JULIE BISHOP: Prime Minister, Premiers, parliamentary colleagues, delegates - I thank you all for attending this 60th Federal Council meeting, and I pay tribute to you for your support of the Liberal Party, the most constructive and positive political movement in Australia.
Much work goes on behind the scenes in the lead-up to a Federal Council, including policy deliberations across the country by our Liberal Party members, our branches, and within our divisions.
Our party is a 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 we were established in 1944.
We are elected and re-elected because the Australian people can trust us with national security and they can trust us to prudently manage the economy and the nation's finances.
Yet far too often we are called upon to repair a budget left by Labor, pay off Labor's debt, get back into surplus because Labor prove, time and time again, they cannot manage budgets, they cannot be trusted with the taxpayers' money.
On the policy front more broadly, we released a Foreign Policy White Paper - the first in 14 years, the last was under the Howard Government. Now, these days 14 hours can see a lot of change on the world stage, so after 14 years a foreign policy review was most certainly overdue.
This Foreign Policy White Paper sets out a framework for our international engagement, our international activities over the next decade and beyond. It focuses on our priorities and our interests underpinned by our values.
We have a global reputation as an open liberal democracy, committed to freedoms, the rule of law, democratic institutions.
We are an open export-oriented market economy, and we are able to drive economic growth and jobs in this country because we are able to trade our goods and services around the world.
We are 24 million people. That makes us 53rd in the world in terms of population but with the 13th largest economy in the world, and to continue with our standard of living, and our economic growth and job opportunities, we have to ensure we are internationally competitive and our economy is resilient.
So, in this Foreign Policy White Paper we have set out five pillars that will underpin our international engagement over the next decade.
We are in a volatile and dynamic world. We are facing unprecedented challenges. A change in the major power dynamics. A rise in protectionism and economic nationalism. We're seeing challenges to the international rules-based order, the emergence of non-state actors and global terrorism.
We're seeing challenges to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of nations, the mass movement of people and capital and ideas, and the technological advances are disrupting the way we live, the way we work, the way we engage.
So, our first pillar is to focus our efforts on our region, the Indo-Pacific. Of course, we have global interests, but our priorities are regional.
We will continue to deepen our relationship with China, with whom we have a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We will do more with India, the fastest growing economy in our region. We will deepen our already remarkable relationship with the United States. We will work more closely with Japan and other like-minded democracies.
We will particularly 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.
Prime Minister Turnbull recently hosted the first ever ASEAN-Australia Leaders' Summit in Sydney in March, demonstrating our commitment to these dynamic and growing economies in our part of the world.
Our second pillar is to ensure that we give Australian businesses and Australian industry the opportunity to compete in an increasingly volatile and congested world, and that means our domestic policies but also our foreign policies, which is why we committed to such an ambitious free trade agenda.
We are in our 27th consecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth - that doesn't happen by accident. It happens because, in part, we are able to sell and trade or goods and services around the world. That is why we have worked so hard to achieve ambitious, high quality comprehensive free trade agreements with China, with Japan, with Korea.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership-11 - that they said couldn't be done, but with Prime Minister Turnbull and his counterparts we were able to achieve the gold standard in free trade agreements. We are working with Indonesia, with the European Union for free trade agreements, and we hope to secure a free trade agreement with Britain once they Brexit.
I want you to remember though Labor's approach when it came to the free trade agreement with China. Negotiations were commenced by the Howard Government in 2005 and our friends from New Zealand commenced negotiations at the same time. In 2007 Labor came into Government. New Zealand concluded their free trade agreement with China in 2008 and they have seen enormous growth in two-way trade as a result.
Under the six years of Labor, virtually nothing happened and it wasn't until we came back into Government in 2013 that we were able to restart negotiations and conclude an extraordinary trade deal with China that has underpinned so much of our recent economic growth.
You wonder how could it be that Labor did nothing for that period? Well, we saw why. The militant unions in Australia have a xenophobic and ideological opposition to a trade deal with China. That's why nothing happened under Labor and they still have that attitude.
Now, the third pillar is to keep Australians safe and secure, whether they are at home or abroad, and we have invested record funding in our security agencies, in our intelligence agencies, in our Defence capability.
