Well, thank you very, very much, Angus, for your warm welcome on a somewhat chilly Goulburn morning, and for sharing with us what is happening in this wonderful region.
It is an absolute pleasure to be here today to represent the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
The Prime Minister has sent his apologies and his warm regards as he was unable to be here today.
Can I acknowledge our new Premier; my many Federal and State colleagues who are here; former Prime Minister Tony Abbott; and, most importantly, the many party delegates and members who have joined us here today.
Many of you have travelled quite a distance to be with us today, and so I thank you very, very much for your commitment and support.
Can I particularly acknowledge the local members Angus Taylor, Pru Goward, and Lou Amato, the local MLC.
Since our last State Council, we have a new Premier – in Gladys Berejiklian.
The people of New South Wales can be confident that the good work started by Barry O'Farrell, and continued by Mike Baird, will endure and grow under a Berejiklian-led New South Wales Government.
Gladys, you have our best wishes and our full support.
To our membership, thank you for your support, especially recently during the by-elections in North Sydney, Manly and Gosford.
It is our membership and our branches that define our values and our principles.
It is our membership - each one of you - that are the backbone of our great Party.
We rely on your hard work and we are grateful for it.
Our success depends on you.
At this point, I would like to make mention of outgoing Federal Director and former State Director, Tony Nutt.
We wish him well in his future endeavours.
But a farewell leads to a welcome, and I am delighted that Andrew Bragg, the Policy Director at the Menzies Research Centre (MRC), will take over as acting Federal Director on 8 May.
Of course, Andrew is known to us: he stood for preselection - Holly - in the Senate with us last year, so he has certainly experienced firsthand of the NSW Division.
Delegates, I am pleased to report that despite the challenges the Coalition faces in the Senate, we are getting on with governing.
We are getting legislation passed and we are implementing our agenda.
We are meeting these challenges and we remain the first choice for stability, security and prosperity for all Australians.
So this morning, I would like to look at some of those achievements since the last election.
Everything the Coalition stands for is about jobs, is about investment, is about opportunity and, above all, is about security.
We are committed to creating opportunities for Australians to do their best.
The Labor Party may talk about employment but they do not have one policy to create jobs.
Instead they propose investment – destroying higher taxes, bigger deficits and greater debt.
In contrast, we are creating the export opportunities – Angus has just mentioned some of those, we are building infrastructure, providing the conditions for investment and job creation.
By pursuing export deals, we are expanding the opportunities for Australian businesses to sell their products into the fastest-growing markets in the world.
Bill Shorten is a threat to every household budget, to every business, and to every job in this country.
Our job is to ensure Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and the other fiscal vandal on "L" plates Jim Chalmers, do not get anywhere near the Treasury benches to wreak the same havoc as they did when they were last in Government.
Their fiscal vandalism left us a lot of debt, a lot red ink, and a big mess to clean up.
Labor lied their way into office and they will do so again, and they will do whatever it takes.
In contrast, the Coalition is focused on defending the interests of hardworking Australian families and their businesses.
Only the Coalition will guarantee the security of our borders.
We have now gone 1,000 days without a successful people smuggling venture arriving on our shores.
That is a remarkable achievement, and one can never be complacent in this area.
I was in Nauru earlier this week.
What was very clear from conversations that I had was that people have been told to hang on and wait for a change.
Rest assured that the return of the Green-Labor Coalition will mean that more boats and more people smugglers will be back in business, peddling the falsehoods and the promises, and lead to more lives being lost at sea.
It is our sovereign right to determine who comes to Australia, but it is also the foundation of a good society.
The Turnbull Government has delivered every tax cut promised for this term of government inside the first year.
More than three million small- and medium-sized businesses will benefit from these cuts.
Once fully implemented, our policy will permanently increase the size of the economy by more than one per cent of GDP.
That's more than $17 billion, in today's dollars, every single year.
We are giving businesses the confidence to grow, to invest and to expand so they can achieve their dreams.
We are acting to keep Australia's corporate tax rate internationally competitive.
The UK and the USA are already acting to further reduce company tax rates, and we cannot be left behind.
In contrast, our opponents have no plan for the economy.
They have not and will not propose a single measure that will grow the economy or generate jobs.
