Browsing articles in "Speeches"
Mar 26, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins













Good morning everyone, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

Professor Alan Cass, Professor Tom Calma, Minister Nash, Parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests.

On this tenth World Kidney Health day we give special attention to tackling chronic kidney disease amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

It is unfair that this growing problem afflicts disproportionately high number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many of whom are unaware they have this serious condition, even when suffering some of the symptoms.

And for those in remote communities affected by chronic kidney disease, going ‘off country’ to access treatment, can cause disconnection and isolation.

In recent years, a great deal of good work has been done to measure and map the disadvantage that blights the lives of the First Australians.

Today we can speak, with more informed precision than ever, of the gap that exists between the opportunities, lives and living standards of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – and the rest of us.

And while there have been some improvements in reducing the impact of chronic disease, it remains a serious impediment in closing the gap in life expectancy and other health outcomes.

We know the rollcall of grim numbers, the impact of chronic kidney disease, the rise of other emerging afflictions like cancer on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Without doubt, this is an advance on than the days when our Parliament adopted a position of wilful ignorance.

But unless our improved awareness and understanding delivers better outcomes – we can’t claim this as real progress.

It will never be enough for our Parliament to merely measure the gap between our two Australia, to acknowledge our shortcomings and gather for formal displays of contrition.

We have to strive to be better.

Now I believe that Closing the Gap, delivering equal opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is Australia’s unfinished business.

It is a test that our generation must face and pass.

There’s been a bit of debate and rancour in the Parliament that somehow talking about someone’s problems of Closing the Gap is not bipartisan. I actually think it’s not bipartisan not to talk the truth because it is not a matter of allocating blame simply, but it’s recognising that in every Closing the Gap target, we can try and do better.

And in Closing the Gap targets in every one of them, we can see a relationship to our health.

After all, if you have problems with your health, you can find it hard to find work and to keep work.

If your children are sick, they will miss school and fall behind, or you must miss work to care for them.

If, because of your own illness, you slip through the cracks of education and employment – then in fact the risk of jail will double and triple, for especially young Aboriginal men.

The point that I make fairly simply about interaction and interconnection is an important junction.

What it means is that health is not just a social justice issue, although it fundamentally is, it’s an economic issue. The beneficial consequences of good health spreads to every other measurement.

Now today we stand here today with solutions in our grasp.

Addressing vision loss alone would close 11 per cent of our health gap.

Tackling smoking by boosting preventative programs reduces the rate of cancer and heart disease, and it increases life expectancy.

Smoking is a key risk factor for developing chronic kidney disease along with poor nutrition, poor living conditions, low birth weight and dare I say it, a lack of empowerment.

The prevention and early detection of chronic diseases must be front and centre in the pursuit of closing the gap in health outcomes.

The full implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan is another irreplaceable step.

My colleague Warren Snowdon played an important part in developing this plan, but he would be the first to acknowledge that it was the product of a partnership.

It was shaped by listening to the voices of local people and local providers.

This ethos must be at the heart of our future action.

Building partnerships, trusting the community, listening to the people that know and live this great shared endeavour.

The Institute of Urban Indigenous Health and their ‘Deadly Choices’ campaign is I think a marvellous example of these values in action.

I love the idea that Deadly Choices is increasing the rates of kidney checks, pushing a strong anti-smoking message and helping tackle the management of chronic disease in South East Queensland.

Best of all the ambassadors for Deadly Choices are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: positive role models, sending a clear message to their people.

Or you could take the combination of research institutes that have clubbed together to fund the Affordable Dialysis Prize.

All of us here in Parliament, Liberal, National, Green or Labor, we understand that sometimes the best ideas that an organisation need, don’t always lie within that organisation.

What I love about the cleverness of the Affordable Dialysis Prize, is it’s challenging the finest medical and design minds to produce a low-cost, more accessible and portable version of a dialysis machine.

Just imagine, imagine this invention that would enable people living in remote communities to get the treatment they need, without being forced off country and away from their support network of families and friends.

It highlights that role that translational research and innovation can play in improving lives of people most in need.

Just as health underpins every element of the Closing the Gap framework, meaningful, tangible progress on Closing the Gap is essential and twinned with delivering constitutional recognition of First Australians.

Recognition will be an uplifting moment, a long overdue act of justice, but it cannot occur in a vacuum, offering just words alone.

The last thing we want is for a rising generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be asking:

“What good is recognition if I cannot find a job?’

‘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 excluded from opportunity?

‘What good is a statement of equality, when I battle inequality in health and life expectancy every day?’

Now I believe constitutional recognition is important. I believe it helps set the space for further demands on closing the gap.

But I do not wish to insult intelligence of those for whom constitutional recognition would most affect.

If we don’t match our determination to deliver constitutional change with an equal effort to close the gap in health, life expectancy, education, employment and of course justice.

Anything less runs the very real risk of rendering recognition meaningless for people to whom it should mean the most.

I do not believe that we should go back down the dry gully of the false debate between ‘practical’ and ‘symbolic’ reconciliation.

We must ensure that each one works to enhance and amplify the other.

I say to our guests in Parliament today, the presence of so many Members of Parliament from all sides of politics should give you some quiet pause for confidence, because all of us are under no illusions as to the scale and the scope of the challenge, and also the opportunity.

But when we, and I’m sure I speak for the others here, get a chance to attend events like this, to listen to smart people talk, talk to people with real world experience.

When we can learn from the impact of community controlled services, the direct involvement of our first peoples in the planning and delivery of health services, in particular.

When I think about the goodwill and energy and vision that moments in the day such as this bring out in our Parliament, I am confident that we can rise to the challenge, I’m confident that we can be more ambitious than we are.

I’m confident that we meet the moment before us with a co-operation, creativity and the commitment that it demands.

We can and surely will close the gap, for now and for always.




Mar 25, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins



Good Morning Everyone

“Whatever has been done; whatever must be done; and all that we can hope to do in the future, are predicated by the stern realities of war.”

This is what our great wartime Prime Minister, John Curtin said, as Opposition Leader in 1940, making the case for a modern, evolved and well-equipped defence force.

More than any of his predecessors, Curtin was focused on Australia’s independent strategic capability.

He looked over the horizon, he understood Australia’s need for the technology, flexibility and agility to act for our own interests, and in our own defence.

And Curtin’s truth endures.

Today, this conference assembles to discuss a keystone of our next generation of Australian defence capabilities: our future submarines.

As another great Australian leader, former Chief of the Defence Forces, and current Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove has said:

“Submarines are essential strategic defence assets.

They are covert, have long reach and deploy a powerful set of weapons and sensors.

On the seas, they are our most effective deterrent.”

The term ‘next generation’ has an important meaning in the context of this debate.

Because building and delivering Australia’s new submarine fleet is an inter-generational decision.

We are talking about a project that will develop and evolve until halfway through this century – beyond the life of any one government.

Future Prime Ministers, from both sides of politics, will have to live with the consequences.

Two generations of workers will contribute to this project – some of them haven’t even been born yet.

And it will be, without doubt, the most significant procurement decision of our time, with billions of dollars’ worth of construction  and maintenance over the life of the project.

One early error, committed in haste, would be compounded and magnified over the life of the project – and its costs could total in the billions.

To me, all this underscores one simple truth: it is essential that we take the time to get this decision right.

Yet despite the scale and significance of the moment before us.

In the last 18 months, we have witnessed this project…worth tens of billions of dollars, and thousands of jobs…used as a bargaining chip to save one job.

We have seen a decision encompassing years of intellect, industry and effort…fall victim to uncertainty, secrecy and misinformation.

