Federal Government Tenth Anniversary
|About this Item||Subjects||Government: Federal; Liberal Party: Federal; Nationals: Federal; Special Events
||Speakers||Gardiner The Hon Jennifer
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [7.19 p.m.]: Recently I attended a function to mark the tenth anniversary of the election of the Federal Liberal-Nationals Government, which saw the Hon. John Howard elected as Prime Minister and the Hon. Tim Fischer, the leader of The Nationals, elected as Deputy Prime Minister. Politics is a volatile business. These days it is not often that a Government is in office for 10 years and at the end of that decade is even more ensconced in office than it was in its early days.
The Coalition Government has been described by the current leader of The Nationals, Mark Vaile, as a great partnership and, just like Prime Minister Robert Menzies, the current Prime Minister, Mr Howard, is a great believer in the benefit of a Coalition arrangement as the best fit for the non-Labor side of Australian politics. Indeed, at the very large gathering in Sydney Mr Howard said that if there were any Liberals who believed the party could govern without The Nationals they should forget it. The night before, at a dinner in the Great Hall of the Australian Parliament building, he said:
We would not have achieved our success without the strong and close trusting coalition between our two parties. The very proposition that we could have tried to govern in any way except in partnership was never something that I contemplated. I try to be a reasonable student of Australian history, and I have to say that I do not believe our two parties could have achieved anywhere near the success we have achieved over the past 10 years other than in Coalition.
Mr Howard paid tribute to the three Deputy Prime Ministers from the Nationals who served in that decade: Mr Mark Vaile, the current Federal Leader of The Nationals, and Mr Tim Fischer and Mr John Anderson, whom he described as:
… two very different characters, two very different personalities, two wonderful friends, two wonderful Deputy Prime Ministers. Two people who faced in the rural constituencies the particularly and, at times, bewildering challenge of One Nation, so apparently simplistic and absurd yet on occasion striking a chord with many of our fellow Australians who did not have a racist bone in their body. And they responded to that in a quite remarkable fashion. So I say, "Three cheers for the Coalition." I say the Coalition has served us well all through the years and the Coalition must always be the aim and the commitment of both of our parties
Mr Howard is a great student and practitioner of the business of politics, campaigning and governing. He knows from experience that the current Coalition arrangement between the two great non-Labor parties is the way to go. He reflected upon 10 years in office, in his typically reasonable and humble way. He was able to point to the fact that these days there are more self-employed people in Australia than there are trade unionists. He was able to point out that today 30 per cent or more of new businesses are commenced by women. He was able to claim that the family tax benefit system has altered the balance in Australia's tax system so that it is greatly more in favour of families, and that the economic position of families with children has improved dramatically over the past decade.
The Liberal-Nationals have given massive support to the provision of health services at the Federal level. Today there is a better balance between the provision of both public and private assistance to Australians who need health care. The safety net is secure. Mr Howard and Mr Costello, with their colleagues in The Nationals, have driven taxation reform. The Coalition Government gave independent control of monetary policy to the Reserve Bank of Australia, and reformed the labour exchange system and employment services. As the Prime Minister said:
You are elected to change what needs to be changed. But you are also elected to understand that the Australian people want you to keep listening to them. I have endeavoured to maintain a perpetual conversation with the Australian people and that's where the good politics comes in. Just as we needed all of those reforms to win, we also need a political sensitivity on occasions to win.
Mr Howard reflected on some political discontent in early 2001 and his government's responsiveness to that discontent. That response stands in stark contrast to the Carr and Iemma Labor governments in New South Wales, which have been in office for even longer than the Government led by Mr Howard. The Carr and Iemma governments have been unresponsive and totally obsessed with spin. As the long-serving Labor Premier of Queensland, Mr Peter Beattie, has found in the last year, eventually the spin itself becomes part of the reason a government becomes vulnerable to defeat. The electors get sick of it. They want action, not words. It is one thing to reflect on 10 years in government. It is another to be able to reflect on such a great improvement in the wellbeing of the people being governed.