Browsing articles in "Speeches"
Nov 19, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

REMARKS AT LUNCH WELCOMING PRESIDENT HOLLANDE

REMARKS AT LUNCH WELCOMING PRESIDENT HOLLANDE

 

NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

CANBERRA

 

WEDNESDAY, 19 NOVEMBER 2014

 

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

Monsieur President, I bid you welcome to our capital and to our National Gallery.

Four years ago, these rooms contained a hundred and twenty esteemed French paintings, and nearly 500,000 Australians marvelled at works by Cezanne, Gaugin and many others, viewed gloriously up close for the first time.

Eventually we had to return your precious wonders – the Musee D’Orsay was quite insistent on that point.

But in the final week of this great intercultural revelation, the gallery stayed open for thirty-two consecutive hours to allow entranced Australians a final glimpse.

And the kinship of our two countries, and the mutual magnetic embrace of yours and ours, was again affirmed.

In art, music, fashion, cinema, philosophy, cuisine, wine and cultural commune, France nourishes our soul and enriches our humanity.

And ours was a bonding sealed in blood, and in awful shared suffering, in the First World War.

So many of ours – and yours – were consumed by that most brutal conflict.

Australians often reflect on our Diggers’ role in that faraway war in foreign fields – but we should never forget the bravery of the Poilu.

Every city and town in France lost a generation of fathers, husbands, brothers and sons on the barbed wire and in the mud – 1.3 million war dead.

When peace finally came, and it was time for our soldiers to go home, their pleasure was intermingled with sadness.

They would miss their comrades and new friends in France, the people who had shown them such kindness, and such hospitality.

As one of our soldier-poets wrote:

Adieu, fair France, we leave you now
For tropic, sunny skies
Remembering the kindly smile
That lit your saddened eyes…

That connection, forged in the worst of war, stands unbroken by distance, and a century of life.

Within months of the Armistice, my home town Melbourne began a great fundraising campaign to rebuild Villers-Bretonneux.

By diggers defended, by Victorians mended’ was the rallying cry.

Schoolchildren gave a penny each, and the RSLs and CWAs, the churches and the local businesses gave more, and built from the rubble of that heroic smashed town the Ecole Victoria – a school on which was emblazoned the heartfelt commandment:

N’oublions jamais l’Australie’’

“Never forget the Australians.”

Ninety years later, the children of that school branded the same slogan on the tins they rattled when seeking funds to rebuild the Strathewen Primary School in northern Victoria – after it was destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires.

As the then Parliamentary Secretary for Bushfire Reconstruction, I witnessed what French generosity meant to the people of Victoria – and I thank you for it.

France did not forget us, and we will always remember France.

Mr President, if La Perouse and his men had reached Botany Bay a week earlier 226 years ago, you might have arrived yesterday in a francophone nation…most likely a Republic –the Code Napoleonic, the tricolore in the corner of our flag and singing songs about ‘Waltzing Matilde’ and ‘Le Pub avec no beer’

Imagine it, more than two centuries of history rewritten by a fairer wind and calmer seas.

Hypotheticals aside, there is much we share.

We must both reach out to our radicalised youth.

We must both strive for inclusive, tolerant societies that embrace diversity.

And we are both nations engaged in the Pacific.

I look forward to France and Australia deepening our engagement to meet the challenges of this region:

-       Disaster response

-       Health initiatives, particularly HIV

-       Illegal fishing

-       And defence industry and security co-operation

Finally, Mr President, we wish you well for next year’s Paris Conference on Climate Change – a bringing-together of world leaders to address one of the defining economic, environmental and security issues of our age.

It simply must succeed.

Mr President, we thank you for your visit and wish you a very pleasant stay in Australia.

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

 

Nov 18, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Welcome to Prime Minister Modi


SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

TUESDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2014

WELCOME TO PRIME MINISTER MODI

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

 

Madam Speaker.

 

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

 

Prime Minister Modi, the applauding crowds that have greeted you around our country and here today in the house of the Australian people show how very welcome you are today.

 

Might I also add – Namaste.

 

You are here today as the first Prime Minister born in an independent India, the proud son and a distinguished former Chief Minister of your home State, the ‘jewel of the west’ Gujarat.

 

Your part of India has gifted so much to the world.

 

Gandhi’s moral and intellectual leadership, centuries of poetry and literature.

 

Prime Ministers, diplomats, Tata and other industrialists, public sector leaders, the world’s most affordable motor car and countless actors, writers and directors.

 

The Gujarati have always been travellers and adventurers.

 

Along with their fellow citizens from every part of the land of light and freedom, they have made an international leap of faith.

 

They have left behind the familiar songs, sights and stories of their childhood for a fresh start in our country.

 

This glorious Indian diaspora is one of the great touch tones and powerful success stories of our marvellous multicultural society – thousands of Indian stories joining our great Australian story.

 

And of course one of the firmest and fastest bonds that Indians form with Australians comes from our love of cricket.

 

Prime Minister Modi, in Australia we sometimes say that being captain of our Test team is the second toughest job in the country behind Prime Minister.

 

Some would say that we should never compare cricket with politics.

 

After all, one is the cause of great national debates, intense passion, endless media commentary on controversial decisions and leadership speculation.

 

And the other is just about deciding who governs Australia.

 

But in his 2011 Bradman oration, the ‘wall of India’, Rahul Dravid reminded Australians that on the 28th of June, 1930 when your illustrious predecessor Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested by the British, Sir Donald Bradman was busy decimating the English bowling attack, scoring 254 at Lords.

 

For Dravid and India’s legendary cricket writer KN Prabhu, this was the motif of the 1930s.

 

As Nehru went in and out of jail, Bradman just stayed in – and the Australian went after the English like  ‘an avenging angel’.

 

Dravid also quoted Bradman’s advice to a young Richie Benaud, every cricketer is only a ‘temporary trustee’ of the game.

 

Indeed all of us, leaders, parliamentarians and citizens are the temporary trustees of our international relationship.

 

It is our duty to build upon our national and common values, mutual interests, to elevate and broaden our friendship.

 

The great significance of your visit, indeed your leadership is the paradigm shift in Indian politics – from the politics of welfare to the politics of aspiration.

 

I believe our task in this parliament is to build upon our economic relationship, the load baring pillar of the Australia-India friendship.

 

To find that complementarity between what India needs for its growth and what Australia can supply:

 

  • investment
  • energy
  • skills
  • training
  • services

 

And our interests at converging more broadly on security and peace in the region.

 

Because India’s great democratic character is not just about India, it has a resonance in our region and in the world.

 

Mr Prime Minister there is so much that binds us, so much that we share.

 

The national day, a colonial past, faith in democracy.

 

The rule of law, respect for diversity, a love of our vast, varied and fragile environments and a long tradition of bravery and sacrifice.

 

I promise you Prime Minister that Australians will never forget, 1,300 Indian troops who lost their lives on the Gallipoli peninsula.

 

I promise you Prime Minister, that Australians will never forget that Indians and Australians served, fought and fell with their face towards the foe from the deserts of North Africa to the prisoner of war camps of south-east Asia.

 

We’ve shared the duties of good international citizens in the service of peace.

 

Korea, Somalia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan and other missions.

 

India has been the largest troop contributor to United Nations missions, providing more than 160,000 troops in 43 United Nations missions.

 

Prime Minister Modi, today, on behalf of the Opposition, I wanted to pay special tribute to your passion for education and equality.

 

We applaud your determination to bring dignity to the lives of every citizen, to “ensuring and securing the active participation of Woman Power in development” – and bringing new amenity and sanitation to every community.

 

And we share your belief in educations hope giving, life changing, transforming power.

 

We admire your great goal, freeing your people from poverty with the skills and knowledge that guard against the scourge of youth unemployment.

 

Prime Minister, we know that for you this is deeply personal.

 

The product and the lesson of your own journey, from hardship to the highest office in the land.

 

A reflection of your determination to be a ‘prime servant’, a leader at one with the dreams of the people.

 

A desire to give every member of India’s next generation the chance in Gandhi’s words, ‘be the change they wish to see in the world.’

 

Or as you expressed it in that memorable equation:

 

“IT + IT = IT.

 

Indian Talent + Information Technology = India Tomorrow”

 

Mr Prime Minister, one of Australia’s greatest leaders, Ben Chifley, was a key supporter of Indian independence and a close friend of Prime Minister Nehru.

 

These were two great men of grand vision.

 

The authors of the ‘tryst with destiny’ and the ‘light on the hill.’

 

Just hours before his untimely death, Chifley conducted his last interview with the Indian media.

 

His message that evening was purely Chifley – sincere and unadorned.

 

He said:

 

Tell Nehru not to lose heart but to carry on.

 

India will still show the way to peace.

 

Prime Minister, you lead a great peace-loving democracy, with a renewed commitment to opportunity and equality, India does indeed, as Ben Chifley said, still show the way.

 

You lead a nation that will shape our region and inspire our world, and you honour us with this visit to the heart of our democracy.

 

Welcome.

