Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove’s Speech Opening The 45th Parliament

The Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, today officially opened the 45th Parliament, following the July double dissolution election.

Cosgrove

Ceremonies in the morning saw senators and members of the House of Representatives sworn in. The Senate President, Senator Stephen Parry, and the House Speaker, Tony Smith, were both re-elected unopposed.

At 3pm, the Governor-General summoned the House members to the Senate and delivered a 38-minute speech. By convention, the speech is written by the government and outlines its program for the new parliament.

It was Cosgrove’s first speech opening a new parliament. Last April, he delivered a short speech reconvening the 44th Parliament, following its prorogation.

The speech was followed by a 19-gun salute from the Australian Federation Guard.

  • Listen to Cosgrove’s speech (38m – transcript below)
  • Watch Cosgrove (38m)

Hansard transcript of Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove’s speech opening the 45th Parliament.

GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH

His Excellency the Governor-General entered the chamber and, being seated, with the President on his right hand, commanded that a message be sent to the House of Representatives intimating that His Excellency desired the attendance of honourable members in the Senate chamber.

Honourable members having come with their Speaker, His Excellency was pleased to deliver the following speech:

Honourable senators and members of the 45th Parliament of Australia.

Australians look to their members and senators to provide them with a parliament that works hard for them.

You come to this place with the honour of being elected by the people to serve as their voice, to represent their interests, in the great debates that will shape our nation’s destiny.

Electorates across the country have vested in you their trust to deal sensibly, responsibly and diligently with a multitude of policy choices important not only to how Australians live today but to what sort of society we bequeath to future generations.

In this 45th Parliament, my government will work constructively, cooperatively and creatively with each member and senator to focus on policy that improves the wellbeing, and secures the future, of all Australians, their families and their communities.

This will be a government that delivers.

Senators and members, you have a full agenda of work to complete over the coming three years.

My government is approaching this term with optimism and a strong resolve to deliver on its programs and on the investments promised.

The legislative program will deliver on both the economic plan and budget strategy that was put to the Australian people.

The economy

It is prudent that this parliament prepares for any significant shocks from the global economy by strengthening our economic resilience. Failure to prepare will leave our economy and our living standards vulnerable.

The government is committed to maintaining strong fiscal discipline, strengthening the balance sheet, and supporting policies that encourage jobs, growth and investment.

My government will continue to bring the budget back into balance by controlling expenditure growth and by strengthening economic growth. Considerable effort is needed to reduce spending growth.

My government, with the help of this parliament, will also ensure that Australia’s revenue base is secure, sustainable, efficient and fair.

The government will implement policies such as ensuring multinational companies pay the right amount of tax on what they earn in Australia; strengthening the Australian Taxation Office’s capacity to identify and crack down on tax avoidance by large corporates and high-wealth individuals; and better targeting tax concessions to make our superannuation system more sustainable.

My government is committed to its program of ensuring that all taxpayers—businesses and individuals—pay the right amount of tax.

Middle-income Australians are bearing a growing tax burden, which is why the government will prevent average full-time wage earners from moving into the second top tax bracket, by increasing the 32.5 per cent tax threshold from $80,000 to $87,000.

This will keep 500,000 Australians in the middle tax bracket for longer so they will not be penalised for working hard by paying more tax through a higher rate.

My government will support enterprise by reducing the company tax rate to 27.5 per cent for businesses with a turnover less than $10 million, before decreasing the tax rate on all companies to 25 per cent by 2026–27.

Consumer protection is a key element of my government’s agenda for the financial services sector, with a focus on lifting the professional standards of financial advisers, changes to life insurance remuneration structures, the review of the external dispute resolution framework, bolstering the powers and tools available to ASIC, and improving consumer credit protections.

My government will work with the 45th Parliament to achieve a strong budget position, and to ensure that funding is sustainable over the long term so the government can afford to provide the services Australians rely on every day, and so that future generations will also benefit from the same level of services.

National security

As you serve as a senator or member of this parliament, you uphold the values and freedoms that have been hard won by those who have made, and are still making, the greatest sacrifice of all—as members of our defence forces.