On energy, we are focussed on two simple and practical policies: keep the lights on and keep electricity affordable.
We are initiating an ACCC inquiry into electricity prices, ensuring Australians will get the fairest deal.
We are also securing the domestic gas supply with the introduction of the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism.
This will give the Government the power to impose export controls on companies when there is a shortfall of gas supply in the domestic market.
This month, we announced one of the most important reforms of this Government - to strengthen Australian citizenship and put Australian values at the heart of attaining the enormous privilege of becoming an Australian.
In May 2015, Tony, you tasked Philip Ruddock and I to conduct a national conversation about citizenship: whether rights and responsibilities of citizenship were understood; and how to better promote these, especially amongst young people.
At the time, we released a consultation paper setting out our core values, including: freedom of speech and religion; commitment to the rule of law and allegiance to Australia; to our parliamentary democracy; equal rights before the law; and equal opportunity for all.
And we asked a series of questions as conversation starters about: the meaning and value of citizenship; citizenship eligibility, the test and the pledge; the obligations of citizenship in an age of home-grown terrorism; revocation of citizenship for dual nationals involved in terrorism; and the suspension of privileges for Australians engaged in terrorism.
The process was detailed and widespread.
There were three key findings from those consultations: the importance of English as our national language; Australians hold their citizenship very, very dear, but almost two-thirds felt citizenship not sufficiently valued; and thirdly, there was overwhelming support for action by the Government and the community to ensure Australians understand and respect the privileges and obligations of Australia citizenship.
And I am pleased to see that the changes that have been announced in recent weeks do reflect the recommendations that Philip and I made in our report and which we presented to Prime Minister Turnbull and Immigration Minister Dutton last year.
A strong migration and citizenship framework continues and underpins a very successful nation.
This success and respect for all our values applies to all of us.
These are not changes that are aimed at one group.
In fact, and can I stress this, they apply equally to all Australians whether acquiring their citizenship or Australians by birth.
Australia has one of the highest rates of citizenship acquisition – according to the OECD, just over 80 per cent of all eligible migrants become citizens – and that is one of the highest rates in the world.
However, we want to make sure that those who enjoy the privilege can also be stripped of that privilege if they engage in terrorism, or other acts that are anathema to our values and way of life.
We are one of the most culturally diverse, yet socially cohesive nations on earth.
We are a peaceful people.
We are an international and unique model for respect, inclusion and integration.
Almost half of us were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas.
In all this diversity, it is our collective values that bind us and define our national identity.
We have also passed eight tranches of national security legislation, which can be used to protect Australia from returning foreign fighters.
About 40 people have returned to Australia from Syria and Iraq, most of which were there before Daesh declared it so called caliphate in mid-2014.
Of those Australians remaining in the conflict zone, only some may attempt to return to Australia.
Any who are found to have been fighting in the conflict, or have been members of a terrorist organisation, will face the full extent of the law.
Now, international events continue to take centre stage.
Good relations with our neighbours, close allies and the rest of the world have never been more important.
We seek stability, security and prosperity in both our Indo-Pacific region and elsewhere around the world.
We are strengthening the US alliance at a time of global challenge and uncertainty.
The Prime Minister will be travelling to the US next week to meet with President Trump and attend the 75th Battle of the Coral Sea commemorations.
This meeting will provide an opportunity to reaffirm our alliance with the United States' engagement in the Asia-Pacific, and come at a time when our region faces a serious threat from a reckless and dangerous regime in North Korea.
The Government wants to ensure that our values, our Australian values, are incorporated into our international relationships and in our overseas development assistance.
Australia's foreign budget is currently $6 billion, of which $3.8 billion is spent in overseas development assistance.
In 2016, the Defence White Paper identified Australia's immediate neighborhood as our highest strategic priority second only to the defence of Australia.
Therefore, 90 per cent of our overseas development assistance is spent in our region – the Indo-Pacific.
This is our neighbourhood.
Our ODA complements our diplomatic, trade and defence efforts.
Our support helps our regional partners to be peaceful, democratic, well-governed, and follow the rule of law.
These are the prerequisites for a more prosperous region.
Our region is complex and the causes of instability and conflict have a direct bearing on our sovereignty, on our values, and on our security.
