Browsing articles in "Speeches"
Aug 26, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Remarks at AFL Parliament House Cocktail Party

 

Prime Minister, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, and club representatives.

 

Co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of the AFL, Richard Marles and Steve Irons.

 

Friends and Colleagues.

 

Thank you for making the journey to Canberra at a time when some of you are worrying about getting players up for finals – and the rest of you are worrying about what the players will get up to on Mad Monday.

 

It’s good to see Gary Pert here.

 

Gary had an extraordinary career, Fitzroy team of the century, All-Australian and a Collingwood star.

 

The main reason I mention Gary is because I want to talk about myself.

 

Before Gary made the move across from Fitzroy to Collingwood, I was already taking to the field at Victoria Park most Saturdays– as a ground attendant.

 

It was 1990 – so I guess you could say I was a Premiership ground attendant.

 

It was low paid, minimum wage and in my case – highly unskilled labour.

 

I suppose you could call us ‘the front line’ – I think the police thought of us as more like a ‘human shield’.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a diehard Collingwood man.

 

That 1990 side – with Tony Shaw, Darren Milane, Micky McGuane – it was like watching a cavalry charge down the wing.

 

But there were plenty of times at Victoria Park, if the Pies were having a tough day – and the umpires were getting it wrong…you could just feel the terraces shaking.

 

The hardest bit was always the gap between the first siren, when the game ended – and the second siren when people were allowed onto the ground.

 

I’d be there, standing on the ground, with nothing but my blue coat and AFL badge to protect me – and there’d be blokes, looking a bit like extras out of Mad Max,  in the crowd with their wrap-around servo sunnies and handlebar mo’s yelling:

 

‘We’re coming through you mate!’

 

And I used to think, ‘the chances of me being here when you run on are zero’

 

This has been another fantastic season for the game we love – right around Australia.

 

Buddy Franklin has well and truly got his swagger going for the Swans.

 

Crowds have packed the redeveloped Adelaide Oval.

 

The new indigenous-themed jumpers were a wonderful addition to Indigenous Round.

 

And who could forget the Pies stunning comeback on ANZAC Day?

 

It’s an old sporting cliché that ‘you only get out what you put in’.

 

But footy gives our nation, our communities, our people so much more than it takes.

 

From young hopefuls at 3,500 Auskick clinics around Australia, imitating the goal-kicking technique and the goal-celebrating technique of their heroes.

 

To the old blokes putting their hammy through one last test of optimism on a Sunday arvo.

 

We’re all caught up in the magic of football, of being part of a team, of savouring success that is all the sweeter because it is shared.

 

And for those of us who are mere spectators, there is nothing quite like the joy and despair, the ups and downs of a footy season.

 

And the AFL and it’s 804,000 members – and all the clubs – deserve credit for using their power, their influence, to support so many worthy causes and charities.

 

I congratulate Steve and Richard for establishing this group – the Parliamentary Friends of the AFL.

 

I think there is a lot of good we can achieve together, in the seasons and years ahead.

 

Thank you very much – Go Pies – in 2015 of course.

 

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 405

Aug 26, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

TUESDAY, 26 AUGUST 2014

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

 

Before the last federal election, when he was Opposition Leader, the Prime Minister campaigned on trust, on honesty, on keeping promises. He famously said: “The government has no mandate. There should be no tax collection without an election.”

 

Now we have the pot calling the kettle black. Now he is in government, he believes in taxation without elections.

 

Five weeks ago, I and Labor challenged the Prime Minister and his merry band of gaffe-sters to go out and listen to the voices of the mighty Australian people. The last five weeks has shown time and time again that there is no mandate for this government’s Budget because it is built upon lies and lies and more lies.

 

This government has the exact opposite of a mandate for its Budget. Its Budget is illegitimate. This is a government trapped in its Budget, and this is a nation’s Budget trapped by this government.

 

We asked the Leader of the Opposition – the Leader of the Government – and his team to go and talk to families about the $6,000 they are losing.

 

Go and talk to pensioners about the $4,000 they are losing.

 

To talk to the motorists, paying more – even some of those poor motorists.

 

Students and teachers, losing $30 billion.

 

Patients and health care workers, losing over $50 billion from the Budget.

 

We asked them to talk to the GPs collecting the GP tax from aged care and palliative care facilities.

 

We asked them to talk to university students about the doubling and tripling of university fees.

 

Ask veterans, how did they feel about having their pensions cut?

 

We asked, could you find some carers to talk about cutting payments?

 

And what about unemployed people under the age of 30? No income for six months.

 

Indigenous Australians, half a billion dollars from programs.

 

The Government had five weeks to change their mind, but in the last five weeks, all they have done is change their tactics. They had five weeks to listen to people and dump their dishonest, rotten and unfair Budget.

 

This is an incompetent government led by an incompetent Prime Minister and an incompetent Treasurer.

 

I am sure, in quiet moments of reflection that Government members have, they wonder, ‘surely, is it possible, can we get a new Treasurer?’ Every day, a new disaster for this government, every day.

 

Let me remind the Australian people about the accomplishments of this government in the last five weeks.

 

We have Mr ‘right to being a bigot’ himself, the Attorney-General. He went out to defend watering down the anti-hate laws less than 24 hours before he dumped it himself. Then he followed up with that interview on metadata – surely one of the most bizarre and awkward pieces of television since the John Hewson cake interview.

 

And of course, Senator Abetz, Leader of the Government in the Senate, did not like the attention his deputy was getting, so he decided, in an act of political bravery, to go onto The Project, a show I am not sure he had ever watched before he went on it, to re-investigate the latest in 1950s medical science.

 

And of course we have the Monday, Wednesday, Friday ‘Budget emergency’, interspersed with the Tuesday and Thursday ‘not such an emergency’.

 

But there is no doubt the star of this government’s sitcom over the last five weeks is none other than ‘No Average Joe’. He is an albatross around the neck of this government, but the Prime Minister must keep the Treasurer, because it is very careless for our Prime Minister to lose a Treasurer. Because once you lose your Treasurer, you have no one else to blame but yourself.

 

I did certainly enjoy the book reviews. We have a Treasurer, in his famous book, in his must-buy book, according to him, ‘I was a little too soft in my Budget’. What planet does this Treasurer live on?

 

But what I liked, what I really admired, is the marvellous Hamlet-esque, Shakespearean quality of our Treasurer, who says, ‘woe unto me. Why is it that everyone is against me? My backbench, the commentators, the people, Peter Costello.’ What an ungrateful ex-Treasurer he is.

 

The real problem with this unfair Budget is that this government does not know where it is going or what it is doing. They’ve has relied on lies. It is a bits and pieces Budget, devoid of very much other than a ruthless, right-wing ideology.

 

But today, just when I thought nothing else could this government do to surprise me, they declared war on the War Memorial. It is the 100th anniversary of the start of World I – do not shake your head over there. It is your problem because he is your Treasurer.

 

What they have done is an utter disgrace. On the anniversary of World War I, they have decided to cut the travelling exhibition because, of course, ‘we will fight to the death for the rolled gold paid parental leave, but I think we need to net $800,000 spent on a travelling program.’

 

This is a great program, a great program. 3.8 million Aussies have seen this program – I do not mind you muscling up to me, I just wish you would do it in your caucus room.

 

Now what they have done, in galleries in communities all over Australia, in towns some of these city-based Liberal MPs have never heard of, they are going to be disappointed by this heartless decision.

 

Because what a clever government. Why wouldn’t you take away the story of our soldiers on display in Perth? Why did we never think of that? Why wouldn’t you take away from display in Brisbane and Adelaide the story of the forgotten diggers of World War I? Of course, the brain surgeons writing the script for this sitcom government said to each other, ‘let’s take away the story of the nurses going from Zululand to the modern time.’

 

Our veterans deserve better than this government. We deserve better than a government that will cut the funding to its own War Memorial. Where this travelling exhibition goes is a map of Australia and you are seeking to erase it.

 

These cuts must be reversed. I call upon those members in the Government to find a little bit of spine on this question. We do not mind if you get the credit for this. Reverse this decision.

 

The real issue, though, in the last five weeks is that the Government has had the chance to demonstrate it can be trusted. The truth of the matter is that in the last 105 days, Australia has learned you can’t trust Tony Abbott, you can’t trust Joe Hockey and you can’t trust this government.

 

This is a government who has then said, in what can only be regarded as a feat of some remarkable foolhardiness, has said to people, ‘if you don’t vote for our unfair Budget, we will tax you more, we will cut research more, we will punish you more.’

 

This is a government who will stoop to pressuring the Australian people, saying that unless the Senate takes on our unfair Budget proposition, then we will go harder and worse.

 

Let me be clear. This Prime Minister loves to quote to us about mandate – ‘mandate this, mandate that’ – well where was the mandate for this Budget?

 

He made himself very by famous criticising the former government, ‘there was no mandate, there should be no new taxation without an election.’ Well Tony Abbott, what was good for you then is good for you now.

 

I state here clearly and loudly and unequivocally, you have no mandate for your Budget.

 

You have no mandate for your cuts.

 

You have no mandate to punish pensioners.

 

You have no mandate to punish the schools and hospitals.

 

You have no mandate to hurt ordinary Australians.

 

If you really believe in what you say, test it at an election. But in the meantime, do not punish ordinary Australians because you told lies before the last election.

 

 

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053

 

Aug 26, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

MOTION OF CONDOLENCE FOR MH17 VICTIMS

MOTION OF CONDOLENCE FOR MH17 VICTIMS

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

CANBERRA

 

TUESDAY, 26 AUGUST 2014

 

I rise to support the Prime Minister’s words on this most dreadful matter.

 

But what I also do, is rise as a father, as a son, as a brother, as a husband and as an Australian – I rise to offer my deepest personal sympathies to those who knew and loved the victims of this terrible, violent and unimaginable crime.

