Ron Boswell was first elected to the Senate as a Nationals member in March 1983.
Boswell went on to win re-election in 1984, 1987, 1990, 1996, 2001 and 2007. He retired on June 30, 2014, after serving for 31 years and 118 days. He is currently the sixth longest-serving member since the Senate was established in 1901.
Boswell served as Leader of the National Party of Australia (1990-2003) and Leader of The Nationals (2003-2007) in the Senate. He was Deputy Leader (2007-2008).
He was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services from 1999 until 2003, during the Howard government.
- June 17, 2014: Valedictory Speech: Senator Ron Boswell
Hansard transcript of Senator Ron Boswell’s maiden speech on May 25, 1983.
Senator BOSWELL(5.36) —It is with pride that I stand before this chamber tonight to make my first contribution as the only member of the Opposition who gained a new place in this Parliament. I am aware of my responsibilities to the people of Queensland and Australia and I give notice now that I will be one of the strongest advocates to protect the rights of my State, given under the Constitution. My party believes in a federal system of government and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure that Queensland’s rights are not subjugated to a centralist Australian Labor Party Government trying to base all power in Canberra. No person achieves the honour of gaining representation to this House without a party structure behind him. I acknowledge my debt to my party and the trust placed in me to represent Queensland and Queenslanders.
The National Party of Australia can trace its origins back to 1893 when the circumstances of the day demonstrated the need for a party to look after the political needs of the small businessman, the struggling settler and the people who wanted jobs. That need is as relevant today as it was 90 years ago. The results of the recent Victorian by-election prove that this party is in the ascendancy. I will state now that after the next Federal election we will have at least one more senator from Victoria and another one from Queensland occupying the National Party benches of this chamber. The National Party supports the private enterprise philosophy in that it encourages people to run their own businesses. The National Party, however, will not and does not support the argument that the market must find its own level, the big must get bigger and the small must wither and die. My party wishes to see private enterprise flourish and grow with all Australians enjoying the benefits which this creates. It believes that the growth of private enterprise creates real and lasting jobs, not the artificial jobs which this Government is promoting and which will disappear as soon as the public funding runs out.
The National Party is a party of achievement-achievement for Australia. Its history is highlighted by great individuals-people such as McEwen, Fadden and Joh Bjelke-Petersen. I take my place with pride, yet with humility. I pay tribute to the lady who sits on my left, Senator Florence Bjelke-Petersen. When she was elected to this chamber three years ago she was greeted with caution, to say the least. She has proved in Queensland that she is the most popular member of Federal Parliament because of her tireless work in the electorate. I wish to place on record my thanks to the retail industry of Queensland for its support during the election campaign. I also thank the fishing industry and all other groups of small business people who had faith in me and believe that I can represent their interests in Federal Parliament. I gave them my assurance that I will be fighting for their cause and meant it.
Two weeks ago this chamber heard a speech by Senator Crowley who used as her theme the international socialists’ song Bread and Roses. As I listened it was my view that, in truth, both sides of the chamber wanted the same thing for the people of Australia. The difference was in the way this could be achieved. The National Party in Queensland in a tangible way has provided policies to enable people to have ‘bread’. The bible on which I took an oath of allegiance only the other day states that man cannot live by bread alone. The National Party deliberately aims at policies which give the opportunity for people to have bread and for roses to bloom. The National Party is the party that has been able to offer the people of Queensland the lowest taxes of any State in Australia. State taxes are some 50 per cent higher in New South Wales and some 70 per cent higher in Victoria. My party believes that the Federal system of taxation is antiquated and needs a complete review. A more equitable system needs to be introduced based on providing initiatives and not penalising effort. Surely people who create jobs do not deserve to be penalised.
The Queensland Government was the first in Australia to take the courageous step to abolish death taxes, thus forcing every other government to follow suit. This was a National Party initiative and one that probably has done more for the rural industry than any other policy. In the past we saw the family farm being sold off or large parts of it being hived off to meet probate duties. It was a vindictive tax because it took away a man’s life work from his family after he had paid tax all his life. It absolutely astounds me to hear that some sections of the Cain Government want it reintroduced. I told the people about this when I campaigned in Warrnambool. It probably had something to do with the low that the Labor Party received-it came in last. The National Party certainly deserved to win Warrnambool. The National’s State taxation policies have ensured that slowly , but surely, the exemption level of payroll tax is being raised, thus helping small business to create more jobs and employ more people.
