SATURDAY 3 FEBRUARY
I acknowledge the Turrbal people and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
It is wonderful to see my NSW State Parliamentary colleague, Felicity Wilson.
Let me also acknowledge your president Dimitry Chugg-Palmer and Vice President James Porter.
Your convention convenor Alex Sinenko, for all of your work making this weekend happen.
And my congratulations to the incoming president Darcy Creighton and Vice President Joshua Garvin.
May I also make special mention of Francis Bolster and Abby Smith from the Hornsby/Berowra Young Liberals from my own community.
It is terrific to have with us Kisara Perera, the President of the Australian Liberal Students Federation – and our friends from across the ditch from the New Zealand Young Nats including their president Stephanie Anne-Ross.
Our goal is to emulate in 2025 what Christopher Luxon did in 2023.
It is wonderful to be back at the Young Liberal National Convention.
Thank you for allowing me to make this convention part of my calendar as well as yours.
The importance of Queensland
It is appropriate this event is being held in Queensland because Queensland must be and will be the home of the revival of our Liberal fortunes in Australia.
There are many bad state Labor Governments – but the governments led by Dan Andrews in Victoria and Annastacia Palaszczuk here in Queensland won’t be forgotten.
The breakdown of institutional norms around the public service; an insidious culture of patronage and secrecy; the addiction to debt and the loss of fiscal restraint; the abdication of power to unelected union officials; and the desire for control instead of encouraging choice and freedom in so much of daily life has damaged the capacity and potential of two great states.
With the Olympic Games coming to this state, you can’t have a reckless government with a shoot-from-the-hip premier – which is what Queensland will have if Steven Miles wins the coming election.
David Crisafulli has the judgment, the balance, and the temperament to be a great premier. Focusing on the fundamentals – safe streets, clean trains, good schools, and keeping the economy strong.
Just like Peter Dutton, another proud son of Queensland, has all the attributes and the experience to be a great Liberal prime minister.
He will keep his word. He will put Australia first, so that our country is growing, advancing and prospering.
And he will ensure that Australia is secure in the world and prepared for the future.
An economic minister in the Howard Government, a Health Minister in the Abbott Government and a minister who kept our borders strong and our defence force equipped under the Turnbull and Morrison Governments – Peter Dutton is the most experienced Leader of the Opposition that has ever led a political party in Australia to an election.
The late Bill Hayden, another Queensland politician albeit from the other side, was a former policeman and he once spoke about having a “copper’s instinct”.
“A copper’s instinct” is an instinct that’s honed by real life, that knows what’s happening on the ground, and doesn’t turn away when the going gets tough.
It can read character instinctively.
It knows when someone is lying or covering something up.
Peter Dutton has a “copper’s instinct”.
Peter instinctively knew that Anthony Albanese would break his word on the stage 3 tax cuts.
It wasn’t three times that Albo denied he’d break his promise.
It was one hundred times.
Peter Dutton worked him out.
He understood what was behind Anthony Albanese’s cute forms of words; with language always in the present tense; and a look that could not hide the frustration when he was asked repeatedly if he would deliver the legislated tax cuts.
Peter Dutton knew – as we all do – that aspiration is not a word found in Labor’s dictionary.
But it’s a word that I know is in your dictionaries.
You live and breathe aspiration every day.
Aspiration prompts you to get up early and learn a trade; study at university; work hard and save so that you can buy a car, pay for your education, see the world or have a place of your own.
Aspiration is a virtue. It is optimism expressing itself through our labour – which is the gift we all bring to our workplaces.
Despite what you see around you, you cross your fingers and hope that what your parents said is true: that if you work hard, play by the rules, contribute to family and community and country, then life will work for you. You’ll get ahead.
Recently I met in my office with a young constituent named Emma.
As Emma expressed so well, that optimism is fading for your young people.
Emma is 18 and has just finished her HSC and has been accepted into midwifery at Newcastle University. She hopes to transfer to medicine there after finishing her degree.
