The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Speech of 09/11/2007

OFFICIALLY OPEN MENZIES CAMPAIGN OFFICE FOR KEVIN ANDREWS
BULLEEN, VICTORIA

FRIDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2007

Electorate Chairman, State Members of Parliament, Kevin Andrews. Can I begin my speech today by wishing Kevin a happy birthday and may there be many happy returns and especially a happy return on the 24th of November here in the electorate of Menzies.

You know, this election is important for our country's future. None of us should take for granted the fact that our economy is now growing in its longest period of expansion even recorded. Or the fact that unemployment is now at the lowest level since 1974, or the fact that we have more Australians in work than ever before and less stoppages through industrial disruption than ever recorded in Australian history, where unemployment can be managed whilst keeping inflation in check at 2 to 3 per cent, unlike previous episodes in Australian history where an unemployment rate of today's dimension led to double digit inflation.

These outcomes are not a fluke, they are not an accident, they don't just happen themselves and they can't be taken for granted. And over the period that I have been charged with managing Australia's trillion dollar economy, the thing I have learnt is that challenges come at you from all different directions all the time.

When I first became Treasurer I watched our immediate region here engulfed in a financial crisis that took all of the countries of South-East Asia and our region into recession. It brought down governments and sent fellow Finance Ministers to jail in some countries. But Australia managed to continue to grow. And nobody saw that coming. But it is a threat and a challenge that Australia met.

Experience taught me when we saw the US go into recession in 2000-2001 that challenges can come from even strong economies like the world's largest economy, the United States. And I didn't appreciate it would happen then. But the fact that we had strengthened Australia, the fact that we had balanced our Budget gave us an insulation against the risks that came from external events.

And then we had challenges like the challenges of terrorism and the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. Challenges that came from the SARS epidemic shortly thereafter, the challenges that came from the stockmarket volatility that we have seen in recent years. Experience has taught me that challenges will come from unexpected directions and unexpected places. You want to make your economy strong, keep people in work, if you want to give Australians opportunity, you'd best be prepared for these challenges.

Experience has taught me how important policy is. There will be future challenges to our country. We can see some of them emerging now. World oil prices are now at all-time record highs, around $US100 a barrel. We are going to feel that at the petrol pump. We will feel it in our economy. You know there was a period when I was Treasurer, when oil prices were $11 a barrel. And now they are $100 a barrel. That is nearly a ten-fold increase.

And we have seen with developments overnight in the United States again the fallout from mortgage default, mortgage collapse. We have seen the way in which those failures can reverberate around the world. Reverberations from the United States mortgage collapse caused a run on a British bank, Northern Rock, not so long ago. And these are some of the challenges that come to us in our modern world.

Experience has taught me that policy settings are absolutely critical if you want an economy to keep growing and you want to keep people in work. That is why we have laid down in this election campaign an economic plan. The first day of this election campaign we announced a plan over five years to make the Australian taxation system more competitive, to get more people into work, build capacity in the Australian economy. In the second week of this election campaign we announced a plan to help older Australians, age pensioners and self-funded retirees with a new utilities allowance of $500. It is why we announced in the third week of this campaign, a plan to build 100 technical schools to increase the technical skills available and again increase the capacity of the Australian economy.

It is why we announced in the fourth week of the campaign more training for small businesspeople because we know the small business community is the lifeblood of employment in this country with 3.7 million Australians now employed in small business. And it is why we have just been laying down these markers to deal with challenges. Challenges which we know are coming and will buffet the Australian economy.

It is why we have been working over the years to make this a stronger and a better country. It is why Australia needs to keep going forward.

You know ladies and gentlemen, the thing that could really set this country back on the 24th of November, is if we elect an inexperienced group of people who have the wrong policies.

And people say to me, oh well, is there a problem with inexperience? Let me say to you, the problem is that inexperience means they haven't thought about the right policies. That is the problem. It wouldn't be nearly so bad if Rudd and Swan and Gillard or whoever is going to be looking for a place in a Labor Government, had done the policy work and they had thought about it. Good policy could overcome weak experience. But it is because they don't have the experience, they haven't thought about the policy.