 

On the morning of the very last day our Parliament sat, we assembled amidst the sudden shock and grief of the incomprehensible tragedy of MH17.

 

In the weeks that have passed between then and now, so much has been said about the act of evil that shot from European skies an Asian airliner filled with citizens from around the world.

 

I on behalf of Labor look forward to continuing to work with the Prime Minister and the Government to ensure the strongest possible reaction from Australia. The seeking of justice, as the Prime Minister has indicated, cannot be shirked.

 

The weapons of death were sophisticated and couldn’t have been built automatically by the people who used them.

 

So let me be clear, I have the gravest reservations welcoming to Australia anyone in the future who is engaged in this act of terror – and we will support the strongest possible reaction from the Government on this matter.

 

We recognise that all involved have done remarkable work. I acknowledge the work of the Prime Minister and the foreign minister. I also might acknowledge the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and his National Security Adviser who have kept the opposition in touch.

 

I thank representatives of DFAT, my colleagues, in particular, Tanya Plibersek, AFP, Military personnel, His Excellency, the Governor-General.

 

I would also like to acknowledge the great cooperation and leadership of the Netherlands, the Ukrainian Government, Malaysia.

 

I also wish to speak of, the Opposition’s support for Malaysian Airlines, who have been through an unimaginable year.

 

I think it is also appropriate to acknowledge the role of the United States, without whom, I believe much couldn’t have been possible.

 

The suggestion of a memorial is a very worthy idea.

 

Our Parliament stops all other business today, to offer its thoughts to all those who lost their lives on MH17.

 

Madam Speaker

 

This was a global tragedy that has struck at Australian hearts.

 

Australia did lose 38 of our own.

 

Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, partners and parents, friends, teammates, classmates, colleagues.

 

Wonderful people who loved – and were loved.

 

People who laughed and learned and made a life underneath our Southern Cross.

 

For the loved ones left behind – It is still a time of shock, a time of disbelief, a time of continual mourning.

 

We know their grief in this place, but we cannot share it.

 

We vow to repatriate their loved ones, but we cannot fill the void of their loss.

 

We can hope for an end to the quest for a reason, but it will not be enough.

 

Today, here in the house of the Australian people, for many who are listening, what matters most is not the ‘why’ or the ‘how’ – what matters is who we have lost – and what we will miss.

 

Madam Speaker

 

I have had the humbling privilege of meeting with many of the families touched by this tragedy.

 

Their courage, their resilience, their ability to endure public interest in their private grief was remarkable and moving.

 

Who of us can imagine, who of us here can contemplate – the sense of cruel coincidence and avoidable calamity– the unimaginable hell of alternative possibilities that will be haunting all those who have lost someone they loved so unexpectedly on this ill-fated flight.

 

I know and the Prime Minister knows, because I witnessed him talking to the families, that for the families and friends of all those aboard MH17, words mean little at this painful hour.

 

But they should know that Australia shares their sorrow.

 

I sincerely hope they can draw modest consolation from Australia’s affirmation.

From the knowledge that they do not walk alone in grief.

 

That we are with them.

 

Our nation’s great, invisible, generous, sustaining sympathy is with them – and it always will be.

 

Madam Speaker

 

Let all of us pause now to remember the names of those our country lost.

 

Let all of us remember their potential and their possibility.

 

Let all of us remember them not for how they died, but for why they lived – for the love and friendship and joy that we who are left behind vow to never again take for granted.

 

May they rest in eternal peace.

 

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

 

 

Aug 25, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

REMARKS TO SHADOW MINISTRY

REMARKS TO SHADOW MINISTRY

 

CANBERRA

MONDAY, 25 AUGUST 2014

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

It’s been five weeks since the Parliament sat and the Government’s Budget is still a disaster.

 

Down the hall, they are having another ‘political strategy’ meeting to talk about the Budget ‘message’.

 

They’re bringing in consultants to tell them not to insult Australians – or perhaps explain to Joe Hockey what poor people look like.

 

We do understand that they’re reviewing their message, they’re discussing their strategy, they’re thinking about new political games to unleash upon Australia.

 

The truth is, as all of you have attested to me in recent days, the Government simply doesn’t get it. They don’t have a sales problem with their Budget, they’ve got an unfairness problem with their Budget.

 

It’s not so much that their critics are scaring Australians, it’s that their Budget scares Australians.

 

That’s what we have done these past three months – we have fought the Budget on the substance.

 

And again, I congratulate the entire Labor team – since the Budget, what we’ve done in the last just over three months is draw a line in the sand and say to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and his team: we will not let you wreck this country and make it a more unfair destination for our kids and their grandkids.

 

So I know that all of you have been out over the past five weeks talking. You’ve been visiting child care centres, you’ve been visiting schools, you’ve been visiting universities, hospitals, workplaces and aged care homes.

 

You’ve all been working hard but I particularly acknowledge Kim Carr and Amanda Rishworth who’ve been out at university campuses very actively, as have a lot of other members of the caucus.

 

Catherine King and Stephen Jones have been in hospitals and GP Clinics, talking to the practitioners, talking to the patients.

 

Kate Ellis has been in schools and child care centres – I’m not sure there’s a child care centre left for her to visit. I’m sure there is, but it doesn’t feel that way.

 

Shayne Neumann and Helen Polley have been out there in aged care and retirement centres promising older Australians that we will protect them.

 

And Brendan O’Connor and many others have been out to worksites.

 

And you’ve all been out raising issues in your portfolios and standing up for ordinary Australians.

 

But I think that it’s true that across all of us, we’ve all been getting the same message, and I suspect the Government backbench has been getting the same message, whether or not they’re willing to admit it – Australians don’t want their Budget.

 

They do not want this Abbott Government Budget and they want Labor to stand up for them.

 

I would assess that we have fought well in what’s been 100 days since the Budget – but the fight is not over and really, we’ve only just begun to fight. And that’s what Australians expect of us.

 

What is good though is that Labor has found its voice, unmistakably.

 

We are fighting them on the great Labor ground of fairness, and that’s what people expect and hope from us.

 

It is the case that we have been on the side of fairness, of hope, of opportunity – and what we’re doing is making sure that the Australian of 2020 and 2030 is a better destination with jobs and fairness at its centre.

 

So we’ve been doing well – I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of our colleagues at 2.15pm in caucus.

 

I might ask our friends from the media to leave as we analyse the political landscape and how we continue our great fight for Australia.

 

Thanks everyone.

 

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053

Aug 9, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

ADDRESS TO THE COSBOA NATIONAL SUMMIT

ADDRESS TO THE COSBOA NATIONAL SUMMIT
CROWN CONFERENCE CENTRE
MELBOURNE


FRIDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014

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It’s great to be with you this morning.

 

Like many of you, I don’t make a habit of having breakfast at the Casino – so perhaps it would be better if we just think of this as another great, third-generation Australian family business.

 

I am here today both as Labor Leader, and as Labor’s lead spokesman for small business.

Labor’s commitment to building prosperity and growing the economy depends upon the success of Australia’s 2 million small businesses.

 

And I took on this portfolio responsibility because I believe that Labor can do more for small business – and we can do more with small business.

 

We can, and we will.

 

We will do more to help you grow, to innovate and thrive.

 

I don’t see this as enemy territory.

 

I don’t subscribe to some kind of shuttered, narrow political ideology that arbitrarily puts Labor on one side – and small business on the other.

 

This kind out outdated division, this artificial border benefits no-one.

 

Indeed I am certain many of you have found, to your frustration, being pigeonholed as a ‘traditional’ supporter of one side of politics – diminishes your influence with that party.

 

Your support is too often taken for granted, and your concerns are met with vague assurances instead of meaningful Government action.

 

You deserve better than this – you deserve to be engaged and valued in the decision-making process.

 

And for my part, as someone who has spent their working life conciliating, negotiating and constructing workable compromise to achieve a better future -  my first instinct is always to find common ground and to build upon shared interests and objectives.

 

That’s the approach I’ll be taking as Leader – and as Small business spokesman.

 

Labor and Small Business

 

For modern Labor, the innovative party of inclusive economic growth, small business will always be a big part of our plans.

 

As the party of innovation, we know small businesses are hives of creativity and commercial potential.

 

As the party of jobs, we value small business as an employer of nearly 5 million Australians – and a supporter of their families.

 

As the party of entrepreneurs, we understand that all of you who start small businesses are taking a risk, stretching yourselves and making sacrifices to build a better future for your families.

 

As the party of equal opportunity for women, we know that small business gives women the chance to bypass the glass ceiling and bridge the gender pay gap.

 

And we need only look at the unbelievable success of some of Australia’s inspirational ‘mumpreneurs’ – once dismissed as a fad, now so often leading the way.

 

These women aren’t looking for a hobby, for something to do – they’ve got great new ideas, they want to run successful businesses, and they are.

 

As the party of working people – we know how much small business owners value and appreciate the talents and flexibility of their staff.

 

As the party of safe and inclusive communities, we admire the social investment that small businesses make: the butchers sponsoring sporting teams, the newsagent championing public parks, the fruit shop sponsoring playgrounds and the hosts of retailers campaigning for civic amenities in high streets across Australia.

 

And as the party of fairness, Labor believes in cracking down on multinational profit-shifting.

 

Because business owners who do their banking in the local high street, should have the same opportunity to grow and thrive as the multi-billion-dollar operators who do their banking in offshore tax havens.

 

And as the party of working families, Labor knows that work-life balance can be the first casualty of starting and running a small business.

 

While there is much we share with all of you, I know that there is also enormous diversity within small business:

 

-       Family businesses like Ferguson Plarre

-       Franchise owners, sole traders and families working from home

-       And start-ups commercialising innovative new ideas

 

In short, we understand and value your time, your energy, your investment, and your contribution to Australia.

 

But your time does not belong to the nation.