Some parts of my electorate are semi-rural and aren’t served well by public transport. In high school Emma decided to save for a car – meaning she wouldn’t have to get up at 6:00am to catch public transport.
There wasn’t money in the family budget for another car. So it was on Emma. She worked three jobs. She saved. She bought her car.
And then she had to fund the petrol, rego, insurance and servicing.
With petrol on the up and up, and some unexpected repairs, Emma found herself at the end of high school with no savings – and seriously questioning what’s ahead with many years of HECS, the costs of living away from home, and the realisation that even if everything goes right and she becomes a doctor, it will be many years before she gets the money for a deposit for a home.
She said, “I don’t want to be 30 or 40 and living in my mum’s basement. My mum has done so much for me and I don’t want to leech off her forever”.
I thought to myself: here is someone who is smart, motivated, with great values, who is about to start her studies, and even she has lost confidence in our economy to deliver.
My discussion with Emma prompted me to meet with my Young Liberal Branch – the Hornsby/Berowra Young Liberals.
It was one of the best nights of policy discussion I have participated in a long time.
We didn’t talk politics, or personality, or tactics, rather I listened to the hopes and aspirations of the young people in the branch.
Future lawyers, doctors, scientists, tradies and small business people. Many knew what they wanted to do in life, and some didn’t. They spoke about communities – what it means to belong and about what it means to be priced out of the communities you want to be part of.
They spoke about the economy – and the loss of confidence that the future will be better. That’s everything from wages, take home pay and housing affordability to the quiet sense that our universities aren’t really preparing them for the economy of the future. There was a shared belief there is a lack of rigor on our campuses and it is denying young Australians the skills they really need.
And they spoke about the new cruelties in our national life – from the dangers of social media and online scams to the anti-Semitism that is rife on so many campuses.
I am grateful for the Young Liberals in my community. I’m proud of them, I’m amazed at the breadth of their talents and I want them to succeed in life.
What I am about to speak to you about today has been very much inspired by my conversations with them.
So today I want to speak about our economy, our communities and our shared Australian ethos.
Economy, tax and competition
I start with a belief that when it comes to the economy, young people are very much the canaries in the coalmine.
You know what’s working and what isn’t before anyone else.
As my constituent Emma effectively pointed out – you can work hard, study hard, develop a skill – and still find yourself saddled with debt, and priced out of housing in the communities you grew up in.
The Australian economy is not working as it should – where effort is rewarded, where progress is achievable, and the future becomes more certain.
Instead, Australians aren’t being offered meaningful economic solutions – only temporary fixes.
We are being offered economic Panadol rather than surgery – vouchers, micro initiatives and small splurges from the Treasury coffers rather than reform that will drive growth.
We have to reclaim the economic debate from pollsters.
For too long, politicians have talked only about symptoms and have stopped talking about causes.
The fact Australian wages aren’t buying as much as they used to is not a cause of our economic malaise, it’s a symptom of our loss of competitiveness and productivity.
The fact that power bills are going up and up won’t be answered by vouchers and temporary relief, but by reform of energy markets and a serious debate about our energy mix where nothing is off the table. Nuclear energy must be an important part of our energy mix.
The fact that the workforce skills needs of Australian enterprises are not being met by our national workforce is best answered at least in part by demanding more from our education system.
We’ve stopped talking about productivity, regulation, flexibility, competition – and how it works for Australians.
We’ve let major projects languish because of lawfare from activist groups. These are projects that could provide jobs, investment and grow our tax base, instead they provide cost and uncertainty. We must resolve issues around legal standing.
We must raise the bar so it is harder for political activists to disrupt the economic progress of this country.
In many sectors, competition appears to be sluggish. We need the ACCC to continue to put the supermarkets, telcos, and banks under the microscope – studying market structure, barriers to entry, and how we can encourage more market players. Competition drives prices down and it drives innovation up.
And we need a workplace relations system that doesn’t treat those who create jobs like enemies and criminals, instead of partners in building a productive, high wage economy.
We’ve settled on a status-quo economy that worked for the 1980s and that’s not working for the 2020s, and will fail in the 2030s.
