Address at the South Australian Liberal Party State Council
It is great to be back in South Australia.
Now you know I arrived yesterday and noted how everyone was very upbeat. I would assume that was because of the position of the Crows, Port Adelaide in the AFL ladder, yes give them a round of applause. South Australia is doing very well, but mind you the Swans are back in the eight so my team may yet come out on top.
Look you know the real reason people are feeling more buoyant in this state is because of you – the Liberal Party of South Australia and your leader Steven Marshall and his team. Because they know that before too long this hopeless Labor Government will be out and you will have visionary, progressive, effective, business like Liberal Government in its place.
This state needs that leadership, it needs it right now.
Now over the last 12 months I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many towns and communities through South Australia. In October last year I saw firsthand the resilience and the determination of the communities hit by floods in Virginia and Gawler. I was joined by Steven Marshall and Anne Ruston as we thanked the emergency service workers for their courage and we met with farmers and small business owners that had their lives turned upside down by the flood.
I’ve toured the Whyalla Steelworks with Rowan Ramsey, who was absolutely instrumental in securing its future, providing certainty to the workers of Whyalla.
We had a great politics in the pub with Tony Pasin in Mt Gambier, a veteran’s morning tea with Nicolle Flint in the Colonel Light Gardens, the launch of the ASC Shipbuilding Plan in Osborne with Christopher Pyne, who is the Minister for Defence Industries. And of course there has never been a more ferocious persuasive and persistent advocate for this state than Christopher, and I think we can all recognise that.
And of course I’ve visited the indigenous communities in Ceduna and the APY Lands, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing much of this state with more to see.
And that has reinforced my view that there is only one party that is capable of representing all of South Australia, its people and its diversity. And that is our Party - the Liberal Party and under Steven Marshall and Vickie Chapman’s leadership this will be a government, as you just heard from that inspiring address from Steven Marshall, that represents the aspirations of all South Australians. So bring on March next year.
And I look forward to working with Steven as the next Premier of South Australia, but you know you have a great team here ready for the state election, but you also have a powerful team in Canberra.
I’ve mentioned some of them, Christopher Pyne, of course, Simon Birmingham the Minister for Education. Let me dwell on Simon’s achievements for a moment. For all the history of the Commonwealth, since the Commonwealth Government started funding schools. First non-government schools, then providing funding to support government schools.
The funding arrangements have been inconsistent, they’ve been a deal here, a deal there. It got to the point under the Labor Government, Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten where there were 27 separate deals, no consistency among any of them. A school with exactly the same needs in one state would get markedly different funding from the Commonwealth than one with exactly the same needs in another. So it was hopeless, it was also unaffordable. It was also legislated, it had nothing going for it at all.
And what we have been able to achieve, what Simon has been able to achieve is for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia, national consistent transparent needs-based funding. And he managed to put that deal together, get David Gonski to endorse it and navigated it through the Senate, it was a historic achievement by a great South Australian.
Anne Ruston knows, as does Tony Pasin how important water is to this state. And Anne is making sure that the Murray Darling Basin Authority, in addition to the enquiries set up in New South Wales, thoroughly checks the compliance with water, use of water regulation and management right across the basin. Because we have to make sure that every drop counts, and no water goes amiss. Or contrary to all of the regulation and rules we’ve setup over the years to ensure that water is used effectively. Nobody understands the importance of every drop going to the right destination than South Australian’s and our Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Anne Ruston.
So together with David Fawcett, Nicolle Flint, Tony Pasin and Rowan Ramsey; you’ve got such strong advocates for your state in the federal parliament.
Now I’ve said many times that the first job of every Australian government and the first priority of my government is keeping Australians safe – both at home and abroad.
This has been very much you would’ve seen in recent weeks - with the disruption in Sydney of one of, if not the most dangerous terrorist plot we’ve faced - an alleged attempt to bring down an aircraft with an improvised explosive device. It showed extraordinary work on the part of our intelligence, police security agencies, cooperation’s with intelligence partners around the world to uncover that plot, disrupt it, contain it and of course now the participants have been charged.
This is the 13th terrorism plot uncovered and disrupted by our authorities since 2014.
And we would not have been able to do it without the resources, your liberal government gave them in terms of finance – financial resources, material resources and in terms of legislation. We have no place for set and forget in national security. No place for complacency, no place for anyone resting on the laurels of the success, constantly every day, every hour we are asking how can we keep Australians safe, how can we do it better, how can we optimise and improve everything we do.
Now our promise to keep Australians safe goes beyond terrorists.
It’s a commitment to build a society in which our children are safe from harm, whatever the threat.
And like you I was inspired to hear the passion of a father, the passion of a parent of a teenager, Steven Marshall talking about how he is determined that the government he will lead will keep the South Australian children free from the scourge of drugs.