A decision central to Australia’s national security…degraded by internal party politics.

We live in hotly contested political times, and many speak longingly of a lost golden age of bipartisanship.

But before the last election, the future construction of Australia’s submarine fleet was bipartisan.

Labor and Liberal were of one voice: the next generation of submarines would be built here in Australia.

Since the election, we have all suffered through the unedifying spectacle of the Government trying to crab walk away from this solemn commitment.

In the process, a Defence Minister has come and gone…but the paralysis has persisted.

So, I have come here today to offer the Government a way forward, a bipartisan solution to the gridlock that currently holds sway.

A solution that will deliver the best submarines, at the best price.

A solution for high-quality Australian submarines, and high-skill Australian jobs.

A solution that begins with a competitive tender process.

Labor is proposing a twelve to eighteen month process, involving a Request for Proposal, followed by a Request for Tender.

Under this process, Australia would invite the most prominent relevant submarine designers from Germany, France, Japan and Sweden to participate.

Each would receive $7 million from the Commonwealth to be involved in this process.

Following the request for proposals, the Government would down-select two submarine builders to provide full design definition and fixed priced contract bids.

The two parties selected would receive an additional $8 million to provide more detailed final tender bids.

There are three non-negotiable conditions for these tenders:

  • a guarantee of submarine performance
  • Australian ownership of all intellectual property
  • And the next generation of submarines must be built, maintained and sustained in Australia

Labor’s proposed process would deliver a final decision by the end of 2016, ensuring that the first future submarine in the fleet would be in the water by the middle of the next decade.

This morning, I want to take the time to step through the detail of each of these commitments.

  • The importance of an Australian Build
  • The best way of guaranteeing value for money
  • And taking the time to make the right decision

In doing so, I hope to address the misinformation and myth-making that has lately distorted this important conversation.

Australian Build

First, let me explain the full meaning of ‘built in Australia’.

We will always have to co-operate with overseas firms, as we have no design or weapons systems of our own.

A tender process that guarantees an ‘Australian build’ would include the construction of the submarine hulls, and the installation of the combat and communications systems in Australia.

It would mean that all of the through-life support and maintenance would also be done in Australia.

In times of peace, this local support capability is a valuable efficiency, as well as an important investment in Australian jobs and skills.

In times of conflict, it is central to our national security.

We have to build here so that the expertise for self reliance in times of conflict is here, not dependent on overseas interests.

I think the head of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox put it best when he said:

“We can hardly be towing submarines across hemispheres for repairs”.

We cannot predict every future threat to our security, we cannot foresee every future conflict.

But we do know that Australia will always be an island nation, with critically important maritime trading lanes and approaches.

And we can say, with certainty, that we will always need the skills, industry and workforce to build and maintain our own submarines and ships.

Value for Money

I want to turn now to the question of value for money.

The first and most fundamental point here is that the best way of guaranteeing value for taxpayer money is a robust, transparent and competitive tender process.

I want the four best submarine builders in the world, competing for our contract.

We all accept that competition produces the best value in every marketplace – why would we reject it for such an important decision, with such large sums involved.

I also want to say a word or two about the Australians I believe should build our next generation of submarines.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting hardworking men and women at ship-building yards around our nation.

They are highly-trained, highly-skilled problem-solvers, doing intricate and important work.

Yet, as a terrible consequence of this recent turmoil, their abilities, their professionalism and their dedication to task have been unfairly impugned.

Often this injustice has been perpetuated under the cover of ‘cost’.

A range of wildly inflated pricetags have been affixed to the Australian build – but none of them have been substantiated.

Meanwhile, both TKMS and Saab have confirmed that they are prepared to build Australia’s new submarine fleet, in Adelaide, at a competitive price for taxpayers.

I have already acknowledged the significance of the sums involved here.

Not for one minute am I suggesting that building the first submarine in Australia’s new fleet will be cheap.

As with any new major project, there will be a steep learning curve.

But the history of defence builds is that they get better as they go – Collins shows us that.

Every lesson learned on the first vessel becomes a productivity gain on the second.

And this process accumulates and amplifies over the life of the project.

Construction gets better, faster and more efficient each time.

And in addition to the strategic benefits I mentioned earlier, it is, of course, cheaper and easier for our people to maintain and sustain a vessel that they have built themselves.

Labor’s Future Submarines Industry and Skills Plan, released in March 2013, would have delivered this outcome – and put us on the path to a sustainable shipbuilding industry.

Investing in making the right decision

Just as ‘cost’ is used as code for talking-down the capabilities of Australian workers, the term ‘capability gap’ is often invoked as the justification for undue haste.

The process I have outlined today will deliver a considered decision by the end of next year.

And when we consider the rapid improvement and revitalisation that flowed from Labor’s investment in the Collins Class submarine.

And the extension of service life it delivered.

Plainly, any talk of a ‘capability gap’ is just not true.

Given the immensity of the undertaking we are planning – and the decades that the design, construction and maintenance processes will span – it is only sensible to take a few extra months to ensure the decision we make is the correct one.

Labor’s competitive tender process including a funded definition study will cost $44 million.

When the most bare-bones conservative estimate for the cost of the project is $20 billion – we’re talking about a percentage of 0.22

A tiny fraction that could ultimately save billions in the long run.

Skills and Manufacturing

The final substantive point I would make today is about skills and manufacturing.

I believe in utilising essential defence procurement investment to generate broader industrial capacity.

This is not about using defence policy as industry policy.

Our defence industry capacity is about national security, it always will be.

We owe it to our defence force to give them the best equipment we can, to never send them into danger with anything but the very best.

But we can – and should – look to leverage Australia’s defence industry and its workforce to deliver  a safer nation, better ADF assets and the skills and technology of the new economy.


Ladies and Gentlemen

I have come to Adelaide today offering a solution and a circuit breaker.

I extend this offer in good faith – and I sincerely hope the Government are prepared to accept it in the same spirit.

I have outlined Labor’s proposed process – and made clear our objectives:

A competitive tender, delivering value for money.

An Australian build and Australian maintenance, drawing on local expertise and supporting local jobs.

Investing in our strategic capability – and the skills of our workforce.

And the time to get this moving is today.

We cannot afford to drift, or delay, any longer.

This decision is bigger than day-to-day politics, it’s too big a question for partisan pride.

So if, by some crooked twist of fate, the Government brings Labor’s proposed process to the Parliament, under a different name and without attribution or acknowledgement – I won’t care.

Indeed I’ll be the first one to vote for it.

My concern is not getting credit – it’s solving the problem.

We can’t wait around for a second attempt at an intergenerational decision, merely in the hope of getting our name in the Parliamentary record book.

Finding a way forward is more important than all of this.

The next generation of Australian submarines don’t belong to Liberal or Labor – they belong to the nation, to the Australia of 2025 and 2050.

And I hope in that Australia, the Australia of the future, people will look back at this summit and this day – the 25th of March 2015 – and say this was when Australia put aside partisan differences and got on with delivering next generation of submarines.

This was when our country set itself up for the future.

We can, we should, we will.


Mar 24, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins




Labor pays tribute to the father of modern Singapore and a principal architect of harmony and prosperity in our region.

Lee Kuan Yew owns a giant legacy of many dimensions and today we recognise briefly what he accomplished.

Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore was born in turbulent times – at home and in the region:

  • Nations across Asia felt the ragged edge of the British withdrawal and decolonisation.
  • The Malayan Emergency, Konfrantasi and the Sukarno split threatened peace and stability.

And there were internal, as well as external, perils.

As Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Lee Kuan Yew’s great friend on the world stage and friendly rival on the golf course, recalled, ‘Harry Lee’ faced profound challenges at home:

To quote Bob Hawke, “He found himself leading a country deeply divided on religious and ethnic lines, surrounded by powerful potential enemies, with a weak economy and no natural resources at all.”

And indeed, from that uncertain platform, he built a modern, prosperous nation – a leader in the region, especially through ASEAN and a trading powerhouse in the world.

But his ambitions for his people and his country reached higher than this.

In 1997, at a celebration of the Chinese New Year, Lee Kuan Yew reflected on how far his nation had come – and the measure of true success.

He said, “We cannot measure our happiness just by our GDP growth. It is how our families and friends care for each other, how we look after our old and nurture our young, they are what make for a closely-knit society, one we can be proud to belong to.”

Australians in fact owe a debt to Lee Kuan Yew, he built modern Singapore, and modern Singapore and modern Singaporeans are a dynamic people amongst the first rank of Australia’s friends and allies.

So Lee Kuan Yew, the proud father and tireless servant of the nation he brought forth is now at rest.

Our condolences to his family, his friends and all the people of Singapore who share grief at his passing.



Mar 23, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins




We give thanks for Malcolm Fraser’s six decades of service to our nation, as a parliamentarian, Prime Minister and statesman.

And we farewell a person of hidden depths and many parts, a man often misunderstood.

For some Malcolm Fraser was a hero who became a villain, for others he was a villain who became a hero.

But neither of these simple sketches are fair – and in time history’s judgment will be kinder than either.

The good that Malcolm Fraser did will live after him, to his great and enduring credit.

Malcolm Fraser came to public life as a man in a hurry.

A candidate for parliament at 24, the Member for Wannon by 25, a Minister at 35 and Prime Minister at 45.

His appetite for hard work, his formidable intellect and his healthy ambition drove this rapid rise.

But Malcolm Fraser was always more than the sum of his aspirations.

He was broader and bigger than his opponents imagined possible.

He was both shyer and smarter than people appreciated.

Beyond the stern visage and the Easter Island jaw beloved of cartoonists, beat the heart of a humanitarian.

His concern for the welfare of the vulnerable and his belief in the equal treatment of all, won Malcolm Fraser many new admirers in the long third act of his public life.

Yet as both Bob Hawke and Paul Keating remarked in their warm tributes last week, Fraser’s belief in racial equality was a lifelong article of faith.

It was a golden thread of integrity that began in the lonely days of his childhood in the Riverina, where his closest friend was a young Aboriginal girl.

An experience that had not left him when, as the Minister for Education, he would ease that great patrician frame of his into the red dirt of the Territory to sit with community elders.

A memory that abided when, as Prime Minister, he passed the Whitlam Land Rights Act, the Racial Discrimination Act and kept faith with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

And as an elder statesman, resplendent in pinstripe suit and waistcoat, he continued to champion the cause of reconciliation.

But Fraser’s commitment to human rights ran deeper even than this.

As Prime Minister, he led Australia’s independent condemnation of the evil of Apartheid.

He took a principled stand, declaring that South Africa’s regime of racial prejudice was “repugnant to the whole human race”.

And he matched his words with deeds: visiting Mandela in prison, imposing international sanctions and, perhaps most famously in our sport-loving nation, refusing to allow the Springboks plane to stop here on its way to New Zealand.

Later, Fraser delighted in telling the anecdote of Mandela’s first question to him at their meeting:

Mr Fraser, can you tell me, is Donald Bradman still alive?’

And when Mandela became President, Fraser took him a bat inscribed by the Don: ‘To Nelson Mandela, in recognition of a great unfinished innings,’.

Malcolm Fraser laid the broad foundation of our great, generous, modern multicultural society.

He had the wisdom to understand that there was nothing for Australia to fear, or lose, in embracing people from every culture, faith and tradition.

He knew that diversity would enrich our nation and our lives.

Under Fraser, Australia offered refuge to tens of thousands of Vietnamese people driven from their homes by the terror of war and dictatorship.

Many of these families, who made Australia their second home, have paid touching tribute to Malcolm Fraser as their ‘second father’.

Fraser’s Australia also quietly moved to the reality beyond White Australia, giving a second chance to people from South Africa, shut out of their nation by apartheid.

The new nation he built was given voice, music, news and stories by SBS.

For some it was a glimpse of another, wider world – for others it was the songs and sound of the home they left behind.

Multicultural Australia will always stand as the tallest monument to the life and legacy of Malcolm Fraser.

It is an achievement we celebrate, enjoy and give thanks for every day.

Madam Speaker, much has been said and written about the central role Fraser played in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government.

Never, before or since, have political passions run higher in this country.

Even now, the acrimony, the vitriol showered on each side by the other, the sheer ugliness of those days leap from the pages of old newspapers and bark at us from old footage.

But the passing of the last of the protagonists of the drama of 1975, is not the time for re-litigating old arguments or resuscitating old grievances.

As Malcolm’s great friend Ian McPhee said, Malcolm never spent time regretting the past, he was always looking at the future.

So let us take our inspiration from Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam…

Let us remember Whitlam and Fraser standing together on the steps of Victorian Parliament in 1999, arms aloft, rallying support for the Republic.

Or that wonderful ad created for the ‘Yes’ campaign, where Whitlam, looks at Fraser, eyes twinkling and says: ‘Malcolm, it’s time’.

And Malcolm looks back at Gough, with that same good-humoured glint of irony, and says ‘It is’.

Let us remember that the second Whitlam Oration was given by Malcolm – at Gough’s insistence, with a video introduction by Gough Whitlam.

Most fittingly of all, let us remember Whitlam’s hand resting on Fraser’s shoulder, on the morning of the National Apology by the Rudd Government.

Two champions of the rights and opportunities of the First Australians, standing with their successors, united in celebrating a day of justice and healing.

If those two titans could find it in themselves to make peace and build a friendship, to campaign together for their shared beliefs, then none of us have the right to hold onto the bitterness of that bygone era – this chapter in our nation’s life is closed.

We will always remember Gough Whitlam for so much more than the way he left office, and we will remember Malcolm Fraser for much more than the way he came to office.

This is not to pretend that Malcolm Fraser was not a political opponent of Labor for a major part of his public life, or that he was not antagonistic to many of our policies and principles.

He would not want us to minimise our differences or disagreements.

But when we look at Malcolm Fraser’s life and legacy

  • The humane treatment of Vietnamese refugees
  • An independent foreign policy for Australia
  • Support for a Republic
  • Australia’s active role in the resolution of international situations

There is no disputing that he was involved in the creation of good values.

If that is what you leave behind – acting for good in the name of the public good – then that is a truly remarkable contribution.

Madam Speaker, the passing of a former Prime Minister always gives us pause.

Last year, Labor farewelled the author of our modern identity.

It was a time of sadness, joy and contemplation, a time to revisit the standards Gough set for us and to ask ourselves how far we had come to fulfilling his vision for Australia.

So it is with the passing of Malcolm Fraser, a transformed political leader, Gough’s fierce foe who became his firm friend.

Perhaps all of us in this place can ask ourselves if we can do better by each other and the people we serve.

Perhaps we can recognise that while we are all people of different beliefs, we share a common faith – we all believe in the value of public life, the noble calling of politics and the greatness of the nation we love.

Let this respect for each other, and our democracy, be Malcolm Fraser’s final act of public service.

My final words today are for Malcolm’s loving wife Tamie and their children.

I should confess that about a dozen years ago, Tamie Fraser told me that her grandfather was one of the first graziers in the district to employ union shearers in their woolshed – and ever since then I’ve had something of a soft spot for her.

Tamie Fraser once described herself as ‘just someone in the back row’.

