When the Coalition lost the last election, we acknowledged that at the next one, we would need to do better explaining to the Australian people what the core differences would be between a Liberal Government and a Labor one.
We acknowledged that we needed to set up clearer distinctions between the values we hold and the values Labor holds – what our priorities are versus what their priorities are.
If we are going to be successful at the next election – and we will – we need to have policies that inspire people, that light the fuse of ambition in the aspirations of Australians.
Labor is a bad government and they are going to get worse. But that alone is not reason enough to vote for the Liberal Party. We need to give the Australian people something to vote for, not just something to vote against.
This week, led by Peter Dutton, the leadership team has been here in WA.
We have been in the suburbs, in the cities and the regions, talking about the issues that matter and listening to new ideas.
We have been in the electorates we hold, seats we lost to Labor and here we are in the seat now held by an Independent.
It has been wonderful to be in Bunbury, Albany, Mandurah, Joondalup, Geraldton just to name a few places.
I know that Peter Dutton and Julian Leeser spent some important time in Leonora and Laverton, seeing the issues first-hand and working with local community leaders to develop the policies that they need.
What they have seen and what they have heard will stay with them for years to come.
I was really pleased to see their visit brought national focus to a national tragedy. We will not forget the Goldfields region, just as we have not forgotten Alice Springs, nor Carnarvon.
Now, the Liberal Party is a broad church that can, will and must appeal to a range of communities and demographics. We are a 50%-plus-one Party – we seek to form a majority government at every election, and that means appealing to a majority of Australians.
Between now and the next election, the Liberal Party will be doing everything possible to ensure that Australians get to keep more of the money they earn.
It’s your money and it’s better off in your pocket than with the government.
Whereas Labor’s first instinct in government is to tax the money you’ve earned and accumulated in your superannuation, ours will be exactly the opposite.
As Peter Dutton has said, we will fight Labor’s changes tooth and nail, but we will also do more work to see how we can better empower women so that in middle and older age they do not become vulnerable.
Let’s look for example at a 58-year old woman who has been the victim of domestic violence, who has sacrificed her career to build her family, who knows she is facing significant upheaval when she leaves a violent husband.
Under current laws, only once this woman falls on ‘severe’ financial hardship, only once she is at risk of homelessness, can she access her superannuation.
That is ridiculous. It is appalling.
If we are seriously looking that woman in the eye and telling her she can access some of her money, but only when it’s too late, what good is that?
The answer, of course, is not to ask women to raid their super balances to fund their own crisis response. Not at all.
Taking money out of super before retirement is a bad investment decision, unless you put the money back in before retirement.
But what if women were better able to access their super to help purchase an asset – a home – that would set them up for the rest of their lives?
Imagine how many women would be economically empowered, how many would be able to secure their financial independence for life, if we took an expanded version of the last election’s ‘Super Home Buyer Scheme’, to the next election.
Today is not the day to iron out the details of such a policy initiative. It requires work, it requires thoughtful consideration, it requires consultation and collaboration.
But I thought Peter’s announcement in last year’s Budget Reply that our initiative would be extended to women who separate later in life; women with very few housing options and those who are increasingly left homeless, was a brilliant call and an important contrast between us and Labor.
And it is further proof that we won’t be relying on weasel words to demonstrate to the women of Australia that we are listening and learning – we’ll rely on a set of policies that clearly shows our commitment to making their lives better.
Stage Three Tax Cuts
Before the last election, Anthony Albanese promised time after time that Labor would deliver the Coalition’s Stage Three tax cuts in full.
This is tax relief that millions of Australians were promised, millions of Australians deserve, and millions of Australians are expecting. These tax cuts are in law. They passed the Parliament.
Labor voted for them, and Anthony Albanese vowed that he wouldn’t change them.
As power prices continue to rise, mortgage rates climb higher and groceries become even more expensive, instead of focusing on practical action to help Australians, Jim Chalmers has been spending his time penning 6,000-word ideological essays.
