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

ADDRESS TO THE ACOSS NATIONAL CONFERENCE

ADDRESS TO THE ACOSS NATIONAL CONFERENCE

 

SYDNEY

 

FRIDAY, 26 JUNE 2015

 

Good morning everyone.

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 want to thank you very much for inviting me here to talk about really important matters.

 

It is, I understand, the end of a week of deliberation and it is, I understand, fundamentally important to Australians that you meet and talk about the issues that you do.

 

I think there are two great tests for a nation such as ours, and they measure our character.

 

It is how we handle wealth and how we handle poverty.

 

We are undeniably a wealthy nation, amongst the richest on the planet.

 

But we have persistent levels of poverty that might bring that might sometimes bring our character into question.

 

It is not just a handy maxim that the measure of a society, the measure of a nation is how it treats its most vulnerable.

 

It is a test.

 

It is a character test.

 

And are we passing?

 

I believe it is our mission to tackle inequality.

 

I believe too often in our politics of this nation, the poor are ignored, relegated to the back, or simply squeezed and indeed vilified.

 

Now, there are a few gatherings, as I said, more important than ACOSS to talk about this subject.

 

We have a story in Australia, don’t we, that we are a ‘lucky country’.

 

That we believe that our society should be organised in such a way that it allows an individual’s capacity to transcend the destiny that others prescribe by inequality, money and power.

 

And have no doubt, friends, inequality is on the national agenda.

 

Ever since the Global Financial Crisis rocked the foundations of our world economic order, a host of leaders from across the political spectrum, titans of industry, respected academics, have urged a rethink of a relationship between equality and prosperity.

 

Diverse voices, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Bank of England, the OECD, and the Vatican are all saying the same thing: Inclusion is the key to growth.

 

Equality is not a dividend of economic growth, it is a pre-condition.

 

And that we can only plough the fields of prosperity by acting to end inequality.

 

I make this point that around the world there is another name for the Global Financial Crisis.

 

It is a name that we don’t use in Australia – the Great Recession.

 

Because it didn’t happen here as it happened elsewhere in the world.

 

The pragmatic, targeted response Labor instituted in government prevented the kind of consequences that we’ve seen unfold in the United States and Europe.

 

Double digit unemployment, mass foreclosures, a generation of young people cut off from work.

 

It is fair to say, and the record reflects this, that Australia weathered the storm and emerged in better shape than any other nation in the world.

 

But now we face a new set of challenges in the decade ahead.

 

We must plan for the non-negotiable changes that are heading our way.

 

The trends which will define our future:

 

  • the economic transformation of Asia
  • digital disruption and technological change
  • a clean energy economy
  • the equal of treatment in women in our society
  • the unprecedented demographic change with two generations of retirees living at the same time in Australia

 

And all underpinned by the constant requirement for social justice.

 

This is the great task of the next 10 years.

 

Turning these factors to our national benefit

 

Smoothing the transition from a commodities-based economy, to a high-tech, high-end serviced-based economy

 

Competing and winning in the world on our terms with the application of our values.

 

A strong system of targeted social investment is a pre-condition.

 

It is essential to the progress of our economy and our society.

 

People need to be supported to make transitions in and out of the workforce between sectors, careers and industries.

 

Opportunity must be shared. Growth must be inclusive.

 

Your latest report confirms that we have sadly known for too long – more than 20 years of economic growth, an unprecedented stretch of national prosperity simply has not delivered for every Australian.

 

We have more riches than nearly any other nation, but we have less fairness than we should.

 

In the midst of our great wealth, many Australians do not feel safe, nor do they have secure work, nor do they have access to permanent homes.

 

There is undoubtedly a growing disparity in wage rates and working hours.

 

From 1975 to 2014 real wages have risen by about $7,000 for the bottom tenth of income earners, but they have risen by $47,000 for the top tenth.

 

Put another way, the top 10% of income earners have received a national pay rise greater than the total pay of the bottom 10%.

 

Now, some argue that this inequality is tolerable because we are a mobile society, that anyone can make it, if they just have a go.

 

But far too often the socio-economic profile of a person born into disadvantage determines their life chances.

 

I said earlier, more directly, do we have a myth in this country that individual capacity can transcend the barriers of money, power and discrimination?

 

Is the Australian dream real?

 

For all of us?

 

This kind of pay gap carries serious consequences.

 

An OECD report concluded:

 

““The rise of income inequality…is estimated to have knocked 4.7 percentage points off cumulative growth between 1990 and 2010, on average across OECD countries.”

 

Inequality damages growth.

 

This is especially significant when we consider annual economic growth in Australia has been below trend for 11 consecutive quarters and in all but three of the last 27 quarters.

 

And as recent research from the Melbourne Institute has reconfirmed, wages and salaries are by far the dominant source of household income in Australia.

 

Therefore, a robust and rising minimum wage is always central to tackling inequality.

 

It is why in 2015 for the first time ever, Labor from Opposition put a submission in the annual wage review in defence of a strong minimum wage.

 

I believe that the minimum wage in this country is an irreplaceable driver of consumption and dignity for hard-working Australians.

 

Undercutting our minimum wage does not boost our competitiveness.

 

It does not enhance this society.

 

We will never be able to go low enough in wages to compete with some of the economies in our region.

 

The truth is, as you well know, that the cause of poverty for those wanting to work or working, is when a person receives less than sufficient to satisfy their needs.

 

The undermining of the minimum wage – all it will do is create a poverty trap for millions of Australians.

 

It is not the future that I want for my children, nor for the country.

 

But as you know, a minimum wage, a fair minimum wage, a strong minimum wage is only part of the story.

 

Needs-based school funding, aka Gonski, strong TAFE and training, and affordable universities are all instruments of social mobility.

 

School funding, TAFE, training, university places.

 

And a decent, sustainable safety net is also essential.

 

There is a fashion in this area to talk tough about bludgers, rorters, frauds, cheats, double-dippers.

 

You know the abuse, the people you represent frequently receive it.

 

In the United Kingdom, the Conservatives talk about ‘skivers’ and ‘strivers’.

 

Imaginatively our own Conservatives talk about ‘lifters’ and ‘leaners’.

 

Different words, same game.

 

The creation of a false division between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

 

There are, of course, easy points to be scored against the straw man of the bloated welfare system.

 

Indeed, the word “welfare” itself was almost exclusively used in many parts of our media and conservative government as a pejorative, as a code word for laziness and waste and undeserved income.

 

It frustrates me.

 

I’m sure it annoys the heck out of you.

 

Not because of the cheap, chest-beating rhetoric masquerading as government policy,

 

Not just because of the bullying of people who are often doing it tough,

 

It is also because of the facts tell a very different tale.

 

Australia already has one of the best targeted systems of social investment in the world.

 

We spend less on welfare than almost every other advanced country in the OECD, and yet our system still works reasonably well.

 

Forget the long lectures about people living a life of leisure on benefits.

 

How is it that people who have millions of dollars get so jealous of people getting $20,000?

 

What is so spiritually bankrupt in our debate, when I watch people who earn more in a week than people with disabilities or the unemployed or carers will earn in a year…people who will claim more on their tax deductions than lots of the people they criticise will ever claim.

 

It seems that for some people what they have is not enough; they have to worry about what you have, too.

