Browsing articles in "Speeches"
Oct 21, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins




Today our Parliament has some every sad news, and I think regardless of political affiliation, it is very sad news for all Australians.

Edward Gough Whitlam has passed away.

Today our Parliament and our nation pause to mourn the loss of one of Australia’s greatest sons.

I offered my condolences to Gough’s son Nick this morning, he told me that the great man had passed in peace and comfort.

He kept that ‘certain grandeur’ to the very end.

The Honourable Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC means a lot to the story of our country, the story of modern Australia, our home.

Gough’s was a truly Australian life and a life truly lived for Australia.

In uniform, in Parliament, in the Prime Ministership and around the world.

Gough Whitlam was a man for the ages – and a giant of his time.

No-one who lived through the Whitlam era will ever forget it – and perhaps nobody born after it can ever really imagine it.

Gough’s ambition went beyond his desire to serve our nation; he wanted to transform it – completely, permanently – and he did.

Today I submit that like no other Prime Minister before or since, Gough Whitlam redefined our country – and in doing so he changed the lives of a generation – and generations to come.

Think of Australia in say, 1966.

Ulysses was banned.

Lolita was banned.

It was the Australia of the six o’clock swill, with no film industry and only one television drama – Homicide.

Political movements to the left of the DLP were under routine surveillance.

Many Australians of talent: (Clive, Barry, Germaine, Rupert, Sidney, Geoffrey) as a matter of course left their home native country to try their luck in England.

Yet Gough reimagined Australia, our home, as a confident, prosperous, modern, multicultural nation, where opportunity belonged to everyone.

The Whitlam Government should not be measured in years- but in achievements.

Whitlam defined patriotism as seeing things that were wrong about Australia and trying to change them.

In 1970 he was referring to:

-        Our unacceptably high infant mortality rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

-       Our immigration policy based on race

-       Our support for the Vietnam War.

Whitlam said that a true patriot does not seek to justify unfairness, or prolong unfairness – but to change it.

And change it he did.

Our country is most certainly different because of him.

By any test is our country is better because of him.

Gough Whitlam spent his political life reaching for higher ground.

Think of all that he changed, forever and for the better.

Healthcare changed – because of him.

Education changed – because of him.

Land rights for Aboriginal Australians – because of him.

Our place in Asia, particularly our relationship with China changed – because of him.

Our troops home from Vietnam, the birthday ballot ended – because of him.

The death penalty abolished and discrimination banished from our laws – because of him.

No fault divorce and the family court – because of him.

Our suburbs, for the first time, at the centre of national debate – because of him.

Everywhere we look in our remarkable modern country, we see the hand and word of Whitlam.

‘The Program’ lives on.

Gough Whitlam opened the doors to our universities.

He lifted up our schools and training centres.

He said that every Australian should have a choice in education.

But, Whitlam said, this must be a choice between:

systems and courses; not between standards, not between a good education and a bad one, an expensive education, or a poor one, a socially esteemed education or one that is socially downgraded.”

He indeed believed that the health of any one of us, matters to all of us.

And with Medibank, he brought the peace of mind that is Medicare to every Australian.

He was determined to end what he called the ‘inequality of luck’ for Australians with a disability – and his vision is writ large in the National Disability Insurance Scheme now.

He understood that:

“The main sufferers in Australian society –  the main victims of social deprivation and restricted opportunity – have been the oldest Australians on the one hand and the newest Australians on the other.”

And he sought Land Rights for Aboriginal Australians, the end of the White Australian Policy and the passage of the Racial Discrimination Act.

He tried always, to do good.

He strove like the conscientious Fabian he mostly was to leave behind a better world.

His speechwriter and confidante Graham Freudenberg reminded me this morning:

“There are some who say he did too much too soon, but few can say what he did that could have waited longer.”

Gough never lacked the courage for the good fight.

It was this courage, this determination that made him the great reformer of the Labor party – the greatest in Labor’s history.

Gough Whitlam loved the Labor Party, and the Labor Party loved Gough Whitlam, and Gough Whitlam changed the Labor Party.

He shook Labor up, he made our party relevant to the modern, multicultural, fair and reconciled country of his grand vision.

In 1964, Gough entered Trades Hall in Melbourne.

He had a speech prepared for the Labor party – but he said he could not deliver it because there were two Labor parties.

There were the men: the delegates and the candidates.

And the women: making the tea, preparing the meals out the back.

Gough declared then that we did not deserve to be called the Labor party, until we were one Labor party.

Gough declared that until we were one Labor party, we did not deserve to govern.

The result was the women stopped making the tea, they were no longer consigned to the back of the room.

And so began the making of modern Labor.

Gough refashioned our party, he drew it out of its narrow, quarrelsome, partisan divisions into an inclusive social democracy, and stirred with his wit and his capability many brilliant citizens into public service.

Gough presented to the nation and largely delivered a hearty, refreshing, merciful, forgiving, exhilarating New Order.

He was an unusual figure to be doing such things.

Large and regal, with an accent both broad and aristocratic, and a cadence so emphatic, it seemed you dare not oppose him, he appeared both prim and episcopal – and hugely conservative while changing society forever.

Francis James knew him as a schoolboy, when his aim was to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and they truanted from Canberra Grammar to watch the young R.G. Menzies dominating Parliament House. ‘Gough admired Menzies’s lucidity,’ Francis said, ‘but found him insincere.’

He was judged by his acquaintances and political contestants in very different ways. The former Victorian Trade Union Defence Committee  swore blind he was a closet Liberal or, more frankly, a spy.

The Melbourne Establishment believed he was a class traitor, one who had sullied his boots, and his family name, by seeking an easier rise in the stupider party.

The DLP saw him as their bridge over troubled waters back to anti-Communist Chifleyism.

To his friend Jim Killen he was ‘as obnoxious a by-product of the upper middle classes as has ever grafted itself leechlike on the egalitarian movement.’

To Sir John Kerr he was a dangerous megalomaniac.

To Sir Laurence Olivier a hero of the age.

To Gore Vidal the nation’s most intelligent man.

Above all, Gough was an agent for democracy, an agent for tolerance.

Democracy and tolerance are defining features of our country, great leaders can make national character, can actually make national values.

These are very important qualities, democracy and tolerance, that do depend upon the country’s leaders.

Of all leaders, none had arguably more cause to carry an anvil of political hatred – but he actually did not.

In defending democracy, defending tolerance – Whitlam defined his values and his character – and indeed our nation’s.

There will be more to say about the loss of this great man – I know that so many of you will have personal stories and memories of inspiration to share.

And in remembering Gough, we remember his wife Margaret, a great Australian in her own right and their life together – a great Australian love story.

Our thoughts are with his family – a family that has given so much to our nation.

Their long line of public service did not begin with Gough – and it has not ended with him.

I believe that perhaps there will be more tears shed for Gough Whitlam today than perhaps any other leader in Australian history.

And his beloved men and women of Australia will long remember where they were this day.

‘It’s time’ Gough, once told us.

A phrase that captured the imagination of a nation.

A rallying cry for change, for a confident, progressive, fair and modern Australia.

It’s time, he said.

And because of Gough, because of his life and legacy, it’s always time.

It’s always time for a more generous and inclusive and progressive and confident Australia.

It’s always time to help our fellow Australians rise higher than their current circumstance.

It’s always time for courage in leadership and to create and seize opportunity.

