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Address to the WA Liberal Party State Conference - 3 September 2017

2nd September 2017  |  Comments  |  Speeches, Transcripts

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well you know Julie, you're very generous. Today when you spoke, you made West Australians and West Australian Liberals so proud of you. So proud of the powerful advocacy you undertake every day for our Party and our values and your state.

But when you step on to the world stage, you make every Australian proud. You are the finest Foreign Minister.

[Applause]

Well it's great to be back in Western Australia. I had a great day yesterday in Kalgoorlie with Rick Wilson and Alan Tudge, announcing the rollout in the Goldfields of the Cashless Welfare Card, a fantastic innovation, a fantastic reform. You know it’s been rolled out in the east Kimberley for over a year now, and in Ceduna in South Australia. It’s seen a massive reduction in alcohol abuse, in drug abuse, in domestic violence, in violence generally; a really huge improvement in the quality of life, not just for the families who are using the Cashless Welfare Card, but for the whole community. But above all, above all it's an investment in the future of the children.

We had a very good meeting yesterday, Rick Wilson and Alan, with the Mayor of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the presidents of all the shires and a whole range of community leaders, including Indigenous leaders.

The reaction to the card was so positive, they have fought so hard to secure it.

Frankly, Rick's advocacy had been very critical in ensuring that the card was rolled out there in the Goldfields, as the next site. There is another location that we'll be announcing shortly.

In the Goldfields, around 60%, or actually a little bit more in Kalgoorlie, will be non-Indigenous. So while there will be a large number of Indigenous users of the card, most of the users of the card will be non-Indigenous. But there was a very powerful point made by one of the Indigenous leaders there at the meeting.

She said, "To those critics of this card," - and I guess she was referring to the people in the Labor Party and the Greens who believe that welfare recipients should be able to spend as much of their welfare on drugs and alcohol as they like, regardless of the impact - she said, "I ask them to look into the eyes of the children. I ask them to look into the eyes of the children suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I ask them to look into the eyes of the children who aren't being fed at home, who don't know where they will be sleeping, do not know whether they will be safe, all because their parents are on the grog, or using drugs."

She said, "I ask them to think about those children."

She said, "My commitment is to do everything I can to protect them."

That's why she supported the Cashless Welfare Card. You know, what that card speaks to, is our values.

Just like the drug testing of welfare recipients, that drug testing trial speaks to our values. It speaks to values of compassion and of love, but also of ensuring that we protect the most vulnerable.

Yet we have on the left, this widening chasm - not just on economic issues, but on values as well, on social values as well.

Labor carps and snipes at all of these initiatives that Christian Porter has led as Social Services Minister, supported by Alan Tudge. These vital reforms are ensuring we have real social responsibility, and in a practical way we show the compassion and the love and the support for families and communities that they deserve. So I'm proud to be leading a Government that is committed to making families stronger, committed to ensuring that our welfare system does everything it can to ensure that Australians who are on welfare, get off welfare and get into a job. That is our commitment.

[Applause]

Now Julie spoke of our great West Australian team. We have, you have, the most eloquent and powerful advocates in Canberra that you could imagine. Mathias Cormann of course, the Finance Minister, making sure that we live within our means, and above all, as a Senate whisperer. He is sitting there next to Michaelia and Linda Reynolds, three senators in a row. Dean Smith is there as well, another great senator. Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Health and Aged Care, but you know, the Senate team has defied all the pundits.

I cannot tell you how many press conferences I have been at, where the press gallery say to me, "Prime Minister; admit you have no hope of getting this bill through the Senate. Come on, admit it". And I decline to do so. They find this he resistance puzzling! But then, amazingly, one piece of legislation after another gets through the Senate. Why's that? Because we are committed to making the 45th parliament work.

Now, we'd like there to be more Liberals in the Senate and it's good to welcome Slade, the new senator, but we would love for there to be more Liberals in the Senate. We all voted for the Liberal Senate team, didn't we? But you know something, not everyone did. So we have to work with the senators the Australian people elected. We respect the Australian people, we respect the crossbench and we work with them every day to ensure that our commitments to the Australian people, what we promised at the election, is delivered. That's our goal and it has been a great track record.