 

ENDS

 

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

Nov 18, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Dinner for Prime Minister Modi

DINNER FOR PRIME MINISTER MODI

MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND

TUESDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2014

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

 

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

 

Prime Minister Abbott, Prime Minister Modi, distinguished guests.

 

Namaste.

 

Prime Minister Modi – I’m a lifelong Melbourne boy, welcome to Melbourne.

 

And in my unbiased view, what a perfect venue for a celebration of our two nations, the birthplace of Test Cricket, the MCG.

 

For both our homelands, whether it is being played in the charged atmosphere of Eden Gardens or at this great colosseum…

 

…on the hard-packed sand of our beaches or in the streets and driveways of our cities…

 

…with a bright red SG and a brand new MRF or a taped-up tennis ball and an old Kookaburra sapphire…

 

Cricket is the backdrop and soundtrack for our summers.

 

The stage for millions of childhood fantasies, the prompt for countless animated conversations with total strangers.

 

It is perhaps too much to say that cricket defines our national characters – but there is no doubt that it reveals something of us.

 

We are both fierce competitors, we uphold the ethos of fair play.

 

We may occasionally indulge in gamesmanship – but we put a far greater value on sportsmanship.

 

Australia and India both respect tradition and we both revere Test Cricket – its icons and institutions.

 

But we are not prisoners of the past, we are innovators and improvers: Australia pioneered the One-Day game and you have made India the home of T20.

 

And we both play this sport we love, this global game, with an egalitarian spirit where surnames, backgrounds, wealth and faith mean nothing.

 

What matters – out there in the middle and in our societies – is merit, ability, hard work and results.

 

Prime Minister Modi, your marvellous speech to our Parliament this morning drew on these common values – and it went beyond that.

 

All of us, in the Parliament and around Australia were moved by your oratory. And your optimism, well, it was enthralling.

 

Your faith in India rang true, as you spoke of a people riding a new ‘high tide of hope’.

 

A new generation: 800 million Indians aged under 35 “eager for change, willing to work for it” because they believe it is within their grasp.

 

Let us channel that optimism, let us harness that humanism and idealism –let us combine it with our deep cultural connections, our shared history and heritage.

 

This combination, this momentum will uplift our economic relationship: the load-bearing pillar of the Australia-India friendship.

 

We will find the complementarity between Indian “development, demography and demand” and what Australia can supply:

 

  • investment
  • energy
  • skills
  • education and training
  • and our services sector

 

I appreciated two of your comments from our personal dialogue today.

 

Firstly, you graciously acknowledged that today’s announcements could not have been achieved without the hard work of the previous Labor Government – and we thank you for that.

 

Second, you told me you had noticed the genuine warmth in the welcome Australians had extend to you.

 

Prime Minister Modi, it’s true that part of this is due to our shared history of military service and sacrifice: from Gallipoli to Tobruk, Al Alamein and UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

 

Yes, part of this is due to our shared language and history.

 

And most certainly it is partly due to cricket.

 

But above all, the credit belongs to the Indian people themselves.

 

No Australian is ever upset when an Indian family move into their street – they know good neighbours have arrived.

 

No high street shop is worse off when a hard-working Indian entrepreneur opens a family business next door.

 

And every year, our school prize-giving nights will feature Indian-Australian children, high in the lists, winning awards, achieving great results and making their parents proud.

 

Prime Minister Modi, today you promised:

 

Australia will not be at the periphery of our vision, but at the centre of our thought.

 

Tonight we thank you for these words – all of us, Labor and Liberal – pledge to do our very best to repay that generosity of spirit, to fulfil our shared ‘tryst with destiny’.

 

Sir, your visit has brought great joy to the people of Australia – and given us all new hope and confidence in the future of our enduring national friendship, between two great democracies.

 

Thank you for coming – and best of luck for the series ahead.

 

ENDS

 

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

Nov 14, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

REMARKS WELCOMING PRIME MINISTER CAMERON

Thank you madam speaker.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet – custodians of our ancient continent for more than 40,000 years before the arrival of the First Fleet – and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

Prime Minister Cameron, on behalf of the opposition, it is my very great pleasure to welcome you to our country, and to our Parliament.

Your visit is another proud milestone of Australia’s oldest friendship.

And we are all looking forward to your address today, just the second to be made by a British Prime Minister in this place.

Today we celebrate so much that Britain has given us.

Industry, institutions, people and culture.

Generations of British migrants have worked our lands, opened small businesses, raised their families, built communities and started new lives here underneath the Southern Cross.

Like indeed my late father, a Geordie seafarer who came to Australia in 1966.

And our democracy, our faith in the rule of law, our respect for individual liberty and our sense of fair play are priceless gifts from your nation.

Even as we have made them our own, we have never forgotten from whence they came.

I particularly want to pay belated tribute to the British justice system – because without your strong sentencing laws some of my mother’s Irish ancestors would never have come to Australia.

Prime Minister, the first of your predecessors to visit our country did so before Federation – and before he was even a Member of Parliament.

Lord Salisbury, the Conservative icon and one of the great architects of the Empire, visited the colonies as a young man in the 1850s.

Two observations from his lordships journal stand out:

One, his lordship reported there was “less crime than expected”.

Two, his lordship reported that the “customary form of address was: mate’’.

Just over a hundred years later, Harold MacMillan became the first Prime Minister to experience Australian hospitality whilst in office.

As he recalled:

As I drove into Sydney on my first arrival there, I was amazed to see the great numbers of people in the streets and issuing from all houses.

A huge crowd had turned out to welcome me, far greater, I thought, than any similar crowd could ever be in the old country, and I was deeply touched.   

Then someone told me the truth. It was six o’clock…[and the pubs were closing].

Prime Minister, you will be relieved to hear that the days of the six o’clock swill and early closing are long gone.

And much more has changed besides, I can report.

The deep and abiding friendship between our nations has evolved and matured.

Australia no longer looks to Britain out of need, or dependence – we no longer seek to imitate, or echo.

Instead we greet each other as equals and peers – as partners in the world.

Britain has joined Europe and Australia has found our place in Asia.

We sing our own anthems, we celebrate our own cultures.

We enjoy a genuine exchange in education, art, music, cinema, literature and fashion.

And whether it is the Ashes, rugby, netball, the Olympics, the Paralympics or the Commonwealth games, we relish an international sporting rivalry as old as any on earth.

Our sledging can sometimes surprise the uninitiated – but it reflects the depth of our friendship – we can dish it out because we know we will get it back.

We are both good losers – and fantastic winners.

And while Australians may no longer describe a trip to the United Kingdom as ‘going home’ – every year hundreds of thousands of us make the journey to live and work and study in a country that has always made us feel at home.

Prime Minister, I am very pleased that you will have the chance to visit the Australian War Memorial today.

Designed as a tribute to the Australians who fought for their country, King and Empire in the First World War, when it opened our nations were once again embroiled in a deadly global struggle between freedom and tyranny.

In that second terrible war for the fate of civilisation – Britain never stood alone, Australia was with you.

Today, the War Memorial salutes the memory of Australians who have served our nation in every conflict and peacekeeping operation.

So often they have served, fought, fallen, side by side with British soldiers.

From the open veldt of South Africa, to the skies over Europe, most recently in the mountains of Afghanistan and the skies over Mesopotamia, our countries have forged an unbreakable bond of courage and sacrifice – of mutual respect and regard.

Their spirit, their bravery, their shared sense of duty and honour unites our countries in history forever.

Let it – and our shared love of the Westminster tradition, democracy, justice and equality inspire us and guide us in our journey ahead.

Prime Minister, you are most certainly welcome in Australia – and we wish you a happy and memorable stay.

 

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

 

Nov 13, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

‘THE AUSTRALIAN MODEL FOR INCLUSIVE GROWTH’

SPEECH

 

SYDNEY INSTITUTE

THE AUSTRALIAN MODEL FOR INCLUSIVE GROWTH’

 

THURSDAY

13 NOVEMBER 2014
SYDNEY

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

It’s a great pleasure to be here tonight – and I’m very grateful to Gerard for the kind invitation.

Yesterday we were all witness to something truly extraordinary.

An historic announcement from the President of the United    States and the President of China.

The world’s two largest economies.

The world’s two biggest polluters.

The two superpowers whose actions and decisions will define this century and the next.

The leaders of the United States and China, standing side-by-side.

Declaring, wholly and boldly, that global climate change is one of the ‘greatest threats facing humanity’.

Recognising, without caveat or qualification that ‘human activity is already changing the world’s climate system’.

Acknowledging the effects of global climate change: increased temperatures, rising sea levels, more droughts, more floods, more bushfires and more severe storms.

And dispelling, once and for all, the false dichotomy that says we have to choose between growing the economy and protecting the environment.

One section of yesterday’s historic declaration is worth quoting in full.

…smart action on climate change now can drive innovation, strengthen economic growth and bring broad benefits – from sustainable development to increased energy security, improved public health and a better quality of life.

Tackling climate change will also strengthen national and international security.

Yesterday, China and the United States – more than one third of the world’s economy and 40 per cent of its emissions renewed their commitment ‘to work constructively together for the common good’.

And they matched their words with actions, they put forward an ambitious set of new national targets for cutting pollution.