It is always time.

On his 80th birthday, Gough Whitlam said

With all my reservations, I do admit I seem eternal.”

He warned, however: “Dying will happen sometime. As you know, I plan for the ages, not just for this life.”

And “You can be sure of one thing,” he said of a possible meeting with his maker, “I shall treat Him as an equal.”

Madam Speaker

The men and women of Australia will mourn Gough Whitlam as a legend – and we shall treasure his legacy.

Gough’s light shines before him – and the memory of his good works will live long in the heart of our nation.




Oct 21, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Remarks to Caucus – Gough Whitlam




I have some very sad news for all of you. And I think very sad news for all Australians.

A giant of our movement, a great leader of our nation Edward Gough Whitlam has left us.

I rang and offered my condolences to Gough’s son Nick this morning, he told me that the great man had passed in peace and comfort.

He kept that ‘certain grandeur’ to the very end.

Gough’s was a truly Australian life and a life truly lived for Australia.

In uniform, in Parliament, in the Prime Ministership and around the world.

Gough did not just want to serve our nation; he wanted to transform it – utterly and permanently – and he most certainly did.

Like no other Prime Minister before or since, Gough Whitlam redefined our country – and in doing so he changed the lives of a generation – and generations to come.

He reimagined Australia – as a prosperous, modern, multicultural nation, where opportunity belonged to everyone.

The Whitlam Government should not be measured in years- but in achievements.

Our country is different because of him.

By any test is our country is better because of him.

Gough Whitlam spent his political life reaching for higher ground.

Think of all that he changed, forever and for the better.

Healthcare changed – because of him.

Education changed – because of him.

Land rights for Indigenous Australians changed – because of him.

Our place in Asia, in particular our relationship with China – changed because of him.

Our troops home from Vietnam, the birthday ballot ended – because of him.

The death penalty abolished and discrimination banished from our laws – because of him.

Our suburbs at the centre of national debate – because of him.

His speechwriter and confidante, Graham Freudenberg once observed:

There are some who say he did too much too soon, but few can say what he did that could have waited longer.

Gough never lacked the courage for the good fight.

It was this courage, this determination that made him the great reformer of the Labor party – the greatest in our history.

Gough Whitlam loved the Labor Party and Gough Whitlam changed the Labor Party.

He shook Labor up, he made our party relevant to the modern, multicultural, fair and reconciled country of his grand vision.

In 1964, Gough entered Trades Hall in Melbourne.

He said he had a speech prepared for the Labor party – but he could not deliver it because there were two Labor parties.

The men: the delegates and the candidates.

And the women: making the tea, preparing the meals out the back.

Gough declared than that we did not deserve to be called the Labor party, until we were one Labor party.

Gough declared then that until we were one Labor party, we did not deserve to govern.

The result was that the women stopped making the tea, they were no longer consigned to the back of the room.

And so began the making of modern Labor.

Gough refashioned our party, he drew it out of its narrow partisan divisions into an inclusive social democracy.

And he stirred with his wit and his capability many brilliant citizens into public service.

He was indeed an agent for democracy, an agent for tolerance.

Democracy and tolerance are defining features of our country.

Great leaders can make national character, can make national values.

These are very important qualities, and their strength depend at every turn on the capacity of great leaders.

He was sacked. Unprecedented in Australian history.

But of all leaders, therefore, none more cause to carry an anvil of hatred – but he did not.

In defending democracy, defending tolerance – Whitlam defined his values and his character – and the nation’s.

There will be more to say about the loss of this great man – I know that so many of you will have personal stories and memories of inspiration to share.

And in remembering Gough, we remember his wife Margaret, a great Australian in her own right and their life together – a great Australian love story.

Our thoughts are with his family – a family that has given so much to our nation.

Their long line of public service did not begin with Gough – and it has not ended with him.

There will be more tears shed for Gough Whitlam today than perhaps any other leader in Australian history.

And his beloved men and women of Australia will long remember where they were this day.

‘It’s time’ Gough told us.

Because of him, because of his life and legacy, it’s always time.

It’s always time for a more generous and inclusive Australia.

It’s always time to help our fellow Australians rise higher than their current circumstance.

It’s always time for courage in leadership and to create and seize opportunity.

It is always time.

Gough’s light shines before him – and the memory of his great works will live long in the heart of our nation.



Oct 2, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins







Right now, more than ever our Parliament needs to promote social cohesion, and confront prejudice, ignorance, sectarianism and fear.


Because right now, we’ve asked our skilled and brave men and women of the Australian Defence Force to confront prejudice, ignorance, sectarianism and fear in the middle east.


So today I shall ask the Parliament that we too measure up to do our part at home to match the efforts of our defence forces, who are preparing to engage as we speak an enemy of humanity, committing crimes against humanity.


For ISIL and the like – the enemy is not one nation, one faith or one people.


Their enemy is the presence of peace, their enemy is the presence of justice, their enemy is the presence of religious tolerance.


Their target is freedom of worship, freedom of association, freedom of speech – freedom itself.


We cannot negotiate with this hateful, poisonous ideology – just as we cannot ignore their mass atrocity crimes.


And so, Australian forces are joining an international coalition going to the aid of vulnerable people.


Labor has always put the security of our nation above politics.


And at a time when we face renewed threats of terrorism in our own streets, our number one priority is and always will be the safety of the people of Australia.


We should listen to the experts and be guided by them as to how we best protect this country, our people and our way of life.


In confronting the threat of fanaticism and extremism on the other side of the world and here at home, we cannot ignore the dangers of prejudice and racism.


We must guard against dangerous division – we must recognise that we are stronger and better and safer when we stand together.


Madam Speaker


On Monday evening in Melbourne, a 26 year old woman on the Upfield train was subjected to a stream of racial abuse from another passenger.


The abuser then grabbed the young woman by the hair and neck and drove her head into the wall of the carriage multiple times.


As the train was approaching Batman Station, the attacker forced the carriage doors open and pushed the woman out onto the platform.


That young woman somehow walked away on Monday with only grazes and bruises.


But how does she board that train on Tuesday?


How does she face the world, knowing that the way she looks makes her less safe?


How does she cope with the fear, the terrifying doubt, the sense that everywhere she goes she is a target for ignorant bullies?


Madam Speaker


Every manifestation of prejudice does damage, it dents confidence – it undermines our great, inclusive Australian social democracy.


It jeopardises our safety and it threatens our security.


This exclusion, this denigration can drive the isolated and unwell into the arms of extremism.


That is the danger that Australia must confront – and act against.


As leaders, we owe no less to our people and our troops going into harm’s way, on our behalf.


The tiny handful of our citizens who have been drawn to the radical ranks of ISIL and their like were not born full of hatred and rage.


They were not raised for a life of death – but now they feel as if they have nothing to live for, only a radical cause to die for.


We have to ask ourselves whether we as a Parliament, as a nation, as a people, can do more to moderate the angry and engage the disaffected.


To temper the prejudice that feeds radicalisation.


This is the vigilance that Australia needs.


A vigilance to jealously guard the safety, cohesion and harmony that has long been a cherished part of our society.


To gather in those shunted to the margins and bring them to the centre.


This is the obligation we, as parliamentarians, owe all our citizens.


It is the duty we, as parliamentarians, owe Australia.


It is the social contract of our unique, modern, multicultural country.


We are a nation enriched, emboldened and enlightened by mass post-war migration.