In this coming term, this parliament will have many occasions to honour, with dignity and respect, this tradition of service.

As we conclude the Anzac Centenary, we will commemorate the 100th anniversaries of Polygon Wood, Beersheba and Villers-Bretonneux.

This parliament will also witness the 75th anniversaries of Kokoda, the fall of Singapore, Milne Bay, El Alamein and Hellfire Pass.

This is an opportunity as a nation to commemorate the great sacrifice of brave Australians in each of these conflicts, and to acknowledge our profound debt to them.

Today, we live in a world of great volatility, in a strategic environment as complex as any before it.

The highest responsibility of any Australian parliament is to protect Australians, to keep them safe, to provide the peaceful conditions in which they can live and prosper.

Strong defence capability remains vital to Australia’s national interests.

My government will commence implementation of the largest investment in our naval forces since World War II, equipping the Australian Defence Force with the advanced weaponry, personnel and technology it needs.

Over the next decade Australia will invest $195 billion in defence capability, including the construction of new naval vessels as part of our continuous naval shipbuilding strategy.

It is an investment in our future, our security and our industry.

My government will ensure Australia has both a sovereign defence capability that does not rely on others for our security and a globally competitive defence industry.

It will be transformative for our economy.

Counterterrorism

On counterterrorism, my government will work with all members and senators to ensure that Australia’s counterterrorism framework remains robust and responsive to the modern and evolving security environment. In light of this, the government intends to continue reforming Australia’s national security laws, including through two critical pieces of legislation.

The Commonwealth, state and territory attorneys-general have met and agreed in principle with the Commonwealth’s proposed legislation to implement a nationally-consistent, post-sentence preventative detention scheme, with appropriate protections for high-risk terrorist offenders serving custodial sentences.

A revised Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill will also be introduced into parliament as soon as possible. It will allow, among other things, for control orders to be issued for persons as young as 14 years old. The government has accepted all recommendations on this bill from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Digital defence

In a digital and connected world, online security is also important for Australia to fully realise the social and economic benefits of being online.

My government will foster trust and confidence in cybersecurity by driving the implementation of the Cyber Security Strategy, released in April this year, to ensure Australian interests are not just protected, but also advanced and so that private sector innovation can flourish. Cybersecurity will no longer be a second order issue but a core element of our national security framework and priorities.

Foreign affairs, trade and investment

Over the term of this parliament, my government will grow our exports, attract investment and boost domestic competitiveness through new trade agreements.

Australia’s expanded overseas diplomatic presence will increase market access for Australian businesses, and ensure that our voice, as one of the world’s longstanding democracies and defenders of freedom, is given due weight in the wider world.

My government will pursue a comprehensive trade agreement with Indonesia, continue to push for an ambitious regional comprehensive economic partnership with our largest regional partners and a new trade agreement with Pacific Island countries, moving Australia towards our goal of greater regional economic integration.

The government will seek to launch negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union early next year and ministerial discussions have already begun with the United Kingdom to explore avenues to increase trade and investment in preparation for Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The government will ratify and implement agreements already negotiated, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Australia will play a leading role in bringing the Trade in Services Agreement—involving 23 parties, including the European Union and the United States of America—to conclusion as soon as possible.

Services make up approximately 80 per cent of Australia’s economy; however, they comprise only 20 per cent of our exports, underlining the strong potential of a more global services sector that is well placed to meet the demand from our region’s growing middle class.

The government is contributing to positive multilateral trade outcomes by driving the Environmental Goods Agreement and working towards Australia’s accession to the WTO government procurement agreement, in order to open access to major government procurement markets.

My government will continue to prioritise ‘aid for trade’ to developing countries as a means to encourage global trade, economic growth, stability and security.

Infrastructure

Every part of my government’s policy, every part of the budget, is designed to promote investment and productivity and to increase living standards.

Infrastructure is a key enabler of productivity across the economy and central to our international competitiveness.

The rollout of the NBN is ramping up and NBN Co has continued to meet its targets. As of 17 August 2016, more than 1.2 million homes and businesses have an active NBN connection and over three million premises are able to order a service.

My government’s digital transformation agenda will drive innovation within government, making it easier for individuals and businesses to access better targeted government services.

