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Tony Abbott’s Speech To The Liberal Party Federal Council: “We Are The Party Of Menzies, Fraser And Howard”

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has addressed the Liberal Party’s Federal Council meeting in Melbourne.


In its 70th anniversary year, Abbott described the Liberal Party as “the party of Menzies and Fraser and Howard”, a rare reference to Fraser, who no longer belongs to the party and is a persistent critic of its drift to the political right.

But Abbott’s real message was to the crossbench senators who assume office on Tuesday. The government will require 6 of the 8 crossbenchers to support its legislation, if the ALP and the Greens are opposed. Abbott said: “I say to the new senators — we won’t hector you and we won’t lecture you. We respect your election as we ask you to respect ours. We simply ask that you acknowledge the trust placed in us by the Australian people to be their government.”

The Council elected former Howard government minister Richard Alston as the party’s new Federal President, replacing Alan Stockdale, the former Treasurer in the Victorian Kennett government in the 1990s.

The second day of the Council meeting was notable for a dispute between two Abbott ministers. The Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, and the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, clashed on proposed changes to the party’s Constitution. Pyne argued that Brandis should not speak on the issue because of his role in framing the proposals. Critics argued that adequate notice of the proposals had not been given and that the changes gave the Federal party too much power over State divisions.

Abbott was introduced to the Council delegates by the party’s deputy leader and Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop.

  • Listen to Bishop (16m)
  • Listen to Abbott (19m – transcript below)

Transcript of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s speech to the Liberal Party’s Federal Council meeting in Melbourne.

President Alan Stockdale, Premier Napthine, Premier Newman, Premier Hodgman, fellow Liberals.

On this the 70th anniversary of our party, my colleagues and I stand before you proud of our history, humbled and honoured by the responsibility of government and determined to keep faith with our values that have shaped modern Australia.

We are the party of Menzies and Fraser and Howard – determined to do the right thing by the forgotten people, by the battlers and by everyone who is making a contribution – or who is yearning to make a contribution to our great country.

As Liberals, we stand for the people who work hard, pay their taxes, volunteer in their local community and save for their retirement.

Because you embody what’s best in our national character; helping neighbours, giving people the benefit of the doubt, welcoming strangers, and “having a go” at making everyone’s life better.

As Liberals, we stand for you: the citizen over the official, the community over the state and the family over everything.

As Liberals, we trust the citizens of Australia to get most things right, most of the time – and mostly, you do because you understand your best interests, at least as well as officials.

No one owns the Liberal Party except its members who are drawn from every nook and cranny of modern Australia.

And because no one owns us, we can govern in the national interest – for all Australians.

On this, our 70th anniversary, we can be proud of what we have achieved.

It is the Liberal Party that always has to clean up the mess our opponents create: to end the waste, pay back the debt, scrap the big new taxes and stop the boats.

And because people turn to us to clean up the messes we did not create, we can take credit for our country’s best years, under Howard and under Menzies, when millions of jobs were created and wages went up and up.

It is the Liberal Party that oversaw the post-war explosion of home ownership – putting the keys of a home within the grasp of most families.

It is the Liberal Party that rejected sectarianism and backed parents – providing funding for independent schools.

It is the Liberal Party that created the modern university system and built our national capital.

It is the Liberal Party that has always supported small business with lower tax, less regulation, and a hand up rather than a hand out.

It is the Liberal Party that delivered child endowment, family allowances and the baby bonus.

It is the Liberal Party that drove the post war migration programme and ended the white Australia policy – and it’s the Liberal Party that welcomes immigrants from the four corners of the Earth eager to join our Australian team.

It is the Liberal Party that doesn’t just announce the infrastructure of the future – we build it!

We built the Snowy Mountains Scheme, completed the Alice Springs to Darwin railway, created national highways and are now building the roads of the 21st century:

  • East West Link stages one and two here in Melbourne;
  • WestConnex and NorthConnex in Sydney;
  • the Gateway upgrade in Brisbane;
  • the North-South Road in Adelaide;
  • the Swan bypass in Perth, and
  • the Midland Highway in Tasmania.

It is the Liberal Party that put forward the 1967 Referendum; that selected the first Indigenous members of the Senate and the House of Representatives – and that will sponsor a referendum acknowledging the first Australians in the Constitution.

It is the Liberal Party that kept Australia strong by signing the ANZUS Treaty, by properly funding our defence force and by stopping the boats – not once but twice!

But we don’t do this on our own: we have had the National Party by our side and I honour them today.

As John Howard has often reminded us, we succeed in Coalition – and only in Coalition.

He also reminded us that our party is the political custodian in Australia of the liberal and the conservative traditions.

As Liberals we support lower taxes, smaller government and greater freedom.

As conservatives we support the family and values that have stood the test of time.

And as patriots we assess our actions not against ideology but against common sense – does this make our people and our country stronger?

While much has changed since 1944, our yearning is undimmed: to leave our children richer than ourselves, to come closer to our best selves individually and collectively and to leave our country a better place.

A better Australia needs a government that values long-term respect ahead of short-term popularity.

That’s why we are taking action now to repair the Budget.

The Australian people know that we inherited porous borders and a broken Budget.

You know that our country faces difficult choices and you expect us, as your government, to deal honestly with them.

You know that the Commonwealth Government can’t keep spending $1 billion every month on interest alone.

You know that economic drift is not a policy – because we had six years of that.