As a result of yesterday’s landmark agreement, the United States is committing to cut pollution faster and deeper.

For its part, China will be cutting CO2 pollution sooner rather than later, and is setting a new target for non-fossil fuel power of approximately 20 per cent of electricity generation by 2030.

To give you some sense of the enormity of that commitment, China moving to 20 per cent non-fossil fuel, is the equivalent of closing every coal-fired power plant in China.

Make no mistake, the depth and breadth of ambition is entirely deliberate.

The China-United States intent is twofold:

First, to restore much-needed momentum to global climate action negotiations.

To resuscitate the urgency, intent and co-operative spirit that took such a battering at Copenhagen.

And second, to prepare the ground for a substantial and ambitious international agreement at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris next year.

China and the United States have signaled their preference: they believe nations should adopt an emissions reduction agreement with international legal force.

Not a voluntary code of conduct or a set of unconnected aspirations – a protocol that binds every nation that is party to it.

This marks a momentous change of course.

Until now, in the climate change debate, multilateral solutions have been dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ or ‘meaningless’ because they lacked the endorsement of the United States and/or China.

Those days are behind us.

The argument that Australia should wait upon the world before addressing climate change has run its course too.

The world is not waiting for Australia – because the economic, environmental and security challenges of climate change cannot and will not wait.

And the trillion-dollar clean energy revolution will not wait for us either.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

This landmark moment in world affairs offers Australia an historic chance.

Just imagine, in the lead up to next year’s Paris Conference we could be talking about the ‘Brisbane Declaration’ as the turning point in global climate negotiations.

The Brisbane G20 could become famous for the fusing of the economic, environmental and security imperatives for climate action.

As G20 President, we have an opportunity to marshal co-operation on climate science – driving discovery and innovation for mitigating and managing the consequences of climate change.

We have an opportunity to forge a global consensus on renewable energy.

Negotiating with the world for a new focus on clean energy sources that create jobs and bolster global energy security.

Australia should do everything in our power to utilise our international comparative advantage in renewable technology.

The sheer magnitude of China’s new commitment to renewable energy means that if Australian firms only capture a small percentage of China’s growth, it will massively grow our industry – an industry that already employs tens of thousands of Australians in high-skill, high-wage jobs.

And we should use the G20 to enhance market mechanisms for reducing emissions.

Labor is committed to an Emissions Trading Scheme because we are determined to fight climate change in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible.

We believe in harnessing the power of the market to reduce emissions and grow our economy, driving investment in clean energy and creating new high-skill jobs.

And we support an Emissions Trading Scheme because it represents a global economic opportunity for Australia.

In 2014, the world’s emissions trading schemes have a collective value of more than $30 billion.

China’s seven pilot schemes are the second largest carbon market in the world.

South Korea will introduce its ETS on 1 January 2015.

Some commentators complain that the United States does not have a national ETS, but New York and eight other North-Eastern states are part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Oregon and Washington are exploring carbon pricing options, and California – itself the world’s 8th largest economy – already has an ETS in place.

Science, innovation, renewable energy, emissions trading are essential to 21st Century economic growth, and all of them have been deliberately excluded from the Abbott Government’s G20 agenda.

How can this be?

How can it be that just as the world’s biggest players change the game, Tony Abbott is doubling-down on denial, and dealing Australia out.

The progress of China and the United States only highlights our failure.

Their focus on the future exposes the Government’s short-term approach.

Today the Prime Minister said:

“I’m focusing not on what might happen in 16 years’ time, I’m focusing on what we’re doing now”

I fear it will not be long before this stubborn isolationism takes a toll on our international competitiveness.

To put it in the Government’s language, Australia cannot expect the rest of the world to do the heavy lifting on greenhouse gas pollution, while ignoring our inaction.

Sooner, rather than later, Australia’s refusal to act on climate change will affect our trade negotiations.

I would not be surprised if future international trade agreements included a carbon-price equivalent as a mandatory condition.

This could become all-too-relevant if any impending Free Trade Agreement with China becomes subject to a two-stage process.

Yesterday certainly proved that 24 hours is a long time in geopolitics.

On any analysis, the China- United States agreement poses two fundamental questions for the Australian Government’s foreign policy.

One – given the weight placed upon next year’s Paris Conference by the President of the United States and the President of China – does the Prime Minister of Australia still plan on playing truant?

Or will he now change his mind and attend one of the definitive international meetings of the decade?

Two – given that the world’s two largest economies chose an economic forum announce a climate change agreement and made the effort to explicitly identify climate change as an economic issue, how on earth can Tony Abbott argue that climate change is not central to the G20 agenda?

Surely Tony Abbott, the man who infamously described himself as a ‘weathervane’ on climate change, can tell which way the international breeze is blowing.

Throughout this year, I and Labor have consistently advocated that climate change should be at the core of the G20 agenda.

Its inclusion shows that Australia and the G20 forum are capable of rising to the challenges of the 21st Century:

Addressing global climate change – and tackling inequality by building inclusive growth.

Using international co-operation and a multilateral framework to:

  • revitalise free trade
  • drive innovation
  • tackle youth unemployment
  • and crack down on multinational tax avoidance

That’s what I want from the G20.

International collective action on the problems that confront every nation.

Making the G20 Work

And as we prepare for the final weeks of our G20 Presidency, Australia must ask itself:

Have we provided the leadership and vision that the G20 needs?

Have we left this international forum in better condition than we found it?

Have we done enough to put the global economy on a pathway to strong, sustainable and inclusive growth?

Make no mistake – these are the questions the world will be asking of us.

In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, the G20 proved its value as an international crisis-response body.

President Obama described the 2009 London summit as the ‘turning point’ in the world’s efforts to avoid ‘international catastrophe’.

Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan overcame significant international resistance to elevate the role and responsibility of the G20, and they should be proud of that historic meeting – an unprecedented collaboration between the most significant developed and developing economies.

As much as it was then lauded for the rapidity of its response – the G20 has since been criticised for its inability to plan for the long term.

Increasingly, the G20 has been portrayed as a forum more adept at tactics than strategy.

Brisbane gives Australia the chance to correct this perception.

To lay out a plan for strong, sustainable and balanced global growth.

Making the G20 work is our international responsibility and it is a national economic necessity.

More than ever, the strength of our economy depends upon the health of the world economy.

Australians are engaged, we are involved in the world economy in a way unimaginable 20 or 30 years ago.

Our national pulse beats in time with the heart of the world economy – and it’s in our interest to keep it healthy and strong.

There is another fundamental reason why Australia must enhance the relevance and worth of the G20.

Because if we fail to do so, any alternative or replacement forum will not include Australia.

If the G20 is deemed incapable of delivering substantial results, the most likely outcome is a reversion to the G8, with the G20 convening on an ‘as-needed’ basis – if at all.

Even an expanded or ‘outreach’ group, a G8 plus China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa – would see Australia excluded.

I believe that Australia’s interests are always better served when we actively involve ourselves – when we take a seat at the table.

VISION and VALUES

That’s why foreign policy success belongs to leaders who broaden Australia’s role in the world.

John Curtin put Australia’s strategic interests first – and ‘looked to America’ after the fall of Singapore.

Ben Chifley drove mass-post war migration and supported an independent India and Indonesia.

Doc Evatt served as the first President of the United Nations – enhancing the role of smaller nations and helping draft The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Menzies and McEwen reached out to Japan, signing the historic 1957 trade agreement.

Gough Whitlam preceded the US in recognising China.

Malcolm Fraser took on elements of his own party to condemn Apartheid, a very brave decision.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating built APEC and sought security in Asia, not from Asia.

John Howard drove international action in East Timor.

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard elevated our dialogues with China and India and secured Australia’s seat on the UN Security Council where we serve as President this month.

They also expanded the East Asia Summit and enhanced the G20 forum, leading to Australia’s presidency.

This is a bipartisan tradition I aspire to.

It is the foreign policy framework I believe in.

I am an internationalist, but I am not an adventurist.

I acknowledge the importance of rational risk assessment – but I firmly believe in our global responsibility.

I believe Australia has an obligation to do more than assert our view and defend our interests.

We should be good international citizens, a nation and a people engaged with the challenges facing the world – doing our part to deliver solutions.

This is why Australia has fought wars, joined peacekeeping missions, ratified human rights conventions, facilitated economic co-operation, supported free trade, protected our wilderness areas and oceans and set emissions targets.

And our global responsibility doesn’t just overlap with our national interest – it serves it.

Former Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans has argued that being a good international citizen – and being recognised as one – is a ‘mainstream national interest’, every bit as valuable and as important as geopolitical security and economic prosperity.

Enhancing our reputation as a nation that acts on its principles and meets its obligations delivers long-term benefit for the Australian people: in trade, aid and security.

Put simply, by following our values we advance our interests.

By fulfilling our ‘responsibility to protect’ the vulnerable in Iraq, we are preventing the spread of extremist hatred in our region and in our communities.

Taking action against Ebola means helping desperate people in West Africa and tackling the contagion before it reaches our shores.

Foreign aid alleviates poverty and raises living standards and it also creates new economic partnerships.