In the lead up to the May Budget, Jim Chalmers is desperately working towards scrapping that promised tax relief. Australians will need to wear the cost of Labor’s radical ideas and that always means higher taxes.
There is never a good time to raise taxes but with rising power prices, increasing interest rates and inflation pushing grocery bills even higher, this would be the worst possible time to thieve Australians of their promised tax relief.
Making any changes to this tax relief would require new legislation to raise taxes and the Liberal Party will fight that with everything we’ve got. If they so much as try to tinker with these tax cuts, we’ll block them at every turn.
We will be going to every corner of the country to speak with Australians about just how much their tax bill would increase under Labor’s new laws.
A hairdresser earning $60,000 would lose around $400 every year.
A teacher earning $70,000 would lose more than $620 every year.
A diesel mechanic earning $100,000 would lose more than $1,370 every year.
Many low-paid workers in casualised industries, predominantly female by the way, stand to lose the most.
And this tax relief affects every corner of the country, in every one of the 151 seats in the Australian Parliament.
If Labor scraps this tax relief, 95% of Australian workers will lose. And we will be talking to as many Australian workers as we can, holding the Government to account on such a broken promise.
Because Peter Dutton and I and our team believe you deserve to keep more of what you earn – the problem is that Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese think they can spend it better than you can.
The Coalition’s legacy in government and Labor’s lost first year
We have very deliberately chosen not to break the chain between the achievements of our previous government and our priorities in Opposition.
Earlier this month, I reminded Anthony Albanese in the Parliament that under nine years of Coalition Government, the Reserve Bank met 96 times and raised interest rates just once.
Under this new Labor Government, the RBA has met 8 times and raised rates 8 times.
Labor laughed at me in the Parliament.
But this was no accident.
Jim Chalmers’ immediate response was to point to the 2020 recession.
But we were in government for six and a half years before COVID hit.
Between 2013 and 2022, the economy went through peaks and troughs, unemployment went up and down, international circumstances chopped and changed. Wars came and wars went.
But in nine years, rates rose once.
And that’s because we deliberately had the policy settings right, we were always conscious, whenever we were making investments, not to put upward pressure on inflation.
Let me be clear. The RBA did cut rates during the recession because that’s what central agencies do. No one is taking credit for that.
But I ask Labor again – what about the six and a half years before that?
Interest rates stayed low and didn’t rise. When you go through each and every Budget we delivered, you will see there was a laser-like focus on pushing inflation down, and keeping it down.
And during the pandemic, the Coalition saved millions of jobs and small businesses because that’s what our biggest priority was.
When Labor says we wasted a decade in office, what they are really saying is that saving all those jobs wasn’t worth it.
That saving those small businesses, and saving those livelihoods was not worth it.
Well – we say it was worth it. Every single bit of it.
In 2023, we won’t be stepping back from small businesses. We will be doubling down on supporting them.
Small business will always be at the centre of our economic plans, while Labor will continue to put unions and big government at the centre of theirs.
Labor’s extreme IR laws and radical interventions in the energy market are already leaving small businesses behind.
You don’t get wages moving by putting the brakes on small business.
Big business continues to play Anthony Albanese off a break, understandably demanding a ransom to compensate for Labor’s decisions.
Labor has by the way tacitly admitted its policies will damage the economy by providing compensation payments to resources companies.
If it wasn’t bad for the economy, then why do you need to provide compensation? Surely you only compensate when you have injured. That was the rushed legislation in December.
And it is workers and small businesses who will pay for that spending in higher taxes – and that’s why Jim Chalmers is coming for Stage Three.
Labor inherited a post-pandemic economy which was outperforming the most advanced developed economies in the world.
But Labor is already squandering those hard-won gains by pursuing economic policies that are contradictory to growth. The Prime Minister is reneging on promises made more than 97 times before the last election and legislating commitments that he didn’t even mention once.
