Address to the Tasmanian Liberal Party State Council 2017
Saturday, 19 August 2017
Well, thank you very much Will. It’s great to be back in Tasmania and back in Launceston.
This is a beautiful state and a beautiful city. I have had a great walk in the early hours of the morning around Launceston and yesterday I managed to grab a bit of time to walk up the gorge and explore the park up there at the top of the walk. It was beautiful.
Again, I am very happy to be here and I just want to agree with what Nick Greiner said; the lifestyle, the economic growth here in Tasmania, the opportunities that we have in Tasmania are the envy of the nation. I also want to add Nicholas, to what Will said, your remarks about the importance of having more female representation in our parliamentary teams are absolutely spot on. That is a very important mission for us as a Party, both at the federal and state level in the future.
Now, I talked about the glorious beauty of Tasmania. You know, it is one thing to admire, but it’s another thing to deliver. International tourism in this state has grown by 16% over the last 12 months and during that time more than 9,000 new jobs have been created. Services exports, including tourism have increased by 12%. We have seen strong growth in exports across the board. Most of that growth is to those three big Asian markets, China, South Korea and Japan, which your federal Coalition Government has opened up wider to Tasmanian businesses with big, new free trade deals.
Thank you. Without wanting to introduce an unduly partisan note into this pleasant morning's proceedings, do you know how many free trade deals the Labor Party did in six years? Zero. None. None. We are constantly working to secure new trade opportunities.
You may have seen at the G20 in Hamburg, I was with President Widodo of Indonesia. He's made a commitment, we have agreed, that our goal is to secure a new free trade agreement between Indonesia and Australia by the end of the year.
So, our approach is any door to any market that we can open or push open a bit more, we will do so. Because we know, Australian goods, our products, our services are the best in the world. We want to have the biggest and the widest and the broadest field for the Australian team to run onto. So that is our commitment.
Now, over the past 12 months, as you know, I have had the pleasure of coming here a number of times. I have seen the strength of the tourism industry with a visit to Salamanca. I have toured the Mersey Hospital with Jonno Duniam. I have visited Headspace sites, which is an important mental health initiative. Of course as Will observed, we signed the Launceston City Deal with Will, and of course we had a COAG meeting in Hobart.
It’s clear there is only one Party that truly represents the views of Tasmania, its people and its diversity and that Party is our Party, the Liberal Party. Under the leadership of Will Hodgman and Jeremy Rockcliff, the fortunes of this state have been transformed. After years of Labor- Green waste and mismanagement, high unemployment, sluggish growth, now confidence, optimism, resilience has once again returned to Tasmania and we’re are seeing this in the impressive economic turnaround under Will's leadership. I want to congratulate Will and his team, who are with us today.
Now Will has acknowledged the strong support that our federal Liberal Government provides him and our commitment to this state; to the jobs, the opportunities, the services that Tasmanians need and deserve. So I want to acknowledge our Tasmanian Liberal team in Canberra. There are no fiercer advocates for this state in the Federal Parliament than Stephen Parry, David Bushby, Eric Abetz and Jonno Duniam. Would you give them a round of applause too.
So together with my colleagues, Zed Seselja, Mitch Fifield, we are here supporting you, working seamlessly with the Tasmanian Liberal Government’s team, the Tasmanian senators in the Parliament, we are committed to the future of Tasmania.
Let me turn now to a very grave challenge that we face and that is the threat of Islamist terrorism. Over the last 24 hours we have seen another shocking terrorist attack, a deadly plot, which has killed a number of people. At this stage the death toll is 14, this time in Barcelona in Spain. Australians have been injured, one very seriously.
We stand in resolute solidarity with the people of Spain in the battle to defeat these Islamist terrorists, whether it is in Spain or here in Australia or in the Middle East.
We will never bow, we will never be cowed by them. We will defeat them and destroy their evil ideology.
Thank you. I want to say - and I will talk in a moment about terrorist threats at home - but Australians are great travellers. We have seen Australians killed in terrorist attacks around the world. Most recently, of course, tragically in the London Borough Market. Of course in Baghdad and of course we all remember the terrible attack in Bali some years ago. In this attack we have seen Australians injured and there is a little Australian boy whose mother was badly injured and is in hospital and he is lost. He is missing in Barcelona. So, I think we should all, in our quiet moments say a prayer for that little boy. All of us as parents, know the anguish his father is going through and his whole family is going through, as they rush to seek to find him in Barcelona.