50 years ago the Republic of Korea was one of our major foreign aid recipients – today it is one of our biggest trading partners.

And doing our fair share in fight against global climate change, underpins new investment and new jobs in clean energy

As our world becomes more interconnected, as more and more barriers and borders are broken down, Australia cannot afford to narrow our approach, we can’t afford to pull up the drawbridge and abandon internationalism.

It is not good enough to say yes to Iraq, but no to action on Ebola.

It is not good enough to say yes to free trade agreements, but no to global action on climate change.

It is not good enough to attack the unemployed, yet ignore tax havens.

All these problems demand an international, co-operative approach.

Only an international approach can address climate change.

Only an international approach can deliver action on multi-national profit-shifting

Only an international approach can deal with refugees.

Only an international approach can eradicate poverty and inequality.

Only an international approach can secure peace.

In the 1980s, some on the far left never appreciated that peace can never be unilateral – it must be international, it must be multilateral.

That same lesson now holds true for the isolationism of the far-right anti-science climate sceptics.

I reject both extremes.

I believe in an Australia that serves its national interest by playing its part in international action.

An modern, outward-looking Australia, a country not afraid of the world or our place in it.

A nation of confidence and conscience.

An Australia confidently asserting our interests and conscientiously fulfilling our responsibilities – knowing that one reinforces the other.

An Australia that rejects the false choice of Jakarta or Geneva, and the self-defeating, self-perception of a small country far away, waiting on the sidelines for the verdict of the world.

We are not an outpost, a branch office, we are no-one’s ‘deputy sheriff’ – and we should never see ourselves in those constricting terms.

We should not shrink from big ideas as ‘above our station’.

We should not deal ourselves out of global opportunities – on climate change, or forego enhanced multilateral engagement in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

I believe we should be ambitious about our role in the world.

I want Australia to reach for higher ground.

We should be prepared to use our values and our vision to address the challenges of the 21st Century.

Building Inclusive Growth

In the same way that yesterday marked a seismic shift in global climate change policy – the fall-out from the Global Financial Crisis has reignited debate about inequality.

A growing legion of leaders from politics, private enterprise, academia and the public sector are recasting the relationship between growth and fairness.

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Bank of England, OECD and the Vatican – are sending the same message: fairness and inclusion drive growth.

Equality is not an option – it is essential.

Tackling inequality creates prosperity.

We don’t build a strong economy just to pay for opportunity – we create opportunity to build a strong economy.

This principle is at the heart of our fundamental Australian institutions of fairness:

Decent wages: delivering strong living standards and empowered consumers.

Affordable and accessible higher education: enhancing social mobility – preparing the skilled and productive workforce of the future.

Medicare: universal healthcare boosting productivity and participation.

Universal superannuation: creating a pool of savings for the nation – and providing security and dignity for individuals in retirement.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme: empowering hundreds of thousands of Australians with disability and their carers.

Increasing participation of women in the workforce: delivering an extraordinary boost to our GDP.

And an Emissions Trading Scheme: opening new global markets for Australian firms and creating jobs and investment in clean energy.

These aren’t feel-good, bleeding heart gestures.

They are economic reforms.

They are acts of wealth creation, not distribution.

They are the foundation of inclusive economic growth.

They underpin the modern Australian economic model.

They’re not relics of the past, they’re the building blocks of the future – at home and abroad.

And if we fail to apply the lessons of our success – then we will soon deal with the consequences of failure.

Because neglecting inclusive growth weakens demand and consumption.

It frustrates the dreams and aspirations of the global middle class.

It creates perverse incentives for enterprises to move from value creation to value extraction – undermining investment in innovation or productivity.

Yet, just as the world’s economies are recognising the centrality of fairness and inclusion, Tony Abbott offers up some of his Budget’s most unfair and regressive measures as the core of Australia’s G20 ‘growth plan’.

Surely this is not the extent of his vision?

Surely Australia can offer the world’s leading economies something better than a GP tax, slashing support for jobseekers and a plan for $100,000 degrees?

This narrow view, this “little Australia” approach sells us short to the global community.

It sets us against the grain of the new economic consensus.

It neglects the strategic value of the G20, the opportunity to use global cooperation to build prosperity for the next generation, for the world we will live in, in 2020, 2030 and 2050.

Free Trade

Meaningful progress on global free trade would deliver trillions of dollars of income gains – substantial, sustainable, inclusive growth.[1]

And the best way to achieve trade liberalisation – is a coordinated, co-operative global approach where every country agrees to reduce barriers.

Labor supports bilateral agreements but a true commitment to free trade goes beyond market access deals done on a give-and-take basis – and latterly on self-inflicted arbitrary media deadlines.

Regrettably, right now, global momentum for free trade negotiations has stalled.

The G20 provides Australia with a unique opportunity to help break the current impasse over the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

WTO member countries agreed to a series of trade facilitation reforms at the Bali Ministerial conference last December.

The OECD estimates that the Bali agreement would reduce the cost of moving goods across borders by 10 per cent, creating millions of jobs around the world – and the benefits are estimated to be greatest for the world’s poorest countries.

Failure to make progress on Bali Agreement would be a lost opportunity in Brisbane, and a further hurdle to genuine global free trade progress.

We have to work together – business, unions, government, community.

We need to inject new co-operative ambition into multilateralism.

Which is why we have to look again at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank what Paul Keating has called China’s attempt to ‘multilateralise itself’.

Multinational Tax

In that same co-operative spirit, we must strive for real action on multinational tax avoidance.

How can we ask our people to work hard, to grow the economy, to improve their productivity – when they know there are multi-billion companies that don’t pay tax?

How can we ask Australian businesses to pay their fair share – to be lifters – when multinational enterprises can shop around for lower taxing jurisdictions – and be rewarded for leaning?

Australia cannot entirely fix this problem alone.

But, building off the work of the OECD, we can make use the G20 to begin meaningful action on multinational tax avoidance.

We can bring the world’s biggest economies together to close the loopholes that are inhibiting growth and undermining fairness around the world.

Youth Unemployment/Higher Education

Perhaps the most fundamental test of inclusive growth is job creation.

A few months ago, I visited the town of Burnie in North West Tasmania.

Burnie is the youth unemployment capital of Australia.

Over 20 per cent of young people in Burnie cannot find work – many of them have never had a job.

Last week it was revealed that Australia’s youth unemployment rate has jumped to 14 per cent – the highest level since 2001.

In the United States, youth unemployment is double the national rate.

In the UK it is nearly three times as high as the national rate.

The International Labour Organisation has warned of a ‘scarred generation’ – a wave of young people lacking the skills, confidence and sense of self-respect that work brings.

And economies and societies deprived of their contribution, their energy, and their ideas.

Overcoming this growing problem requires a new commitment to job creation as well as the right support for skills, training and higher education.

If we fail to co-operate, if we fail to lead, our economies, our communities will pay the price.

Conclusion

The G20 offers Tony Abbott a choice – and a test.

Will he continue the tradition of an engaged, international Australia – or offer the world a reduced, narrow vision?

Will our presidency enhance our reputation as a good international citizen, driving co-operation – or diminish it?

Will the Brisbane G20 be remembered for what it delivers?

Or will it be marked down for what it ignored – inclusive growth, participation and jobs, global free trade and climate change.

Will Tony Abbott show the leadership that this moment demands?

Or will he be bested by history?

Will he be marked down as the Billy McMahon of the 21st Century?

A foolish hostage of outdated ideology, unable to tell which way the tide of international affairs is flowing.

The G20 is a unique chance for Australia, not to lecture but to lead.

An historic opportunity to showcase the Australian model of inclusive growth to the world

building prosperity by extending opportunity.

It’s a once-in-a-generation chance for Australia to show leadership on the defining economic and environmental issue of our generation.

That’s the higher ground I and Labor want us to reach for.

An Australia facing the world with confidence, and acting with conscience.

ENDS

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

 

 


 



[1] According to UNSW economist Tim Harcourt, exporters pay 60 per cent higher wages on average compared to non-exporters. They provide higher standards of: OH&S, education and training, job security and equality of opportunity for women.

Oct 31, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

ALP NATIONAL POLICY FORUM

SPEECH
ALP NATIONAL POLICY FORUM
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
FRIDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2014

Today is the product of a great deal of hard work by everyone here.

I’m grateful to all of you.

I thank Jenny McAllister for the leadership she has provided to the National Policy Forum (NPF).

I thank our Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek and indeed the entire Shadow Ministry for the energy, enthusiasm and intellectual rigour they have brought to this process.

I thank Michael Cooney, head of the Chifley Research Institute for the work he has done drawing together the thoughts of more than 1500 Labor Members, from 25 Member-run workshops around Australia.

Every one of you, every member of the NPF has made an outstanding contribution to what we might call ‘phase one’ of this policy process.

And I’m genuinely interested in your views, as we begin the task of turning hundreds of individual ideas into a cogent statement of Labor values.

Next Wednesday, at Sydney Town Hall – the home of so many great moments in the history of our movement – true believers will bid a fond farewell to the great Gough Whitlam.

Gough remade our party, and transformed our nation.