These are the basic bread policies initiated by the Bjelke-Petersen-led Government and what a proud record he has to stand on when he faces the people in the next State election. I guarantee that he will increase his majority. It should be noted too that 1,000 people are coming to Queensland every week. Queensland’s interstate gain is almost equal to the number of people fleeing from the socialist governments of Victoria and New South Wales. People are marching to Queensland because they know that a National Party-led Government will provide them and their families with jobs. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that 28,000 people gave employment as the reason for moving to Queensland. Indeed, Quensland’s job creation record is the one bright spot in Australia’s employment statistics. For the period of the wage pause, Queensland, with only 16 per cent of Australia’s population, created 28 per cent of Australia’s jobs.
The State Government is trying hard to create employment. But it is being frustrated by the Federal Government’s policy to turn away foreign investment. This Labor Government should be honest with the unemployed and tell them how many jobs the Foreign Investment Review Board has spiked in just the last seven weeks. I shudder every time I hear that the Labor Government has shelved another project. How can it say that it is looking after north Queensland when it has shelved the Townsville domestic terminal project and refuses to honour a commitment of the former Government to fund a feasibility study for the Bradfield scheme, a scheme which could have tremendous implications for north Queensland and for Australia as a whole? That scheme could provide Australia with another Darling Downs and if it was feasible it would provide many more jobs for the unemployed of north Queensland. Furthermore, it has become well known in Cairns, which faces a serious unemployment problem, that the construction schedule for five naval patrol boats is to be slowed down.
The people of Queensland are fast becoming disillusioned. They cannot complain because this Government has abolished specific ministerial responsibilities for northern development and there is no Federal Minister with an electorate north of Brisbane and only one in Queensland. How one Minister can look after the total needs of Queensland is beyond me. Even the Australian Labor Party in Queensland, according to media reports, is disillusioned with the Hawke Labor Government. Mr Hawke has left our colleague Senator Reynolds way out on a limb because he has given her no answers for the people of north Queensland. She is going to have to do some fast footwork when I go to north Queensland and explain how this Government is treating the people there. Last year 50,000 people came to Queensland. They came because they believed a private enterprise government could provide them with a better chance of employment and a better chance of owning their own home. Far more importantly, they came because Queensland could provide far more opportunities for a stable future for their children. This is what we must be talking about in both chambers-the creation of a better future for all Australians.
When we talk about creating new jobs and better opportunities, we must talk about small business. Small business is becoming a section of the vote that all parties are wooing. I can honestly say that I understand the problems of small business. I established my own business on 18 years of sheer drive and initiative. That business ended up employing 10 people out of one man’s initiative. That is the type of small business that creates jobs. As I look toward the Government benches, I see union representatives and academics. There is no one there who really understands small business. The National Party, particularly in Queensland, is helping small business deliberately to create new jobs. That is why I can say the National Party has more in common with the worker and any other party represented in this chamber. It is a party of self- made people who, every time they make something, also provide more opportunities for working men and women.
In Queensland some 500,000 people are involved in small business. The Senate will have heard many times the following facts, but they warrant repeating: Small business enterprises employ over 50 per cent of the total work force; collectively, small businesses with up to 10 employees contribute more than half of the profit of the business sector; and small business contributes more in tax revenue than big business, including most of the resource development sector. Small business is an under-represented section in and outside parliament. It was not considered important enough for the National Economic Summit Conference. More needs to be done in future to weld this section of business into a recognised organisation. Small business ultimately must develop as much clout as the Australian Council of Trade Unions and be as effective as the National Farmers’ Federation. My party will be working with all the vigor and force that it can muster to achieve this.