 

Melbourne Institute HILDA survey showed around 50 per cent of people on income support are back in work within a year – 75 per cent are back in work within three years.

 

There is a reason, friends why Labor calls this social investment.

 

Professor Peter Whiteford from ANU estimates that for every dollar we spend on welfare, we reduce inequality twice as effectively as any other nation.

 

And on the flipside, cutting social security payments in Australia increases inequality twice as fast.

 

NATSEM modelling has found that the least well off 20 per cent households were hardest hit by last year’s Budget, and this unfairnesses that been locked in and entrenched in this year’s Budget.

 

When one considering any aspect of an economic program should be to build confidence and opportunity and hope, it does not matter if it is the grandest manoeuvre or the smallest detail.

 

The right decisions cannot be made whilst fairness is discouraged.

 

This morning, I tell you that this Government is fighting for their own power, their own jobs, their own privileges, which I submit to you; it is irreconcilable with the national interest.

 

Instead of taking steps to address Australia’s growing inequality and therefore enhanced growth, the Government is continuing its savage attack on low and middle-income earners.

 

One of the previous speakers this morning, and I refer not to the Leader of the Greens, wants to slash $8.5 billion from the pockets of Australian families along with his leader, Mr Abbott.

 

Family payment go to families to help with the costs of raising children.

 

They help to ensure every child has a good start in life.

 

Mr Abbott’s cuts are bad for families, they are bad for children, they make it much harder for Australian families to make ends meet.

 

And of course those families with the least, will lose the most.

 

Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison want to push young people into poverty leaving young job-seekers under 25 with nothing to live on for a month.

 

‘Quick,’ I can just imagine them saying to their metabolism, ‘Shut down for a month’.

 

Labor believes these propositions are fundamentally unfair and we will continue to fight against them, as we have in last year’s Budget.

 

Now, it is no secret that ACOSS and Labor took different views on the Government’s second incarnation of pension cuts.

 

I would like to take the opportunity today to explain the reason behind our decision.

 

You know the Government; they love to find a bad guy to justify their own badness.

 

And this year much of their rhetoric was focused on the so-called ‘millionaire pensioners’.

 

All those pensioners out there with the supposedly high asset bases, somehow selfishly drawing down on the pension.

 

We have new research in from NATSEM today.

 

The fact is only 0.3 per cent of all pensioners have assessable assets beyond $1 million.

 

That’s less than 9,000 pensioner families out of 3 million people.

 

And there are only 165,000 pensioners were assessable assets of greater than $500,000.

 

That’s barely 5 per cent.

 

The vast majority of 330,000 pensioners affected by the Government’s cuts do not have high incomes.

 

Many are living on a superannuation income of $25,000 a year.

 

That’s a modest sum.

 

Industry superannuation analysis reveals that once these pension cuts are in place, the impact gradually creeps down the income and assets scale.

 

I submit it will be low-income people, the people who ACOSS serve and represent very well, who will be hit by these changes over time.

 

There is another powerful factor in Labor’s discussions.

 

The serious long-term problem this round of pension cuts creates for future retirement savings.

 

Coalition rhetoric aside, the parliamentary voting record shows that it has been Labor who has built the superannuation system and increased mandatory contributions.

 

And we also made in in the last term of government, historic investments in the pension system.

 

But when we consider issues around the aged pension, we step back and take a holistic look.

 

The latest NATSEM report released today shows that under the asset taper, pensioners now lose $78 per year for every $1000 in assets beyond the threshold.

 

Double the previous loss of $39 per year.

 

The loss of pension income is likely to be greater than the typical returns a pensioner could expect on their superannuation assets.

 

So you lose more on your taper than you will gain on the income from your superannuation assets.

 

So under the Government’s new policy, a pensioner has a lower annual income from the aged pension at equivalent annuity on their asset base on $900,000, than they do at $400,000.

 

Now you might say, “Who cares?”

 

But we do want to create a system where some people have some incentive to save for their retirement.

 

Because what it now means is that the system has built in a magnet, an inbuilt incentive to draw down on assets in the short term so you can claim the full pension over the long term.

 

The immediate consequence is to reduce assets more quickly or move assets to non-assessable assets like the family home.

 

Do we think humans won’t change their behaviour based upon this Government’s measures?

 

This is introducing a new and massive shift of incentives in the system away from funding your own retirement to relying more heavily on a full pension.

 

That’s the wrong message.

 

And with half of all retirees set to be affected by these changes in the next 10 years, I think this perverse incentive will place massive new pressures on our pension system.

 

What this proves to me and my team, is that when we formulate retirement policy, we must always look beyond the headlines and map out the true consequences.

 

This is the clear principle behind Labor’s policy to tighten excessively generous tax concessions given to the very wealthy superannuation account holders.

 

This measure alone will return $9 billion to the bottom line and based on average long-term rates of return, it will only affect people with more than $1.5 million in their superannuation account.

 

I am pleased that ACOSS has been very strong in its support for this and probably encouraging us to go even further.

 

But our measure is sustainable, it is fiscally responsible.

 

The Government loves to dumb a debate down to its crudest slogan.

 

They say Labor wants to put your hands – I think the verb which the Prime Minister seems unhealthily addicted to is ‘trouser’.

 

He says that people want to ‘trouser’ people’s superannuation savings.

 

We don’t.

 

But when John Howard and Peter Costello in the 2006 Budget, said that unlike other forms of income which you might earn when you work, if you put all your money into the superannuation phase, the income can be tax-free, they created an unsustainable proposition.

 

Because what it means is if you have $5 million or $10 million, put it into your super in retirement; draw down on the income from that and you get a full tax concession.

 

Superannuation tax concessions in the next four years are going to pass the price of the aged pension.

 

So somehow we have this Government who likes to make out they are an ill-fitting Robin Hood and the Merry Men of Sherwood forest sort of garb when they talk about the pension.

 

But as soon as they can get to the policy issues, off comes their costume in their disguise, far more Sheriff of Nottingham than Robin Hood, this crew.

 

They won’t tackle the big issues.

 

We are not anti-superannuation.

 

I just don’t think that tax concessions funded by the taxpayer, when you have a very big comfortable pile, needs to be as high as they currently are.

 

Now, all of this though, goes to the issue of the broader policies in the next election.

 

In the broad social policy, many of you will know that I’ve asked Jenny Macklin to lead a comprehensive review of Labor’s approach.

 

She will deliver that report towards the end of the year.

 

She and I intend to focus upon investing in the early years, workforce participation, helping families manage care and work responsibilities, and dealing with the challenge of insecure work.

 

From my own travels, and discussions around the country, there are certain recurring themes.

 

The importance of targeted support for low-income and disadvantaged Australians to get job-ready and to connect with potential employers.

 

The need to support people in and out of the workforce, particularly regarding the need for skilling, re-skilling and life-long learning.

 

A strong and sustainable system of family payments and childcare support to help low and middle-income families with the cost of raising children.

 

I must say there is a critical need for a properly supported community sector that is free to advocate without fear of retribution or losing government funding.

 

The culture of bullying has to stop.

 

But what I would also say, to borrow and paraphrase – someone once said our democracy is not a spectator sport.

 

And the future is not pre-ordained.

 

There is no cycle in politics which means that conservativism has a go, and then progress has a go.