But she was so much more than that, she performed the public duties of a Prime Ministerial spouse with poise, class and verve and her contribution to our nation continued long after she and Malcolm had left the Lodge.

She is in our hearts today, as are all the members of the Fraser family.

Farewell Malcolm Fraser.

His duty done, may he rest in eternal peace.



Mar 21, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins













Members of the Australian Defence Forces, members of the Australian Federal Police and civilian agencies that served in Afghanistan, reservists, your families, fellow Australians and other distinguished guests,


It is fitting we are assembled here at the Australian War Memorial to honour the contribution of our veterans from Afghanistan.


When our great wartime Prime Minister, John Curtin, opened this Memorial, seventy four years ago, he said:


“No one who enters this building can leave it…without being brought one step nearer to the ultimate meaning of all this courage, all this sacrifice, all this faith.”


Today, at this memorial dedicated to those who fought tyranny, and indeed all around Australia, we salute all of you who have brought new honour to the Anzac tradition.


We honour your steely professionalism and your conspicuous personal bravery.


We renew our promise to remember your brothers, who lost their lives in the mountains and green valleys of Afghanistan.


We pledge our support to the wounded and to all those who have come back to Australia forever changed by what they experienced.


We pay tribute to your families who have known the long, lonely anxiety of a loved one in harm’s way.


And in all this, we bring our nation a step nearer to the ultimate understanding of courage, sacrifice and faith.


It has been said of the first Anzacs: ‘if you want to know what they believed in, look around you’.


Look at our free society, our people safe, our nation at peace.


And many thousands of kilometres from here – and for many years to come – the people of Afghanistan will say, if you want to know what the Australians of Operation Slipper believed in, look around you:


10 million children at school, up from 1 million under the Taliban.


3 million girls going to school, up from none at all.


Look at towns in Uruzgan province with electricity and new schools – light and learning where once there was darkness.


Look at young Afghan men learning a trade and new skills, where once they were taught only violence and hate.


This new hope, this new chapter in the story of Afghanistan is your monument.


You were guardians of our nation at a time when Australia needed you.


And you made it possible for the people of Afghanistan to restore peace to their lives and their country.


Of this you can always be proud, and Australia will always be proud of you.


But we owe you more than praise and pride.


Words of gratitude for your service must be matched by deeds of practical resolve and meaningful help.


We recognise that your war experience did not end when the Australian flag at Tarin Kowt was lowered for the last time.


The return to life in Australia, the return to civilian life, the journey from a war zone in southern Afghanistan to a suburban home in Australia can be a difficult one.


It can bring stresses and strains for you and the people who love you.


Today reminds us all of our obligation to help through this, to provide you support for the next phases and challenges of life with confidence and optimism.


This is our shared national mission now, it is the promise I believe is being made today.


And it is at the heart of the words we say every time we meet on this hallowed ground.


Lest we forget.



Mar 19, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins












I move that so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving the following motion forthwith.


That this House condemns the Prime Minister for:


One, leading a chaotic and incompetence Government which seeks to

  1. slug Australian students with $100,000 degrees,
  2. rip $80 a week from pensioners
  3. rip $6,000 from the budget of a typical Australian family,


Two, putting Australia’s AAA credit rating at risk through his own incompetence and mismanagement, and,


Three, having no economic plan for Australia’s future.


Tony Abbott is the Captain Chaos of Australian politics.


He is the captain of a team who has no economic plan for Australia’s future.


They have no budget plan.


It has been 39 days since 39 Liberal MPs voted to get rid of this Prime Minister, yet I’ve heard in the PMO bunker they look back on that as the golden age of this Government.


This Government has no adoptable economic strategy.


This is why standing orders should be suspended,


Listen to the Government, say that they want to talk about anyone else’s plan.


Where is the Government’s plan?


This Government is running the classic defence, “don’t look at us, look everywhere else”.


Let’s have a look at the plan which they say that they want to maintain.


They want to put forward $100,000 degrees for Australian university students and it has failed in the Budget and it has failed when it has gone to the Senate and it will keep failing whenever you call your election.


The real issue why we should be suspending standing orders here is that Australians have had a deep concern that they couldn’t trust Tony Abbott.


They’ve deep down wondered “can they trust Tony Abbott?”


Many of us have thought “you can’t” but what has been revealed in recent days in the Government’s misfortune is this Government has now junked even any pretence of a surplus.


I love hearing these people talk about surplus.


In 2012, Tony Abbott said – the Prime Minister – the current Prime Minister I should call him – he said in 2012, “An incoming Liberal and Coalition Government will bring to surplus in their first year.”


Remember that promise?


Then they said – then we’ve seen the old Liberal slip and slide and they’ve said “we’ll do it in the first three years” but the slide isn’t finished, this is one of the big slides like you see at the show.


They’ve then said, Tony Abbott who has made many contributions to the English language, has invented broad balance.


Let me decode what the “broad balance” Budget within 5 years will be.


It is not a surplus.


Then Treasury let the cat out of the bag yesterday, this honest Treasury official on the way through disowning that piece of propaganda called the Intergenerational Report, they said there would be no surplus for 40 years.


No surplus for 40 years. Australians have heard that right.


The Treasury has said that this Government cannot generate a surplus for 40 years.


What we’ve seen, and the reason why we’ve seen this, is this so-called braveheart of Australian politics, this crusading Prime Minister.


Many of us have had doubts about can we trust him but one thing he’s always had as his mantra, as his holy grail, as the item he politically genuflects before is surplus and what we’ve seen is a slip and slide away.


Why? Because he wants to save his own job.


There is only one policy of this Government – save Tony Abbott’s job.


There is only one Budget strategy – save Tony Abbott’s job.


Now the Prime Minister says it will be a dull Budget. There is going to something good for families, something good for childcare, it will be dull.


One thing about this Prime Minister is he’s never dull. He is never dull but what he has done is he’s given up his commitment to ever getting to surplus.


This was a core belief.


We know that Tony Abbott has trouble keeping his election promises but at least on surplus we mightn’t have liked the way he would get to it but what he does is that’s what he’s always pushed.


What I have to say to be fair to Tony Abbott here – to be fair to this Prime Minister here is this is not a captain’s pick to dump everything they believe or to try and save their job, it’s a team vote. It’s a team vote.


See, this Government leak on each other about whose idea it was to knight Prince Philip but when it comes to leaking on each other who opposed the bad ideas in this Budget, unusually for this rag-tag mob, radio silence.


Because no-one anywhere can seriously say they ever disagreed with each other on any of it – the $100,000 degrees, the cuts to families, payments and of course the pensions.


The thing about this Government is at their heart they don’t believe it’s the unfairness of the Budget which is the problem, they just blame the salesmen.


Let me tell you you’ve got half the answer. You do have a problem with your salesmen but much more than just who’s selling it, it’s the unfairness you’re selling.


What we see is the so-called economic first officer of the nation – I’m referring to the Treasurer in case anyone was confused about who I was speaking about- they have got less than two months to go for their Budget and they are adrift.


What the Government often says is that it’s just gossip, the inside talk about the problems they’ve got.


Treasury officials have made it clear it is five minutes to midnight, less than two months before this Budget and there is no Budget plan, there is no Budget plan.


But standing orders should be suspended because…there’s the Agriculture Minister. You’ve done enough this week, son.


Standing orders should be suspended because we’ve got an Education Minister. He is not a fixer, he is a failure.


Arguably the worst higher Education Minister that we’ve ever seen since we had higher education in this country.