In part, because of the narcissistic politics that have festered in some parts of the senate, some have given up on the belief that Australia can make the changes we need to be an economic powerhouse in the first half of this century.
We need to reset the economic discussion – to build an economy for the future.
As well, we’ve stopped talking about the centrality of aspiration, risk taking and opportunity in our national life.
Yes, fairness is vital – but if our focus is only fairness we will only be arguing over the division of an ever decreasing pie.
When you grow the pie, you can lift everyone up.
A focus on vouchers, and micro initiatives, and who is getting an extra $10 a week through new programs and initiatives, is only a focus on economic symptoms rather than how we fuel growth.
I believe in aspiration and reward for effort – because it creates the settings for jobs, growth, risk taking and a bigger economy. An economy that pays for defence, health, pensions and the NDIS.
As Liberals, this is integral to what we believe.
We must stand for delivering long-term economic reform.
One major reform vital to our economy was the tax cut program we legislated in the last government.
Stages one and two delivering meaningful tax relief to low and middle income earners.
And stage three was about removing the curse of bracket creep from our taxation system and creating a tax system that recognised and encouraged aspiration.
Under the Coalition Stage 3 Tax cuts, most Australians in full-time work, earning between $45,000 and $200,000 would have a top marginal tax rate of 30 cents in the dollar.
This change effectively ended bracket creep for most Australians.
Bracket creep occurs when an Australian gets a pay rise and as a result moves up a tax bracket.
So for example, you have someone working part-time and earning $45,000 a year and paying a marginal rate of 19 cents in the dollar.
And because of inflation, you get a payrise – of lets say 5% – and your new income is $47,250.
That pay rise also means you have moved up a tax bracket – and instead of paying 19 cents in the dollar for the additional money you earn, you are paying 32.5 cents in the dollar.
It’s the same job, your employer is only compensating you for cost of living increases, but the overall percentage of what you pay in tax increases.
So you aren’t keeping up. It’s a pay cut rather than a rebalancing of the scales.
According to the OECD, for the year ending June 2023 Australian households experienced the worst income squeeze anywhere in the OECD – the result of rising interest rates, inflation and bracket creep.
When it came to tax, Anthony Albanese said his word was his bond.
Until it wasn’t.
The Stage 3 tax cuts were voted on by the Parliament, Labor voted for them, and the Australian people voted for these tax cuts at the election. Both sides committed to delivering them.
The tax cuts are more than a mandate, they are an obligation to keep faith with the Australian people.
Once again, we see short term politics dealing with the symptoms of economic stress rather than its causes.
Anthony Albanese said he wants to help low income earners. Yet only six months ago, he scrapped the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset which did exactly that.
Short term winners today will find the value of the tax refunds disappear tomorrow – as once again bracket creep takes hold.
Vitally, the Stage 3 tax cuts provided a vital restraint on the growth of government.
By curtailing bracket creep and cutting the tax take, as the Morrison/Frydenberg tax cuts did, the tax cuts put a brake on the growth of government spending.
It acted as a constraint for the government to live within its means.
The newspaper columnists reported that the Albanese decision to scrap Stage 3 would save the Budget $28 billion. No, that’s not true. The decision adds $28 billion of taxation for the government to spend.
Anthony Albanese is not putting forward tax cuts. He’s proposing $28 billion in new taxes.
He’s breaking a promise, increasing the tax take, and is resurrecting bracket creep that will inevitably result in even more spending.
I believe the Coalition should oppose the Albanese tax increases – because we believe in keeping taxes low, governments living within their means and delivering policies that incentivise and grow our economy.
As a Liberal, I will be arguing that we must stand for what we believe and we must oppose Labor’s attempts to ditch the legislated tax cuts.
Labor believes this is an opportunity to wedge us. Frankly, I believe it is an opportunity for us to recommit to orthodox economic management – with taxes low, budgets in balance, and spending under control.
Because fiscal prudence, where government knows its own limits, is the foundation of sound economic management.