People who come to Australia should leave their old conflicts behind.


People who come to Australia should obey the one set of laws that govern us all.


But those who’ve come across the seas, from every country on earth, should not have to abandon their religious and cultural practices.


But Australia’s greatness comes from learning that more contact and respect we have with people of different faiths and cultures, the more we learn that our similarities are greater than our differences.


We learn that what we have been told to fear is a lie.


We know that our differences are not mysterious or fundamental – they are differences in clothing, experience, custom and culture.


I warn those who are engaged in strident and offensive language: if we surrender to intolerance, if we submit to prejudice – we betray the very qualities and liberties that we seek to safeguard and protect.


Section 18C


That is why Senator Bernardi and Senator Smith’s attempt to water down legal protections against hate speech could not have come at a more ill-advised time for our nation.


Repealing Section 18C risks creating a foothold for divisive and hateful abuse.


It sends an insidious signal, that somehow the need to guard against discrimination is reduced.


It tips a wink to the purveyors of prejudice.


And tampering with protections against racial discrimination also threatens to derail the referendum on Constitutional Recognition for Indigenous Australians.


For all these reasons, Labor joined with hundreds of community groups of all cultures, ethnicities and faiths to fight and defeat these backward-looking, divisive changes.


And we will do so again if required.


On behalf of the people of Australia, let me give Senator Bernardi, Senator Smith and their supporters the message the Prime Minister should have delivered.


No-one has the right to be a bigot.


Bigotry and racism have no place in modern Australia.


Banning the Burqa


The security of our nation and our citizens is above politics.


And attempting to use ‘national security’ to justify intolerance, to advocate banning the burqa is beneath contempt.


Let’s be clear.


When Senator Bernardi describes the burqa as a ‘flag of fundamentalism’, that is not a security argument.


Wrapping a call to ‘ban the burqa’ around national security is an attempt to make ignorance sound truthful and intolerance respectable – an attempt to give an appearance of solidity to hot air.


Diminishing the real and important security debate to a conversation about an article of clothing, diminishes us all.


And it makes Muslim women a target for bullying and intimidation.


Today, I urge the Prime Minister to follow the example of the Foreign Minister and the Member for Bowman – to stand up to this ignorance.


Martin Luther King once said:


‘there comes a time when silence is betrayal.’


For weeks, a noisy few Liberal and National members have been fanning the flames of this prejudice – and Tony Abbott has been silent.


Yesterday, Labor called upon the Prime Minister to finally show some leadership on both 18C and this ill-informed, hurtful and harmful ‘ban the burqa’ debate.


We asked the Prime Minister to lead his party room, not to follow his party room.


He refused, instead he said:


“The private member’s bill in question is something that is highly unlikely to proceed.”


Yet it came into the Senate this morning.


And on the question of banning the burqa, he could only dismiss concerns, before going on to say:


“I find it a fairly confronting form of attire. Frankly, I wish it was not worn”.


The Prime Minister cannot afford the luxury of ‘discomfort’ about what some women of religious custom wear.


Leadership requires different action.


Leadership requires that majorities respect minorities.


The Prime Minister cannot preach tolerance, while allowing his colleagues to practice intolerance.


A true leader cannot unite our nation, while urging division.


The Prime Minister owes our country better than this.


A true leader has a responsibility to govern for all Australians – of all faiths.


A true leader has a responsibility to build unity and cohesion, not division and exclusion.


To lead by example – not with empty rhetoric or personal opinions.


He has a responsibility to tackle the fear-mongering of his colleagues.


Madam Speaker, these are indeed times that try nations’ souls.


But we will not overcome hatred with hatred.


We will not overcome intolerance by being intolerant.


We cannot ask our men and women to go into harm’s way to confront intolerance, prejudice and sectarianism – if we are not prepared to do the same here at home when we have the opportunity to do so.


Australia cannot face the challenges of this moment, divided.


We are stronger nation, we are a better nation, we are are a safer nation, we are a more noble nation when we stand together.




Oct 2, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins







In rising to speak on this bill, I can advise the people of Australia of good news and bad news.


Let me turn to the good news first of all.


Nearly five months ago, in my Budget reply on behalf of the Labor Party and the people of Australia, I gave a solemn pledge to Australia’s pensioners.


At this very despatch box, I said:


Labor will not surrender the security of your retirement.


We will fight for a fair pension – and we will prevail.


Today, we have most certainly prevailed.


Today, Labor keeps faith with 3.7 million pensioners.


We’ve kept our promise to Australians who have worked hard all their lives, who’ve paid their taxes all their lives – who have made a contribution to our communities, to our nation, to their own families.


In the five months since the Hockey-Abbott Budget, my colleagues and I have travelled the nation talking with older Australians.


And they are worried.


They are deeply worried about the effect of this Government’s plan to cut up to $80 a week from their pension.


They know this Government lied to them before the last election. They promised, right up to the very end of the election period, there would be no cuts to pensions.


Now they are worried that because of Prime Minister Abbott and Treasurer Hockey and the gang who sit in government, they won’t be able to afford to cool their home in summer and heat their home in winter.


They’re worried that they won’t be able to buy their grandkids a treat, take their pet to the vet.


Let’s be clear, these Australians that Labor fights for don’t think that the world owes them a living.


They don’t seek a life in the lap of luxury.


They don’t live on a king’s ransom.


These Australians that Labor fights for have worked for everything that they have got – and it’s their hard work which has made our nation great.


They have stood up to the Abbott Government’s plan for cruel cuts to their security and to their dignity.


They have prevailed.


I say on behalf of Labor to the pensioners of Australia – this is your victory over Minister Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott.


This is your victory – and this is the Government’s defeat.


Today the Government has finally faced up to the reality.


They have faced the facts – this Prime Minister has no mandate for his cruel cuts to pensions, and no amount of head shaking from the Minister can make black, white. There is no mandate.


Tony Abbott’s broken promises to Age Pensioners, Disability Support Pensioners, Carer Payment recipients and Veterans have been exposed and defeated.


And let me just say at this point, my congratulations to our Shadow Spokesperson for Pensions and Families, Jenny Macklin, Member for Jagajaga.


Every political party in Australia wishes they had one like her, but Labor does. Thank you and well done.


And what she and all my colleagues behind me have done, is expose the plot of the Abbott Government to take $23 billion away from the age pension over the next 10 years.


They have exposed this plot. Question Time after Question Time, the Opposition has asked the Prime Minister – why are you cutting the indexation rate of pensioners?


And all this mealy-mouthed mob opposite ever do is they say, ‘pensions go up’. What a cheap stunt this mob opposite are, they think the people are as stupid as they believe them to be.


We all know that by reducing the indexation rate of pensions, they are cutting the real pension up to $80 a week.


And no matter how often that rotten bunch of twisters opposite say these things, it doesn’t make it true.


And I love this mob opposite – they are always saluting the flag, they’re at every parade possible. They love our veterans, they say, except when it comes to the veterans’ pensions.


It is Labor who has stopped a $65 million cut to war pensioners.


There are 280,000 people receiving a pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs; 140,000 service pensioners; 84,000 war widow and widower pensioners.


These pensioners were going to be up to $80 per week worse off over the next 10 years but Labor has won the battle for them.


Just as they’ve represented this country, we’ve kept faith with the contract that we should be looking after them in their later years.