 

There is no ‘inevitable’ change.

 

Our democracy is something which every person has the ability to make a contribution to.

 

That every one of us has the chance to decide what will happen in the future.

 

Because sadly too many people in Australia, too many people feel alienated in Abbott’s Australia.

 

Alienation, you understand this well.

 

It is the feeling of people who are excluded from the processes of decision-making and disempowered by insecurity, lack of income, discrimination, unemployment, family violence.

 

As has been observed by others, too much alienation is dehumanising.

 

It creates divisions.

 

It wastes people’s potential.

 

It devalues human relations.

 

Profit without fairness cannot be the driver to evaluate national progress.

 

Simply telling people, in their late 40s and 50s, that they are redundant, with little prospect of another job, is cowardice.

 

No Australian is expendable.

 

Simply telling the homeless, the substance-addicted, the battered wives, the disability pensioner, the underprivileged, simply telling them to ‘have a go’ is not enough.

 

It is time to unleash the possibilities, the unharnessed possibility of all Australians.

 

This means treating people with respect, not finger-wagging blame.

 

The mining boom is nothing compared to the potential of the Australian people and the potential they offer the future of this country.

 

Simply letting Australians believe that they should journey through life with no prospect of faith in what they can contribute to their fellow Australians is weak, is wasteful and it is a tragedy.

 

We can do better.

 

ENDS

 

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

Jun 25, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,CANBERRA


THURSDAY, 25 JUNE 2015

 

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

 

Thank you Madam Speaker.

Another Question Time and again, no answers.

Another day like every day under the Abbott Government.

New Liberal lies, new Liberal lows.

Every day we see the quality of the Parliament and the debasement of the Government of Australia continue downwards.

Now there will be six weeks away from this place, where we will all be able to have the opportunity to be amongst the Australian people.

But we know what the Liberals will be up to.

We know those opposite will continue their trademark politics of fear and smear.

We know the bar is never too low for those who sit opposite.

Just have a look at their form in Victoria.

Never in my wildest imagination, would I imagine that the Liberal Party of Australia or any of its divisions would stoop so low, crawl so low, to be raising money on the back of national security fear.

And quite frankly it was an unsatisfactory answer today from the Prime Minister when he says of course one would go down to ASIO for briefings, probably true. Of course that may be true.

But he could never explain: why does he need a TV camera in tow?

And then what he sought to do when the Opposition legitimately questioned him on these matters – he says it’s an attack on ASIO.

This man is addicted to wrapping the flag of patriotism around him and then saying no one has the right to ever question the judgements of this Government on that basis.

But we know that every dirty trick will be played by this Government, by this Prime Minister in the next 12 months.

They will keep going down the low road of character assassination.

They will stick with the same bullying, the same base politics of division and suspicion.

The last day of this sitting fortnight has been typical of every day under this government.

This Government and Mr Abbott will say anything to get your vote.

They will say anything, they will do anything – they will promise everything.

But his word means nothing.

Tony Abbott’s promises mean nothing.

Let me tell the Government and Mr Abbott about this:

If Tony Abbott wants to lecture us about lying.

If Tony Abbott wants to talk about keeping promises.

If Tony Abbott wants to make the next election about trust.

Have a go. Give it a try. Bring it on.

Today Mr Abbott postured in Question Time – in the style which only he thinks befits a Prime Minister of this country with his faux indignation and finger-wagging – about an interview I did with Neil Mitchell two years ago.

As I’ve said, more than a couple of times: I made a mistake, I regret it.

I did what Tony Abbott is incapable of doing.

I apologised.

Tony Abbott has never apologised for the lies he told the Australian people.

The fraud he perpetrated on millions of hard-working people who trusted him with their vote.

Never apologised for saying on the eve of the election – right down the barrel of the camera – capable of probably even tricking a lie detecting polygraph – he said to millions of Australians on the eve of an election:

“No cuts to health, no cuts to education.”

‘No cuts or changes to the pension”

“No cuts to the ABC or SBS”

Five broken promises in ten seconds.

One lie every two seconds.

And Tony Abbott’s lies have real consequences for all Australians.

His lies are hurting people, every day.

  • $30 billion cut from schools
  • $50 billion cut from hospitals

And for once and for all, will the Government finally acknowledge the authorship of their own Budget papers which demonstrates the change in their spending profiles and the cuts behind it?

This Prime Minister thinks that Australians are as silly as some of the people who back him in his parliamentary party. The truth is in black and white, green and blue.

He’s also hurt 300,000 pensioners in this last sitting week.

Modest incomes – he talks about some people getting $30 a fortnight being better off.

But what he neglects to do – he presses the delete button at that point – he never mentions 330,000 pensioners who are having their pensions cut.

He said before the election ‘No cut to pensions’ – 330,000 people are going to have their pensions cut and he says because it doesn’t happen until a certain date – that’s not really a broken promise.

This man has too many excuses and not enough truth in his election promises.

He’s frozen the superannuation of  8.4 million working Australians

He says that there’s no adverse consequences that they would administer of superannuation, but what he’s done is he froze superannuation for 3.5 million Australians, low paid Australians.

He’s taken away their tax support for the superannuation contributions they make. But it goes further than that.

The Prime Minister for Indigenous matters has cut $500 million cut from Aboriginal services .

The Prime Minister for women has cut $270 million from community services, including counselling for victims of family violence.

And now we know this is just the beginning.

This is a most miraculous Government.

They get their public servants, paid by tax payers, working for months to talk to other senior offices all around the country.

They prepare a Federation Green paper and then they say it is just a ‘sensible discussion’.

Prime Minister, there is nothing sensible about an option saying you will take every dollar out of public hospital funding.

Prime Minister, there is nothing sensible about cutting the 15 hour minimum per week guarantee to 4 year olds.

There is nothing sensible about means-testing public schools and the parents who go to public schools.

But he has form on this.

Because before the last election, he said there would be ‘no cuts to health’.

In fact, he continued to do it all around the streets of Brisbane – before the Griffith by-election where he said, of his GP tax on the sick and the vulnerable he said:

“nothing has been proposed and nothing is being considered.”

“nothing is being considered, nothing has been proposed, nothing is planned.”

Mr Abbott’s pattern is always the same.

Promising all things to all people before the election – and afterwards, ‘please don’t bother me, I am about to break my promises’.

I know what the next six weeks will be like with the Government members.

They will get out there and whip up fear and they will whip up smear.

They will make it such that Australians feel more worried about their future than they should be.

This is a government obsessed with the Opposition.

They don’t want to stand up for Australia and fight for a vision of the future.

The Prime Minister is never any happier than when he is attacking us.

But he never more unhappy than when he has to run the Government in the interest of the Australian people.

They are fixated on the past.

They are spending $80 million of taxpayer money, trying to denigrate the reputation of the union movement.

They are trying to turn baseless allegations into a headline.

And on that subject – let me say to the most appalling acting Minister for Employment that the Commonwealth has ever had the disservice to have serve in that position.

He has said more than once, in recent weeks, he said of my time in the AWU representing working people:

Oh, he was there for the good times in Beaconsfield.”

He has implied that Beaconsfield was a ‘good time’.

Well, Christopher Pyne, I was at Beaconsfield.

A man died – two men were trapped for 14 days not knowing whether they would be rescued.