Community and participation
Let me say something about the importance of being an active citizen.
I have always been a believer that the way to change the country is to participate in it.
As a 19 year-old, I was elected to my local council and at the age of 20, was elected by my state to be a delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention.
Like anyone that age, I didn’t get everything right, but I brought a young person’s perspective to my community and I hope to the country as well.
As I said at last year’s Young Liberal Convention. We need young people participating in politics because you have the greatest stake in the future. No-one will give you permission to participate, you have to step up and argue for it.
When I met with the Hornsby/Berowra Young Liberals, the members spoke about housing – and about decisions that are locking a generation of young people out of home ownership.
Councils are locking young people out of the communities they grew up in – by pricing them out of their communities.
Decisions are being made about them, for them, but without involving them.
I accept that housing densities are a complex issue – because densities require infrastructure – not only transport and parking, but schools and child care and more open spaces.
And these debates are also about the character of a community – what it looks like, what it feels like. It matters to people at a deeply emotional level, because communities are also what we belong to.
I believe the best way to ensure that young people are heard is for young people to be elected.
It’s no use complaining from the sideline, or throwing up your hands that councils aren’t listening to the legitimate aspirations of young people.
If you want to shape a decision, be part of it.
And the way to be part of it, is for young people to organise.
And for Young Liberals to be unashamed advocates for policies that make it easier for young Australians to get ahead.
I want more Young Liberals on councils in my own state and elsewhere across Australia.
I want younger Australians to be participants in the debates that are shaping our communities.
And as a political movement, I know local government helps produce the next generation of political leaders.
At the last state NSW election, young political leaders such as Rory Amon, Jordan Lane, and Stephanie Di Pasqua held their own against the tide – and it was because of the strength of their work in local government.
Reclaiming the Australian ethos of a fair go and a helping hand
Last year, I spoke at this conference about empathy. I found myself quoting that speech throughout much of 2023.
True empathy, as I said, was not about seeing yourself in others, but standing with people when you didn’t necessarily identify with them.
I grew up in Sydney. I was educated at an Anglican school, and I went to Synagogue regularly with my family.
At the time, I thought that world was big, even huge, but it wasn’t as big as I thought.
My world grew because of a best friend who is a Muslim.
My world grew when I started to work at a Catholic University.
My world grew as I made Indigenous friends right around the country.
My world grew when, as Member for Berowra, I made my first visit to a Buddhist monastery in the electorate and got to know the worshipers at the Hindu Mandir and Sikh Gurdwara just outside.
And it grew as I have gotten to know the members of the local Persian community, who I discovered are as appalled as I am about the injustices and cruelties perpetuated by the Iranian regime both at home and abroad.
There are so few countries like Australia.
We are shining multicultural light – and more than any other party that is a Liberal achievement.
History tells the story of the wisdom of Harold Holt not only in ending White Australia but spearheading the 1967 referendum.
And it tells the story of Billy Wentworth and the establishment of AIATSIS, and Malcolm Fraser and the establishment of SBS and his opposition to racism in every form.
And Philip Ruddock’s commitment to a race-free immigration policy and uplifting local multicultural communities, Tony Abbott’s generosity to the Yazidi people, and Scott Morrison’s support for Jewish Australians.
It also is the story of the strength and faith of Liberals like Neville Bonner and Ken Wyatt.
As Noel Pearson so powerfully put it, we are a country of three strands – an Indigenous heritage spanning 65,000 years; with a British democratic foundation; and a multicultural character and future.
The strands work together.
It has helped create the most accepting nation on earth.
We celebrate the changes to the way that race, religion, gender, sexuality and almost every immutable attribute are treated in our country.
As a Jewish Australian, I can say that Australia has always been a shining light.
Per capita, no nation took more Jewish refugees after the Holocaust than Australia.
Unlike most countries in the world, Australia has never had any discrimination against Jewish people.
Even from the earliest days of the colonies, Jewish people were involved and active in public life.
My great-grandfather and grandfather served our country in war.
And I grew up in a home where this country was revered.