And we’ve stopped the plot to increase the age pension eligibility age to 70.


This mob opposite say ‘well, we’re all living longer, so everyone should work longer.’ What a bunch of rotten twisters.


The biggest injury this mob opposite will ever face will be a paper cut. And yet they ask every other Australian whose bodies may be weary and worn out to keep working.


To show the rottenness of increasing the minimum retirement age to 70, it will mean that we’ll have the highest pension age across the OECD.


Why is it that this is a Government who always asks the most vulnerable to do the hardest and heaviest lifting?


If we’d used this tortured analogy of that windbag Treasurer Hockey about ‘lifters and leaners’, the lifters are everyone in Australia, except the Liberal Party – they’re just the leaners, sitting opposite.


And when they talk about lifting the eligibility age to 70, they’re so incompetent that they can’t even work out that most workers compensation jurisdictions only go to the age of 65 or 67.


So they want people to work til 70, yet they’ve made no provision to lift workers comp, making it impossible to employ many people to the age of 70.


But that’s a mere detail for these dilettantes opposite – they would know how real people earn their money.


And then of course there’s the Family Tax Benefit B changes.


Because of Labor more than 700,000 single income and single parent families will not lose their Family Tax Benefit B over three years as a result of these savage cuts Tony Abbott tried to inflict upon families, merely because their youngest child is over 6 years old.


There are 700,00 single income and single parent families who are going to have their payments kept safe because of the Labor party.


And of course, one of the meanest dog-whistles, and this is again a Government addicted to dog-whistles – they’ve never seen an issue they can’t get the dog-whistle out on – their attack on young job seekers.


We know they love to demonise and stigmatise groups in this community. That’s a topic, I suppose, for a later time.


But what they’re doing with young job seekers under the age of 30, is they’re so enamoured with dividing this society they want young people to go six months without an income.


We saw people desert the sinking ship of this idea on the weekend. We don’t know if it was an elegant leap from the Minister Social Services, where he said it wasn’t him.


Well, who was it? Who was it? This is not a game of Cluedo Government.


We know who it was, we don’t need to have the guessing games.


It was the Treasurer and the Prime Minister.


I don’t know if they’ve sent the Minister for Social Services up as a patsy, if he’s their bunny, or if his their brain surgeon.


Whatever the description, the outcome’s the same.


They wanted to attack young job seekers.


So there’s 100,000 young people who will not have to face six months of poverty.


We know that their plan is not earn or learn – it’s earn or learn or starve.


They want to create a divided society where our young are sleeping over the grates to get warm, where they’re begging, where they’re forced to do even worse things to make ends meet.


They love families so much they want to privatise the cost of people back to families to the age of 30.


It is an absolute disgrace and Labor has stood them up.


What I said though is there is good news and there is bad news.


The good news is that Labor, being a strong opposition, has looked the Government in the face and we have not blinked.


We have seen the worst they can throw at Australian pensioners and we have prevailed on behalf of Australian pensioners.


But unfortunately there is one dirty deal that is still sneaking through because of the Liberal’s addiction to lecturing us on working with the Greens, but they can’t wait to slip out behind the bike shed and do a deal with the Greens.


And the dirty, dirty deal they’ve done with the Greens – and you don’t have to look too sad, Kevin, it’s probably not your brainchild either – but they’ve done a deal with the Greens, I’m afraid to say, to scrap the seniors supplement.


That’s anyone who has a Commonwealth Seniors card.


This is a Government who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.


As of last month, annual payments for people who are eligible for Commonwealth seniors health card were worth $886.60 for singles and over $1,300 for couples.


Just so we clear up who these forensic detectives are chasing down the welfare burrow: to be eligible for this you have to earn less than $50,000 a year; you are not someone who is getting a pension, but people earning less than $50,000 a year in their older years who do not get a pension are not that well off, but they are obviously too rich for the taste of these Liberals opposite.


What a shame they don’t have $2 million in super, then they would get a kickback from this Government.


And what is happening is that the couples who earn less than $80,000 a year, do not get a pension.


There are 280,000 people – once upon a time this arrogant mob opposite might have said, ‘These are the Liberal heartland.’ Not any more, ladies and gentlemen, not any more.


The next payment was due on 20 December. This is a Government who has succeeded with the Greens – because the Greens do not necessarily understand how middle-income Australia lives; their voting base sometimes is the well-off too.


But what we see here is an unholy coalition of the extreme right and the Greens combining to mug 280,000 Australians.


Don’t you love this silent Minister for Immigration at the table, head buried in his notes.


What a disgraceful deal, and no doubt there are people in your electorate, courtesy of your deal with the Greens, who are going to be losing money.


Well done, Scott; another good day at the office.


As I said, there is good news and there is bad news.


We have the dirty deal done with the Greens and the Liberals.


I know they do not do—of course, why did I know they would do a deal with the Greens? Because Tony Abbott promised they would not do it before the last election.


How do you know Tony Abbott is making a promise he is going to break? You watch his lips move.


What we say to pensioners in Australia is that unfortunately Joe Hockey, a bit like that Japanese lieutenant who was found in the mountains of the Philippines in 1974, he’s never going to give up the war.


He is never going to give up the war against the pensioners.


The Treasurer sees his Budget as a war on pensioners.


I am afraid to say that this morning this arrogant Government, this most arrogant, out of touch Government, this most arrogant and out of touch Government, has again tabled legislation seeking to resuscitate all of these dreadful cuts, which we have stopped this time.


They want to bring it on again. They are an arrogant Government.


They are refusing to accept the verdict of the Australian people.


If Labor were being selfish, we would say it is a good thing they have brought them on because it keeps reminding Australians what they are like.


But I actually wish this Government would stop torturing and hurting 3.7 million pensioners and making them unsure about their income security.


Now the Treasurer has said that he will not give up his war.


Give up his war? Who is this man to say he is at war with Australia’s pensioners?


That is not why people voted for him.


The Prime Minister yesterday in Question Time—not once, not twice, but on eight different occasions—said he was committed to all of his broken promises.


He was committed to making sure that they would try this stunt of attacking ordinary people, average-income earning people, pensioners; he would keep trying it and trying it.


And of course the Finance Minister did not want to be left out of this farce. He stands by it too.


But when the Government unveiled their attacks on pensions, we said that if they wanted to rip away the pension they would have to come through the Labor Party.


You would have to come through the Labor Party, we said.


All Australians know that the Liberal Party and their country proxies, the Nationals, have tried their best to come through the Labor Party to attack 3.7 million pensioners.


But I can report to the Parliament and to Australia, they have failed on this occasion.


We have met them and we have defeated them.


And we will make clear again that this Government’s retreat on this destroys the credibility of the Budget and it destroys the credibility of the Prime Minister.


It has taken the Prime Minister more than four months to realise that this unfair Budget was not going to wash with Australians.


It took Labor four minutes; it took Australians four minutes.


But make no mistake: these arrogant characters who sit opposite, who believe they have a born to rule mentality to make whatever decisions they can, inflicting pain and hurt on ordinary Australians, are introducing these measures again.


Tony Abbott wants to cut your pensions.


Tony Abbott wants to cut the funding to schools and the funding to hospitals.


He wants to cut billions from schools and hospitals.


He wants to increase your taxes.


He has not given up on his GP tax.


He wants to make you pay more for going to the doctor when you are sick.