Now I want to talk particularly now about ice. The scourge of methamphetamine use in Australia is a problem we are determined to eradicate.
Proportionally, Australia uses more ice than almost any other country. Conservative estimates suggest that there are well over 200,000 ice users in Australia.
The drug destroys family, it breeds violence, it creates a circle of grief that ruins communities.
But you can rest assured, that we are targeting this shocking miserable menace from every angle.
Our approach is comprehensive, it has two priorities: prevention and law enforcement.
The good news is we are making progress.
Since 2013, our law enforcement agencies have prevented more than 12 tonnes of methamphetamine, including ice, from hitting our streets.
In the last four years, the Australian Federal Police have been responsible for 46 methamphetamine seizures in South Australia and stopping 117 kilograms of ice from reaching the streets here.
Our targeted investments and initiatives are putting a major dent in the scourge of ice in this country.
And we are doing this through increased international cooperation, enhanced intelligence sharing, better controls of the precursor chemicals that are used to make it and greater law enforcement efforts to prevent ice reaching our shores.
We’ve established Taskforce Blaze - a joint agency taskforce between the Australian Federal Police and the Chinese National Narcotics Control Commission. Under this taskforce Australian and Chinese authorities have intercepted more than 10 tonnes of illicit drugs destined for our streets.
We’ve Invested $116 million to establish the National Anti-Gangs Squad strike teams. Those teams have now been rolled out in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia with liaison officers in the other jurisdictions. The Squads’ work has resulted in the seizure of $5.6 million in cash and illegal drugs and including more than 170 kilograms of methamphetamine.
And we’ve invested $3.6 million from the proceeds of crime – the money the criminals have made has been confiscated – we’ve invested that into the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to collect data as part of the first ever National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Report to detect ice hotspots, and collect data on drugs being used within our communities.
The second Wastewater Report, released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission recently, showed that methamphetamine levels in South Australia – while high – were in decline.
That’s a step in the right direction, but we need to do more and remain vigilant. And that’s why we need a state government that will be utterly focused on working on this and working with us. We will support Steven Marshall in his campaign to drive this drug out of the hands of our children here in South Australia.
But, we can’t simply arrest our way out of the ice problem – we have to work to reduce the demand for the drug.
Through our National Ice Action Strategy all governments and the community are working together to tackle this destructive drug, ice.
My Government is investing $300 million to improve treatment, education, prevention and community engagement to tackle it.
The funding package also includes significant investment in rural and regional areas.
So we are responding holistically to this national problem, bringing law enforcement together with education and health.
We’re utilising more data to increase our understanding of drug use in Australia, and to pinpoint where we need to focus our efforts.
This is all part of my commitment to deliver opportunity and security for all Australians. All of the economic opportunities we want our children to enjoy have to be based on a foundation of safety and security, and our determination to tackle this problem and eradicate ice use, that is a key part of keeping Australians safe.
Now let me turn now to energy, Steven spoke so well, as did John Olsen about the challenge you face, you really have in South Australia of course been subject to an experiment by Jay Weatherill.
People really should conduct these experiments as dangerous as that privately somewhere in expert company rather than inflicting it on a whole state.
I’ve often said that the Labor Party’s approach to energy is a combination of ideology and politics, whereas on the other hand we as liberals are focused on economics and engineering. But on reflection I think I’ve been too kind to them. It’s actually ideology and idiocy – in equal measures. Because as Steven was observing, if you want it to replace coal-fired power with lots of renewables you would – it would dawn on you, you would think with a moment’s thought that the sun doesn’t shine all the time, and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. This is not a revelation, it is as Lucy’s dad would say, this is a penetrating glimpse of the obvious.
But it is one that eluded Jay Weatherill. No, it absolutely did, completely eluded him. He got to the point where in South Australia, renewables, almost entirely wind, could generate more than 100 per cent of the State's electricity demand one moment, and then absolutely none of it next. And provided no backup and no storage. And so what you've seen, as you know, to your cost, is the most expensive and the least reliable electricity in Australia. Now, this, of course, is what Bill Shorten wants to do for all of Australia. He does. He does. He thinks - and Mark Butler, the Shadow Environment Minister, he thinks that this has been a great success. They are proud of it. They are absolutely proud of their triumph.
And of course the response of the State Labor Government here has been a scramble, a battery here, a gas plant there, and now a fleet of diesel generators to try and cover the gap. That's so environmentally responsible, don't you think? A whole stack of diesel generators. And denigration and insult to anyone who dares point out their failings.
Now, unlike Jay Weatherill, my government is applying policies that deliver affordability and reliability to households and businesses. Now, the problems that the Labor Party has created on the energy front are massive, and they can't be fixed instantly. But I want to tell you what we're doing.
