HIGHER EDUCATION AND RESEARCH REFORM AMENDMENT BILL 2014
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2014
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There is one political test no politician can ever afford to fail – the test of education.
No parliamentarian, no political party, no government should ever look back and say that they have made our education system worse.
Opportunity in education is a pact between generations.
A solemn promise to pass on an education system that is better than the one you inherited.
By its very nature, education is a generational decision.
You do not meddle carelessly with one of the great markers of life – and education is indeed one of the great markers in the line of life.
In the line of life, it starts very early, what you think you can and can’t do.
Governments make very big changes to our education system, but they must be undertaken carefully.
Remember – education affects people’s lives, it affects whole generations.
The great Gough Whitlam argued for the best part of a decade about the role of education before he changed our system.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s great contribution was initiated by a special inquiry first.
The best leaders, the real leaders, the genuine article – they get involved in the education sector, they argue their position – a position that relies upon care and forethought and listening and respect.
None of this legislation today that we are debating is careful or thoughtful – none of it.
This government does not know, this government does not understand the impact they seek to have on the lives of Australians.
The truants opposite do not understand that education is an irreplaceable, essential ingredient of a tolerant, caring, adaptive, growing economy.
For Labor, universities are not just research centres – though their research is crucial.
For Labor, universities are not just places of teaching – though we revere our educators.
They are the foundation on which we will build a better Australia.
For Labor, education goes beyond mere utility.
Education is a catalyst for change, it is the provider of confidence, tolerance and hope.
And the opportunity of education is an Australian right that belongs to us all.
As Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said, 40 years ago:
People should be free to choose the kind of education they want, but this choice must be one between systems and courses; not between standards.
Not between a good education and a bad one.
Not a choice between an expensive education, or a poor one.
Now, 40 years after Whitlam Labor brought the great, good dream of a university education within reach of a generation of Australians – that dream is now in peril.
I and many Labor members have been visiting the universities of Australia.
In every state, at every campus, our message has been clear.
And I repeat it today, here in the house of the Australian people.
Labor believes in equality of opportunity.
Labor believes in affordable, accessible higher education for all Australians…that is why we will vote against 100,000 dollar university degrees.
We will vote against the doubling and tripling of university fees.
We will vote against a real and compounding interest rate on student debt.
We will vote time and time again against this government’s cuts to university research.
We will never consign the next generation of Australians to a debt sentence.
We will not support a system where the cost of university degrees rises faster than the capacity of society to pay for them.
We will never tell Australians that the quality of their education depends upon their capacity to pay.
Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Dawkins carefully built a sustainable financial future for our university system, without imposing upfront fees – this government is trying to tear this remarkable architecture down.
The Rudd and Gillard Governments extended new opportunities to low income households and to rural and regional Australia – and this government is selling out ordinary Australians and betraying the bush.
There are 750,000 students on Australian university campuses today.
And one out of every four is there because of the previous Labor Government.
We removed the cap on student places, creating new opportunities for 190,000 Australians.
We increased the number of Indigenous students attending universities by 26 per cent.
We boosted funding for regional universities by 56 per cent – and we boosted regional student numbers by 30 per cent.
And over 36,000 extra students from low income families got the chance to go to university because of Labor reforms.
We did indeed make record investments in Australia’s greatest resource – the creativity and genius of our people.
The University of Western Sydney, which I visited with the Deputy Opposition Leader and the Member for Greenway, is living proof of the Labor legacy
At UWS, 65 in every 100 of their domestic students are the first member of their family to go to University.
One in four of their domestic students come from poor families.
One in three of their domestic students speak a language other than English at home, representing the best of 140 different nations.
Nearly one in every three of their Australian students are mature-age. Remarkable, gutsy Australians re-training and acquiring skills to adapt to our modern world.
They are who we fight for today.
I’ve been and seen La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus, with Senator Carr and the member for Bendigo.
A university giving young people from the bush and regional Victoria the chance to get a degree close to home and attracting new people to Bendigo.
Between 60 to 80 of every 100 graduates from regional university campuses, start work in that region.
They make a social contribution to the community that has supported them – they give back what they have received.
That’s what we’re fighting for today – to stop the drain of country people to the city. Regional universities in university towns in the bush add to the fabric of our nation.
This Prime Minister, this shameful Prime Minister – who knowingly promised ‘no cuts to education’.
This so called Minister for Education, the great pretender – who promised not to increase university fees.
They have used this Budget to ambush the people of Australia with one of the most profound economic and social policy shifts in a generation.
There was no green paper to discuss the issue, no white paper – no public consultation as occurred under the Dawkins changes.
These changes which we oppose today are purely the product of private lobbying, personal ideology and the careers of frustrated student politicians.
Labor is always prepared for a constructive discussion about higher education reform.
By you never start a negotiation with our universities by cutting nearly $6 billion from their teaching and research funding.
The shameful Minister boasts of apparent university support for his proposals – but it is support drawn from extortion.
He airily says that because universities are full of smart people, they’ll work out how to deal with his cuts. Why should they?
It’s like he thinks the reason they got a PhD was in case they ever had to deal with a neo-Luddite like this imposter.
His patrician attack on high quality public universities threatens the essence of our higher education system.
His two-pronged assault is forcing universities to support rampant deregulation, instead of better funding and equity of access.
This Government is seeking to blackmail our universities – and in doing so, they are robbing a future from a generation of Australians.
And just as the GP tax represents the thin edge of the wedge for this Government’s destruction of universal Medicare.
The introduction of a real and compounding interest rate on student debt threatens our fair and equitable income-contingent student loan system with extinction.
When John Dawkins and Bruce Chapman designed the HECS system, they created a piece of public policy genius – just like Medicare.
Like Medicare, the Australian university system imposes no prohibitive upfront cost, no deterrent. Like Medicare, our efficient higher education system gives us a home-grown source of international competitive advantage.
Ours is a classically Australian smart system of manageable student debt and sustainable universities.
It lifts the productive capacity of our nation – without submitting to the erratic, unfettered forces of the market system.
And like Medicare, this great public policy initiative faces destruction from this government.
Tying student debt to the government bond rate will put the burden of student debt back onto families.
And it’s not just future university students who will lose out.
Every Australian with a student debt – nearly a million people – will have their interest rate retrospectively changed from CPI to the long-term government bond rate.
This is a government who rejects the principle of retrospectivity – it’s a great Liberal notion, ‘we don’t believe in retrospectivity’ – except when it comes to nearly a million students.
As Associate Professor Jeannie Paterson has said, this is like a bank forcing a mortgagee onto a variable loan – after they had signed up to fixed interest rates.
Australians who have made responsible decisions about how they will manage their lives – will have the goalposts unfairly and dramatically shifted.
The people hurt most by these changes will be women who take time out of the workforce to start and raise a family.
NATSEM modelling estimates that an increase of just 20 per cent in the cost of degrees, combined with the changes to the interest rate will mean:
A woman with a nursing degree is looking at the doubling of her student debt – from $23,000 to $46,000.
A woman graduate teacher is looking at a debt $63,000 and 16 years of repayment, compared with $32,000 over nine years.
A woman with a science degree will be looking at a near-tripling of student debt from $44,000 to $123,000.
But the HECS-HELP system also contained a built-in insurance mechanism.
Approximately 25 per cent of students start university but don’t graduate – they have a student debt but no degree.
Tying student debt to CPI protects these people, it means that their debt can never increase in real terms – even if they earn below the repayment threshold for long periods of time.
Switching to the government bond rate will mean people on low incomes – whose debts last longer and accrue more interest – will pay more in absolute terms than the richest graduates.
That’s the unfairness of Tony Abbott’s Australia writ large.
The less you earn, the more you pay.
We know this Government cannot begin to imagine what life is like for the people they seek to lecture. They have no idea how 90 per cent of Australia structure their lives.
Going to University was easy for this Minister – it was easy for his colleagues on the front bench – it was easy for the Prime Minister.
And so they assume it is easy for everyone.
They know nothing, those who sit opposite, of the sacrifices that families and young Australians make to pursue a university education.
They know nothing of the panic, the uncertainty that they have unleashed on parents and children at open days across this country which have just been conducted.
I say to the Government, don’t turn your back on young people, instead for once, just once, put yourselves in the shoes of the people your decisions will affect.
Respected commentators have warned that the cost of degrees will hit the same level as international students currently pay.
That means a law degree at the University of Adelaide – like Christopher Pyne’s – would cost $126,000.
Imagine how much that would balloon if you indexed it at 6 per cent per year.
A student doing a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at Sydney University – like the Prime Minister – would be looking at a cost of $175,000.
And if that student chose to spend time after graduating studying abroad – like the Prime Minister.
And then time out of the workforce, maybe pursuing a vocation in the priesthood – like the Prime Minister.