You know, it's also good to be, as I said, back here in Western Australia. I've always - I've said this to you before, but you know - often in the eastern press, people who are not trying to flatter me, describe me, have described me in the past, as a “buccaneering businessman”, a “deal-maker, an entrepreneur and all of those things. The good thing is, on this side of the continent those are all compliments!

[Laughter]

So it’s good. The press clippings I have to hide on the east coast I can pull out here on the west coast and it is 22 years ago that the company that Lucy and I started won a technology Exporter of the Year award in Western Australia, so I have had a long history of business involvement in Western Australia.

By the way, it is good to see that slight shake in West Australian optimism that was here when I was last here in July, has been recovered. I was concerned about that, but the good news is that the West Coast Eagles, whose number one ticket holder is Julie Bishop, have made it into the top eight.

[Applause]

There was concern about that and I'm pleased to say the Swans and the Greater Western Sydney Giants are also there. So the Turnbulls are well represented as well, in the eight.

As you know we brought the Cabinet here for a week in July and during the course of that, I and my ministerial colleagues travelled the length and breadth of the state. For myself, I started the week with a politics in the pub in Mindarie with Christian Porter. I then visited the Swan View High School with Ken Wyatt and we had an afternoon tea in Mandurah, getting the train down with some very bright young students from Andrew Hastie's electorate. Michaelia Cash and Steve Irons and I went to Rivervale to announce new youth training places under our Prepare, Trial, Hire program, the PaTH program, again vehemently opposed by the Labor Party.

Who in their right mind would not want young people who have not been able to get started in work, to have a crack at it? Who would not want them to get involved in an internship?

I'll tell you who; the Labor Party. Bill Shorten's Labor Party. They don't want those young people to get a start. They'd rather they stayed on welfare. Well, we disagree. We're doing everything we can to get people in welfare, off welfare. Because we know, the best welfare is a job.

We opened the Mitchell Freeway extension with Ian Goodenough and Christian Porter - a very popular investment that was. Of course I was in Albany with Rick Wilson to visit the very special National Anzac Centre and discuss the big increase in funding coming for all the schools in Western Australia, but we went to ASHS, the senior high school in Albany, to discuss that. Then to Busselton with Nola Marino where we announced a $1.5 million investment for the iconic Busselton Jetty precinct.

Nola, there was one of the great volunteers there, I think as a joke, who described it as Jusselton Betty, and every time I mention it, I'm concerned I'm going to do it again!

[Laughter]

But anyway, it was a great initiative and an example of the fantastic advocacy you deliver. Of course you're sitting next to Melissa Price. When we were up in Broome with Melissa we had a great visit there, we met with Yawuru leaders to discuss how we combat the tragedy of youth suicide. The work, Melissa, you do across your electorate, which I think we worked out was 66,000 times larger than mine, is remarkable.

Of course this morning, Ben Morton and I were with the kids and their parents at the Willetton Basketball Stadium, where he is making a strong case for additional funding to expand that.

I might say Ben shot an amazing goal there! It was extraordinary. He didn't want to take the ball, he had seen me miss a couple of hoops, and he absolutely nailed it. So very impressed. Yesterday, I joined Michael Keenan, who is doing an extraordinary job as our Justice Minister, really in one of the most challenging areas the government faces.

Nick Greiner spoke about it earlier, about the primary job of every government to be ensuring that we keep Australians safe. National security is our first objective. The battle against terrorism is more complex and challenging all the time. You've seen very recently the conspiracy that was identified, disrupted, contained in Sydney, to blow up an aeroplane. This is now one of 14 terrorist plots that our agencies have disrupted in the last several years. So it's an example of the relentless work we do, and Michael is a key part of our national security team, the work we do to ensure that our agencies have

all of the resources they need. The financial resources, the legislative resources to keep us safe. So, Michael, thank you for that. Again it was great to be there at the Telethon Type 1 Diabetes Family Centre in your electorate.

