My Fortnightly Update
As I write this, the counting continues for the Eden-Monaro by-election but our candidate, Fiona Kotvojs has conceded. As I said when introducing Fiona before her speech on Saturday evening, the voters of Eden-Monaro have spoken. At that time we were not too sure what they had said, but now we know. By a very small margin, Kristy McBain (Labor) has won, and I congratulate her. It was a great disappointment that the hard work of Fiona Kotvojs was not rewarded, and the policies of government were not clearly reinforced by an extra Liberal Member in the House, at least on this occasion.
However, Labor should have been at least 4% ahead of us on day one given what traditionally happens in a by-election, and they are actually behind on primary votes and only just ahead (730 out of 114,000 votes, 0.46%) on two party preferred. For the reasons we all know, we had a stumbling start and were a month behind Labor. Our delayed start was primarily due to the democratic process we Liberals enjoy to choose, for the second time, Fiona Kotvojs through a democratic plebiscite process involving all eligible Liberal Party members of the electorate, the first time this has occurred officially (not a ‘trial’) in a NSW lower house federal Liberal seat. That we have plebiscites is a result of the NSW Division adopting the basis of the Democratic Reform Movement’s long campaign to give significance to members. Compare this to the Labor process which merely imposes a candidate chosen by the leader on local party members. Labor has not had a preselection in Eden-Monaro since 2004, so no chance of branch stacking there as we have seen with Labor in Victoria.
Our primary vote is significantly ahead of Labor’s by over 1000 votes, Labor and the Greens went backwards by a combined total of about 6%, the Nats received a little less than they did in the last general election, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF), supposedly a conservative party in name, sold out to Labor and the Greens, something that every real shooter, fisher and farmer in Eden-Monaro should remember.
Those who whipped up a storm about the importance of ideological climate change to Eden-Monaro voters (ie Labor and the Greens) as distinct from effective steps to counter climate change as is the Coalition’s policy, and those who criticised the performance of the Coalition Government during the fires (again Labor and the Greens) need to explain why the Green and Labor vote went backwards, why more people voted informally than voted for the Greens, and why Fiona won Cobargo, where supposedly there was antipathy towards us. Cobargo’s results were (out of 661 votes cast): Libs 247 (+6.65%), Lab 218 (-9.05%), Greens 62, HEMP Party 28, SFF 23 and the Nats with 4 votes.
It Takes a Nation to Secure a Nation
I was unbelievably impressed and relieved by the announcement last week on the Coalition Government’s Defence Strategic Update (our approach to the world around us and the threats it might pose) and what is called the Force Structure Plan (what the ADF will look like as a result of the Strategy and the funds allocated). As a member of the Coalition’s Defence Backbench Committee, I had been briefed but not in the detail that I now know. I have been arguing and advocating for a more realistic approach to national security for twenty years, and writing publicly on the subject since about 2012. I acknowledge the Coalition has credibility on defence given the record of actual achievement of John Howard towards the end of his term, and of the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments delivering the goods in terms of funding real combat capability. Coalition governments looks even better when compared to the defence disaster of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years.
Until I heard the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister speak on the subject, I admit I was a little sceptical, but now I am not.
Senator Linda Reynolds has done a superb job in bringing this strategy together and focussing her department and others on the output. The PM and members of the Expenditure Review Committee and the National Security Committee have also delivered the goods in a way I have not seen since I began watching Defence White Papers in 1976.
As an explanation to many who are not close to the subject, what the government has done is announce a strategy which realistically reacts to the changing strategic situation in our regions, a situation which presents more challenges to Australia than at anytime since 1945, and which is reminiscent in many ways of the 1930s. There are two factors which have changed more than any others: the rise of China (and Russia, Iran, North Korea and the continuance of Islamic extremism); and the reduction of US military power since the end of the Cold War (about 1990).
Australia perhaps did not need to have a strategy as we have now adopted during that time, because our great and powerful ally, the US, dominated the world. The current strategy recognises that we must be more self-reliant, that we need to remain as part of a set of regional alliances (particularly with the US), that the likelihood of conflict or war has significantly increased, and that we must be more ready for conventional war (high intensity military conflict as it is called) than we are at present.
As a result we now have a strategy which acknowledges that we in Australia need to be capable of “shaping” our region (that is taking a vast range of actions such as diplomacy, training, support with our neighbours but to our own benefit), we need to be strong enough to “deter” anyone who wants to take aggressive action against us, and if deterrence fails and we are attacked, we need to be able to “respond”, that is to have weapons that can be used to aggressively attack and defeat enemies.
Because the strategy was only presented last week and I was still busy with the by-election, I have not thoroughly read the detail of the update and the plan. On first consideration, I am very impressed indeed. $270 billion allocated for equipment over 10 years is mightily impressive, and that is in addition to operating costs and salaries in defence. Sceptics might argue that these are just figures and proposals and you cannot defend yourself with glossy brochures, but I would say that this government has a record of delivering what it says it will deliver, and our record is there for all to see in converting brochures and intent into ships, planes, tanks and personnel.
I have only two mild criticisms.
The first is that I hope that we have ten years to build up our defences, but we ask government to take risks in all areas of government, and this is indeed a risk. Outside of a defence emergency, I acknowledge that it will take that long to build the new forces and for some ships and the subs, even longer.
The second criticism that I have should again not be seen to detract from the Strategic Update or the Forces Plan, but if we think that the ADF needs $270 billion in additional capability over the next ten years, then what does the rest of Australia need? As the above title says, “It Takes a Nation to secure a Nation”.