The interest on their debt would continue to compound, it would go up and up and up.
And if the Government gets its way, ballooning debt and decades of repayment will be the inescapable, crushing reality for millions of our fellow Australians.
The Liberal plan for higher costs, higher debt and higher interest rates is a trifecta – it is an attack on our past, present and future university students.
$100,000 degrees will wipe out the expectations and aspirations of a significant proportion of the population right from the outset.
The Minister says his proposals are about giving Australians a choice – and in one sense he is right.
This government’s plan to double and triple the cost of university education will certainly force the next generation of Australians to choose.
Choose between university – and a mortgage.
Choose between higher education – and owning a home.
This government’s plan to ratchet up the interest rate on student debt, will force women to choose between starting a family and paying for their degree.
The Minister, in his well known, trademark undergraduate fashion, says:
“I’m not asking for students to give up their left kidney”
No – but he is asking young Australians to lower their sights.
And in doing so, this reckless, cavalier Government is jeopardising our nation’s future.
They love to talk about productivity, this mob opposite. They are undermining productivity. They love to talk about competitiveness and they yet undermine our nation’s competitiveness.
And it is our productivity, our competitiveness that will determine how Australia fares in the 21st Century.
Australia can get smarter, or we can get poorer.
We will not compete with our region as a supplier of cheap labour.
We will not grow and thrive as a crude, low-wage, low-skill economy.
There are no winners in this kind of race to the bottom.
Labor knows in its DNA that Australia’s future – on the doorstep of the fastest growing region in human history will be defined by our knowledge economy.
In a century of global supply chains, it will be the quality of our ideas, the quality of our genius, the quality of our people that determines our success.
It is only upon the expression of education that Australia will fully develop our economic potential, our scientific potential, our artistic potential – our people’s potential.
But this Government’s threats of deeper cuts to research will erode the world rankings of our universities and it will grievously injure our third largest export industry – international education.
It is no wonder that Australia’s banks and financial markets are apprehensive about a so-called reform agenda that places at risk an inbound market worth billions of dollars every year.
As with so much of this Budget, the Government’s attack on universities and students is not just unfair, it is economically irresponsible.
Labor does not believe that Australia has to choose between equity in education or quality in education. They are twins of education – equity of education, and quality of education and neither can exist without the other.
But the Liberal party that we know so well after the last 12 months, they always seek to profit from the politics of division.
Dog-whistling is their stock-in-trade.
For months, this cynical Minister has been asking the divisive question:
‘Why should the 60 per cent of taxpayers who don’t attend university, contribute to the fees of the 40 per cent who do?’
Let me provide this cynical man with the simple answer he craves.
Education is not just a private privilege – it is also a public benefit.
University graduates already pay for their education – with an economic contribution, and a social contribution.
It is our doctors who keep us healthy – they went to university.
It is our teachers who educate our children – they went to university.
Our architects and engineers and town planners who shape the infrastructure and the face of our nation – they went to university.
Our scientists making the discoveries that will determine our future health and prosperity – they went to university.
This nation, which we are privileged to be representing in the parliament, is smart enough, it is generous enough, it is rich enough to know that the whole nation benefits from a strong, accessible, affordable university system.
And let me tell this Minister something else which he clearly does not know.
There’s another reason that the Australians who did not go to university, believe in supporting universities.
It’s because they want their kids to go university.
I have never met a parent or a grandparent who did not get the opportunity to go to university who begrudges their child or grandchild the opportunity to go to university, and this divisive man, this divisive minister and his divisive Prime Minister – they fundamentally underestimate the spirit of Australians when they say that the 60 per cent who did not go to university do not want the 40 per cent to go to university.
You are wrong, you are grievously wrong, you are terribly wrong.
The parents and the grandparents who did not go to university want the best for their children. They want their children to grow up in a nation and a society where opportunity in education and hard work are the rewards – not your postcode, but how hard you work.
They want to see good marks, not the old boy tie of the school they went to determine opportunity.
And parents and grandparents who did not go to university want their kids to get good jobs, they do not want this Government to stand in the path of their children from having a better life than they did.
The parents and grandparents of Australia, they work hard every day, they pay their taxes, they build good communities. They do so so their children can get a better start in life than they had, and this government has set its face against the natural tendency of all Australians to see this country progress
Our Parliament, our nation, has to choose.
The Liberals opposite can vote for $100,000 degrees, for the doubling and tripling of fees but Labor will vote on the side of students, we will always be on the side of families and we will always be on the side of people who want the great good dream that their kids will do better than them.
That is the great Australian story.
This mob opposite can vote for an unfair two class education system – but Labor will be voting for the fair go.
The Liberals can vote for a country where a university education is a privilege available only to the few – but we will be voting for an Australia where the opportunity of education belongs to everyone, town and country, man and woman, mature and young, regardless of your postcode or the wealth of your parent.
We are going to vote on this side of the house for an Australia where it doesn’t matter if you’re born in a commission flat, or if you live 100km from the nearest town – you will go to university if you so desire under a Labor government.
Where it doesn’t matter if your children are the children of first-generation migrants or if you got here with Arthur Phillip on the first fleet.
We’ll be voting for our vision of Australia – an Australia where a child’s future is determined by their aspirations.
We will vote for an Australia where education is a right for all of us.
And because of this, Labor will vote against this legislation and we will vote against it every time it is presented until the defeat of the Abbott Government.
We will do so with a clear conscience.
We will vote in the knowledge that our Labor generation has kept the faith.
And when this legislation is surely defeated, which it surely will be.
When these proposals fail, as they surely will.
Labor will do what this Government is incapable of doing.
We will sit down with the universities of Australia, we will reach out to the sector, we will consult the experts and the teachers and the parents and the students before we release our proposals.
Labor believes the Commonwealth has a role – and a responsibility to support our universities.
We believe it is a responsibility that must be shared – it is why we designed the HECS system.
The Labor I lead believes in reform, we believe in efficiencies, we believe productivity, we believe in a role for markets – but always, ever always, with generous, Australian-style safety nets.
We know that as demand for university places grows, the challenge is to guarantee the right of access, without sacrificing quality.
Today on behalf of Labor I give the people of Australia this promise: at the next election when you look for the how to vote cards of the competing parties you will have competing visions for higher education.
We will make the next election a competition for the best university policy.
We declare that the game is on for who has the best policy in higher education. We are ambitious for this nation and we will do so on the basis that when people who care about higher education attend the thousands of polling booths all over Australia, if they care about higher education, if they care about the dreams and aspirations and hopes and a smarter, greater nation – they will reach for the Labor how to vote card.
We will make the next election a higher education election.
We will stand up for young Australians and give them a voice in the national political debate of this nation. We will stand up for mature age Australians dislocated by economic change, we will give them a voice in Australian politics.
We will keep the pact that we owe to the next generation.
We will most certainly pass the one political test that no parliament should ever fail.
We will pass the test of education.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
 ‘HELP Interest Rate Options: Equity and Costs’, Bruce Chapman and Timothy Higgins, July 2014
 Annual figure, for four year degree: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/degree-finder/2015/blaws_llb.html
 Annual figure, for a five year degree: http://sydney.edu.au/courses/bachelor-of-arts-and-bachelor-of-laws
 ‘HELP Interest Rate Options: Equity and Costs’, Bruce Chapman and Timothy Higgins, July 2014
 Annual figure, for four year degree: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/degree-finder/2015/blaws_llb.html
 Annual figure, for a five year degree: http://sydney.edu.au/courses/bachelor-of-arts-and-bachelor-of-laws
STATEMENT TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MONDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2014
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I thank the Prime Minister for keeping me updated as events unfolded over the weekend, and I thank him for agreeing to Labor’s request for a statement to the House today.
Labor’s support for the Government on this question is underpinned by three key principles:
One, responding effectively to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, to prevent genocide and relieve suffering.
Two, promoting a unity government in Iraq that is inclusive and can achieve national cohesion, a Government that would reject sectarianism and the alienation of minorities – enabling effective security and control of Iraqi territory. We must not act in a way that would leave Iraq in a worse position.
Three, denying motivation and opportunity for Australian Foreign Fighters.
We must reflect carefully on what to do.
We should not confuse empty jingoism and aggressive nationalism with steady decision-making.
Neither can we ignore the dreadful consequences of fanaticism and extremism.
Today, all members and all parties have the opportunity to express their views, in this place and in the Federation Chamber.
And today is also an important opportunity for all of us in the Opposition to place on the Parliamentary record:
Labor’s support for the dedicated and professional men and women of our Australian Defence Force
Labor’s unreserved condemnation for the evil of ISIS and the genocide it is inflicting on minorities in Iraq
Labor’s promise to take a constructive and co-operative approach to this most important question
And the fact that Labor regards the role of international co-operation featuring gulf and regional nations engagement as crucial. Especially after a new Iraqi Government is formed on or around September 10.