Now, coming back to the Cashless Debit Card, let me just say a little bit more about that. It isn't a silver bullet, obviously. But it will help us ensure that 80 per cent of welfare money - and it applies to people on working age welfare payments - is spent on food, rent, clothing, and not on drugs, alcohol and gambling.

It's a world-first in the delivery of welfare payments. As I noted earlier, according to the independent evaluation of the trials in Ceduna and the east Kimberley, it has had a remarkable impact. It is critically important that we do everything we can to encourage people to get off welfare. To help themselves.

Now this is criticised by the left relentlessly. I do not understand how you can say you are compassionate, if you are not prepared to take strong steps to get people off drugs. I mean, seriously. 

If you have a friend, a family member, who is spending all their money on drugs, alcohol, or on gambling, what do you do? Do you just turn a blind eye? Do you give them more money to spend it on drugs and alcohol? No, you do everything you can to get them off it. That is what we are doing. So this is truly an exercise in practical love.

Now, Julie spoke about the GST and she's right, I am the first Prime Minister to acknowledge that Western Australia is not getting a fair deal on the GST. Your Federal MPs and Senators are powerful advocates for a fair deal for Western Australia. Now, this is not just a problem for Western Australia. Right at the moment the GST distribution formula is not fair and everybody needs to have confidence in the fairness of the GST sharing arrangements.

Now, we have already acted, as Julie noted, to stop the drop in Western Australia's share of the GST by making more than $1.2 billion in regular top-up payments over the last three years. That's real money being spent on real projects, right now.

We've also delivered a $2.3 billion infrastructure package for Western Australia, including the $1.2 billion in Federal Government funding of real money that we had allocated to Western Australia's Freight Link Project here in Perth. I have had discussions with the Premier about making substantial future investments in projects like the Metronet through our national rail program. But we recognise that Western Australia needs a longer-term solution.

Only the Coalition has a plan to set a GST floor in the future in a way that is fair and will deliver a durable solution that addresses our national economic interest. Over the next few years, the GST sharing scheme or system, will rebalance. Once that happens, we will be able to consider a percentage floor below which no State or Territory's share can fall. In the meantime, the Productivity Commission is analysing the way the GST formula operates and I know many of you have made constructive submissions. I've read carefully the submissions, in particular relating to the way in which minerals royalties are dealt with. There is clearly, at the moment, a disincentive in the way the GST formula operates, to exploit mineral resources.

As Julie said, Western Australia, of course has an abundance of minerals and hydrocarbons which it exploits. Some states - Victoria most notably - has very substantial gas resources, which much to the cost of our economy and particularly to the cost of energy consumers and businesses, it is refusing to exploit. Even conventional onshore gas is not able to be accessed in Victoria, under the Labor Government there.

So we expect the Productivity Commission to report shortly on an interim basis in October and we look forward to those findings and responding to them.

We need to have a modern GST formula that supports our economy, our national economy and is also fair.

Now, in contrast, Bill Shorten came here last week and he officially ruled out fixing the GST sharing arrangements for Western Australia.

Instead of supporting our proposed floor, he just gave more empty promises; unfunded, make-believe money, by June 30, 2020, more than 1,000 days away. Now, Western Australians shouldn't have to wait that long and that's why we're delivering top-up payments now and we have a full, thorough inquiry nearing completion.

Now, what Mr Shorten delivered was just the latest instalment of his ‘Shortenomics’, ripping billions away from West Australians in higher taxes over the next decade and then making vague statements about handing some of it back in the future. As we know from the mining tax, West Australians cannot trust Labor when it comes to tax.

As Liberals, everything we do is designed to ensure that every Australian has the opportunity to succeed and prosper and pursue their dreams.

We don't believe in telling people what is best. That's the Labor model.

We believe that our obligation, our objective in government, is to enable Australians to do their best.

We are a party whose values are founded on freedom. So everything we do, as I'll describe in a moment, further, is designed to enable the great enterprise that has built this State and built our nation, to flourish.

Now, as I said a moment ago, the predictions of doom in the Senate proved to be very wrong. We've promised to cut taxes for small and medium businesses, and we have. We've negotiated that, and many other packages, through the Senate. So we've helped more than 270,000 West Australian businesses and millions around the country.

