Speech

Launch of "The Forgotten People - Updated"

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Thank you very much. 

It is a real privilege that I have been asked to launch The Forgotten People - Updated. 

It is a great initiative by Paul Ritchie. Congratulations to Paul for having put all of the hard work to getting this to fruition. To the many contributors for your contribution to this outstanding work and in particular, also to the Menzies Research Centre, thank you so much for taking this project on.

This is a wonderful book. 

It is a book about our values – and it is a book about the people we serve. 

As Paul Ritchie says in the very first line of the book: “They were called forgotten so that they would be remembered”.

We are a party of enduring values. 

This is a timely book, because it is a reminder of who we are and what we share.

Menzies warned our country of what he called ‘the false wars’. 

He warned of wars that seek to divide Australian from Australian; and wars that ask ‘whose side are you on?’.

This book powerfully reminds us that the attempts by some from time to time to divide us between conservatives and liberals, as if we are somehow part of different parties is a ‘false war’. 

The unity of purpose of the 36 authors from right across our Party, our great party, with a conservative and a liberal tradition, speaks to that. 

This really is a powerful reminder of our shared, common purpose – and of our positive, affirming Liberal vision for Australia.

As the Prime Minister wrote “our Party’s conservatism is an anchor that points to our values, tempers our exuberances and reminds us of our history and traditions; and our Party’s liberalism is our compass that points to freedom, opportunity, and a future where more Australians can share in our country’s bounty.”

Our party is a living, breathing institution that continually seeks to use our values to interpret and improve our times. 

The strength of this book is that it is not about ‘the forgotten people’ of Menzies time but it is about ‘the forgotten people’ of our time.

It is a marker in our intellectual journey as a party.

Senator Ryan reminds us in this book that the job of political parties is to develop consensus from debate. 

It is very important for us to always remember that debate is not about entrenching division. It is the contest and refinement of ideas to settle on a broader consensus. 

Our party has never backed away from that – because the Australian people need policies that are robust, tested and strong and are based on the foundations of the broadest possible community consensus.

There are so many wonderful essays, may I point out three.

It is so good to see a young liberal in Christopher Rath tackle the issue of inter-generational equity. All of you would know that this is very much the core focus of the government, to ensure there is Budget repair – so that future generations of Australians do not carry the burden of debt and deficits accumulated on the back of excessive expenditure on our day-to-day living expenses today. It is great to see that Young Liberals are embracing this as a very, very important part of our project as a government. 

My good friend Ken Wyatt wrote a chapter called “freedom from want’ and he makes the point that if we believe, as we do, in doing the right thing by ‘the forgotten people’ then we must of course start with our most forgotten people and that is indigenous Australians.

And I finally point to Paul Ritchie’s essay, which in part reminds us, that we must embrace the longer view of politics and not the shorter view of the polls. 

We have to look at the long term future, not just at tomorrow. As he reminds us, the greatest loser of Newspolls was John Howard. Think about this. The greatest loser of Newspolls was John Howard. And do you know who was one of the most successful winners of Newspolls? It was Kevin Rudd. I would challenge anyone to put Kevin Rudd’s record up against John Howard’s record. Who do you think did the better job for our nation. We always must focus on doing the right thing. Policies and values will triumph over polls. We always must focus on doing the right thing for the long term and not just focus on what is required for tomorrow. 

We can all learn from Menzies: thirty years on the frontbench, almost twenty five years as a party leader, and eighteen and a half years as Prime Minister of Australia. Eighteen and a half years as Prime Minister of Australia. 

It is no accident that his last chapter in The Forgotten People is called “the importance of cheerfulness” – and Tim Wilson has written the modern chapter. 

Menzies called us to be happy warriors. He demonstrates that the key to longevity is perspective and balance – he reminds us that the difference between a dictator and a democrat is that the democrat can laugh at themselves. 

It is so important that yes we engage in the battle of ideas. Yes it is a serious business, but it is also important that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. In a democracy, you don’t win every battle. But by engaging in it in good faith, putting your best foot forward, putting your best arguments forward you will contribute to finding a better, higher quality community consensus which takes our country forward. That is really what this is all about. 

As an Australian who perhaps speaks with a funny accent and who happens to talk in a similar fashion to some ageing actor from Austria, I have my own opportunities to poke a bit of fun at myself. From time to time, I depart perhaps with a reference to the fact that ‘I’ll be back’ or that I ‘have to go to the chopper’. 

This ‘Forgotten People: Updated’ is a landmark in the intellectual life of our party.

I really congratulate Paul Ritchie for his initiative and for his perseverance. For his perseverance in encouraging many talented contributors from right across our great party for having invested all of their talents and all of their ideas and all of their effort into this project. It is a fantastic book. I commend it to all of you. It is a great privilege for me to be launching it on behalf of the Menzies Research Centre. Thank you so much to all of you who have paid attention to what I have had to say.