For the first five days, their families did not know if they were alive and for the next nine days, ordinary men dug through hard rock to rescue them.

It was a remarkable effort by hundreds of people.

Their families went to hell and back.

And  Christopher Pyne is so out-of-touch, he calls it the ‘good times’.

How dare you Christopher Pyne.

You are not fit to tie the shoelaces of the people in that rescue.

So I say to the Prime Minister, to the Government.

We will never apologise for standing up and  giving service to working people.

Every day you talk about Labor…

Every day you talk about me…

Every day you look back to yesterday…

Is another day that confirms you have nothing to say about the future.

Nothing to say about Australians, their concerns, their priorities and indeed, the future of this country.

Labor is better than that.

It lasted a day.

We saw that Minister for Immigration getting back into the gutter with his interjections and mindless contributions.

Yesterday, we were his best friend because they needed Labor to do the right thing for the nation.

But these people have short memories like I predicted yesterday.

We are different.

We will support Budget measures that we think are in the best interest of the nation.

We will not be mindlessly negative as this Prime Minister made his trademark in Opposition.

We’re interested in the Australia of the future and setting up Australia for the future.

That means making sure there are jobs and skills for the workforce of the future and our young people of today.

We want great schools, and yes, we want great coding in our schools.

We want proper funding for our hospitals not these rubbishy federation green-papers which you propose with your madcap options.

We want universal Medicare. Australians are sick of you trying to wreck the Medicare system.

We want accessible and affordable universities – not $100,000 degrees.

We will fight youth unemployment and we will back TAFE all the way – training and apprenticeships

We believe in a fair pension and we believe in strong superannuation.

In the next 6 weeks, we will outline our positive agenda for the future.

You can play your cheap political games all you like.

You can take the low road.

You can do your very worst.

But we will see you off.

We will not only endure

We will prevail.

ENDS

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

Jun 24, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

NATIONAL TAFE DAY RECEPTION

NATIONAL TAFE DAY RECEPTION

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

WEDNESDAY, 24 JUNE 2015

 

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

Good evening everyone, welcome to parliament house.

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

It’s great to see so many of my friends and colleagues from caucus here tonight, to celebrate national TAFE day.

Their presence is a sign of the commitment we share, as a Labor team, to vocational education.

The value we place on skills, apprenticeships, training and re-training, the jobs and opportunities created by learning, the self- respect that success instils.

And the respect we have for the dedicated, hardworking people who teach our TAFE students, helping unlock potential and inspiring new confidence.

Friends, this is a tough time for TAFE and training, I understand that – all of us in Labor do.

You’ve endured funding cuts and campus closures.

You live with the uncertainty of contract and casual work.

You operate in an era of greater competition.

And yet, I am wholeheartedly optimistic about the future of our public TAFE system.

Why?

Because as our world changes, as our economy transitions and our region transforms – Australia will need TAFE, more than ever.

In the second decade of the Asian Century, TAFE has never been more important.

  • to our nation’s economy
  • to our people’s wellbeing
  • and to our country’s future.

I believe TAFE can be a bridge between careers and industries.

  • Helping school-leavers learn the skills and gain the qualifications they need to find good jobs.
  • Empowering people with disability through new knowledge.
  • And helping mature-age workers re-train and re-skill, applying the abilities, leadership and problem-solving they honed in one industry, to a new challenge.

In South Australia, for example, where, as we all know the manufacturing industry has faced significant pressure…

TAFE SA has had a 15 per cent increase in 4 years for students aged over 45, as older workers seek career changes.

I believe TAFE can be a bridge between the regions and our cities.

  • Tackling youth unemployment where it is highest
  • Offering opportunity for students in the bush to study locally.
  • Building links with local industry to maximise the chances of young people in the regions to get a career

Hunter TAFE, for example, the largest regional vocational education and training facility in Australia, offers free Business Health Checks for local businesses to determine the right mix of courses to meet business needs.

And to ensure graduates gain work-ready skills to suit local employers.

In Victoria, the Andrews Government is reinvesting in TAFE.

Mildura’s SuniTAFE, is now building partnerships with the local food production industry, which employs around 12,000 people in the region.

And I believe TAFE can be a bridge between the old economy, and the new.

  • A pivot-point for industries and workforces in transition.
  • A constant source of upskilling and adaptive knowledge, boosting our productivity and competitiveness.
  • In our regions especially, an accessible, affordable training provider.
  • And a signal of a new national mindset: a focus on preparing the next generation for the jobs of the future.

All of this demands energy and urgency.

In just five years, two-thirds of all jobs created in Australia will require a diploma qualification or higher.

Before our eyes, whole industries are changing their profile – just consider manufacturing.

45 per cent of Australians who currently work in manufacturing don’t have a qualification beyond secondary school.

Yet nearly 90 per cent of all new manufacturing jobs require one.

And this is just part of a bigger global story.

Australia is a fair wage nation, in a low wage region.

And as the economies around us transform and industrialise, the competition for low-skill, low-wage work will only accelerate.

But this is not a race Australia should rush to join.

We can’t compete on volumes, on quantity, or on wages with our neighbours.

They will always have more people, willing to do more work, for less money.

And the low-skill, low-wage road is not a sustainable path to the future – it’s a dead-end.

In the next 10 years, around the world, there’ll be 100 million unskilled workers who won’t be able to find unskilled jobs.

And there’ll be 40 million skilled jobs, without skilled workers to fill them.

The answer for us, as a nation, is to get smarter.

To be a value-adding country, engaged in advanced manufacturing.

A quality link, in a global supply chain.

To invest in skills, training and technology.

To prepare our people for the good jobs of the future, the jobs with a future.

And TAFE is at the very heart of this.

TAFE is what will help our people adapt to new technologies, identify opportunities and thrive in an era of automation.

TAFE will help Australians design, refine, operate and maintain machines, instead of being replaced by them.

ENDS

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

Jun 23, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: RAVENSHOE CAFÉ INCIDENT

STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: RAVENSHOE CAFÉ INCIDENT

 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

TUESDAY, 23 JUNE 2015

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 
The opposition joins with the remarks of the member for Kennedy and the remarks of the government.

 

I think all Australians who saw some of the footage and all who learnt the news of what happened at Ravenshoe were shocked.

 

It was a dreadful ordeal.

 

The set of circumstances outlined by the member for Kennedy shows how unlucky people were.

 

The fireballs of a gas explosion – nothing can prepare people for that.

 

We acknowledge and put on record the stories of modest heroism, of people putting their friends before themselves.

 

I have seen firsthand, in other circumstances, burns injuries. They are a particularly dreadful form of pain.

 

People will be scarred for life and, in the case of at least two families, losses that are irreparable.

 

Robert Frost was the American poet laureate and he spoke about a terrible tragedy in his life – he called it ‘the shafts of fate’.

 

Whilst this could be described in the same way, I do not believe anything can make sense for the people, who have gone through this, of what has happened to them—unfinished conversations, for example.

 

I am sure there will be some people who will be saying: ‘Why not me?’ while others will say: ‘Why her?’

 

Let me reassure those who have been through that tragedy that everyone understands, is committed to you.

 

We understand that Australians are resilient, and people will be resilient here.

 

We also understand that nothing could have prepared people for this.