Now, as somebody once said, and I quote: "Cutting the company income tax rate increases domestic productivity and domestic investment. More capital means higher productivity and economic growth, and leads to more jobs and higher wages."

That is a very profound statement and everyone here agrees with that. I couldn't agree with it more. In fact I'm not sure that I could put it better than that. The surprising thing of course is this was said by Bill Shorten a few years ago.

[Laughter]

So when Mr Shorten accuses us of giving “tax handouts” to businesses and “giveaways”, I would encourage him to refer to his own advice. Of course, there are very few things that he has been consistent about. Tax is definitely not one of them. The reality is, as Mathias and Scott and Julie and I and all of our team have pointed out, we are dealing currently with the most left-wing Labor leader we've seen in generations.

Now, when I first made this point, the Labor Party were outraged. Mark Dreyfus was sent out, that great advocate.

[Laughter]

Well, I'm always reminded of that old saying: "Anyone can go to jail if they get the right lawyer," particularly when I see Mark Dreyfus.

[Laughter]

But anyway, anyway, Bill sent him out. Bill sent this fearless, forensic warrior out to defend him. And an unexpected question came. Unexpected, at least, to Dreyfus, which was - this is after he had said I was unhinged and so forth - and the question was, "Can you nominate a more left-wing Labor leader"?

Silence.

[Laughter]

Well, he could have nominated, perhaps, Arthur Calwell or Bert Evatt. I mean, you would have to go back literally generations to find a Labor Party, an alternative government, an Opposition, that is as left-wing as this mob.

I mean, it's only a few years ago that Shorten himself was talking common sense about tax. It's only not that long ago that you had Hawke and Keating engaging in microeconomic reform, reducing company tax, recognising that the growth in jobs and investment could only come from the private sector.

They weren't going as far or as thoroughly as our side of politics would do, but at least they understood some economic realities.

Not anymore.

We've got a Jeremy Corbyn, an Australian version of Jeremy Corbyn, his ultra-left approach supported and funded in a big way by very militant left-wing unions.

Now, our commitment, as I said a moment ago, is to support enterprise. While we all know - and I was reminded of this with Rick yesterday, looking into the big pit in Kalgoorlie and just, you know, reflecting on the 60 million ounces and more that have been won from the Golden Mile over the years - I was reminded not just of Western Australia's extraordinary mineral resources, but of the fact that the greatest resource of Western Australia is actually not all of those minerals and hydrocarbons. It is you; it is the men and women of Western Australia, who have always been courageous, enterprising, entrepreneurial, prepared to take a risk, prepared to lose it all and then dust themselves off and have another go.

Now, it is that enterprise that we are determined to enable. Because it is that enterprise that delivers the investment and the jobs and the better-paying jobs of the future.

Now, a very good example of our commitment to this is our announcement today to encourage mining exploration, or resources exploration.

We're setting up this year a junior mineral exploration tax credit scheme. It’ll run over the next four years. It will allow junior exploration companies to generate tax credits and immediately distribute them to investors. It will make investing in these companies much more attractive and it will help them raise new capital for greenfield exploration.

We're not seeing enough new discoveries. We need more greenfield exploration in addition to, of course, the exploration and work that is done to expand existing deposits. Now, the scheme builds on the old exploration development incentive in two very important ways. First, the so-called modulation factor has been removed, which means that investors will have certainty. When they go out to raise the money from their shareholders they will know, because they will have had that confirmed by the ATO, they will know that if they raise the money and spend it on the exploration that's defined in the new rules, then they will be able to pass on that tax credit to their investors. This will drive the next wave of mineral discoveries, which are so crucial to the resources sector.

So this is a good example of the way in which we're enabling and encouraging Western Australians and all Australians, of course, it is a national scheme, to do what they do best, which is enterprise, entrepreneurship, taking a risk, having a go.

I want to now just turn to some of the great achievements we're seeing in the state. Clearly, the mining construction boom shot up, and then inevitably it was going to decline.