 

Your energy is for your family as well as your customers.

 

You are investing in your community, but also in your children’s future.

 

And the Government decisions that affect you, should reflect your views.

 

As Minister and as Leader

 

That’s why, as Minister, I worked with Peter and COSBOA to improve dealings between Small business and Government.

 

Because none of you have time to sit on the phone listening to ‘hold’ music when you have customers waiting.

 

My focus was on streamlining interactions between small business, the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

 

And also – giving small business owners some of their weekend back – through the creation of the Superannuation Clearing House which has already distributed more than $1 billion of superannuation payments for owners.

 

That’s the way I and Labor will work with small business – taking concrete, practical steps that deliver tangible benefits.

 

We know that you can’t build a more prosperous Australia for small business simply by rehashing platitudes, or invoking old Menziean ties that no longer bind.

 

Because small businesses don’t run on rhetoric.

 

Politicians and Governments are judged not by what they say to you on mornings like this – but what they do for you in Canberra.

 

Words come and go – the only measurement that matters is our deeds.

 

The simple test for Labor and Small business, the first question we will always ask, is: ‘will this decision make it easier for small business to grow, to thrive, to innovate – to do business’.

 

Economic Policy for Small Business

 

In Government, Labor made it easier for small businesses to grow by:

 

-       Creating an immediate small business tax deduction for assets costing up to $6,500.

-       Allowing small business to depreciate assets costing $6,500 or more in a single simplified depreciation pool; and

-       Allowing small businesses to claim an immediate deduction for the first $5,000 for motor vehicles (new or old) and to depreciate the rest in a single simplified depreciation pool – 15 per cent in the first year and 30 per cent in subsequent years.

 

In this time of economic change and transition, the Instant Asset Write Off helps small businesses make the hard adjustments and the necessary investments to seize opportunity.

 

And it is also a convenience measure, removing the need to track the deprecation of assets over several years – meaning less time spent on book-keeping and paperwork, and more time serving your customers and growing your business.

 

Labor made it easier for small businesses to endure tough times by allowing companies in a loss position to carry back losses to get a refund against tax previously paid – a measure which benefited almost 100,000 businesses.

 

And we made it easier for small businesses to lead innovation in work practices and technology by doubling the rate of research and development assistance available to small and medium-sized businesses.

 

Small Business and Taxation

 

Labor also lightened the small business taxation burden – and that is our continuing mission.

 

We tripled the tax free threshold, providing a benefit to around 1.4 million small business owners who are sole traders or hold an interest in a partnership or operate through a trust.

 

And we want to extend this benefit.

 

Indeed, in the Parliament right now, the only party fighting for fairer, simpler taxation for Small business is the Labor Party.

 

We all know Tony Abbott likes to say that Australia is ‘open for business’ – what he means is ‘open for 6000 big businesses’, while ignoring the 2 million small businesses that keep this country strong.

 

This Government spruiks its company tax cut – but 93 per cent of small businesses won’t benefit from it.

 

Either because they don’t operate as a company, or they aren’t in a profit position.

 

And at the same time the Government is seeking to wind back around $4 billion of Labor’s small business tax incentives.

 

It’s not just a matter of lightening the taxation burden – Labor is committed to streamlining the taxation process too.

 

A Labor Government will reduce the number of times small and medium businesses need to lodge GST returns from four times a year to one.

 

Moving from quarterly to annual returns will ease the paperwork load for around 1.3 million small businesses with a turnover of under $20 million.

 

And right now, dealing with GST paperwork represents nearly half of the tax compliance cost for business – and it consumes nearly 500 hours a year for small and medium enterprises.

 

This is a practical change that frees up your time and resources – and that’s why it is Labor policy.

 

Red Tape

 

This Government loves to say that it is cutting red tape – as if simple repetition can turn a mantra into meaningful action.

 

But the test, again, is not what they say – it is what they are doing.

 

And because small business is so central to our prosperity, so integral to our economy – almost every piece of social and economic decision-making has an impact.

 

Not just measures that are explicitly labelled as ‘small business’.

 

This Government loves to say that it is cutting red tape – as if constant repetition can turn a slogan into meaningful action.

 

Take the Government’s policy to change the work for the dole requirements, so that job seekers now have to submit 40 job applications per month to qualify for their payments.

 

At one level, this over-the-top targeting of our society’s most vulnerable members, is deeply offensive to Labor’s values.

 

But it is also short-sighted – and economically damaging.

 

Just as depriving jobseekers under 30 of any support for six months pushes the price of unemployment onto the Australian family…

 

…this latest dose of Liberal snake oil shifts the cost of looking for work onto business – especially small business.

 

It is a half-baked plan that shows no understanding of small business.

 

A change that seems purposefully designed to make life harder for the engine room of our economy.

 

For the sake of a couple of tough-talking tabloid headlines, the Government is prepared to unleash a tsunami of unsolicited and underprepared resumes on the small businesses of Australia.

 

It won’t be Centrelink or job services providers that will have to manage this massive flow of paper.

 

It will be you – and hundreds of thousands of small business proprietors like you.

 

Because while large companies have HR staff working full time on recruitment and reviewing resumes, in small business it is almost always the person with their name on the door who has to sift through the CVs.

 

This takes you away from the business, away from the counter, away from design work, planning and budgeting and it takes away time you could be spending with customers.

 

And the cost of this process – the burden imposed by what the Minister has already admitted is nothing more than a tick-box compliance exercise – it is staggering.

 

Using the Government’s own Business Cost Calculator, and estimating that there are around 760,000 employing small businesses….

 

…and assuming that each of these businesses spends just one additional hour a fortnight processing the increased number of job applications, then this policy will have an economic cost of nearly $700 million per year.

 

This means a $2.1 billion hit to small business over the three years of the program.

 

A business cost of nearly $1 for every $2.50 spent by the Government.

 

This single decision – seemingly taken without a regulatory impact statement – is the equivalent of the total gains claimed by the Government on their now increasingly laughable ‘repeal day’.

 

A red tape ‘bonfire of the vanities’ that was always more vanity than bonfire.

 

Of course, these changes are yet to pass the Parliament.

 

In what is becoming an all-too familiar pattern of shoot-and-scoot, they were loudly announced, widely criticised, timidly defended and then quietly withdrawn.

 

This is typical of the state the Budget is in three months after it was announced by Joe Hockey.

 

Small Business and the Budget

 

Much of Labor’s case against the Budget has been framed by fairness.

Yes, we believe in fairness.

 

But for Labor, fairness is more than a social value, it is a pragmatic pathway to economic growth.

 

That’s the problem with the Budget – it’s not just unfair, it’s economically debilitating.

 

And there is no doubt that small business occupies a prominent place on the long list of those harmed by the new taxes and deep cuts in the first Abbott-Hockey Budget.

 

The Budget increases your taxes and it reduces your cash flow.

 

The new petrol tax adds to your costs and at the same time, the Budget is harming business conditions.

 

Small business people know better than anyone that when Governments cut, family budgets suffer – and the family budget is the bedrock of consumer confidence and economic growth.

 

As people who make complex budgeting decisions every day – it must be particularly galling to be on the end of Government lectures about lifting and leaning.

 

As businesspeople engaged in the macro-economic picture, you know too well that the overblown bluster of ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ has done far more harm than good.

 

And as people who interact with customers every day, the hammer blow that this unfair Budget has dealt to consumer confidence has hurt you too.

 

The Westpac Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment tumbled by 7 per cent in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Budget.

 

Looking to the future – the best driver of consumer sentiment are the results from the quarterly survey on news recalled.

 

Even two months after the Budget, a record 74 per cent of those survey recalled news on ‘Budget & taxation’, the highest ever recall rate for this issue, swamping all other news items.

 

The more Australians learn about this Budget, the less they like.

 

And clearly, this unfair Budget is hitting confidence.

 

Confidence – and jobs.

 

Yesterday’s increase in the unemployment rate to 6.4 per cent – 7 per cent here in Victoria – was the first time Australia has had a higher rate of joblessness than the United States since 2007.

 

And it is our highest level of unemployment since 2002.

 

In fact, unemployment hasn’t been this bad since Tony Abbott was Employment Minister.

 

If I could paraphrase Oscar Wilde: presiding over one unemployment peak may be misfortune, presiding over two is beginning to look like carelessness.

 

70,000 Australians have been added to the unemployment queues since the Budget – and all of you know the impact rising unemployment has on your businesses.

 

These hits to jobs and confidence are grave short term threats – but in the longer term, the Budget’s cuts to research and development have the potential to be every bit as harmful for small businesses.

 

Small Business and Innovation

 

So often, it is small businesses that take the biggest strides in innovation.

 

Both in modifying and adapting their existing work practices and products – and in the entrepreneurs who embrace risk and seek to turn a great idea into a successful start-up.

 

And to grow that start-up into a thriving business.

 

I took on responsibility for Labor’s Science and Innovation portfolio because I believe that Australian creativity and Australian brainpower can underpin our future prosperity.

 

Nowhere is this more important than in small business.

 

In 2014, in a world that has never been more borderless, on the doorstep of the fastest growing region in economic history, we have a tremendous opportunity.

 

We can encourage the genius of our people and help enterprises share in innovation-led growth.

 

But we also face a pivotal choice.

 

Australia can get smarter, or we can get poorer.

 

We can choose to compete in the new, knowledge-driven economy.

 

Or we can give up on nurturing our own ideas.

 

Of course, not every new idea will be a good one.

 

And not every new business will succeed.

 

Innovative countries know this.

 

They understand that sometimes failure is merely a marker on the road to success.

 

And shrewd investors realise that it is often an entrepreneur’s second or third business that will be their most successful.

 

I believe that Governments play a role in setting this tone, in creating this culture.

 

The job of Government is not to replace private investment, or crowd it out.

 

But we should be supporting start-ups, nurturing creativity and rewarding ingenuity.