The real solution to defeating these people and their rotten measures is not just defeating their legislation, as we have on this occasion, it is to defeat Tony Abbott.


As long as Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party occupy the benches of government and occupy the seat of the Prime Minister, Australians will always have to fear these people coming after their pensions.


We did not ask the Liberals to make pensions an election issue. We did not ask them to do that, but they have and so we will answer them and we will prevail.


Do not look at what this Prime Minister says, look at what he does.


He breaks his promises. He lied to people before the election.


They have their plans for Australia—their rotten, nation-dividing, impoverishing plans, picking on the vulnerable, unfair changes without a mandate—they have them in the top drawer.


They have not put them in the bin.


What Australia needs to do is put Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party in the bin of election politics, because that is the only way we will stop these people.


Look at the Minister for Immigration giving me one of his stares. Is it the ‘Minister for Homeland Security’ now—whatever your title. We had better check with the Foreign Minister, sunshine.


Returning to the topic, the current Prime Minister— we could call you the alternative Liberal Prime Minister—whatever you want to be called.


But what I say to you here is that we will fight these changes.


Today we have had a victory and pensioners have had a victory.


Today the Government has retreated in the face of public disapproval and the combined weight of outrage and the voice of ordinary people, and if we want to defeat these pension changes again—which they are so eager, so hungry to bring on—then we will defeat them at the election.


Make no mistake, Australia, this Government wants to cut the indexation rate of pensions.


They want to cut the rate of pension payments to veterans.


They want to change the payments which go to young people under the age of 30 looking for work.


They want to go after family tax benefit payments to hundreds of thousands of Australians.


This is a Government that has no plans for the future other than dividing this country, making the vulnerable pay more, and creating a lack of confidence in the high street of Australian small businesses, by their attacks on the pensions.


The good news is that we have won today, and the better news is that at the next election we will hold this Government to account and we shall succeed in our arguments there too.





Oct 1, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Statement to the House of Representatives – Iraq






I thank the Prime Minister for updating the Parliament.

Once again, I would take this opportunity to place on the record Labor’s admiration for the bravery, professionalism and skill of the men and women of our defence force – and the resilience of their families.

Our defence forces have our complete support as they prepare for this humanitarian mission, and we promise to look after their families that they leave behind here in Australia.

As my colleagues and I have consistently said, Labor’s support for Australia’s involvement in Iraq is underpinned by four principles:

Firstly, we do not support the deployment of ground combat units to directly engage in fighting ISIL.

Secondly, Australian operations should be confined to Iraq.

Third, our involvement should continue only until the Iraqi government is in a position to take full responsibility for the security of their people and their nation.

Fourth, if the Iraqi Government and its forces engage in unacceptable conduct or adopt unacceptable policies – we should withdraw our support.

These four principles represent the conditions we have set for our support.

I do note and welcome the Prime Minister’s comments regarding the negotiations underway on the legal and diplomatic framework to support our operations in Iraq.

Labor has taken a strong interest in ensuring that Australia meets its international legal and diplomatic obligations.

And in guaranteeing that the appropriate force protection measures are in place for Australians serving in the region.

This is part of Australia’s responsibilities as a good international citizen – as well as providing important legal protections for our defence personnel.

These decisions are too important to be rushed, and we support the Government taking the time to get it right.

In the days ahead, our thoughts are with the men and women of the ADF.

We wish them a safe and successful mission and a speedy return to the ones they love.



Sep 27, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins





Good Morning Everyone

To Mike Fitzpatrick and James Brayshaw, thank you for selecting me for my Grand Final breakfast debut.

Lovely to see Julie Bishop here, I’d say she’s been best on ground for the Government – makes you think how much better the Abbott Cabinet would be if it had two women.

It’s great to stand here in the middle of Etihad Stadium, just a few kilometres and a few hours away from the high point of what has been another fantastic AFL season.

Not many people know this, but in my student days, I actually spent a lot of time on-field for my team, Collingwood.

I was a blue coat – a ground attendant for at Victoria Park.

That was back in 1990 – so I prefer to describe myself as a premiership ground attendant.

Sitting in front of the Collingwood cheer squad certainly taught me a lot of new words and expressions.

Though, I can’t repeat half of them.

And I still don’t really understand what the other half mean.

How could an umpire possibly do that to himself? 

And even on the sunniest day at Victoria Park – it was always a good idea to wear your official blue raincoat.

Seemed like there were a lot of Pies’ supporters with nasty ‘bronchial infections’ – especially near the visitors’ race.

But dodging the odd ‘surprise shower’ was a small price to pay for a close-up view of a magnificent team: Darren Milane, Micky McGuane, Tony Shaw, Peter Daicos…there were legends on every line.

It was like watching a black and white cavalry charge.

There’s still plenty of characters at the Pies.

Just this week we saw Dane Swan miss the Brownlow Medal count because he was busy getting a tattoo of Sam Newman on his…bottom.

I’ve heard that back in May the Prime Minister made a very similar bet with Clive Palmer about passing the whole Budget.

I imagine that somewhere in East Brunswick there’s a tattoo artist getting very nervous.

This isn’t a day for long speeches, so I’ll leave you with my tips:

The Hawks are a great side and a generous one too –they kindly pre-trained Sydney’s three top Brownlow vote-getters.

But I’ve decided to keep the faith and back the Old Xaverians – my old school.

The Swans have got three Old Xavs [Daniel Hanneberry, Ted Richards and Josh Kennedy] – the Hawks have only got one [Matt Spangher] – plus they’ve also got one Jeff Kennett.

So I’m tipping Sydney.

As for the Norm Smith, the son and grandson of Hawthorn royalty – JPK – gets my vote.

Most importantly, I reckon Tom Jones will have Meatloaf covered.

Have a great day everyone.



Sep 22, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins






I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present.


Thank you, Professor Brendan Crabb, for bringing this issue to our national Parliament – and for allowing me the opportunity to say a few words tonight.


To Michelle Hendel, thank you for making me a little bit more proud to be an Australian.


I pay tribute to Alistair Lucas, who recently stepped down as chair.


I spoke with Alistair a few days ago, he’s currently dealing with devastating news.


He is a special, remarkable person – modest and generous.


And I know he will be surrounded by friends and goodwill in the tough battle ahead of him.


On a happier note, it’s a great pleasure to see Natasha Stott Despoja, our outstanding Ambassador for Women and Girls here this evening to lend her voice to this noble cause.


And, of course, I acknowledge my wife Chloe.


Chloe has been a longstanding friend and supporter of the work of the Burnet Institute, she cares very deeply about this area.


And she has been very influential in my thinking about medical research and science more generally.


One of my favourite writers, speakers and thinkers, Martin Luther King once said:


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.


That’s the principle that underpins your work, and it has long been the foundation of Labor’s approach to healthcare.


Labor believes in universal Medicare because we believe that the health of any one of us, matters to all of us.


We believe everyone should have access to the healthcare they need – not just the healthcare they can afford.


Yet for far too many people in countries like Papua New Guinea, it not just a question of affordability – it’s also very much a question of access.


Right now, the four kilometres that separate Australia from Papua New Guinea represents a 20 year gap in life expectancy – that’s injustice.


More than 1500 mothers in PNG lose their lives each year – that’s injustice.


More than 5,000 babies in PNG will die in the first month of life and another 10,000 will be a sad memory before the time of their fifth birthday – that is tragic, senseless, injustice.


