Federal Nationals’ Leader David Littleproud addressed the Annual General Conference of the NSW Nationals. This is what he had to say.
While the tide was going out, I think New South Wales Nationals should be very proud of the result they were able to garner. To think that the only seat in the Lower House that we lost was a bellwether seat that we won on primary votes. And in a state where there’s optional preferential voting, that we were unable to hold off those preferences from those minor parties. Nichole (Overall) did a fantastic job. We’re proud of Nichole and my federal team, I’m proud of them, over 3000 phone calls that we made voluntarily every night we were sitting into the night to try and make sure that Nichole got there.
I’m proud of Nichole and to Scotty as well, who unfortunately was a victim of that tide going out. Thank you for all your efforts, mate. You did a fantastic job. And The New South Wales Nationals should be proud of that effort and to Joe, the leadership that you showed during that election campaign. Thank you on behalf of The Federal Nationals as well.
Can I acknowledge you, the members. As a child, the Queensland Nationals, in an era of Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, and a guy called Sir Robert Sparkes, the president of the Queensland Nationals for decades, he instilled a culture, the value of the primacy of the membership. That that is what set the values and tones and the principles of those that are given the honour to go and to represent you in state and federal parliament. That is the culture, that is the value, and that is the custodians that we, that are given that privilege, must respect. Because of your courage of your conviction for being here, not for financial gain, but for your belief, for your belief in a cause.
Because we are not just a political party. We are the movement for regional Australia. And it is you and your values and principles and the institution that we stand here today, in this conference that guides us, that guides us as your elected representatives to leave a legacy for this nation, to be able to unlock the potential of regional and rural Australia to ensure not only that the current generation, but generations to come, have the opportunity to stay and to live and to prosper in regional Australia.
That their future has been unlocked by the values and principles that are determined right here in this room here today. And that we as your elected officials ensure that we preserve that and as custodians of those who have gone before us, we are here today. So thank you. Thank you for being part of a movement, not just a political party, but a movement for regional Australia. And since the federal election, I’m proud of your federal team for the identity that we have preserved, but continue to forge to ensure that The Nationals stand tall, with respect and dignity, in the way that we have handed ourselves, but in the way that we have prosecuted, not just your values and principles, but prosecuted a way forward for regional Australia.
And one of the first things I made sure that we did was to hold the government to account, but also be part of the solutions for regional Australia.
Because regional Australia could not wait for another three years until the next election for a good idea. And so I took the pragmatic decision, as hard as it was, to turn up to the Jobs and Skills Summit. It was important that the 30 per cent of Australians that live outside of a capital city had a voice. Had a voice and a platform taken where we could give that voice about the opportunities and challenges around having a workforce. And The Federal Nationals took to that a policy around allowing those veterans and those on age pensions to work a couple extra hours a week and it didn’t affect their payments, so they could participate in the workforce.
And the federal government, the current federal government has taken that up. That was because The Federal Nationals had the courage and the conviction that you turn up and actually articulate an opportunity for regional Australia to have a voice and to have a solution.
And we extended that in the current Budget reply, to instead of extending an extra $40 a fortnight in social security payments to those on JobSeeker, it was important to use some common sense and to say, extend that to those on JobSeeker, allow them to work two to three extra hours a week, not just earn $40, but potentially an extra $200, and not put that burden on the Australian taxpayer of over $4.8 billion, but to in fact spread that burden to business, where business got a productivity gain out of it.
And that is the common sense solution that your federal Nationals are taking to Canberra, about solving problems with practical solutions, with common sense solutions, that empowers business to give them the tools they need to continue to pay down the debt that we have and to continue to create the jobs that we need.
Governments don’t create jobs, you do. The only jobs that we create are the ones you pay for. And this is the opportunity of using the common sense practical solutions, extending it further in the policy settings in government. And we’re clear that this Budget was a welfare Budget. Make no mistake, the only people whose cost of living was addressed in this Budget were those on social security payments, as a cost-of-living crisis for those on social security payments.
But there’s also a broader question about how we balance that across the whole economy, about those that have mortgages, those that are struggling to pay for electricity and their food. And that’s not about pumping more money into the economy. That’s about using practical solutions, policy settings that don’t cost you, you the Australian taxpayer a cent, but have an impact on the inflationary pressures that this government is placing on you.