 

ENDS

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

Jun 23, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

ADDRESS TO CEDA STATE OF THE NATION BREAKFAST

ADDRESS TO CEDA STATE OF THE NATION BREAKFAST

 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

TUESDAY, 23 JUNE 2015

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

 

Good morning everyone, it is fantastic to be here.

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

Thank you for this invitation to be here and thank you for saving the most important meal of the day for the Leader of the Opposition.

There are three more sitting days before parliament rises for the winter recess…but who’s counting.

The winter break gives all of us in this place a chance to go home to our communities – and to get out and about around the whole nation infact.

To listen to Australians, to talk with them about their hopes and aspirations, as well as the challenges they’re facing in their daily lives.

To measure our policies and our ideas, against their priorities.

It’s a kind of a mid-year stocktake for all of us in public life.

And this annual CEDA conference is also an occasion for a national stocktake.

A time to look at the big questions, time for a broader look.

A chance for all of us to reflect on the state of our economy, the shape of our society and the health of our democracy.

And an opportunity to turn the temperature down a bit.

To step back from the day-to-day, verbal jousting which probably doesn’t contribute too much in Question Time.

And instead, start to answer the dissatisfaction in the Australian public about the state of politics.

A time to move away from the slogans and the dumbing-down of the debates to who said what when and the gossip.

It is the ‘overriding’ view as our chair said today.

This is what motivates me. The over-the-horizon view.

And of course, transitioning from the old to the new – the theme of your conference – is squarely one of the key questions for the next election and the people of Australia.

Preparing the Australia of 2015 for the Australia of 2025 and 2035.

So this morning, I want to talk to you about the future.

Australia and businesses understand already the trends of the next 10 and 20 years regardless of who is in power.

We know the trends which are underway, the tectonic plate movements which are irresistible.

  • The transformation underway in Asia
  • The seismic shift of digital disruption
  • The move to a low pollution economy
  • The inexorable march of women through institutions of Australian life to true equality.
  • And demographic change, two generations of retired Australians alive at the same time.

These are the facts, ladies and gentlemen.

Asia, the digital economy, energy efficiency and sustainability, the equal treatment of women and growing older.

This isn’t a ‘Labor’ list.

These are non-negotiables.

They don’t align with any electoral calendar and they don’t respect any partisan agenda, any short-termism.

The question in our public life is not what the trends are. It is what we will do about them.

The challenge is if we meet here again in 10 and 20 years’ time is could we look back to 2015 and say that the 2015 Budget was that magic moment where we set Australia up for the next decade and the next two decades.

And if the decisions we make in this parliament do not pass the reunion party in 10 and 20 years’ time and looking back saying: ‘Did we get things done this year’. Was that the year we decided to step up?

The question of these trends are: do they shape us or do we shape them?

Whether we ride the waves, or are left waiting out the back.

This was very much the focus of my Budget reply speech.

In that Budget reply speech, I didn’t want to just be negative about the government.

But much more importantly in my mind, was that the Budget reply has to be the start of outlining a response, a reaction and do more than reacting to the government’s election pitch and do more than just dealing with the Budget.

Instead, I wanted to start a bigger conversation and set a new direction.

So, in my budget reply speech, I said we wanted to talk about jobs, everything for me is about the jobs.

And to have the jobs you need to have the knowledge, skills and industries of the future.

A plan to balance demographic change with a productivity boost.

And we need to end the partisan squabbling and uncertainty holding back infrastructure delivery.

Encouraging investment and enhancing confidence now, that is the job of our economic leaders – build confidence.

You and I know that confidence is like holding water in your hands. One small change and you can lose it all.

I will return to those ideas in a moment.

But I believe they are best understood, in the context of the current state of our nation’s economy.

You all know the broad brushstrokes:

Mining investment is returning from unprecedented highs to the historic mean.

From 8 per cent of GDP at the top of the boom, to 2-2.5 per cent.

It is the same as a $100 billion withdrawal from our $1.6 trillion economy.

And while all of that represents a step change in mining production which will continue to be a central part of our exports and our prosperity – we won’t see mining return to the peaks of last decade.

So the overwhelming, number one economic priority for Australia has to be identifying and developing the next engine for economic growth.

Because right now, our economy is not growing as fast as we would like – or going as well as we would hope.

Growth at 2.3 per cent, is nearly a full percentage point below trend.

And it has been that way for a while.

Our annual economic growth has been below-trend for 11 consecutive quarters, and all but 3 of the last 27 quarters.

Some of this can be explained by the Global Financial Crisis, changes in the domestic economy and the severe impact of extreme weather events.

Yet this is still the longest period of below-trend growth for more than 50 years.

And, as a result of this:

Our unemployment rate has a six in front of it, has for more than a year.

Long term unemployment is at a 16 year high.

And more than 188,000 Australians have been unemployed for more than a year.

Now, the orthodoxy of the last thirty years tells us things will get better.

If we look at the current situation as just as short-term challenge…

…then the official prescription of low interest rates to stimulate demand and some fiscal stimulus makes sense.

But we must also look at the big picture, the long run, the need to plan for the jobs and prosperity of the future.

This is why we need to change our methods, our model and our mindset.

We need to think about new investment in infrastructure, innovation and education.

This is not about turning our back on past reforms – it’s a question of shaping new reforms for the new century

In the 1940s, John Curtin and Ben Chifley forged new reforms to win the peace and build a fairer post-war world

In the 1980s, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating transformed Australia and brought down the tariff walls to prepare us to be an international economy.

Not frightened of the region we live in, not a colonial outpost of another country.

But you can only open your economy once.

Now we have to create reforms for Australia to deal with the challenges of infrastructure, innovation and inequality.

Combining the egalitarian, communitarian spirit of Curtin-Chifley with the market dynamism and Asian engagement of Hawke-Keating.

Once again, Australia must choose.

We must choose to be open, not closed.

We must choose renewal, not decay.

Innovation, not stagnation.

We engage with our region and that is our choice.

We compete and succeed in the world, on our terms.

The truth of the matter is that the levers available to a Labor government in the 1980s, no longer respond to a government’s touch. Your airline, your exchange rate, your telecommunications company, they are just not there.

But there are levers still available to the Commonwealth.

Infrastructure is one of the levers the Commonwealth can drive.

Education and skills are a lever the Commonwealth can drive.

In 2025, an extra five million Australians will live in our cities.

And millions more in our regions will depend on cities: as providers of the services they rely on and markets for their products.

It’s up to the Commonwealth to use its fiscal horsepower to work with the states, to make our cities more liveable, more sustainable and more productive – and to connect them better with our regions.

Australians are good at living in our cities.

The most effective way of unlocking our cities and engaging our regions is to invest in infrastructure.

Substandard infrastructure costs us all.

Infrastructure Australia’s recent National Audit shows traffic congestion will cost the economy $53 billion by 2031.

And the distance between where Australians live, and where we work, is growing fast.

Most of the new jobs are within 10km of our CBDs.

Yet most of our population growth is occurring in our outer suburbs, more than 20kms out.

Today, nine out of ten of us spend more than 90 minutes a day travelling to and from work.

This poses a fundamental question about our national quality of life, our lives outside work.

Do we want to be a country of three big cities, ringed by drive-in, drive-out suburbs?