Throughout the rest of the world, what our government produced last week and called a Force Structure Plan, would generally be known as a ‘National Defence Strategy’, with the Strategic Update being part of what the world calls a ‘National Security Strategy’. The difference between the two is that national security is achieved by the Nation, not just the ADF. What I and many others have been advocating for many years is that there should be a much more comprehensive National Security Strategy which gives guidance and direction not just to defence, but to every part of the nation that can contribute to national security, for example: economy, finance, governance, society, industry, cyber, health, education, energy, liquid fuel and manpower amongst others, as well as defence. This should be the next step to build on the Update and the Plan, to achieve a standard of self-reliance across the nation which builds resilience in this country so that Australia can maintain our sovereignty.
The Coalition is renowned for its approach to national security, particularly defence, and once again it is this government that has delivered. I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence.
Shoutout – Fiona and the Campaign Team
This week I’m multitasking – rolling into one shoutout a huge and very sincere thank you to our Liberal candidate for the seat of Eden-Monaro, Dr Fiona Kotvojs, and the team of volunteers who so readily put their winter plans on hold, yes even tentative plans in these COVID times, to support the modified campaign that we were able to conduct.
From businesses who displayed campaign posters and corflutes, and offered to host media events; to locals in every pocket of our fabulous electorate who drove many kilometres in cars, utes, trucks and trailers to place corflutes in carefully chosen strategic locations; to volunteers who trekked the cold, sometimes bitterly cold, streets of the electorate letterboxing; to the thoughtful friends and family who supplied our generous prepoll and election day booth volunteers with teas, coffees and sometimes something even tastier – I say thank you.
To our handymen and women who devoted hours to creating A frames; to every person who loaded and unloaded multiple heavy boxes of How to Votes into and out of cars and homes; to each helper who made up booth kits with some very unfamiliar extras like sanitiser, gloves, masks and of course rosters with contact details; and to the drivers who then covered in some cases hundreds of kilometres over most of the electorate to deliver these supplies to eighty-six booths for election day, a mammoth thank you to you too!
To our fellow Liberals and supporters from across the state, and from the ACT, who also drove hundreds of kilometres to staff prepoll and election day booths, we are most grateful (many of you donated also the expense incurred in staying a night or two with us) – we warmly welcomed your company and your contribution, and we hope that you weren’t too tired to enjoy a few moments time-out on our beautiful coast, hinterland, slopes, mountains and plains – please come back!!
To those who donated just about every second of their spare time organising booths and coordinating all these activities; to those who scrutineered in cold halls at the end of an exhausting day; and to those who donated funds to the campaign; many, many thanks to you too. Our campaign was a mighty effort on the part of hundreds of good people – my sincere thanks go to each and every one of you.
All of this, and more, Fiona did with enthusiasm, passion and boundless energy, and with Alan’s support, for almost two years. You did us proud Fiona, and went very close to creating history on our behalf – for that, and for your magnificent dedication to your community, and to our Party, we are overwhelmingly grateful.
The Official Opening of the Queanbeyan Bypass
On Friday I attended the official opening of the Queanbeyan bypass, also known as the Ellerton Drive extension. This project has been in the making for 3 years and supported approximately 100 direct jobs and 300 indirect jobs during construction.
This project is a 4.6-kilometre extension of Ellerton Drive, connecting Queanbeyan East with Karabar. As many Queanbeyan locals will be happy to hear, this project allows drivers to avoid up to 19 intersections, three sets of traffic lights and to provide a travel time saving of up to 35% compared to travelling through the main street of Queanbeyan.
Once again, It was great to see how the Morrison Government is delivering jobs, productivity improvements and economic growth.
For more information on this extension please visit https://www.qprc.nsw.gov.au/Major-Works-Projects/Ellerton-Drive-Extension
‘Go Local’ for Small Businesses
Whether it’s your friendly local butcher, your favorite café or your most explored nursery, small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy. Small businesses contribute to a third of our economic activity and keep millions of Australians in jobs.
Small businesses have been doing it tough and they will be vital in our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why the Morrison Government has launched the ‘Go Local First’ national campaign.
The ‘Go Local First’ campaign is intended to highlight the vital role of small businesses in our nation’s economic recovery, and urges all Australians to buy local when purchasing products or services. This could be as simple as buying produce from your local butcher, purchasing hand-made Australian clothing or looking for the Australian logo when doing your weekly grocery shop.
I encourage everyone to support the ‘Go Local First’ campaign to help the small business sector get back on its feet. To get involved please register your interest at: https://golocalfirst.com.au/register. Upon registration the Council of Small Business Organisations will send you a campaign kit and keep you updated on how you can participate.
More information on the economic support measures available for businesses can be found at business.gov.au or by calling the Government’s contact centre on 13 28 46.
Additional Financial Counselling Services in Bushfire Affected Areas
The Morrison Government has recently announced $3.5 million to increase access to financial counselling services to deliver ongoing support to communities across Australia affected by the recent 2019/20 bushfire season.
Many Australians are experiencing financial hardship due to damage to their houses, businesses or farms during the Black Summer bushfires.
Financial counsellors can help people manage debt and make decisions about their money, including assessing a person’s financial situation, identifying options, advocating and negotiating with third parties such as banks and insurance companies and advising what other support services are available.
The additional funding will provide an injection of $2,809,801 to support bushfire affected residents in New South Wales.
More information on this announcement can be found at: https://www.anneruston.com.au/additional_financial_counselling_services_in_bushfire_affected_areas
I have recently launched my new website (www.jimmolan.com). I encourage you to visit the site and read more about my commitment to a National Security Strategy, and how I am working for NSW.
My sincere thanks again for all your support.
Senator Jim Molan AO DSC