ZIONIST FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIA
SUNDAY, 30 MARCH 2014
It’s great to be here today.
I’ve long been a supporter of Israel – and an admirer of its success and its many accomplishments.
In 2012 I led a Ministerial delegation to Israel.
I was keen to learn how it has made high-tech exports and entrepreneurialism its point of competitive advantage.
I was curious, how can a country with a population of less than 8 million can support a thriving venture capital industry that produces more successful start-ups than much larger economies like Japan and Korea?
The answer was simple.
Israel embraces science – and isn’t afraid of failure.
Israel’s commitment to innovation – and commercialising that innovation – is hard-wired into key institutions.
There is a Chief Scientist in every Government Department, and a defence industry that drives innovation for industrial use.
Above all, there is a tolerance for risk and failure, because investors realise that it’s often an entrepreneur’s second or third business that will be their most successful.
It’s an inspiring story that shows Israel is determined to let every citizen fulfil their potential.
It’s an example that Australia can draw a lot from – and I think there is much more we can do in the way of innovation partnerships with our good friends in Israel.
Today is an important chance for me to lay out the principles that inform Labor’s view of the Middle East.
The Labor Party will always be proud of the role it played in the birth of modern Israel.
We continue to have mutual security interests in the safety of our people against international terrorism and governments that support them, and I am proud of the elevated levels of defence cooperation that were reached during our Government.
This included significant procurement of Israeli equipment in the areas of Battlefield Management Systems, UAVs, helmets, combat bandages, Typhoon weapons stations and other systems on our vessels, and the joint Thales and Plasan Protected Mobility Vehicle project.
We also cooperate closely on methods of dealing with those insidious and indiscriminate Improvised Explosive Devices that have maimed and killed so many in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Labor’s belief in the right of the Israeli people to live within secure and recognised state boundaries has never wavered.
We also have great hopes for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
The best way to achieve this just peace is a two-state solution.
And let me be very clear what I mean by that:
One state for the Palestinian people.
One state for the Jewish people.
Two homelands for two peoples.
We believe both sides need to demonstrate a willingness to engage in direct negotiations without pre-conditions and to move as quickly as possible to resolution of final status issues.
It is at the negotiating table that these issues should be resolved.
This is why I strongly support the efforts underway by Secretary of State John Kerry to reach a framework agreement – and ultimately a comprehensive peace treaty.
Both sides face a moment of truth in these negotiations.
I have no doubt in the courage of the people of Israel to make the hard decisions in the interests of a just and lasting peace.
And I firmly hope the same pertains to the Palestinian Authority.
Labor acknowledges that the settlements and infrastructure Israel has built in the West Bank will need to be considered in drawing a final border.
We will support an approach that enables agreed border adjustments, including through the principle of a land swap which has been under discussion between the parties for a long time.
We do acknowledge that some settlement activity in the West Bank is illegal under Israeli law and we encourage the Israeli authorities to act effectively with respect to this.
But this issue, as difficult and emotive as it is, also has a solution: a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine.
The issue of Israeli settlements will be definitively concluded when there is a peace treaty, with defined borders – and then everyone knows the territory that Israel has, and that Palestine has.
So the real answer to the settlements is to reach a settlement.
And the sooner that is done – the better.
I also want to register my profound opposition to those promoting an anti-Israel boycott.
I reject it. It has no place in our universities and it has no place in the commercial marketplace.
I stand for engagement with Israel at every level.
Let me turn to Iran:
On the question of relations with Iran, I am not opposed to the principle of negotiating with Iran regarding the elimination of their nuclear weapons ambitions.
I am an optimist – and I believe in the power of negotiation.
We need to tread carefully though.
We need to have our eyes open – and all options on the table.
Regardless of our instincts in favour of consensus and negotiation, there are serious caveats that we should apply when seeking engagement with Iran.
We need to consider carefully any undertakings made by a regime of the kind currently in power in Iran.
Any progress in talks should be underpinned by the most rigorous of verification regimes.
Sanctions have proven highly effective in putting pressure on Iran to begin a serious discussion of preventing Iran’s development of nuclear capability.
Sanctions should not be relaxed in any of the key areas affecting the regime’s nuclear applications.
The international community should think carefully before depriving ourselves of negotiating positions by being too quick to unwind sanction measures in other areas.
I remain cautious in regard to the Iranian regime.
It is a regime that brutalises its own people.
It maintains a foreign policy premised on maintaining support to global terrorism.
Iran’s foreign policy advocates the destruction of Israel, supporting Hezbollah and Hamas with sophisticated weapons and training, backing the brutal Assad regime and threatening the Straits of Hormuz.
None of this is acceptable – and it is easy to see, if you take Iran at its word, why Israel faces an existential threat from an Iran that has nuclear weapons.
And it is not only Israel that feels this way. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey – all these Muslim states are deeply troubled and feel threatened by Iran and its posture.
As a proud democracy, as a peace-loving nation, as a country that has always believed in a world that is free and equal and as a great friend of Israel – Australia will not be silent on these matters.
Given the events of the last week, I thought I should also speak to you about another important issue in our political debate.
This is, of course, the Liberal Government’s proposal to repeal Sections 18B, C, D and E of the Racial Discrimination Act.
I believe this is a colossal mistake – and a dangerous one.
Now, issues like this stir up strong passions – and so they should.
I am strongly opposed to the idea of watering-down the hate speech protections in Section 18C.
As the representative of an electorate where 51 in every 100 citizens speaks a language other than English at home, I am proud of Australia’s migrant tradition.
I think migration has made us the greatest, most multicultural nation on earth.
I believe we should treasure and welcome all those who become Australians by choice.
In the last week – hundreds and thousands of Australians have made it clear that they feel the same way.
The important thing for all of us who care deeply about this issue is to make sure that our passion for the rightness of this cause does not consume the straightforward, sensible arguments against weakening the protections in 18C.
The case for clear protections against bigotry in the Racial Discrimination Act is strong enough without indulging in inflammatory rhetoric.
So let me make this point clear from the outset.
In opposing the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, I am not accusing the Prime Minister, his Attorney General, or the Cabinet of being racists or bigots – or condoning racism or bigotry.
Even if Senator Brandis has reached the appalling judgment in his legalistic journey as Attorney-General that it is a core value in our society for people to have the right to be bigots.
Ou country is far better than that pernicious view.
Surely we aspire to something far better for our society.
I’m not that interested in whether this change is just a matter of Tony Abbott keeping a promise he made to a think-tank.
Labor’s major concern is not the motivation behind the changes.
It’s the effect that the changes will have – it’s the message that the changes send.
I think any move to water-down protections against hate speech is a seriously retrograde step.
It sends a dangerous, insidious signal that this issue isn’t as serious as it was before.
That somehow, in some way, the need to protect people from prejudice is reduced.
This is wrong.
There is no place for bigotry, no place for racism, no place for hate speech in the modern Australia.
That’s the message we should be sending.
It’s the view of more than 150 community leaders who have come forward in the last week to denounce the government’s proposed changes.
I don’t propose to list them all – but I do think it is worth noting that the head of the Prime Minister’s own Council on Indigenous Affairs has called this a ‘mad’ decision and one that will let bigots off the chain.
And the Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, who showed such courage in standing up against racist abuse last year, has voiced his concerns that the new act will provide a ‘loophole’ for racist abuse.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you know better than me, better than anyone, that the Jewish people have been the target of bigoted abuse – of anti-Semitism – which is an old and wicked problem, and which is still with us today
Section 18C empowers minorities with the ability to fight back, with the force of the law and the sanction of our State, in the face of the outrageous and malign, which could otherwise be the first step down a dark and evil path. It sets a moral standard on behalf of the nation that says who we are.
To me, there is no greater example of the value and importance of 18C than the case of Holocaust denier Frederick Toben.
This was a man who:
- Said that homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz were unlikely
- Accused Jewish people who are offended by, and who challenge Holocaust denial of limited intelligence
- Argued that Jewish people, for improper purposes, including financial gain, exaggerated the number of Jews killed during World War II and the circumstances in which they were killed.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry used section 18C to have these hateful, bigoted, ignorant statements removed from the internet and their author prosecuted.
And last week, the Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said that under the Government’s new version of these laws – this significant case, and all those that the ECAJ has won against this kind of abhorrent anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, would have been extremely unlikely to succeed.
To me, this is proof enough that the Government should not be tampering with these protections.
The final point I would make on this issue is that the real measure of the effectiveness is Section 18C is the fact that the overwhelming majority of cases are resolved through conciliation.
Most of the time, the trained conciliator, the offender and the victim engage in a respectful dialogue, the offence is explained and an apology is given.
Evidence shows that both parties perceive this as a fair process, and a mutually satisfactory one.
We’ve got six weeks to change the government’s mind on this issue.
I say ‘we’, because the government expect the Labor party not to agree with them.
They will listen much more closely to your voice, the voice of the people, than they will to those of us who sit on the other side of the Parliament.
So if you feel strongly about this – make it known.
Send a message.
Engage in the political debate and help keep Australia a tolerant, multicultural and peaceful nation.
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SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS
AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION AMENDMENT (SCHOOL FUNDING GUARANTEE)
THURSDAY, 27 MARCH 2014
We seek to suspend standing orders because there can be few issues which are more important than the proper funding of our children’s education. What we see and why we need to suspend standing orders to debate this legislation is because the Abbott Liberal Government have broken their promise on education that they made before the last election.
There are no other words to describe it. They are a Government of promise breakers when it comes to the education of our schoolchildren of Australia.
There are very important reasons to suspend standing orders because, in the event that our bill is not successful, Western Australia children, in particular, will be the first to suffer. Furthermore, the reason why this bill should be heard and that standing orders should be suspended is because this Abbott Liberal Government is a government of twisted priorities and cruel cuts. They are twisted priorities, and the betrayal of the Better Schools Program is no better illustration of it. The Government—this Abbott Liberal Government—are to education what book burning is to literacy. They are engaging in a funding race to the bottom in our schools across Australia.