A nation where parents are never home in time to kick a ball in the backyard, help out with the homework or share a family meal?

A country where the next generation of Australians feel shut out of the housing market.

Infrastructure means new roads and public transport, new ports and bridges, better social housing, smart energy grids, efficient irrigation projects and, of course and the best digital infrastructure.

Yet, based on the latest figures, there has been a 17.3 per cent fall in spending on public sector infrastructure in twelve months.

And the latest Akamai study shows that Australia is now ranked 42nd in the world for internet speeds.

New infrastructure projects boost demand in the short term and they lift supply over the long term, creating jobs and generating national momentum.

Sea ports, airports and their interaction with road and rail networks is critical.

And there are opportunities before us, in rail freight and export shipping.

As a nation, we need to bring major new projects to market.

But there have been far too many delays caused by political bickering, between different parties and between different levels of government.

High bid costs, commercial risks, forecasting errors, long procurement and uncertain processes…

….have made new infrastructure investments less attractive to long-term equity investors, constructors, governments and financiers.

Every day of inaction dents confidence, which in turn erodes trust.

It undermines certainty for investors – and it increases pressure on State government budgets.

Breaking the political deadlock and closing the infrastructure gap demands a new approach.

This is why, last month, I announced Labor’s plan to boost the powers and resources of the Infrastructure Australia – and put them at the centre of decision-making.

It is a plan to create a strong and consistent pipeline to provide a signal in the market.

We want to adopt the Reserve Bank model: an independent authority at the heart of capital investment just as the Bank is to monetary policy.

And I was pleased to hear Ross Garnaut offer his support for this idea at CEDA’s conference yesterday.

Our model will replace petty, narrow, short-term politics with certainty, confidence, transparency and rigour.

We want IA to play an active role in structuring and generating new projects.

A model which will ensure projects which have clear benefits to our cities and regions they do not languish on the National Infrastructure Priority List.

Let’s take the politics out of infrastructure and put the people, the certainty and the generational change decision making back into it.

We need a model that addresses the trust deficit between project proponents.

Instead of politicians choosing projects based on the electoral map and according to our too-short election timetables…

Infrastructure Australia will recommend projects based on three key criteria:

  • Does it benefit our economy?
  • Does it benefit our community?
  • And will it enhance the capacity of our national productivity?

If we are to be nationally and globally competitive into the future Australian infrastructure needs to be benchmarked against world’s best practice in our Asian Pacific region.

And whilst the Government doesn’t understand this following sentence, I hope you do.

A Labor Government will offer the Opposition of the day a meaningful say on every Infrastructure Australia appointment.

Bipartisanship is a word which is invoked often in this place.

It’s something governments love to demand…rarely welcome…and, these days, almost never offer.

I am different to the current Prime Minister in this regard.

My union background taught me that you have to work with each other. You can both sit in your corners but nothing will get done. You must bridge the gap.

Bipartisanship is about recognising no-one has a monopoly on the good ideas.

Instead, the more people of goodwill and expertise you can bring together, the more co-operation and consensus you can achieve on the long-term generational decisions the better your chances of a successful, enduring solution to the big questions that we can say in 10 years that was right.

And when the experts at Infrastructure Australia get behind a good project – like the Cross-River rail in Brisbane or the Melbourne Metro, they should have the ability and authority to act as an active broker:

Bringing together:

  • state and local governments
  • construction companies and financiers
  • long-term investors like our super funds

Maximising consumer and productivity benefits and mitigating project and financial risk

In turn this will ensure that costs in developing new projects can be streamlined over time…

Two weeks ago, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, spoke about creating a new ‘upside’ for the Australian economy – he called for:

“an agreed story about a long-term pipeline of infrastructure projects…

…surrounded by appropriate governance on project selection [and] risk-sharing between public and private sectors at varying stages of production and ownership…”

This is exactly what my and Labor’s plan for a stronger, more independent, more empowered Infrastructure Australia will deliver.

In the same speech, Glenn Stevens also said:

“Physical infrastructure is, of course, only part of what we need.

The confidence-enhancing narrative needs to extend to skills, education, technology, the ability and freedom to respond to incentives, the ability to adapt and the willingness to take on risk.”

If we accept – as I believe we all do – that technological change is going to be the number one factor in economic performance in the next decade…

Then the core question and defining measure of a government’s economic credentials must be:

What is being done to prepare the economy for new technology?

What is being done to provide people with the skills to master new technology and to encourage the innovation to deliver it?

Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts it another way.

His new book talks about the difference between ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ efficiency in an economy.

Static’ efficiency is the model we’re all familiar with by now: reducing red tape and spending efficiency.

This is important – but it’s not enough.

‘Dynamic’ efficiency comes from a high-skill, fast-adapting workforce.

An economy that absorbs new technology – and puts it to work.

A society that values and supports lifelong learning.

This is behind Labor’s focus on the jobs of the future:

These jobs will need new skills.

Three out of every four of the fastest growing occupations in Australia will require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This doesn’t mean everyone will grow up to be a computer programmer, or a biology professor.

It’s about smarter farming and more advanced manufacturing, plumbers and electricians using new technology and new, more efficient ways of doing business.

We’re not at the dawn of the information technology revolution – we’re in the middle of it.

But right now, in our schools, TAFEs and universities, not enough Australians are acquiring these skills.

We have to change this.

And this begins at an early age.

We believe coding – computational thinking – should be a core part of the National Curriculum and taught in every Australian school.

I learned Latin when I was at school.

It still comes in handy, every now and again.

Illegitimi non carborundum, and all that.

But if we want the next generation of Australians to succeed in the digital age, they have to learn the global language, they have to know how to code.

How to instruct machines, and program them.

I know we can do it, because I’ve seen it.

At Springwood Central primary school in Brisbane, their ‘code club’ is full of enthusiastic, engaged students learning the skills of the future – in their own time.

One of the students told me that their parents thought it was a “club for computer games”, until they came to visit one day.

This was an innocent remark – but it nailed the big truth.

Coding is the difference between Australian kids growing up playing with technology – or growing up with the skills to design, and adapt technology.

CEDA’s report, last week, noted as much as 40 per cent of jobs in Australia could be replaced by computers and automation within a decade or two – this should spur us to action.

And I was pleased to see Malcolm Turnbull support our call for coding in a speech to CEDA on Friday.

I hope it marks a shift in government policy – or at least a willingness to take this issue seriously.

I am prepared to sit down with Malcolm Turnbull or anyone else in the Government to see it delivered.

After all, the last time I asked Tony Abbott about teaching coding in primary school, he accused me of a Dickensian plan to send kids off to work at the age of 11.

I’m all for improving the participation rate – but I don’t think we need these mocking debates. Let’s investigate the ideas.

Of course, teaching coding is only the beginning of the story.

We need more Australians to fall in love with science, maths and IT at school – and study these subjects at TAFE and university.

And we need our hardworking STEM teachers to have the support and resources they need to get kids hooked on science.

This is why Labor will:

  • Boost the skills of 25,000 current primary and secondary teachers with new professional development funding.
  • Create 25,000 teaching scholarships for science and technology graduates
  • Write off the HECS debt of 100,000 science technology, engineering and maths students in the next five years.
  • And encourage more women to study, teach and work in these fields

And for Australians eager to turn good ideas into thriving businesses:

  • We will establish a $500m Smart Investment Fund, in line with the model that supported Seek, Pharmaxis Bionomics, Alchemia, Spinifex and BTS.
  • As well as working with the banks to create a Partial Guarantee scheme to provide micro-financing for start-ups.