And his passing has caused so many of us to reflect on his legacy.

Beyond the substance of every particular reform, beyond the policy decisions of the time, Whitlam set a simple, bold ambition for his Government.

“To liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people.”

A goal that is still relevant today.

A goal that will be relevant as long as there is a Labor party.

For all the soaring grandeur of his rhetoric, the electricity of his idealism – Gough Whitlam was also powerfully pragmatic.

Not a pragmatist in the sense of a particular policy – but in his realisation that Labor was not conceived as a party of protest – and we would not succeed as a party of protest.

We are a party of government – because we seek always the power to do good.

We strive to deliver a better deal and a fair go for the millions of Australians who depend upon us, who count upon Labor governments.

So today goes beyond the technical job of updating and reviewing documents – it is a moral task, renewing our ideas and our sense of moral purpose.

It is a call that every generation of Labor before us has answered.

At every turn, we have found the courage and leadership to remake ourselves.

And in doing so we have made our nation – and the Australian people – the beneficiaries of change, not its victims.

Now, in 2014, new change and new challenges are upon us.

Two retired generations living at the same time, a changing climate, a global market, a borderless world.

On our northern doorstep, the greatest economic transformation in human history is underway.

In our businesses and workplaces, new technologies have changed the way we work.

They offer greater flexibility but can reduce security.

In our streets and suburbs, we face the social problems of the 21st Century: a sense of isolation, loneliness and a loss of community.

And alongside the new problems – stand the old ones.

Teachers robbed of the resources they need.

Nurses and doctors pushed to the brink by a hospital system cut to the bone.

Indigenous Australians denied opportunity.

People with a disability seeking empowerment.

Exhausted carers receiving high praise but not necessarily high resources.

Apprentices who cannot find a start.

Older workers who fear, because of the grey in their hair, they will never find another job.

‘For Lease’ signs spreading like weeds on the main streets of country towns.

A growing army of Australians who feel as if they have lost their place in our nation.

People who feel like the system is set against them, that the Government has forgotten them, that politics lacks the capacity to speak to their daily lives.

And just at the moment when the nation’s leaders should be reaching out to these Australians, the Abbott Government is driving them away.

They are withdrawing their opportunities, undermining their hopes and discouraging their aspirations.

In doing so, they risk entrenching a forgotten generation.

Australia cannot afford this.

We cannot risk squandering our national potential through division and exclusion.

Injustice and unfairness to any Australian hurts us all.

In a time of global change, Australia cannot afford more of the same.

It is for Australia to decide – will we be swept along in the wake of the modern world, or will we lead?

Labor is ready to lead.

We should not be daunted by this task – we should not shrink from this responsibility.

We should embrace it with optimism – we should face it with ambition.

We should be optimistic for what Australia can achieve, ambitious for what our people and our nation can do.

We can overcome any challenge.

We can meet – and master – these moments.

We can still define our future.

Australia can be strong and safe in an uncertain world.

We can share in the growth and prosperity of the Asian Century.

Australia can be a hub for research, we can invest in science and innovation, we can compete for new industries and technologies.

Australia can grow.

Labor can prioritise the creation of national wealth and economic growth with greater equality.

Our economy can support jobs today and create the new jobs of tomorrow.

We can incubate start-ups and stimulate small businesses.

We can build world class schools and hospitals.

We can offer young Australians opportunity and quality in higher education.

We can give older Australians dignity in retirement.

We can do our fair share in global action against climate change – and create new jobs and prosperity through clean energy.

We can reinvigorate our regions, modernise our cities and enhance our communities.

We can close the gap and end disadvantage for Indigenous Australians.

We can succeed, we can thrive.

We can succeed as a nation that is prosperous and fair, smart and strong, diverse and united.

Indeed, that is the only way we will succeed.

So, friends, today is not about tactics for the next election.

It’s not about drawing up a plan for the defeat of the Abbott Government.

It’s about developing a vision for the Australia of 2020 and 2030.

A vision built on the lived experience of Australians: the product of community ideas and the broadest possible range of voices.

It’s a different way of doing policy – because we recognise that wisdom doesn’t emanate exclusively from this building.

Some of the crucial ideas Australian Labor needs are not to be found solely within our organisation.

We need to step outside the echo chamber of modern politics – to take the task of government to the community.

We want to work with the best experts, we want to hear from the people who know.

We are committed to an authentic national conversation, a genuine exchange of ideas.

It’s a reflection of our faith in the genius and generosity of the Australian people.

Because Australians are already organising their lives for the 21st Century.

They engage in complex transactions every day.

Managing the family budget.

Smoothing their prosperity over long life.

Raising their children, supporting their education and coaching their netball and football and soccer teams.

Attending to their health.

Enjoying a life outside work.

Starting and running small businesses.

In TAFEs and at university, learning new skills to go from what they have done to what they can do.

Paying their mortgages.

Building resilient communities – the resilience to deal with fire, flood and natural disasters.

And the resilience to cope with divorce, sudden illness, grandparents who have to become parents again because their own children succumb to drugs or worse.

That’s the resilience Labor needs to reward and nurture.

In 2014, Australians reasonably expect to see a ninth decade of life, and they manage their wealth in that expectation – saving and planning for their retirement and old age.

Our variable home loans and 28 million superannuation accounts are exposed to financial markets, we are actively engaged with the economy in a way unimaginable 20 or 30 years ago.

Labor is an internationalist forward-leaning movement, we see and seek a role for Australia in the world: in Foreign Aid, in our humanitarian intervention in Iraq, in dealing with Ebola and trade.

More Australians than ever are engaged in the world, eight million of us travel overseas every year, and more than 40 in one hundred of us have at least one parent who was born in another country.

The job for Labor is to construct a platform that speaks to the reality of Australians’ lives.

A platform as modern, confident, generous and outward-looking as the people and the nation we seek to serve.

Framing that vision requires a new chapter one – a redrafted, re-energised statement of Labor’s enduring values.

That’s exactly what this National Policy Forum process is designed to achieve.

During the first round of consultations, I know many of you were asked to complete the statement:

‘On its best day, Labor is…’

On our best day.

That’s exactly right – that’s exactly the aspiration we should bring to this process.

We should aim for chapter one to be more than just a declarative list – our goal should be to inspire, not just articulate.

We should reach for higher ground.

For an Australia that includes everyone, that helps everyone, that lets everyone be their best, that leaves no-one behind.

It is not my intention today to be prescriptive.

I’m here to invite your views, not dictate my own.

But I think that chapter one must begin with Labor’s belief in fairness.

Fairness drives prosperity, it underpins growth, it lifts living standards, it creates jobs – it gives everyone the chance to fulfil their potential.

Fairness insists upon the equal treatment of women, supporting their march through the institutions of power.

Fairness demands we care for the vulnerable, it demands we speak up for the powerless, include the marginalised and uplift the disadvantaged.

And fairness is a pact between generations.

That means opening the doors of education, from the earliest years giving every young Australian the chance to go on to a great school and onto university or training.

Fairness between generations means that Australians should not have to work hard all their lives, only to retire poor.

And fairness between generations means caring for the environment – passing on to our children a healthier national estate than the one we inherited.

That’s the higher ground I want Labor to reach for.

This is a task for all of us.

To think about what sort of party we should be on our best day.

And to make it happen.

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADERS OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053

 

Oct 28, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

REMARKS TO LABOR PARTY MEETING ROOM

REMARKS TO LABOR PARTY MEETING ROOM

 

TUESDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2014

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Good morning colleagues.

 

We met a week ago to farewell Gough Whitlam.

 

In celebrating Gough’s life, so many of us have reflected upon the lives that he changed.

 

The difference that he and our beloved Labor Party made to generations of Australians.

 

For so many Australians, Gough and Labor gave them the opportunity to get a university degree.

 

There are doubtless many here and indeed many forgetful Cabinet Ministers of the Abbott Government who went to university because of Gough Whitlam and the Labor Government that he led.

 

Irrespective of people’s circumstances, two generations of Australians have benefited from a fairer Australia – and Australia has benefitted too.

 

My mother dedicated her life to education, to learning, to teaching. Like many of your parents, mine went to work in order that my brother and I could each get an education.

 

So none of us are alone in terms of the power of education in our lives.

 

Labor knows in its DNA that education lifts us all up. Labor’s always believed that.

 

The Liberals on the other hand never have believed in education for all and they never will. And especially when it comes to higher education.

 

The Liberals plan to deregulate university fees, means that we will end up with a two-tier, Americanised system.

 

Where your only shot to get to university, unless you are very wealthy, is a scholarship.

 

I see some more speculation today that Clive Palmer is looking to do a deal on higher education which might see a few more morsels of scholarships thrown on the table.

 

Make no mistake – that is not more money for universities.

 

It will just mean that universities increase their fees to pay for these crumbs from the table of the Liberal Government.

 

Under the Liberals a degree in this country will rise and cost $100,000.

 

Many students will simply not be able to afford a tertiary education, more significantly many parents will feel that the opportunities for their children have evaporated – and we have already seen a reduction in inquiries about enrolments already.

 

This is not fair.

 

A university degree should depend on your good marks and your hard work.