Because in this country, so rare in human history, we were free to be what God asked us to be, in Jonathan Sacks’ words “true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith”.
Public service, the institutions of government, were honoured because they were instruments of justice.
That’s the inheritance that I’ve been given and it is what I am passing on to my children too.
And it’s a shared inheritance – that is shared with all Australians.
Let me explain. Just prior to the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, Justice Jayne Jagot of the High Court delivered the Zelman Cowen lecture. She chose as her topic anti-Semitism in Australia.
Justice Jagot made the point that anti-Semitism is a broader symptom of an underlying loss of confidence in liberal, democratic ideals and practices.
This is a time when our democratic values are under attack in so many places.
And it is a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise.
Whilst anti-Semitism has come to the fore in the months following the sadistic Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, the truth is it has been festering for some time.
It has always existed amongst the tin-foil nutcases of the far right, but more recently, it has been growing exponentially amongst the inner-city left.
It’s become a feature of far-left philosophy – most succinctly and terribly put by the argument if you want to stop white privilege, then you must start with Jewish privilege.
The arguments you have all heard on campus about privilege, intersectionality and injustice has now become embodied in a group – and that group is Jews.
The petri dish for growing anti-Semitism in Australia are our university campuses.
This is backed by empirical evidence.
Last year, prior to the Hamas attacks, the Social Research Centre released the Australian Jewish University Experience Survey.
This is what the survey found:
* 64% of Jewish university students in Australia had experienced anti-Semitism at university – and 88% of these had experienced anti-Semitism on campus over the preceding year
* 57% of Jewish students had hidden the fact they were Jewish at university
* 19% had at some point stayed away from campus because of anti-Semitism.
Most Jewish students who experienced anti-Semitism didn’t make a complaint – primarily because they didn’t believe it would be taken seriously.
The cause of this is clear, it is what is taught on campus.
From disciplines as diverse as engineering to journalism, we are seeing the traditional disciplines taken over by a political ethos that seeks to turn every situation into a clash between the oppressed and oppressors. It’s a Marxist view of the world.
This is not only an Australian phenomenon.
A recent Harvard Harris poll found that two thirds of American voters aged 18-24 believed Jews were a class of oppressors. This compares to 9% over the age of 65.
Think about that – a group of people who faced the brink of extinction three quarters of a century ago and who have been scattered to the four corners of the Earth as refugees are now considered oppressors.
This agenda in Australia is being driven on two fronts.
The first is our universities.
And the second is through our political discourse.
Anti-Semitism is now an integral feature of the Greens political rhetoric and agenda.
It’s been used as a means by which the Greens are seeking political dominance over Labor. That’s why you are seeing anti-Jewish sentiment in inner city areas where the contest between Labor and the Greens is so fierce.
On social media and on the streets, it is the Greens that are driving anti-Semitic rhetoric and feeling in our country.
And it is why I believe the major parties as well as the teals must commit to preferencing the Greens last. I welcome the fact you are debating this very issue this afternoon.
The Greens actions over recent months have been so extreme, they must be put last.
No party should preference them and none should ever go into coalition with them.
I know from the Young Liberals I have spoken to, in Berowra and elsewhere, that your experience on campus bears witness to what I’m saying.
We can’t let a culture of hate take hold in our country.
To do so would be to poison the Great Inheritance we share as free people and as Australians.
So I welcome the motion on your agenda today for Liberals to preference the Greens last. I hope it passes – and I hope you take it to your state councils and Federal Council. I believe the other major parties and the Teals must also follow suit – because there must be no place in Australian politics where we tolerate or turn a blind eye to the cancer of anti-Semitism.
Friends, it has been a pleasure to once again start the year with you – because you are the hope of our party.
Instinctively you understand Menzies’ argument that a class war is a false war. That we don’t build up a country by tearing each other down.
You build it through hard work, civic mindedness, mutual respect, and by unleashing the capacity, capabilities and dreams of all people.
As Liberals that is what we believe – and that is what we must strive for if we are all to truly and fully share in our Australian inheritance.