We are taking a very practical approach, technology agnostic, and as I said it is driven by economics and engineering, not by ideology and idiocy let alone green-left politics. Now what we have done is first tackle the immediate cause, the reason why electricity prices have spiked in very recent times - there have been many factors over the years - is because of the surge in the price of gas.
And the reason for that is that in the east coast market, in the national electricity market the gas - domestic gas supplies have become in short supply. And why is that? Well, in about 2012, during
that period of the last federal Labor Government, the Queensland Labor Government, they set up massive export terminals - LNG export terminals in Queensland, at Gladstone, at Curtis Island, and this was all to take advantage of the coal seam gas developments in Queensland.
Now, Labor was warned repeatedly and it was noted in their own Energy White Paper, noted repeatedly by the Australian Energy Market Operator that this could put pressure on domestic gas supplies. They paid no regard to it at all. Mark Butler said on Insiders the other day that he wasn't warned, well I'm telling you that he was, and again it was plainly obvious, that suddenly you had a contained gas market on the east coast where there was no export, no exports, you introduce exports. Are you sure, you might have thought - someone would have said, "Are we sure that the
additional supplies are enough to meet the massive export demand?" What is this going to mean for our domestic market? What is this going to mean for Australian families, for Australian businesses that require gas? For their energy source, for the feedstock? What is it going to mean for Australian jobs?
Let me tell you, they paid no regard to that at all. And so we have got into the situation where they are exporting domestic gas and the market here has become short and you will have found, as those of you who are in businesses, who have got industrial contracts, you would know you are being asked to pay prices vastly in excess of the price customers in Japan are paying for the gas that is being shipped there from Australia. It is literally absurd. About to be the largest exporter of LNG in the world and we have gas that is unaffordable.
Well, what have we done? We have - and this is a tough measure for a Liberal government to take on - we have set up export controls. So we will - we're going through a process now. We will limit the export of gas from Australia and in particular the east coast to such a level that will ensure that the domestic market is supplied. We will act - we have acted to ensure that Australians have affordable and reliable supplies of gas and the price per gigajoule has already come down on the spot market by several dollars, so you can see we are taking that on.
Now we're also attacking the question of retail – the retail prices that people are paying. You know, the electricity market is pretty complex, as you know. There are many many different plans you can have.
Some Australian families, some South Australian families are paying hundreds of dollars – well many of them are paying hundreds of dollars more for electricity than they needed to because they were on a plan that has expired and they weren't aware of that. Very busy running their lives, looking after the kids, running a business - and they've gone back onto a standard offer.
There are thousands of Australian families that are paying hundreds of dollars more, up to $1500 more than they need to pay.
Now, as you know, this past week, we brought in the executives, chief executives of the energy retailers, and we've got some commitments from them, and we will back this up with regulation, that will ensure that when somebody is on an expired plan, they must be told they are, they must be told what their alternatives are to get a better deal.
If they're on a plan that is coming to an end, they again will be told and the communication will say, "If you do nothing, you will go onto the standard offer, and if you have been on the standard offer for the last year, you would have paid several hundred dollars more, nominated, X hundred dollars more for your electricity and here are some alternatives," and refer them to an independent objective comparison website.
So we are putting the power back into the hands of the consumers, and you would have seen on television, A Current Affair in particular, has had a couple of stories on that this week, examples of families who have precisely the situation I described, who have been paying hundreds of dollars or more for their electricity than they should.
Now of course we are taking a number of other important measures, too, but I’ll just talk about storage for a moment, because Steven touched on that. You can't have a heavy reliance on renewables, on intermittent renewables, like wind and solar, unless you are either prepared to back them up with gas peaking power, or you have storage. That is fundamental. The wind does not blow all the time. The sun doesn't shine all the time - obvious. So that's why I say Labor's approach is ideology and idiocy: so the idiocy I think is just as important as ideology.
What we are doing is not buying a battery at a huge expense that would be helpful if you are 100 megawatts short for an hour, but not very helpful if you are, say 150 megawatt short for an hour, or short for two hours. What we are doing is putting in place the largest storage, pumped hydro storage in the Southern Hemisphere, Snowy Hydro 2.0. It will be able to deliver 2,000 megawatts of power not for an hour, not for an hour and a half, but for seven and a half weeks. That's the scale of the vision and the planning that a Liberal government puts in place when it talks about storage.
And here in South Australia we have a project we are working with, we are funding the business plan of in Rowan's electorate at Cultana, a smaller project, but three times the size of the battery Jay Weatherill has been talking about. Again pumping water uphill when the electricity is cheap, when perhaps the windmills are blowing in the middle of the night, and enabling you to provide that backup.
You can solve for all of these things, but you have to be business-like and efficient in the way you go about it.
Now finally, let me say something about the great defence investments we're making - John touched on them. $90 billion, 12 submarines, 9 future frigates, 2 offshore patrol vessels will all be built here.