 

It should depend not upon the post code you live in or your parents’ bank balance.

 

Education should be accessible to all, not a privilege for a few.

 

$100,000 degrees also saddle Australians with a lifetime of debt.

 

Let alone the number of mature age students who will simply throw their arms up in the air and say it’s too hard to reskill in a changing world.

 

Let alone women in particular who take time out of earning to raise families who will receive a lifetime debt sentence.

 

The nation is relying upon Labor to stop these bad moves.

 

We need an education system which creates the future of Australia, which gives every young Australian and not so young Australian the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

 

Education is about reaching higher ground for individuals and for Australia.

 

I went to the National Secretariat and I said that higher education will be one of the big issues at the next Federal election.

 

And we should not wait two years to run on one of the big issues of the next election.

 

I know the degree of passion this issue evokes in our Caucus.

 

I have listened to your speeches, I’ve watched your action across regional and city campuses talking to people.

 

It is right that the Labor Party spends its scarce resources campaigning on the things that we are passionate about, that I am passionate about.

 

So today that is why I am launching Labor’s campaign to stop Tony Abbott’s $100,000 degrees, not next week, next month – today.

 

We will fight the Americanisation of our universities.

 

We will fight the creation of a two-class standard for educational opportunity in this country.

 

We will fight the Liberals’ debt sentence.

 

And we will prevail.

 

Thank you.

 

ENDS

 

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

Oct 28, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

ADDRESS TO THE AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION NATIONAL ALCOHOL SUMMIT

ADDRESS TO THE AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION NATIONAL ALCOHOL SUMMIT

 

NATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE – CANBERRA

28 OCTOBER 2014

 

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It is a privilege to be here. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet and pay my respect to their elders both past and present.  – I congratulate the AMA and everyone who was worked to make this summit take place.

When I look across this theatre, I see people with the knowledge and skills to solve the nation-wide problem of alcohol-related harm.

Just as importantly, I see people determined to use their expertise, their learning and their good intentions  for the benefit of the nation. I believe the people assembled here are intent on a new level of Australia-wide co-operation.

I am – and it’s fortunate considering the job I have, by nature, an optimist. I do fundamentally believe that progress in this country is indeed a very likely outcome when people and their better angels of their nature are given full expression.

My years representing workers and working with employers. My time in politics also has given me the belief that problems can be solved. Some take longer than others but problems can be solved.

For me politics isn’t just about handing down wisdom from on high. This idea that somewhere above the cloudline of Mount Olympus, there are very clever beings making very clever decisions.

I actually believe the way this country changes and progresses and includes all of our citizens, is when we get the wisdom and judgment of leaders to be guided by the people who know – the experts, the people who have dedicated their working lives to examining what really works.

Leadership works best when it conducts itself by empowering people to have their voices heard. And I have long believed that the surest way to finding the best solution is to get the smartest people – even if they have differing views – in the same room at the same time.

So, today, when I see the clinicians, public health experts, leaders in law enforcement, campaigners and activists, researchers and policy thinkers gathered here…I believe that indefinable element of change called momentum, is here.

I’m here today because I do think we need to find a solution. We need to get on with it. 

This summit, engaging public health experts and law enforcement in constructive discussions to look at how we can reduce alcohol related harm – is a long overdue first step.

That’s why my shadow health minister, Catherine King, and I have supported this event from day one when the AMA first spoke to us about it.

The enthusiasm and commitment we publicly expressed in January has not waivered – it has grown.

It has become fashionable in the last forty-eight hours to talk about parliament working together. I applaud this development. But I do have to say that I am disappointed that the Federal Government has not offered the same support for this event, that the Opposition has.

I hope they change their view – and I hope they change it soon.

We can’t afford to waste time, we can’t afford further inaction.

I believe the Australian people are ahead of the parliament of Australia when it comes to this problem.  Australians do not  need to be told of the consequences –they see them every day.

I do not know the back-story of how you all come to here, but if alcohol related harm hasn’t affected you personally, I would be most surprised. Australians know what is happening. In hospitals, workplaces, legal centres, shelters – and in their homes, in their communities, amongst their friends and neighbours.

People know that if we don’t act, quickly, problems just get worse – and I’m conscious that this is a message the AMA has boldly heard and decided to act upon.

There is much to be done, and Labor has taken some important steps.

When we were last in government, we introduced the National Binge Drinking Strategy to address binge drinking, particularly among young people.

As part of this strategy, Labor worked with community organisations and local and national sporting organisations to communicate the short and long-term harms of drinking at risky levels.

We continued to support the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia – a vitally important organisation which has provided fearless, evidence-based policy advice to governments for more than fifty years.

I do believe that the Government’s decision to withdraw funding for this body was both misguided and short-sighted.

So, we all know that in this room and beyond this room, there is no shortage of ideas and evidence and commitment..

Our responsibility is to harness all of this – all the knowledge, all the ideas. What’s been done before. What hasn’t been sufficiently done before. How do you unite a disparate range of people with a common focus? How do we form a common purpose to determine our  next steps.Today I am here to pledge my support for this summit and its objectives, to do my part to help increase public awareness of alcohol-related harm, and to be part of an important national conversation.

A multi-faceted response

Like so many wicked problems we face in our community, alcohol-related harm takes many forms and manifests itself in many different ways.

It is more than just a health issue, it is more than just a police issue – We cannot arrest our way out of this challenge. It is a question of social justice and national responsibility.

For too long, we have seen the terrible consequences of alcohol abuse across Australia.

  • We’ve seen it through the tragedy of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • We know it is inextricably linked with family violence and street violence
  • We know of the devastating effect of ‘rivers of grog’ on some Indigenous communities
  • And perhaps most obviously – but frequently forgotten – we know of its impacts on our own health, including our mental health.

And as much as Australians are ‘anecdotally’ aware of these pressing social problems – the hard numbers do give us pause for thought.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education quotes 24,000 victims of alcohol-related family violence each year.

But in my home state of Victoria in 2009/10, we had more than 15,000 family incidents involving alcohol.

I believe we need to ask if the national figure is higher than has previously been reported.

For example, in the 2012 Personal Safety Survey 53 per cent of women who had been assaulted by a male –nearly 920,000 out of over 1.7 million ­– reported that alcohol or drugs had been involved in their most recent incident of physical assault.

Better, more accurate reporting – learning more about the scale and size of this problem can only assist in the demand for a solution.

The fact is, every manifestation of alcohol abuse comes at a terrible human cost to families and individuals, a cost to community safety and a social and economic cost.

So today is an opportunity for all of us to give new thought to role of law enforcement agencies, their officers and whether they have the right resources.

We need to think about how our police, our health practitioners, our public health professionals, policy makers and community support service providers can better coordinate their work.

We need to acknowledge honestly the cost and consequences of alcohol abuse on our legal system, our health system and ultimately, on our communities and our families.

In all of this, we need to look at the evidence – what works, what doesn’t – and why.

But we must also be realistic.

In the end, alcohol consumption is – and always should be – a matter of personal decision-making by adults.

It is, first and foremost, a question of personal responsibility-and a retreat into prohibition would achieve nothing.

Our job is not to lecture, to moralise or sermonise – it is to ensure that Australians are given every opportunity to make informed decisions. I respect the ability of Australians – individually when presented with evidence – to more often than not, to choose the right outcomes. But they do need the evidence.

I also believe that we have a collective responsibility to prevent people from doing harm (especially to others) as a result of alcohol abuse.

Because when an individual’s choices impact negatively, sometimes tragically, on others – governments at every level have an opportunity and indeed a requirement to step up, to lead public opinion – not follow it.

Street Violence

Alcohol-fuelled violence – in our streets and in our homes should never be tolerated.

The disturbing fact is, a number of Australians look at violence as the end point of a good night out.

These are young men who, fuelled by alcohol, set themselves upon innocent bystanders.

It’s not a fight – or a scuffle. It’s certainly not an act of athleticism.so much as it is an ambush, it’s violence and it’s wrong.

And the victim of the attack is so often in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Now of course there are other factors involved in violence.

I know communities, paramedics and police have been shocked by the horrible effects of ‘ice’ – a public menace that must be addressed as soon as possible, and an issue I am keen to engage with on the national stage – not to just leave it to the states.

In January, following the tragic death of Daniel Christie, I wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to support the powerful advertising campaign being put together by Australian boxing champ Danny Green.

Danny’s message was simple – and direct – ‘one punch can end a life, and ruin another’ and ‘it takes guts to walk away’.

It gave new energy to the idea of changing the expression of ‘king-hit’ to ‘coward punch’.

It’s a strong statement and a smart one. And we need many more of our sporting leaders so say this time and time again.

Because there is nothing brave, glamorous or tough about alcohol-fuelled violence.

It’s a momentary act of aggressive stupidity that destroys at least two lives – and damages hundreds more.

The measures introduced by the New South Wales Government to tackle ‘coward-punch’ attacks are one way of addressing the insidious symptoms of alcohol abuse.

But we cannot and should not expect a solution by leaving it up to police to solve all of these problems at the very end of a chain of events.  We cannot ask our police forces to arrest our way out of this problem

We need to go beyond dealing with the manifestation of the problem – we need to focus on the cause.