 

There is a perception that America is a land of small government.

 

Perhaps this is true in healthcare – and in social security – but not in innovation.

 

Today – the rate of patent applications in the United States is at its highest level since the Industrial Revolution.

 

The US Government supports more basic research than the private sector.

 

And a recent report from the Brookings Institute shows that patents funded by the US Government are of much higher than average quality.

 

When the Federal Government provides funding for small business research and development – the result is higher metropolitan productivity growth.

 

The difference between a high patenting and low patenting area is worth more than $4000 in productivity per worker over a decade.

 

Above all, the Brookings Institute Report shows us the value of collaboration – of innovation hubs and integrated graduate research.

 

I have no doubt that Australia can do more to encourage entrepreneurs to do what they do best.

 

And Labor is looking positively and closely at changes to the Employee Share Scheme, to ensure that the tax burden aligns with the likely realisation of equity stakes in a company.

 

This would remove a significant drag on innovation – and it would make it easier for small businesses to grow a new idea into a profitable business.

 

If you’re an Australian with a good idea, you should be able to attract talented employees, and give those employees genuine buy-in.

 

You should be able to offer good people an incentive to stay with your business on the hard road road to commercialising your innovation.

 

Australia’s future prosperity – and the future strength of our 2 million small businesses – depends upon getting smarter, on helping our people capitalise on their genius.

 

Conclusion

 

Every successful small business is the product of courage, hard work and ambition.

 

Your courage should be acknowledged and Government should take on the challenge of rewarding your hard work, repaying your effort and encouraging your ambition.

 

This requires a big picture understanding of our economy, and our society.

 

And it demands a connection with the interests and values of small business.
For Labor, this means returning to the threshold question I articulated earlier.

 

We will always ask:

 

Will this decision make it easier for small business to grow, to thrive, to innovate – to do business?’

 

And we will continue to back in the family business dream, to support the courage of sole traders – to be on the side of the risk-takers backing in their ideas.

 

I look forward to talking further with you today – and in the weeks and months and years ahead.

 

Under my leadership, Labor will always be open to business.

 

We will always be ready to work together with you to deliver the best outcomes for our country.

 

For employers and employees, families and communities.

 

Because when small business succeeds, Australia succeeds.

 

Let us make that shared success our common goal – and our compass in the years ahead.

 

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053

Aug 7, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

NATIONAL MEMORIAL FOR MH17 VICTIMS

NATIONAL MEMORIAL FOR MH17 VICTIMS

ST PATRICKS CATHEDRAL

MELBOURNE

 

THURSDAY, 7 AUGUST 2014

 

 

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Families and friends of those aboard MH17.

 

Australia shares your sorrow.

 

Governor-General, Prime Minister, Your Excellencies, my fellow Australians.

 

We gather in this peaceful sanctuary to pay our national tribute of respect.

 

We gather as sons and daughters, as brothers and sisters, as partners and parents, as friends and strangers joined in a single garment of grief.

 

In the sight of all faiths, we mourn all on MH17 – innocent, unoffending and precious – these victims of a most terrible, violent and unimaginable evil.

 

We mourn 38 of our own, who laughed and learned and loved beneath the Southern Cross that today flies half-mast around the nation that was their home.

 

There is grief that is known but cannot be shared.

 

There are loved ones coming home, but not really.

 

There is hope for an end to the quest for a reason, but this too will not be enough.

 

Today is not about why, or how – it is about who we have lost, and what we will miss.

 

Some will call it closure, some will call it acceptance, some will call it letting go – whatever it is, it will take a while.

 

For some of us, the worst is not hearing their voice again – and knowing that we never will.

 

The lack of it, the silence, the unfinished conversations, the too-late statements of love, the enduring void in the air, are impossible to imagine, and hard to live with.

 

Some of us have dreams from which we do not want to wake.

 

Places we cannot go again, albums and images and movies we do not want to see again, for fear of love bursting out, and breaking once more a heart that is almost healed.

 

As a father, as a son, as a brother, as a husband, I cannot know – I cannot contemplate – the sense of avoidable calamity, and ill-fated coincidence – the unimaginable hell of alternative possibilities you are going through.

 

It is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this painful hour– but I hope you can draw modest consolation from Australia’s affirmation, from our nation’s great, invisible, generous, sustaining sympathy.

 

From the knowledge that you do not walk alone today – you loved wonderful people, who lived meaningful lives.

 

Let those of us who pray, pray for the departed, pray for the bereaved, and pray for our country which bears an indelible scar on its soul.

 

And let all of us remember the names of those lost to us now.

 

Let us remember their potential and their possibility.

 

Let us remember them not for how they died, but for why they lived –  for the love and friendship and joy that those of us left behind vow to never again take for granted.

 

God bless you, god bless your memory.

 

May the beautiful souls of flight MH17 be taken by a flight of angels to rest in eternal peace.

 

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

 

 

Aug 6, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

40TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

40TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014

 

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Friends, four decades ago, in the people’s house behind us, the great Gough Whitlam set a new standard for Australian health – the standard of universality.

 

Forty years ago, with Medibank, Labor declared that the health of any one of us, is important to all of us.

And ever since then – if you ever wanted to know the difference between Liberal and Labor, have a look at Medicare.

 

Medicare, friends, is the measure of what Labor does. It is, I believe, proof of what Australia does best.

Medicare friends, is the rock of which we have built modern Australia and we will not allow it be dismantled.

 

If you have nagging asthma, if your child has a rising fever, or indeed if you are worried that it is something worse than that, you can in this country of ours, see a GP.

 

It doesn’t matter if you have lost your job or if you are flat broke. It doesn’t matter, if you work hard but it’s the last day of the previous pay period and there isn’t a lot of money to see the doctor.

 

In this country, unlike most other parts of the world, if you need care, if your beautiful, precious, unique child that you love needs care. If your parent needs care – then we can ensure that because of Medicare that you get that care, and we know that every Australian is healthier when Australian can get care.

 

We know that Medicare is fair. We know that Medicare works. We know that Medicare doesn’t just make you healthier. It makes us more productive. It boosts the participation.

 

Our home grown Aussie, smart, preventative system of primary health care means fewer sick days, which is good for business and it’s good for jobs. Our special Aussie home grown system of health funding means less cost for the tax payers. Australians as you know well here, spend less money for more care, longer life expectancy and better access to services.

 

And as the union reps here would know, it means no cost to employers, no extra burden on business. This gives us a head start on the rest of the world. So if we know that Medicare is fair, if we know that Medicare works, the great question of Australian politics is why do the Abbott Liberals hate Medicare so much?

 

Abbott Liberals cannot be trusted with the health of Australia. Their attitude to Medicare is a disgrace.

 

This GP Tax which has brought you here today, it represents an unconscionable assault on the bottom half of Australian society.

 

It turns our GPs, Australia’s medical front line, into Abbott tax collectors. Taking their time and their attention away from patients.

 

GPs know what this tax means, they know the pain it will cause. They know that this is a tax on the sick. It is a tax on the vulnerable.

 

And all of this is for what exactly? The GP tax will not be returned to the bottom line. Not one dollar, not one cent of it. This GP tax is not about money, it is about philosophy. About their Liberal philosophy or more accurately, it is about their rotten Abbott Liberal prejudice. Is it nothing but a plan to destroy Medicare.

 

It is cynical, it is dishonest, it is an attempt to socially engineer an unfair, two-tiered, US-style health system on to Australians. And like Catherine and like the other Federal Labor MPs here, Labor will not allow this to happen.

 

We are Labor. We will never allow a system where your wealth determines your health.

 

As has been said, the Liberal have always hated Medicare. 40 years ago in this place, Billy Snedden, the then leader of the Liberal Party, said of universal health care, “we will fight this scheme continuously and in the end we will defeat it”.

 

30 years ago, John Howard, still at the letterbox waiting for his knighthood, John Howard said that Medicare was ‘a total disaster’. John Howard said Medicare was a ‘human nightmare’. He said about Medicare that he wanted to ‘stab it in the guts’.

 

Now we have Tony Abbott, he wants to wreck Medicare, he wants to demolish it, he wants to lay waste to our smart, home grown system of primary and preventative care.

 

We know and you know that Medicare is fair. We know that Medicare works, and we know that Medicare belongs to all of the Australian people. It belongs to you, it belongs to everyone and we will not let Tony Abbott wreck Medicare, will we?

 

In 40 years since Medibank, 30 years after Labor introduced Medicare, it falls to this generation, it doesn’t matter if your 17 or 77, we are the generation for whom faith and destiny has made us, yet again, the people who must save Medicare from the Liberal Party of Australia.

 

Today, let us loudly and proudly make a promise on behalf of the millions of people who count upon Medicare. Let us make this promise. Labor will fight to the death to defend bulk billing. That will fight right down the line for the principle of universal access to healthcare. That we reject that pernicious, cynical mantra of the worst health minister in federation history, Peter Dutton. That he says that nothing is for free, how dare this people, how arrogant. Australians pay for Medicare through their levy, they should not have to pay for it again, Peter Dutton, you joke of a health minister.

 

So today, we say about Medicare and this rotten unfair budget, we say this:

 

No compromise, no trading, no retreat, no surrender on Medicare.

 

We have built Medicare and the people before us have built Medicare. Australians depend upon Medicare. Together, we will stop Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare.

 

It’s as simple as this. We will fight for what is right and we will prevail, I promise you that.

 

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 405

Aug 3, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE GARMA FESTIVAL


SPEECH

KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE GARMA FESTIVAL

SUNDAY, 3 AUGUST 2014

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It is a special privilege to be here at Garma, where the two waters become one.

To celebrate your culture, everything from: bunggul and didge to manikay.

I acknowledge the Gumatj and the traditional owners and pay my respects to elders past and present.

And I acknowledge all the young people here, the leaders and elders of the future.

