Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks at the LNP state conference in Brisbane. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
On the coldest Brisbane morning in more than a century, Tony Abbott received the warmest of receptions when he addressed the LNP faithful at its annual conference on Saturday.
Border protection, the carbon tax repeal and the new composition of the Senate predictably formed the key components of the prime minister’s half hour long speech and while applause came thick and fast inside the Royal International Convention Centre at the RNA Showgrounds, the reception was frostier from a small group of protestors outside.
Though vocal, the group failed to disrupt the delivery of Mr Abbott’s speech, and both he and foreign minister Julie Bishop managed to give the protesters the slip, the prime minister opting for a side entrance on his flying visit to the river city.
Inside, Mr Abbott mused on what he termed an “interesting week” in the Senate, in which Clive Palmer, whose trio of senators hold the balance of power, announced they would block the repeal of the carbon tax.
He vowed to push ahead with repealing the controversial, Labor-imposed tax.
“Mr Palmer will change his mind come Monday but (Opposition Leader) Bill Shorten will still be there, supporting putting your power prices up,” he said.
A week after Queensland premier Campbell Newman spruiked his own state-saving record, Mr Abbott, to much crowd enthusiasm, similarly spruiked himself as the nation’s saviour, while defending his much-maligned budget.
“You and we are rescuing our country ... it is only us who can rescue our country right now,” he said.
“I would much rather be delivering a tough but necessary budget than justifying incompetence and trying to explain away dishonesty.
“Isn’t it refreshing to have a government that says what it means and does what it says?”
On another of his key election promises, stopping the boats, Mr Abbott defended his government’s tough border protection measures, following a week in which immigration minister Scott Morrison came under fire for the secrecy surrounding the fate of 153 south Asian asylum seekers, who were held at sea by Australian authorities.
“I'm not declaring victory but my friends we are stopping those boats,” he said.
“The most compassionate thing we could do was stop the boats.
“Stopping the boats stops the deaths, that's why the most decent and compassionate thing this government has done is for more than six months ensured no successful people smuggling venture to this country.
“We will never waiver, we must have secure borders, the sign of a sovereign country is secure borders.”
The prime minister also again defended some of his more controversial budget measures, such as university deregulation and the Medicare co-payment, some of which formed the basis of the protest outside.
“I know there are many tough elements of this budget but the Australian people want to be told the truth,” he said.
“When you leave school you will be earning or learning.
“And yes, we do want to see a modest co-payment for Medicare services, we want our great health system to be sustainable for the long term.”
Mr Abbott also canvassed his government’s $50 billion infrastructure spend, his $20 billion medical research fund and a budget slowly returning to surplus.
“The Coalition is carefully and methodically fulfilling the commitments we made to the Australian people,” he said.
“We want an Australia where each generation can leave to its children a better life, that is the Australia we are building.
“Good government is not about us, it's about you.”