Now, we are not immune from terrorist threats here in Australia. Only a few weeks ago our security services and intelligence services, police in New South Wales, disrupted the most significant terrorist plot we have seen, to blow up an aeroplane. It would have resulted - if these plotters had been able to carry out their intentions - it would have resulted in hundreds of deaths.
It is a great tribute to the professionalism and courage of our agencies that they were able to disrupt and contain that plot.
We have to constantly stay ahead of our enemies in this regard and I want to assure you that my Government does not have any moment of complacency here. There is no place for ‘set and forget’ in the battle against terrorism.
Just as Australians are at risk around the world, so Tasmanians are at risk around Australia too. Many Tasmanians travel abroad, many of them. Who knows how many Tasmanians could have been on that plane that would have been the target of this attack leaving Sydney.
So we will always ensure our security agencies have the powers that they need to protect us from terrorism. We have made sure the Australian Defence Force can target and kilter wrists in the conflict zone, whether they have a gun in their hand or not.
We will keep terrorists who continue to pose risk behind bars - if they are judged to be a continuing risk - even if their sentences are concluded. I want to thank Will Hodgman for his strong support at COAG in agreeing on this.
Now, we will shortly release the first national strategy for protecting crowded places from terrorism. It has been completed. This is a good example of the approach that I take to keeping Australians safe.
You may recall that last year there was a truck attack, a vehicle attack, in Nice. A shocking attack and many people were killed and many more injured. Clearly this was going to be a new approach by terrorists. Vehicles are very easy to acquire. It’s not really possible to stop people getting hold of a truck or even a car. As you have seen in London, relatively light vehicles can do enormous damage.
So I asked my Commonwealth Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism person to get onto that immediately, brought together state, territory police agencies, intelligence agencies, conferred with our counterparts overseas, conferred with local government, with the private sector, with the owners of big venues, sporting stadiums, shopping malls and so forth. We have brought together – and again I want to thank the Tasmanian government and Will for his input into this - we have brought together a comprehensive strategy. Again, an example of the way in which whenever one of these incidents occurs, whether it is in Australia or around the world, we always take the lessons from that, the learnings from that. There is no place for ‘set and forget’ in terms of national security.
As you know, following the incident in Sydney - the conspiracy in Sydney that was disrupted, contained and of course there are now charges pending - we have initiated reviews into our airport security. Its already has been enhanced. Our airport security of course was raised considerably, until the plot was contained and then some measures were altered. But there is continued enhanced security in all of our airports. Some things you will notice, Others you won't. We are constantly seeking to ensure that our agencies can do an even better job at keeping Australians safe.
Now turning to the forestry industry. What a great credit to Tasmania, what an extraordinary renewable, sustainable industry. I was so pleased to be with Will and Guy Barnett yesterday at Neville Smith Forest Products, a company that is nearly 100 years old. A family business and a business I might add that is benefitting for our company tax cuts.
You see, unlike the Labor Party who just want to jack taxes up, we know that if you want for get more investment, you have got to increase the return on investment. How do you do that? Well, lowering company taxes is a very straightforward way - and business tax - is a straightforward way to do it.
In fact, the Labor Party used to recognise that. Now of course, they have swung so far to the Left, Bill Shorten is trying to channel Jeremy Corbyn; an extreme left-wing approach with no policies to encourage growth. Anyway, we are committed to economic growth for here and right around the nation. The Regional Forest Agreement, its extension not just for another 20 years - and it was great Will, wasn’t it, to add our signatures to a map that John Howard and Tony Rundle had signed in 1997 - but not just for 20 years, because what will happen is this agreement will now be reviewed every five years and then it will be rolled over for another 20 years.
So it will always be a 20-year agreement. What that gives is real certainty and an assurance to the workers there at Neville Smith Forest Products and all the other people, 3,600 Tasmanians working in the forest product industry. That is our commitment.
Of course, since the agreement was first signed 20 years ago, the Tasmanian Nature Reserve Estate has increased by 800,000 hectares. Over 1 million hectares of identified old-growth forest are now permanently protected. The forests of Tasmania represent a renewable and sustainable resource. There is a real renaissance in forest products as we were discussing yesterday. More timber is being used thanks to people's concern about both the aesthetics and the environmental considerations, but also fantastic new technologies delivering more timber products into the world and Tasmania is well positioned to take a great part of that new opportunity.
