they've had a career as a trade union official. It's okay to have 10 per cent, even 20 or 30 per cent, but 70 per cent of your Cabinet who've been trade union officials speaks to me of an unrepresentative group of people, and if you are unrepresentative you can't represent the entirety of the Australian community.

And finally can I say that you should observe very carefully the behaviour of my opponent, because often it's not quite how it appears. Often the case is that we make an announcement which is clearly in the public interest and the Leader of the Opposition immediately says ‘I agree with that and I think Mr Howard is right' and people say ‘that's good, we should have a positive and not a negative Opposition'. But then things start to change, then others in the Labor Party start to go out and start to run interference on the policy, they start to undermine it, they start to attack it and that's what happens when you have Labor governments everywhere, they can have it both ways. Now let me give you two illustrations, when we announced our National Plan for Water Security, Mr Rudd said I support that, but within a few days three of his senior shadow ministers were attacking the plan. One of them said it hadn't been properly costed, it had been. Another s aid it hadn't been properly debated inside the Government, it had been, and another offered other criticisms of it which were invalid. So in other words you covered both the bases. Now I thought well that's a bit odd but I wasn't totally convinced that my cynicism was justified and we then moved onto the intervention in the Northern Territory which history will probably record as the most significantly beneficial thing that's been done for the indigenous people of this country in the last 30 years.

As soon as I announced that Mr Rudd said ‘oh that's a good idea, I support that'. I said that's good, but I thought yes... and I was justified in saying yes... because within two days of my making that announcement, or three days, the Western Australian Premier goes on the Today program and he said this is outrageous, it's another Tampa. In other words, Mr Rudd had got the Western Australian Premier to go out there and say the exact opposite of what he'd been trying to communicate to the Australian people and a few days afterwards the Premier of South Australia Mike Rann went on television and he said oh look this is all shock and awe, which was a clear reference to the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Well I would say to both of them, and I would say to the three of them, if you are genuine about supporting what the Federal Government is trying to do in the Northern Territory, don't play a cynical double game like that, because it doesn't pers uade the Australian people and to make matters worse Alan Carpenter, the Premier of Western Australia having said I was engaged in another Tampa, last week his Acting Premier wrote to Mal Brough asking for, would you believe, Federal Police to go into Western Australia to help with law and order and criminal investigations in Aboriginal communities. I mean one week it's another Tampa, the next week they are pleading with the Federal Government to provide Federal Police to go into Western Australia. Well I not only nail the hypocrisy and contradiction in that, but I make the observation, in heaven's name, what is the Western Australian Government doing asking the Federal Government for Federal Police to help with community policing? No state government worth its salt can claim to be doing a good job unless it's providing basic law and order for its community. A state government asking for police help of the Federal Government is like me asking Morris Iemma to give me some sol diers. I mean it is an absurd proposition and yet that is what we are being treated to.

But my friends, we have a fight ahead of us but it's we are fight we are going to win. It's a fight my friends that can massively be contributed to victory here in New South Wales. I am well pleased with the state of campaign preparation here in New South Wales. The Federal Director had a lengthy meeting with Graham during the week and he reported to me that the state of preparation on the ground here in New South Wales is in advance of what it was in both 2001 and 2004. Now I am greatly encouraged by that because if we can hold our seats in New South Wales and I mean also in saying holding our seats in New South Wales, holding the seat of Macquarie. If we can do that, then we can deny the Labor Party the victory they so earnestly desire and are working so hard to achieve. New South Wales is a crucial state for the maintenance of the Coalition Government. We hold more Liberal seats in New South Wales than this party has held at any time since its formation in 1 944. Federally the Liberal Party has never done as well in New South Wales as it has done over the last two elections. Now that is a great record, but it's also an enormous challenge and could I say to all of you, and this may be the last State Council Meeting before the election I don't know... because you haven't told me when the next meeting is.

But whether it is, or whether it's not, the challenge will be the same. It's a challenge to preserve and to consolidate all of what we have gained over the last 11-and-a-half years, but more importantly this is not an issue of entitlement, this is about us offering ourselves to the Australian people again on the basis that we can give them a better and a brighter future than can our opponents. No political party has a right to say to the Australian public, you know we deserve to be re-elected. No political party deserves to be re-elected or elected. No political party has any right to claim political or public entitlement. We all have to apply again to our employers and to our political masters, the Australian people, and in applying again to my political masters the Australian people I will be saying one very simple thing, that on the basis of what we have done, on the basis of what we offer, on the basis of the damage that the alternative will do, we can give the Australian people a better and a brighter future than can the Australian Labor Party. Thank you.
I long for the day that a politician brags about having lifted expenditure by 48 per cent in real terms ("that's 48 per cent over and above the level of inflation" in case you were wondering) on the areas of health and education, rather than defence. That applies to either party.

Still fear mongering on interest rates and national security I see.

And then this

"we then moved onto the intervention in the Northern Territory which history will probably record as the most significantly beneficial thing that's been done for the indigenous people of this country in the last 30 years."

I would have thought an apology would have been a pretty good start. Anyway he's certainly giving himself a big wrap over something that could quite easily blow up in his face.

Nothing new in this, typical party politics rhetoric. I especially like how he is now the self appointed champion of climate change, whereas 6 months ago it didn't exist.
"Howard had the highest interest rates in Australian history - 21% bank rates in 1982. What did he leave? He gave us a huge recession and 11% inflation. We had interest rates peaking at 18 per cent but we came out of it with 1 per cent inflation"

Theres some stats he missed in his speach, forgot about when he was treasurer
Team P W L PD Pts
9 8 1 116 18
9 7 2 72 16
9 7 2 49 16
11 7 4 59 14
9 6 3 57 14
10 6 4 -10 14
10 6 4 115 12
10 5 5 -56 12
11 5 5 30 11
10 4 6 15 10
10 5 5 -13 10
10 4 6 -18 8
9 3 6 -71 8
10 3 6 -9 7
9 2 7 -69 6
9 2 7 -87 6
9 1 8 -180 4
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