That’s about changing more than our laws, it’s an examination of who we are and our identity and Australians.

How do our young men perceive themselves? What is their self-identity? What does it mean to be a ‘man’ in 21st Century Australia?

Where do they fit in? How do they have a positive sense of self-worth?

As a parent of teenagers, I know these are difficult questions.  There are millions of families trying to grapple with these questions every day. And of course – for all the protections that parents can provide their children – alcohol related violence can undermine all of your efforts in the blink of an eye.

A few weeks ago, following a young man’s suicidal attack on two police officers in Endeavour Hills, I said to the House of Representatives that perhaps part of the appeal of fundamentalism and sectarianism is that, in an uncertain and ever-changing world:

It offers a sense of power to people who may feel powerless, an outlet for the bottled-up rage and hatred of the isolated and unwell.  

I think there is an element of truth in that for every act of violence that occurs on our streets.

And that means we need to look beyond the act of violence and see the psychology that drives it.

We need to consider the mental health effects of alcohol abuse, the sense of loneliness and exclusion it can exacerbate and be exacerbated by.

We have made great strides in the way talk about mental health in this country – but we can do better, we can do more.

Family Violence

As Leader of the Opposition, I have made tackling family violence a personal political priority.

It is not a niche issue, it is not something that we are better off not discussing – it needs to be at the centre of our national political debate.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to frontline shelter workers, to talk to victims – to talk with national and local organisations working to prevent family violence, and rebuild the lives of those affected by it – I hope to convene more in the months ahead.

These are valuable opportunities to hear directly from the leading advocates, community organisations and academics on one of the all-too-often unacknowledged scourges of our communities.

Staggeringly, 1 in 3 women will be the victim of physical violence  – one woman every week dies at the hands of a former partner.

This is grievously, shockingly wrong.

And the biggest risk factor for becoming a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence or family violence is being a woman.

So the first and most important element to consider in tackling family violence is gender equality – again it’s about cultural examination, respect for women, and male role models.

But a powerful exacerbating factor when it comes to family violence, is the abuse of alcohol by men.

A 2011 study estimated that alcohol contributes or is present in  half of all kinds of partner violence, and 73 per cent of partner physical assaults.

And it is our children – the most vulnerable in our community – whose childhoods and dreams and memories are scarred by these memories.

Our children look to the adults in their world to be as brave and optimistic as they are. They expect it of us. It takes no bravery – it takes no optimism – to do nothing about alcohol related violence. Children expect us to step up for them. I see this forum as part of that fulfilment of our responsibility to look after our children.

There are environmental factors that affect this too, and we cannot overlook the role of alcohol as an environmental factor.

While they are not the target, children are often the subject of alcohol advertising, and the leadership displayed by the AMA in convening this summit allows an opportunity to discuss this.

Exposure to this material as children unquestionably has an impact on patterns of drinking later in life.

If we are to address some of the social harms associated with alcohol we will also have to consider a sensible, co-operative way forward on this question.

Conclusion

Friends, I am confident that we will look back on today as an important moment in the national conversation about developing momentum nationally about tackling the harm caused by alcohol abuse.

It is easy for national governments to say that matters are state issues. It is easy for governments to say that they’re state police matters or women’s issues or issues to do with one aspect of public health. The truth of the matter is, there’s not much point in getting elected to parliament in Canberra if you’re not willing to look at issues which affect all of us.

There’s not much point in trying to call yourself a leader, if you won’t talk about issues which are hard, too difficult, too contentious. I do not believe that tackling alcohol influenced violence and alcohol related harm, is too hard. I believe it is a matter of national importance. It is a matter of showing the leadership to say to Australians that this is something that together, we can tackle.

I understand the need to have strategic approaches and national coordination. I understand that we need to listen to parents more and to assist them. What I don’t understand is when a government says that something which is a real problem in our community, is not a matter of national importance.

So I thank you for forcing some of us to come here.

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

 

Oct 25, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Australian Christian Lobby National Conference

SPEECH
Australian Christian Lobby National Conference
THE HYATT, CANBERRA
SATURDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2014

**PLEASE CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY**

[Acknowledgements Omitted]

I think I’m like many Australians, I don’t usually talk publically about my faith – and I shall not make a habit of it.

As a member of parliament and as the leader of a great political party, I am not in the business of preaching to others, and of course like most Australians, neither do I take kindly to being preached at when I am going about my business in the public square.

Today, I hope we can share our hopes and ideals robustly – respecting each other’s dignity and conscience.

I spoke with my local priest at St Thomas’ in Moonee Ponds two weeks ago when I was organising my thoughts for this speech, and he suggested I begin with something from the scriptures.

The passage I’ve chosen is from Matthew:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I am sure you recognise the beatitudes, the beginning of arguably the most famous speech in human history.

In the Sermon on the Mount,  Jesus shares the universal love, tolerance and service that underpins his Gospel which is the core of the Christian message.

He rejects the empty vengeance of an ‘eye for an eye’ and tells us instead to ‘turn the other cheek’.

Judge not, Jesus tells us:

 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

And above all, he tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

To treat people as we would like to be treated.

In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you

When I was at school we were taught that this was the ‘golden rule’.

It was at the heart of the Jesuit call to be a ‘man for others’.

And I have spent my working life, both representing workers and as parliamentarian, trying to measure up to this standard of compassion and empathy.

To answer the clarion call to care for the vulnerable, to speak up for the powerless, to reject hatred and intolerance, to help the poor and to pursue peace.

Of course, none of these virtues belongs to Christianity alone.

Nor does a belief in social justice necessarily depend upon the teachings of Christ.

No faith has a monopoly on compassion.

No religion ‘owns’ tolerance or charity or love.

Australia is a remarkable country, full of decent and generous people of good conscience, drawn from all faiths and none.

And Australians rightly expect our national leaders, to respect the constitutional separation of Church and State.

Remember John F Kennedy’s famous response to allegations that he was the ‘Catholic candidate’?

He declared that as President he would be: ‘responsible to all faiths, but obligated to none’

That’s the only religious test Australians apply to their leaders.

Sometimes people describe modern, multicultural, multi-faith Australia as ‘tolerant’.

But the society we have built beneath the Southern Cross goes beyond that.

We do not just ‘tolerate’ difference, we celebrate it.

Of course, we expect people to leave behind their old conflicts, respect our laws, uphold our values.

But we do not endure diversity under sufferance – we embrace the contribution that all those who’ve come from across the seas have made to their new home.

And the greatness of our nation is that every person is free to be proud of what they believe.

For Australians of faith, religion is a base to build upon in public life – even if it is also a destination for retreat, solace and sustenance in private life .

And no faith, no religion, no set of beliefs should ever be used as an instrument of division or exclusion.

As you know, far better than I, the Bible teaches us that we are all immutably imperfect.

Condemning anyone, discriminating against anyone, vilifying anyone is a violation of the values that we all share.

A violation that can never be justified by anyone’s faith or belief.

Not yours, not mine.

Not anyone’s.

Freedom of worship does not mean freedom to vilify.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to express prejudice or hatred.

In our society, under our laws, whether we be Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or atheists – we are all Australians and we are all equal.

First, last and always equal under the law of the land.

So when I hear people invoking the scriptures to attack blended families like mine…I cannot stay silent.

I do not agree.

When I see people hiding behind the bible to insult and demonise people based on who they love…I cannot stay silent.

I do not agree.

When I hear people allege that ‘God tells them’ that marriage equality is the first step on the road to polygamy and bigamy and bestiality…I cannot stay silent.

I do not agree.

These prejudices do not reflect the Christian values I believe in.

They paint the accusers as people who would rather judge than understand.

People all too willing to cast the first stone.

And it sends a broader message, it feeds a perception that Church and faith are somehow incompatible with modern families, with modern life, with modern Australia.

And I reject that.

Christian values can still guide us in our journey through the modern world seeking optimal conditions for raising and educating children, whatever their economic circumstances and whatever the personal circumstances of their parents

There is nothing old-fashioned about compassion or respect.

Nothing out-dated in the idea of seeking peace, caring for others, contributing to society and loving your family.

Nothing obsolete about treating everyone as we would wish to be treated.

Indeed, it has never been more relevant, never more important.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY

Friends, if we can agree on these things, if we agree that our duty is to help the vulnerable, to speak up for the powerless, to gather in those who feel marginalised and excluded -

I wonder how we can continue to draw a line based on who people love?

How can compassion, charity, love, recognition and endorsement continue to be restricted to heterosexual Australia and the nuclear family?

I believe in God and I believe in marriage equality under the civil law of the Commonwealth of Australia.

I know that many of you do not share my view – and I recognise that for some people of faith, this is a most vexed question.

It is one of the reasons Labor has made marriage equality a conscience vote in previous Parliaments, and today.

We are a free society, you are entitled to your views – and I am happy to share mine with you.

I am a Christian and a supporter of marriage equality under the law.

At its heart, marriage equality is a question of legal recognition and legal support for couples committed to each other regardless of their gender.