My government is committed to connecting Melbourne and Brisbane with inland rail and establishing the new Western Sydney Airport.

My government’s $50 billion investment in infrastructure is connecting goods and markets, connecting rural people and industries to neighbouring regional cities, state capitals and international markets, supporting our local industries and getting us all safely home sooner.

Cities

Well-functioning cities are vital to the Australian economy and our quality of life.

The Smart Cities Plan sets out my government’s vision for our cities, and the plan for maximising their potential to be productive, accessible and liveable.

Central to delivering the Smart Cities Plan are the City Deals.

City Deals are a new approach to coordinating investment, planning and reform across the three levels of government.

They aim to deliver better outcomes from the money the government is already spending.

The government has committed to early deals for Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney.

Regional communities

Cities are crucial, but there are almost eight million Australians living in rural, regional and remote communities. Our regional communities generate 67 per cent of Australia’s export earnings and have untapped growth potential.

My government will tap into that potential with the $200 million Regional Jobs and Investment Package.

The package will support regional communities to invest in and diversify their economies, create new business and innovation opportunities, and help boost jobs in regional areas.

The new Building Better Regions Fund will also provide continued support to regional projects.

The government is also focused on improving digital connectivity in regional areas and fixing thousands of mobile phone black spots.

In addition to my government’s commitment to regional communities, the government will deliver critical road, rail and marine infrastructure in northern Australia.

The implementation of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and the recommendations of the northern Australia white paper will also support the north’s development, including significant opportunities for our First Australians.

Agriculture and water resources

In this term, my government will continue to implement the Agricultural competitiveness white paper.

Initiatives outlined in the paper will strengthen our farming industries, deliver a fairer go for farm businesses, invest in a smarter approach to farming based on a strong research and development system, build 21st century infrastructure and strengthen our approach to drought.

My government is also undertaking the most significant investment in water infrastructure in our nation’s history and is already more than half-way through the rollout of more than $10 billion worth of projects in the Murray-Darling Basin, providing not only water security for our farmers, but also enduring, sustainable agricultural production and consequent economic benefits for all Australians.

Environment

As we sustainably use Australia’s natural resources to the best advantage, my government will meet our international environment, climate change and energy obligations.

Climate change will continue to be a critical area of policy attention for my government.

Australia will meet its 2020 emissions reduction targets, and the government will review Australia’s climate change framework next year to ensure it remains effective in achieving the 2030 target.

My government will promote a more effective gas market, improve governance arrangements for Australia’s energy markets, integrate emissions reduction as a part of the energy framework, empower energy consumers and ensure the regulatory framework can accommodate the market’s rapid transformation.

The attainment of these objectives will be assisted by all aspects of energy policy being combined in the one portfolio of Environment and Energy.

My government will share stewardship of the environment with communities across Australia through the National Landcare Program and the new Solar Communities Program and a range of locally focused environment programs including the Threatened Species Recovery Fund and the Improving Your Local Parks and Environment Program.

Ensuring a healthy Great Barrier Reef for future generations will remain a key focus, as will management of marine reserves and continuing Australia’s science leadership in Antarctica.

Science and innovation

My government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda will drive investment in innovative businesses, create more job opportunities for all Australians and prepare our children for the jobs of the 21st century.

Innovation and science are critical as Australia’s economy transitions from the mining-led boom to one driven by services, exports, innovation and technology.

My government’s Innovation and Science Agenda will also support our world-class scientists and researchers by investing in Australia’s critical research infrastructure.

Reforms to research funding will encourage more collaboration between researchers and businesses and transform our world-leading science and research into growth opportunities for Australia.

Education

My government is determined that every Australian child must have the educational opportunities to reach their full potential.

That is why the government will provide record funding to Australian schools throughout the life of this parliament, growing above both inflation and enrolments and distributed according to needs based principles.

Reforms will raise literacy and numeracy standards, encourage more students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and improve rewards for our most capable teachers.

Expanding our P-TECH pilot schools, which link major local employers with local schools, is one of the low cost but innovative means by which the government is supporting secondary students to acquire the skills they will need.

