'Keep our economy strong, Australians safe & our country together': Scott Morrison's first address to the nation

Stefan Postles/Getty ImagesScott Morrison

After winning the Liberal leadership, former treasurer Scott Morrison addressed the media ahead of his swearing in at Government House as Australia’s 30th Prime Minister. This is his address, including comments from questions by journalists. It has been edited slightly for clarity.

There has been a lot of talk this week about whose side people are on in this building.

And what Josh and I are here to tell you, as the new generation of Liberal leadership, is that we are on your side. That’s what matters. We’re on your side. We’re on your side because we share beliefs and values in common, as you go about everything you do each day.

Getting up in the morning, getting off to work, turning up onsite, getting the parent you’re caring for up in the morning, exchanging that smile, each and every day. Getting the kids off to school, getting home at night – perhaps, if you’re lucky, a bit of time together, those happy moments, too often too far between with the pressures that so many families face today.

The Liberal Party is on your side. The National Party is on your side. The values and beliefs that we hold is what connects us all.

If you have a go in this country you’ll get a go. There is a fair go for those who have a go. That’s what fairness in Australia means. This is something we hold very dear to us. It’s why we believe that Australians should keep more of what they earn. It’s why we believe that those who have come from so many different parts of the world to this country to create this country, and demonstrated that by their very actions, they have sought that fair go in this country as we all have whenever we got here – 10 generations ago or 10 minutes ago.

We have come to have a go and we’ll get a fair go. That regardless of our ability or circumstances, we are here to make a contribution, rather than take one. That in order for you to do better, you don’t think someone else has to do worse.

These are important values and principles that we believe deeply, that our party believes, that our Government believes, and will drive us.

We believe that the best form of welfare is a job. That’s what releases people out of poverty. That’s what releases people out of hardship. The dignity of work, the ability to go and have choices as a result of the efforts you make regardless of your level of ability.

It is one of the reasons I have always been a big fan of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and why I have also always been so keen to ensure it is funded. Because I know that Scheme releases people with disabilities to be able to do what they want to do, and that is to make a contribution and to be able to take themselves forward, and their families.

But everyone has to play by the rules in this country. Everyone. Whether you’re a big business, setting electricity prices, or loaning money, or you’re just someone parking in the street. We’ve all got to live by the rules of this country, the law of our land.

These are values we uphold and it’s important that we do that right across our areas of policy. And that we believe that we should decide our own future as individuals, as families, as communities, and, of course, as a nation.

We all want to be able to make our own choices in life. Whether it’s about who comes to our country, as John Howard famously said, or what school you want your kids to go to, or what team they want to follow – I suggest the Sharks. That’s not going to be a matter of national policy, I assure you. Particularly for Victorians.

We believe in choice and because of that, it means we believe in our future. We are an optimistic, we are a passionate, and we are an ambitious people. Full of aspiration for ourselves, for our families, and, of course, for our great nation, for all of us.

That’s what we believe as Liberals. Our plan, my plan for this country, is for an even stronger Australia.

To keep our economy strong, to guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on.

To keep Australians safe from terrorism and all the way to bullying in our schools.

To keep our country together. To not pit one group of the Australians against another.

To ensure that one can succeed, and all can succeed. That one doesn’t have to fail for another one to succeed.

We have a lot of challenges as a country and we will get through them as we always have: together.

Now, our job, particularly for Josh and I, as we take forward this new mantle of leadership as a new generation, is to ensure that we not only bring our party back together, which has been bruised and battered this week, but that will enable us to ensure we bring the Parliament back together, that we can continue to work to ensure that our country stays close together.

We are a resilient bunch, Australians. I mean, the fact that we have had the longest running economic success of any nation in the world today is a tribute to the resilience of the Australian people. And they need that continued leadership to take them forward, not just on the economy, but on every aspect of Australian life that we feel so proud to be a part of, and that Josh and I feel so proud to lead.

So, in making those statements about the direction, let me also tell you my immediate priorities.