They are a broken promise government. Before the election, on 2 August last year, the then Shadow Minister for Education, now Minister for Education, said that you could vote Liberal or Labor in education and you would get the same deal. They made it clear. It was their, sort of, Liberal red-spot special—you can vote Liberal or you can vote Labor and you get the same deal, and there is no difference. The Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition, took it further—as he tends to do, as we saw yesterday. He said that no school would be worse off anywhere in Australia. He loves to use the word honour, this Prime Minister. He said, ‘We will honour the agreement.’ The only time when this Prime Minister uses the word honour, we know it means that someone is about to get it in the neck.
They said there was an absolute unity ticket on education. The only unity ticket in this country that the Prime Minister is on is the unity ticket with Premier Colin Barnett to cut education funding. This Prime Minister, he goes to Western Australia, he is all things Western Australia, he is a ‘Perthanality’, he is your man in Western Australia, he is going to deliver and education for Western Australia. But then he also says, showing his usual deft touch for the issues, says, ‘I want to be like Colin Barnett. When I grow up and become a Prime Minister, I want to be like Premier Colin Barnett.’ The only problem with that is the sort of education that Premier Colin Barnett is for is one from the Dark Ages. Only Liberals, who do not believe in education, would cut $183 million from the school system—350 teachers and 350 school assistants. You know that when the Liberals come to town on education, it is time to start getting nervous—very nervous, indeed.
When we look at when they say that were going to honour the promises, the reason how they have broken their promises on education is this: they said there would be a no strings deal for all states. This is why we must suspend standing orders because what they are proposing to do is take hard earned Commonwealth taxpayer money in the front door of the education system, or for instance Western Australia, and what they will allow is they will allow their cronies in the state governments to take state money out of the system.
The beauty of what Labor believes in education is that if the Commonwealth is going to encourage greater funding in schools, we are not going to reward anti-education state jurisdictions to take money out of the system. That is on an increase; that is a cut. They also say that they are are going to do exactly the same. Everyone in Australia who follows the education debate, which immediately eliminates all of the gene pool on the other side of the parliamentary chamber, we promised in our funding system that there would be five and six years of funding—not four. There would be a fifth year and a sixth year. And, indeed, this budget needs to determine the funding for the fifth year.
If you are going to be doing the same thing on education as what Labor was doing, you would have not four years, not five years but six years of funding. Of course, what those tricky shysters of education opposite—those bargain basement short-changers of our children’s future—what they recognise is that they have promised a total of $2.8 billion in extra funding for schools across four years. We promised, in conjunction with requiring states to fund education, $14 billion. Now, of course, the Minister for Education glibly—as is his style—says, ‘More money will not make schools better.’ Come and visit poor schools around Australia. Only someone who was out of touch could say that children having to not get access to the language classes, the language labs and children not getting access to the music lessons.
What is amazing about the Government, about their wrong priorities, is that they won’t keep to the six years of funding, they won’t require states to keep their funding, they are not committed to the student resource model. They have already seen cuts in the Northern Territory, $47 million worth of cuts, 130 teachers gone, Western Australia, $183 million worth of cuts, 700 educational professionals gone.
What is amazing about this Government is wrong priorities. We have got that clumsy Attorney-General Brandis, who must have some of the more intelligent members of the Government slapping their heads. He will fight for the right for bigots to have speech; he just will not fight for the school children to have speech lessons. Then we get the other wrong priorities—and why it should be suspended—is that we look at what they are proposing to do in their wrong priorities. We have a government who is taking Australia backwards, not forwards. They have given new life to the term anachronistic. I think it was the Member to Chifley who said ‘as surely as knight follows dame’, what we see here is that we see education funding going backwards in this country. The Labor Opposition is not greatly interested in the day-to-day travails of the government, their watering down of racism laws and hate laws. We are not greatly interested, frankly, in all their amazing kerfuffle about knights and dames. We are interested in what happens to the children of Australia. We are interested in what happens to the teachers of in Australia. We are interested in what happens to the future of this country and where the good jobs come from.
Australia can either take a high road or a low road in the future. That is why we have got to suspend standing orders. We can either decide that we will compete with the rest of the world by cutting wages, by cutting services, by lengthening the unemployment queues. And we can also compete by having the best honours list in the world. Or alternatively, we can take the high road. We can be in the competition with the rest of the world to have an educated workforce—a smarter workforce. Who on earth in the Government thought it was a good idea to cut trades training centres? I bet we will not find anyone. And all they try to do is attack learning in this country.
We also believe that it is important when it comes to our schools we give our kids the best start in life. There have been a lot of attacks by the Government on the Gonski plan and on the efforts of Labor in terms of education. But when it came to them starting to rip up the unity ticket, boy oh boy, did they stick their hand in a pencil sharpener, watching the reaction of state governments who had deals! Yet again this Government have the wrong priorities. They want to walk away from six years of education funding. Hello, over there: children do not stop existing after four years; they keep going and they have got a right to have certainty in their schools.
Quite often this government attack the teachers. They do not like the teachers’ representation—’Teachers might be in a union; therefore, that is a reason to attack the education system.’ Let me put on record why we think this Government have the wrong priorities in education, why we think they should back our bill in and why we should suspend standing orders. It is because our teachers put in a great deal of effort every day. There is a great deal of discussion about teachers from those opposite, who somehow think teachers have special conditions. Our teachers in this country are underpaid; they are not overpaid. Our teachers work harder than they get credit for from the Government. They are not taking time off—as some in the Government would have you believe.
So there we have it, for members of this House of Parliament: we should suspend standing orders, because we have got a bill which will make sure that the Commonwealth does not just give money to the state with no strings attached. This does not cost a cent, this bill. All we are saying is that if you are going to use scarce taxpayer dollars, make sure when you hand it to the schools, when you hand it to the states, they do not take money out the back door. Make sure that we have got a commitment to a national approach in education and a properly funded student resource standard. Make sure this Government keeps their promises.
There is no doubt, from what we have seen this week, that this is a Government who struggles to keep its promises—certainly in education. They will not tell us what is in its Commission of Cuts, because we know that that might damage their performance in the Senate election. There is nothing this Government does which is not about politics first, politics second and politics third. That is why we should suspend standing orders. Because we on this side believe that education is too important to leave to the Government alone to mishandle. We cannot afford to waste three years of this Government. The education of our children is too important.
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NATIONAL PRESS CLUB ADDRESS
WEDNESDAY, 26 MARCH 2014
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Twenty portraits hang on the wall of our Caucus Room in Parliament House.
The twenty leaders of Australia’s oldest political party.
Each with a story of passion, controversy and ideas.
Each involved in a great contest for shaping the future of our country.
The great political contest of ideas.
For decades, the National Press Club has been an important forum in this contest.
A forum for ideas.
For laying out the choices and priorities that define our political debate.
I’m here as a passionate Labor person – a hard worker who respects Labor’s legacy of reform.
But I’m not driven by the portraits, the faces on the wall – or the place in history.
I’m driven by the faces in the street, the people whom Labor has always worked for, and cared about.
The people in Australian factories, in our small businesses, our hospitals, the children in our childcare centres and schools.
Today I seek to talk plainly about:
- The Labor Party
- Our ideas
- The choices ahead in the political contest
And I shall be here again and again to debate reforms and ideas.
I’m here today as the Leader of a party that believes in economic growth.
Labor knows that economic growth creates jobs – we know it raises living standards.
We believe in migration.
We believe in multiculturalism.
We believe that, for the most part, unions do a good and important job.
We believe in making choices that add value – that empower Australians to fulfil their potential.
We believe in ideas – not in hate and division.
We don’t believe making a profit is a bad thing.
We don’t see employers as a class enemy.
We believe in using a strong economy to build a fair society – and to raise living standards.
This is the Labor story.
This is the story of Australia.
Delivering prosperity with fairness.
I am ambitious for Australia’s future.
But I have also seen the consequences of people being left stranded by change.
Too often these are the people who can least afford to lose out: older Australians, Australians on a fixed income, Australians with fewer transferrable skills and Australians with disabilities. Governments cannot turn back the tide – but they can choose whether they make change work for people.
A government’s priorities can determine whether people are the victims of change – or its beneficiaries.
That is why the choices the Government must make in its upcoming Budget are so important.
There is a bleak, hopeless brand of Darwinism that argues adapting to economic change requires deep cuts to services, longer unemployment queues, lower wages and lower levels of government support.
We utterly reject this.
We do not believe the world is too hard for Australia to compete, and flourish in.
We look at the future and see opportunities.
Opportunities for our small businesses to find new markets in Asia.
Opportunities for Australians to develop new skills and find new, fulfilling jobs.
Opportunities for Australian innovation in tourism, the digital economy, international education, agribusiness and financial services to become accelerators of our prosperity.
In 2013 – many people believed Labor was more absorbed in its own problems than their interests – and these challenges.
We paid the price for this distraction and disunity on election day.
In 2014, I want to be a new leader, for a renewed Labor party.
I want Labor to be a more open and democratic party, with a broader base.
Because Labor needs to be part of the world in which we live.
For Labor to build a modern, outward-looking, confident and democratic Australia.
We have to build a modern, outward-looking, confident and democratic party.
I want Labor in every state and territory to discuss new ideas, to hear new voices and to welcome new members.
I want to build on the energy and optimism of our leadership ballot – and bring more people to the party.
In 2014 Labor has 44,000 members.
We should have 100,000.
To deliver Labor’s vision for a modern Australia, we must reach out to new constituencies to represent the diversity of modern Australia and deliver the reforms of the future.
I want us to write the country big.
That’s why I want our party to be:
- The champion of small business
- The champion of science and innovation
- The champion of equal pay for women
- The champion of the regions
I want all these Australians, and more, to be prominently involved in our decision-making and policy development process.
I believe that we need to adopt science and innovation as a great Labor cause.
Because innovation is central to the productivity of big business – and essential to the prosperity of small business.
We know that nearly 5 million Australians own and work in small businesses – and we want to make it easier for small business to do business.
We want to make sure that they spend their time growing their business, producing new products and pursuing new markets.
As a Parliamentary Secretary and a Minister, I always enjoyed a constructive dialogue with small business.
And I am continuing this as Labor Leader.
We should be looking at new ways to reduce the compliance time burden and let entrepreneurs, small business and employers focus on building their business and our prosperity.
One of the issues that frequently gets raised with me is why can’t small businesses pay their BAS instalments on an annual basis?
This would ease cash flow concerns and reduce the regulatory burden.
Another common question I’m asked is why can’t tax reporting for small businesses be simplified?