This is how modern Labor engages with the market – creating and underpinning markets, tilling the soil for success.

We will have more to say, about all of this, in the months ahead.

But we are content on making our science future one of the key propositions at the next election.

A competition about who has the best policies on science and research and its applications is no bad thing for the Australian people.

We are at the end of the biggest mining investment boom in our history so we have to secure the next wave of prosperity and jobs depends upon investing in our best natural resource…The skills and smarts of the Australian people.

This morning, I have told you that we believe in new investment in education, a new model for infrastructure, new support for innovation and a new focus on growth industries – that is how we win the future.

It’s how we smooth the transition from the old economy to the new.

And the sooner we make this shift, the sooner we start building for the long term…the better.

Have a nice morning, thank you.

ENDS

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

Jun 23, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

TUESDAY, 23 JUNE 2015

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

 

I thought I might open the debate on this matter of public importance with a reading from ‘the book of Tony’.

 

It is the updated 2013 election version. Any good remainder bin will have one.

 

It says, on page 133:

 

“Commonwealth spending on health and education now approaches $90 billion a year …”

 

It goes on to say:

 

“Most of it is not directly authorised by the constitution other than via specific-purpose grants … Still, any withdrawal of Commonwealth involvement or spending in these areas would rightly be seen as a cop out.”

 

My question to the Government is: what have you done with the author of Battlelines and where is he?

 

What we are witness to today with the Federation Green Paper is what the leader of the government would say is ‘a cop out’.

 

We would actually say it is something more.

 

We do not call it ‘a mature and sensible conversation’.

 

I think you could hear the sound of jaws dropping right across the nation today when the Prime Minister, in defence of his proposals, said that no public dollars, no Commonwealth dollars, going to public hospitals was an option.

 

That was a proposal for the hospital systems of Australia: no Commonwealth money.

 

You could have heard a pin drop when the Prime Minister said that.

 

We thought to ourselves: did we really hear the leader of Australia, the author of Battlelines—he is still probably getting royalties from it—not only confirm that that idea has come from his own department but also, in that trademark stubbornness, not rule it out?

 

On the contrary, he said, ‘What’s wrong with the opposition? Don’t they want to have a sensible and mature conversation?’ Prime Minister, we are always up for a sensible and mature conversation; we just think this idea is plain crazy.

 

Who has dreamt up the idea that cutting the funding for and walking away from responsibilities to health and education is a good idea for the Federation of Australia?

 

It is a rewriting of the contract which was initiated, in the case of schools and education, by none other than Robert Menzies, former Liberal Prime Minister of Australia.

 

The interesting fact is that these Federation Green Paper proposals to means-test parents to send their children to public schools and to take away all the funding of hospitals are based on the trend of the last two years: the Government persisting in the myth that they are not cutting funding—$80 billion worth of funding—to hospitals and schools.

 

One of our members of parliament, the Member for Wakefield, tried to offer in question time today the budget papers where there is a graph which clearly spells out that there is $80 billion less over the next 10 years for hospitals and schools. But this Government is in such denial that it would not even admit who drew up the graph.

 

They would not even admit that it is in their own budget papers, when it has the logo of the Commonwealth on it. It would be funny if it were not so serious.

 

This is a war being waged by the Government on Australia’s teachers and students, parents, nurses, doctors and patients, a war on families, with a $30 billion cut to schools and $50 billion cut to hospitals—and we have found out this is just the beginning.

 

Now we see the Liberals talking about cutting hospitals loose and cutting schools loose.

 

Today we have also discovered that their meanness does not extend just to this radical agenda to cut billions of dollars from schools and hospitals; they have even decided to go after preschools.

 

No Labor propaganda-writing unit could have ever dreamed up that this Government would turn its back on its pledge to provide four-year-olds with 15 hours a week of preschool.

 

What on earth did the children in the preschools and kindergartens of Australia, or their parents, do to be the government’s latest target?

 

I will be honest. I thought the Government would rush to rule this out but, impressively, they have owned it.

 

At least they have owned it.

 

They are saying that this is part of a ‘mature and sensible conversation’.

 

No, Prime Minister, this is not sensible or mature.

 

The Green Paper actually says what we are saying.

 

On page 7—that would be after page 6, Member for Gippsland —the Commonwealth said, about hospitals:

 

“The Commonwealth would no longer provide funding for public hospital services and would have no role in setting operational targets for public hospitals …”

 

I repeat that— This is not a fairy tale; it is a nightmare, and your team are writing it:

 

“The Commonwealth would no longer provide funding for public hospital services and would have no role in setting operational targets for public hospitals …”

 

Did we hear that right? Australians will hear this.

 

Labor will take this right across the country, when this parliament rises, and warn all Australians that this Government considers that sort of proposal sensible and mature—and we heard the Prime Minister own it time and time again today.

 

What are the consequences of no longer providing funding for public hospitals?

 

The paper goes on, on page 8:

 

‘This option risks entrenching the existing incentives for governments to shift costs and to blame other parts of the system. It also does not on its own improve access to primary care or address fragmentation between public hospitals and primary care.’

 

Australians are on notice. This is a government proposing to cut $50 billion from public hospitals, as much as it denies it.

 

They now wish to go further and have ‘a mature and sensible conversation’ about defunding the state system.

 

This is not a sensible idea. It is a radical, right-wing idea, and it has no place in the firmament of Australian policy. The Prime Minister thinks that coming up with stupid ideas somehow polishes his reform credentials—no, it does not.

 

On schools, option 1 is:

 

‘States have to fund all schools with no Commonwealth funding.’

 

Option 2 is:

 

‘Commonwealth only funds non-government schools.’

 

This is a disaster.

 

This is a repudiation of the concept of free education which was set up in colonial Australia.

 

Labor understand how the education system works. We do not need a discussion paper to tell us something is a dumb idea when we see it.

 

We do not need to have our public servants consulting other public servants about an inappropriate idea which will damage the future of all Australians.

 

It only gets worse. On preschools, page 21 of this federation paper says, about walking away from the funding of the commitment to preschool hours for four-year-olds, ‘It will mean some families miss out on a preschool program, particularly the children of working parents.’

 

This is a government that is out of control.

 

But when we ask the Prime Minister about these plans to walk away, as a number of opposition members and journalists have asked today, he bangs on that he has no plan.

 

But today, time and time again, he actually accepts that somehow, if we do not talk about these ridiculous ideas and embrace the discussion of them, we are somehow anti-reform.

 

This Government’s proposals are not reforms; they are a dreadful setback to the Australian people.

 

When I hear the Government say, and they will rush to say this again, ‘No, no, that was a rogue public servant’ or ‘That was an authorised discussion’ or ‘That does not exist’ or ‘We want to see your birth certificate before you can ask the question’—whatever this Government says—I am reminded of what the Prime Minister did before the last election when he wanted your vote.

 

He said nine times before the election, ‘No cuts to health and no cuts to education.’ What did we get? We got a $30 billion cut from schools and $50 billion cut from hospitals.