As they make those bad decisions and squander those gains, they will look to Western Australia to pick up the tab.
When they do that, we will be here to fight them.
Because Labor always sees Western Australia as a cash cow. They have never shared the aspirational, hard-working values that epitomise West Australians.
There is a clear battleline here in 2023. The Liberal Party will be fighting to ensure Australians get to keep more of the money they earn, and Labor will keep doing everything possible to take more of it.
The Prime Minister is putting reconciliation at risk with his haphazard approach to the Voice referendum.
As the months have rolled on, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that Anthony Albanese would rather see the Liberal Party say no and this referendum fail, then the Liberal Party say yes and this referendum succeed.
And that’s at the heart of everything driving his engagement on this issue.
Survey after survey show the Australian people just want some basic detail on how this change to the Constitution would work.
On some days Labor says the Voice would fix the situation in Alice Springs, on others Labor says it won’t.
Some days we hear it would advise the National Cabinet, on other days we hear it won’t.
On some days we hear it would advise the Executive Government and the Parliament, and then that changes very quickly too.
It defies belief that the Prime Minister thinks it is seriously credible to deny some modest, equal, funding to the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns for some mere administrative arrangements.
When the Prime Minister is asked about this extraordinary break from referendum precedent, his only answer is to get aggressive and dismissive.
Instead of just being straight with the Australian people, the Prime Minister continues to play politics and lash out at Peter Dutton.
The only explanation for this continued obfuscation from Anthony Albanese is that he doesn’t want to build bipartisan support.
He wants this referendum to succeed – yes – but only on his terms.
Sadly I suspect he is using this referendum as a platform for an early election.
He has judged that the referendum can succeed on the ‘vibe of the thing’ and he is using it as a political wedge.
There is no doubt Anthony Albanese wants to see better outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Of course we all do, every single member of parliament does – all 227 of us.
The problem here is that Anthony Albanese has tied constitutional recognition of our first Australians – which everyone across the Parliament supports – to a concept called the Voice which he cannot explain.
This week, the Greens’ new First Nations spokeswoman, Dorinda Cox, says she was surprised Labor did not try to legislate the Indigenous voice to parliament to give the model time to “evolve and be tested” before taking it to the Australian people with a referendum.
That is a sensible contribution.
It is sensible because it appreciates that there are no blank cheques on constitutional reform in this country. If you change the constitution, you have to get it right.
There isn’t a moral high ground as Peter Dutton so eloquently said in the Parliament. Every Australian wants better outcomes for Indigenous communities.
Every Australian feels their heart break when they see what is happening in Alice Springs and across Western Australia.
Every fair-minded Australian supports any measures and actions that close the gap.
So that is why it is on Anthony Albanese, if he is genuine about the Voice succeeding, to stop laying traps, stop willing the Coalition to oppose this, stop making it a re-election vanity project.
He must simply deliver an explanation and some genuine engagement on the Voice and produce the detail of how it will deliver the outcomes we all want to see.
Because no politician has a monopoly on wanting to see those better outcomes realised.
The pathway back
We can win the next federal election and we will.
This is a bad government and it is going to get worse.
And as true as that is, we will still need to provide West Australians with reasons to actually vote for us, not just against Labor.
And I want to assure you that Peter Dutton and I are doing the work to craft the policies ahead of the next election that will draw a clear distinction between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party.
Without Western Australia, the Liberal Party does not form government.
When we do form governments, it is because we have won in The West.
We need to win Curtin.
We need to win Pearce.
We need to win Hasluck.
We need to win Swan.
We need to win Tangney.
And that is absolutely achievable.
Because between now and the next election, Peter Dutton and I, along with Michaelia Cash and the rest of the team here in Western Australia, will be traveling up and down the country, hearing first-hand what the issues are and getting genuine input on what the solutions might be.
We haven’t got a three-term plan. We haven’t got a two term-plan. We have a one-term plan.
And each and every one of you in this room is a crucial part of it.