$100,000 degrees. What a stupid idea. $2 billion from vocational education, skills and training and of course the vandalism that they are committing to Australia’s schools by cutting $30 billion from schools over the next 10 years is a disgrace


But standing orders should be suspended as well because the Health Ministers have no plan for health. What mind would have dreamed up a GP tax on the sick and the vulnerable? $50 billion from Australia’s hospitals and that’s an important point to remember.


This Government’s last Budget, which none of the would-bes, could-bes or never-weres opposite have not repudiated, contained a $50 billion cut to our hospitals.


The damage this Government is doing to Australia with their lack of economic plan to our hospitals is absolutely appalling.


The real problem here is that this Government, unlike predecessor Governments of Liberal or Labor persuasion, have no adoptable strategy.


They cannot convince the Senate – they act as if having a Senate not of their own political persuasion is a new phenomenon.


For many years in Australian history there’s been a Senate of a different political complexion to a government but this the first time we’ve had a government who hasn’t got an adoptable economic plan.


Australia has no budgetary plan because this government has no budgetary plan which Australians want.


So Prime Minister, the man who loves to get up and say one thing and then apologise, I’m really sorry, and then do it again and apologise again as if life is one huge “I make a mistake, I’m a fool and then I repent,” this is not good enough.


Your budgetary policies, your $6,000 cuts for families are just a bad idea.


Your $100,000 degrees are just a broken promise.


Your cuts to pensions are an outrage and your cuts to hospitals and schools, $80 billion worth in the next 10 years, is absolute economic vandalism.


So if you want to take these rotten ideas to an election, please do it.


Give the Australian people an opportunity to have a say on your policies rather than trying to intimidate the Senate with your broken promises.


And I also advise the Prime Minister it doesn’t matter when you bring the election, the battle lines are most certainly drawn.


You love to talk about Liberal can do this and Liberal can do that.


You haven’t done much in the last 18 months.


You have taken 18 months of the nation’s life and wasted the time of the nation.


We believe in universal health care versus your GP tax and health care cuts.


We believe in access to higher education for all, not $100,000 degrees.


We do not share the narrow-based extremist philosophy of the Education Minister who says that people who haven’t been to university begrudge paying taxes for those who have.


I have never met a parent or grandparent who begrudged it.


This is a Government with no economic plan and you most certainly do stand condemned.



Mar 19, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins








We’ve been saddened this morning by reports of at least 19 people having been killed at the National Museum in Tunisia – and many more wounded.
I’m sure that we all felt when we saw the footage, that we saw evil abroad again, innocence murdered, tourists and citizens killed, the footage of scared people seeking security.
Our thoughts and sympathies are with the fledgling democracy of Tunisia, and the citizens of Tunisia, and of the course the families and friends of those who have lost their lives – many of them international tourists.
It is an act of murder, Madam Speaker designed to shake the foundations of a new democracy, but I understand that the Tunisian Members of their Parliament, locked down in their countries Parliament as reports of the attack broke, they refused to cower in fear. Instead they sang their national anthem in defiance.
Our Parliament is reminded of their strength and we stand with them in democratic solidarity.

Mar 19, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins










This is a most important matter of public importance.


It is a matter which, whilst there is political debate and disagreement on certain aspects, I remain confident that there is more goodwill on this topic across the parliament than ill will.


Although I do not pretend that the opposition agrees with everything that the government is doing in handling this matter.


Labor made that choice to make this a matter of public importance today because we are concerned that progress in terms of Closing the Gap and the general tone of political debate about Indigenous policy in this country is stalling.


We do not say this likely. We acknowledge the government is doing some things in some areas.


But we saw a debate last week with the Prime Minister’s comments about the debate raging about closure of small communities and there was reference to it being a “lifestyle choice” and that the taxpayer should not be expected to back in a lifestyle choice of Indigenous Australians who live in small communities.


I actually believe that there is interest with the Prime Minister in terms of the general progress of Indigenous Australians.


But I do not think anyone thought that those particular comments advance the cause at all.


So it was on that basis that I spoke to a range of Indigenous leaders in our community because whilst it is easy just to attack a stupid comment there are more serious matters at stake here.


How do we make sure that Indigenous policy remains in the mainstream of political debate?


The problem with unwise comments, to put it at the most generous, is that it allows polarisation of political views.


I know that the Prime Minister himself has a genuine interest in matters to do with Indigenous policy and even if we might disagree with the cuts that the government has made the greater concern for me is that Indigenous politics is going backwards in this country, and I would suggest today in this matter of public importance that there are a range of opportunities for us to pursue, and I hope that when the government speakers do not do their usual of saying that it is just Labor’s fault.


But there are opportunities which we collectively need to work together on.


So I wrote to the Prime Minister, after speaking to Indigenous leaders after his comment was reported, and I said it is overdue for us, meaning Tony Abbott and myself, to meet with the range of Indigenous leaders together in this country.


There is a lot of talk in Australia about the need for bipartisanship.


On some issues it is possible; on some it is not. Bipartisanship does not make the same headlines as conflict -I understand that.


But on this matter of Indigenous policy I have now said to our Prime Minister on six occasions from the last third of last year after interim reports were released by hardworking parliamentary committees in terms of constitutional recognition, we need to sit down with Indigenous leaders in this country.


I acknowledge that Ken Wyatt is here. He is doing a great job. I acknowledge Alan Tudge is here. He is very committed.


I acknowledge that there are many people—all the Labor people here from our Shadow spokespeople in health and Indigenous affairs—people who will speak in this debate are doing great work.


But what we need to do is sit down with leaders from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and get the debate about Indigenous policy back on track.


Today is the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Closing the Gap health equality statement.


It is a foundation goal of the Closing the Gap framework.


Sometimes in politics people like to talk about the right of freedom of speech—it is very important—the right to join a union, the right not to join a union.


There is plenty of talk about rights here. But I think there is a basic right also which does not get enough of a discussion.


It is the right to grow old.


This is not a right which is equally allocated to citizens in Australia.


Depending upon whether or not one is an Indigenous Australian or not, the right to grow old is different, and that is unacceptable to all of us.


We need to have this discussion on how we can improve the Closing the Gap targets.


A big part of that is constitutional recognition.


We need constitutional change that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can support, vote for and proudly own.


I know that whenever you talk about constitutional change in this country there are different points of view, and that is understandable.


Changing the Constitution is a venture not taken on a lightly.


But the last time we changed the Constitution was back in 1977.


It required both political parties to support it. Constitutional recognition for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our Constitution will require both of the major parties to support it.


I am concerned that this debate is drifting off course, as with earlier examples I have used.


I think it is important that the Prime Minister of Australia and myself meet as a matter of priority a gathering of Indigenous leaders in this country, a range of Indigenous leaders and we talk about how we can have genuine change.


Now the Prime Minister has taken an interest in this matter.


That is undeniable.


I have had fruitful meetings with him.


But it is not enough to specify that we may want the referendum at a date no later than 50 years after the previous referendum in 1967.


We need to settle the question, and in settling the question we cannot do this without talking to the leaders of Indigenous Australia, and in settling the question it has to be more than symbolic change.


I understand there are some on the conservative edge of Australian politics who see that any change to our national birth certificate—the Constitution—should be viewed very suspiciously. I know there are some who jealously guard against saying that if we start extending a ‘bill of rights’ and codifying it then we create a litigation nightmare and somehow the Constitution has changed.


I ask those constitutional conservatives to pause, to reflect, to give some room for their leader, the Prime Minister, to sit down with me and Indigenous leaders to identify how this nation can put our first Australians on the national birth certificate.


We should not have such low expectations of achieving no change at all or very little change. I am not radical in terms of constitutional change.