I was really struck by that in the last 24 hours. Every time Mr Rudd is asked about what he would do to manage inflation he falls back on his own clichés. The clichés that have been given to him by his public relations people, clichés that he has been running for the last few months. But it is not substantive. He doesn't really understand, he hasn't thought about it. He was asked what he would do to manage inflation, he said he would have “new leadership”. It is a nice cliché and it has been given to him and fed to him by his public relations people - but it is not a policy.

I have learnt as a responsible manager of the Australian economy over the last 11 years that policies work. And if you are going to manage inflation, one of the critical things you are going to need is you are going to need a good industrial relations system in this country. And without a good industrial relations system, in an economy where we have low unemployment, you will move wage settlements from factory to factory, from industry to industry and you will set off inflation as we always have in the past of Australian history in a way which will end in higher interest rates.

I don't know if Mr Rudd has thought about that. I don't think he can afford to think about that because he is so in hoc to the ACTU and the trade union movement. Nothing could be more dangerous for the Australian economy now than to turn our back on economic reform and go backwards on industrial relations, to hand over control of building sites to the trade unions and to elect a group of people who don't have the experience to manage risks in the Australian economy and the international risks that will be brought to bear on the Australian economy. Nothing could be more dangerous and it will affect each and every one of us.

If a government makes a mistake it has reverberations. This is a trillion dollar economy we are managing here and a budget which is over $250 billion and if you make a mistake, it counts. It affects people's lives, their mortgages, their business, their jobs and their kids' future. A strong economy is central to everything that we want to do in this country. Because without a strong economy we can't fund improvements in our health care. And we won't be able to fund the first-class education system that we want. We won't be able to build the roads and the rail that we need. Without a strong economy we won't be able to look after the age pensioners and the disability pensioners and the people that need assistance. Without a strong economy all of our aspirations, no matter how big they are and how generous they are, will not be able to be realised because it is the economy that gives you the wherewithal to build the social services and the infrastructure and the way of life which we hold so dear in this country.

Let me also say, a change of Government on the 24th of November will not only bring inexperience and bad policy, but it would bring wall-to-wall Labor governments in Australia for the first time in Australian history. Six States, two Territories and the Federal Government will all be in control of the one political party. A very big risk, no checks, no balances. A very, very big risk for Australia and its future.

That is why I believe that this election is so important. It is so important for our country, for our people and it is important for our living standards into the future. Please think carefully about these issues when you go to vote on the 24th of November. Think to yourself in a climate of risk where the challenges will keep coming to us, who would you rather trust to manage our trillion dollar economy, to keep it growing, to manage inflation and interest rates, employment and jobs, small businesses and opportunities? Australia can't afford the risk of inexperience and bad policy. Australia has made great progress over recent years and it is that progress we want to take in to the future.

And Kevin of course, is a very big part of our future. As Kevin said, he and I have served in the Parliament almost continuously since each of us got there. I have weathered a little bit more than Kevin. He looks younger and fresher than I do. But I have big plans for him to be weathered in the future as part of the future leadership in this country.

Kevin has held a number of portfolios with great distinction including Workplace Relations and Immigration. Kevin is somebody who is absolutely fearless in discharging his duty. A man of very strong moral conviction and it is something that we admire very much. A man with a very, very strong commitment to family. He and Margie have been a great couple in politics and have made a wonderful contribution together. And he is a great local representative. Kevin is connected to his electorate. He knows the issues, he knows the people and he represents them with fearless advocacy. And I think that the people of Menzies have been fortunate to be served by him and I hope that the people of Menzies entrust him with another term in the Federal Parliament. I am a Kevin fan and that is why I am here to open his campaign. And I just hope Kevin, that there are 50 per cent or 50 per cent plus one or more Kevin fans in Menzies that feel the same way that I do and will vote for him to be re-elected on the 24th of November.

Every seat is crucial in this election. Here in Melbourne, Victoria and throughout Australia. Every vote is crucial and it is the votes of millions of Australians which will decide where we go in the future. Serious business, this democracy. It is a serious business. At the end of the day it affects people's lives, their jobs, their incomes, their businesses, our national security, our children's future and our opportunities.

And so I am here to ask you to support us, more particularly in this area to support Kevin. This is a good Kevin. I am not asking you to support all Kevins, only good Kevins in this election campaign and it is my great pleasure to declare the election campaign of Kevin Andrews, Member for Menzies officially launched. Thank you very much.