Address to the 2015 Federal Nationals Conference, Canberra

12 September 2015


The Prime Minister of Australia the Hon Tony Abbott;
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Warren Truss;
President of the National Party, Christine Ferguson;
Leader of the Nationals in the Senate the Hon Nigel Scullion,
Colleagues, Federal Councillors, and all supporters of the Nationals and also Wacka who always gets left off.

In Ecclesiastes 1:9 we are reminded that:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Economic power is the essence of power, a religion may justify it, an army may attain it, but the goal is economic power.

In our everyday lives an example of this is on every street, the house is a manifest expression not merely of its utility but of its owner's economic worth.

The house remains a statement at the centre of our ideals.

We construct things beyond our actual requirements.

If we actually logged the sections of the house we used, the reality would be that we use very little of the house, the proverbial log cabin.

But ego and greed underpinned by economic worth, drives us on to McMansions.

Managed within an enforceable set of rules this greed makes us all richer. It is the market economy.

But globally, if this greed is unencumbered by rules, there ultimately results the domination of one enterprise over the marketplace.

One country over the region;

One child over the playground;

One party over the state

One shrewd over the naive

Economics drove Rome to secure grain supplies from Egypt - firstly, by trade then by conquest.

After the demise of Cleopatra and Mark Antony following the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, Rome's vision to further secure their requirement of grain resulted in Mark Antony and Cleopatra's daughter, Cleopatra Selene II, to be immersed in the foreign policy and intrigue.

Caesar Augustus had her married to King Juba II of Numidia as a mechanism for the colonisation of Mauritania, the purpose of which was to acquire further grain supplying regions.

Later in history, an island off the coast of France (an island approximately the same size as the state of Victoria) became a dominant global power.

It certainly didn't attain this position by virtue of the inherent wealth encompassed on that island, nor did they ever endeavour to tow even the smallest parcel of land back to Portsmouth.

In the late 19th century under the reign of Queen Victoria Great Britain dominated India, much of Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well as forcing access to China.

On the other side of the Atlantic Hernan Cortez was instrumental in the syphoning the wealth of South America back to Spain.

At the same time the Portuguese were funnelling the wealth of Brazil and other nations in Africa and South-East Asia back to Lisbon, and the Dutch-East Indian was doing precisely that funnelling wealth back to the Netherlands and with different players it continues today.

Power is used to justify and enforce power; power that is a means to its own end; power for which there is no conscious plan. There does not need to be.

It just becomes a self-evident logical outcome that it incrementally walks itself towards.

But you listen to some eminent theorist and apparently they have created a theory to change this.

But it is not merely confined to the roles of nations and how nations act.

In commerce large corporations do the same.

It is an unremarkable rule that you should drive towards monopolies, and placate the concerns of smaller players with your benevolent narration, that we have only your best interests at heart and in our model you live happily ever after.

Whether it is the Cold War, Ancient Rome or modern commerce; it should be unremarkable that the innate motives remain the same.

We are, after all, the same species.

We believe that today we are more sanitised and civil, but the reality is that there are less people living under genuine democracies today than there have been in the past.

One only needs to turn on the television set to see that conquest remains a fundamental part of global foreign policy, either surreptitiously or overtly. 

Whether it is running the country for the people within it or for our relationships with the people outside it, it is a very complicated task.

It is too complicated to have an index of every possible solution to every possible problem.

So, an overarching philosophy is necessary.

A philosophy compartmentalised in values.

The liberty of the individual to advance through the social strata to attain the highest level of freedom, the result may be wealth but the purpose is freedom.

A freedom to have the greatest say in your life but a freedom that does not unreasonably impinge on the rights of others in the quest for that same freedom.

This is the right not just to go from floor 7 to floor 26 in the corporate skyscraper, but the right to choose to leave that corporate skyscraper with its corporate manual behind to build your own business, charter your own destiny, and enhance the vitality of the society you live in.

A vitality that, in Australia, an individual can come from nowhere to achieve success, whether in the marketplace or academia or literature or service to the public.

This may be a vision that is trotted out by many but we need to be a political party that enshrines your right to do it implicitly and get behind the policies that will achieve it.

Where as a party we still believe that it is not out of fashion, nor out of reach to purchase your own house and have the capacity to pay it off.

Where as a party we are unambiguous on the right of the Australian people to be the unambiguous owners of the Australian asset.

Where as a party we stand behind the impartiality and honesty of the fourth estate.

Where as party we stand behind a Parliament in which directness and honesty of views are conveyed in the political debate and not stymied by special interest groups' censorship claiming a wisdom which is only a foil for their own self-interest.

For a nation to hold these values has never been easy and there is nothing new under the sun for us today when we are buffeted by the same difficulties that have been apparent through millennia.

These challenges of alternate views, alternate values, alternate philosophies and different management capacities, are the discussions for the fortunate few who globally live in that wonderful place called a democracy.

A wonderful place where, in the year when we are celebrating the centenary of Anzac,  wonderful people have and do go off to defend.

Within a year we will be in an election.