Worst of all – much of this loss is avoidable.


We can prevent these deaths – and because we can, we must.


That is the call of our network of mutuality, the binding thread of our common humanity.


It is the responsibility that we owe our friends and neighbours as a smart and prosperous nation.


That is why all the work you do, and the Burnet Institute’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program in particular is so important.


The project we support tonight will see life-saving care given to women and children in Papua New Guinea through targeted evidence-based community research.


Burnet Institute has long been a national and international leader when it comes to turning medical research into practical action, with meaningful benefits.


You have a distinguished record of helping to achieve better health for poor and vulnerable communities in Australia and internationally.


And we need to urgently address those issues that directly impact on women and their newborn babies in Papua New Guinea – issues that result in such a huge loss of life: anaemia, malaria, TB, malnutrition and postpartum haemorrhage.


Labor believes the Commonwealth has a role, indeed a responsibility, to support this kind of life-saving, hope-giving research.


This is not a question of replacing private sector investment, or crowding it out.


It’s about nurturing Australian genius and investing in Australian brainpower.


Fostering and supporting medical research – specifically, translational medical research – has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people.


I’m passionate about the importance of innovation and research to our nation’s future – and I’m a strong believer in Australia’s scientific potential.


But I do not accept that Australia has to choose between a thriving medical research sector and a world-class universal healthcare system.


No-one wins when we pit practitioners against researchers, but there is no doubt our nation loses.


The McKeon Review which was commissioned by my deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, as health minister, noted the importance of strong healthcare systems which facilitated research through embedding it in delivery.


Indeed, the review said “levies probably do not present a suitable mechanism for funding health and medical research”.


There are many of other ways to fund important medical research – alternative debt finance such as a special-purpose bond issuance program or social bonds akin to those used in the United Kingdom, further and targeted R&D tax incentives or research prizes such as DARPA’s Grand Challenge.


Another way is leveraging private finance and public investment in partnership. Working together, rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul.


We have previously supported equity co-investment arrangements where the Government and investors commit capital to medical research.


This kind of model has been used in other contexts to support the growth of Australian firms like Seek, Bionomics, Pharmaxis and Benthic Geotech.


You all know that medical research is not just about dollars and cents.


It is also about the system which underpins it – research excellence, commercialisation pathways, clinical environments, enabling infrastructure and workforce capabilities.


That’s why, under my leadership, Labor will take the time to get this right.


We will listen to the experts.


Our Shadow Health Minister, Catherine King and I have asked Andrew Giles, the Member for Scullin and Anna Burke, the member for Chisholm to kick-start this process.


They will be sitting down with health sector leaders, with clinicians and researchers as part of a proper and thorough consultation process.


We’re looking forward to hearing more from you and to working closely with you to achieve the important goals we dedicate ourselves to tonight.


I congratulate Brendan, the Burnet Institute and everyone involved with the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program.


You inspire us, you make us proud and we wish you every success on the road ahead.




Sep 22, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Speech to Parliament – Iraq








I thank the Prime Minister for updating the house – and I am grateful for the direct dialogue he and I have shared in recent days and weeks.

Last Thursday, at RAAF base Williamtown and RAAF base Amberley, the Prime Minister and I together farewelled some of the brave men and women of the Australian Defence Force who were leaving for the Middle East.

That is as it should be.

Keeping our people safe is above politics.

The security of our nation runs deeper than our differences.

We all admire the courage and dedication of the Australian Defence Forces.

And we are all committed to supporting the families of those serving overseas.

We will stand by these families while the people they love are far from their sides.


As we did last Thursday, again I promise those serving overseas or due to be rotated to service overseas, that the Parliament will stand by the families of the people whilst they are far away from them serving us overseas.


Labor fully supports Australia’s contribution to the international humanitarian mission in Iraq.

We do not offer this lightly.

Sending Australians into harm’s way is the most serious of decisions.

Our support for the Government on this issue is not a matter of jingoism or nationalism – it is a calculation of conscience and national interest.

There are four key principles that underpin Labor’s approach.

Firstly, we do not support the deployment of ground combat units to directly engage in fighting ISIL.

Second, Australian operations should be confined to the territory of Iraq.

Third, our involvement should continue only until the Iraqi government is in a position to take full responsibility for the security of their people and their nation.

Fourth, if the Iraqi Government and its forces engage in unacceptable conduct or adopt unacceptable policies – Australia should withdraw its support immediately.

These four principles will guide our response to the evolving situation in Iraq.

They represent the conditions we have set for our support – and the line we have drawn for Australia’s engagement in the region.

Again, this is consistent with Government’s approach.

We want Australian military personnel to carry out a clearly defined mission in Iraq, at the request of the Iraqi Government – and then come home safely.

Madam Speaker

Military involvement to achieve humanitarian objectives is not our first instinct, and it is never our preferred solution to geo-political problems.

But we recognise that sometimes there is simply no alternative.

Put plainly, we cannot negotiate with ISIL, because there is nothing rational about what they seek to do.

ISIL and their like wish only to do harm, to spread the bitter hatred that fuels their genocidal intent.

And they are a breeding ground for terrorists bent on causing havoc not only in the Middle East but throughout Australia, throughout the world and in Australia and our neighbouring countries.



They are intent only upon desecration and destruction – with an insatiable appetite for crime and sectarian violence.



Right now, across Northern Iraq, families are being driven from their homes.



Innocent people are being murdered.



And women and girls are being oppressed, raped and forced into sexual servitude.



The vulnerable communities of Iraq must be protected and it is right and proper for Australia to make a contribution to this international endeavour.



Let us be clear about the differences between the situation in Iraq today – and the conflict Labor opposed in 2003.



The 2003 Iraq war was based on a flawed premise and false information.



It was a war embarked upon without a meaningful plan to win the peace.


And in part, it created some of the conditions that have necessitated this international response.

It was a war against a hostile Iraqi Government without the support of the United Nations and the international community.

As Labor said at the time, the foundations for possible military intervention were simply not there.

Today, a democratically elected national unity government of Iraq is seeking help from the international community to protect its people from genocide and other mass atrocities.

Today, we are part of an international effort that includes countries from the region.

We are fulfilling our responsibility as a good international citizen, our duty as a humanitarian, peace-loving nation.

By our involvement, Australia declares that we will not tolerate the spread of hatred.

We will not allow the contagion of hatred – the disease of fanaticism and extremism – to afflict the innocent.

We will not meet the brutality and ruthlessness of ISIL with silence.

But we face a long and difficult task.

Labor understands we can never drain the swamp of terrorism by military means alone.

Defeating jihadist terrorism requires extensive international cooperation in intelligence sharing and criminal law enforcement, and strong domestic homeland security measures backed by strong community support.

We go to Iraq not to topple a dictator but to support a democracy – to exercise our global responsibility to protect men, women and children at risk of mass atrocity crimes.

Our mission is not to pursue territory but to protect the vulnerable.

Our goal is not to assert the supremacy of one faith, or to advance the interest of one people.

It is to defend the rights of all people, to preserve the freedom of all faiths.

Ultimately, building enduring peace in Iraq, depends upon the people of Iraq.

No matter the size of the coalition, our involvement cannot, by itself, guarantee the stability of this region.

If freedom and democracy are artificially imposed from the outside – they will not last.

Above all – a stable Iraq depends upon an inclusive unity government.

A government that rejects sectarianism and the alienation of minorities.