You know that problems don’t automatically go away and that tough decisions today are needed to avoid even tougher ones tomorrow.

That’s why this government has faced up to the challenges before our country, not put them off for another day.

This Budget cuts almost $300 billion from our projected debt over the next decade and brings the Budget back to balance within four years.

It shifts the focus from short-term spending to long-term investment.

It saves and it builds; it lives within our means and it plays to our strengths, with the Commonwealth’s biggest ever road programme and perhaps the world’s biggest medical research future fund.

The Budget is purposeful, thoughtful and effective.

We are asking young Australians to earn or learn – because no one should start adult life without a clear purpose.

We are changing the way social security benefits are indexed – to make the system sustainable – because what’s fair for some payments is fair for others.

We are deregulating higher education – because universities, of all institutions – should be capable of running themselves.

And we’re spreading Commonwealth support to more institutions of higher learning and to diploma courses.

We are charging a modest co-payment for visits to the doctor – to make Medicare sustainable – because what’s fair for the PBS is fair for Medicare.

The Budget is not about what’s easy or popular in the short-term. It’s about what’s right for the long-term.

It’s about clear principle and sound practice – the clear principle and sound practice that has marked the nine months since the election.

There is still work to do but there has not been one single successful people smuggling venture this year.

Handouts to shaky business have stopped because you can’t subsidise your way to prosperity.

Infrastructure projects are starting.

After 50 years of procrastination, Sydney’s second airport is finally going ahead.

I’ve led business delegations to China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the United States and Canada – because the world should know that when we say that Australia is under new management and open for business – we mean business!

By the end of this term you will see real changes across every area of our country – to give you more choice, more freedom and more control over your future.

Families won’t pay the carbon tax – saving about $550 a year.

Pensioners will keep the carbon tax compensation – but lose the carbon tax.

Bulldozers will be at work on new roads up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Exporters will be reaping the benefits of free trade agreements with Korea and Japan – and, we hope, with China.

Young unemployed people will have their dignity restored with expanded Work for the Dole.

Businesses and community groups will see less red and green tape – with 50,000 pages of red tape, costing $700 million a year to administer, already identified and on the way out.

Investors will be more confident – because of a one-stop shop for environmental approvals; the construction cop back on the beat; and the Mining Tax gone.

More Indigenous kids will be in school, adults at work and communities safe.

Apprentices will have access to $20,000 in low interest loans to finish their training.

Australian university students and researchers will be fanning out through our region under the New Colombo Plan.

The Green Army will be marching to the rescue of degraded land and polluted streams.

Refugees will be coming safely to our country through the front door, not unsafely through the back door.

Our armed forces and security agencies will be better funded and more capable.

We will be a better friend to our neighbours because our foreign policy will be “Jakarta before Geneva” – with a practical approach to problem solving.

And the people smugglers will stay out of business – because this government will never return to the failed policies of the recent past.

I wish I could say that at the end of this term, our farmers will be experiencing more rain – I can’t promise that.

Still, our $320 million drought package is a sign that we will respond to whatever challenges are ahead.

And we will be on the path to reforming our federation.

We all know that our federation has great strengths – combined with buck passing, duplication, waste and inefficiency.

With Liberal-National governments in Canberra and most of the states and territories, now is the time to make each level of government sovereign in its own sphere.

Today, I announce that the Government has released the Federation Reform White Paper terms of reference.

This White Paper will be developed with the states and territories, released by the end of 2015, and inform the policies we take to the next election.

Next week, there will be a new Senate – and our invitation to the new senators is to help us build the better country that our people want.

Work with us to reduce families’ power bills.

Work with us to restore confidence in our mining sector.

Work with us to return the rule of law to building sites.

Work with us to establish one of the world’s biggest medical research funds.

Work with us to give working mums a fair go.

I say to the new senators – we won’t hector you and we won’t lecture you.

We respect your election as we ask you to respect ours.

We simply ask that you acknowledge the trust placed in us by the Australian people to be their government.

There are many people to thank for last September’s win and the leadup to it.

I thank all my parliamentary team – in particular, my Deputy Julie Bishop and our Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.

I could not ask for more steadfast colleagues.

New Liberal Senators will join us next week – and if anyone has earned a place it is Senator-Elect Linda Reynolds from Western Australia – who didn’t win just one election, but two. Congratulations!

I thank outgoing party president Alan Stockdale – a former Treasurer of Victoria as well as President of the Party who took the job when no one wanted it and steered us back to victory. Thank you Alan.

I thank the incoming President, Richard Alston – a former state president, cabinet minister and high commissioner in London who then took on the presidency of the Kooyong F.E.C – a true and selfless servant of our party.

I thank Brian Loughnane – Our Federal Director is the finest political analyst and best political organiser in a generation.

I thank my own office, headed by Peta Credlin, the fiercest political warrior I’ve ever worked with.

I thank our state leaders – back in 2010 our only State Premier was Colin Barnett.

Now we have Liberal Governments in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory thanks to you, the Liberal family right around Australia.

At our 70th anniversary our party is strong. It is united. It is delivering the leadership and policies that our country needs.

We are guarding and guiding the destiny of a nation that’s as free, fair and prosperous as any on earth and may God guide us as we go about this task.

Finally, I say to the Australian people that we will strive to be worthy of the faith you have placed in us and to give you ever more reason to be proud of our country.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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