Firstly to Mark Speakman, a man of conviction and intellect — thank you for that stirring address.
Can I acknowledge fellow federal parliamentary team members here today:
• Shadow Treasurer, Angus Taylor
• Manager of Opposition Business, Paul Fletcher
• Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman
• Shadow Cabinet Secretary, Marise Payne
• Shadow Assistant Minister Melissa McIntosh • And my other parliamentary colleagues Julian Lesser, Andrew Bragg and Maria Kovacic
A shout out to Chris Stone too, thank you for everything you have done for our party over many years now and the work you continue to do in this departure lounge phase.
I also pay tribute to our Deputy Federal Director Simon Berger – a mere observer today, but for decades now, a consequential and active participant in the fight for our cause.
Most importantly, can I acknowledge all of you — the membership. You are the beating heart of this party. Every parliamentarian here, every state executive member and every party official is replaceable.
But each and every one of you are not. You are indispensable. It’s incumbent on us to remember that we all work for you, not the reverse. It’s never lost on me that we owe you a great debt for the roles we are privileged to occupy.
We are now into our fourteenth month of Opposition and let me tell you, we are motivated to avoid spending a single day longer here than we have to!
And it is that motivation that has driven our federal parliamentary team to secure some very significant achievements early on this term, already.
Some of you might think that ‘achievement’ is a strange word to use on the opposition benches. After all, isn’t it just our role to resist, oppose, scowl, grumble and lob grenades in Question Time?
Of course, it is important to take up the fight to this bad Albanese Government.
We can’t let Anthony Albanese’s hypocrisy go unchecked and we can’t give Labor a free ride. As John Howard says of Opposition… “if there’s ever a day that you don’t take a bit of skin off the Government, or at least make them feel uncomfortable, then that is a day wasted.”
And Paul Fletcher, responsible for coordinating our tactics in Parliament and doing a fine job of it, will tell you … we are relentlessly prosecuting the questions that the Australian people want answers to, but sadly Labor have no interest in providing them.
But as the natural party of Government in this country, our party must do more than exposing the flaws of Labor to get elected – we rely on a strong foundation, underpinned by unity, purpose and our values. It’s not good enough to just smash this bad Labor Government for being awful — we need to show people we are worth voting for.
One of our great successes in this first year of opposition has been to nurture a flourishing network of members, senators, staff and volunteers, pulling together to create our Liberal vision for the nation.
The building blocks of our party after all, are not policies, big donations, or media strategies – but people.
I want to personally thank each and every party member here today, delegate and observer alike, because without you, we simply can’t exist or operate as a parliamentary party.
Peter, as I have heard him say now on several occasions, is immensely proud of the unity and purpose we have developed within our team.
This is the strength of Peter’s leadership, and my privilege to play a role in this work as his Deputy.
And that unity has led us to another achievement this year: binding together to oppose the Albanese’s Government’s proposal for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament. This is bad policy. It is a bad proposal. It will not deliver better outcomes for Indigenous Australians but it will deliver worse outcomes for all Australians.
We took a principled decision on this. We weren’t going to be influenced by all the polls — I note that support for ‘Yes’ was somewhere between the 60s and 70s before we declared our position.
We were motivated by doing what was right for our country.
In 22 years as a federal parliamentarian, I have travelled to many Indigenous communities. No-one can deny the enormous gap in living standards that exist between most non-Indigenous Australians compared with our First Australians. And the overwhelming majority of Australians — all fair-minded people — want to see that gap closed.
They want to see better outcomes realised and they want the reconciliation journey to continue apace. And you can want all of that, but still vote ‘No’, because you do not believe this referendum question is the right one.
We do not believe the answer to closing the gap lies in the proposal advanced by the Prime Minister.
We do not believe that the path forward is through a group of appointed national leaders residing at the top of our system of government with an unlimited, untested ability to interact not just with elected representatives but across the full spectrum of executive government and with supreme authority gifted by the Constitution.
How can this small group have the detailed understanding, networks or even decision-making capability to reach across, and provide advice on, the myriad of bespoke challenges in each and every local community?
How can a Canberra Voice be better than a bottom-up, community-led, locally-empowered approach?