Of course, every time I come back to Tasmania I am struck by the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. The state is brimming with bright ideas. Small businesses, family businesses both here in Launceston and across the state that are taking a risk, coming up with new ideas, investing more back into their businesses. That is generating the jobs and the opportunities to the people this state deserve. It is happening because of improved business confidence under the economic leadership of Liberal governments at the state and federal level.
What about John Bennett, Tasmania's 2017 Farming Legend of the Year? His family business Ashgrove Cheese is going to employ 100 people across the state. I had the pleasure of trying John's excellent products at the Flavour of Tasmania event in Parliament earlier this week. As John said on the ABC this week; "Ashgrove Cheese is all about community."
These family businesses in Tasmania, 100 employees here, a dozen there, 200 here, 50 there, these all add up to fantastic dynamism entrepreneurship, enterprise. They are the businesses that embody the very values of our party.
At our core, we are a Party that supports aspiration.
We are a Party that’s says: “Our job is to enable you to do your best, not to tell you what is best.”
We want to make sure you have every incentive to get ahead, have a go, do your best. And if it doesn't work out, dust yourself off and have another go.
That is what you are seeing here, because of the confidence in Tasmania delivered by Will, supported by us in Canberra and your Canberra team, you’re seeing real support for business.
Of course the contrast from the Labor Party is total negativity, that Labor has not one policy that would encourage one Tasmanian to invest a dollar or hire a new employee. Not one.
You know, the interesting thing is they don't actually claim to. In fact, Bill Shorten was talking on the ABC the other day and he was being cross-examined relentlessly, as you would imagine on Radio National
One of those really tough right-wing journalists Fran Kelly, she was putting him on the rack. She was. She did. She was, he was under pressure, Bill. He was. She said: "Now, what are your policies to encourage economic growth?"
He's not normally lost for words. But he was then. He said: "Well, Fran, we are in favour of public transport."
Well, we are all in favour of public transport, you know. It’s terrific. It’s terrific. But that is not going to encourage the cheese makers or the forest products companies in Tasmania to invest more and hire more people. It is not going to encourage my friend the honey-maker here, to buy some more equipment and export his fabulous honey products across the world.
The reality is that Labor has no policies to encourage investment, to encourage employment.
That is their shame, as you said. That is their shame.
We are the only party with not only with a plan for jobs and growth, but delivering jobs and growth. Jobs and growth is not just a slogan, it is delivered; 9,000 more jobs in Tasmania in the last year, 240,000 across the nation.
Now, we want to see more jobs and we want to see higher wages. Wages growth is too flat, that is true. What drives high wages? What drives more jobs? Demand, clearly. You need that confidence, that economic growth and that investment.
So it’s a very, very clear gap between us and the Labor Party. We are the only party with policies and plans that support investment.
Labor, on the other hand, has taxes. They want to increase company tax, increase personal income tax.
They want to ban negative gearing, which is effectively taxing housing.
They want to increase capital gains tax which is increasing the tax on investment. You know what happens if you increase the tax on anything? You get less of it. So, less investment. That’s their plan and of course now they are attacking family trusts which of course, are the way that most of these family businesses or many of these family businesses are organised.
Let me turn to energy. Let me turn to what I think is one of the most exciting opportunities in Australia today. We recognise that energy prices are too high. There has been a consistent failure of policy by Labor governments, both at the federal and state level over a long period of time. I won't delay us by talking about the extraordinary failure of the South Australian Labor Government, which decided to make the state, effectively completely dependent on wind power. Which is fine, except the wind doesn't blow all the time. A point they overlooked.
No, they did. They absolutely did. They absolutely did. I mean it’s one thing to say: "Gosh, it is always windy" as a throwaway line about the weather, but the reality is the wind doesn't blow all the time any more than the sun shines all the time.
So these renewable sources - which are vitally important and which I might say in respect of wind in particular Tasmania has the best wind resources in the nation - the fact of the matter is you have got to have some back-up. South Australia didn't do that. So they ended up with a wind resource that could generate 100 per cent of their energy one minute and zero per cent the next. No wonder they got into a lot of trouble.