For Labor, national security is – and always will be – above politics.
And while we deplore violence and war as instruments for achieving solutions to geopolitical problems.
We acknowledge that sometimes it is necessary for the international community to take strong steps to end death and destruction.
The decision to send Australian men and women into harm’s way is never taken lightly.
Carrying out this mission in a region torn by violence – and under the risk of attack from an aggressive enemy capturing weaponry as it advances – brings with it a deadly risk.
But we can have full confidence in the skill and bravery of our Australian defence personnel.
In providing assistance to the people of Iraq, Australia will be represented by some of the best trained and best equipped servicemen and women in the world.
Australia, along with the air forces of several countries will be resupplying Kurdish Peshmerga troops – the front line against the terrorist incursions in northern Iraq.
Australians can be proud of the part we have already played in this international mission.
Our Australian forces in Iraq are assisting an international humanitarian effort to prevent genocide against beleaguered minorities in northern Iraq.
And let there be no doubt about the use of the word genocide.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, is a barbaric organisation, driven by poisonous hatred and extremism, engaging in the wilful massacre of innocent people and the unforgivable degradation of forcing women into sexual slavery.
Theirs is a most egregious abuse of the name of Islam, their every action is a betrayal of the millions of good people, of good conscience who follow that faith.
And that point deserves to be made again.
The Islamic State does not represent the Islamic faith.
No follower of that religion of peace and tolerance should be made accountable for the crimes of these fanatics – especially in suspicious times when unfounded resentment can run high.
No citizen of Australia – or any nation – should be driven into the arms of extremism, by intolerance.
The events unfolding in Iraq have horrified the international community.
A United Nations report, based on 480 interviews and documentary evidence – reveals the breadth and depth of the atrocities being perpetrated:
The report says:
“Children have been present at the executions, which take the form of beheading or shooting in the head at close range … Bodies are placed on public display, often on crucifixes, for up to three days, serving as a warning to local residents.”
Madam Speaker, the evidence is overwhelming.
The Islamic State is an enemy of humanity, engaged in crimes against humanity.
For the forces of ISIS, the enemy is not one nation, one faith or one people.
Their enemy is the very existence of peace, it is the presence of justice.
It is freedom of worship, freedom of association, freedom of speech – freedom itself.
More than a decade ago, Simon Crean stood at this dispatch box as Labor leader to support our troops, but oppose a war.
History has vindicated his judgment.
The decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 was based on false evidence and a false premise.
It was a rushed decision, devoid of an effective plan to win the peace, devoid of clear objectives and devoid of widespread international support.
As the Government has said, the situation we face today is very different.
This is not 2003.
In 2003, we went to Iraq without international support and without the support of the majority of the Iraqi population.
Today, the Iraqi Government is speaking with the international community, seeking our humanitarian assistance.
Today, we have a United States administration adopting a more methodical, more internationally inclusive approach.
Today, we can look to the nations of the region, the Arabic leaders, for their part in a solution to this problem.
It is truly terrible that more than a decade after a war which inflicted so much damage on the Iraqi people – and divided the international community – fanaticism and sectarian and ethnic hatreds have again pushed this region to the brink of disaster.
I am conscious that there is still detail to be worked through – but Labor’s principles on this question are clear:
We must respond effectively to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq – preventing genocide and alleviating suffering.
We must promote an inclusive unity government in Iraq that eschews sectarianism and the alienation of minorities, that builds national cohesion, enabling effective security and control of Iraqi territory.
And we must deny motivation and opportunity for Australian Foreign Fighters.
We are committed to these principles, just as we are committed to the support of our brave service personnel, just as we are committed to taking a constructive approach to this question.
Australians listening to this Parliament and throughout the country can be certain that Labor and the Coalition stand as one on the importance of national security.
We share a resolute commitment to keeping our people and our country safe – now and always.
When Labor declares its Opposition to ISIS and all its works, we understand we are not dealing with rational people.
The religious hatred we are seeing is not rational – it never has been.
Religious factions who violently hate one another are an anachronism for Australia and we certainly expect people who come here to leave such causes and arguments behind.
Our citizens are rightly shocked by the brutality of this sectarian struggle.
But the inescapable fact is that genocide is being perpetrated against defenceless people.
And we cannot co-operate with this evil by refusing to support the innocent.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA OFFICE 02 6277 4053
Prime Minister, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, and club representatives.
Co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of the AFL, Richard Marles and Steve Irons.
Friends and Colleagues.
Thank you for making the journey to Canberra at a time when some of you are worrying about getting players up for finals – and the rest of you are worrying about what the players will get up to on Mad Monday.
It’s good to see Gary Pert here.
Gary had an extraordinary career, Fitzroy team of the century, All-Australian and a Collingwood star.
The main reason I mention Gary is because I want to talk about myself.
Before Gary made the move across from Fitzroy to Collingwood, I was already taking to the field at Victoria Park most Saturdays– as a ground attendant.
It was 1990 – so I guess you could say I was a Premiership ground attendant.
It was low paid, minimum wage and in my case – highly unskilled labour.
I suppose you could call us ‘the front line’ – I think the police thought of us as more like a ‘human shield’.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a diehard Collingwood man.
That 1990 side – with Tony Shaw, Darren Milane, Micky McGuane – it was like watching a cavalry charge down the wing.
But there were plenty of times at Victoria Park, if the Pies were having a tough day – and the umpires were getting it wrong…you could just feel the terraces shaking.
The hardest bit was always the gap between the first siren, when the game ended – and the second siren when people were allowed onto the ground.
I’d be there, standing on the ground, with nothing but my blue coat and AFL badge to protect me – and there’d be blokes, looking a bit like extras out of Mad Max, in the crowd with their wrap-around servo sunnies and handlebar mo’s yelling:
‘We’re coming through you mate!’
And I used to think, ‘the chances of me being here when you run on are zero’
This has been another fantastic season for the game we love – right around Australia.
Buddy Franklin has well and truly got his swagger going for the Swans.
Crowds have packed the redeveloped Adelaide Oval.
The new indigenous-themed jumpers were a wonderful addition to Indigenous Round.
And who could forget the Pies stunning comeback on ANZAC Day?
It’s an old sporting cliché that ‘you only get out what you put in’.
But footy gives our nation, our communities, our people so much more than it takes.
From young hopefuls at 3,500 Auskick clinics around Australia, imitating the goal-kicking technique and the goal-celebrating technique of their heroes.
To the old blokes putting their hammy through one last test of optimism on a Sunday arvo.
We’re all caught up in the magic of football, of being part of a team, of savouring success that is all the sweeter because it is shared.
And for those of us who are mere spectators, there is nothing quite like the joy and despair, the ups and downs of a footy season.
And the AFL and it’s 804,000 members – and all the clubs – deserve credit for using their power, their influence, to support so many worthy causes and charities.
I congratulate Steve and Richard for establishing this group – the Parliamentary Friends of the AFL.
I think there is a lot of good we can achieve together, in the seasons and years ahead.
Thank you very much – Go Pies – in 2015 of course.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 405
MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
TUESDAY, 26 AUGUST 2014
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Before the last federal election, when he was Opposition Leader, the Prime Minister campaigned on trust, on honesty, on keeping promises. He famously said: “The government has no mandate. There should be no tax collection without an election.”
Now we have the pot calling the kettle black. Now he is in government, he believes in taxation without elections.
Five weeks ago, I and Labor challenged the Prime Minister and his merry band of gaffe-sters to go out and listen to the voices of the mighty Australian people. The last five weeks has shown time and time again that there is no mandate for this government’s Budget because it is built upon lies and lies and more lies.
This government has the exact opposite of a mandate for its Budget. Its Budget is illegitimate. This is a government trapped in its Budget, and this is a nation’s Budget trapped by this government.
We asked the Leader of the Opposition – the Leader of the Government – and his team to go and talk to families about the $6,000 they are losing.
Go and talk to pensioners about the $4,000 they are losing.
To talk to the motorists, paying more – even some of those poor motorists.
Students and teachers, losing $30 billion.
Patients and health care workers, losing over $50 billion from the Budget.
We asked them to talk to the GPs collecting the GP tax from aged care and palliative care facilities.
We asked them to talk to university students about the doubling and tripling of university fees.
Ask veterans, how did they feel about having their pensions cut?
We asked, could you find some carers to talk about cutting payments?
And what about unemployed people under the age of 30? No income for six months.
Indigenous Australians, half a billion dollars from programs.
The Government had five weeks to change their mind, but in the last five weeks, all they have done is change their tactics. They had five weeks to listen to people and dump their dishonest, rotten and unfair Budget.
This is an incompetent government led by an incompetent Prime Minister and an incompetent Treasurer.
