Features Australia

What the PM should have said

16 April 2016

9:00 AM

16 April 2016

9:00 AM

When Malcolm Turnbull addressed the Victorian Liberal state council last weekend, he accidentally left his speech notes on the lectern as he departed to take more selfies with tourists on Melbourne’s trams. They are well worth sharing with The Spectator Australia readers:

‘My friends, fellow Liberals and Australians all,

It is truly good to be here, amongst the congregation of John Howard’s broad church. As the greatest prime minister of our generation so often said, what unites us is far greater than what divides us.

We, all of us, contribute our skills and talents to our great party, and to ensuring Australia continues to enjoy Coalition government. In that spirit, I want to acknowledge the especially outstanding contribution of my predecessor, Tony Abbott.

It can’t be denied that the last six months have been hard for Tony, and the Liberal party as a whole. What was done last September can’t be undone, and I understand what Tony and his family have been going through. I understand because I was once there myself.

But there are some who want to airbrush Tony Abbott out of our party’s history. Some urged me not even to passingly mention him today, but that would be ungracious. My friends, I freely acknowledge that, as prime minister, I stand in the shoes of giants of our cause: Menzies, Howard and – yes – Abbott. Tony led us from the wilderness through his determination, discipline and leadership. That we stand here today, in government, is down to him.


I therefore welcome Tony’s willingness to do everything he can to ensure the re-election of the government: not the Abbott government, nor the Turnbull government, but the Coalition government. I also gladly accept his offer to campaign for the Coalition team, and hope we also will see his formidable policy and political talents back in the councils of government, when we have together dealt with one task above all others.

That task is ensuring the defeat of the Labor party, and the Leader of the Opposition whose name will not pass my lips. My friends, none of us wants Labor, unrepentant and unapologetic for the economic and political destruction of the Rudd-Gillard years, to waltz back into power because we opened the door wide for them by squabbling amongst ourselves.

I appeal to all Liberals, whatever your views and whoever you support, to work together in this common cause, putting egos aside to concentrate on Labor’s real threat to our nation’s rebuilding. Whatever you may think of me, whatever you think of what happened last September, defeating Labor, with a strong Coalition vision for the future, is what matters now.

In facing down Labor, our party has broad values that unite us all. We are the party of lower taxation. We are the party of lower and prudent government spending. Above all, we are the party of personal freedom, choice, initiative and enterprise because we trust people to do right by themselves without government coercion. The policies that will underpin our budget, and soon our election campaign, therefore will be Liberal policies, based on these sound principles. A high-taxing, high-spending, nanny state is anathema to the Coalition.

And as to that budget, and those policies, I pledge today that government by thought bubble will cease forthwith. Henceforth, I and my ministers will think carefully before we speak. When it comes to new policy ideas, especially those affecting millions of Australians, we will prepare thoroughly-considered and costed cases and explain, explain and explain them. I’ve learned the hard way that simply being prime minister isn’t enough to win an argument.

While talking about sound policies based on sound centre-right principles, I want to say something about preferences. Some say we should do preference deals with a party that has never been a friend of ours: the Australian Greens. The theory is that flirting with Greens preferences, in Labor seats at risk of falling to the Greens, diverts Labor and union resources from Liberal marginal seats. If I may say so, that looks tactically brilliant but is strategically reckless. It lowers the drawbridge for our bitter ideological enemies.

As a matter of principle, and to keep faith with our grass-roots members and supporters who don’t like or understand such tactical expediency, I declare today I will not countenance any such arrangements, and I’ve instructed the Liberal party organisation not to make them. This may make our task a little harder, but it’s the right thing to do. If it is a choice between allowing a handful of Labor MPs to keep their seats and giving the anti-capitalist, populist and dangerously extremist Greens a permanent foothold in the House of Representatives, I would rather tolerate a centrist Labor MP than elect a tree-hugging Green fruit loop.

Let’s be honest. Like the Leninists they are, the Greens would take any Liberal support and throw it back in our faces. In a political and media climate where the sensible centre already is threatened by extremists of both left and right, the long-term risk is that we will entrench a permanent hard-left grip on government that will make the Liberal party as we know it irrelevant. That would betray our founder Sir Robert Menzies, and it would betray sensible-thinking Australians everywhere.

Finally, I commit today to straight talking my way to the election and beyond. The days of waffle are over. Abraham Lincoln delivered the most powerful speech of modern history, the Gettysburg Address, in just 272 words. I promise that in future no speech I make will exceed 272 words: if it worked for Lincoln, it will work for me.

My friends, thank you for the honour of leading our great party, and I will strive to serve you henceforth with respectful and cheerful humility…’

It’s a shame that the Prime Minister decided to ad lib instead.

Terry Barnes is a consultant and regular contributor to The Spectator Australia

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