These are just two areas where I know small business wants to engage with Labor.
We’re up for that discussion.
We’re willing to work through the merits of these concrete proposals to assist small business.
I do not look at policy through the prism of left-wing or right-wing ideology – I’m interested in what works, I am interested in what will help Australia in the future.
I get that we live in a time of change.
I get that our world is moving faster and faster.
My focus is on where people fit in this changing world – on empowering Australians to make the most of their potential.
Our ability to create the jobs of the future depends on our commitment to innovation.
We need to be an Australia that values research, entrepreneurs and risk-takers.
I want us to take a new look at removing barriers to innovation.
Right now, too many scientists and start-ups struggle to commercialise their ideas.
I believe we should reconsider whether changes to the employee share scheme announced in 2009 best support these outcomes.
We can do more to encourage entrepreneurs to do what they do best.
By better aligning the tax burden with the likely realisation of equity stakes in a company, we can remove a significant drag on innovation.
If you’re an Australian with a good idea, I want it to be easy for you to attract talented employees, and for those employees to have buy-in and incentives to grow your business, to commercialise your innovation and to take your products to market – here and overseas.
We have to help our innovators capitalise on their genius.
Labor wants Australian discoveries, Australian brainpower to underpin our next wave of prosperity.
All this is characteristic of the policy approach I shall bring to economic change – supporting innovation and helping to create new jobs.
Because the way a government responds to change – and anticipates change – is the best measure of its values, and conclusive proof of its priorities.
In the last six months – Tony Abbott has failed to show leadership on how to handle change for all.
He has confused inaction with determination.
He has mistaken bullying for strength.
Leadership isn’t about whittling away the Australian standard of living.
This moment requires more than the same old Liberal agenda of nasty, penny-pinching politics of fear and division.
The Liberal agenda of kicking the vulnerable, picking on the unemployed and the disabled.
The Liberal agenda of undermining the minimum wage, undervaluing working women and undercutting universal superannuation.
A Liberal agenda that has never understood Medicare.
Medicare is a measure of what Labor does.
It is a national safety net that delivers the best healthcare at a much lower price than a American style system.
It brings no cost to Australian employers.
Medicare is a source of competitive national advantage. It provides economic and social benefit that ensures no-one is left behind.
Tony Abbott’s GP Tax is a giant mistake – one that will create new costs and new problems for a world-class system.
Tony Abbott has got it wrong on Medicare.
I say to Tony Abbott, there are no circumstances under which Labor will pass the GP tax.
We will never, never compromise on Medicare.
Prime Minister, give up the fight on the GP tax – you will lose.
On Budget night, if we take the Liberals’ low road – Australia will pay the price.
Because our growth will be lower – and our future horizons will be diminished.
We can do better.
I want an Australia that shares the benefits of change with everyone.
An Australia where economic transformation is not seen as an inevitable cause of unemployment and social dislocation but an agent of opportunity.
An Australia where we work together across business, universities, employees, small business, unions and government to find solutions to Australia’s big challenges.
An Australia with a stronger and larger middle class.
An Australia where no-one is forgotten, or held back by disability, disadvantage or isolation.
I’m not interested in picking fights or identifying ‘enemies’.
I’m not a hater.
That’s not who I am, that’s not what I’m about.
I don’t turn my back on business because some business leaders advocate for Tony Abbott.
I don’t dismiss people because they’re not traditional Labor voters.
I do not seek to reinforce class barriers – I want to break them down.
I admire the politics of hope and optimism.
I want to be a leader who unites Australians, not one who divides them.
I do have respect for conservatives.
I admire the sheer persistence of John Howard.
And I do have respect for Tony Abbott – of course I do.
But that doesn’t mean I have to agree with him – or imitate his idea of leadership.
Tony Abbott has always been a political brawler.
It’s his strength – I acknowledge that.
He’s an ideological bruiser who relentlessly crusades to divide Australian society into ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’.
That’s what makes his recent attempts to claim the Hawke-Keating tradition so fraudulent.
Because the great lesson of that Labor era is that enduring reforms come from consensus, not conflict.
Progress is forged in a crucible of consultation, not division.
Take the creation of the national superannuation scheme – a passion of mine.
Employees agreed to forgo increases in take-home pay in exchange for employers making an agreed contribution to their superannuation funds.
And Australia got a national superannuation scheme that provides a massive national capital base.
A pool of savings that permanently relieves pressure on demand for pensions and other support.
Retirement income that individuals control – not governments.
In this we see the unifying spirit, the policy vision, the leadership that Australians are looking for in this time of economic change.
Contrast this with Mr Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme – or his rapidly unravelling Direct Action ‘policy’.
Both involve extravagant rewards for a small segment of the community – whether it’s paying big polluters to pollute, or paying high income earners an extra $75,000 to have a baby.
Both policies were conceived purely as a political fix.
One to rehabilitate Mr Abbott’s vote with Australian women, the other to give a veneer of credibility to the Coalition’s book-burning climate-change denialism.
And both policies will put unsustainable pressure on the Budget bottom line at a time when so many hard-working Australians are being told that their services will be cut.
The Liberals see the 2014 Budget as a political opportunity to tip a bucket on Labor’s economic record and to falsify the past.
I will not let this go unchallenged.
Avoiding the worst effects of the Global Financial Crisis is an achievement of which the previous Labor Government was rightly proud.
The Australian economy weathered the storm – and grew – in a period where other countries experienced deep recession and high unemployment.
The Liberals deny this.
But consider where we would be in 2014 had Labor not acted?
What about the road not taken – what if we had opted for the Liberal policy of inaction and austerity?
If Labor hadn’t acted, private sector output would have retreated.
If Labor hadn’t acted, the economy would have come to a standstill.
Credit would have been withdrawn, loan applications denied and collateral called.
If Labor hadn’t acted, hundreds of thousands of Australians would have been condemned to dreadful unemployment.
Older Australians, and those with lower skill bases, would have become a forgotten generation of employees exiled from the workforce.
All this should be kept in mind in the lead-up to the 2014 Budget.
Because it is true.
It is also a cautionary tale for a Prime Minister and a Treasurer planning deep cuts to combat their fictional budget emergency.
The International Monetary Fund has warned that if the Government follows through on its austerity rhetoric, it will severely jeopardise growth prospects in the near term and the long term.
I want to place this warning, and this evidence, on the record because the facts do not often feature in government propaganda.
On economic matters, as with everything else, their Pavlovian response is the same: play politics, blame Labor and never let the facts get in the way of the slogan.
Their motives are transparent: lying about the budget situation to justify their agenda of cruel cuts.
The Treasurer has dodged repeated questions in Parliament on whether the debt and deficit projections in December’s MYEFO were exaggerated to support the pre-election scare of a ‘budget emergency’.
Independent analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Office released by Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen earlier today shines a light on this deception.
It shows Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have tried to doctor the debt and deficit figures to set the scene for severe cuts and broken election promises.
This Government has made a mockery of Peter Costello’s Charter of Budget Honesty.
Only the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (the PEFO) is framed by the expert advice of Treasury and the Department of Finance – without political manipulation.
Framing a Budget requires more than a partisan passion for rewriting economic history, more than fudged figures and accounting trickery.
Every Budget is a window onto a government’s soul.
It is the sign and signal of its priorities.
The 2014 Budget will be a most serious test for Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.
It will measure their actions against their rhetoric.
Their performance against their promises.
The criteria are clear:
- Australia must remain in the world’s ten wealthiest countries
- They must deliver the one million new jobs they promised
- Australia must retain our AAA credit rating
- Taxes must not increase, that is, taxation as a percentage of GDP must not increase
But a Budget is not only about numbers – it is a test of leadership as well as economic management.
A test for Tony Abbott as well as Joe Hockey.
Today my message to the Prime Minister is clear.
If your Budget message is nothing but bellow and bluster about a manufactured ‘budget emergency’, then you will have failed the honesty test.
If you continue to talk more about the former Labor Government than you do about the Australian people…
…If you talk more about the past than the future…
…If you talk more about what has gone before than the road ahead…
You will have failed the vision test.
If you cut more funding to schools, to hospitals, as well as to pensions, to family support, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, you will have again broken your solemn promises to the Australian people.
If your Budget seeks to make middle class Australians who already do the heavy lifting carry a bigger burden then it will be defining proof that you are not the Prime Minister you promised to be.
If your Budget takes money from education, from science, from trades training and from research and development then it will confirm that you have no ideas for the future.
If your Budget cuts support for people with a disability and carers, if it cuts payments to the children of war veterans and yet pays the wealthiest Australians $75,000 extra to have a baby it will confirm that you are a Prime Minister with the most twisted priorities.
Prime Minister, these are your battlelines.
The test you have set for yourself.
These are the promises you have made.
These are the standards to which all Australians – and the Labor Party – will hold you responsible.
From the outside – politics can sometimes seem like the pantomime of professional wrestling.
It is much more serious – and more important than that.
Politics is always a rugged contest – sometimes brutally so.
It’s a tough contest because we are debating the choices, the priorities that affect Australians’ lives.
This Budget debate – and the years ahead – will be a contest of ideas.
A contest about Medicare.
A contest about hospitals and schools.
A contest about the science of climate change.
A contest about superannuation.
A contest about our place in Asia.
A choice between jobs – and cuts.
A choice between making change work for everyone – or leaving people behind.
We will ask Australians to choose between a government that empowers the many – or a government that looks after the few.
I’m up for it, Labor is up for it.
We’re ready for the contest ahead.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADERS OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
STATEMENT TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE
TUESDAY, 25 MARCH 2014
I rise to associate the Opposition with the remarks of the Prime Minister. Our thoughts today are with all the families and friends of the passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The pain of not knowing what has happened to one’s family has now given way to the agony of loss.
We too offer our sympathies to all of those whose worst fears have been realised. These matters are never easy to deal with, but to have to wear a very public loss when perhaps you would seek to mourn in peace and privacy has also been very difficult.
The disappearance of MH370 is a mystery that has captured global attention.
Unlike perhaps some disasters which occur around the world, because all of the citizens of the world fly, this disaster is one that touches all of us.
Australia can be rightly proud of the leading effort it has played in the international search effort—our service men and women have taken on an extremely difficult task with determination and dedication.