My government will reform early education and child care to provide simpler, more accessible and more affordable assistance to families who are working the longest hours but earning the least.

Tertiary education must be accessible to all Australians, from all backgrounds, and be of the highest quality. My government is committed to a tertiary education system that is financially sustainable for students, institutions and taxpayers. It is essential that all of our students choose the kind of tertiary education or training that is appropriate for where they want to be in life. My government will ensure those choices are there.

The National Strategy for International Education will build on the success of Australia’s $19 billion international education sector.

The government will also implement the redesign of the VET FEE-HELP scheme to restore confidence in the quality and integrity of vocational education and training. The government is committed to increasing the number of apprenticeships and has already announced five innovative, industry-led pilots for new kinds of apprenticeship delivery.

Employment

My government will also continue to deliver innovative programs to help young people into work.

The cutting edge Youth Jobs PaTH program, for instance, will create work opportunities and employment for up to 120,000 young people.

Australia needs such innovative programs to ensure that our next generation, and indeed Indigenous Australians, are not confined to a life on welfare.

The government will also encourage greater levels of private enterprise and investment to support job security and promote new employment opportunities.

Fostering this through a reduction in the tax burden for small- and medium-sized enterprises, backing innovation and investment in start-ups and the 10-year enterprise tax plan will encourage businesses around Australia to employ more Australians.

My government will also support the greater employment participation of Indigenous Australians, mature age Australians and women.

Women’s participation in the workforce will be a priority during this term of parliament.

My government is also committed to protecting vulnerable workers in Australian workplaces.

Bills to establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission will be re-introduced to parliament as a priority.

The building and construction industry is one of the largest sectors of the economy, employing more than one million Australians.

It represents approximately eight per cent of gross domestic product so ensuring an efficient and law-abiding industry is not only crucial for the one million workers, it is vital to the Australian economy.

In addition, my government intends to introduce the Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016 to ensure that terms in enterprise agreements cannot undermine the ability of emergency services bodies to deploy and manage volunteers.

The government will also seek to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 to increase penalties so they are set at a level to deter exploitation by unscrupulous employers, including franchisors and their franchisees.

My government recognises that jobs are vital to people and growth is vital to Australia’s economy. A strong economy is, in turn, the means by which we remain a country with a generous social welfare safety net.

Health

Australia has a world-class health system underpinned by Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, public hospitals and private health.

My government is focused on ensuring our children and grandchildren continue to have this quality, affordable healthcare system into the future. Strengthening Medicare

Medicare is fundamental to the healthcare of Australians.

In line with my government’s commitment, every element of Medicare currently delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government.

Primary Care Reform

In one of the biggest patient-focused reforms in Medicare, my government will improve primary care for 65,000 patients with chronic and complex health conditions by establishing the Health Care Home trials commencing in July 2017. This will put patients at the centre of care with their GP and other health professionals, with the aim of keeping them healthier at home and out of hospital.

MBS Review

My government is also focused on ensuring people receive appropriate and best practice care, so it has established a review into the Medicare Benefits Schedule. A clinician-led taskforce is undertaking a review of all 5,700 items on the MBS—many of which have not been reviewed in 30 years—to ensure that the services provided are based on the best evidence and appropriate to today’s patients.

Hospitals

The ability of all Australians, regardless of their circumstances, to receive high quality care in public hospitals is a feature of our unique and fair health system of which Australians can be proud.

My government has achieved agreement with all states and territories on funding for public hospitals and will continue to work together with the states and territories to improve quality and safety, and better coordinate the care of patients with chronic and complex conditions.

Mental Health

During this term, my government will implement the comprehensive package of mental health reforms which puts people at the centre of care. Care and services will be tailored at the local level, so all Australians in need have access to support, no matter who they are or where they live.

The government will conduct trials across Australia to determine best practice for suicide prevention, including 12 suicide prevention trial sites and innovative IT solutions which put support ‘in the hands of people’ 24/7.

The government will also focus a number of our trials on improving outcomes for Indigenous Australians, who have double the suicide rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

Aged Care Reforms

The aged care system must meet the needs of our increasing numbers of ageing Australians and the needs of today.