So we’ll continue to prosecute common sense solutions around bringing down that cost-of-living pressure that you are being born with every day. But we’ve also had the courage and the conviction around a sensible energy policy. I wrote to Anthony Albanese less than a month after becoming a leader of the Federal Nationals, asking for a National Energy Summit, to have a national conversation about our solutions, the solutions that our nation should have around a reliable, affordable energy in this country.
We have sovereignty of all our resources in this country so the solutions lie within. And all it takes is a sensible policy solution to put all the solutions on the table. Our party, your federal National party team, has long supported the new emerging zero emission nuclear small scale modular reactors. We have long championed that and proudly The federal Nationals have now finally brought the federal Liberal party to that conclusion as well.
The federal Nationals are looking ahead, looking over the horizons of the policy solutions that are there with technology that will solve many of the world’s problems. Peter Dutton did have the courage to bring his team finally with us. And this is the common sense solutions. And your federal National party team is taking to Canberra about ensuring all the solutions on the table, because while there’s this reckless race to 82 per cent renewables by 2030, there are unintended consequences on the environment and on you, particularly us who live in regional Australia, because we will bare those consequences.
There is 28,000 kilometres of new transmission lines that will go right up and down the east coast and we will see, we will see solar panels over productive landscape. We’ll see wind turbines over productive landscape and over remnant vegetation. The federal Nationals aren’t against renewables, but their habitat for solar panels is on rooftops and for wind towers offshore.
Otherwise, we fear that renewables will lose their social licence. And if you want to make them work, if you want renewables to work, then you need firming power and that firming power will have to come with gas and with small scale modular nuclear, that technology is probably a decade away. But in essence, what we need to do as a government is to create an environment, create an environment whereby the market can decide where we can embrace technology and we don’t have to spend a cent.
We can peek over the Pacific and see what’s happening in the United States and Canada and adopt and adapt that technology to use common sense in bringing it here and plugging it in to where existing coal fired power stations are. Ones like Liddell, a small scale modular nuclear route there. And to think that we already have a nuclear industry here in Australia, in Lucas Heights, let me tell you, there’s residential homes less than a kilometre away from Lucas Heights, they’re selling for $1.3 million.
So we have to be honest with the Australian people, we will have to decide where these small scale modular nuclear reactors go for this zero emissions technology. But we’ll plug them in where existing coal fired power stations are. That’s common sense that’ll alleviate the need for the 28,000 kilometres of new transmission lines. And so our energy policy that we take forward at the next election will include nuclear technology, zero emissions, nuclear technology.
It’ll include gas, it’ll include renewables. And I’m confident that that technology, the solutions that come on that horizon between now and 2050 will get us the zero emissions. But give us the competitive advantage because we have the sovereignty of our resources here in Australia, but it’s up to federal governments to create the environment for them to be able to prosper. And that’s what the Federal Nationals will make sure is prosecuted at the next federal election.
Nine months ago, our federal team made a very big decision. We made a decision predicated on us putting in place a process, a process firstly of respect and then of understanding. Our party room set a pathway of understanding the Voice. I created a four-member committee within our party room to go and explore the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ case to understand and appreciate both sides before we actually made an official position, as a party leader.
Felt it important that in the question, that the Prime Minister’s question, as important as this, that we respected the gravity of it and the magnitude of it. And so those four members of our party room went and explored the yes and no cases, the Calma–Langton Report, making sure that we understood that. And I engaged both with Megan Davis as well as Warren Mundine.
But we got to a position nine months ago, predicated on our lived experience, and there’ll be people in this room that may not agree with our position, but it was one that we went back to the values and principles of our great party and understanding the people that we represent, the lived experience that we had, and the fact that we were going to have another representative body, one of which we lived before, and one of which we live with. The consequences of what it left behind.
For those where the disadvantage is for Indigenous Australians, where invariably it is in regional Australia, where the most disadvantage is, is that we couldn’t support another representative model. One in which was another lived bureaucracy – that we didn’t need a bigger bureaucracy, we needed a better bureaucracy. Empowering not only regional Indigenous Elders, but local indigenous Elders. Better outcomes come from Canberra being around campfires and town halls, listening to the local Elders in the local community, not having a representative that will be representing hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and hundreds of different diverse communities that have different challenges and different opportunities.
