Outgoing prime minister Tony Abbott delivered his final speech in the top job, promising not to engage in any “sniping” and imploring the media not to engage with politicians leaking information from within the parliament. Mr Abbott addressing the media in Canberra prior to stepping down as Prime Minister said while it was “humbling” to lose, he understood the rules of the game. Appearing alone, he thanked his wife Margie and his family, and said he was proud of what his government had achieved – including stopping the boats and responding to the “threats of terror”.
FOLLOWING IS THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF TONY ABBOTT’S CONCESSION SPEECH:
“Quite a crowd here today, thank you for being here. This is not an easy day for many people in this building. Leadership changes are never easy for this country. My pledge today is to make this change as easy as I can. There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping. I’ve never leaked or backgrounded against anyone and I certainly won’t start now. Our country deserves better than that. I want our government and our country to succeed, I always have and I always will. I have consistently said in opposition and in government that being the prime minister is not an end in itself – it’s about the people you serve. The great privilege that I have had, is to see the wonder of this country like few others, and I want to thank the Australian people for giving me the honour to serve.
This is a tough day but when you join the game, you accept the rules. I’ve held true to what I believed and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the past 2 years. It is humbling to lose, but that does not compare to the honour of being asked to lead. 300,000 more people are in jobs, Labor’s bad taxes are gone, we’ve signed free trade agreements with our largest trading partners, Japan, Korea and China. The biggest infrastructure program in our country’s history is underway. A spotlight is being shone into the corrupt corners of the union movement, and Labor’s union business model. We’ve responded to the threats of terror and we’ve deployed to the other side of the world, to bring our loved ones home. The boats have stopped and with the boats stopped, we’ve been better able to display our compassion to refugees. Despite hysterical and unprincipled opposition, we’ve made $50 billion of repairs to the budget.
Of course there’s much that I had still wanted to do – constitutional recognition of Indigenous people; getting the kids to school, the adults to work, and communities safe. I was the first prime minister to spend a week a year in remote, Indigenous Australia, and I hope I’m not the last. Then there’s the challenge of ice, and domestic violence – yet to be addressed. Australia has a role to play in the struggles of the wider world, the cauldron of the Middle East, and security in the South China Sea and elsewhere. I fear that none of this will be helped if the leadership instability that’s plagued other countries continues to taint us. But yes I am proud of what the Abbott government has achieved. We stayed focused, despite the white-anting.
Of course the government wasn’t perfect – we have been a government of men and women, not a government of gods walking upon the earth – few of us, after all, entirely measure up to expectations. The nature of politics has changed in the past decade. We have more polls, and more commentary than ever before, mostly sour, bitter character assassination. Poll-driven panic has produced a revolving door prime ministership, which can’t be good for our country, and a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery. And if there’s one piece of advice I can give to the media, it’s this – refuse to print self-serving claims, that the person making them won’t put his or her name to. Refuse to connive or dishonour, by acting as the assassin’s knife.
There are many to thank for the privilege of being prime minister. First and foremost, I thank my family, for allowing me to be the absentee spouse and parent that politics entails. I thank Margie, for her grace and dignity throughout my public life. I thank my party for the privilege of leading it, I thank the armed forces who are serving our country and defending our values, even as we speak. I thank my staff who have been absolutely unceasing in their devotion to our party and our country, especially my chief of staff Peta Credlin who has been unfairly maligned, by people who should have known better. Finally, I thank my country, for the privilege of service. It is humbling to lose, but that does not compare to the honour of being asked to lead.
In my maiden speech here in this parliament, I quoted from the first Christian service, ever preached here in Australia. The Reverend Richard Johnson, took as his text, “what shall I render under the Lord, for all his blessings to me?” At this, my final statement as prime minister, I say; I have rendered all, and I am proud of my service. My love for this country is as strong as ever, and may God bless this great Commonwealth. Thank you.”
ABORTION CLINICS IN VICTORIA LIKELY TO GET A BUFFER ZONE
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy has announced the Government will put a new law to parliament before the end of the year which will see Victoria police move anti-abortionists away from clinics. The move comes after Sex Party MP Fiona Patten introduced a similar bill to the upper house last month that would ban people from protesting within 150m of fertility clinics. Ms Hennessy said the Government supported the private member’s bill but that technicalities in the document would require creating a new bill. “I think this is a very mainstream issue and women accessing a lawful medical service and being able to do so without intimidation and harassment is actually not a controversial concept. We are determined to get this bill through the Upper House.
Ms Hennessy said the bill will include penalties and commended Ms Patten’s commitment to the issue. Ms Patten said she was “so happy” the government had thrown its support behind the issue. “I am particularly happy to get government support for the objective of my bill which was to keep women protected from intimidations and harassment. “I am meeting with the Health Minister to work out the mechanics of the bill going forward.” The Greens have also indicated they support the move. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said the Sex Party’s abortion protest bill was a stunning act of hypocrisy from a party that presents itself as supporting free speech. ACL Victorian Director Dan Flynn called on the Government and Opposition to vote as one against the bill. “This is a stunning act of hypocrisy,” Mr Flynn said. “On any other day the Sex Party are at the extreme end of the free speech debate.
The bill would see pro-life activists and counsellors imprisoned for up to twelve months for discussing abortions within 150 meters of any service that provides advice and other measures in respect of reproductive health. This would include, on her definition, GP clinics and pharmacies. Mr Flynn said it was alarming that the Sex Party wanted to see pro-life activists and counsellors imprisoned for up to twelve months for discussing abortion within 150 meters of any facility that even advises on reproductive health as well as abortion clinics. “This bill represents a dangerous attack on free speech. It should be dismissed out-of-hand by the government and opposition.” By presenting the bill Ms Patton has outed herself and her party as only supporting the free speech of people who share their extreme views.”
The Rector of East Roseville in Sydney, the Rev Michael Kellahan, has been appointed the executive director of Freedom for Faith – a legal think-tank that promotes and protects religious freedom in Australia. Mr Kellahan will continue his work in the parish, combined with a part-time role at Freedom for Faith. “These are critical times for the future of religious freedom in Australia,” Mr Kellahan said. “Debates are happening and decisions are being taken now which could influence the cultural landscape for decades to come.” Bishop Robert Forsyth and Professor Patrick Parkinson are among the leaders of the organisation, which also has advisers from Baptist, Presbyterian, Seventh-day Adventist and Pentecostal traditions, and from the legal profession. An office in North Sydney has been established as a base but the organisation will operate nationally as well as running a website, www.freedomforfaith.org.au
“Freedom for Faith has only been around a couple of years but in that time has achieved much in making representations to governments at a Federal and State level,” Mr Kellahan says. “It has access to a specialised pool of legal expertise that can speak to matters that touch on religious freedom. It also tries to do more than just be a voice of critique of policies and draft legislation – instead it works to help produce better laws.” In March this year the group made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Freedoms Inquiry, which asked whether Commonwealth laws unjustifiably interfered with freedom of religion and what general principles should apply in the area. This month, Freedom for Faith is holding a one-day conference at the University of Newcastle titled “Religious Freedom in a Multicultural World”. Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson will be among the speakers.
“Religious freedom can’t stop at the door of the church, synagogue or mosque,” Mr Kellahan said. “Religious people shouldn’t have to cast off this identity in order to walk through the public square. A truly multicultural liberal democracy will make space for the other, rather than insisting on an enforced secularism.”