I understand that we have to bring non-Indigenous Australians on the journey. But I am concerned that without constitutional recognition Indigenous politics in this country will go backwards.


It is a test not of Indigenous Australia but of this parliament and Australia as a whole.


When it comes to talking with Indigenous leaders, I believe there is space available in the political debate for the Prime Minister and I to meet with Indigenous leaders without it being breathlessly seen through the spectrum of whether Tony Abbott will alienate the right of his party or whether Labor is moving too fast or too slow.


The media of Australia have in most cases been very supportive of this debate.


Let us all together create the room to have a gathering with leaders across the spectrum of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia to agree that we want to make sure that Indigenous politics and policy are at the centre of our national debate.


Not everything can be fixed by everyone sitting around the table, but I think most things can be.


If we do that gathering then I think that, subsequently, the Prime Minister and I should meet and talk about the unacceptable rates of incarceration in this country.


It is not beyond our wit and wisdom in this country to change the ratio that currently exists.


A young Aboriginal man is more likely to go to jail than university.


No-one wants that, no-one from any side of politics.


There is no moral superiority from any particular point of view on this issue—we all agree—but Labor is suggesting that we need to get together with Australia’s Indigenous leaders from the range of groups to talk.


And, more than just talking, we need to listen.


When it comes to the ‘lifestyle choice’ debate, I accept that there are points to be made about access to education, there are points to be made about living securely and safely and there are points to be made about jobs.


But where the debate is going off-track is that I do not believe sufficient listening is being done by people in power. I include the parliament, I am not saying it is just the government.


When it comes to Closing the Gap targets, incarceration and dealing with family violence in Indigenous communities we are beyond the time for just talking generally, one-liners in press conferences and press releases and fly-in fly-out visits.


What we now need to do is sit down together—both sides of politics, the Prime Minister and I—at a gathering of Indigenous leaders in this country and say all right we need to understand your view.


We do not necessarily need a lot more research or a whole lot more talking, we need to understand what your view is.


We need to set a the task of work that we measure.


We have got Closing the Gap—remarkable accomplishments—and Labor has called for a justice target to be added to that.


But it is overdue for Tony Abbott and I to sit down with Indigenous Australia and convince them that we are fair dinkum about constitutional recognition.


Indigenous Australia has little to convince us of. Our challenge is to convince Indigenous Australia that we are listening.





Mar 17, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins








This is a matter of public importance because higher education in this country is at a crossroads.


We have the chief higher education minister of the nation who has no adoptable strategy for higher education in this country.
There is no hope at the moment under the current minister for a bright future for universities in government policy.
The government has no adoptable plan for higher education, and by adoptable, I mean one which can convince a sufficient majority in the Senate to vote for it.
This is a government who does not believe that its own ideas will be accepted by the Senate, yet they persist with them, wasting valuable time when we need to have a much better debate about higher education.


This government says it believes in the deregulation of higher education, but their model of deregulation will lead to higher prices and fewer students completing university.
Every government throughout the history of the Commonwealth has had to deal with the Senate. So why is it that we have got a minister for higher education who is proving so incapable of dealing with higher education?

This minister loves to refer to himself in Bismarckian terms, as Ataturk, as Churchill, but in fact this is a minister who has become a parody of himself.
It is remarkable, cringe-worthy television his Sky News interview. I almost thought that Clarke and Dawe had captured the studio until I actually realised it was the real thing on show.
This week we saw the so-called minister for higher education threaten the jobs of 1700 scientists, threatening $150 million worth of research funding.
This minister, I give him points for one thing: he has no shame. Yesterday, with a smile transfixed on his face, he says ‘I was fixing the problem’. The problem is the minister created the problem by taking 1700 jobs hostage.

I have never seen such a poorly executed negotiating strategy in all my time in parliament.
He goes to the crossbench senators, to Labor and to other senators and says “I have an amazing plan for you. Vote to increase to $100,000 fees, vote to make it harder for working class kids to go to university, harder for kids from the regions, harder for adults, for mature age students from the regions go to university,” and instead he says “if you don’t vote for this unfair plan—which is a broken promise—the science research of Australia will get it in the neck.”

Of course, he now says “I never really meant that, or maybe it was just me creating an issue so I could fix the issue.” The truth of the matter is that he said that these issues of threatening 1700 scientists jobs are “inextricably linked” with his funding proposals for higher education. He is desperately looking through his file to try to prove that he didn’t in fact say that. The truth of the matter is that it will go down in history as one of the most famous television interviews ever given by a Coalition minister.
He is desperate to introduce $100,000 degrees. He’s given himself, I mean, it’s always funny to find someone who gives themselves their own nickname—that is never a good sign. He promoted himself to “fixer”. Not only did he give himself a nickname, it’s not the correct nickname.

He’s changed his policies three times and he puts this policy which is well beyond redemption up again to the Senate and he assumes that people are kidded. The good news for higher education in this country is that Labor, Labor has stood by one principal through all of this. We believe it is not someone’s wealth which would determine whether they get access to higher education, it is how hard they work and how good their marks are.

Labor has fought the debt sentence of Christopher Pyne and we are winning. And then we see this fellow again, with all the front of Myer, saying “no worries it’s only a flesh wound” like the Black Knight out of Monty Python. He says it’s only a flesh wound. He has promised Australia that he will present the same policies at the next election.

Please do, and we will beat you there on that proposition to.
By contrast, Labor does has a very positive view about the future of higher education. We do not believe that higher education is in the doldrums. We understand that hundreds of thousands of students, hundreds of thousands of teachers and researchers, great universities across Australia, are working positively for their future. They just need a minister for higher education who is switched on as they are.

Labor has made it clear that we will not offer a return to the past in university policy. We’re listening, we’re consulting and we’re working with universities and when we talk about working with universities, we don’t just mean vice-chancellors, as important as they are. We’re talking about students, we’re talking about academics, we’re talking about parents, we’re talking about businesses. There are many more stakeholders in higher education than this minister for higher education ever quotes in support of his propositions.

We are committed to sustainable funding for universities. We believe in growth in the system; we do not believe in freezing places. But we also understand that the parliament needs to have a big conversation about the future of research funding, and we say that research jobs should not be held hostage by political brinkmanship. The sheer cheek of this current Minister for Higher Education to verbal Professor Brian Schmidt, Nobel Prize laureate, and imply in the Parliament in Question Time, as he did, that somehow Professor Schmidt endorses his policies is not correct.

The selective honesty, the periodic cherry picking of individual quotes, the twisting of respected scientists and researchers to justify their unfair agenda is not on. There was a quote which they would not let us tabled in question time where Professor Schmidt made very clear when he heard about the fixes latest hostage taking issue with a fix said that 1700 research jobs will get it in the neck, $150 million won’t be funded by the fixer, what Professor Schmidt said is Australia does not have time for these childish tactics, and he is correct.

And we believe, Labor recognises the importance of higher education. By 2020, 2 out of every 3 jobs will require a university degree. We understand, unlike their rotten industrial relations agenda of this mob opposite, that we’ve got to invest in skills and training and higher wages, not a race to the bottom taking away the safety net of our industrial relations system.

Labor has goals for higher education of access and equity. That is the right direction for Australian higher education. When Labor was in office, due to its policies, 190,000 extra students have got the opportunity to go to university. We are on target that, by 2025, 40 per cent of Australians under 35 will have a bachelor’s degree. By 2020, Labor’s target was that 20 per cent of children from disadvantaged families would have the opportunity to go to university, boosting enrolments for Indigenous students, kids from the bush, poor families, first-generation migrants.
We also understand that the future of higher education has to involve making sure that students finish—that they complete year 12 and they complete their opportunities at university. Labor believes in certainty and autonomy for universities in terms of decisions they make, but we also recognise that taxpayers have a legitimate expectation of accountability.