I am sure, in quiet moments of reflection that Government members have, they wonder, ‘surely, is it possible, can we get a new Treasurer?’ Every day, a new disaster for this government, every day.
Let me remind the Australian people about the accomplishments of this government in the last five weeks.
We have Mr ‘right to being a bigot’ himself, the Attorney-General. He went out to defend watering down the anti-hate laws less than 24 hours before he dumped it himself. Then he followed up with that interview on metadata – surely one of the most bizarre and awkward pieces of television since the John Hewson cake interview.
And of course, Senator Abetz, Leader of the Government in the Senate, did not like the attention his deputy was getting, so he decided, in an act of political bravery, to go onto The Project, a show I am not sure he had ever watched before he went on it, to re-investigate the latest in 1950s medical science.
And of course we have the Monday, Wednesday, Friday ‘Budget emergency’, interspersed with the Tuesday and Thursday ‘not such an emergency’.
But there is no doubt the star of this government’s sitcom over the last five weeks is none other than ‘No Average Joe’. He is an albatross around the neck of this government, but the Prime Minister must keep the Treasurer, because it is very careless for our Prime Minister to lose a Treasurer. Because once you lose your Treasurer, you have no one else to blame but yourself.
I did certainly enjoy the book reviews. We have a Treasurer, in his famous book, in his must-buy book, according to him, ‘I was a little too soft in my Budget’. What planet does this Treasurer live on?
But what I liked, what I really admired, is the marvellous Hamlet-esque, Shakespearean quality of our Treasurer, who says, ‘woe unto me. Why is it that everyone is against me? My backbench, the commentators, the people, Peter Costello.’ What an ungrateful ex-Treasurer he is.
The real problem with this unfair Budget is that this government does not know where it is going or what it is doing. They’ve has relied on lies. It is a bits and pieces Budget, devoid of very much other than a ruthless, right-wing ideology.
But today, just when I thought nothing else could this government do to surprise me, they declared war on the War Memorial. It is the 100th anniversary of the start of World I – do not shake your head over there. It is your problem because he is your Treasurer.
What they have done is an utter disgrace. On the anniversary of World War I, they have decided to cut the travelling exhibition because, of course, ‘we will fight to the death for the rolled gold paid parental leave, but I think we need to net $800,000 spent on a travelling program.’
This is a great program, a great program. 3.8 million Aussies have seen this program – I do not mind you muscling up to me, I just wish you would do it in your caucus room.
Now what they have done, in galleries in communities all over Australia, in towns some of these city-based Liberal MPs have never heard of, they are going to be disappointed by this heartless decision.
Because what a clever government. Why wouldn’t you take away the story of our soldiers on display in Perth? Why did we never think of that? Why wouldn’t you take away from display in Brisbane and Adelaide the story of the forgotten diggers of World War I? Of course, the brain surgeons writing the script for this sitcom government said to each other, ‘let’s take away the story of the nurses going from Zululand to the modern time.’
Our veterans deserve better than this government. We deserve better than a government that will cut the funding to its own War Memorial. Where this travelling exhibition goes is a map of Australia and you are seeking to erase it.
These cuts must be reversed. I call upon those members in the Government to find a little bit of spine on this question. We do not mind if you get the credit for this. Reverse this decision.
The real issue, though, in the last five weeks is that the Government has had the chance to demonstrate it can be trusted. The truth of the matter is that in the last 105 days, Australia has learned you can’t trust Tony Abbott, you can’t trust Joe Hockey and you can’t trust this government.
This is a government who has then said, in what can only be regarded as a feat of some remarkable foolhardiness, has said to people, ‘if you don’t vote for our unfair Budget, we will tax you more, we will cut research more, we will punish you more.’
This is a government who will stoop to pressuring the Australian people, saying that unless the Senate takes on our unfair Budget proposition, then we will go harder and worse.
Let me be clear. This Prime Minister loves to quote to us about mandate – ‘mandate this, mandate that’ – well where was the mandate for this Budget?
He made himself very by famous criticising the former government, ‘there was no mandate, there should be no new taxation without an election.’ Well Tony Abbott, what was good for you then is good for you now.
I state here clearly and loudly and unequivocally, you have no mandate for your Budget.
You have no mandate for your cuts.
You have no mandate to punish pensioners.
You have no mandate to punish the schools and hospitals.
You have no mandate to hurt ordinary Australians.
If you really believe in what you say, test it at an election. But in the meantime, do not punish ordinary Australians because you told lies before the last election.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
MOTION OF CONDOLENCE FOR MH17 VICTIMS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, 26 AUGUST 2014
I rise to support the Prime Minister’s words on this most dreadful matter.
But what I also do, is rise as a father, as a son, as a brother, as a husband and as an Australian – I rise to offer my deepest personal sympathies to those who knew and loved the victims of this terrible, violent and unimaginable crime.
On the morning of the very last day our Parliament sat, we assembled amidst the sudden shock and grief of the incomprehensible tragedy of MH17.
In the weeks that have passed between then and now, so much has been said about the act of evil that shot from European skies an Asian airliner filled with citizens from around the world.
I on behalf of Labor look forward to continuing to work with the Prime Minister and the Government to ensure the strongest possible reaction from Australia. The seeking of justice, as the Prime Minister has indicated, cannot be shirked.
The weapons of death were sophisticated and couldn’t have been built automatically by the people who used them.
So let me be clear, I have the gravest reservations welcoming to Australia anyone in the future who is engaged in this act of terror – and we will support the strongest possible reaction from the Government on this matter.
We recognise that all involved have done remarkable work. I acknowledge the work of the Prime Minister and the foreign minister. I also might acknowledge the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and his National Security Adviser who have kept the opposition in touch.
I thank representatives of DFAT, my colleagues, in particular, Tanya Plibersek, AFP, Military personnel, His Excellency, the Governor-General.
I would also like to acknowledge the great cooperation and leadership of the Netherlands, the Ukrainian Government, Malaysia.
I also wish to speak of, the Opposition’s support for Malaysian Airlines, who have been through an unimaginable year.
I think it is also appropriate to acknowledge the role of the United States, without whom, I believe much couldn’t have been possible.
The suggestion of a memorial is a very worthy idea.
Our Parliament stops all other business today, to offer its thoughts to all those who lost their lives on MH17.
This was a global tragedy that has struck at Australian hearts.
Australia did lose 38 of our own.
Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, partners and parents, friends, teammates, classmates, colleagues.
Wonderful people who loved – and were loved.
People who laughed and learned and made a life underneath our Southern Cross.
For the loved ones left behind – It is still a time of shock, a time of disbelief, a time of continual mourning.
We know their grief in this place, but we cannot share it.
We vow to repatriate their loved ones, but we cannot fill the void of their loss.
We can hope for an end to the quest for a reason, but it will not be enough.
Today, here in the house of the Australian people, for many who are listening, what matters most is not the ‘why’ or the ‘how’ – what matters is who we have lost – and what we will miss.
I have had the humbling privilege of meeting with many of the families touched by this tragedy.
Their courage, their resilience, their ability to endure public interest in their private grief was remarkable and moving.
Who of us can imagine, who of us here can contemplate – the sense of cruel coincidence and avoidable calamity– the unimaginable hell of alternative possibilities that will be haunting all those who have lost someone they loved so unexpectedly on this ill-fated flight.
I know and the Prime Minister knows, because I witnessed him talking to the families, that for the families and friends of all those aboard MH17, words mean little at this painful hour.
But they should know that Australia shares their sorrow.
I sincerely hope they can draw modest consolation from Australia’s affirmation.
From the knowledge that they do not walk alone in grief.
That we are with them.
Our nation’s great, invisible, generous, sustaining sympathy is with them – and it always will be.
Let all of us pause now to remember the names of those our country lost.
Let all of us remember their potential and their possibility.
Let all of us remember them not for how they died, but for why they lived – for the love and friendship and joy that we who are left behind vow to never again take for granted.
May they rest in eternal peace.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053
REMARKS TO SHADOW MINISTRY
MONDAY, 25 AUGUST 2014
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It’s been five weeks since the Parliament sat and the Government’s Budget is still a disaster.
Down the hall, they are having another ‘political strategy’ meeting to talk about the Budget ‘message’.
They’re bringing in consultants to tell them not to insult Australians – or perhaps explain to Joe Hockey what poor people look like.
We do understand that they’re reviewing their message, they’re discussing their strategy, they’re thinking about new political games to unleash upon Australia.
The truth is, as all of you have attested to me in recent days, the Government simply doesn’t get it. They don’t have a sales problem with their Budget, they’ve got an unfairness problem with their Budget.
It’s not so much that their critics are scaring Australians, it’s that their Budget scares Australians.
That’s what we have done these past three months – we have fought the Budget on the substance.