We work closely with our partners in our region, in particular Indonesia, Malaysia, to counter terrorism, to counter violent extremism, and you will note that we militarily intervened with the Philippines when an ISIS-inspired group took over a city in the Philippines. We work with our partners to ensure that we keep our people safe.
We have also introduced foreign interference and foreign donation laws that are designed to ensure that the Australian people can have confidence in our democratic processes.
The fourth pillar is to strengthen, defend, uphold the international ruled-based order. This is the network of alliances, and treaties, and institutions, and norms and conventions underpinned by international law that has governed the way nations behave and towards each other since the Second World War.
This international 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 risk returning to an era pre-World War II where might is right.
Australia plays by the rules. Let me give you a recent example - we had a maritime border dispute with Timor-Leste. Now, maritime border disputes can go back years, decades, even centuries, but Australia was prepared to negotiate with Timor-Leste. We were unable to resolve it, so we agreed to go to an independent arbitrator under the United Nations convention of the law of the sea. It was a voluntary conciliation. We didn't have to be bound by it, but we negotiated in good faith, we got a result, we are both happy with it, we agreed to be bound and we've signed a treaty. Australia plays by the rules.
Our fifth pillar is our focus on the Pacific. This is our neighbourhood. This is our region. We have a special responsibility to support stability, security and prosperity amongst the small island nations in our backyard, North Pacific and South Pacific.
I recently returned from my 33rd visit as Foreign Minister to the Pacific. It is of utmost importance to us that we maintain stability, and security, and prosperity in the Pacific. Their security is our security.
That is why we have directed the majority of our aid budget to supporting nations in the Pacific - not just in health and education, but in infrastructure. You will have seen recently that our Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands signed an agreement for Australia to support the construction of an undersea telecommunications cable for the Solomon Islands and PNG which will give them enormous economic opportunities and leap frog the technological advances that developed countries have experienced.
These are our five pillars, and in the meantime, we continue with what I see as one of our greatest investments in our future - that is in our young people.
Under our New Colombo Plan we are supporting Australian undergraduates in whatever field or discipline to have an opportunity to undertake part of their studies in a university in one of 40 countries in the Indo-Pacific. They can spend weeks, whole semesters, even 12-month scholarships living, and studying, and working in these countries.
The partnerships that we have developed with these 40 nations are remarkable. Some of them have had to change their immigration laws to enable Australian students to undertake practicals and work experience and the like, but it is an investment worth making because they return to Australia with new perspectives, new understandings, new skills, and a network of connections that will last a lifetime. They will be our ambassadors, the future leaders with connections and friendships throughout our region.
We started the New Colombo Plan in 2014, and by the end of 2018, 30,000 young Australian undergraduates will have been supported to live, and study, and work in our region.
You heard from Scott, our Treasurer, and our foreign policy and our domestic policy are underpinned by Liberal values and philosophies – freedom and choice and equality and justice, and the rule of law.
I have to tell 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, that this week reached a milestone of $15 million in fines for illegal behaviour on work sites across Australia? This is Bill Shorten's support base.
How does a union get away with that in a country that is committed to the rule of law?
Well, let me give you an insight into the CFMEU. I got a letter the other day from a CFMEU official - urging me to publicly applaud the recent election in – Venezuela! It seems that the repression, and violence, and intimidation, and economic destruction of Venezuela is the exemplar, is the democracy that the CFMEU believes we should be following.
So, ladies and gentlemen, the Liberal Party will campaign each and every day from now until the next election to ensure that the CFMEU and Bill Shorten, and his Labor mates and his union mates don't impose on our country the Venezuelan-inspired democracy that they applaud.
We will be asking the Australian people to trust us with the economy and the national finances, to trust us to balance the budget, to start repaying Labor's debt, to keep the AAA credit rating - congratulations Treasurer - and to ensure that we have an environment that creates jobs. We will ask them to trust us as we strengthen Medicare, as we implement energy reform, as we build our Defence capability, as we deliver record funding for schools and hospitals.
Under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Cabinet is united and focused on delivering good policies for the Australian people - and our Prime Minister, who inspires us with his enthusiasm, his optimism, his vision and his intellect will lead our Parliamentary team to the next election, and we will win because we can promise stable and good Government for the people of Australia.
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