This search has brought nations together. Australia is proud of the Australian contribution, and I believe the world is grateful to them. We may never know the full story of MH370, but we do know that there will be families consumed by grief today and in the years to come. Our hearts go out to them.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
LABOR WA SENATE CAMPAIGN LAUNCH
UNIVERSITY CLUB OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA, PERTH
SUNDAY, 23 MARCH 2014
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I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – and their elders past and present.
It is always a pleasure to be in the West – and to be here with my wife Chloe, my family, and among friends:
- Mark McGowan and the WA Labor team
- My Federal Colleagues
- Small business families and trade union members
- Secretary Simon Mead, Assistant Secretary Lenda Oshalem
- Our outstanding Senate candidates: Joe Bullock, Louise Pratt, Shane Hill and Klara Andric
All the members of our great party – and our wonderful campaign volunteers.
We are here because we believe in prosperity and opportunity for all Western Australians.
We believe in Medicare, in decent wages and conditions, in education and superannuation.
We believe in growth that benefits the many, not just the few.
We are here to stand up for Western Australia.
And we are here because Western Australia deserves a strong Senate team, one that puts balance back in the Senate.
Friends, I’m here today to send a message beyond this room.
I want to talk directly to the people of Western Australia.
I understand it’s frustrating to have to go back to the polls so soon.
But Western Australia – and Australia – needs you to harness your frustration.
This election is too important, there is too much at stake, for you to stay at home on April 5.
If you do not vote on April 5, Western Australia will be the loser.
If you do not vote on April 5, you will be sending a message to the Barnett Government here and the Abbott Government in Canberra that you will tolerate their cruel cuts.
If the Senate becomes a rubber stamp for Tony Abbott, he will do what Colin Barnett has done – and he will go further.
He will cut Medicare, he will cut hospitals, he will cut school funding, he will cut penalty rates and working conditions.
This election is not the replay of last year’s political grand final.
This is a new season.
This is round 1 – and Labor is up for the contest.
The result of this election won’t change the government – but it can help change our country.
On April 5 each of you have the chance to send a message to Canberra about the first six months of the Abbott Government.
You can restore balance to the Senate – and elect a strong team that will stand up for Western Australia.
I’m here today to ask you to vote Labor.
I’m asking you to vote Labor because of what we believe in – and what we want to achieve, for this state and for our nation.
Every election asks cities, states and people to make choices about the sort of country we want to be in the future.
Ask yourself, what will Australia be like in 2020?
And don’t think it isn’t up to you – it is.
It’s our choice.
Do we give power to those who seek to whittle away our standard of living?
To pick on the unemployed and the disabled.
To concentrate on the minutiae, the petty arguments with the ABC and ripping up the forestry agreement.
To let Tony Abbott take us back to that nasty, penny-pinching conservative politics of fear and division.
To undermine Medicare.
To undermine the minimum wage.
To undermine superannuation.
To undermine equal pay for women.
To reject the science of climate change.
To lead Australia away from a positive relationship with Asia.
If we do let them, in the end, Australia will pay the price.
Because our growth will be lower – and our future will be diminished.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I, and Labor, understand our world is changing, faster and faster.
I, and Labor, understand that Australia needs to be constantly adapting, to be constantly innovating, to be flexible and ready for change.
I’m up for this – but I know it doesn’t have to come at the cost of our standard of living.
I know it doesn’t have to mean that:
- the middle class
- the aspirationals
- the people who go to work every day
- the people who seek work
- and women juggling career and family
In fact all, those who do the heavy lifting get punished instead of rewarded.
I want all Australians to have the chance to make a living – and to have a life outside work.
I want all Australians to live long lives full of quality and meaning.
And the number one thing that affects our quality of life, is our health.
That’s why when you vote Labor in the Senate, you’ll be voting for Medicare – free and universal healthcare for all.
Labor believes that you, or your sick child, or your elderly parent should receive the healthcare that you need – not just the healthcare you can afford.
We believe it should be your Medicare card – not your credit card – that determines the treatment you receive.
This is why I will never back Mr Abbott’s GP Tax.
Mr Abbott’s GP Tax is the thin edge of the wedge.
Mr Abbot’s GP tax will push up the cost of living for families already struggling to pay their bills.
Mr Abbott’s GP Tax is a broken promise.
It is a breach of faith with the Australian people, a shifty, cynical move against the sick and the vulnerable.
On April 5 – you, and only you, can stop this tax in its tracks.
I said earlier that Chloe and my daughters are here with me today – I’m so proud they could join me.
Like many modern families, we are a blended family.
And like all Australian parents, Chloe and I have a simple instinct hardwired in our DNA.
Like all of you, we want our children to be happy and safe in childhood.
And we want our children to grow into resilient adults with choices and opportunities.
That’s why Labor is so passionate about education.
Labor knows that education is the great transformer – the ultimate driver of individual opportunity – and the best predictor of whether our children will find good jobs, the jobs of the future.
We believe every Western Australian child has the right to discover a love of learning in a great school, supported by a great teacher.
What do the Liberals believe?
Well, before the election, Tony Abbott lied about being on a unity ticket with Labor on education.
Now he is on a unity ticket with Colin Barnett – a unity ticket of $183 million of cuts to Western Australian schools.
How does cutting education now help us in 2020?
How does sacking 350 teachers and 350 teaching assistants help Western Australian kids?
Unlike Colin Barnett, unlike Tony Abbott, I will never put cuts before our children’s education.
I want every school to be a great school.
I want to give every student, every teacher the chance to be their best.
We should be thanking Western Australia’s teachers and parents – not kicking them.
Exactly what is Tony Abbott’s plan for Australia’s future?
Today we heard that it is sitting on his desk.
900 pages of secret cuts and nasty surprises.
Cuts that show Tony Abbott just doesn’t get it.
His cuts will hurt families already struggling with cost of living pressures – and he won’t even tell you what the cuts are.
Western Australian voters deserve to know what they’re being asked to vote for.
Imagine if I was trying to sell you a car.
But I covered it with a blanket, refused to tell you the mileage or describe the features – and offered an unspecified price.
You’d walk out of the dealership. I’d be out of business tomorrow.
But that’s exactly what Tony Abbott is doing.
He does not trust Western Australians with the truth.
Tony Abbott – if you can’t trust Western Australians, why should Western Australians trust you?
Since the Abbott Government refuses to come clean on their cuts, we can only go by what we already know.
A Prime Minister who says he wants to model himself on Colin Barnett.
Barnett-style cuts to schools.
No good for WA kids, parents and teachers.
Barnett-style cuts to hospitals.
No good for patients, the sick, or the health workforce.
The same old job-killing, hope-destroying, divisive story.
No good for apprentices, no good for small businesses, no good for Western Australia.
Our country has never had a bigger by-election.
Western Australia has never had a more decisive opportunity.
You are the first people on our continent with a choice to stand up for your home, your state, and send the Abbott Government a message they won’t forget.
On April 5, all of you will hold in your hands the most powerful instrument available to any Australian citizen.
And on April 5 – Western Australians will have a clear choice about our future.
You can vote for a strong Labor team that will stand up for Western Australia – or you can give Tony Abbott a rubber stamp for his cruel cuts.
You can vote for growth and prosperity, for jobs, health and education – or you can vote for Tony Abbott’s cynically hidden agenda.
You can vote for a party that cares about the jobs of the future – or you can vote for a party that ships them overseas.
You can vote to save Medicare – or you can vote for a GP tax.
You can vote for better schools, more teachers and more resources – or you can vote for broken promises and slashed funding.
Friends, this is our message, this is our goal.
But we can’t tell our story without you.
We need your energy, your power to change minds.
On April 5 every single vote is going to count.
In Rockingham, in Bunbury, in Esperance, in Geraldton- people are already voting.
So today – and every day until the polls close – we need you out there.
We need to fight this election online – we need to fight it in living rooms.
Whether you’re doing the school run, or down the footy club, or at your favourite café, or on the bus on the way to work, or maybe on one of Alannah MacTiernan’s trains, we need you spreading the word, telling our story, and explaining what’s at stake.
Tell everyone you see, everyone you meet, everyone you know.
Tell them about the choice Western Australia faces.
And ask them to choose Labor.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADERS OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
BULLY ZERO AUSTRALIA FOUNDATION – DIGITAL DETOX LAUNCH
ESSENDON FOOTBALL CLUB, MELBOURNE
FRIDAY, 21 MARCH 2014
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It’s an honour to be with you once again on this National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.
It’s very kind of the Essendon Football Club to host us today – and very good of them to tolerate the presence of a known Collingwood supporter like myself.
I congratulate and thank the Bombers, and Melbourne Victory, for the charity partnership initiatives they have formed with the Bully Zero Australia Foundation.
Both clubs, and both codes, are doing great work in this area.
As are all the other partners and sponsors, too numerous to name, who give such strong support to this foundation.
Commendably, 100 per cent of donations to Bully Zero Australia Foundation go directly to their programs and initiatives, so all of you who give so generously can be confident that you are making a real and material difference to their work.
Today is an important day – a reminder to all Australians that the scourge of bullying casts its shadow over millions of lives.
A day when we remember the tragic deaths of those pushed beyond breaking point by the physical and psychological torment of bullying.
I know that some of you here today have suffered the unthinkable tragedy of losing a child to suicide.
I am in awe of your strength at being here – and in channelling your grief into support for this cause.
You are heroes – to me, to all of us, to parents everywhere, and I salute you.
For all of us, today is a day for remembrance, and raising awareness – but most importantly it is a day of action.
A day when we send a clear message: bullying is cowardly, bullying is cruel, bullying is wrong and bullying must stop.
In schools, in workplaces, community groups and sporting clubs we remind ourselves that every day should be a day for action against bullying.
Right now, 1 in 5 Australians are being bullied.
On this day of action we say that one Australian being bullied is one too many.
That’s the admirable ambition of the Bully Zero campaign.
It is a commitment to eliminate the problem, as well as deal with its effects.
A promise to show no tolerance for bullying, or violence, wherever it occurs.
As Workplace Relations Minister, my focus was naturally on helping employees deal with bullying in their jobs.
I am proud that we amended the Fair Work Act to give employees the right to go to the Fair Work Commission if they were being bullied at work.