And so we got to the basis that based off what the Prime Minister had decided around supporting the Langton report of a represented model, 27 representatives predicated on the fact that the Prime Minister, while running the parliament, has the power of the Parliament, is unable to bring forward the legislation so that not just the politicians but you, the Australian people, you the Australian people, can see what the mechanics of the Voice would look like, the reaching towers of it, its influence.
It’s one in which we’ve said to the Prime Minister, he should take the Australian people into his trust and place that in Parliament so that every Australian can see, every Australian can understand, what they are being asked to vote on. That if the Prime Minister isn’t prepared to take you into his trust, how can you trust him? And if this was just a question of Constitutional recognition, if this was a statement of fact that Indigenous Australians were here first, we made some mistakes along the way, but we are better having been together and we will be better sticking together, then I’m sure that that would be a unifying moment for our nation.
But instead the Prime Minister, despite numerous requests, ignored that. And sadly, he has divided this nation and is not even respecting the nation and having a Constitutional convention in asking not just one cohort of our great nation to decide the words and decide the implications of it, but to simply take what one cohort of the population decided at Uluru, doesn’t respect the 26 million Australians that live in this country.
That’s not the Australian way.
But there’s one key tenet that all we, we always came back to that key tenet, is that all 26 million Australians, no matter your race, no matter your religion, are equal in this great notion. We are all equal and proudly each 26 million Australian has an equal voice in our Parliament, 227 of them in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Proudly our nation has elected 11 Indigenous Australians to parliament, not to represent Indigenous Australians but they’re there to represent all Australians.
That’s the Australia that I’m proud to be part of. That’s the Australia that I’ve been given the honour by you, to go and to represent and to preserve those values and those principles that have created the greatest nations in the world, and one in which the federal Nationals are proud to be the leaders of in preserving those principles and values, not just for this generation, but for generations to come.
And we will continue in a respectful way to make sure that as we progress through this debate, that our tone and our intellect in prosecuting our case will be one that respects the Australian people in the deeply personal decision that they’ll make in about six months’ time. But we don’t resolve from the fact that as federal Nationals, we made an important decision for our nation. And I’m damn proud of my federal team, your federal team, that had the courage of their conviction to stand up before it was popular.
And while there was plenty of adversity thrown at us, we still had the courage of our conviction to stand up for those principles. And your federal National team is somebody you should be very proud of for doing that.
As we move forward, can I say that while we will focus on the Voice, we are focusing on what will be taken to the next federal election, which could be as soon as 18 months away. And so our policy formation will go back to the very values of principles, not just of those that decide here today, but also ensuring that regional Australia gets its fair share. And that’ll be ensuring that we get our fair share around infrastructure, particularly on roads and dams, making sure that we are giving you the tools that you need to be able to continue to pay the bills of this nation.
It’ll be about making sure and acknowledging we need to do more around regional childcare so the families in the bush can actually go and pay for their cost of living by going back to work because there is actually a childcare place for them to put their children into it.
It’ll also be about our regional health, but making sure we’re not getting left behind by government that is hell bent on taking away doctors by extending the designated priority areas, allowing foreign doctors now to work in carry urban areas, rather than keeping them just in rural and remote areas, leaving us without doctors and this attack, this vicious attack on our pharmacists. Let me tell you, our pharmacists are small businesses and they have just had their livelihoods ripped away from them by this government.
And let me say that in 342 communities across this country, they are the only primary care we have. And if they shut down, then we have nothing. So this will be a fight of principles and values that your federal Nationals will fight for, but that that is the cause that we stand behind because you stand behind us, that to me say that as Nationals, we have forged an identity federally that we should be proud of.
One in which we will use as a platform the next federal election to continue to not just preserve what we’ve got, but to continue to grow and to grow our base across this great country, not as a political party, but as a movement for regional Australia. That that is the cause that we all sign up to. That is the cause that I’m proud to be part of, and that’s the reason why I call myself a National. Thanks for having me.