I write more in sadness that criticism, reflecting on my membership of

What is going on?
I write more in sadness that criticism, reflecting on my membership of successful
teams during the last 35 years. Every successful team I have ever belonged to was
notably characterised by one essential quality - unity of purpose. In recent years, for
most of Angus Houston’s / Nick Warner’s / Ian Watt’s time as Defence leaders, I had
the great privilege of being a member of their Strategic Command Group (Policy).
Never once did the often-difficult issues that arose within that leadership group result
in disunity or enter the public domain. I’m struggling to understand how that has
happened in the proud team I thought I’d joined.
My motivation to become an unpaid fulltime Liberal candidate more than two years
before the last election, was based on the desire to help fix the big issues confronting
our country. To restore our economic freedom of action and to ensure our country
was safer tomorrow than it is today.
Yet in recent days media reports suggest we are showing signs of the same sort of illdisciplined introspection that characterised the Rudd-Gillard-Greens Coalition – the
very same behaviours that the Australian people comprehensively rejected in
September 2013. Recall for a moment how absolutely fed up your constituents were
with government that focussed on itself rather than the needs of our communities. My
electorate still feels like that and I hate the thought they might tar us with the same
Parties of all persuasions have been behind in the polls at various stages of the
political cycle – but only weak parties lose their composure and unity of purpose
when challenged. We are not that Party.
The branches and sequels of the disunity I am reading about in the paper each day can
go in a number of different ways. My hope, my plea is that we knuckle down, refocus on what’s important and not become the rabble we defeated.
I thought the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday was a strong speech, which rightly
focussed on the two things we must all focus on into the future – national economic
sustainability and national security.
Our political enemy, the ALP-Green partnership have no plan for either of these.
While they were fighting amongst themselves and changing leaders in the 42 and 43rd
Parliaments, taxpayer resources were squandered, substantially diminishing
Australia’s economic freedom of action. Defence spending and national security were
subordinated to Labor infighting and regular changes of leader. We are not like that –
we were not voted in to be like that.
Our job is to lead the war of ideas in the 44th Parliament on the ways and means to
restore that lost freedom.
As Dan Tehan and I have recently written, Clausewitz’s reference to war ‘…as
politics by other means’ resonates with the warlike nature of political debate - for a
number of reasons.
First, the stakes could not be higher – (electoral) victory or oblivion. We do not
contribute to victory by fighting each other or fragmenting internally.
Second, this debate of ideas is best undertaken with a prudent and sensible strategy in
mind, which focuses strongly on the hard-edged reality of available resources – not
the soft options that arise from populist, knee-jerk responses that we saw all too often
from Gillard and Rudd.
And, finally, each places immense and unremitting strain on the capacities of its
principal participants; the quality of each team. Our team is much better than what
recent media reporting suggests.
Beyond, the obvious prize of the next election, what is really being contested is the
all-important matter of which party can be trusted as Australia’s economic steward.
This trust cannot be secured – or even bought – through infighting or excessive
largesse and ceaseless, reckless spending of taxpayer wealth. If it could, Labor would
still hold the federal political reins. They know it, and so does an informed Australian
We have spent much of 2014, fixing the ‘trashed Labor frat house’, after the tenants
were finally and forcefully ejected. With the repair job underway, we must be
unflinching in ensuring the house once again has the foundations to survive a future
economic storm.
Such an undertaking cannot occur without unity of purpose, a clearly-defined
strategy, and a frank articulation of available resources.
Three forthcoming initiatives - the Intergenerational Report, and the Federation and
Tax White Papers, provide a useful near-term conduit through which to define our
economic strategy. One provides the compelling case for the need to act; the others,
the means to do so.
The Intergenerational Report is likely to affirm that we are currently stealing from our
children and grandchildren. As you know, a longer lived population is reason for both
celebration and careful economic planning; within two generations our national health
budget will almost double, to an additional $45 billion.
We have to prepare, not borrow, for this; with the case of Japan offering a ‘canary in
the mine’ insight – there, sales of adult ‘nappies’ outnumber the baby version!
This problem can only be fixed, by doing more with less, through a unified and
purposeful dedication to economic structural reform.
Through the Federation White Paper our team can lead the way.
Dan Tehan has repeatedly pointed out that much of the key lies in reducing and
minimising State and Federal Government duplication, and in essential tax reform. I
strongly agree - doing so, will advantage both levels of Government, and all
We must reform the current tax system to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of
collection and to incentivise entrepreneurship.
David Murray was ‘spot on’ in his recent financial services report. To get the best
solution to a complex future, everything must be up for debate.
Finally, Clausewitz would have counselled the need to know and contain your
adversary. But how do we contain and distinguish ourselves from the most inept
opponents in our history, by replicating their mistakes? That is simply a path to
ceding national strategic leadership back to the Labor-Greens partners after only one
The Government’s challenge in 2015 – and beyond, is to convince those who really
count – the Australian people – that our vision links compellingly to a strong and
prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia. This is ‘backs to the wall’ stuff
and I for one want teammates looking that challenge in the eye – not repeating the
mistakes of those who created the challenge in the first place.
Convincing the Australian people to focus on the long-term, strategic needs of our
country, requires more of the leadership, resolve, and unity of purpose that delivered
us the treasury benches.
Failing to convince them by becoming the rabble Labor was, means their
impoverished political inheritance will be further damaged by ‘More Labor’- only this
time, led by a smug and grinning ‘Cheshire Cat’, who has taken them for dupes; and
along the way, slain two former PMs, to slake his self-serving thirst for the top job.
We must show Australians that we are up for the job and what will convince them
more than anything is a serious economic plan to deal with Australia’s complex
impending challenges.
And Bill Shorten’s implausible promises, which depend on yet more borrowing and
spending - show that no one deserves Bill Shorten – not even the Australian Labor
Party – and certainly not Australia!
My plea is that we do nothing else from this day on that contributes to that likelihood.
Member for Bass
Address: PO Box 5035 Launceston TAS 7250
Phone: Launceston - 03 63347033 / Canberra – 02 62774954