Significantly changing our country’s Constitution cannot be allowed to proceed just on the vibe of the thing. The Prime Minister has deliberately starved Australians of crucial details at every juncture. He has been deliberately tricky.
I have spent the past week asking question after question of Linda Burney in Question Time. As Paul Fletcher will tell you, there have been no answers.
And in the Senate, Marise, it’s been no different. An increasing number of Australians, I now believe it to be a majority, feel they do not have enough information to ratify the permanent change to our Constitution that the Prime Minister demands.
This isn’t even about tinkering with an existing section. Australians aren’t being asked to make modest revisions, or improvements, to words already there. They are being asked to enshrine an entirely new section.
This is exactly why the High Court would eventually be called to interpret The Voice’s full scope and powers – and no one can predict the outcome of that interpretation on our system of government.
Instead of insulting and demeaning the millions of Australians who are going to vote no, we urge the Prime Minister to work constructively with the Opposition to legislate what we can agree on – and then go to the Australian people with a referendum question that enjoys bipartisan support – constitutional recognition backed by legislated voices.
That is our offer, and our invitation. It is an invitation the Prime Minister repeatedly declines to accept.
This is Anthony Albanese’s political timeline. His political project. His quest for a political moment — like Paul Keating at Redfern.
Anthony Albanese is using the lives of indigenous Australians, and the sanctity of our Constitution, as political footballs and your Federal Liberal Party will not allow it. We are fighting tooth and nail to stop it.
Another one of our early achievements has been commencing the hard work of providing an alternative set of policies. Peter Dutton has costed 15 policies and we have begun a Shadow Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet process to work through our consideration of what offering we will take to the next election.
I want to particularly acknowledge the Shadow Treasurer, Angus Taylor, for his diligent work as part of this process. Angus is meticulously working through how we can save taxpayers’ money and ensure they get more bang for their buck.
I also want to acknowledge Marise Payne too, who as Shadow Cabinet Secretary and the most experienced member of our team, has played an essential role in coordinating the early logistics of that work.
Angus, Marise and I, along with Jane Hume and Peter Dutton, and our Coalition colleagues David Littleproud and Perin Davey are the members of the Shadow ERC and we are working hard to ensure we have the policy settings right to win the next election and deliver better outcomes for all Australians.
The most important thing the Government could do right now is produce an energy policy which does something to address rising energy prices and deteriorating reliability.
A policy that secures more supply of gas and that doesn’t cruel our economy and hurt Australian families and businesses. A policy that has several energy sources in the mix and that approaches this issue with cheaper power prices in mind, not ideology. Regrettably, the debate on nuclear energy looks more like a student politics fight than it does a scientific discussion.
That won’t put Peter Dutton and I off though – the reality of clean, reliable and cost-effective power comes down to a question of technology.
Chris Bowen irrationally says nuclear can’t be part of the answer.
The fact is the latest technology reactors in nuclear-powered submarines in operation today don’t need to be refuelled for 30 years. And the money being invested into research and development is only going to make these new nuclear technologies even better.
That’s why fifty countries are looking at next generation small modular and micro nuclear technologies. These reactors can be plugged into existing grids. So Australia won’t need to spend the more than $100 billion required for new poles and wires – costs which will be passed onto consumers.
Any sensible government must consider these new and safe nuclear technologies as part of the energy mix, including to firm-up whatever percentage of renewables are in the system.
Critically, our energy security is entwined with our national security.
Anthony Albanese says that Labor supports AUKUS.
Well, why would we develop the infrastructure, scientific and engineering workforce, and regulatory framework for our nuclear-powered submarines, docked in our ports, while forbidding the operation of the same technology on our shores? It just doesn’t make sense.
But Anthony Albanese’s friends on the Labor Left understand this logic all too well and will continue to undermine the AUKUS deal in order to also defeat the concept of clean, efficient nuclear baseload electricity.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world moves to accept reality in their approach to energy policy.
Our perceptions of the safety of nuclear energy are strongly influenced by two accidents: Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, and Fukushima in Japan in 2011.
While Chris Bowen and the Labor Party have used these perceptions in their failed scare campaign, the Liberal Party will make our decisions based on science.