A protection that extends to everyone, from permanent staff and contractors, to apprentices, trainees, work experience students and volunteers.
I am confident that these measures will go some way to addressing the huge economic and social cost of workplace bullying in Australia.
But today I’d like to speak to you as a parent, as well as a parliamentarian.
Like all Australian parents, Chloe and I want our children to be happy and resilient – to spend their school days making friends and discovering a love of learning.
It is the instinct hard-wired into the DNA of every parent – the desire to keep our children safe.
In our rapidly-changing world this is harder than ever.
In the digital age, bullying doesn’t stop at the school gate.
The cruel comments, the hurtful insult, the humiliating nickname can follow you onto your Facebook wall and into your inbox.
Today, hard as it is to admit, our children are not safe from bullying just because they are under our roof.
That’s why the scourge of cyberbullying is so terrifying – and the work of your foundation is so important.
Thanks to the research of Bully Zero Australia, we know that even when children are the victims of cyberbullying, they are often reluctant to confide in their parents.
They believe that there is an unbridgeable gap between how their parents see the internet – and how they do.
Many children feel that their parents don’t understand the significance of the internet in their lives.
This says to me that we need to do more to give parents the tools and skills to combat cyberbullying.
We need to help parents monitor online behaviours – and talk about the risks and boundaries with their children.
Because the second major factor in the reticence of children who are suffering from cyberbullying is their fear that their parents will simply confiscate the technology.
That’s an understandable protective instinct – but not a long term solution.
Above all, I think parents can set a positive example.
As a community, indeed as a nation, I think we would benefit from re-assessing our relationship with social media.
In a recent Time magazine survey, 85 per cent of American smartphone users said they couldn’t go a single day without their phone.
And 80 per cent of Americans aged between 18 and 24 indicated that they sleep with their phone next to them ‘like a teddy bear’.
I’m not sure the Australian figures would be much lower.
A hundred years ago, the Swiss author Max Frisch said that:
‘technology is the knack of arranging the world so that we need not experience it’.
I think this is a real danger if we allow a dependence on digital communication to act as a substitute for human relationships.
As parents, as role models, we can do more to encourage our children to make friends – not just add them.
To share experiences, not photographs.
To value the moment more than the meme.
That’s the essence of the 48 Hour Digital Detox.
An initiative that encourages schools, workplaces, sporting clubs and community groups to reduce their social media use.
This might mean handing over their mobile phones to a trusted friend or disconnecting from the internet for a weekend.
It’s about taking the time to be offline – and enjoying the lived experience of authentic, tangible social interaction.
As well as that – it’s an interlude that gives participants the chance to reflect on their use of technology.
It lets us think about the way we share information, whether we respect our own privacy – and the privacy of others.
I think the 48 Hour Digital Detox is a great initiative – and I hope it gathers strength in the years ahead.
I know how dedicated all of you are to building the Bully Zero Australia foundation and expanding its reach into the community.
I hope you can also take a moment today to reflect on how far you have come in just one year.
It is a remarkable achievement and one that should fill you all with pride.
I wish you every success in the future and assure you I am always willing to do what I can to support your cause.
Congratulations – and thank you.
FRIDAY, 21 MARCH 2014
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADERS OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 6277 4053
MOTION TO SUSPEND STANDING AND SESSIONAL ORDERS
THURSDAY, 20 MARCH 2014
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
We know first of all, and this is an important point to establish, that Arthur Sinodinos is entitled to the presumption of innocence. We understand there is a process underway and the process should not target unfairly someone’s innocence or pre-presume the outcome. Labor supports that principle. I add personally that my dealings with Arthur Sinodinos have always been professional, pleasant, civil and decent. But there is a second principle which people want to know. The people of Australia are entitled to know what has gone on here. It is not enough for the Prime Minister not to tell us what he has done. It is not good enough for the Australian people to say, ‘when we asked the Prime Minister what he knows on 20 occasions for him to not tell people what he knows.’ It is not enough for a Prime Minister of Australia to brush off the Australian people with a reference of private conversations about ministers in Government not being worthy of being answers in Question Time. It is not appropriate for a Prime Minister of Australia to talk about the standing aside of a Minister and the only information he will provide not only the Opposition but the people of Australia is that it is a private conversation and that he does not need to explain his actions to anyone.
What the Prime Minister has actually answered in no less than 26 or 27 questions, over the last two days, is the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, has said: He does not want the Australian people to know what the Prime Minister knows, and to know when the Prime Minister learned of certain key information. We have seen today in this Parliament unanswered questions. This is why we should suspend standing orders. We asked the Prime Minister today: ‘was he aware of the remarkably large one million dollar amount’, which would raise eyebrows in every lounge room in Australia of an informal one million dollar success fee and what did the Prime Minister know about this? We asked the Prime Minister today: ‘what was the role and what did he know about the role of Senator Sinodinos in arranging a letter from Premier Barry O’Farrell to help secure a large contract?’
He says that he knows and that he will not tell us when he knew this, or what he knows. We asked today: ‘what is the knowledge that the Prime Minister has about one of his Ministers being involved and facilitating a $20 million windfall fee?’ These are not ordinary amounts of money. These are not ordinary goings on. Most Australians would understand that if someone says, ‘if you can arrange a contract, you will get $20 million,’ that is not business as usual. What we want to know – and I think what the Australian people want to know – and the one thing that we do know is that the Prime Minister is not telling us, in fact, his awareness or state of mind on these matters.
Then when we have asked questions about, ‘what has Senator Sinodinos done?’ The Prime Minister said that the reason he has stood aside is not that he has done anything wrong – and the Prime Minister is entitled to say that – but what the Prime Minister says is the ministerial conduct standards of this Abbott government is if a minister becomes a sideshow or a distraction, then you must move sideways – whatever moving sideways means – a point I will come to. This is why we must suspend standing orders to deal with this issue.
The Abbott government’s ministerial standard for accountability is if you become a sideshow – this must be worrying Mr Joyce – or a distraction, that this is the standard that the government will apply to their Ministers. The standard the Prime Minister will not apply to himself is his willingness to be transparent with the Australian people. It is a fairly made question, I believe, that what has changed? ICAC said they were going to investigate Australian Water Holdings in December 2012 and he wanted to scotch the rumours of a cloud. Yet well informed sources in the Liberal Party tell us the reason why the remarkably well-credentialed Senator Sinodinos was not appointed to the Cabinet – which I think most people thought was a likelihood – was because there was a cloud.
I actually admire the Prime Minister’s commitment to Senator Sinodinos – I admire that on a personal level. What I do not admire is his unwillingness to be transparent about what he knew. There may not have been a cloud over Senator Sinodinos, but there are smoke signals coming from the Prime Minister’s Office that he knew more than he said. I have heard the almost eulogistic comments from those opposite about Senator Sinodinos. That ‘in fact he is a great fellow’ – and I too have found him reasonable to deal with; I say that. So why wasn’t Senator Sinodinos appointed by the Liberal Party to the Cabinet? Which I think everyone expected. Of course there were the rumours – probably not allies of the Prime Minister within the Liberal Party – that there were concerns raised. But when we have asked the Prime Minister just to come clean – Prime Minister, just come clean and tell us what you know—what he says is, ‘I do not have to tell you. That is a matter that will be at ICAC.’ But we are not asking about Senator Sinodinos; we are asking about what the Prime Minister knows. That is why we should suspend standing orders.
What happened to the famous due diligence process at the Prime Minister’s Office? We understand that the Assistant Minister for Health’s Chief of Staff slipped through that until the Chief of Staff became a distraction, not Assistant Minister Nash. But what happened to the due diligence process? I do not think anyone seriously believes that there was a due diligence process. I suspect that there was a chance the people just sort of hoped – there was more hope than due diligence – that this matter would go away. How on earth can a Prime Minister say that he will not tell us what he knows at any point, when there are clear signposts that these matters have been discussed with the Prime Minister’s knowledge and within his orbit of influence? Does the Prime Minister know anything that the public does not already know? This is a fundamental question. The first question is: what changed from September last year to now materially that has led to a Minister standing aside. The second issue is that surely we saw in September last year issues that raised concern and commentary then, but what we do ask now is: does the Prime Minister have any knowledge of any matter with Australian Water Holdings?
This Prime Minister is being shifty. I get that he does not want to tell Qantas workers about his future. I get that he does not want to reveal the Commission of Audit to Western Australian voters before the election—I get that. It is shifty, but I get that. What I do not understand is that there is no way he can simply say ‘it is someone else’s issue when it comes to the conduct of his own Ministers’. I get that he has contracted out the Commission of Audit to the Business Council of Australia, and he says, ‘I don’t know what they are doing’. I get that he says, ‘I have not read a 900-page report’; I get that he does not know anything about manufacturing or fighting for jobs. What I do not get in this place is question after question – legitimate question after question – what did you know, and when did you know it? And what I really find uncomfortable at the Prime Minister’s shifty conduct is this: what is it that he knows that the public does not? At the very least, he should come clean and say if he knows nothing more than is in the public report. So be it – end of matter. Labor will then leave this question alone. But if it emerges that the Prime Minister is aware of more than he has revealed to the Australian Parliament, to the Australian people, to the Opposition, to the Australian media – then that is a problem for this Prime Minister. It is not the standard he sets for everyone else.
And indeed the final, most frustrating issue in this whole standing aside issue is that we know that the Act of Parliament governing Ministerial conditions does not allow for this sort of half-pregnant proposition that the government has advanced about Senator Sinodinos. His label is still on his office – he has still got his office! Does he get his superannuation? He is going to forego it – he will probably give it to charity. Fair enough. The Prime Minister needs to come clean with what he knows, when he knew it, and does he know anything that he hasn’t told the rest of Australia.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADERS OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 6277 4053
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WEDNESDAY, 19 MARCH 2014
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
Labor have always believed in making it easier for business to do business. We have always believed in competitive, productive and profitable enterprises. We believe in successful enterprises that provide Australians with good jobs. We have always believed in competitive, productive and profitable enterprises—successful enterprises that provide good jobs, secure jobs, fair pay and decent conditions. We understand the importance of small business. We need no lecture from those opposite. We appreciate the massive contribution that nearly five million Australians who own and work in small businesses make to our economy. That is why when Labor was in power we established a Minister for Deregulation. That is why, previously, despite this sense of ‘golly, gee, discovery’ from the Prime Minister, that somehow he is the first Prime Minister to ever talk about repealing legislation, we repealed more than 12,000 pieces of redundant legislation, including 7½ thousand in 2013. That is why Labor initiated the most comprehensive COAG deregulation process to remove much of the unnecessary constraints on our economy across different levels.