In addition, of course, to our economic and national security, is the drought. I have already discussed this, as Josh has said, with the leader of the National Party. This is our most urgent and pressing need right now, and I will be meeting with Major General Day as soon as possible to review our drought response plans and to hear from him, working with the Nationals and our regional and rural Liberal members to ensure that we do what is necessary to help our regional communities, our farmers, and all those affected.

We will do what is necessary and co-ordinate with the states and territories. That will be my first focus, but there are many others, and I can take questions on that.

Before I throw to Josh, let me say a few words about today, also. I want to start by thanking, and he still is, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

I have known Malcolm for a long time, as you know. He has been a dear friend. He has served his country in a noble and professional way. Josh and I have watched and worked with him as he has led our Cabinet and the achievements we have been proud to serve with him as a Government, whether it is in the economy, whether it is in all the other areas that Malcolm has outlined today at his earlier press conference.

He is a great Australian who has contributed a great deal to this country and our party and our nation will be very grateful for his contribution. I also want to thank Julie Bishop, and I’m sure Josh will remark on that as well. She has been a rock star for the Liberal Party, as a Foreign Minister, and for Twitter and Facebook. She has been an amazing contributor and driver of foreign policy, and an advocate for Liberal values from one end of this country to the other and one end of this world to the other.

And we thank her for her service, and I will be talking to her, obviously, about what role she would like to play in the Government that we will now seek to put together.

I also want to thank Peter Dutton for the service that he has provided. I actually recommended him for the job as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, after I left it some years ago, and he has served faithfully in that role – and Home Affairs – and I look forward, if he so chooses, for him to be playing a role in the Government which I intend to lead.

Finally, though, I want to thank Josh. I have worked with Josh for many years. We didn’t run as a ticket today. That’s not how it should be in our view. We knew that each of us needed to seek a mandate in our own rights to heal our party, to bring our nation together and go forward. And so he sought his, and I sought mine. It just turns out that he voted for me and I voted for him.

That was an expression of the natural relationship between the two of us. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I wasn’t planning to take too many questions today. We will deal with other policy matters and other issues and, of course, I have further work to do today with the National Party before heading out to Yarralumla later this evening and I will be dealing with that then.

I look forward to working with Michael McCormack and his entire team. Michael and I have known each other for a long time and I look forward to a very productive relationship with the Nationals.

I will be considering the formation of the Ministry and the Cabinet over the course of the weekend and I will have more to say about that. It is important, as both Josh and I remarked in the party room today, referring to both the conservative and liberal traditions of the Liberal Party and that is reflected in the team that I bring together.

It is also important that we provide the stability of government, which we will be able to do. I think today what the party voted for was that stable choice, moving to a new generation, and that means that we’ll have continuity, but there will be points of emphasis and direction that we’ll be consulting with our Cabinet on.

I will run a Cabinet Government as like my predecessor and I’ve been part of Cabinet Governments and we will consult with our colleagues, we will listen to our colleagues on the back bench, on the outer Ministry, those who work in the assistant Ministry and we have to work as a team.

Today, our team needs to look after the events of this week and how that’s impacted on them. They’ve gone back to their electorates, they’ve gone back to their families, and they’re going to listen and they’re going to bring things back to us and where there needs to be changes, they will be made, and where there needs to be continuity, that will be maintained.

Drought is the first thing I need to turn attention to but issues such as electricity prices. There is the continuation of consideration in that area. In healthcare, I am distressed by the challenge of chronic illness in this country and those who suffer from it.

Affordable medicines, aged care, Medicare, small and medium sized businesses, and to ensure that we are continuing to deliver the encouragement and support to that enterprise ethic that exists across our economy. There are some key early priorities. But it really does come back to those three things: keeping our economy strong, keeping Australians safe, and keeping Australians together.

There are some outstanding issues from the previous Government that we will continue to resolve and work through and, on that note, I think there are other things we have got to get to. We’re forming a Government. The work of government continues.

I want to assure all Australians that those normal wheels are turning, we will be swearing in the new Government next week in terms of the Ministry. As I said, Josh and I in our respective roles.

As the Treasurer, I wish you well with that task. It’s a tough one, mate. I know you will do a great job with it. I look forward to working with you in the future. Thank you very much.

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