And again, I congratulate the entire Labor team – since the Budget, what we’ve done in the last just over three months is draw a line in the sand and say to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and his team: we will not let you wreck this country and make it a more unfair destination for our kids and their grandkids.
So I know that all of you have been out over the past five weeks talking. You’ve been visiting child care centres, you’ve been visiting schools, you’ve been visiting universities, hospitals, workplaces and aged care homes.
You’ve all been working hard but I particularly acknowledge Kim Carr and Amanda Rishworth who’ve been out at university campuses very actively, as have a lot of other members of the caucus.
Catherine King and Stephen Jones have been in hospitals and GP Clinics, talking to the practitioners, talking to the patients.
Kate Ellis has been in schools and child care centres – I’m not sure there’s a child care centre left for her to visit. I’m sure there is, but it doesn’t feel that way.
Shayne Neumann and Helen Polley have been out there in aged care and retirement centres promising older Australians that we will protect them.
And Brendan O’Connor and many others have been out to worksites.
And you’ve all been out raising issues in your portfolios and standing up for ordinary Australians.
But I think that it’s true that across all of us, we’ve all been getting the same message, and I suspect the Government backbench has been getting the same message, whether or not they’re willing to admit it – Australians don’t want their Budget.
They do not want this Abbott Government Budget and they want Labor to stand up for them.
I would assess that we have fought well in what’s been 100 days since the Budget – but the fight is not over and really, we’ve only just begun to fight. And that’s what Australians expect of us.
What is good though is that Labor has found its voice, unmistakably.
We are fighting them on the great Labor ground of fairness, and that’s what people expect and hope from us.
It is the case that we have been on the side of fairness, of hope, of opportunity – and what we’re doing is making sure that the Australian of 2020 and 2030 is a better destination with jobs and fairness at its centre.
So we’ve been doing well – I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of our colleagues at 2.15pm in caucus.
I might ask our friends from the media to leave as we analyse the political landscape and how we continue our great fight for Australia.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
ADDRESS TO THE COSBOA NATIONAL SUMMIT
CROWN CONFERENCE CENTRE
FRIDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014
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It’s great to be with you this morning.
Like many of you, I don’t make a habit of having breakfast at the Casino – so perhaps it would be better if we just think of this as another great, third-generation Australian family business.
I am here today both as Labor Leader, and as Labor’s lead spokesman for small business.
Labor’s commitment to building prosperity and growing the economy depends upon the success of Australia’s 2 million small businesses.
And I took on this portfolio responsibility because I believe that Labor can do more for small business – and we can do more with small business.
We can, and we will.
We will do more to help you grow, to innovate and thrive.
I don’t see this as enemy territory.
I don’t subscribe to some kind of shuttered, narrow political ideology that arbitrarily puts Labor on one side – and small business on the other.
This kind out outdated division, this artificial border benefits no-one.
Indeed I am certain many of you have found, to your frustration, being pigeonholed as a ‘traditional’ supporter of one side of politics – diminishes your influence with that party.
Your support is too often taken for granted, and your concerns are met with vague assurances instead of meaningful Government action.
You deserve better than this – you deserve to be engaged and valued in the decision-making process.
And for my part, as someone who has spent their working life conciliating, negotiating and constructing workable compromise to achieve a better future - my first instinct is always to find common ground and to build upon shared interests and objectives.
That’s the approach I’ll be taking as Leader – and as Small business spokesman.
Labor and Small Business
For modern Labor, the innovative party of inclusive economic growth, small business will always be a big part of our plans.
As the party of innovation, we know small businesses are hives of creativity and commercial potential.
As the party of jobs, we value small business as an employer of nearly 5 million Australians – and a supporter of their families.
As the party of entrepreneurs, we understand that all of you who start small businesses are taking a risk, stretching yourselves and making sacrifices to build a better future for your families.
As the party of equal opportunity for women, we know that small business gives women the chance to bypass the glass ceiling and bridge the gender pay gap.
And we need only look at the unbelievable success of some of Australia’s inspirational ‘mumpreneurs’ – once dismissed as a fad, now so often leading the way.
These women aren’t looking for a hobby, for something to do – they’ve got great new ideas, they want to run successful businesses, and they are.
As the party of working people – we know how much small business owners value and appreciate the talents and flexibility of their staff.
As the party of safe and inclusive communities, we admire the social investment that small businesses make: the butchers sponsoring sporting teams, the newsagent championing public parks, the fruit shop sponsoring playgrounds and the hosts of retailers campaigning for civic amenities in high streets across Australia.
And as the party of fairness, Labor believes in cracking down on multinational profit-shifting.
Because business owners who do their banking in the local high street, should have the same opportunity to grow and thrive as the multi-billion-dollar operators who do their banking in offshore tax havens.
And as the party of working families, Labor knows that work-life balance can be the first casualty of starting and running a small business.
While there is much we share with all of you, I know that there is also enormous diversity within small business:
- Family businesses like Ferguson Plarre
- Franchise owners, sole traders and families working from home
- And start-ups commercialising innovative new ideas
In short, we understand and value your time, your energy, your investment, and your contribution to Australia.
But your time does not belong to the nation.
Your energy is for your family as well as your customers.
You are investing in your community, but also in your children’s future.
And the Government decisions that affect you, should reflect your views.
As Minister and as Leader
That’s why, as Minister, I worked with Peter and COSBOA to improve dealings between Small business and Government.
Because none of you have time to sit on the phone listening to ‘hold’ music when you have customers waiting.
My focus was on streamlining interactions between small business, the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman.
And also – giving small business owners some of their weekend back – through the creation of the Superannuation Clearing House which has already distributed more than $1 billion of superannuation payments for owners.
That’s the way I and Labor will work with small business – taking concrete, practical steps that deliver tangible benefits.
We know that you can’t build a more prosperous Australia for small business simply by rehashing platitudes, or invoking old Menziean ties that no longer bind.
Because small businesses don’t run on rhetoric.
Politicians and Governments are judged not by what they say to you on mornings like this – but what they do for you in Canberra.
Words come and go – the only measurement that matters is our deeds.
The simple test for Labor and Small business, the first question we will always ask, is: ‘will this decision make it easier for small business to grow, to thrive, to innovate – to do business’.
Economic Policy for Small Business
In Government, Labor made it easier for small businesses to grow by:
- Creating an immediate small business tax deduction for assets costing up to $6,500.
- Allowing small business to depreciate assets costing $6,500 or more in a single simplified depreciation pool; and
- Allowing small businesses to claim an immediate deduction for the first $5,000 for motor vehicles (new or old) and to depreciate the rest in a single simplified depreciation pool – 15 per cent in the first year and 30 per cent in subsequent years.
In this time of economic change and transition, the Instant Asset Write Off helps small businesses make the hard adjustments and the necessary investments to seize opportunity.
And it is also a convenience measure, removing the need to track the deprecation of assets over several years – meaning less time spent on book-keeping and paperwork, and more time serving your customers and growing your business.
Labor made it easier for small businesses to endure tough times by allowing companies in a loss position to carry back losses to get a refund against tax previously paid – a measure which benefited almost 100,000 businesses.
And we made it easier for small businesses to lead innovation in work practices and technology by doubling the rate of research and development assistance available to small and medium-sized businesses.
Small Business and Taxation
Labor also lightened the small business taxation burden – and that is our continuing mission.
We tripled the tax free threshold, providing a benefit to around 1.4 million small business owners who are sole traders or hold an interest in a partnership or operate through a trust.
And we want to extend this benefit.
Indeed, in the Parliament right now, the only party fighting for fairer, simpler taxation for Small business is the Labor Party.
We all know Tony Abbott likes to say that Australia is ‘open for business’ – what he means is ‘open for 6000 big businesses’, while ignoring the 2 million small businesses that keep this country strong.
This Government spruiks its company tax cut – but 93 per cent of small businesses won’t benefit from it.
Either because they don’t operate as a company, or they aren’t in a profit position.
And at the same time the Government is seeking to wind back around $4 billion of Labor’s small business tax incentives.
It’s not just a matter of lightening the taxation burden – Labor is committed to streamlining the taxation process too.
A Labor Government will reduce the number of times small and medium businesses need to lodge GST returns from four times a year to one.
Moving from quarterly to annual returns will ease the paperwork load for around 1.3 million small businesses with a turnover of under $20 million.
And right now, dealing with GST paperwork represents nearly half of the tax compliance cost for business – and it consumes nearly 500 hours a year for small and medium enterprises.
This is a practical change that frees up your time and resources – and that’s why it is Labor policy.
This Government loves to say that it is cutting red tape – as if simple repetition can turn a mantra into meaningful action.
But the test, again, is not what they say – it is what they are doing.
And because small business is so central to our prosperity, so integral to our economy – almost every piece of social and economic decision-making has an impact.