Labor understand the importance of increasing productivity, increasing efficiency and helping put downward pressures on prices for small business. We are committed, in a bipartisan spirit, to the organised and ongoing effort to minimise, simplify and create cost-effective regulation. But, indeed, I must say—and I do not believe the Prime Minister necessarily spoke to this point as much as I expected him to—that we balance against our desire for the goals which I have just outlined to ensure that through our regulatory system we improve competition in this country; that we have quality standards, that we have consumer protections, in particular against fraud; that information is sufficient for people in Australia to be able to operate and make informed decisions in our markets; that we have a clean environment where we tackle pollution; and that we have wide access to services across the whole of Australia not just our cities.
We understand that we should have a regulatory system which encourages the start-ups of business, that when people are seeking construction development approvals they are not tied up in unnecessary green tape.
We understand the importance of making sure that our utilities in very strategic parts of our economy provide services and opportunities for the businesses that have to deal with them, and the consumers. We are most committed to ensure that, in markets where there is some form of regulation, be it telecommunications, financial services or insurance, there are in fact proper information sets available for business—in particular, small business—so they can make the comparisons which allow them to benefit from the benefits of competition. We are very conscious of state regulations as well—property registration and the like—which can be an obstacle towards businesses succeeding. That can include a range of issues, from registration at state titles offices right through to retail tenancies. We understand the importance of credit being able to flow through our economy and making sure that that is not impeded by unnecessary regulation. We are most committed to reforms which will see people spending less time filling out their tax requirements, which will make sure that people can spend more time making a profit and less time filling in forms.
This matter should not be about partisan point scoring or ideology. We believe repeal should be diligent, not ideological. That is why this talk of bonfires and war is so remarkably overheated.
We do not want important protections to be lost under the guise of deregulation. We should have regulations to make sure that our consumers are safe. We should make sure that we have regulations that protect mum and dad investors—a point I will return to. We should have regulations that preserve our pristine natural environment. These are vital. On the substance of the bills before us as opposed to the high-blown rhetoric of the Prime Minister, the statement of motherhood principles, let me talk first of all about the government’s proposition to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. I am concerned that the government is proposing to repeal a body that not only has the support of the sector that it regulates but also reduces red tape.
To repeal the Australian charities commission, you would think the charities sector would be calling for its removal and shouting about the red tape burden, but the reverse is true. Today the Abbott Government has managed to unite 54 leaders from the charities sector. This government loves their charities; they will turn up at the opening of a charity. There is no doubt that when it comes to the photo opportunity, those opposite are charities’ best friends. But when it comes to red tape and protection of charities: missing in action, no appearance. We have 54 leaders from the sector taking the unprecedented action of issuing an open letter to retain the current framework. Let me say that this is courageous by these charities. We know what a vindictive, critical, punishing mob those opposite are. Those 54 charities have dared to disagree with this mob opposite. We will be watching you to see if you punish them, because that is your form guide. Indeed, some opposite seem to think that the charities sector is in love with their propositions.
The Minister for Social Services says it is only 54 out of all of them. Minister for Social Services, say nothing. Let me go through what some of these 54 have said. The Minister for Social Services, who deals with them, so disrespects their right to have a separate opinion to his own. Tim Costello says:
The Commission is actually working for us and it gives the public confidence, it underpins the consumer benefit to charities.
Watch out for World Vision’s funding, I would say now, in light of that comment. Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes, Director of the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at QUT, states:
During its short history, the ACNC has played a positive role in the overall regulatory environment of charities, and it is well-placed to continue that role. In the short term, it provides the infrastructure for a ‘one stop shop’ for Commonwealth regulatory requirements, and a dedicated force to work with other Commonwealth agencies to streamline their present arrangements. Its stellar improvement in terms of timeliness, consistency of decision making and responsiveness to emerging issues of previous ATO functions, surpasses the sector’s original high expectations.
Then we have all sorts of other groups. David Crosbie, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Council for Australia, has said:
The ACNC is more efficient than the government regulators it replaced, is doing good work and deserves a chance to achieve its three goals of reducing red tape –
A goal which the Prime Minister rhetorically dedicated himself to this morning
- Increasing public trust and strengthening the charities sector.
I know the Prime Minister is a strong rhetorical supporter of our charity sector; I congratulate him on his Pollie Pedal. I should just say that David Crosbie did not congratulate him; that was me. David Crosbie continued:
Axing the ACNC would be a very clear sign that government is not interested in the considered views of the charities sector.
There we go. Louise Walsh, the CEO of Philanthropy Australia—no doubt another nest of Marxists, according to the ideologues over there—says:
Since the ACNC’s establishment as an independent charities regulator, Philanthropy Australia has consistently supported the ACNC’s important role in our community. The ACNC has only existed for just over a year – so far the progress is promising and we want it to be given the opportunity to realise its full potential.
There you have it. That is what the 54 people that the Minister for Social Services just dismisses. What did these people ever do to be dismissed by you, except dedicate their lives to looking after other people? What an arrogant chap you are! This charities commission goes on to show that, when it comes to this government evaluating the beauty parade between ideology and pragmatic, moderate common sense, pragmatic, moderate common sense never wins.
In August 2013, a pro bono survey—there are more than just 54 here! This might change the random remark that the Minister for Social Services made before—of over 1,500 members of the not-for-profit sector found that 81 per cent supported the ACNC. That would be more than 1,200, Kevin. Only six per cent of the survey respondents in the charitable sector supported a return to the ATO as a default regulator. The not-for-profit sector employs over 1 million Australians, turns over about $100 billion, involves almost 5,000,000 volunteers and is the heart of all our communities. The Productivity Commission and the Henry tax review recommended a national charities commission. The Productivity Commission, so beloved of the government, declared the previous regulatory framework to be complex, lacking coherence and transparency and costly to charities. Abolishing the charities commission is an insult to taxpayers who want to see whether donations go. It is an insult to charities, who will lose their visibility and governance support. It is bad for the public, who will be vulnerable to more frauds and scams. So on the charities commission we have on one hand the government with high-blown rhetoric talking about how much it wants to cut red tape, but when it has a chance to turn its words into deeds they—the Abbott Government and the Prime Minister—do not live up to their own rhetoric.
But there is a second example of where the Government is inconsistent with the rhetoric of the Prime Minister’s opening speech and yet when it comes to turning good words into good actions they go missing. I talk of course about the future of financial advice legislation. What a disturbing proposition from the Government. The Assistant Treasurer, with the support of the Prime Minister, is determined to reduce the protections of mum and dad investors. The Assistant Treasurer was up-front during Senate estimates about his game plan to prescribe new regulations to dismantle the current consumer protection laws as soon as the parliament rises next week with immediate effect so there will be no parliamentary scrutiny of these changes—none. Putting aside Labor’s concerns about the substance of the Assistant Treasurer’s changes, we are most aggrieved with the process. This is all about pulling the wool over the eyes of Australian investors. Just as bad, the financial services sector faces a very real prospect of having to deal in a short period of time with competing different regulatory regimes. The regulations that take effect from 27th and 28th of March; the current laws, if the regulations are disallowed in the Senate; and whatever legislative landscape we end up with after 1st of July when the Parliament has dealt with the Government’s legislation. This is a red-tape nightmare dreamt up by the fevered imagination of the Prime Minister of Australia.
The Assistant Treasurer appears to be proceeding in a ham-fisted manner, without any regard to the outcomes. Labor went through numerous rounds of consultation refining our policy. For the benefit of some of the new members of the Coalition, who might not have been in Parliament with the events that triggered this current round of consumer protection law which Labor put in place, it followed the collapse of the Storm Financial, Bernie Ripoll’s PJC inquiry into that and we put legislation into parliament that it debated and inquired into, passed. So having seen the lessons of Storm Financial, those people opposite turn their back on the experience of history and I cannot say when the next financial disaster will happen and I cannot say who the victims will be, but I know one thing: because of what you are doing, you are guaranteeing another Storm Financial and upon your heads it will rest. And we will hold you responsible for your abandonment of basic common sense when it comes to consumer protection.
This is dodgy law done in a dodgy way which will lead to dodgy outcomes. If you want to make the changes, make the case via legislation. Front up and have a parliamentary inquiry. We saw what happened in Storm Financial; we saw what happened in Westpoint—high-profile collapses where in certain instances, investors were lured into these investment products because financial planners were receiving hidden commissions to promote these products. Our financial laws, which you are seeking to dismantle, would protect consumers with a best-interest duty. There would be opt-in measures, requiring advisers to get their clients to opt in to receive ongoing service every two years, and annual disclosure—somehow annual disclosure is a bad idea. And then there is conflicted remuneration.
We put the government on notice, that on one hand they want to reduce red tape, and I have outlined why we think as a principle that is sound. We put this Abbott Government on notice that we do not want to effectively decriminalise and deregulate financial fraud in this country. We are a constructive opposition. We will give the package they put forward careful consideration. We support the repeal of redundant 1901 legislation. We will not allow important protections to be recklessly cut. Labor stands for the protection of consumers, for the protection of workers and the protection of investors. Markets are fundamental, but one economic lesson which we all know in this place is that markets periodically need the help of government. Regulations protect against abuses. We’ve a proud record of removing the unnecessary regulations, but we will be guided by the interests of all Australians, not just blind ideology.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADERS OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 6277 4053
‘Science meets politics’
SCIENCE MEETS PARLIAMENT 2014
GANDEL HALL, NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA
It’s great to have a chance to speak with you this morning on the ‘dark arts’ of politics and the media.
I’m here as Labor Leader, and as the Shadow Minister for Science, to urge all of you to become political communicators.
Australia needs you.
I took on the Shadow Science portfolio because I believe we need to make science and innovation a matter of national political importance.
Not an enclave up the back of the Department of Industry, without a Minister for Science.
Central to all our policies. And our prosperity.
I believe that every policy challenge Australia currently faces will benefit from a more scientific focus – and more scientific input.