And I salute a giant of my party – and a tireless champion of reconciliation who is with us today – Bob Hawke.

The new Garma Knowledge Centre –will be home for the cultural treasures we celebrate today.

Congratulations to everyone who made it possible, and I pay particular tribute to your friend and mine, Jenny Macklin.

In modern Australia, we have gained and grown from embracing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture – in our art, our music, our films and literature.

A 40,000 year old culture daily enriching every facet of our short history together.

But we can do better and we can do more.

This centre – and this festival – show us we can achieve balance and harmony.

When I was here in February, I had the honour of sitting with you, Galarrwuy, and other elders.

It was an uncertain time.

The refinery, shutting down. And a lot of good people under pressure.

But I was inspired by the determination and the high horizons of the leaders I met.

I witnessed in your hearts the same passion that took the bark petitions – and the injustice they sought to overturn – from Yirrkala to Canberra, 51 years ago.

The passion captured in the inspirational words and music of the great friend that this community – and our country – sadly lost last year.

Today I am honoured to return to your country with my family.

My wife Chloe and I wanted our children to see your beautiful, unique homelands.

And your resilient, proud people.

Strong, generous people – working to build better lives for your families.

I am not a stranger to this place – but I seek to learn more and to do more.

Because Closing the Gap, through the recognition and empowerment of the First Australians, is the test of our generation.

I approach this task with humility, knowing that it represents the most profound, enduring challenge of our two centuries together.

Ever since Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said 42 years ago that:

all of us are diminished while Aboriginal people are denied their rightful place in this nation’

National leaders of all persuasions have carried Gough’s statement in their minds as a profound truth.

This truth is unrelenting and will remain un-assuaged in the conscience of our nation for as long as we do not find and restore this rightful place.

I come to Garma not to preach or proclaim, to lecture or dictate.

My colleague Warren Snowdon tells me – and I can see for myself – that the Yolngu know exactly who they are and where they are going.

I know you are anchoring secure, independent economic futures for your people – through your land, through business and industry, and now with the new skills, new jobs and new opportunities of the Rio Tinto mining school.

Friends, I am here to learn.

Partnership and Empowerment

But friends, I know we have been a country and a continent divided in two.

The powerful and the powerless.

The free and the oppressed.

Your people have endured oppression in every form.

Oppressed by settlers, squatters and frontier violence.

Oppressed by segregation, discrimination and exclusion.

Oppressed by a failure to respect cultures, traditions and languages.

Oppressed by racism, prejudice and paternalism – both malign and benign.

Oppressed by short lives and long misery, more diseases and fewer jobs.

At Redfern in 1992, Paul Keating was the first Australian Prime Minister to fully acknowledge these injustices.

His words woke the nation to the haunting stain on our soul.

22 years and 4000 kilometres from Redfern – much good work has been done.

Australia has said sorry for the theft of your children.

And we are on the path to matching words with deeds, to empowering Aboriginal people and Closing the Gap.

Yet too many are trapped in a morass of unfairness and entrenched disadvantage.

We have an opportunity now – and a responsibility always – to gather up the mantle of Redfern and create an accord between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

An agreement based on shared goals and mutual respect, on our common rights and responsibilities.

Because succeeding in this national task means working together, as empowered partners and equals.

For me, Indigenous Affairs has never been a ‘victim study’.

I believe that you, the people who have cared for Australia’s national estate for more than 400 centuries – can thrive and succeed in 21st Century Australia.

That is why you should be in control – not passive recipients of bureaucratic guesswork.

I have heard, many times, that Aboriginal people are the most over-consulted people in Australia.

But far too often, the first policy consultation with Aboriginal people is the last time that the people most affected are involved.

This leads to alienation.

To the frustration and angst that comes from feeling your voice has not been heard.

To further disempowerment – or focusing negative energy on the wrong issues.

In education, in health, in childcare, in employment, in legal aid, in communal safety and in land use for economic development- Aboriginal people must be valued, respected and engaged at every stage.

Wherever and whenever Australians – Indigenous or non-Indigenous – are exercising their normal responsibilities to themselves and their families, there is no justification for intervening in their right to manage their own lives.

The great majority of Australians who receive welfare income are responsible.

There are two non-negotiables for Labor here:

  • Welfare measures must not discriminate between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians; and
  • Measures must not interfere with the dignity of the majority of Australians who are exercising their responsibilities and who do not deserve any intervention in their domestic, private lives.

It is time for us to give new thought to formal mechanisms to ensure broad-based representative input – and meaningful engagement with Parliament.

Not just self- appointed committees and one-man bands.

My goal is to build partnerships of mutual recognition, respect and shared responsibility.

Partnerships where the first instinct of government is to listen and learn, not to merely lecture.

Partnerships that recognise that wisdom is not imported from Canberra – it grows here in this earth, what is known as mother earth.

Partnerships that empower Aboriginal people to own their destinies.

Partnerships that see Aboriginal people as part of the answer – not a problem to be solved.

This means moving away from a ‘deficit model’ and towards recognising Indigenous excellence – nurturing achievement and valuing the strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It means engaging with Aboriginal people as cultural beings, capable of navigating the modern world – and of adding value, contributing to, and enhancing the Australian society we all share.

This was the co-operative, community-driven spirit at the heart of the Closing the Gap targets.

This is the cause Labor recommits to today.

We will work with you, we will seek your guidance.

Not out of insincerity, or false morality.

But because we respect your knowledge.

The alternative: a return to top-down, ‘one size fits all’ bureaucratic dictation – is no alternative at all.

We cannot fall back into the old trap of ‘we know best’.

You know – we all know – the problems that arise when the decisions that affect your community, your family, your futures, are made 4000 kilometres away in Canberra – without your participation.

You should be the ones making the informed decisions – at a local and regional level.

You should have the choice and control to build a better life.

You should be able to leverage your resources and your land to develop and create opportunities.

And decisions about the future must draw on the ‘free, prior and informed consent’ of people and communities –upholding the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

We will not overcome Indigenous disadvantage by undermining Indigenous diversity, or Indigenous rights.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, Australia cannot afford a 19th Century view of Indigenous Affairs.

We cannot go back down that road – especially when we are at last making real progress.

Education and Early Childhood

Last year, we met the first Closing the Gap target.

Today, every precious unique child living in a remote community has access to early childhood education.

And that first step leads to the next – boosting reading, writing and numeracy, guaranteeing that more Indigenous students will complete school.

Leading to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with university degrees and training qualifications.

Leading to good and rewarding jobs.

This is the life-changing, potential-fulfilling power of education.

Education begins when we enter the world at home, and we must weave it right through childcare, school, apprenticeships and university.

We must invest in the skills, knowledge and potential of this generation.

Success depends on community leadership – on parents, older siblings, uncles and aunties, elders and role models.

That’s why, in Government, Labor supported frontline, locally-driven services, including Community and Family Centres.

We believe local decision-making requires real dollars – and empowered communities.

Government has to replace control with collaboration.

Labor believes in funding innovation in the delivery of frontline services – not defunding them.

In providing stability and certainty, for communities pursuing long-term solutions

And in always asking whether government is working for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Incarceration and Justice

Looking at all the hopeful young faces here today, it is hard to believe that an Aboriginal boy leaving school is more likely to go to jail than university.

For far too many Aboriginal people, a first offence means a prison sentence.

Prison too often leads to unemployment, unemployment to alcohol abuse, alcohol abuse to family violence – and to reoffending.

And re-offending leads to more incarceration.

It is a vicious, hope-killing cycle – and we have to smash it.

We need a new justice target, developed in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and legal aid groups.

We must reduce the growing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – especially young men – who are arrested, tried and incarcerated.

The increasing number of Aboriginal men in custody is a national disgrace.

Here, in the land of the fair go and the second chance the colour of your skin should never determine the sentence you receive.

We must support front-line legal aid services – providing qualified advice and proper representation.

We must stop the ‘rivers of grog’ – through community-driven alcohol management plans and local leadership.

We must speak out against family violence, uniting with communities to end cowardly attacks on women and children.

We must support family violence centres and counselling services.

This is about building respect and instilling hope – respect for the very essence of a safe and happy family.

Respect for kinship, respect for community – and self-respect.

And hope that our goals can still be achieved –  our targets can still be met – that the gap can be closed in our lifetimes.

Constitutional Recognition

Labor believes in according Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a place of honour in Australia’s Constitution.

Redressing historical injustice – and facing dark historical truth – demands every ounce of our national will.

I understand that Australian history did not begin at Botany Bay, or Eureka, or Anzac Cove.

Our Australian story begins with you and your ancestors, the oldest collective race of people in the world.

And the sooner our Constitution honours the people who have shared an unbroken connection with this ancient continent – the better.

But constitutional recognition has to involve more than a token gesture.

We need substantive and substantial change.

Symbolic change is not good enough – preambular change will not suffice.

Many Indigenous people have made it clear to me that they believe banning racism in our Constitution is vital.

The Expert Panel on Constitutional recognition proposed a new section 116A for this very purpose.

We are some way from finalising any referendum proposal.

But imagine, striking out old laws tainted by imperialism and prejudice – and replacing them with a safeguard against racial discrimination.

What an uplifting moment for all Australians – not just our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters.

A reminder that, apart from you, the very first Australians, all of us balanda are migrants.

A tribute to both the world’s oldest living culture – and our multicultural society.

A reflection of our Australian soul.

I believe Recognition will succeed– but I am conscious of the difficulties before us.

If we rush, we might move too fast to build community support.

If we wait too long, division, denial and cynicism may fracture this moment of national unity.

The only way to overcome these risks, is to unite behind Recognise.

Ultimately, we will only succeed, if both major parties agree.

The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Recognition – led by Ken Wyatt and the outstanding Senator for the Northern Territory Nova Peris – is taking a bipartisan approach.