Our role in this room is to prove to ourselves and to convince others that our members are the better candidates, more sound in the philosophical foundation they stand on, more proven in their resilience to deliver it, more expert in their skills sets to  manage our nation as a prosperous and free land.

We have to be careful that politics does not fall into a space

devoid of values because the only argument you are left with is who is the better administrator?

This may be a necessary qualification, but it is the poorer realm of politics.

It is rather uninspiring and ultimately unremarkable and so we should not be surprised why people will oscillate from one party to the other and care little as to who actually runs the country.

If this is all it is then what you need then is not a politician but a good accountant to do the job.

But as I am an accountant I should dwell on this point a little while longer.

Because we have proved ourselves in administration: record cattle prices, record sheep prices, a turnaround in the wool market, country of origin labelling, 7 new live animal markets, 3 free trade agreements, record low interest rates, new water infrastructure being built.

  • A $4 billion White Paper that includes half a billion dollars to build dams and water infrastructure that shows a reason for re-election, and shows vision for the future.
  • $800,000 farm management deposits;
  • An ACCC commissioner to ensure that our belief that fairness in the marketplace is enforced and presided over by a person with genuine rural experience.
  • Further investment in Research and Development
  • A massive new $200 million investment in biosecurity - the insurance policy of a diligent agricultural exporting nation.

​And so much more that this speech would descend into a shopping list which I don't intend to bore you with.

But at this point in time, in the election year coming forward, it is the vision for the future which people will vote for, not a retrospective of the past.

The future is the only place all of us are going to live.

And we must provide the Australian people with that vision.

Warren yesterday announced the path of the Inland Rail – a vision held by this nation for so long, but only built by one. Warren, who started that vital piece of nation building, in creating a corridor of commerce from Brisbane to Melbourne, intermodal access so that people of the western districts are part of not only the populated urban districts of the south-east but directly connected to the markets of South-East Asia and the world.

If it is going to cost you $20 million to build a warehouse near the Port of Botany, but cost you $5 million to build the same warehouse in Moree that also gives you access to the Port of Botany, the Port Melbourne, the Port of Brisbane, and ultimately the Port of Gladstone and the Port of Adelaide,  then the decision to move your logistics hub to Moree makes sense.

In this government we have not only started talking about dams, we have started building them, in Tasmania and Chaffey Dam & now we are this week starting the feasibility studies of many more and we now have the money behind it to start building them.

Water is wealth, a dam is a bank, and irrigation gives you access to high value agriculture. Water gives you access to the expansion of inland cities and towns, from Lachlan Macquarie to CJ Bradfield to O'Connor in the West, to Curtin and Chifley and Menzies in the Snowy Mountains Scheme, to Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland, great leaders of different political persuasions, but surprisingly on one issue, a recurring similarity their belief in water infrastructure.

Whether it is Roosevelt's New Deal that brought about the Tennessee Valley Augmentation Scheme, President Jiang Zemin's Three Gorges Dam in China, or Nassar's Aswan High Dam in Egypt, it is the capacity of a nation to deliver on its water infrastructure which is emblematic of its national vision.

Behind the tactile and visionary should rest the endorsement and protection of the cornerstone of society which is the family.

The greatest law-and-order policy is the family, the greatest health policy is the family, the greatest aged care policy is the family, the greatest education policy is the family.

We run counter-intuitive to the test of time and the independent assessment of multiple faiths and multiple cultures, who have by their own deliberations and independent of each other, come to the conclusion that the sanctity of the family is crucial to the success of the nation.

We should never be bullied into the position that it is politically correct to stay silent when policies that diminish the relevance of the family are tested in the public sphere.

In one year my colleagues and I will be part of a campaign with you in which our visions and our values will be tested and judged at the ballot box.

It may be mundane but we must raise the money, man the polling booths, invigorate our membership, doorknock, support our colleagues, write the letters to the editor, organise online, mount the defence against the accusations that inevitably fly in an election campaign, whether at the bowling club or on a bus.

We must convince the Australian people that we have the competency; that we hold the values; that we retain the vigour to continue to advance our nation in the ever more complicated world we live in.

A world where nothing is truly certain, apart from the acceleration of uncertainty bringing forth its corresponding rise and fall of nations, success and failures of individuals and businesses, and the continual challenge of the freedoms and opportunities that we expect our children to receive in the same manner that we have benefitted from.

Whatever your role you are in this room because of a strength of character.

A strength of character which is not subservient to, but guided by a unity of purpose.

A purpose which has taken you from your family and home to be instrumental in the deliberation of policy and structure in this wonderful body of people here today.

Standing up for small business, the family, the proper oversight of our sovereignty, and making sure that opportunity is spread fairly across our nation and not stacked in a corner.

With strong personalities we have our difference and our disputes.

But our strength of character, our unity of purpose our heart beating for country people takes us out of this room to proudly stand behind the legacy of McEwen, Anthony, Page, Drummond, Anderson, Truss and to be the ballast in an effective coalition that wins the forthcoming election.

All the best and God bless ​