We need new ideas in health – driven by human genomics.
New ideas in education – informed by neuroscience and psychology.
New ideas for our economy – underpinned by innovation, research and development.
New ideas for farming and food security – working with cutting edge and productivity-creating technology.
And new ideas for our environment – shaped by a recognition of the scientific consensus, not some ideological repudiation of it.
History tells us that the policy imperative alone will not be enough.
The essential merit of any cause is a condition precedent to whether it succeeds.
But the essential merit of any cause is not the exclusive guarantee of whether it succeeds.
The future of Australian science will depend on whether you, and I, can make your cause a national political issue.
This is a challenge that should not be underestimated.
If you’re not prepared to take my word for it – consider the view of Albert Einstein.
At a conference at Princeton in 1946, Einstein took questions at the end of his prepared remarks.
One attendee asked:
“Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom, we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?”
“That is simple, my friend. It is because politics is more difficult than physics.”
In the scientific spirit of the day, I want to report on what I consider a case study for successful policy advocacy from my time as Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme was an ambitious, long-term solution to a complex and important problem that had never before been considered a political issue.
There was an absolute moral imperative.
Until the National Disability Insurance Scheme, people with impairment where effectively consigned to a second class life.
They were exiles in a city with unbreachable walls.
People with disability, their carers and the people who loved them, were invisible prisoners of disadvantage.
None of this was new.
There were two key elements that took the fate of people with a disability from a shoulder-shrugging, forgotten tragedy to a national political issue.
The first factor was the ability of people who knew the most about the issue, and what reform would mean, to raise the profile of their cause through a unified, grassroots campaign with a positive message.
I have always been a believer in the powerful force of consensus and empowerment.
I have always said that like-minded advocacy groups have a choice.
They can choose to spend their time reinventing a modern tower of babel, disputing the things they disagree on, and get nowhere.
Or they can concentrate on the 90 per cent they do agree on and work toward achieving it.
Until the ‘Every Australian Counts’ campaign, each key group had approached the politics of disability in a different way depending on whether they were advocates, carers or disability service providers.
The muffling, sound-defeating pursuit of too many competing demarcations.
The sterile competition for media disinterest– and for limited government resources.
Alternatively, by uniting around a common objective – the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the newly formed National Disability and Carers Alliance became a powerful host, the combined shout of 100,000 voices.
Together they achieved an outcome that would have been impossible alone.
What they lacked in money they created in people power.
For scientists, I know that the competition for research funding is fierce.
I know that you are often forced to compete with your colleagues for government grants that are too scarce.
The challenge for the advocate of science is to find your unifying message.
To articulate a set of objectives based on consensus – goals that will deliver a more beneficial outcome for all of you.
To build a richer political narrative about the benefits of science for all Australians.
The second factor in the success of the NDIS was the enlisting of credible independent experts to round out the policy argument with cogent supporting advice that explained the benefits.
In the early days of the National Disability Insurance Scheme debate, there was a widely-held view that the problem of disability was a bottomless well.
People said you could lean over it, toss a coin in and never hear it hit the bottom.
The Productivity Commission, ably assisted by a remarkable actuary John Walsh, provided the Government with the numbers that put this notion to rest.
It gave us proof that the National Disability Insurance Scheme could be funded.
That one could toss the coin in the well and that, while deep, the well had an audible floor – a measurable value and benefit.
What’s more, the Productivity Commission argued that empowering the hundreds of thousands of Australians with impairment, their carers and loved ones would actually deliver a considerable economic benefit.
It would significantly boost Australia’s national productivity – and save money in the long run by consolidating funding into a single pool.
The Productivity Commission’s report leant new economic strength and policy logic to the moral imperative of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – and played a pivotal role in its design and implementation.
I think science can do more to emphasise its economic value.
Or, put bluntly, the retail benefits of research.
Take the recent debate on Australian manufacturing.
There is a widespread misconception that manufacturing jobs are somehow ‘dirty’, ‘low-tech’, rust belt, commodified industries.
This is wrong.
This is tragically wrong – a wrong that betrays our nation and starves our future.
There is no such thing as a ‘low-tech’ industry.
Rather, there are industries that have invested in cutting edge technology and innovation – and those that have not.
All of us understand that Australian industries that invest in research and development are investing in their capacity for reinvention.
Compared to businesses that don’t innovate, innovative Australian businesses are 78 per cent more likely to report increases in productivity over the previous year.
Yet only around 25 in every 100 of Australian businesses collaborate on innovation.
Australia already produces some of the finest research in the world – we need more collaboration between industries and the research sector.
All of these businesses rely on you, our scientific community.
Scientists have a role to play in spreading this message.
In emphasising the need for collaboration – initiating it if necessary.
I know this is not always easy.
And I appreciate there are active disincentives that sometime prevent proactive collaboration.
Addressing such disincentives should be part of your reform agenda, and it will be part of mine.
By 2013 – a powerful consensus developed around the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
So much so that we even managed to convince the Abbott Opposition to vote in favour of a new levy to fund it.
Building this kind of meaningful consensus to make science a national priority won’t be easy.
All of us, you and me, will need to be prepared for a fight.
In this age of self-publishing platforms, it has never been easier for people to broadcast their opinion to the world – regardless of its veracity or foundation.
On scientific matters, this means any outspoken blogger can pit their anecdotal ‘evidence’ and ‘common-sense’ reasoning against years of painstaking, peer-reviewed research.
What’s more, the idea of ‘balanced’ reporting often requires that the ill-informed view from the fringe be presented as a counter to the scientist’s theory.
I’m sure this is a source of immense frustration to many of you.
It must be hard not to be insulted and infuriated by the way in which your hard work can be subject to baseless criticisms and ‘feel-pinions’.
Australia needs you to rise above the prejudice and gossip and persevere with the more important argument.
We need you to defend your findings, even if it means simplifying the message back to first principles.
I think the degradation of the climate change debate is the cautionary tale for what happens if we abandon the field to the conspiracy theorists and keyboard warriors, the social media trolls and the angry shouts of talkback radio.
On climate change, I think too many scientists – and indeed, politicians – made the mistake of projecting the strong consensus within their academic community onto the population at large.
Too many of us took the popular support for action on climate change for granted.
A mistake that has seen Australia move from a co-operative conversation on the best international method for dealing with the causes of climate change and mitigating against its effects to an argument poisoned by allegations of conspiracy and alarmist ‘warmism’.
There’s an important difference between tackling the misinformation peddled by climate change deniers, and stooping to their level.
A great deal of harm has been done by environmentalists using individual extreme weather events as proof of climate change in and of themselves.
An argument that is far too easy for climate-change deniers to rebut by seizing on any unseasonably cold weather.
All of which only serves as an unhelpful distraction from the real matter at hand – the future of our planet.
This battle isn’t over.
Labor won’t be walking away from our action on climate change – or bowing to the will of a Prime Minister who offers cynical nostrums that emissions trading is rendered meaningless because it deals with an ‘invisible, odourless substance’.
Climate science may be a key policy challenge – but I don’t view the contribution of science to our national life through the solo prism of environmental issues.
As I said before, I believe every facet of Australian policy-making would benefit from a new engagement with science.
I also believe our national political debate (and perhaps the way it is covered) would benefit from the enlarged, future-focused perspective that science brings.
Science encourages us to investigate the unknown and also challenges us to overcome it.
Dr Michael Shermer has written:
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.
A greater understanding of science and a more meaningful explanation of it might encourage parliamentarians, and the press gallery, to be more willing to acknowledge complexity – and engage with it.
Our world is complex, sophisticated and subtle.
Science allows us to appreciate this.
A more scientific approach to our policy debates might allow politicians to canvass questions – rather than rushing to offer solutions.
An understanding of the value of empirical evidence might allow pilot policy programs to run their full measure, rather than seeing them shelved on partisan or ideological grounds.
An acknowledgement of scientific consensus as an evolving process might mean that a change in policy position is not seen as a ‘humiliating u-turn’ or an ‘embarrassing backflip’, but a new approach based on a re-examination of the evidence.
I want to assure you that I am open to your ideas and keen to lend my advocacy to your cause.
There is so much I want to achieve for Australian science.
I want science to be a national political priority.
It will require a reform process akin to those undertaken in the Hawke-Keating years and akin to the NDIS transformation.
I want science to be recognised as an industry that will underwrite Australia’s prosperity in the 21st Century.
I am convinced the science race, the race for the jobs of the future, is a race to the top – and it has begun.
If Australia is not careful we will be stuck on the blocks.
We do not have three or six years to waste.
At this very moment, too many Australian schoolchildren are being taught science by hardworking but underqualified teachers.
Too few Australians go on to study science – and mathematics – in our universities.
Science units which can form the basis of non-science qualifications.
I believe Australia’s level of investment in research and development needs to significantly increase.
I believe science needs a long term sustainable funding profile.
I believe science needs a strategic approach – not just in terms of setting the right research priorities, but putting in place the right policy settings to allow your genius to flourish and lead to national and global prosperity.
By 2030, global spending on research and development will increase by 250 per cent.
Driven by big investments from countries in our region – in China and India as well as emerging economic powers like Brazil.
I believe that making science and innovation a national policy and political priority is nothing less than an investment in Australian brainpower.
It will not be easy at a time of slowing growth and downgraded revenue – but there are no shortcuts.
After all, the NDIS was born in the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the great depression.
In 2014 our nation is at a crossroads: Australia can either get smarter or get poorer – we can choose to compete or give up.
I promise to be a disciple of science and innovation.
I promise to champion Australian creativity and ingenuity.
I promise to value ‘start-ups’.
We need to build a climate that encourages innovation and risk-taking and entrepreneurialism.
An environment that understands research doesn’t always deliver a short-term commercial dividend.
A culture that understands failure can sometimes lead to success.
I believe government can play an important role in covering investor risk, helping to create a climate of confidence and risk-taking that will encourage entrepreneurs to pursue the breakthroughs that will define this century.
I believe that if we are serious about turning Australian genius into wealth for our nation, we need to equip PhD students with the skills they need to commercialise their research.
This does not mean that all of them will, and nor should they have to.
But we do need to create a system that removes disincentives and gives our scientists their best shot.
We need to give our science graduates additional skills such as entrepreneurship, intellectual property management, project management and financial literacy.