And Liberal and Labor must reach a consensus before the next election so that whether I am Prime Minister – or Tony Abbott – all Australians have certainty.

Be assured, Labor – the party of land rights, of Native Title, of Redfern, of the Apology, of Closing the Gap – will devote its energy to making recognition happen.

I know the Prime Minister will have to deal with more scepticism and less understanding from within the conservative moment.

Today, I offer to help him where I can.

And Labor will lead when we must.

Recognition should be a political priority – but it should be beyond politics.

It is a historical wrong that must be made right.

Right now, there are some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people asking:

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

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

‘What is the point of historical justice, if I am denied basic, natural justice?’

‘What is the value of being included in the Constitution – if I am still excluded from society?

These questions are more than fair.

But Australia does not have to choose between ‘practical’ and ‘symbolic’ reconciliation.

They are tied together – just as our destinies are tied together.

We share a common goal and we must share a future.

Working together, sharing power to achieve success.

I will be back here, in East Arnhem.

And my Shadow Minister Shayne Neumann, my Caucus colleagues and I will be meeting with Indigenous people right around Australia – in remote communities, in our cities and in our regional towns.

Your ideas, your goals, your hopes, your aspirations and your dreams will always be close to Labor’s heart.

Your cause will always be important to Labor – it will always be our cause.

We will listen to you, we will work with you, we will trust you with the power to build better lives for your families.

And we will not rest until the job is done.

Until the gap is closed, until the promise of Australia is fulfilled – until opportunity belongs to all of us.

Until the day when, as Galarrwuy says, our two waters are one.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053

Jul 27, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

NEW SOUTH WALES LABOR CONFERENCE

NEW SOUTH WALES LABOR CONFERENCE

SYDNEY

SUNDAY, 27 JULY 2014

 

 

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

And today I reaffirm Labor’s commitment to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia, in our Constitution.

Tanya, thank you for your generous introduction, and through you, I want to thank the leadership of the NSW Branch.

Your General Secretary Jamie Clements, all your office holders, officials and staff here today – your work of rebuilding and reform is vital – thank you for everything you do.

The State Labor Parliamentary team has worked so hard since 2011 and I know you have more to do between now and March 2015 – in John Robertson you have a great leader and he leads a great team.

Let me acknowledge my remarkable Federal colleagues, who join me on this stage today.

I am so grateful for the support of our united Parliamentary team in Canberra and I am tremendously fortunate in the quality of the delegation from New South Wales.

Let me acknowledge NSW unionists here today, from Marilyn Issanchon and Mark Lennon to every delegate, activist and member – you stand up for working people every day.

Friends, I will never apologise for representing working people – and I pay respect to the work of Australian trade unions.

I did in particular want to acknowledge my fantastic Deputy. She is a lion of this Branch, she is a great voice for progress in this State and this nation – Tanya Plibersek.

And perhaps most importantly, I want to acknowledge rank and file Labor members.

People like George Turner from Tweed Heads: A life member, fighting the Nats in tiger country on the far north coast for years, helping Justine Elliot to her fourth victory in Richmond.

And Scott Rhodes of Frenchs Forest: a 25 year member tirelessly flying the Labor flag in the blue ribbon booths of the Northern beaches and the lower north shore.

No-one gets past Scott without a how-to-vote card – he’d even give one to Bronwyn Bishop.

And Paula Keyes from Hinchinbrook, who made thousands of cold calls to swinging voters across all target seats from the Parramatta headquarters, every day and night of the last campaign.

George, Scott, Paula – like all of you – have shown more than faith alone, you lift Labor with your belief and energy.

The only thing more remarkable than your patience is your passion.

The view from this stage right now is the best view in Australian politics – you inspire me.

Delegates, coming to this hall, to speak to this conference, is one of the great rituals of Australian Labor politics and one of the great privileges of a Labor Leader’s life.

The greats of our movement, the giants of our party have all gathered here.

But I know that many of you this weekend will have reflected with some sorrow that the last time we were in this room was to farewell Neville Wran.

When Frank Forde spoke to a hushed Parliament on the death of John Curtin, he said that Curtin was always a common man, a man for the masses.

He: “strived and struggled among them, and even when he came to the highest place in the land, he was still one of them.” 

In May I told the Parliament that the same could be said of Neville Wran.

This great man of integrity dominated NSW Labor’s substance and defined your style.

From what Paul Keating called his “PhD in poetic profanity” to Wran’s pragmatism in delivering progress, Neville personified the best of Labor in New South Wales.

Federal Labor is deeply indebted to Neville Wran and through him deeply indebted to all of you.

Just as Australia in the modern world is unimaginable without the nation-building reforms of the Hawke and Keating Governments…

…the election and achievements of the Hawke and Keating Governments might have been unthinkable without the leadership, professionalism and judgement of this great Branch under that great man.

I know you are rebuilding and I want you to know why it matters so much to Australia that you do.

Because Neville Wran taught Labor in Canberra one thing above all else – we are only strong there when you are strong here.

Delegates.

We gather at a time when many people in our country are mourning terrible loss.

The past ten days, since the attack on MH17, have been days of sorrow, anger and confusion for so many.

The families and friends touched directly by this loss have already suffered greatly.

The uncertainty, obstacles and indignities of the days since have only deepened their grief.

All Australians share in their sadness – we are all affected, we are all involved.

And on this we are all agreed: we must see the victims identified, the bodies returned, the police investigation concluded and those responsible brought to justice.

MH17 is a scar on Australian innocence.

A catastrophic reminder that the destiny of Australians is joined to the wider world.

And if we ever thought that Australia was a small country far away, without a place in global affairs – we can dispel that illusion.

Together, we have built our nation up – through politics and diplomacy, through the economy and trade, as a global citizen – and it has have served us well in recent days.

And I pay tribute to the work of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard in winning a UN Security Council Seat for Australia.

Today our world is more borderless, our people are more connected and the pace of change is faster than at any time in human history.

And I look to the future with hope and optimism.

Today, our economy is strong, and our people are skilled, independent and tough.

But our nation’s future success is not guaranteed, because delegates, in 2014, our fairness and our prosperity are under siege.

Australia cannot afford national complacency as the pace of international change accelerates.

There is so much for our nation still to do, so much progress still to be made.

  • Creating jobs and growth
  • Moving to clean energy
  • Investing in new technology
  • Standing up for regional and rural Australia
  • Improving education and skills
  • Supporting small business
  • Modernising health and disability care
  • Seizing the opportunities of the Asian Century
  • Saving for retirement
  • And demanding the equal treatment of women

So much to do.

That’s why, as Chris Bowen says, we need an economy which is “innovative, agile, entrepreneurial and embracing of change”.

This is not inevitable, it requires policy and leadership.

To build an Australia that is strong, prosperous and fair – we have to be modern, flexible and innovative.

That’s the big picture.

That’s the Labor project that we must commit to in the decade ahead.

That’s what a Federal Labor Government would do if we were in office today.

But delegates, that is not what we are witnessing in Canberra right now.

This Abbott Government – and this Hockey Budget – they are neither the team nor the plan Australia needs.

The Liberals are cutting where they should be investing – they are hurting those they should be helping – and they are doing nothing at all where they should be doing the most.

MEDICARE

Delegates

If Australians want to know the difference between the Liberals and Labor, just look at Medicare.

There is no better measure of what Labor does – no better proof that Labor is the party that represents and reflects our country at its best.

Medicare is the rock upon which we built modern Australia.

For 30 years, Medicare has set the community standard around Australian health – the standard of universality.

If ever there was one measure which marks us out as a society, rather than a collection of individuals, it is Medicare.

Medicare declares that the health of any one of us, is important to all of us.

For three decades now, every parent, every person, has known this:

If you have nagging asthma, if your child has a rising fever – and you’re worried it’s something more serious – you can see a GP.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve lost a job or you’re flat broke.

It doesn’t matter if you work hard but it’s the day before pay day.

You can get the care you need, your child can get the care they need, your elderly parent can get the care they need and every Australian is healthier as a result.

Medicare is fair – and Medicare works.

In America, for six long years, President Obama has been trying to introduce universality.

To take the United States away from its two-tier, unfair, internationally uncompetitive system.

It is madness for Australia to go down the American road, just when Americans are finally making a long, exhausting u-turn.

Medicare doesn’t just keep Australians healthy, it makes us more productive and it boosts participation.

Our smart, universal system of primary, preventative care means fewer sick days – it is good for business, and good for jobs.

And our smart, modern system of funding that care means our system costs less for taxpayers.

Australia spends barely half as much on health compared to the United States, as a proportion of our GDP.

That’s less money, for better care, longer life expectancy and greater access.

All of this with no cost to employers and no extra burden on business – giving us a real head start in the world.

Medicare is fair, Medicare works – so why do the Abbott Liberals hate it so much?

Their plans for Medicare are a disgrace.

The GP Tax represents an unconscionable assault on the bottom half of Australia.

And it turns our hard-working GPs – Australia’s medical front line – into tax collectors.

Taking their time and their attention away from their patients.

Two weeks ago, Catherine King and I presented a petition to the Parliament, signed by more than three thousand doctors – 2500 of them GPs.

They know what the GP tax will mean, they know the pain it will cause.

Here’s what Dr Julie McClellan, one of the 3000, had to say.

The Prime Minister should come on a nursing home visit and see if he feels comfortable asking the palliative patient or the confused elderly lady rocking in the corner for their $7.

Something tells me that’s an invitation Tony Abbott – or Joe Hockey – or Peter Dutton – will never accept.

And even in the Abbott-Hockey Budget, none of this is about money.

The GP tax is not being returned to the bottom line – not one dollar of it.

This is about philosophy, their philosophy, or more accurately, their prejudice.

It is nothing but a plan to destroy the universality of Medicare.

Delegates

Medicare is fair – Medicare works – and Medicare is ours.