Then of course we have seen the fiasco with gas prices where Labor, both in Queensland and in Canberra, allowed all of these gas export facilities to be built from the east coast, from Queensland, without paying any attention to the warnings about what they would do to the domestic gas market. So the reality is I've had to take very strong action to intervene in the export market to ensure there is enough gas in the east coast.
How could we get to the point where we are the biggest LNG exporter in the world and we are short of gas in our eastern cities and states? Well, the answer is Labor incompetence.
I’ve often said their approach to energy is a mixture of ideology and politics. I thin in fact, it is fairer the say it is a mixture of ideology and idiocy. It really is.
Now turning to the big opportunity in Tasmania. You have here, as I said, the best wind resources in the nation. You have the biggest hydro scheme in the nation. I talk a lot about Snowy Hydro and we are so proud of it. We are going to build there, the biggest single pumped storage hydro operation facility in the Southern Hemisphere. You’ve heard people talk about batteries, I’ll tell you about a battery; Snowy Hydro 2.0 will not deliver 100 megawatts for an hour, it will deliver 2,000 megawatts for 7.5 weeks. That is a big battery, believe me. You can do the same here in Tasmania.
The Tassie Hydro, coupled with renewables, coupled with another interconnector, you put all of that together, this is a big deal. A big vision for Tasmania as the renewable energy battery for Australia. It is a huge opportunity.
So this is what we are doing. Now, this is the difference between my and Will's approach and Labor's. This is about planning, about being businesslike, about having energy policy guided by economics and engineering as opposed to ideology and idiocy. So what we are doing, we’re funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency a joint study with Hydro Tasmania into at least nine and maybe more, pumped hydro projects across the state, as well as the refurbishment of some existing hydro projects and operations. That work is underway. It will be completed before the end of the year.
Now, we’ve got a long history of funding renewable energy innovation in Tasmania. Arena has contributed to the ongoing development of hydro, solar, wind and diesel and storage solutions on Flinders Island and King Island and to the mapping project with the University of Tasmania on tidal energy locations around the state.
That is all investment in the future, as Will and Matthew Groom highlighted this week with the release of your energy security plan. But by building the mix of generation assets here in Tasmania - hydro, tidal or the new Cattle Hill wind farm announced in June or Granville Harbour wind farm to be built next year, you can see a future for much greater connectivity across the national electricity market. That is why Arena is going to also continue to examine the prospects for a second interconnector across Bass Strait.
Dare I say it, all of this is connected. But this is a big deal, a big vision, a big opportunity.
We’re determined to support Will in providing affordable and reliable electricity to Tasmania. But Tasmania can play a massive role in the electricity market in the 21st century electricity environment right across the nation.
So, big ideas, big visions, huge opportunities. Tasmania has all of the elements. What we need is the leadership and the money and the plans to put it together and that is what Will and I are committed to doing for your state.
Back in April, I came back to the Mersey Hospital to unveil our 10-year, $730 million commitment which secures the hospital's future in the state's hands, state ownership. I want to say that our governments worked very closely to deliver the hospital back to Tasmanian ownership firmly embedding it with the necessary funds, into Tasmania's One Health system. The states resumption of ownership means the local administrators can respond better to community needs as they position the hospital for the next decade. It allows the Mersey to better connect with other hospitals in the region. It guarantees the jobs of 470 staff at the hospital.
That investment is on top of the $365 million we are contributing to Tasmania's public hospitals this year alone. Over the next four years, that will total over $1.9 billion for this state.
Turning to mental health, our commitment extends to the important challenge of mental health. Or as Professor Hickie describes it, the ‘mental wealth of the nation’.
See, we all have a vested interest in everybody's mental health. It is a huge drain on happiness, on productivity by any measure. It's been a bit of a taboo in many respects, that's changing. We are making a much bigger commitment to it because of the importance of protecting and enhancing our mental health as a nation. Our mental health is actually the ‘mental wealth of the nation’. Now, this is such a vital national priority, we'll leave no stone unturned in our efforts to advance it here. Here in Tasmania we are funding the Primary Health Network as a lead site to champion mental health reform over the next two years. There are ten lead sites across Australia and the Tasmanian site will focus on building models of care for young people with severe mental illness including innovative ways to target a broader range of youth who have severe mental health illness or are at risk of it.