They are complex, and they are causes of instability and conflict around us.
We take our regional responsibilities very seriously and we target our assistance to best advantage and where we can make the biggest difference.
We work to strengthen law and order, to reduce conflict, to fight corruption, and to build stronger economies.
As Minister for International Development and the Pacific, I am often asked why we spend Australia's taxpayers' money overseas helping countries when those monies could be better spent at home or not spent at all.
Indeed, recent surveys show that it is not easy for the public to understand where our overseas development assistance goes.
When Australians are asked to estimate how much of their Government monies are spent on aid, they often estimate a far higher dollar than is the case.
It has also been found that many Australians believe that our ODA should be smaller, reflecting our tight budgetary environment.
In the past, the focus was on what we were doing.
The narrative is now on why we are spending this money, and, above all, what is the direct benefit to Australia?
Labor had cranked up our overseas development assistance with their 'spend first, ask questions later' approach.
Under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd regime, the ODA budget was being run on borrowed money driving up our debt.
Even Bob Carr knew you could not have an unsustainable overseas development aid budget, writing in his book: "The truth is you can't run aid on borrowings."
Since coming to Government, we have brought the ODA budget back to more manageable levels.
We have listened to the Australian public, as we should; it is their money, it is their values, and their security at work.
Aid is not charity.
It is assistance to counties to develop.
Our aid is targeted to bring security and stability to our region.
And I just want to mention a number of areas where we are spending, and why it is so vitally important to Australia.
In the western province of Papua New Guinea, we are helping fight drug-resistant TB, and that is only four kilometres from Australia.
People are travelling overseas a lot, lot more and nearly every cruise ship that visits our shores at some point stops off in a Pacific port en route.
Disease, mosquitoes and bio-threats neither know nor respect national borders.
And so, therefore, by supporting our neighbours to strengthen their health systems and their services, we are strengthening our health preparedness in the area and our capacity to respond to emerging health threats – not just in relation to TB, but other diseases like Zika, malaria or, God forbid, an Ebola outbreak.
We are also committed to countering violent extremism in our region and our ODA is an important tool.
Developing countries are the hardest hit by violent extremism, with over 95 per cent of terrorism-related deaths having occurred in developing countries over the last 15 years.
It harms economic growth; it destabilises governance; it facilitates the movement of drugs, money and arms; it weakens security; and contributes to political instability.
And that is why Australia is supporting initiatives to counter violent extremism in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Having visited Sri Lanka, I have seen firsthand how our aid is being invested, where stability economic opportunities are critical factors in dampening the attractiveness of people smuggling operations.
We recognise that Australia's interest in a secure, stable and prosperous region is threatened by the potentially devastating impact of disasters, which can undermine hard won economic gains.
Seven of the ten most disaster-prone countries in the world are in our neighbourhood.
And so as the neighbour with the largest house in the street, it is incumbent on us not just to come to the immediate needs of our neighbours, but to help them to build back better to limit the impact of future disasters.
Because this helps the long-term stability of our region, and thereby reducing the potential cost of future dependence on aid.
And so for this reason, The Turnbull Government is stepping up our engagement in the Pacific.
Our interests in the region and the complexity of the challenges in the Indo-Pacific require much more engagement at every level.
Can I conclude with some comments on the upcoming Budget.
Australia is in its 26th consecutive year of economic growth – this is a remarkable achievement.
But we know that we cannot take this prosperity for granted.
Last year's Budget set out our economic plan.
At its core were policies to drive economic growth, because you cannot succeed, and our nation cannot prosper without a strong economy.
It also included measures to protect our national financial resilience, because a more robust Australia will mean we are better protected against potential external economic shocks.
A strengthened bottom line will always ensure we can continue to provide those crucial services, like health and education that Australians rely on.
We have acted on our plan.
Our achievements have included: our Enterprise Tax Plan; reducing the tax burden; making prudent saving measures, which we have been able to get through the Senate; and multi tax anti-avoidance measures.
Next month's Budget is the next stage of our economic plan and will build on our commitments.
We will continue to act decisively to create the economic conditions that will help guarantee a stronger economy, so we can keep our nation on course for a continued prosperity.
Can I once again thank you for all your support and commitment to the Liberal cause.
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