But this is much more than just an exercise in shipbuilding, 5,000 jobs, extremely important. This is the future. I know that people in South Australia have often become despondent about the future of the state, as manufacturing, plants closed, as a Labor government continued to wage, as Shorten does, a war on aspiration.
And people have often said, "Well, where is the future? Where are my kids going to get a great opportunity?" I know one friend here in the State who has a son who is brilliant at mathematics, and he said to me, "I never thought he would be able to have a job in South Australia. I thought he would have to go and work somewhere else."
We are establishing the most sophisticated, cutting-edged, advanced manufacturing, not just in Australia, but anywhere in the world here in this State. These submarines, these ships, this is more than a naval shipbuilding effort. This is a national enterprise of technology which will advance so many other businesses, so many other opportunities.
The future, my friends, is not somewhere else. It is right here in South Australia.
So we have a commitment, we have a commitment to this State, to this nation, that is based on aspiration.
John spoke about small business and what have we done with small business? Reduced their tax. Why have we done that? If you reduce the tax on business, they invest more because you increase the return on investment. If you have more investment, you get more employment.
Every program we have, every policy we have is designed to increase the opportunities for Australians because we are a party of enterprise and opportunity, fundamentally. Our side of politics believes that government's job is to enable you to do your best, to enable the small business people, the farmers, the professional people that Menzies spoke about all those years ago as the forgotten people, to enable them to get on and realise their dreams. That's our job. We are enablers.
Labor, on the other hand, wants to tell you what is best. Now, I've talked about our values. I've talked about the vision we have for opportunity, investment, security, safety. Let me talk about now briefly the risk we run with our opponents.
The Labor Party of today is not the Labor Party of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. This is the most dangerous left-wing leader of the Labor Party we have seen in generations. He is a wholly owned subsidiary of militant, left-wing unions who have no regard for the rights of others, let alone the law of the land. The CFMEU controls Bill Shorten.
This is a union that has over 100 officials in the courts facing over 1,000 charges of breaking industrial law. Look at the extent to which Labor went to stop us restoring - as we did, through the determination of our parliamentary team, through the brilliant negotiation of our Senate team, through the commitment of Liberals like yourselves and thousands of others, backing us in. We were able to restore the Australian Building Construction Commission and the tough cop is back on the beat.
But, you know, in addition to other historic industrial reforms, reflect on what happened this week in the Parliament. In the teeth of ferocious opposition from the Labor Party and the Greens, we passed amendments to the Fair Work Act relating to corrupting benefits.
And the effect of the new law was to do this: It was to say that employers could not pay money to unions or union officials for any purpose other than legitimate purposes that were fully disclosed. Had to be fully disclosed. Because there had been a lot of payments, as the Heydon Royal Commission revealed, which were paid from employers to unions, in particular Bill Shorten's union. And in particular when he was in charge of it, that were clearly done in return for the union trading away workers' rights, in particular overtime rights.
The case of the Cleanevent workers, these were some of the lowest paid workers in the country whose overtime rates were traded away and it just so happened there was a $75,000 payment to the union, not disclosed, certainly not disclosed to the workers who voted on the enterprise agreement. So what we are standing up for in the Senate? We were standing up for integrity and transparency.
Now, I believe that the vast majority of Australians, when we look at that law would say, "Hasn't that always been the law? Isn't that obvious?" I mean, if company directors did that sort of thing, they would be in terrible trouble. And they’re right, you know. We have had to fight tooth and nail to stand up for and deliver basic transparency and honesty, the beneficiaries of which are the members of trade unions.
Who is Bill Shorten standing up for? The union officials.
There is a very cynical old line in the union movement: Nothing is too good for the workers, or their representatives. You might add "or particularly their representatives". The fact is the Labor Party of today is a party of big Labor, union officials with no regard for their members who they have deceived and lied to for years, as Heydon exposed, and as we - and we are now protecting them.
And if that were not bad enough, the Labor Party of today, led by Bill Shorten, is waging a war on business and in particular on small business. They want to increase taxes on small business, whether it is company tax, whether it is attacking trusts, whether it is increasing personal income tax, whether it is abolishing negative gearing or increasing capital gains tax - right across the board, Labor's so-called war on inequality is nothing more than a war on aspiration.
This is the politics of envy, done at the behest of large militant unions. Labor has never been more left or more dangerous. It has never been a greater threat to our economic opportunities, to the opportunities it is up to us and we owe to deliver to our children and grandchildren.
So thank you for your support. Thank you, Steven Marshall and the South Australian Liberal team. We are the defenders of the values of our party, values of freedom of enterprise, of aspiration.
Labor threatens them now more than ever, so now, more than ever, we have the work to do, to defend those values and deliver the security and the opportunity that all Australians deserve, all South Australians deserve, and only the Liberal Party can deliver for them with the certainty they deserve.
Thank you very much.