Address to the 60th Liberal Federal Council

  • Speech, check against delivery

JULIE BISHOP: Prime Minister, Premiers, parliamentarycolleagues, delegates - I thank you all for attending this 60thFederal Council meeting, and I pay tribute to you for your support of theLiberal Party, the most constructive and positive political movement inAustralia.

Much workgoes on behind the scenes in the lead-up to a Federal Council, including policydeliberations across the country by our Liberal Party members, our branches,and within our divisions.

Our party isa policy powerhouse and through that foundation and the implementation of our policies,the Liberal Party has been in government for the majority of the time since wewere established in 1944.

We areelected and re-elected because the Australian people can trust us with nationalsecurity and they can trust us to prudently manage the economy and the nation'sfinances.

Yet far toooften we are called upon to repair a budget left by Labor, pay off Labor'sdebt, get back into surplus because Labor prove, time and time again, theycannot manage budgets, they cannot be trusted with the taxpayers' money.

On thepolicy front more broadly, we released a Foreign Policy White Paper - the firstin 14 years, the last was under the Howard Government. Now, these days 14 hourscan see a lot of change on the world stage, so after 14 years a foreign policyreview was most certainly overdue.

This ForeignPolicy White Paper sets out a framework for our international engagement, ourinternational activities over the next decade and beyond. It focuses on ourpriorities and our interests underpinned by our values.

We have aglobal reputation as an open liberal democracy, committed to freedoms, the ruleof law, democratic institutions.

We are anopen export-oriented market economy, and we are able to drive economic growthand jobs in this country because we are able to trade our goods and servicesaround the world.

We are 24 millionpeople. That makes us 53rd in the world in terms of population butwith the 13th largest economy in the world, and to continue with ourstandard of living, and our economic growth and job opportunities, we have to ensurewe are internationally competitive and our economy is resilient.

So, in thisForeign Policy White Paper we have set out five pillars that will underpin ourinternational engagement over the next decade.

We are in avolatile and dynamic world. We are facing unprecedented challenges. A change inthe major power dynamics. A rise in protectionism and economic nationalism. We'reseeing challenges to the international rules-based order, the emergence ofnon-state actors and global terrorism.

We're seeingchallenges to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of nations, themass movement of people and capital and ideas, and the technological advancesare disrupting the way we live, the way we work, the way we engage.

So, ourfirst pillar is to focus our efforts on our region, the Indo-Pacific. Ofcourse, we have global interests, but our priorities are regional.

We willcontinue to deepen our relationship with China, with whom we have a ComprehensiveStrategic Partnership. We will do more with India, the fastest growing economyin our region. We will deepen our already remarkable relationship with theUnited States. We will work more closely with Japan and other like-mindeddemocracies.

We willparticularly focus our efforts on the 10 South-East Asian nations to our north,the ASEANs, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia,Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, and Myanmar.

PrimeMinister Turnbull recently hosted the first ever ASEAN-Australia Leaders' Summitin Sydney in March, demonstrating our commitment to these dynamic and growingeconomies in our part of the world.

Our secondpillar is to ensure that we give Australian businesses and Australian industrythe opportunity to compete in an increasingly volatile and congested world, andthat means our domestic policies but also our foreign policies, which is why wecommitted to such an ambitious free trade agenda.

We are inour 27th consecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth - thatdoesn't happen by accident. It happens because, in part, we are able to selland trade or goods and services around the world. That is why we have worked sohard to achieve ambitious, high quality comprehensive free trade agreementswith China, with Japan, with Korea.

TheTrans-Pacific Partnership-11 - that they said couldn't be done, but with PrimeMinister Turnbull and his counterparts we were able to achieve the goldstandard in free trade agreements. We are working with Indonesia, with theEuropean Union for free trade agreements, and we hope to secure a free tradeagreement with Britain once they Brexit.

I want youto remember though Labor's approach when it came to the free trade agreementwith China. Negotiations were commenced by the Howard Government in 2005 andour friends from New Zealand commenced negotiations at the same time. In 2007Labor came into Government. New Zealand concluded their free trade agreementwith China in 2008 and they have seen enormous growth in two-way trade as aresult.

Under thesix years of Labor, virtually nothing happened and it wasn't until we came backinto Government in 2013 that we were able to restart negotiations and concludean extraordinary trade deal with China that has underpinned so much of ourrecent economic growth.

You wonderhow could it be that Labor did nothing for that period? Well, we saw why. Themilitant unions in Australia have a xenophobic and ideological opposition to atrade deal with China. That's why nothing happened under Labor and they stillhave that attitude.

Now, thethird pillar is to keep Australians safe and secure, whether they are at homeor abroad, and we have invested record funding in our security agencies, in ourintelligence agencies, in our Defence capability.

