Today marks 25 years since we won the 1996 election.
Over the next eleven and a half years, our Coalition Government worked to deliver security, prosperity and opportunity, in the interests of all Australians.
With responsible financial management, we reversed Labor’s deficits, restored Australia’s AAA credit rating, repaid $96 billion in debt, and established Australia’s Future Fund. The strong economy inherited by the Rudd Labor Government was a major reason why Australia avoided the worst consequences of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
Our tax reforms replaced outdated indirect taxes with a broad based GST. Substantial income tax relief provided workers with real incentive and reward for effort.
Compulsory unionism was abolished and workers were provided with more choice.
Waterfront reforms lifted crane rates by around 60 per cent. The establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission tackled lawlessness on building sites.
With a more modern workplace relations system, industrial disputes were reduced to their lowest level in over three decades.
From 1996 to 2007, over 2.2 million jobs were created. We halved average inflation and saw interest rates reduced to the levels of the 1960s.
Although strong economic management is part of the Liberal Party’s DNA, we know a strong economy is not an end in itself.
Rather, a strong economy is the means to delivering more opportunities, security and happiness for the Australian people.
With a stronger economy, our government was able to substantially increase funding for services Australians rely on, such as health and education.
We also struck a sensible balance, by supporting and expanding the choices of families who seek private health insurance, or for their children to be educated at independent schools.
To keep Australians safe, we invested heavily in our Defence and security capability and worked with allies to meet the challenges following September 11 and the Bali bombings.
Following a great Australian tradition, our Defence and security personnel brought peace and independence to East Timor and delivered greater stability within our region.
Following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, we took action with the National Firearms Agreement. Since then, the rate of gun deaths and homicides has fallen by around two-thirds.
After eleven and a half years in government, we left Australia more prosperous, secure and confident in its future.
Enormous credit belongs to our team, including Peter Costello as Treasurer, Alexander Downer as Foreign Minister, and Tim Fischer, John Anderson and Mark Vaile as Deputy Prime Ministers.
I am also incredibly grateful to Liberal supporters across the country.
For everything I have achieved in politics, I owe a great debt to the Liberal Party of Australia.
Ours is a great cause. We are a broad church, as custodians of both the liberal and conservative traditions.
We tackle the challenges of our time, while defending traditions and institutions that have stood the test of time.
Our approach to government is both principled and pragmatic.
This approach can also be seen in the outstanding way Scott Morrison and his team have led Australia through this global pandemic.
With both health and economic outcomes, Australia has performed better than almost any country in the world.
While there is still a long road ahead on our path to recovery, I am confident Australia will, to use the Prime Minister’s words, emerge “stronger, safer and together”.
Thank you once again for your support of the Liberal Party. It has made – and will continue to make – a very real difference to Australia’s future.