Medicare belongs to Australians and we will not let the Abbott Government take it away.

For more than a decade, even the Liberal Party, even under John Howard, knew to keep their hands off Medicare.

But what was good enough for Howard is not good enough for Abbott.

Now Tony Abbott wants to wreck Medicare, to demolish it, to lay waste to Australia’s smart, fair and strong health system.

Delegates – the fight for Medicare is upon us in earnest.

Here today, loudly and proudly, let us make this promise:

Labor will fight to the death for bulk billing in Australia.

We will fight right down the line for the principle of universal healthcare .

No compromises, no trading, no retreat, no surrender.

We built it, Australians depend upon it, and we will stop Tony Abbott’s Liberals from tearing it down.

EDUCATION/SKILLS/TRAINING

Delegates

The crimes in this Budget go beyond Medicare.

Budget cuts to education, training and skills will be devastating.

This Government is cutting $5.3 billion from our universities.

They are doubling and tripling the cost of degrees in science, accounting, veterinary care – pushing the price of a university education beyond the great, good dream of ordinary families.

Forcing young Australians to choose between a mortgage and higher education.

Forcing young women to choose between starting a family and paying off their degree.

And training is hit too – apprentices lose support for their tools and will be slugged with debt instead.

There is insult added to this injury.

Not only did the Liberals ambush Australians in the budget, they lied to Australians in the election campaign.

Delegates, they aren’t just cutting higher education and training for the future, they are trying to change school education to make it look like the past.

We spearheaded crackdowns on bullying and violence in schools – they want to bring back the strap.

We expanded the teaching of Asian languages- they want to expand learning about the Kings and Queens of England.

I don’t know if you know the Education Minister Christopher Pyne – if you’d met him, you’d remember him – but he must be the most backward-looking, extreme and out-of-touch Education Minister since Federation.

Education is the driver of our future – yet this Minister has told his chauffeur to put us in reverse gear.

The difference between Liberal and Labor on education is wider than the Nullarbor.

We believe in needs-based funding for all of our children.

The Abbott Liberals believe in the old private vs public arguments.

Yesterday, John Robertson made it clear that State Labor would do things very differently as well.

Robbo, your plans for schools, TAFE and skills are exactly what New South Wales needs – and we’ll work with you to deliver these plans.

The Abbott Government’s cuts to education and training take Australia in the wrong direction.

These cuts are not the exception, they are the Liberal rule.

In fact, more than fifty billion dollars will be cut from hospitals in coming years.

This is worth repeating – fifty billion; fifty thousand million.

These are enormous, unprecedented cuts – the equivalent of sacking 1 in 5 nurses – or 1 in 3 doctors – or closing 1 in every 13 hospital beds.

There is no doubt – waiting lists will grow, waiting times will go up, the sick and the injured will be turned away.

Under the Liberals, the pension age is going up, while the pension rate is going down, the seniors supplement is gone for good and superannuation has been frozen.

Frugality is their motto.

This Government’s only retirement plan is to make Australians work longer and harder and retire later with less.

There are cuts that hurt families – a family which lives on
$80,000 per year will be $4000 worse off, and worse off every year.

And a family on $65,000 will be over $6000 worse off.

In Tony Abbott’s Australia, the less you earn – the more you pay.

And there are so many more victims of these Budget cuts – our veterans, our Indigenous people, carers and people with disability.

None of this happened by accident – this Government knew exactly what it was doing and who it was doing it to.

And the only thing more terrible than the impact of these wilful cuts is that the Liberals now think the cuts haven’t gone far enough.

Two weeks ago, Joe Hockey blustered that if these cuts are blocked, he’ll go further – with cuts that bypass the Parliament.

And now we read in his new biography that the Treasurer believes the Budget should have been tougher.

If this is what an authorised biography reveals – imagine what the un-authorised biography looks like!

This arrogant, cigar-chomping Treasurer’s hopeless biography reveals that it took Tony Abbott to block him from deeper, harder cuts.

Seriously.

If it’s up to Tony Abbott to tell you that you’ve gone too far, you’ve really gone too far.

The Liberals can’t blame Joe Hockey.

He’s only a symptom, he’s not the cause.

This is a Government unravelling from the centre and rotting from the top.

If it’s not Ministers talking about secret plans for cuts, or Liberals speculating about leadership succession, it’s a $22 billion dollar paid parental leave scheme – where only Rupert Murdoch was consulted, and a plan for knights and dames where even John Howard was out of the loop – but he’s still waiting at the letterbox!

Joe Hockey’s talk of more cuts is hardly a surprise.

We already knew the Government wants to drive further down this road, because we’ve seen the Government’s roadmap – the Commission of Audit drew it for them.

The Commission of Audit report is the plan Tony Abbott asked for, the plan Joe Hockey paid for, and the plan the Liberals are hungry to implement.

Here’s the destination the conservative side of politics has set for itself.

Completely abolishing Family Tax Benefit Part B.

A fifteen dollar GP tax.

A hospital tax.

A lower minimum wage.

Delaying the NDIS.

When the Liberals talk about looking for alternatives, these are their alternatives.

When they say they want to go further, this is where they want go.

Believe it or not – this is the Australia the Liberals believe in.

Of course it’s unfair – they’re the Liberal Party.

But the Budget doesn’t just hurt Australians today, it will hurt Australia tomorrow.

It is not just conservative, it is regressive.

It is capital C conservative.

This is a Budget brought to you by a conservative Prime Minister who doesn’t see it is as his duty to care for everyone.

By a conservative Treasurer whose personal comfort in life has completely robbed him of charity. And, I might say, judgment.

By a conservative Government which governs only for those it sees as its core constituency.

We know the Budget failed the fairness test.

The Budget fails the future test as well.

Take just one example: climate change.

It is no coincidence that one of the fundamental questions for our future is one of their fundamental policy failures.

They believe in a price signal to punish the sick and the vulnerable – but not to punish polluters.

They love freedom so much they’ve made pollution free.

Delegates, Labor will “fight and fight and fight again” for action on heat trapping greenhouse gasses.

The Fraser Government abolished Medibank for a while but it couldn’t kill the dream of universal health care.

The Abbott Government may have stalled action on climate change – but they can’t stand in the way forever.

Delegates

Australians are better than this Liberal Government – and Australia deserves better than this Liberal Government.

That’s where we come in.

Only Labor can modernise Australia – only Labor ever does.

The responsibility always falls to us.

And only a modernised Labor party can modernise the country.

Only a Government which sets aside vested interests and outdated thinking to seize the future can succeed in our country today.

Labor has to be as modern, confident, democratic and outward looking as we want Australia to be.

No person, no group, is immune from self-interest – everyone on every side has to give some ground.

If we want to change the country, we have to change.

And if we want to change the Government, we have to change.

In so many ways, New South Wales is showing the way.

I congratulate you on the lead you have taken on rebuilding Labor.

You’ve made enormous progress over the past two years, and you’ve made important progress over the past two days.

That’s good – because this is urgent.

We all know what has to be done and we don’t have forever to do it.

There is a lot of detail and lot to debate, as there should be.

But I am here to state a very clear direction.

Labor has to rebuild as a party of members, not factions.

A bigger, bolder, broader party – 100,000 strong.

A party where your membership card entitles you to genuine participation in our party: in the choice of our leaders, our candidates, our policies and our dreams of Australia.

A party where more people, are more involved, more often.

That’s the direction this branch has set – but we now have to complete the schematic – to make it obvious to everyone what Labor stands for and how we conduct ourselves.

Delegates

Change in our society never stops – and the work of our movement is never done.

There are always new threats to our security, new competitors for our economy – and old unfairness in new forms.

And to all those who say that the great battles have been fought…

That the great races have been run and won…

That our society is fair, that the politics of progress are fulfilled, that the free market can take it from here, I say:

Tell that to a young jobseeker in our suburbs, or to a worker retrenched in our towns.

They’ll tell you as long as there aren’t enough jobs for people who want work, we still have work to do.

Tell that to a young student who’s been racially abused on public transport.

They’ll tell you as long as long as there are still people who want the “right to be a bigot” – we still have work to do.

Tell that to a tourism operator watching the Great Barrier Reef die through the glass bottom of her boat.

She’ll tell you until we have real action on climate change, we still have work to do.

Tell that to a teacher without the resources to teach the children who need the most help how to read and write and count, much less fulfil their potential in the modern world.

He’ll tell you while we don’t have great schools, we still have work to do

Tell that to a country person waiting for the NDIS to reach their town.

They’ll tell you that as long as Australians living with disabilities are exiled to a second-class life in their own country …

… Labor in Australia still has work to do.

And until the only test of whether you can get married, is whether you love each other – Labor still has work to do.

Delegates

We reject complacency – this is no time for lethargy or shoulder-shrugging.

As long as there are Budgets like this Abbott-Hockey Budget…

As long there are Governments like this Liberal Government…

As long as there are leaders who think it is their job to cut jobs, cut wages, cut pensions, cut education, cut health …

… then Labor in Australia – you, me, all of us – we still have work to do.

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053

 

Jul 25, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

 

NEW YORK, USA

THURSDAY, 24 JULY 2014

 

 

I am very grateful for this second opportunity to speak at the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue.

 

And for the chance to thank all those who have worked so hard to make this year’s dialogue another outstanding success.

 

There is always so much for us to share, and celebrate, together.

 

For more than two centuries, our national stories have been intertwined.

 

Our two nations are like parted cousins, who went with similar dreams across vast oceans to different countries and ways of being.

 

Australians and Americans fought and fell, side by side, in two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

A million US soldiers passed through Australia, on their way to winning the war in the Pacific.

 

12,000 brought Australian brides back stateside.

 

And another 10,000 stayed in Australia to start and raise their families.

 

For generations, American music has been the soundtrack to Australian adolescence.