A government able to move past ancient hatreds – and unite the nation.

Helping the Iraqi Government protect its citizens from the threat of ISIL is vital to the long-term security and stability of Iraq, the broader region and the international community – including Australia.

The humanitarian assistance we offer should not be confined to military aid.

As a safe and prosperous nation, made great by immigration, Australia should take more refugees from Iraq and Syria.

We should reach out a caring arm to people who have been traumatised by this brutal conflict.

For more than two centuries we have given those who’ve come from across the seas a second chance.

We should be part of an international effort to offer safety and security to vulnerable people who have been displaced by the ravages of this conflict.

Madam Speaker

These are uncertain times and that uncertainty can breed suspicion.

That is always the insidious goal of terrorism.

To spread division and to nurture intolerance.

To create a world where people fear the unknown – and resent difference.

They want to change the way we live, the way we see ourselves, the way we treat each other.

We cannot allow this.

Prejudice and bigotry jeopardise the harmony of our society, and they feed the fanaticism that it thrives on.

We must jealously guard our diverse, tolerant, welcoming and caring society.

Multiculturalism is one of our nation’s greatest gifts.

It is a miracle of modern Australia.

And we should never make the millions of Australians or people who have become Australians – people of every nation and every faith – feel less safe, or less welcome.

We will not overcome hatred, with hatred.

We will not overcome intolerance, by being intolerant.

Ill-informed and inflammatory comments about Islam are as unhelpful as they are unfair.

Muslim-Australians should not be stigmatised for the crimes of ISIL.

And ISIL have no right to use the name of Islam.

The medieval barbarity that they are inflicting upon the innocent has nothing to do with religion.

The twisted ideology of ISIL bears no relation to a faith of peace and tolerance followed by millions of people.

And that point should be made, time and time again.

Labor will study the government’s new security legislation in detail – and we will continue to be constructive.

Because the safety of our people, of our nation, is a priority that unites us all.

Like the Prime Minister, I clearly reject the assumption that our engagement in Iraq has made us more of a target – I accept, however, that Australia must always be vigilant in the face of extremist threats.

Very few Australians, poisoned by fanaticism, travelling to this warzone with the intention of participating in this conflict, represent a threat to our national security.

We will give legislation that addresses the problem of these foreign fighters the careful consideration it deserves.

Labor believes that our security agencies and national institutions should have the powers and resources they need to keep Australians safe from the threat of terrorism.

But we also believe in safeguarding fundamental democratic freedoms.

We must ensure that in legislating to protect our national security, the Parliament is careful not damage the very qualities and liberties that we are seeking to defend from terrorist threat.

As we work through the Government’s legislation, Labor will continue to ensure that the national security imperative is appropriately balanced against the importance of protecting our democratic freedoms.

Parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of these proposals is essential.

I welcome the Intelligence and Security Committee’s recommendations to improve the first bill dealing with national security law reform, which is due to be debated in the other place this week.

I thank the Government for accepting the Committee’s 17 recommendations to improve scrutiny and oversight of that legislation.

I know that this constructive approach will be maintained as we finalise this bill and deal with further national security legislation.

Madam Speaker

All Australians would have been shocked by the events of last week.

Shocked by the closeness of a threat that is often seen as remote.

Shocked at the thought of the scenes from the towns of Northern Iraq and Syria being played out in our streets.

We do take a certain comfort in our distance from other parts of the world.  But we should also take comfort from the success of our security agencies.



Their professionalism, their expertise keeps Australia safe.


Their response to these threats has been swift and sure.

Our police and our security agencies are more committed and better equipped than the people who would seek to threaten our way of life.

This should reassure us – it should give Australians the confidence to enjoy their lives, without anxiety.

Australia will not be intimidated by the threat of terrorism.

We will be true to ourselves.

Australians never give in to fear – and we will not start now.

We do not back down to threats.

Whenever we are challenged, we prevail.

Our values of peace and tolerance and love will overcome hatred.

They always have, they always will.




Sep 14, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins









Family and friends of those we gather to remember.

Today, we share our tears and we grieve our loss.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – and I pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I acknowledge National President Tony Maher, District President Peter Jordan, District Secretary Grahame Kelly.

Federal and State colleagues.

Friends, one and all.

It is an honour to be here.

It is a privilege to follow in the footsteps of the great leaders of our party and our movement who have spoken here since Paul Keating began this noble tradition in 1996 – alongside the late, great Jim Comerford.

We meet today to renew the pledge carved in the stone of this wall.

To ‘remember before God the men and boys who gave their lives in the northern district mines’.

Tragically, it is also our solemn duty to add four new names to the list of those lost.

And we can no longer speak only of ‘men and boys’.

Ingrid Forshaw, who was killed at the Ravensworth open cut mine on 30 November 2013, was the first woman to die in the northern district coalfields.

We light a lamp for Ingrid today – and for Phillip Grant and Jamie Mitchell, who lost their lives at the Austar underground coal mine on 15 April this year.

And for Mark Galton who died at the Boggabri open cut coal mine on 21 May.


I did not have the privilege of knowing the people we mourn today.

As a father, as a son, as a husband, as a brother – I cannot imagine, I cannot know – the pain, the loss, the bottomless chasm of sadness brought on by a sudden, fateful phone call or knock at the door by sombre police officers bearing the worst news of all.

But I do know that words of consolation and condolence are never enough.

They are merely the start of the process of going on, in slow time, with a heavy heart full of memories.

I do know that whether you call it closure, acceptance, or simply ‘moving on’, it takes a very long time, a lifetime.

I do know that there is no memorial, no ceremony, nothing we can say or do to fill the void left by the sudden, tragic theft of the people who loved you, the people you loved.

No words can restore the birthdays that are marked but not celebrated.

No words can make up for the empty chair at Christmas, the encouraging voice missing from the sidelines of weekend sport, the smiling face absent from the parent teacher interview at school.

But I hope you can draw comfort from the knowledge that you do not walk alone today – you never will.


There are no strangers here.

We are mates, we are family.

On days like today – we look around and see the true meaning of that great, grand word – solidarity.

We stand here wrapped in the great and generous embrace of our party and our movement.

Whether or not we knew the departed, we feel the loss, the absence, the unfinished conversations, the empty air.

We are all diminished, because we are all involved.

We are a living community, a country and a society – joined together in a single shared destiny.

That, that is solidarity.


Ours is a bond that reaches back beyond Federation.

A connection forged here – and in every place where hard-working people endure deep hardship and high risk for modest pay and little reward.

Mining, coal mining has been difficult and dangerous work for centuries.

It kills regularly in explosions, in gassings, in collapses, in water in-rushes and on, and on.

Before Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains, before the Rum Rebellion brought down Governor Bligh, before John Batman decided that the banks of the Yarra would be ‘the place for a village’ – people had worked and died in the mines of the northern districts.

Against the backdrop of this history of danger and death and suffering, it is no wonder that coal-mining has such a long and proud tradition of strong unions, of enduring mateship.

This is the heartland of workers who dared to say, with one voice: “We are not expendable”.

They stood and said:  “We are not fodder, we will not be carelessly discarded and quickly replaced.”

They stood up for their mates, knowing, demanding, that their health mattered, their safety mattered, their lives mattered.

They stood together for a fairer deal, a safer workplace, a better future – and their victories defined our modern nation.

They still do.