We workclosely with our partners in our region, in particular Indonesia, Malaysia, tocounter terrorism, to counter violent extremism, and you will note that wemilitarily intervened with the Philippines when an ISIS-inspired group tookover a city in the Philippines. We work with our partners to ensure that wekeep our people safe.

We have alsointroduced foreign interference and foreign donation laws that are designed toensure that the Australian people can have confidence in our democraticprocesses.

The fourthpillar is to strengthen, defend, uphold the international ruled-based order. Thisis the network of alliances, and treaties, and institutions, and norms andconventions underpinned by international law that has governed the way nationsbehave and towards each other since the Second World War.

Thisinternational ruled-based order is under challenge, it is under serious strain,and unless like-minded countries stand up and defend it and promote it, we riskreturning to an era pre-World War II where might is right.

Australiaplays by the rules. Let me give you a recent example - we had a maritime borderdispute with Timor-Leste. Now, maritime border disputes can go back years,decades, even centuries, but Australia was prepared to negotiate withTimor-Leste. We were unable to resolve it, so we agreed to go to an independentarbitrator under the United Nations convention of the law of the sea. It was a voluntaryconciliation. We didn't have to be bound by it, but we negotiated in goodfaith, we got a result, we are both happy with it, we agreed to be bound and we'vesigned a treaty. Australia plays by the rules.

Our fifthpillar is our focus on the Pacific. This is our neighbourhood. This is ourregion. We have a special responsibility to support stability, security andprosperity amongst the small island nations in our backyard, North Pacific andSouth Pacific.

I recentlyreturned from my 33rd visit as Foreign Minister to the Pacific. Itis of utmost importance to us that we maintain stability, and security, and prosperityin the Pacific. Their security is our security.

That is whywe have directed the majority of our aid budget to supporting nations in thePacific - not just in health and education, but in infrastructure. You willhave seen recently that our Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of theSolomon Islands signed an agreement for Australia to support the constructionof an undersea telecommunications cable for the Solomon Islands and PNG whichwill give them enormous economic opportunities and leap frog the technologicaladvances that developed countries have experienced.

These areour five pillars, and in the meantime, we continue with what I see as one ofour greatest investments in our future - that is in our young people.

Under our NewColombo Plan we are supporting Australian undergraduates in whatever field ordiscipline to have an opportunity to undertake part of their studies in auniversity in one of 40 countries in the Indo-Pacific. They can spend weeks,whole semesters, even 12-month scholarships living, and studying, and workingin these countries.

Thepartnerships that we have developed with these 40 nations are remarkable. Someof them have had to change their immigration laws to enable Australian studentsto undertake practicals and work experience and the like, but it is aninvestment worth making because they return to Australia with new perspectives,new understandings, new skills, and a network of connections that will last alifetime. They will be our ambassadors, the future leaders with connections andfriendships throughout our region.

We startedthe New Colombo Plan in 2014, and by the end of 2018, 30,000 young Australianundergraduates will have been supported to live, and study, and work in ourregion.

You heardfrom Scott, our Treasurer, and our foreign policy and our domestic policy areunderpinned by Liberal values and philosophies – freedom and choice andequality and justice, and the rule of law.

I have totell you, though, those values are not universally embraced by the Labor Party.How can it be that Bill Shorten's major benefactor is the notorious CFMEU, thatthis week reached a milestone of $15 million in fines for illegal behaviour onwork sites across Australia? This is Bill Shorten's support base.

How does aunion get away with that in a country that is committed to the rule of law?

Well, let megive you an insight into the CFMEU. I got a letter the other day from a CFMEUofficial - urging me to publicly applaud the recent election in – Venezuela! Itseems that the repression, and violence, and intimidation, and economicdestruction of Venezuela is the exemplar, is the democracy that the CFMEUbelieves we should be following.

So, ladiesand gentlemen, the Liberal Party will campaign each and every day from nowuntil the next election to ensure that the CFMEU and Bill Shorten, and hisLabor mates and his union mates don't impose on our country the Venezuelan-inspireddemocracy that they applaud.

We will beasking the Australian people to trust us with the economy and the nationalfinances, to trust us to balance the budget, to start repaying Labor's debt, tokeep the AAA credit rating - congratulations Treasurer - and to ensure that wehave an environment that creates jobs. We will ask them to trust us as westrengthen Medicare, as we implement energy reform, as we build our Defencecapability, as we deliver record funding for schools and hospitals.

Under PrimeMinister Malcolm Turnbull, the Cabinet is united and focused on delivering goodpolicies for the Australian people - and our Prime Minister, who inspires uswith his enthusiasm, his optimism, his vision and his intellect will lead ourParliamentary team to the next election, and we will win because we can promisestable and good Government for the people of Australia.

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