 

Our actors and film directors have invaded your Oscar nights, your great picture palaces, your Broadway theatres.

 

One of our singers, Helen Reddy, gave the American feminist movement its anthem.

 

One of our writers, Tom Keneally, wrote modern classics on your Civil War, and the Holocaust that yet haunts so many of your citizens.

 

Americans and Australians died in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

 

Australians and Americans were shot from the skies over Ukraine last week.

 

We are bonded, we are blood cousins, we share, as Rick Blaine said in the favourite film of a million Australians, ‘a beautiful friendship’ – in history, literature, music, film and sport.

 

Cate Blanchett has played Katharine Hepburn.

 

Judy Davis has played Nancy Reagan.

 

Russell Crowe has played James J. Braddock.

 

This year, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

 

Last month, Paddy Mills and Aron Baynes won championship rings with the San Antonio Spurs – following in the footsteps of Luc Longley and Andrew Gaze.

 

Victorian Dante Exum was taken at pick five for the Utah Jazz while Queensland’s Cameron Bairstow was taken in the second round by the Chicago Bulls.

 

Ben Graham played in an AFL Grand Final for the Geelong Cats – and in a Superbowl for the New York Jets.

 

Saverio Rocca left the North Melbourne Kangaroos to become a punter for the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

And Eric Wallace left North Carolina basketball for a spot at North Melbourne.

 

Laver, Rosewall, Court, Rafter, Hewitt and Stosur have achieved the ultimate success at Flushing Meadow.

 

Connors, Navratilova, Sampras, Agassi, Seles and Williams have won legions of admirers at the Australian Open.

 

And for years, millions of Australians have set their alarms for Augusta.

 

We have watched, bleary-eyed, as Greg Norman endured heartbreak – and Adam Scott basked in glory.

 

And in 1784 – four years before the First Fleet entered Sydney Harbour – General George Washington joined soldiers in the Continental Army at Valley Forge in a game of cricket.

 

He was on the winning side – of course.

 

Australia, like America, has a great tradition of stand-up comedy, of long, rambling rhymed verse.

 

We are multicultural societies that glory in good food and street dancing and music and literature.

 

We, like you, understand the difficulty of those coming burnt-out of terrible wars and persecution into the forgetful tranquillity of our suburbs, becoming Australians, becoming Americans.

 

We, like you, do not underrate that difficulty.

 

We understand the whole world is a melting pot now – and we celebrate that.

 

We are two of the world’s oldest political democracies, but in each case there was not full suffrage till the 1960s.

 

For each of us social justice has a way to go.

 

We know that each of our countries could do better, each of us can do more.

 

We can do more to extend opportunity, to nurture the dreams of our citizens, to give the next generation a better life and a greater chance.

 

This is our great shared goal.

 

This week, we have gathered in pursuit of all of this.

 

And today, at the New York Academy of Sciences, this monument to the pursuit of knowledge, our focus is on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 

There is no better proof of America’s ability to look beyond the horizon and test the limits of the impossible than the way it has led the world in science and innovation.

 

As Labor’s lead Science and Innovation spokesman, I am very fond of Michael Shermer’s definition:

 

‘Science is not a thing – it is a method, a process, a way of thinking.

 

Science is a verb, not a noun.

 

Science is a method for understanding the world – a process that involves evidence, reason and especially testing claims.’

 

Long before Shermer said this, Americans embodied it.

 

They looked at the world around them and they sought to understand it, to harness it for progress.

 

People like Franklin, Goodyear, Edison, Whitney, Ford and Firestone – driven by a spirit of curiosity and enquiry to build a better world.

 

That’s what needs to remain at the heart of our science curriculum – respect for curiosity.

 

Encouraging discovery.

 

It’s what Sir Paul Nurse, the President of the Royal Society means when he says there is:

 

‘a little bit of the scientist in all of us – especially when we are young children’.

 

He’s right.

 

Chloe and I have three marvellous children, one of whom is our four year old daughter – and every day I am amazed by her limitless imagination and her boundless curiosity.

 

She shares a determination common to all young children – the desire to ask why, and how – and to keep asking.

 

That’s the spirit of science – it is in-built, hardwired into our human nature.

 

Our job, as leaders, as policy-makers, as educators, as champions of science and innovation, is to foster this fascination, and to broaden and deepen it in our classrooms.

 

Because we all know the biggest factor in getting children to study science in secondary school – and beyond – is the training their teacher has had.

 

We all know that inspired teachers inspire children.

 

But, in the hands of hardworking, but underqualified, teachers who lack the confidence and knowledge to go beyond the set materials, Science can be re-cast as a dry, rigid series of rules, formulae and equations in textbooks.

 

In reality, science is so much more than the accumulated weight of centuries of discovery.

 

It is a cast of thought.

 

A way of thinking.

 

A mindset that allows our citizens to critically evaluate information – a skill that has never been more important.

 

We live in a time-poor, data-rich age.

 

We carry in our pockets a more sophisticated computing system than the one that landed Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on the moon 45 years ago this week.

 

And because of this, no people in human history have had instant access to the quantity of information we do.

 

Quantity – but not necessarily quality.

 

In a world awash with self-published, self-proclaimed experts, a respect for credible evidence helps us sift through the conspiracy theories and Dr Google’s latest instant diagnosis.

 

A scientific mindset reminds us that uncertainty is not the enemy.

 

That framing the question is sometimes just as important as seeking the answer.

 

That doubt drives discovery.

 

Preserving this spirit, encouraging this worldview will be just as critical as nurturing our research institutes and higher education centres.

 

Without question, many of the breakthroughs that will define the 21st Century will come from our university laboratories, our research centres and large-scale collaborative projects.

 

These research and development centres compete for limited private investment and scarce government funding– and they know that, more often than not, the money follows ‘results’.

 

They need achievements to point to, benchmarks, milestones, projected returns.

 

This framework of accountability is important.

 

The last thing we want is a grants system where investors are duped into an investment in alchemy or taxpayer funds are frittered away on perpetual motion machines.

 

But a short term cost-benefit analysis should not constrict us.

 

Not all research has an immediate, obvious commercial benefit – and making that the sole criterion sells short unknown potential.

 

For example, early Australian research on the axon in the giant squid had no demonstrable commercial potential.

 

Yet it has deepened our understanding of the nervous system – priceless knowledge.

 

Not all ground-breaking discoveries will involve orderly, sequential progress toward a clearly sign-posted outcome.

 

And not every invention that changes our world will come from the laboratories of NYU, Stanford, Berkeley or MIT – or ANU, UWA, Monash or Sydney University.

 

Even in the 21st Century, great ideas, future-shaping change will come from the workshops, garages and garden sheds, studies and school desks in our suburbs and country towns.

 

And it is our duty to ensure there is still room in our world for individual innovation, for creative genius.

 

That it is still possible for an American or an Australian, to turn a great idea into a successful start-up.

 

And to grow that start-up into a thriving enterprise.

 

Not every new idea will be a good one.

 

Not every new business will succeed.

 

The greatness of America is that it knows this.

 

It knows, that:

 

‘the only thing to fear, is fear itself.’

 

It was the same lesson I took from my visit to Israel in 2012.

 

Israel has made high-tech exports and entrepreneurship their point of competitive advantage.

 

Israel, with a population of less than 8 million, fosters a thriving venture capital industry that produces more successful start-ups than much larger economies like Japan and Korea.

 

Israel’s commitment to innovation – and commercialising that innovation – is hard-wired into its key institutions.

 

Like America, the Israeli government embraces science and innovation – and like America they understand that sometimes failure is merely a marker on the road to success.

 

Investors realise that it is often an entrepreneur’s second or third business that will be their most successful.

 

I believe that Governments play a role in setting this tone, in creating this culture.

 

Not replacing private investment, or crowding it out.

 

But in supporting start-ups, nurturing creativity and rewarding ingenuity.

 

Here again, America shows us the way.

 

Today – the rate of US patent applications is at its highest level since the Industrial Revolution.

 

The United States Government supports more basic research than the private sector.

 

And a report from the Brookings Institute shows that patents funded by the US Government tend to be especially high quality.

 

When the Federal Government provides funding for small business research and development – the result is higher metropolitan productivity growth.

 

In fact, the difference between a high patenting and low patenting area is worth more than $4000 in productivity per worker over a decade.

 

Above all, the Brookings Institute Report shows us the value of collaboration – of innovation hubs and integrated graduate research.

 

Of course, when science seeks to make history, or change the world…there are always some risks that are greater than others.

 

Sometimes the price of failure is truly terrible.

 

No country knows this better than the United States of America.

 

At 6:34 pm, on Friday 27 January 1967, during a training exercise on the launchpad of the John F Kennedy centre, a flash fire broke out in the command module of Apollo 1.

 

The fire only burned for 30 seconds – but it claimed the lives of all three astronauts aboard:

 

Lieutenant Colonel Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom, a member of the original Mercury Seven.

 

Lieutenant Colonel Edward White, the first American to walk in space.

 

And Roger Chaffee, who was preparing for his first space mission, were the first Americans to die in pursuit of the grand national goal of:

 

landing a man upon the moon and returning him safely to the earth’. 

 

Two and a half years later – and 45 years ago this week – as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepared to leave the Sea of Tranquillity, they reverently placed the mission patch from Apollo 1 on the powdery surface.

 

There, amidst the ‘magnificent desolation’, lie the names of Grissom, White and Chaffee.

 

Remembered forever, not for how they died – but for why they lived.

 

Without Apollo 1, there could have been no Apollo 11.

 

Without that terrible risk, there could have been no reward.

 

Without pioneers with the courage to risk it all, humanity’s greatest journey could not have been made.

 

This is America’s example.

 

This is America’s legacy.

 

It is from this that Australia takes our inspiration.

 

In science, in innovation, in discovery.

Thank you.

 

 

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT: 02 6277 4053

 

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