Data co-produced between the University of Oxford and Global Change Data Lab, considered the supply chains of all major energy sources and their environmental impacts.
For every terawatt-hour of electricity, nuclear energy results in 0.03 deaths – lower than wind power at 0.04 deaths! Nuclear is actually safer than wind!
And that statistic doesn’t even take into account the rapid developments in Small Modular Reactors and Thorium Salt technology, which add passive and automatic safety features – making the already remote prospect of disaster virtually impossible.
If it’s good enough for all sides of politics in so many other countries in the world – why not Australia?
This is not a partisan issue across the developed world. It shouldn’t be here either, but because of Labor it is.
Australia should be a world-leader in energy policy – as we should be in everything we do.
Just before I move on I hear the Prime Minister is out spruiking his childcare policies today, well we know a couple things.
First, we have seen reports for many families fee increases are already set to wipe out the benefits for Labor’s subsidy increase.
The other is if you have to pay more to keep the lights on at your centre, or the unions take control of how they are run, or we lose the flexibility to support women with innovative services – we will only see childcare costs go up and up.
Labor promised cheaper childcare, I’ll believe it when I see it. As a rural and regional MP, I have seen the unique policy needs of our regions overlooked by Labor every time they form government.
I want to acknowledge the work of David Coleman in this space. David is working bloody hard to hold Labor to account for shamelessly pork barrelling funds into their own electorates that should be going into regional communities to fix mobile blackspots.
By depriving them of much needed investment, Labor is punishing locals in regions across the country for the grave crime of voting Liberal. But to country Liberals in the room, rest assured that David Coleman isn’t letting them get away with it.
And it’s in that vein that we must continue to demonstrate it is the Liberal Party which provides the most effective representation to both metropolitan and regional constituencies.
As you all well know, the regional city of Albury was critical in the founding story of the Liberal Party. Indeed, Albury hosted the second convention in December 1944, where emboldened delegates who attended the earlier conference in Canberra came together to formalise the structures and constitution of our Party.
In fact, Robert Menzies and his colleagues chose Albury as the place to hold the second convention “because the Liberals were keen to demonstrate that they would not be limited to being a ‘metropolitan’ entity”.
This demonstration of our Party’s commitment to regional and rural constituencies, both to our members and importantly the public, was just as critical then as it remains today.
Late next year, members of the Liberal Party will mark an important occasion – the 80th anniversary of our Party’s formation. As we celebrate this milestone, and the contribution our Party has made to Australia, I ask for your support to hold a State Council in Albury to coincide with this important anniversary.
It would be symbolic and fitting for us to commemorate the Liberal Party’s 80th anniversary in the same city where its foundations were firmly established.
It will show the community that our Party has endured the test of time in sticking to our roots – embodied in the principles and promise we offer the Australian people in the We Believe statement.
Our regional and rural members, many of whom are once again in this room, having also come just weeks ago for the Senate pre-selection, are forever being asked to make their way to the city in order to participate in party events.
I think it’s only fair that occasionally we ask our metropolitan members to make their way to the regions, because after all, we are a party for all Australians.
We held a State Council in Goulburn in 2017. It was a great success and a good precedent to build on.
Personally, it would be a great privilege for me both as Deputy Leader of the Party and the Member for Farrer to host a 2024 State Council in Albury. I know my Farrer FEC would be thrilled at the prospect and would dedicate themselves to mark this occasion with the dignity and respect it deserves.
In closing, I would like to thank you all for your ongoing support and faith in Peter, myself, and our team as the parliamentary custodians of our shared beliefs and the fine traditions of our Liberal Party.
We are going to be a serious alternative at the next federal election, setting up a clear contrast with a bad Labor Government. We will go to the Australian people with a strong plan, underpinned by the values that have guided us for 80 years. And the man that will lead us to victory at the next election is Peter Dutton.
The Labor Party will seek to portray Peter Dutton as everything he is not. But the more people that actually meet Peter Dutton, the more people who will actually see the Peter Dutton we know.
Strong. Capable. Hard-working. A man who loves his country and is ready to lead it. Friends, this is the Peter Dutton we know.
And I leave you with this video, one that the Federal Liberal Party launched last weekend, introducing the Peter Dutton we know, to the Australian people.