They wrote their chapter in our Australian story – a story so often authored and anchored in adversity.


It is a chapter that deserves to be better known.

Our nation has always held a special regard for the extraordinary courage of ordinary people.

Fighting bushfires, battling floodwaters, making a life in rugged and remote locations and, of course, serving our country in war.

Last Thursday marked the centenary of the little-known Battle of Bita Paka.

A hundred years ago, seven Australians were killed during the capture of a wireless station in what was then German New Guinea.

Those seven were the first of more than 60,000 Australians to die in the Great War.

A war that left a vivid wound on the fields of Europe and an indelible scar on the minds of all who lived through it.

A war that claimed more than 16 million lives – and ruined millions more.

It was a war fought, for the most part, with 20th Century technology and 19th Century tactics.

As Winston Churchill grimly noted, generals on both sides seemed intent on:

‘fighting machine-gun bullets with the breasts of gallant men’

This was a war that left an unbridgeable divide between the men and women who had known and endured its horrors, and those who could only guess at the trauma and the tragedy.

As the poet John Masefield said, the scale and depth of mass warfare created the need for:

‘a new term for mud, a new word for death’.

And this senseless loss, this awful waste of a generation’s potential, only served to sow the seeds of a second terrible conflict that began 75 years ago this month.

In our capital cities, and in every country town and coastal village, white markers, stone monuments and tree-lined avenues of honour record the names of citizen-soldiers who left behind their homes and loved ones to risk their lives in Australia’s name.

In the five years of commemoration ahead we will pause, time and again, to remember all who served.

People who fell in foreign fields far from the land they loved – and people who came home forever changed by what they had seen.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, Australians everywhere will utter our nation’s enduring promise: ‘Lest we Forget’.

It is a declaration that their lives were not spent in vain.

It is our shared oath to remember their sacrifice.

And it is a unifying affirmation of our country’s love of peace.


On this day, at this memorial, we remember different people and a different cause.

But their deaths are no less tragic, their lives were no less meaningful, their story is no less central to the country we know and love.

More than a hundred years before the first shots of the First World War – men and boys were mining coal beneath the soil of this nation.

They went down into the earth not out of love for King or country, not in pursuit of a grand adventure or patriotic duty.

Theirs were more modest goals, theirs was an uncomplicated love.

A love of the people they knew.

A duty they felt to support them, a desire to give them a better life.

But their loss was just as cruel, the bereavement of their loved ones just as deep.

And their lives were just as full of quality and meaning as the ones laid down for our country on the other side of the world.

It is not for us to compare, or to weigh one lost life against another.

No-one has that right, no-one can do that.

But just as commemorating the sacrifice of Australians in war spurs us to seek and protect peace.

Today, in remembering those lost to danger, we re-affirm our commitment to safety.

We promise to remember them – and to do better by them.

We vow to continue the fight for the most basic, the most essential workplace right of all – the right to come home alive.

Until that is assured, until there are no more new names on this wall – the work of our movement is not done.


This is an Australian mission – and an international task.

The International Labour Organisation has Convention Concerning Safety and Health in Mines, known as Convention 176.

Australian laws already exceed these standards -  thanks in no small part to the hard work of your union.

But as a mining nation, we have a responsibility to lead, to make a strong statement.

The next Labor Government will ratify Convention 176 – and we will work with our friends and partners in mining nations around the world, to encourage them to ratify it too.


Friends, there are those who say that all the great battles of have been fought.

They say our great race has been run and won.

That the sun has set on the labour cause.

They say that health and safety is the curse of the nanny state, that every compliance measure is ‘red tape’, that every hard-fought reform is a brake on their profits.

They say fairness is guaranteed, our rights at work are secure, and the unfettered free market can take it from here.

They say Australia has no more need for unions.

I say – let them come to Cessnock.

Let them stand before this wall.

Let them look upon the roll-call of those who lost their lives, just doing their jobs.

Let them pause in front of the name of Robert Irving – an 11 year old boy sent down the mines to die before the union won the fight against child labour.

Let them see the names of men aged over 70, who urged their fading health and failing strength to work each day because security in retirement belonged only to the rich.

Let them reflect on the 21 names from 1923, men who were killed in the Bellbird Colliery explosion.

The worst single disaster in the district’s history – that’s what it took to convince Parliament to amend the Mines Rescue Act to include explicit mention of ‘health and safety’.

And let them reflect on what the union movement has contributed to this nation:

  • Fair pay and equal pay
  • Loadings that recognise the sacrifice of working unsociable hours
  • Parental leave, carer’s leave and annual leave, giving people the right to enjoy a life outside of work
  • Compensation for injuries
  • And universal superannuation – a national promise that you won’t work hard all your life just to retire poor.


None of this came easily.

None of it was given willingly.

At every turn, on every issue, our forebears had to fight a hundred incremental battles.

They measured their success in inches – but they took their cause, and our country, miles.

Their story should be told, their achievements should be known.

This is why it is important for our kids to study our Australian history.

Our children should know that modern Australia, the fair, prosperous and inclusive nation we are lucky to call home was not the product of good fortune or happy accident.

They should know that we are the beneficiaries of a generational struggle to seek the fair go and embed it in our national life.


Friends, there will always be people who devote their energies to denigrating the work of the union movement.

Powerful, privileged voices who seek to diminish the role of unions and the labour cause.

People who throw ‘union’ at your feet like an insult.

And when they do – I think of days like this, I think of people like you.

I think of Beaconsfield gold mine.

When Larry Knight’s body was found and the management wanted to halt the search so the coroner could have a protected site.

I saw the grim determination in the eyes of the hard rock miners there, I heard the steel in their voice when they said:

“No. This is still a rescue operation – not just recovery. Until we know different, there are men down there who are still alive.”

When I reflect on these moments, I take that title – union – I pick it up and I wear it as a badge of honour.

Because the union movement is the fair go on the march.


I finish today, where I began, with the people we remember.

My daughter, Georgette and I were on the 7am flight from Melbourne this morning which means being out the door before 6.

We tiptoed out so as not to wake the rest of our family, we patted our two bulldogs and that was it – out the door, through the gate, into the car and onto the plane – confident that we’d be back tonight in time for dinner, Sunday night TV and bedtime stories.

Today we mourn and honour more than 1800 people who went out their front gates to work one day and never came home.

More than 1800 partners and parents, children and friends who had no idea that the usual mad scramble of the morning routine would be their last moments with the people they loved.

So when we leave here, when we return home tonight.

We will remember all those lost.

We will remember their potential and their possibility, their qualities and their character.

We will remember them not for how they died but for why they lived.

And today we promise to go beyond remembrance.

We vow to do better, we vow to do more.

We vow that the deaths we mourn today were not in vain.

We rededicate ourselves to making every workplace a safe and healthy one.

We set ourselves a simple, defining goal.

We will work every day to stop more names being added to this wall.

Thank you






Sep 2, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins






Madam Speaker


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.


Very 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.


Madam Speaker


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.


Madam Speaker


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.[1]


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.[2]


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.[3]


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.






[1] ‘HELP Interest Rate Options: Equity and Costs’, Bruce Chapman and Timothy Higgins, July 2014

[2] Annual figure, for four year degree:
[3] Annual figure, for a five year degree:



[1] ‘HELP Interest Rate Options: Equity and Costs’, Bruce Chapman and Timothy Higgins, July 2014


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