That’s why my reasons for voting for change are based upon the broad ideal of equality – an Australia that includes everyone.

However our current law excludes some individuals.

It says to them: your relationships are not equally valued by the state, your love is less equal under the law.

It excludes couples that are already together in loving relationships – have been for many years – and are entitled to have that love recognised equally under the law.

And it excludes young same-sex attracted Australians.

Young people who look at their government, look at their own society and then look at themselves – and see a system, a nation that will never accept them or the person that they one day hope to love.

Whatever our religious views about marriage, and whatever our social views about how best to raise and educate children, we have to change this law which discriminates against adult couples on the basis of who they love.

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

We must all be committed to building the foundation for a fairer, more equal society, a more decent and more generous world.

As Pope Francis said in an open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the eve of the G7 summit:

“Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one’s own human potential.”

There is nothing uniquely Catholic, nothing exclusively Christian about that statement.

Yet it is also entirely Christian.

A view of the world that looks beyond ‘treasures stored up on earth’, that rejects the ravages of unfettered mercantilism and empty materialism.

Of course, governments also have a material responsibility.

A responsibility to seek prosperity, to create jobs, to deliver the revenue that supports our great and generous social democracy.

But the distance and difference between a focus on creating wealth for the nation and accumulating wealth for individuals is vast indeed.

HOMELESSNESS. POVERTY. PROSPERITY.

There is a view in some quarters of Australia that we have to choose between growth and equality.

That they are mutually exclusive.

Labor knows that equality is not the child of growth – it is the twin of growth.

Equality does not just depend upon prosperity, it generates prosperity.

Everyone benefits, when we include everyone.

So while in the proud history of our party Labor’s understanding of the means for creating equality may have changed and evolved, our objective remains unaltered.

We still believe in fairness – we always will.

We still believe that a great nation gives everyone equal opportunity to fulfil their potential.

A nation that reaches out a caring hand to those felled by the shafts of fate, that sees homelessness, poverty, loneliness and exclusions as wrongs to be righted, not problems to be avoided.

To borrow an analogy from one of my heroes, the Reverend Martin Luther King, a country should not tell a bootless man to pull himself up by his bootstraps.

That’s the Labor project, the big picture, the higher ground we strive for.

INDIGENOUS CONSTITUTIONAL RECOGNITION

We believe in an inclusive Australia – an Australia at peace with its past, seeking to right the grievous wrongs of our history.

An Australia that accords Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a meaningful place of honour in our Constitution.

And an Australia where constitutional recognition marches alongside Closing the Gap – extending opportunity and ending disadvantage.

Where constitutional change brings new energy, new urgency, new vigour and new enthusiasm for economic, social and legal change.

And I am pleased to see that the ACL has given its full support to one of the defining political challenges of our generation.

FOREIGN AID

The Labor mission has always been an international mission.

We look outwards, we see and seek a role for ourselves in the world.

As Ben Chifley said, more than 60 years ago:

We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand.

Anywhere we may give a helping hand.

That is a trait your members share with the Labor movement, whatever your politics  – a moral code that goes beyond lines on a map, a duty of compassion that reaches beyond those who carry an Australian passport.

And it’s why we have all been shocked by the harshness, the savagery of this Government’s cuts to Foreign Aid.

Amidst all the regressive unfairness of the Abbott-Hockey Budget – the single biggest cut was to foreign aid and international development assistance.

One dollar in every five cut from Commonwealth expenditure came at the expense of the world’s most vulnerable people.

And $7.6 billion dollars is not just a line in the Budget.

$7.6 billion dollars is the difference between:

  • · 600,000 people having access to basic sanitation and sewerage – or the disease and sickness that come from going without, and
  • It’s 180,000 kids going to school – or missing out, and
  • · It’s 300,000 births attended by a trained healthcare professional – or 300,000 mothers at risk.

$7.6 billion dollars is all those things.

Bipartisanship is important in our national politics – and the Government has broken bipartisanship on Foreign Aid.

They have fractured a consensus that reaches back to the Howard Government.

Making the deepest cuts to those most in need is wrong.

Taking the most from those who have the least is cruel.

Most disappointingly, there is the hubris that some in the Liberal ranks take in this decision – and I acknowledge there is discomfort among others.

There can be no satisfaction in walking away from our international humanitarian responsibilities.

I believe Australia is a more generous, more decent country than this.

I believe “injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”

And I am sure you feel the same way.

Australia cannot choose to pass by on the other side of the road.

IRAQ

Just as we could not choose to stand by and watch ISIL and their like inflict their barbarous, medieval murder upon the vulnerable people of Iraq.

Australia’s new involvement in Iraq, as part of an international humanitarian effort, is an act of conscience.

The men and women of our defence force are not in Iraq to pursue territory or power but to protect the displaced and help the vulnerable.

Australia’s mission is not to assert the supremacy of one faith or one people but to defend the rights of all faiths and all peoples.

We cannot negotiate with poisonous fanaticism, we cannot ignore the scale and savagery of their atrocities and we cannot co-operate with evil by refusing to support the innocent.

HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE

Just as the swamp of terrorism cannot be drained by force of arms alone, the good we can do, the humanitarian aid we can offer goes beyond military assistance.

As a generous, prosperous nation – made great in part by migration – Labor believes Australia can play a greater role in the international effort to provide refuge to the persecuted.

Nearly two million Iraqis have fled their homes in the face of the ISIL advance – and millions more have been displaced by the conflict in Syria.

200,000 people have been driven from the Syrian town of Kobane alone – joining the hundreds of thousands already displaced by civil war: Yazidi, Assyrians, Manicheans, Turkmen, Kurds and Shiites.

And I acknowledge the work of the ACL, organising ‘Solidarity Sunday’ with more than 400 Churches around Australia praying for the persecuted.

In Government, Labor increased Australia’s refugee intake under the Humanitarian Program to 20,000 places a year.

Upon coming to office, the Coalition reduced that to 13,750.

The Minister for Immigration has recently announced that Australia will accept 4,400 refugees from Syria and Iraq – but this number is included in the existing allocation of 13,750.

Given the scope and scale of the current crisis gripping the region, Labor believes that, as a starting point, those seeking refuge from the current crisis in Iraq and Syria should be taken in addition to the existing allocation – and we hope that the Government arrives at that view.

The same humanitarian calling that compels us to act in Iraq, demands that we make a meaningful contribution to the fight against Ebola.

Desperate people need our help, our resources, our expertise – we cannot stand by and watch.

And waiting until the problem comes closer to our shores is not a strategy.

CONCLUSION

These are challenging times – for our nation and for our world.

In 2014 terrorism has a new face and a new flag – but beneath it march the same enemies: war and death, hatred and suspicion, fear and distrust.

The new scourge of Ebola threatens Africa but we can trace its roots to the old afflictions of poverty, injustice, want and deprivation.

Extremism threatens our social cohesion – seeking to inflame the prejudice and intolerance that it feeds upon.

For all of us, the way forward is clear- and so is our responsibility.

I understand that not all the views I have outlined today will be accepted by the Australian Christian Lobby.

But I also believe the tenets of our shared faiths and philosophical world views can help us shape a free and confident nation in which the dignity of all persons is enhanced by laws and policies determined after mature political deliberation.

My wife Chloe suggested I conclude with a quote we both find personally inspiring, from John Wesley – it’s one we share with our children:

Do all the good you can.

By all the means you can.

In all the ways you can.

In all the places you can.

At all the times you can.

To all the people you can.

As long as ever you can.

That is perhaps our shared vocation, our calling – the cause for all of us.

Today, tomorrow and always.

Now and forever.

ENDS

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

Oct 21, 2014
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

CONDOLENCE MOTION FOR GOUGH WHITLAM

SPEECH
CONDOLENCE MOTION FOR GOUGH WHITLAM

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2014
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

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

Edward Gough Whitlam has passed away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think of Australia in say, 1966.

Ulysses was banned.

Lolita was banned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1970 he was referring to:

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

-       Our immigration policy based on race

-       Our support for the Vietnam War.

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

And change it he did.

Our country is most certainly different because of him.

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

Gough Whitlam spent his political life reaching for higher ground.

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

Healthcare changed – because of him.

Education changed – because of him.

Land rights for Aboriginal Australians – because of him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The Program’ lives on.

Gough Whitlam opened the doors to our universities.

He lifted up our schools and training centres.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He understood that:

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

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

He tried always, to do good.

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

His speechwriter and confidante Graham Freudenberg reminded me this morning:

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

Gough never lacked the courage for the good fight.

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

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

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

In 1964, Gough entered Trades Hall in Melbourne.

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

There were the men: the delegates and the candidates.

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

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

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

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

And so began the making of modern Labor.

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

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

He was an unusual figure to be doing such things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Sir John Kerr he was a dangerous megalomaniac.

To Sir Laurence Olivier a hero of the age.

To Gore Vidal the nation’s most intelligent man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘It’s time’ Gough, once told us.

A phrase that captured the imagination of a nation.

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

It’s time, he said.

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

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

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

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

It is always time.

On his 80th birthday, Gough Whitlam said

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

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

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

Madam Speaker

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

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

ENDS

 

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

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