15 November 2000

Address to Dorothy Peters Memorial Dinner

Thank you, Tony, ladies and gentlemen, etc. It's always a great pleasure to speak at Young Liberal events.

A great pleasure for several reasons.

Firstly, I can be sure that at events such as these, whilst the audience is not always attentive, they are unfailingly receptive.

Receptive to the cause, our cause, that is the promotion of liberalism. Receptive to our common values and our common objectives. Values that see our Party as the elected Government achieving objectives that benefit all Australians.

The Young Liberals have been an important part of my political education; I have fond memories of lengthy, sometimes frenzied branch meetings, discussing policy and campaigning in key marginal seats.

I have even fonder memories of celebrating the victories afterwards.

I might add Tony (Chappell), that I am led to believe that such traditions are still very alive and very well.

However as a Young Liberal what I most valued was the interaction with senior party members who gave their time and effort to impart their political experience and wisdom.

In fact it is one of these party members, Dorothy Peters, in whose honour we gather tonight. If you could encapsulate Dorothy's contribution to the party in one word, and to the Liberal cause in general, I could think of no better word than mentor.

Dorothy Peters was a true mentor who gave of herself so that others could make a difference. Her contribution to the careers of Nick Greiner, John Dowd and Tim Moore was not only material but also more importantly selfless. Apart from her tireless efforts across the party's activities, from hosting the North Turramurra branch at her home for 20 years through to her days as a patron of the young Liberal movement, her most valuable legacy was the key skills she so generously imparted. Skills such as public speaking, clarity of thought and above all, an ability to impart these concepts in a clear and concise manner.

I understand, as much as anyone here tonight, the amount of effort required to achieve in politics. However it requires more than just effort, because effort alone is insufficient. Effort must have direction. And it is to mentors like Dorothy that we can all look to for that direction.

The role of the mentor and mentoring is vital, not only for the Liberal party, but also across our entire society.

Ladies and Gentlemen, mentoring is the conduit of values from one generation to the next.

At every stage of our lives we are faced with choices and to make appropriate choices we need context. For this context we can look to role models or mentors. Whether it be taking counsel, or following example, a mentor can help us navigate through these decisions, drawing on their store of experience and knowledge.

It goes without saying that the quality of the mentor is paramount. Firstly the mentor should display sound values including honesty and integrity. Such values are timeless, spanning across generations and cultures. Secondly a good mentor not only advises but more importantly listens. Finally an effective mentor will provide advice – not the answer. Always remember that in the final analysis, we have the right, and indeed the responsibility to make our own choices.

My own mentors were Bevan Bradbury & Bob Falkingham.

Both of these people were instrumental in helping me develop my own political philosophy.

This belief I expressed in Parliament some 4 years ago in my maiden speech, as the philosophy of modern Liberalism.

There are for me four core principles of modern liberalism.

Firstly and foremost I believe in the inalienable rights of the individual.

Those rights extend across the right to liberty, the right to property ownership as well as freedom of speech and association.

However, as I stressed in my maiden speech, I say again: these rights come with a responsibility. That responsibility is the obligation to protect and enhance our community, to help the disadvantaged and to speak for the voiceless.

This responsibility should manifest itself through initiative at every level of society. We should not wait to be asked. We should seek out those in need and offer help.

The second principle of modern liberalism is a belief in modern parliamentary democracy. We must never take for granted our strong and robust democracy that is underpinned by inclusiveness and accountability. It is this democracy that gives voice to our individual rights

The third principle of modern liberalism is the belief in reform. This belief manifests itself in the unrelenting search for the superlative.

There is always a better way. There is always a more efficient way.

Quite simply we can always improve.

By constantly searching for improvement through reform we are mindful that all citizens are stakeholders in this process.

And this belief facilitates the fourth principle of modern Liberalism.


This is a principle that resonates with all Australians. No one Australian is better than another, especially because of his or her birthright.

Yes, we do revere our heroes, but almost to a one those heroes have earnt our respect through their own achievements, not those of their ancestors.

We live in a vibrant, multicultural land that has sown into its fabric the ability of many different people from different backgrounds to co‑operate together as one society.

And for this we are the envy of the world.

So you may say it's all very well to espouse principles.

But how do I go about applying the principles of modern Liberalism in my day to role as Minister for Financial Services and regulation, especially in these dynamic times that we live?

I believe my first responsibility is to the citizens of this country and their welfare.

Thus I am guided by, above all, the needs of the Australian People who elected me.

My current role dictates that I must at all times have the interests of the people at the forefront.

For individuals the most effective manifestation of their interests is empowerment,

This means they can make appropriate choices, based on reliable information, with the confidence that the Government will nurture and support such a framework.

In many ways consumer empowerment is the common thread that goes throughout my entire portfolio. It involves initiatives as diverse as helping investors make more informed choices and reforming industries so you get better service, better products and lower prices.

The fuel that sustains this empowerment is the concept of consumer sovereignty.

There are four key elements to consumer sovereignty:

Choice ‑ all of us must be able to choose from a wide range of products and services, and find the most appropriate one at a competitive price.

Technology continues to fuel an explosion of choice for all consumers, providing direct access to markets and products never available before.

And hand in hand with greater choice comes increased levels of competition.

The Government welcomes these developments, as they support one of our core philosophies, that competition is the most effective form of regulation. Consumers are a vast and powerful force and history has shown us time and again that they are far more effective than any regulator in facilitating efficiency in the marketplace.

The second buttress of consumer sovereignty is Information.

In making decisions we require information that is both relevant and reliable.

The more information consumers can access, the more informed their decision is and the greater their empowerment.

Quite simply, consumer sovereignty cannot exist without adequate information channels. Information to a consumer is as vital as a compass to a navigator.

The next leg of consumer sovereignty, is Protection – consumers must feel sure the Government has in place a legal system that will protect them.

I make sure that every piece of legislation or proposal that comes under my watch is evaluated in terms of strict consumer protection guidelines.

However there will be cases where consumers require immediate and effective redress to remedy unfair transactions, the fourth leg of consumer protection.

We must remember that sometimes we cannot protect people from themselves.

Not everyone understands what we mean by "caveat emptor."

However the Government is committed to supporting the consumer in his quest for redress.

I believe it is this framework of consumer sovereignty that provides the most appropriate form of mentoring, providing consumers the chance to seek out opportunities, explore possibilities, all the while knowing that the Government will foster a fair and competitive marketplace.

Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight I have spoken tonight of the purposes of Modern Liberalism and how they can be applied, in a practical sense, to the day to day activities of Government.

If I can leave you with a simple word of advice – as you travel on the unique journey that is afforded by politics – learn a little from each person that you meet.

Everyone in life is a mentor because you can learn something from every person you meet.

Some, like Dorothy Peters or Bevan Bradbury, will have a more profound impact than others.

But in an increasingly materialistic world the most significant wealth you can accumulate will be filed under the subdirectory "C:\Life experiences"

Politics and the Liberal Party will give you life experiences most people will never have – so enjoy the moment and be sure to keep on the philosophical road known as modern Liberalism