And parents and students and employers should be able to expect that the higher education dollars that they spend are held accountable in the manner in which they are spent. Labor will develop and find the right balance between accountability and autonomy.


And it is long overdue for this government to start talking about better integration with vocational education. It is long overdue that we start putting resources back into the TAFE sector and sub bachelor programs—not presiding over the sorts of rorts we see in the private market of the vocational education sector, where under this government we have seen an explosion in the system and they are now saying that “there is a problem”, oh yes, there is a problem: it’s the government policies of this mob on vocational education.
We certainly see that we need to have more inclusive system which give students a pathway to make the right choices for their future. Labor will work on all of these propositions. These are the principles that Australians interested in higher education want to see and these are the ones that we will deliver.

We are committed to making sure that Australia is more productive and more innovative. We understand it’s skills and knowledge that will drive a new economy.


We are not pessimistic about the future of higher education; we are just pessimistic about the Higher Education Minister. We are tired, as all Australians are, of the constant noise from this minister—the uncertainty, and the backflips and the circus performance from a minister who has generated a lot of controversy and indecision but no outcomes.

It is time for a real conversation with parents, with students, with employers, with universities and researchers about a sustainable education. But the conversation must always have this at its core, we view higher education not as a private benefit but as a public benefit, And we will never, ever support the views of this rotten Higher Education Minister, who says that people who have not been to university begrudge those who do.




Mar 11, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins












Thank you and my apologies for being late, why break the habit of a lifetime coming to uni.


But it is lovely to be here upon the celebration of 50 years of Monash Law.


I do have many fond memories of this place.


My mother worked here from 1968, I grew up in Oakleigh just down the road.


I went to kindergarten here, during school holidays mum would have us play here in the education building where she worked.


When I was a teenager I’d go to the Monash University Open Day – it never occurred to me that I would go anywhere else, provided I could get the marks to get into Monash.


In many ways Monash helped me, in some large part, become who I am today.


I’ve always been interested in helping people, and indeed that has guided me in the choices I’ve made.


It guided me to choose law. It’s guided me in terms of working for a union. It inspired me to become a Member of Parliament.


But of course in my teenage years and at university I spent a lot of time trying to work out what is authentic and what isn’t.


I thought about the best way I could make a difference and that’s where I think my time in the law school helped me.


What I couldn’t have predicted is that I’d come back here as the Leader of the Australian Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition.


To be fair there are a couple of my lecturers who didn’t predict that either.


It is a privilege to be here and what I want to do is talk about the future.


I know that the historians amongst you are familiar with the saying that if you don’t understand your past you’re destined to repeat the past.


We cannot be a nation that lives in the past.


We need to focus upon the future.


And it’s Labor’s view of the future which I wanted to expand on in a couple of areas – in particular higher education.


Now, there are plenty of fundamental differences between ourselves and the current Liberal National Government – on climate change, marriage equality, an Australian Republic, indeed the looming Constitutional recognition of the First Australians.


I could talk about the differences in policies on how to address gender inequality in our society.


And any other issue in what time we have for questions.


But I do want to talk about what your future holds – and what a conscientious national government, optimistic and energised by the future can do to help guide us towards the future.


I want to talk to you about a challenge that, at the age of 22 or 23, I certainly never predicted: a century of life, well lived – and up to half a century of learning and meaningful work.


When this Law School opened in 1965, life expectancy was 70.


Today it’s in the mid 80s – and getting better every year.


Diverse Careers


Of course, this doesn’t mean 50 years of eating the same lunch at the same desk in the same firm.


None of you expect to have one job for life – you already appreciate that you will have a diverse mix of careers.


Fifty years ago, when this faculty was opened, women were not encouraged to have a career – and men weren’t expected to change careers.


Now the average time spent in a job is 3 years and 4 months – less time than it takes to get a law degree.


Already, we average 17 different employers in a lifetime and at least five separate careers.


Those numbers are only going to increase as we diversify more and more.


So even if, at the age of 18, you chose law over science, or arts over commerce, or university over TAFE, these decisions are actually not final.


You will have a lifetime of learning.


You could easily end up doing two or three TAFE courses over your working life and probably go back to uni – as well as completing a range of shorter courses through private providers.


And your multiple careers won’t come in some neat chain of causation.


There will be overlap and interaction; success in one field might drive you to another, a contact you meet through one industry might inspire you to move to a different one.


You will travel, you will work and study overseas.


There will be shocks and jolts along the way too; a sudden restructure of your firm, a business project that goes belly-up, a risky investment that falls through.


And what American poet laureate Robert Frost called the ‘shafts of fate’: a sudden illness, an ageing parent to care for, divorce, a brother or sister who urgently needs your help.


None of this can be planned for – but you can train your resilience, develop the flexibility to change and adapt to what the future brings.


The motto of this university – Ancora Imparo – is attributed to two of the great geniuses of the Renaissance, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, it means:


‘I am still learning’.


This is the ethos all of us have to adopt.


We have to become a learning society: from early childhood right through to training and re-training in our 60s and 70s.


We have to embrace the key to all change – education.


The key to advancement – education.


The key to national prosperity – education.


Future Workforce


This is why is higher and further education is so important.


It’s about ensuring everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.


We understand the need for a more educated workforce: the price of our minerals will rise and will fall but without a doubt the greatest resource we have is the minds; the capacity, the potential, the imagination of our people.


Two-thirds of all the jobs created in Australia by 2020 will require a diploma qualification or higher.


Our economy will need:


  • 60,000 new teachers and education assistants.


  • 100,000 new medical professionals and carers to help our ageing population and oversee the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.


  • And engineers, designers, architects and scientists to build the clean energy revolution and modernise our urban life.


But investing in education isn’t just about training people to fill vacancies created by our changing economy – it’s about preparing our society to anticipate change and shape it – not just react to it.


Today I want to be really straight with you, about our economic challenges and our opportunities.


The State of the Economy 


Australia has enjoyed 23 years of unbroken, continuous economic growth – for some of you, perhaps an entire lifetime.


Now, as the economies of our region transform and evolve, we must navigate our transition out of the largest capital investment in the mining sector in our history.


But right now the decline in mining investment is not being seamlessly balanced by a pick-up in non-mining investment.


Unemployment is rising, wages are growing at the slowest rate in more than a decade and yesterday we saw business confidence hit zero – proof that last year’s unfair Budget is still ricocheting through our economy.


So, what does all this mean – and what can governments do?


I refer you to the great reforming Treasurer and Prime Minister, Paul Keating. He used to talk about ‘pulling the levers’ to keep the economy ticking over.


In 2015, we live in an economy with fewer levers and reduced government influence.


When this Law School opened, Australian pounds, shillings and pence were tied to the gold standard – and the government would manipulate the exchange rate to suit government policy of the day. We don’t have those levers anymore and nor should we.


But it does mean it is more important than ever for governments to use the tools we have within our grasp to intelligently and strategically guide us through the future – and investing in higher education is an essential lever.


It prepares our nation and our people for a future they can control.


The alternative prophesy is widely advertised.


We’re told Australia will struggle to compete in a more innovative, globalised marketplace.


The problem with the view that the world to very hard to compete with is stagnation – an extended period of slow growth in jobs, income and productivity – unless, according to the ideologues, we cut wages.


I think we have an opportunity reject this this diminished view of the future of our country.


We should not believe the world is too hard for Australia to compete in.


We should welcome the rise of Asia, the march of women through the institutions of power, the digital revolution.


