Interview with Steve Price on 2GB
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview with Steve Price on 2GB speaking about the 75th anniversary event of the “Forgotten People” speech by Sir Robert Menzies; and the National Sport Plan.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Joining me in the studio two Victorian federal MPs, both cabinet ministers, Greg Hunt who is of course the Health Minister and Minister for Sport who’s been talking about his sports lottery today. Welcome.
And good evening to you.
Josh Frydenberg. What are you minister for now? Energy, resources?
Energy and the Environment, just following in the very big footsteps of Greg actually.
Two Victorians. Greg first, you must be very proud of the fact that you’ve come from the state that gave Australia Robert Menzies.
Yes, absolutely. There’s always a great sense of history as a Victorian when you think back about over the party and tonight is 75 years obviously since the Forgotten People speech.
Rob’s comment is exactly what I was thinking that it is as relevant today as it was then and that’s the test of an abiding speech.
There’s a fair argument to make that it’s the most important speech in Australian history. It was the speech which laid the framework for Menzies’ progressive return to the leadership of the party and to the longest period that anybody’s had as prime minister.
And at the end of the first 75 years since the speech you could say that the Menzies period and the Howard period were the most successful completed prime ministerships in Australia.
And without that speech I don’t think he would have got there. Without that speech I don’t think we would have had our modern university system, we would have had the focus on housing ownership, we would have had the focus on resilience and budget management or the focus on the alliance.
Put that together with the same sentiment he had about building relations with Japan and building for the post-war future without rancour and you can see why the sentiment was important but it was the foundation to return to the prime ministership and the foundation for the prime ministership.
Josh, you now hold the seat of Kooyong, so clearly there’s a connection there with you. When you heard that back in re-enactment and sadly we don’t have the audio version of it. I mean it was either not recorded at 2UE or it was recorded and lost.
We looked very hard in the archives to try and find it. Sound archives doesn’t have it. How did you feel that it sounded some 75 years later?
Well I think Peter Cousens, his re-enactment today just a brilliant job. And what’s fascinating about this speech is it came a year after Menzies left the Lodge and he resigned in very difficult circumstances.
He was deemed to be aloof. Australia was at war. He had taken Australia actually into that conflict and saw the great threat that Hitler posed to the world and he didn’t just pack up his bag and leave politics.
He recommitted himself to the battle of ideas and what was so special in that speech I think was his comments about individual responsibility and the power of the individual over the collective. And he teased that out with his discussion of the middle class and these were people who weren’t rich, so they couldn’t look after themselves or they weren’t the working classes to the point that they were being looked after by the unions.
That’s why they were the Forgotten People and I think, as Greg said, there’s so much to unpack in that speech and it does become a template for the philosophy and the values of our great party.
You wonder how he convinced as a former prime minister but then a backbencher, the radio station to let him go down there on the train and turn up at 2UE and take 15 minutes of their time that night. But he did a series of these speeches. I mean he must have, do you know how he convinced them to do it?
As Geoffrey Blainey says about Menzies, he was one of the smartest people in the country and I think he had a reputation for eloquence and for brilliance and I think it was a time obviously of great introspection, Australia was at war.
And he made the point that he was talking about the middle class even though a country was at war and had other great preoccupations because he didn’t want to make a fatal mistake. If you want the country to make a fatal mistake and overlook the needs of that middle class, and I think that was why it had such resonance.
Greg, can you imagine a current-day leader, and this was nine days out from the Japanese mini-subs going to Sydney Harbor, Darwin had just been bombed, Battle of the Coral Seas raging, and yet this back bencher goes and makes a speech about what Australia should be after the war.
The media these days would tear him apart, saying, let’s concentrate on fighting the war instead of worrying what it’s going to be like after.
Of all of the things in the speech, it wasn’t just the annunciation of contemporary values. It was arguably the generosity of spirit and the foresight of that which was to come.
So he foresaw victory in the war, he foresaw a post-war Australia where there would be a debate between do we sort of tend towards socialism and remember there was the bank nationalisation referendum which was held along the way, there was the fight about the communist party.
But what he did is he laid down a framework of generosity, of spirit, and being able to look towards, I think the phrase was, amity with the German and the Japanese.
That took an enormous amount of courage, it took an immense degree of confidence and it said to people that yes, we are in conflict but we are of a higher national spirit than simply hatred.
Good to see John Howard here tonight, he came in and had a chat to us after that speech was given. And he, of course, has written about Menzies, but the two great Liberal leaders.
And there you have on the stage tonight you had former prime minister, current Prime Minister, former Liberal leader. Good to see all those faces together on the same stage.
Well I think tonight was a celebration of all that the Liberal party stands for and its values and philosophies.
But the fact that Menzies, years before Kennedy, would coin the phrase about what can you do for your country, not what can your country do for you, I think was also very telling. He was a thought leader, not just for our country but for the Western world.
Any nervousness about the parallels between Tony Abbott and Bob Menzies? Back benchers, former PMs, speaking about the future. Josh?
No I don’t think so, I think Tony Abbott was very gracious towards Malcolm Turnbull and likewise Malcolm back to Tony.
And tonight we all realize that the party is bigger than the individual, and we have a very proud history but an even more exciting future.
Josh, thanks very much for coming in, appreciate you coming in. Want to have a quick talk to Greg about his sports lottery, thank you very much.
JOSH FRYDENBERG: :
You’re going to buy a ticket are you?
I am indeed going to buy a ticket. Josh Frydenberg in the studio with us. Thanks very much. This sports lottery idea is going to happen?
Yes, I think it will. Basically, what’s the situation here? We laid down a National Sports Plan process today.
Basically, it’s been a long while since Australia’s had a fully functioning National Sports Plan and we’re going to focus on participation, getting not just young but people of all ages into sport and exercise.
Performance, which is about our elite athletes and whether that’s at the Olympics or whether that’s in our professional sports, then preventive health, which is incredibly important, and then integrity. One of the ways to fund all of this is a national sports lottery. I think it’s a good idea.
Have you settled on a brand, a method, a type of lottery?
No. I’ve got a basic model in mind, and that is the Commonwealth would do the online version and the states under the constitution would do the over the counter.
So if you go to the news agent, we’d share the revenue between the two, all of it would be dedicated towards sport, and then we’d hold a tender to see who would be the actual company to deliver it.
And this would run permanently?
Yeah, look. My belief is once it’s established, it won’t just run for 10 or 20 years, I think it would run for 30 or 50 or 100 years.
The Opera House, of course, was largely funded through a public good lottery. Western Australia has a heritage lottery, and the UK famously has a very successful sports lottery which is actually underpinned a lot of their success, they’ve pinched a lot of very good Australian coaches by offering them more money.
So would where the money goes change over the time, or would it be set forever?
No, it wouldn’t be set forever. It would be dedicated to sport forever in terms of two-thirds to sport, one-third to heritage and the arts.
And of that sports funding, we’d have the Australian Sports Commission allocate within the sports world.
So my job is to make sure that we have the right long-term plan and the funding, and the lottery is one way of providing additional, permanent funding and their job would be to allocate between the sports.
When will you make a final decision?
I’d like to get this done this year, to have it operating and up and running and distributing by 1 July next year.
Good on you. Thank you very much for coming in after that dinner, appreciate it very much.
Brilliant, take care.