The small business section needs a tax system that will not bankrupt small operators. The taxation system, as it now stands, takes everything made this year and, through provisional tax, most of what the Australian Taxation Office thinks is going to be made ‘next year’. Small business needs the implementation of an education scheme whereby the small operator can learn the principles of business management such as the control of overheads and the relation of sales to profit and profit to overheads. So many times we see excellent tradesmen and people with various skills establish their own businesses and fail because they have not got the faintest idea of business management. Generally, they lose their homes and any other assets they have built up. It needs the funding for three years of a federal small business organisation which can report and represent the needs of small business to the Government. The Queensland State Government has established such an organisation-the Small Business Development Corporation. It knows the contribution that small business makes to Queensland. Since 1893 the National Party, as I said earlier, has helped small business. It is still helping this important group.
Last year my party rejected out of hand moves to deregulate trading hours. It knew the devastating effect that this would have on small retailers and on the family unit. Parents would have to work on weekends and thus their children would be unable to enjoy the company of their parents on Sunday-to go to church or just have a family day together. The Premier has promised that in the next parliamentary session a Bill will be introduced to protect tenants from unscrupulous practices in retail shop leases; and, of course, everyone in Queensland knows that what Joh says, he does. My party wants to ensure that small business can continue to be the nation’s leading employer and give the bread that is basic to life.
It is clear that Labor State governments, and probably the Hawke Government too , do not understand small business. They talk about it and make promises but they do not act; not one Labor State government has legislated on shopping centre leases. They promised to do it. In Queensland, the Government is strong and positive-it acts and carries out its promises. The Labor Party promises tax cuts, lower petrol prices, but fails to deliver. It works to a plan. It is to promise and renege. Premiers Wran, Cain, Bannon and Burke did it. So did Mr Hawke. I repeat: The National Party-led Government promises only what it can deliver. There are no illusions and no deceptions.
I now wish to talk about roses. All people have holidays and Queensland is blooming as the best place to holiday. In 1982, 33,000 Americans alone visited Queensland, the majority coming in via Townsville. The Gold Coast attracted 81, 000 overseas visitors. The tourist industry is now worth $1.7m to Queensland’s economy. Its growth rate is 7.4 per cent compared with the national average of 1 .6 per cent. This exceptional growth rate in Queensland’s tourist industry did not just happen; it was a result of a State government initiative to set up the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation-an efficient, independent body to promote Queensland. It is doing a magnificent job. The tourist industry leads the way for job creation. Many more jobs could be made, however, if penalty rates were abolished. In Queensland alone it is estimated that 10,000 extra jobs could be created. The ALP and the unions acknowledge that tourism is one of the few industries that has any real job growth. There should be a new tourist award to cover the industry and wages should be restructured to enable penalty payments to be abolished. This is National Party policy.
The National Party-led Government has given jobs and hope to thousands of Australians, in contrast to this Government that was elected on the promise of creating 500,000 jobs. Until 19 May, I had not seen one initiative or piece of legislation that would create one job, let alone half a million. What the electorate got was cosmetic jobs-jobs which will last for six months. This country needs a private enterprise-led recovery, not public sector pump priming. Where was the help for small business and industry? They were ignored! The primary producers were the ones who had to pick up one third of the recovery tab . This Government’s priorities are not recovery and jobs. Let us look at its record: Stopping the Tasmanian dam; vetoing finance for development on the Gold Coast; shelving the Townsville domestic airport development; and slowing down construction of the five patrol boats being built in Cairns.
I now want to mention the proposed Sex Discrimination Bill. The subject of this Bill and its interpretation is putting women against women, Christians against alternative religions and family against family. In other words, it is developing into an ugly and unnecessary struggle in the Australian community. It has the capacity to be the most divisive subject debated in this Parliament since the abortion matter. Consultation and consensus supposedly are the Hawke Labor Government’s modus operandi. I call upon Senator Susan Ryan and the Hawke Labor Government to drop this Bill as it is dividing the community. There is no consensus. There is only confrontation. Evidence of the opposition to this Bill may be ascertained by the thousands of petitions coming to both chambers and requesting the Government not to proceed with the Bill.
In conclusion, as a Queensland senator, I will do all in my power to aid the growth and development of this nation as a whole-Queensland in particular-so that the vision of bread and roses will be obtainable by all Australians. My special interest will be, however, small business. This is the industry which, if allowed, will provide bread and roses for more than half Australia’s work force.