So our best and brightest can aspire to be business leaders – and political leaders – and community leaders – as well as professors.
I am sufficiently ambitious for Australia, and Labor, that I hope at the next election, when distributing the Labor card, science graduates will choose Labor, because Labor has chosen science.
I hope these reflections will assist you in capturing the national imagination and the media’s attention in the years ahead.
Australia needs you.
It needs you to enter the political debate.
And you make sure that journalists know you mean business, that there are votes in science.
Because there are.
MONDAY, 17 MARCH 2014
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
NATIONAL POLICY FORUM
7 MARCH 2014
We all know the Whitlam words:
The party, the platform, the people.
Today we start to bring together the first and second elements – to capture the imagination of the third.
I know that to return to government, Labor needs new policy ideas.
We won’t win the 2016 election with the policies of 2013.
We can’t sit back and hope that the cruel cuts of Liberal Governments will deliver us an electoral dividend.
We need to offer a positive alternative vision.
This vision has to be the product of consultation and consensus.
All of us have a voice in this forum – a voice that will be heard.
But when we arrive at a consensus, when we reach a policy position, we have an obligation to speak with one voice.
Shadow Ministers, Caucus members, rank and file members, trade unions and party organisations alike.
When our policy is agreed, all of us must lock in behind it.
I don’t want the papers to be writing about our differences – I want them to be writing about our ideas and our policies.
I want them to be writing about the differences between us and the conservatives.
About how we’re looking out for working people and they’re looking after vested interests.
Let all of us agree – the days of disunity are done.
Throughout my life, I have always sought out mentors and role models and drawn on the advice of experts and leaders.
I know no-one has a monopoly on good ideas.
As Labor leader I want to draw on the best ideas and the most innovative thinking.
We need to take hard evidence, the strongest science – and combine it with the Labor values that all of us believe in.
The challenge ahead of us is significant.
To win the next election, we need to change half-a-million minds.
This means regaining the trust of people who have voted for us in the past, but did not vote for us in 2013.
It also means reaching out to new constituencies.
People the Coalition have forgotten, or taken for granted.
I want Labor to be the party of small business and entrepreneurs.
I want us to be the party for farmers – people who know the danger of climate change better than anyone.
I want science to be a first-order political issue.
Above all I want us to re-engage with people who are cynical and disillusioned about politics.
People who no longer believe that the political system works for them.
People who have lost faith in government as an agent of change and a driver of social good.
I think this process begins by demonstrating a willingness to listen – and a determination to lead.
This time last week, Jenny Macklin announced that Labor is bringing together social policy experts, economists, academics and business and union leaders to help re-design Australia’s social welfare system.
Since the very first years of Federation, Australia’s social welfare system has led the world.
This review will allow us to give new thought to the problems of our 21st century society.
I want us to think about helping people deal with loneliness, a loss of community and rising levels of mental illness and exclusion.
I want us to take a new look at supporting people into work, many of whom have never been in the workforce before.
I believe we need to re-examine the support we provide to the increasing number of people with insecure and casualised jobs, and put a new focus on preparing people for the jobs of the future.
We need a system with the flexibility to help the modern Australian and the modern Australian family.
The only time our opponents talk about social welfare, is when they’re planning to cut it.
The only time our opponents talk about family is when someone like Kevin Andrews or Cory Bernardi sets off on a new social engineering frolic.
Only Labor believes in reforming Australia’s social wage with compassion and fairness.
Only Labor knows that it doesn’t matter if you’re a nuclear family, or a blended family – what matters is giving children the love and support and security they need.
This is just one example of the policy work I want us to do in 2014.
It’s also an example of the model I want us to adopt – a consultative, consensus process.
A model that gives Labor the vision, the ideas, the policy that will engage the Australian people and inspire their support.
Our task goes beyond regaining the faith of the true believers.
It’s about building a bigger tent.
It’s about being a modern party, a party that reflects modern Australia.
I think that starts with party membership.
In 2014 Labor has 44,000 members – we should have 100,000.
This Wednesday, it was exactly 29 years since I joined the Labor party – it would have been 30, but back then it took me a year to go through the various membership processes.
Three decades later, it is still too hard for people to become a party member.
In a world where people can vote, sign petitions and advocate causes every day with the click of a mouse, it shouldn’t be so hard to join the Labor party.
Our membership processes need to match the reality of the modern world.
I believe if you’re willing to go online and donate money to our cause – we should embrace you.
233,000 people were on the ALP e-mail list in 2013 – we should be getting them onto our membership rolls.
Every branch in every state could do with new voices, new perspectives, new people.
Every member of the Labor party is a voice for our cause.
Their persuasive power lies in the fact that they’re not some talking-head on TV, they’re a family member, a friend, a colleague, a team-mate, a fellow commuter.
By their very existence in the everyday world they demonstrate that ours is not a secret sect or some obscure cabal – it is a representative, democratic assembly of the men and women of Australia.
The voice of the members, the advocacy of members is infinitely more powerful than that of any politician.
They help us show that politics still works for people.
That the political system remains the best way of building a better world.
That politics is still the place for the great contest of ideas.
That’s why the National Policy Forum is so important to me.
I firmly believe that Labor’s path back to government starts with your ideas.
The National Policy Forum is proof of our determination to listen and engage with our members.
This representative, open group reminds us all of the great intellectual strength and policy passion of our party.
For more than 120 years, Labor has relied on party members to provide the on-the-ground support for our parliamentary candidates.
We have also looked to them for policy inspiration and reform.
So many times in Labor’s history, party members have pointed the way for the caucus.
Today’s event continues that tradition.
It sends the clear message that developing policy is the work of all of us – because it touches all of us.
Today’s meeting is only the start of the conversation – and your deliberations and discussions shouldn’t be confined to this room, or this forum.
I want our party to be open for ideas every day and through every channel.
Douglas Carswell, a Conservative member of the British Parliament, said that voters are living in the on-demand age of Spotify but that his party are still thinking like the local HMV.
I think we’re well ahead of the Tories – but it’s an analogy worth keeping in mind.
Your ideas, your input, your arguments, will make sure that our policies are relevant to Australians’ lives and matched to their priorities.
Today I want us to look beyond National Conference in 2015 – and look to the Australia of 2020, 2030, 2050.
The Australian people are already organising their lives to take advantage of the next 20, 30, 40 years.
The people of Australia are living in the 21st century – it’s our responsibility to do the same.
Australians understand there’s no such thing as a job for life anymore, but several careers with constant learning and re-learning.
Australians understand the need for universal superannuation, so they don’t work hard their whole lives and retire poor.
Australians understand the need for balance –they don’t want to live to work, they’re working to live a life outside of work.
Australians understand that health and quality of life are linked.
Australians live with the ups and downs of life – whether it’s divorce or illness or ageing parents or beautiful children with developmental delays.
It’s our job to share in the aspirations of Australians – and to deliver policies that realise their goals.
We know the choices in front of us.
Will we get smarter – or poorer?
Will we start a race to the top – or a race to the bottom?
Will ours be the last generation to know an Australian manufacturing industry?
Or the generation that invests in the research and innovation that will create a new wave of prosperity and a new wave of Australians enthusiastic about making things.
Will ours be the last generation to see a free and universal Medicare?
Or will we be the generation that guarantees Medicare’s future forever.
Will ours be the last generation to deny marriage equality?
Or the first to say that it doesn’t matter whether you are gay or straight – the only thing that matters is that you love each other.
Will we be the last generation to doubt the threat of climate change?
Or the first to save our environment from its effects?
Will we deliver the reforms of the future?
Or will we cling to the past?
This the test that Labor has always passed.
This is the clarion call that we have always answered.
It’s our anthem of inclusion.
We have always made it our mission to help those struck down by the shafts of fate.
To lift people up, and gather them in.
We’re the party of prosperity – and the party of fairness.
We’re the party that floated the dollar and dismantled the tariff wall.
The party that lifted our nation’s eyes to our region and our world.
We’re the party that tied economic growth to wages and living standards.
We’re the party that steered Australia safely through the Global Financial Crisis, adding 800,000 jobs while millions were lost around the world.
We’re the party that knows national prosperity and social advancement has to belong to the many – not the few.
It’s why we created the National Disability Insurance Scheme – a reform that will empower hundreds of thousands of Australians, and bring new hope and opportunities to their families and carers.
It’s why we put in place the Gonksi school reforms.
A new system that will give every Australian child the chance to have their love of learning supported by a great teacher in a great school.
We know what success looks like:
It’s young Australians going from a great school to a great university.
It’s young Australians having the opportunity to own their home.
We need to make it easier for them to enter a housing market that they feel has shut them out.
It’s elderly Australians being cared for and supported in a secure and dignified retirement.
It’s every Australian having the chance to find a good job with decent pay and conditions in productive and profitable enterprises.
It’s an Australia where an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in East Arnhem Land has the same opportunities to finish school, get a fulfilling and fairly remunerated
It’s an Australia where women don’t do more work than their male colleagues, for less pay.
Labor believes in an educated and healthy and scientific nation where no one is shut out by disability or gender or disadvantage.
A prosperous Australia that invests its wealth in the brainpower of its people.
An Australia that reaches out a caring arm to those in need.
Labor’s mission is to foster a diverse, creative multicultural society.
An Australia where it makes no difference whether you are a citizen by birth or choice.
An Australia where everyone is equal, and everyone is welcome.
We have always known the mission – our task today is to identify the methods.
Ideas that can turn our core values into concrete outcomes.
This is more important now than at any time in our party’s history.
After six months, Australians are learning the hard way what those of us in the Labor movement have always known about our opponents.
They’ve got no vision.
They’ve got no plan.
They only know one way.
Every day that my colleagues and I have to sit in the Parliament and listen to Tony Abbott, I’m reminded of something the French philosopher Alain once said:
‘There is nothing more dangerous than an idea, when you only have one idea’.
With your help, I believe Labor can rise above their bleak and sterile view of Australia.
I believe our country is too big, too generous, too smart for their narrow politics of division.
Enduring reform doesn’t come through division.
It doesn’t come from bullying and lecturing.
It takes ideas, it takes leadership, it takes consensus.
I believe Labor’s journey back to Government starts here.
Let us begin – together.
FRIDAY, 7 MARCH 2014
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053