The mining boom, the resources boom continues, but the big investment in construction was always going to come down after its peak.

But nonetheless there are 44,000 more West Australians in full-time work than a year ago. 55% of these new full-time jobs went to women in Western Australia. Mining continues to play a vitally important role, but there are so many other opportunities; data analytics, the Square Kilometre Array, marine technologies, agriculture, tourism, education and other services. They're all going to grow in the future.

We're continuing to open up the big export markets in our region, creating even more opportunities. Tariffs continue to be cut on goods exported to China, Japan and Korea and we know how important those trading partners are for Western Australia. More than two-thirds of total WA goods exports were sent to those north Asian markets last year.

Take your wine sector - it's booming on the back of these three agreements. As Nola Marino knows, growers in the Margaret River in particular, one of the world's great wine regions, are benefitting. Under ChAFTA, the tariff on bottled wine has already been reduced to 5.6%, down from 14% and will be completely eliminated by January 2019.

Our record investment in our defence industry is delivering jobs and opportunities right here. Last year's Defence White Paper outlined a $2.4 billion works program to upgrade Defence facilities in Western Australia over the next decade. WA is one of two key shipbuilding states with responsibility for delivering the continuous build program for the smaller naval vessels and sustainment activities right across the fleet. With Western Australia set to deliver 31 of 54 naval vessels commissioned by our government, this is an unprecedented opportunity for Western Australia to deliver the naval hub for shipbuilding here.

Finally, let me come back to the point that Nick and Julie have spoken about, and that is the choice.

We have a choice between a government, a party with values that are committed to freedom, values committed to enterprise, to investment and to jobs. That is clear.

Every policy we have is focused on getting people into work. Cutting business tax to encourage investment. Ensuring people on welfare have every incentive to get into a job. Ensuring, as Michaelia has done, that young people who’ve not been able to get started in employment, get on with it. Encouraging exploration in the junior sector for greenfields exploration projects. Right across everything we’re doing, focuses on that.

If you look at Labor, what they have is a plan for more tax in every areas.

Higher personal income tax, where we’ve reduced income tax.

Higher company tax, where we’re reducing company tax.

Taxing trusts, which is the way in which most small and family businesses are organised.

Banning negative gearing to discourage investment in real estate. Imagine what that is going to do to the property market in Western Australia. Imagine what that is going to do to rents; obviously push them up. Increasing capital gains tax to reduce the returns on investment.

There is nothing Labor is doing that could possibly encourage one business, to invest one dollar, or hire one employee. But it gets even more chilling than that.

Consider this; Michaelia Cash succeeded, with the support of our Senate team, in getting through the Senate vital reforms to industrial legislation. Restoring the rule of law to the construction sector. Ensuring that unions have to have the same levels of accountability and transparency as companies.

These are all vital reforms and Labor opposed them tooth and nail.

Just reflect on this; in the last sitting weeks the Senate passed legislation that did no more than this, the new law says unions cannot receive secret and corrupt payment from business.

You would think that had always been against the law, wouldn't you? In fact it beggars belief that it wasn’t. But it wasn’t.

That is why Shorten was able to take money from an employer for his election campaign, was able to take money from his union, was able to take money from business, never disclosed - until they were uncovered by the Heydon Royal Commission - in return for trading away penalty rates.

So this law says if a business pays money to a union, it must be for a legitimate purpose and it must be disclosed. That law was fought tooth and nail by Labor and the Greens. Why is that? Because they are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the CFMEU, the AWU and other militant left-wing unions.

So my friends, the cause we stand for, the cause for which we fight; freedom’s cause, the cause of enterprise, the values that have made Western Australia strong, have made Australia great, have built our nation, have built this first world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, those values are values of our party.

They are challenged now, more than ever, by the most left-wing leader and the most left-wing Labor Party we have seen in generations.

Your commitment Norman, the Party you lead here as president, Mike the opposition you lead here, all of us here are committed to preserving our achievements, to defending our values.

Because it is our values alone that will enable Australia to maintain its prosperity, its security and deliver the opportunities that our children and grandchildren deserve.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS

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