Not just measures that are explicitly labelled as ‘small business’.
This Government loves to say that it is cutting red tape – as if constant repetition can turn a slogan into meaningful action.
Take the Government’s policy to change the work for the dole requirements, so that job seekers now have to submit 40 job applications per month to qualify for their payments.
At one level, this over-the-top targeting of our society’s most vulnerable members, is deeply offensive to Labor’s values.
But it is also short-sighted – and economically damaging.
Just as depriving jobseekers under 30 of any support for six months pushes the price of unemployment onto the Australian family…
…this latest dose of Liberal snake oil shifts the cost of looking for work onto business – especially small business.
It is a half-baked plan that shows no understanding of small business.
A change that seems purposefully designed to make life harder for the engine room of our economy.
For the sake of a couple of tough-talking tabloid headlines, the Government is prepared to unleash a tsunami of unsolicited and underprepared resumes on the small businesses of Australia.
It won’t be Centrelink or job services providers that will have to manage this massive flow of paper.
It will be you – and hundreds of thousands of small business proprietors like you.
Because while large companies have HR staff working full time on recruitment and reviewing resumes, in small business it is almost always the person with their name on the door who has to sift through the CVs.
This takes you away from the business, away from the counter, away from design work, planning and budgeting and it takes away time you could be spending with customers.
And the cost of this process – the burden imposed by what the Minister has already admitted is nothing more than a tick-box compliance exercise – it is staggering.
Using the Government’s own Business Cost Calculator, and estimating that there are around 760,000 employing small businesses….
…and assuming that each of these businesses spends just one additional hour a fortnight processing the increased number of job applications, then this policy will have an economic cost of nearly $700 million per year.
This means a $2.1 billion hit to small business over the three years of the program.
A business cost of nearly $1 for every $2.50 spent by the Government.
This single decision – seemingly taken without a regulatory impact statement – is the equivalent of the total gains claimed by the Government on their now increasingly laughable ‘repeal day’.
A red tape ‘bonfire of the vanities’ that was always more vanity than bonfire.
Of course, these changes are yet to pass the Parliament.
In what is becoming an all-too familiar pattern of shoot-and-scoot, they were loudly announced, widely criticised, timidly defended and then quietly withdrawn.
This is typical of the state the Budget is in three months after it was announced by Joe Hockey.
Small Business and the Budget
Much of Labor’s case against the Budget has been framed by fairness.
Yes, we believe in fairness.
But for Labor, fairness is more than a social value, it is a pragmatic pathway to economic growth.
That’s the problem with the Budget – it’s not just unfair, it’s economically debilitating.
And there is no doubt that small business occupies a prominent place on the long list of those harmed by the new taxes and deep cuts in the first Abbott-Hockey Budget.
The Budget increases your taxes and it reduces your cash flow.
The new petrol tax adds to your costs and at the same time, the Budget is harming business conditions.
Small business people know better than anyone that when Governments cut, family budgets suffer – and the family budget is the bedrock of consumer confidence and economic growth.
As people who make complex budgeting decisions every day – it must be particularly galling to be on the end of Government lectures about lifting and leaning.
As businesspeople engaged in the macro-economic picture, you know too well that the overblown bluster of ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ has done far more harm than good.
And as people who interact with customers every day, the hammer blow that this unfair Budget has dealt to consumer confidence has hurt you too.
The Westpac Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment tumbled by 7 per cent in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Budget.
Looking to the future – the best driver of consumer sentiment are the results from the quarterly survey on news recalled.
Even two months after the Budget, a record 74 per cent of those survey recalled news on ‘Budget & taxation’, the highest ever recall rate for this issue, swamping all other news items.
The more Australians learn about this Budget, the less they like.
And clearly, this unfair Budget is hitting confidence.
Confidence – and jobs.
Yesterday’s increase in the unemployment rate to 6.4 per cent – 7 per cent here in Victoria – was the first time Australia has had a higher rate of joblessness than the United States since 2007.
And it is our highest level of unemployment since 2002.
In fact, unemployment hasn’t been this bad since Tony Abbott was Employment Minister.
If I could paraphrase Oscar Wilde: presiding over one unemployment peak may be misfortune, presiding over two is beginning to look like carelessness.
70,000 Australians have been added to the unemployment queues since the Budget – and all of you know the impact rising unemployment has on your businesses.
These hits to jobs and confidence are grave short term threats – but in the longer term, the Budget’s cuts to research and development have the potential to be every bit as harmful for small businesses.
Small Business and Innovation
So often, it is small businesses that take the biggest strides in innovation.
Both in modifying and adapting their existing work practices and products – and in the entrepreneurs who embrace risk and seek to turn a great idea into a successful start-up.
And to grow that start-up into a thriving business.
I took on responsibility for Labor’s Science and Innovation portfolio because I believe that Australian creativity and Australian brainpower can underpin our future prosperity.
Nowhere is this more important than in small business.
In 2014, in a world that has never been more borderless, on the doorstep of the fastest growing region in economic history, we have a tremendous opportunity.
We can encourage the genius of our people and help enterprises share in innovation-led growth.
But we also face a pivotal choice.
Australia can get smarter, or we can get poorer.
We can choose to compete in the new, knowledge-driven economy.
Or we can give up on nurturing our own ideas.
Of course, not every new idea will be a good one.
And not every new business will succeed.
Innovative countries know this.
They understand that sometimes failure is merely a marker on the road to success.
And shrewd investors realise that it is often an entrepreneur’s second or third business that will be their most successful.
I believe that Governments play a role in setting this tone, in creating this culture.
The job of Government is not to replace private investment, or crowd it out.
But we should be supporting start-ups, nurturing creativity and rewarding ingenuity.
There is a perception that America is a land of small government.
Perhaps this is true in healthcare – and in social security – but not in innovation.
Today – the rate of patent applications in the United States is at its highest level since the Industrial Revolution.
The US Government supports more basic research than the private sector.
And a recent report from the Brookings Institute shows that patents funded by the US Government are of much higher than average quality.
When the Federal Government provides funding for small business research and development – the result is higher metropolitan productivity growth.
The difference between a high patenting and low patenting area is worth more than $4000 in productivity per worker over a decade.
Above all, the Brookings Institute Report shows us the value of collaboration – of innovation hubs and integrated graduate research.
I have no doubt that Australia can do more to encourage entrepreneurs to do what they do best.
And Labor is looking positively and closely at changes to the Employee Share Scheme, to ensure that the tax burden aligns with the likely realisation of equity stakes in a company.
This would remove a significant drag on innovation – and it would make it easier for small businesses to grow a new idea into a profitable business.
If you’re an Australian with a good idea, you should be able to attract talented employees, and give those employees genuine buy-in.
You should be able to offer good people an incentive to stay with your business on the hard road road to commercialising your innovation.
Australia’s future prosperity – and the future strength of our 2 million small businesses – depends upon getting smarter, on helping our people capitalise on their genius.
Every successful small business is the product of courage, hard work and ambition.
Your courage should be acknowledged and Government should take on the challenge of rewarding your hard work, repaying your effort and encouraging your ambition.
This requires a big picture understanding of our economy, and our society.
And it demands a connection with the interests and values of small business.
For Labor, this means returning to the threshold question I articulated earlier.
We will always ask:
‘Will this decision make it easier for small business to grow, to thrive, to innovate – to do business?’
And we will continue to back in the family business dream, to support the courage of sole traders – to be on the side of the risk-takers backing in their ideas.
I look forward to talking further with you today – and in the weeks and months and years ahead.
Under my leadership, Labor will always be open to business.
We will always be ready to work together with you to deliver the best outcomes for our country.
For employers and employees, families and communities.
Because when small business succeeds, Australia succeeds.
Let us make that shared success our common goal – and our compass in the years ahead.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
NATIONAL MEMORIAL FOR MH17 VICTIMS
ST PATRICKS CATHEDRAL
THURSDAY, 7 AUGUST 2014
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Families and friends of those aboard MH17.
Australia shares your sorrow.
Governor-General, Prime Minister, Your Excellencies, my fellow Australians.
We gather in this peaceful sanctuary to pay our national tribute of respect.
We gather as sons and daughters, as brothers and sisters, as partners and parents, as friends and strangers joined in a single garment of grief.
In the sight of all faiths, we mourn all on MH17 – innocent, unoffending and precious – these victims of a most terrible, violent and unimaginable evil.
We mourn 38 of our own, who laughed and learned and loved beneath the Southern Cross that today flies half-mast around the nation that was their home.
There is grief that is known but cannot be shared.
There are loved ones coming home, but not really.
There is hope for an end to the quest for a reason, but this too will not be enough.
Today is not about why, or how – it is about who we have lost, and what we will miss.
Some will call it closure, some will call it acceptance, some will call it letting go – whatever it is, it will take a while.