The majority of older Australians want to remain in their own homes. My government’s aged care reforms are designed to support this, including a dedicated Aged Care gateway and, from February 2017, a new system for home support packages to provide more choice and flexibility in home-based services and providers.

My government will work with the community and the health sector to continue to strengthen our health and aged care systems to support Australians now and into the future.

Human Services

National Disability Insurance Scheme

Members and senators who served in previous parliaments can be proud that the full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has commenced and will be at full scheme by 2020. It is a testament to what the parliament can achieve together.

The NDIS will transform the lives of around 460,000 Australians who are living with disability.

My government is committed to fully funding the scheme, and has set up the NDIS Savings Fund Special Account.

Priority Investment Approach

Transforming lives is also the aim of the Australian Priority Investment Approach to Welfare and the Try, Test and Learn Fund, both of which will finance experimental and innovative responses to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Australians and to increase their ability to live independently.

Cashless Debit Card

During this term of parliament, the government will decide on the future directions of the cashless debit card. The card is another watershed reform in Australian welfare, significantly helping to reduce welfare-funded alcohol, drug and gambling abuse. Domestic Violence

Addressing domestic violence will continue to be a national priority under my government. Policies will focus on protecting women and children in danger and preventing its causes—gender inequality and disrespect of women. My government will continue to work in partnership with the states and territories to address violence and disrespect towards women.

Outcomes of Inquiries

This parliament will show leadership as it considers the outcomes of a number of inquiries, royal commissions, a plebiscite and a referendum.

Royal Commissions

At the end of next year, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will conclude. My government is working to ensure redress is provided for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse by the responsible institutions as soon as possible.

My government has set up a Royal Commission into the Child Protection and Youth Detention Systems of the Northern Territory, which is scheduled to report on 31 March 2017. This will enable a swift inquiry into the failings of the child protection and youth detention systems in the Northern Territory. The royal commission’s findings will inform other jurisdictions considering how child protection and youth detention systems can be improved. My government will also take the issues of youth detention and child protection to COAG.

Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite

A decision on the same-sex marriage plebiscite will be made by all Australians via that plebiscite as soon as practical. My government will ask Australians to make a decision as a nation and then to respect the outcome.

Indigenous Affairs

My government, like those in the previous parliaments, will continue to strive for equality of opportunity so the gaps in health, education and employment are closed between our First Australians and the rest of the population.

Our First Australians have cared for this country for tens of thousands of years.

The uniqueness of their cultures brings to our national identity that which enriches all of us as Australians.

The commitment to do things with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, rather than doing things to communities, remains steadfast.

The challenge of this parliament will be to see every minister, every member and senator delivering on that commitment as we forge stronger and deeper relationships built on mutual respect with our First Australians.

Indigenous Recognition

Finally, and perhaps the most nation-changing work of this parliament and the Australian people, will be the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia’s Constitution.

The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition have reaffirmed their joint commitment to constitutional recognition, and have sought an interim report from the Referendum Council on its work to date and next steps.

The council has been asked to lead national consultations, including a series of Indigenous-led consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples—as no proposal can move from first base without the support of Indigenous peoples.

All Australians will have the opportunity to have their say on this matter because near universal support will be needed to take this proposal to a referendum.

Conclusion

My government is committed to three years of strong, stable economic leadership and to a term of reform and delivery.

Its agenda recognises that lasting prosperity and our nation’s ongoing wellbeing comes through embracing new and better ways of doing things and that we secure a better future for generations to come through considered, mature and timely deliberation on the big issues that affect us all.

Though you come from, and represent, many different viewpoints, I urge you to work together to provide Australia with economic security, national security and strong and sustainable support for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society.

I know you will serve the Australian people diligently and constructively, but most of all, I know you will serve with honour and the sense of duty to this nation and its values that has inspired so many Australians before you.

It is now my pleasure to wish you well and carry out my responsibility to declare open the 45th Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.

His Excellency the Governor-General and members of the House of Representatives retired—

Sitting suspended from 15:47 to 17:00

Salute

The Federation Guard fires 19-shots outside Parliament House, following the Governor-General’s speech. Picture posted on Twitter by @AboutTheHouse.

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