We need to welcome a wealth-creating, competitive, productive society in which all have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.


I do not believe that we need to engage in a race to the bottom on wages to compete with low-wage economies.


Instead of cutting pay, we should be boosting productivity.


Instead of pushing up the price of university degrees – we should be broadening our knowledge base.


Instead of trading away our strengths – we should be playing to them.


We should choose to get smarter – not poorer.


The big winners in the digital age won’t be the low-cost labour nations, but the countries that create machines that make high quality products and deliver specialised services.


That’s not just about building machines but designing, developing, financing, operating and refining them.


Those are the jobs that we need you to be doing.


And if governments are to ask that of you, we have to do our bit: investing in science, research, innovation and training.


We have to support a world class education system – producing graduates with the accomplished skills to compete and succeed in the new economy.


Higher Education: A Return on Investment


The current government have made it clear that they see university education as a private privilege – a reward for the individual.


Labor has always understood that education benefits not just individuals, but society as a whole – economically and socially.


The OECD supports this, the Labor view.


The report found that for every one dollar Australia spends on a university student’s education, the average return is five dollars.


This is the second best return of all the OECD nations.


And that’s before we consider that universities provide us with the doctors in our hospitals, the teachers in our classrooms, the lawyers in our courts, the social workers in our community and the countless other occupations that make this the splendid country it is.


The same OECD report also sounds a note of caution.


It identified the strong link between the quality of the education you receive and the rest of your life: the career you choose, the income you earn and your overall health and wellbeing.


Accessible and affordable education acts as a tremendous agent of social mobility, helping people to rise above their current circumstance.


But if university education is available only within the circle of families who have already enjoyed its benefits, then all it does is perpetuate and exacerbate inequality.


This is why Labor has opposed every tired incarnation of the Pyne Plan for $100,000 degrees and a lifetime of debt – not just because of its unfairness, but because it weakens Australia’s ability to prepare for the future.


University Reform


Labor’s last wave of university reforms were based appropriately on the principles of access and equity.


In 2009, we set two ambitious goals:


  • By 2025, 40 per cent of Australians under 35 to hold a bachelor’s degree – up from just over 30 per cent.


  • By 2020, 20 per cent of students in universities to come from disadvantaged families. Young people previously denied the opportunity of a degree.


We are ahead of schedule to achieve that first goal – and we will certainly reach it within the decade.


For students from disadvantaged backgrounds, we are still hovering at just under 17 per cent. There is more work to be done.


What do access and equity look like on campus?


  • More people becoming the first in their family to go to university.


  • More students from disadvantaged families, and more students who speak a language other than English at home.


  • More mature-age students, upgrading their skills and fulfilling the opportunity perhaps previously denied.


And I know Monash has worked especially hard to extend the opportunity of a university education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students – another group who have often missed out on the chance to earn a degree.


Equity and access are core Labor principles.


The next wave of university reforms must focus on guaranteeing quality as well as equity.


Starting university, completing university and getting a good job.


That is the contract that students, parents and employers accept as the offer from Australian higher education.


Across the board however, completion rates have been falling in recent years


In recent years, there has been a steady increase in offers to lower-ATAR university applicants.


A recent study that tracked students with an ATAR of 59 or below who started their studies in 2005 found that by the end of 2012, just over half had completed a degree.


This study, which fed into last year’s Kemp-Norton review of the demand-driven system, also found that nearly a quarter of students with ATARs below 50 don’t re-enrol for a second year.


They leave university with a student debt, but no degree.


This growing group of Australians who enrol in university but don’t graduate, poses a fundamental question for the future of higher education.


How do we ensure and preserve that fundamental principle of accessibility and equity?


How do we grow participation rates for students from disadvantaged backgrounds without undermining the quality and value of a degree?


This is the big conversation Labor is having with the university sector right now.


So let me be very clear.


We will always support growth in the system – and reports of freezing enrolments at 2015 levels are plainly untrue.


This is not a matter of forcing down enrolment to improve quality – it is about lifting standards to catch-up to the new levels of access and equity.


Governments and universities both need to evolve – we need to move our focus from purely enrolment to including completion.


It’s not just about getting first-years signed up and in the door, it’s about making sure our students complete their degree.


We must ensure that when you leave university after three, four or five years, you are equipped with the confidence, the skills and the knowledge to drive a new economy.


And a sustainable funding model is central to this.


Universities need resources to focus on quality teaching, and the individual attention that prevents students from slipping through the cracks in massive institutions – and they need certainty.


The alternative is a system where students are collected and their fees harvested, rather than developing the talents and aspirations of the next generation.


To do this simply leaves the student, the university and the nation worse off.


We will continue to discuss the best way to provide universities with the support and security they need to produce the graduate workforce of tomorrow.


We want the best combination of excellence, equity and accessibility, driving innovation and boosting productivity.


This is true for all our educational institutions: our universities, our TAFEs and private providers.


The ‘Fourth Quarter’


Twenty years ago, the neuroscientist and philanthropist David J. Mahoney gave a great speech at Rutgers University where he challenged the graduating students to start planning for an ‘active fourth quarter’, from the age of 75 to 100.


He said:


Medical science will give most of you the body to blow out a hundred candles on your birthday cake, and brain scientists will give you the life of your mind.


More than ever, this is a reality.


The first three quarters of your lives will be shaped by the learning society: engaging with it, educating yourselves, re-training and re-skilling to succeed.


And it is the job of the national government to invest in education, to build a system of excellence, access and equity.


I know it seems a long way away now, but your active fourth quarter will be, in part, defined by the decisions you, and your governments make today.


When this Law School opened 50 years ago, universal superannuation was still 27 years away – and guaranteed retirement incomes were the preserve of the very few.


Today we aim higher than this, much higher.


Every Australian deserves dignity and security in retirement – because you shouldn’t work hard all your life only to retire poor.


Yet, the major message from the Government seems to be that our ageing population justifies cutting pensions.


This is the same government who froze superannuation for nearly 11 million Australians – twice, last year.


This decision, combined with their unfair raid on the super accounts of 3 million Australians earning $37,000 a year or less, will leave our national savings pool $983 billion worse off by 2055.


An average income earner, aged 25, will retire with $100,000 less in retirement savings because of the decisions of this government in the last 18 months.


How can the Government claim a fair pension is unsustainable while trying to wreck our superannuation system – the single best method for easing pressure on the pension and giving all Australians dignity and security in retirement?


This attack on Australia’s world-class universal superannuation system will undermine retirement savings by nearly one trillion dollars and put greater pressure on the age pension.


As a result of this short-sightedness, pensioners will be poorer and superannuation holders will be poorer.


Australia is better than this.


I am sufficiently ambitious for this nation, that if we were to meet again at this Law School’s 75th birthday – you would say, “remember when Labor said we should lift superannuation to 12 per cent– not freeze it”.


And we can say: we should, we could and we did.




I’m always energised by visiting Monash, by visiting universities and speaking to students.


I’m energised by talking to people who believe that the future is up for grabs and that what matters is the quality of a political party’s ideas.


Each of you remind me of the feeling of freedom and possibility and potential that this time in your life brings.


But I remember the flipside of this feeling too – a sense of uncertainty, not knowing what you will do next or what the future will bring.


Looking to the future always brings this mix of emotions: but on balance much more exciting and exhilarating than not.


Your future is a century of life in a changing economy, with constant learning and re-learning.


It’s a century where you will pace yourself, smooth your wealth over long life, enjoy a life outside of work, meet upheaval with resilience and embrace change.


That’s our shared future – your energy, your imagination and your ideas, matched by a national government with that same focus on the future not one stuck in the past.






» Stay in touch