For some of us, the worst is not hearing their voice again – and knowing that we never will.
The lack of it, the silence, the unfinished conversations, the too-late statements of love, the enduring void in the air, are impossible to imagine, and hard to live with.
Some of us have dreams from which we do not want to wake.
Places we cannot go again, albums and images and movies we do not want to see again, for fear of love bursting out, and breaking once more a heart that is almost healed.
As a father, as a son, as a brother, as a husband, I cannot know – I cannot contemplate – the sense of avoidable calamity, and ill-fated coincidence – the unimaginable hell of alternative possibilities you are going through.
It is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this painful hour– but I hope you can draw modest consolation from Australia’s affirmation, from our nation’s great, invisible, generous, sustaining sympathy.
From the knowledge that you do not walk alone today – you loved wonderful people, who lived meaningful lives.
Let those of us who pray, pray for the departed, pray for the bereaved, and pray for our country which bears an indelible scar on its soul.
And let all of us remember the names of those lost to us now.
Let us remember their potential and their possibility.
Let us remember them not for how they died, but for why they lived – for the love and friendship and joy that those of us left behind vow to never again take for granted.
God bless you, god bless your memory.
May the beautiful souls of flight MH17 be taken by a flight of angels to rest in eternal peace.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053
40TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE
OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014
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Friends, four decades ago, in the people’s house behind us, the great Gough Whitlam set a new standard for Australian health – the standard of universality.
Forty years ago, with Medibank, Labor declared that the health of any one of us, is important to all of us.
And ever since then – if you ever wanted to know the difference between Liberal and Labor, have a look at Medicare.
Medicare, friends, is the measure of what Labor does. It is, I believe, proof of what Australia does best.
Medicare friends, is the rock of which we have built modern Australia and we will not allow it be dismantled.
If you have nagging asthma, if your child has a rising fever, or indeed if you are worried that it is something worse than that, you can in this country of ours, see a GP.
It doesn’t matter if you have lost your job or if you are flat broke. It doesn’t matter, if you work hard but it’s the last day of the previous pay period and there isn’t a lot of money to see the doctor.
In this country, unlike most other parts of the world, if you need care, if your beautiful, precious, unique child that you love needs care. If your parent needs care – then we can ensure that because of Medicare that you get that care, and we know that every Australian is healthier when Australian can get care.
We know that Medicare is fair. We know that Medicare works. We know that Medicare doesn’t just make you healthier. It makes us more productive. It boosts the participation.
Our home grown Aussie, smart, preventative system of primary health care means fewer sick days, which is good for business and it’s good for jobs. Our special Aussie home grown system of health funding means less cost for the tax payers. Australians as you know well here, spend less money for more care, longer life expectancy and better access to services.
And as the union reps here would know, it means no cost to employers, no extra burden on business. This gives us a head start on the rest of the world. So if we know that Medicare is fair, if we know that Medicare works, the great question of Australian politics is why do the Abbott Liberals hate Medicare so much?
Abbott Liberals cannot be trusted with the health of Australia. Their attitude to Medicare is a disgrace.
This GP Tax which has brought you here today, it represents an unconscionable assault on the bottom half of Australian society.
It turns our GPs, Australia’s medical front line, into Abbott tax collectors. Taking their time and their attention away from patients.
GPs know what this tax means, they know the pain it will cause. They know that this is a tax on the sick. It is a tax on the vulnerable.
And all of this is for what exactly? The GP tax will not be returned to the bottom line. Not one dollar, not one cent of it. This GP tax is not about money, it is about philosophy. About their Liberal philosophy or more accurately, it is about their rotten Abbott Liberal prejudice. Is it nothing but a plan to destroy Medicare.
It is cynical, it is dishonest, it is an attempt to socially engineer an unfair, two-tiered, US-style health system on to Australians. And like Catherine and like the other Federal Labor MPs here, Labor will not allow this to happen.
We are Labor. We will never allow a system where your wealth determines your health.
As has been said, the Liberal have always hated Medicare. 40 years ago in this place, Billy Snedden, the then leader of the Liberal Party, said of universal health care, “we will fight this scheme continuously and in the end we will defeat it”.
30 years ago, John Howard, still at the letterbox waiting for his knighthood, John Howard said that Medicare was ‘a total disaster’. John Howard said Medicare was a ‘human nightmare’. He said about Medicare that he wanted to ‘stab it in the guts’.
Now we have Tony Abbott, he wants to wreck Medicare, he wants to demolish it, he wants to lay waste to our smart, home grown system of primary and preventative care.
We know and you know that Medicare is fair. We know that Medicare works, and we know that Medicare belongs to all of the Australian people. It belongs to you, it belongs to everyone and we will not let Tony Abbott wreck Medicare, will we?
In 40 years since Medibank, 30 years after Labor introduced Medicare, it falls to this generation, it doesn’t matter if your 17 or 77, we are the generation for whom faith and destiny has made us, yet again, the people who must save Medicare from the Liberal Party of Australia.
Today, let us loudly and proudly make a promise on behalf of the millions of people who count upon Medicare. Let us make this promise. Labor will fight to the death to defend bulk billing. That will fight right down the line for the principle of universal access to healthcare. That we reject that pernicious, cynical mantra of the worst health minister in federation history, Peter Dutton. That he says that nothing is for free, how dare this people, how arrogant. Australians pay for Medicare through their levy, they should not have to pay for it again, Peter Dutton, you joke of a health minister.
So today, we say about Medicare and this rotten unfair budget, we say this:
No compromise, no trading, no retreat, no surrender on Medicare.
We have built Medicare and the people before us have built Medicare. Australians depend upon Medicare. Together, we will stop Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare.
It’s as simple as this. We will fight for what is right and we will prevail, I promise you that.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 405
KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE GARMA FESTIVAL
SUNDAY, 3 AUGUST 2014
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It is a special privilege to be here at Garma, where the two waters become one.
To celebrate your culture, everything from: bunggul and didge to manikay.
I acknowledge the Gumatj and the traditional owners and pay my respects to elders past and present.
And I acknowledge all the young people here, the leaders and elders of the future.
And I salute a giant of my party – and a tireless champion of reconciliation who is with us today – Bob Hawke.
The new Garma Knowledge Centre –will be home for the cultural treasures we celebrate today.
Congratulations to everyone who made it possible, and I pay particular tribute to your friend and mine, Jenny Macklin.
In modern Australia, we have gained and grown from embracing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture – in our art, our music, our films and literature.
A 40,000 year old culture daily enriching every facet of our short history together.
But we can do better and we can do more.
This centre – and this festival – show us we can achieve balance and harmony.
When I was here in February, I had the honour of sitting with you, Galarrwuy, and other elders.
It was an uncertain time.
The refinery, shutting down. And a lot of good people under pressure.
But I was inspired by the determination and the high horizons of the leaders I met.
I witnessed in your hearts the same passion that took the bark petitions – and the injustice they sought to overturn – from Yirrkala to Canberra, 51 years ago.
The passion captured in the inspirational words and music of the great friend that this community – and our country – sadly lost last year.
Today I am honoured to return to your country with my family.
My wife Chloe and I wanted our children to see your beautiful, unique homelands.
And your resilient, proud people.
Strong, generous people – working to build better lives for your families.
I am not a stranger to this place – but I seek to learn more and to do more.
Because Closing the Gap, through the recognition and empowerment of the First Australians, is the test of our generation.
I approach this task with humility, knowing that it represents the most profound, enduring challenge of our two centuries together.
Ever since Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said 42 years ago that:
‘all of us are diminished while Aboriginal people are denied their rightful place in this nation’
National leaders of all persuasions have carried Gough’s statement in their minds as a profound truth.
This truth is unrelenting and will remain un-assuaged in the conscience of our nation for as long as we do not find and restore this rightful place.
I come to Garma not to preach or proclaim, to lecture or dictate.
My colleague Warren Snowdon tells me – and I can see for myself – that the Yolngu know exactly who they are and where they are going.
I know you are anchoring secure, independent economic futures for your people – through your land, through business and industry, and now with the new skills, new jobs and new opportunities of the Rio Tinto mining school.
Friends, I am here to learn.
Partnership and Empowerment
But friends, I know we have been a country and a continent divided in two.
The powerful and the powerless.
The free and the oppressed.
Your people have endured oppression in every form.
Oppressed by settlers, squatters and frontier violence.
Oppressed by segregation, discrimination and exclusion.
Oppressed by a failure to respect cultures, traditions and languages.
Oppressed by racism, prejudice and paternalism – both malign and benign.
Oppressed by short lives and long misery, more diseases and fewer jobs.
At Redfern in 1992, Paul Keating was the first Australian Prime Minister to fully acknowledge these injustices.
His words woke the nation to the haunting stain on our soul.