We’re funding two Headspace centres in Tasmania, Hobart and Launceston, including an outreach centre in Devonport. That’s delivering innovative frontline services which will transform young people’s lives. You can imagine the value to a young person and to the whole community, if we can ensure that a young person who has mental health challenges can address them, resolve them, get on the right track at that early age. You are protecting that young person for their whole life.
So this is a massively important initiative. We’ve got to be focssed on improving the delivery of mental health services. It’s a long topic, so I won't go into any more detail, but right across the board, suicide prevention, veterans' mental health, this is a major commitment of my Government, a major priority, and of course of Will's too. I can assure you we are very focused on it here on it here in Tasmania.
So let me talk finally about a very exciting and historic initiative for a Launceston City Deal, as I said, I
signed earlier this year with the Premier and the Mayor.
That deal demonstrates what is possible when all three levels of government work together. Let's face it, if you’re sitting next to somebody on a bus or a train, or just chatting in a street, and you say: "What would like politicians to do?" Everybody says: "I’d like them to work together better."
One of the more debilitating features of political debate is the constant criticism between the state government, federal government, local government. People talk about blame shifting, they're fed up with it. So this is a big, new reform that I have initiated. That is, to have City Deals where we focus on a particular city, or it could be a region, or part of a city, where we say: "Right, we’re going to agree on what we want to achieve and we are going to work together to make sure that we get maximum benefit from our investments." Whether it is local government, state government or federal government, instead of the three ships, as they often do, in effect passing each other in the night.
The centerpiece of the deal here is a $260 million investment to move the University of Tasmania's main Launceston campus into the city centre. It’s much more than building a campus, it’s about building a city. Its part of a City Heart project that the city council has been leading.
It’s going to position Launceston as one of Australia's most livable and innovative regional cities.
It’ll provide better education and job opportunities for young people in the region.
It’ll boost the local economy by $360 million a year, creating over 2700 new jobs.
Will and I have been talking about a similar deal in Hobart. We want this to be the model for federal engagement with state and local governments in these areas of infrastructure investment. We have to get better value out of all of our investment in cities and in infrastructure.
Of course that comes on top of the big infrastructure investments of which Will spoke earlier. $400 million for the Midland Highway. $38 million towards the Hobart Airport runway extension. $24 million for the Hobart airport roundabout. And of course there’s $25 million the Regional Jobs and Investment Plan which is helping diversify local economies and local businesses here in Tasmania.
I just want to conclude finally by saying thank you for very warm welcome yesterday and this morning.
It's wonderful to be here in Tasmania with my colleagues. You are represented by a great Senate team in Canberra.
We’ve got a great Liberal Government in Tasmania. It is vitally important that Will's Government is returned. Nick Greiner said that the Government deserves to be returned and so it does. It absolutely does. But Tasmanians need it to be returned. The track record of Labor incompetence across the country is one you cannot afford to have inflicted on Tasmanians again.
I'd say as I said last night at the dinner; the Labor Party of today is not the Labor Party of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, which supported microeconomic reform and cut company tax. You know, while it did not go as far in that direction as a Liberal Government would have and later did, you could not say it was virulently anti-business. That is what we see from Shorten.
Whether it is the attack on business with higher taxes, or the extraordinary manner in which he has opposed fundamental issues of transparency and accountability.
Think about this, I’ll just conclude on this point about our opponents, the alternative; in the last week we have secured through the Parliament the passage of a new law which makes it unlawful for businesses to pay secret corrupting payments to unions - as was revealed was happening with the AWU, including under Shorten’s leadership and many and other unions, particularly the CFMEU.
Of course Labor opposed the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. They opposed the reintroduction of the rule of law to the building sector.
But how can you credit an Opposition leader , who used to be the Secretary of a union, opposing legislation which simply says, if a business is to pay money to a union, it has to be for a legitimate purpose and it must be disclosed? You would think, most Australians would think that had been the law forever. It's common sense isn’t it?
Labor fought tooth and nail against that.
You have a Labor Party now, the most left-wing we've seen in generations; wholly-owned subsidiaries of very militant, very left-wing unions.
It has never been more important for our values and our Party to continue to deliver for Australia and for Tasmanians, the leadership, the economic leadership, the determination, to allow them to realise their dreams. To give them the strength, the enablement to realise their dreams, consistent with our Liberal values.
Those values are timeless, but more timely today than ever before.
Thank you very much.