22 years and 4000 kilometres from Redfern – much good work has been done.
Australia has said sorry for the theft of your children.
And we are on the path to matching words with deeds, to empowering Aboriginal people and Closing the Gap.
Yet too many are trapped in a morass of unfairness and entrenched disadvantage.
We have an opportunity now – and a responsibility always – to gather up the mantle of Redfern and create an accord between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.
An agreement based on shared goals and mutual respect, on our common rights and responsibilities.
Because succeeding in this national task means working together, as empowered partners and equals.
For me, Indigenous Affairs has never been a ‘victim study’.
I believe that you, the people who have cared for Australia’s national estate for more than 400 centuries – can thrive and succeed in 21st Century Australia.
That is why you should be in control – not passive recipients of bureaucratic guesswork.
I have heard, many times, that Aboriginal people are the most over-consulted people in Australia.
But far too often, the first policy consultation with Aboriginal people is the last time that the people most affected are involved.
This leads to alienation.
To the frustration and angst that comes from feeling your voice has not been heard.
To further disempowerment – or focusing negative energy on the wrong issues.
In education, in health, in childcare, in employment, in legal aid, in communal safety and in land use for economic development- Aboriginal people must be valued, respected and engaged at every stage.
Wherever and whenever Australians – Indigenous or non-Indigenous – are exercising their normal responsibilities to themselves and their families, there is no justification for intervening in their right to manage their own lives.
The great majority of Australians who receive welfare income are responsible.
There are two non-negotiables for Labor here:
- Welfare measures must not discriminate between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians; and
- Measures must not interfere with the dignity of the majority of Australians who are exercising their responsibilities and who do not deserve any intervention in their domestic, private lives.
It is time for us to give new thought to formal mechanisms to ensure broad-based representative input – and meaningful engagement with Parliament.
Not just self- appointed committees and one-man bands.
My goal is to build partnerships of mutual recognition, respect and shared responsibility.
Partnerships where the first instinct of government is to listen and learn, not to merely lecture.
Partnerships that recognise that wisdom is not imported from Canberra – it grows here in this earth, what is known as mother earth.
Partnerships that empower Aboriginal people to own their destinies.
Partnerships that see Aboriginal people as part of the answer – not a problem to be solved.
This means moving away from a ‘deficit model’ and towards recognising Indigenous excellence – nurturing achievement and valuing the strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It means engaging with Aboriginal people as cultural beings, capable of navigating the modern world – and of adding value, contributing to, and enhancing the Australian society we all share.
This was the co-operative, community-driven spirit at the heart of the Closing the Gap targets.
This is the cause Labor recommits to today.
We will work with you, we will seek your guidance.
Not out of insincerity, or false morality.
But because we respect your knowledge.
The alternative: a return to top-down, ‘one size fits all’ bureaucratic dictation – is no alternative at all.
We cannot fall back into the old trap of ‘we know best’.
You know – we all know – the problems that arise when the decisions that affect your community, your family, your futures, are made 4000 kilometres away in Canberra – without your participation.
You should be the ones making the informed decisions – at a local and regional level.
You should have the choice and control to build a better life.
You should be able to leverage your resources and your land to develop and create opportunities.
And decisions about the future must draw on the ‘free, prior and informed consent’ of people and communities –upholding the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.
We will not overcome Indigenous disadvantage by undermining Indigenous diversity, or Indigenous rights.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, Australia cannot afford a 19th Century view of Indigenous Affairs.
We cannot go back down that road – especially when we are at last making real progress.
Education and Early Childhood
Last year, we met the first Closing the Gap target.
Today, every precious unique child living in a remote community has access to early childhood education.
And that first step leads to the next – boosting reading, writing and numeracy, guaranteeing that more Indigenous students will complete school.
Leading to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with university degrees and training qualifications.
Leading to good and rewarding jobs.
This is the life-changing, potential-fulfilling power of education.
Education begins when we enter the world at home, and we must weave it right through childcare, school, apprenticeships and university.
We must invest in the skills, knowledge and potential of this generation.
Success depends on community leadership – on parents, older siblings, uncles and aunties, elders and role models.
That’s why, in Government, Labor supported frontline, locally-driven services, including Community and Family Centres.
We believe local decision-making requires real dollars – and empowered communities.
Government has to replace control with collaboration.
Labor believes in funding innovation in the delivery of frontline services – not defunding them.
In providing stability and certainty, for communities pursuing long-term solutions
And in always asking whether government is working for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Incarceration and Justice
Looking at all the hopeful young faces here today, it is hard to believe that an Aboriginal boy leaving school is more likely to go to jail than university.
For far too many Aboriginal people, a first offence means a prison sentence.
Prison too often leads to unemployment, unemployment to alcohol abuse, alcohol abuse to family violence – and to reoffending.
And re-offending leads to more incarceration.
It is a vicious, hope-killing cycle – and we have to smash it.
We need a new justice target, developed in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and legal aid groups.
We must reduce the growing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – especially young men – who are arrested, tried and incarcerated.
The increasing number of Aboriginal men in custody is a national disgrace.
Here, in the land of the fair go and the second chance the colour of your skin should never determine the sentence you receive.
We must support front-line legal aid services – providing qualified advice and proper representation.
We must stop the ‘rivers of grog’ – through community-driven alcohol management plans and local leadership.
We must speak out against family violence, uniting with communities to end cowardly attacks on women and children.
We must support family violence centres and counselling services.
This is about building respect and instilling hope – respect for the very essence of a safe and happy family.
Respect for kinship, respect for community – and self-respect.
And hope that our goals can still be achieved – our targets can still be met – that the gap can be closed in our lifetimes.
Labor believes in according Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a place of honour in Australia’s Constitution.
Redressing historical injustice – and facing dark historical truth – demands every ounce of our national will.
I understand that Australian history did not begin at Botany Bay, or Eureka, or Anzac Cove.
Our Australian story begins with you and your ancestors, the oldest collective race of people in the world.
And the sooner our Constitution honours the people who have shared an unbroken connection with this ancient continent – the better.
But constitutional recognition has to involve more than a token gesture.
We need substantive and substantial change.
Symbolic change is not good enough – preambular change will not suffice.
Many Indigenous people have made it clear to me that they believe banning racism in our Constitution is vital.
The Expert Panel on Constitutional recognition proposed a new section 116A for this very purpose.
We are some way from finalising any referendum proposal.
But imagine, striking out old laws tainted by imperialism and prejudice – and replacing them with a safeguard against racial discrimination.
What an uplifting moment for all Australians – not just our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters.
A reminder that, apart from you, the very first Australians, all of us balanda are migrants.
A tribute to both the world’s oldest living culture – and our multicultural society.
A reflection of our Australian soul.
I believe Recognition will succeed– but I am conscious of the difficulties before us.
If we rush, we might move too fast to build community support.
If we wait too long, division, denial and cynicism may fracture this moment of national unity.
The only way to overcome these risks, is to unite behind Recognise.
Ultimately, we will only succeed, if both major parties agree.
The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Recognition – led by Ken Wyatt and the outstanding Senator for the Northern Territory Nova Peris – is taking a bipartisan approach.
And Liberal and Labor must reach a consensus before the next election so that whether I am Prime Minister – or Tony Abbott – all Australians have certainty.
Be assured, Labor – the party of land rights, of Native Title, of Redfern, of the Apology, of Closing the Gap – will devote its energy to making recognition happen.
I know the Prime Minister will have to deal with more scepticism and less understanding from within the conservative moment.
Today, I offer to help him where I can.
And Labor will lead when we must.
Recognition should be a political priority – but it should be beyond politics.
It is a historical wrong that must be made right.
Right now, there are some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people asking:
‘What good is recognition if I cannot find a job?’
‘What good is a statement of equality, when I battle inequality in health and education every day?’
‘What is the point of historical justice, if I am denied basic, natural justice?’
‘What is the value of being included in the Constitution – if I am still excluded from society?
These questions are more than fair.
But Australia does not have to choose between ‘practical’ and ‘symbolic’ reconciliation.
They are tied together – just as our destinies are tied together.
We share a common goal and we must share a future.
Working together, sharing power to achieve success.
I will be back here, in East Arnhem.
And my Shadow Minister Shayne Neumann, my Caucus colleagues and I will be meeting with Indigenous people right around Australia – in remote communities, in our cities and in our regional towns.
Your ideas, your goals, your hopes, your aspirations and your dreams will always be close to Labor’s heart.
Your cause will always be important to Labor – it will always be our cause.
We will listen to you, we will work with you, we will trust you with the power to build better lives for your families.
And we will not rest until the job is done.
Until the gap is closed, until the promise of Australia is fulfilled – until opportunity belongs to all of us.
Until the day when, as Galarrwuy says, our two waters are one.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053