 

So when this Prime Minister says, ‘There will be no cuts to hospitals’, we know that is not true, and when he says that there will be no cuts schools, we know that is not true.

 

I think Australians are getting a trifle tired of the Prime Minister’s argument, where he says on the one hand, somewhat disingenuously, ‘States run schools’, and, on the other hand, ‘The Commonwealth funds the states to run schools.’

 

What the Prime Minister tries to do is say that, because the state governments are in charge of the administration of state schools, somehow that absolves his responsibility for any cuts he makes to the funding of state schools.

 

We are onto that fraud.

 

And he has got form on ruling out measures.

 

He ruled out the GP Tax. On 1 February, before the Griffith by-election, when we elected the remarkable Terri Butler, Michelle Grattan asked Mr Abbott,

 

‘Can you guarantee there won’t be a Medicare co-payment?’

 

The Prime Minister said,

 

‘Michelle, nothing is being considered, nothing has been proposed, nothing is planned.’

 

Then we dial forward to 6 February and the famous victory. Just before that election, Steve Austin asked the Prime Minister,

 

‘Are you actively considering a GP tax?’

 

The Prime Minister said:

 

‘No, we are not. Nothing has been proposed and nothing is being considered.’

 

He said it was just part of a Labor scare campaign.

 

Indeed, on 25 February, before the Senate by-election, when the member for Perth asked the Prime Minister,

 

‘Will you guarantee that the GP tax will not increase emergency waiting times in WA?’,

 

The Prime Minister said,

 

‘I am happy to say that there is no such tax planned.’

 

The story of the GP Tax is the story of the threat to education.

 

What are the common factors? A promise before an election, Tony Abbott is the one making it and it is just not true.

 

We know that these are plans for massive cuts.

 

We know that the Prime Minister of this country does not see an active role for the Commonwealth in schools and hospitals.

 

We know this Government, with $80 billion worth of cuts, has a plan to move away from the proper funding of schools and hospitals, to say that it is all a state problem, to walk away from what the Prime Minister wrote in his own book and to walk away from 50 years of Commonwealth policy on both sides of politics—shame, shame, shame!

 

We will take this issue right across the electorate in the winter break, and you will retreat on this as you retreat on every other bad idea.

 

ENDS

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

Jun 22, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE ON THE MEMORIAL FOR VICTIMS OF MH17

STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE ON THE MEMORIAL FOR VICTIMS OF MH17

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

MONDAY, 22 JUNE 2015

 

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Thank you Madam Speaker.

I thank the Prime Minister for updating the house.

Labor wholeheartedly supports not only the memorial service, but the permanent memorial to those who lost their lives aboard MH17.

Madam Speaker, for those loved ones left behind –it is still a time, I believe, of slowly-passing shock, of disbelief and of mourning.

This Parliament has acknowledged their grief in this place, but we cannot share it.

We did repatriated their loved ones, but we are unable to fill the void of their loss.

Like the Prime Minister, we can hope for an end to the quest for a reason, but that will never be enough.

Anything we can do, we should, we must.

And so we wish the memorial and the project well.

ENDS

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

Jun 17, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

THE PASSING OF RON CLARKE

Labor honours the life of a great Australian and we offer our sympathies to Ron Clarke’s family, friends and loved ones.

 

For nearly seven years Ron Clarke held every world record from two miles to twenty kilometres.

 

In December 1963, he broke two world records in one race: the six mile and the 10,000 m .

 

And in an astonishing two-month stretch in 1965, Clarke broke 11 world records in 16 races.

 

Over many years, and thousands more miles, Ron Clarke’s tenacity, determination and character were tested – but never conquered.

 

The child of a famous sporting family and a junior prodigy who became a national champion, Clarke represented Australia at two Olympics and three Commonwealth games.

 

He won an Olympic bronze in the 10,000m at Tokyo and three Commonwealth silvers.

 

At the age of only 19, he was chosen to carry the Olympic Torch into the MCG for the opening of the 1956 Olympics.

 

Many reflecting on his passing today will remember him as he was then, a young man, bearing the hopes of a nation on display before the world.

 

We will remember him too as one half of the greatest act of sportsmanship in the 20th Century.

 

A moment immortalised in bronze outside Melbourne’s Olympic park and revered by everyone who believes it is how you play the game that counts.

 

In later life, Ron would serve his community for two terms as Mayor of the Gold Coast and played a significant role in securing the upcoming Commonwealth games for the Gold Coast.

 

Ron Clarke filled every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.

 

We salute his life and offer our heartfelt condolences to his family.

 

May he rest in peace.

 

WEDNESDAY, 17 JUNE 2015

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

Jun 17, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

SPEECH TO THE INTERFAITH PRAYER BREAKFAST

SPEECH TO THE INTERFAITH PRAYER BREAKFAST

 

OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

WEDNESDAY, 17 JUNE 2015

 

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Good morning everyone.

 

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet the custodians of the world’s oldest living spiritual tradition.

 

I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

 

We are here today in shared celebration of:

 

“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

 

This is, as I look around, truly a congregation of all faiths, a meeting of every tradition and text.

 

It’s also a celebration of the unity of modern, multicultural Australia.

 

We may pray in different languages, to different deities – but as Australians we speak with one voice.

 

We observe rituals from all parts of the world, in temples, churches, synagogues and mosques but as Australians we all stand beneath one flag.

 

We worship many faiths – but as Australians we all share a common belief: the belief that everyone is welcome and everyone is equal.

 

It’s a the creed that runs through all our faiths:

 

  • Love for our neighbours

 

  • Loyalty to family

 

  • And help to those in need

 

Like perhaps many of us in public life – like indeed like most Australians – I’m a bit shy about talking about my own faith.

 

It is, though, a large part of who I am – it always will be.

 

Of course, it’s not for me, nor I believe for anyone to co-opt their particular faith in their service of a political point.

 

Instead for me, faith will always be a personal guide – a keeper of my conscience.

 

So this morning I would suggest perhaps there’s a higher duty we owe: as Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists.

 

There’s a duty of respect, of love, of compassion and care for all who share our Southern Cross.

 

A duty to embrace others for who they are, not judge them for who they are not.

 

This has never been more important than in trying times for our nation’s soul.

 

At an American interfaith breakfast in February this year, President Obama warned of the dangers of:

 

“Faith being twisted and distorted”

 

“used as a wedge – and worse, sometimes used as a weapon”.

 

The same lesson holds here for us here in Australia.

 

In a free society, we may choose to define ourselves by our faith.

 

But we must never seek to define – or exclude – others, because of their faith.

 

Let this be the great shared goal that we choose today.

 

An Australia where we stand stronger, because we stand together.

 

An Australia bigger, braver and better than fear, division and suspicion.

 

Let this be the open, generous and optimistic country we pledge ourselves to, today and always.

 

Now and forever.

 

Thank you.

 

ENDS

 

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

Jun 16, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

SPEECH TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT NGA

SPEECH TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT NGA


PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

TUESDAY, 16 JUNE 2015

 

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

It’s a pleasure to be part of this emerging tradition, a time when local government visits the home of federal government.

All of you are here as representatives of your communities and as leaders in Australia’s most direct and accessible form of democracy.

Communities matter, and what you do matters to communities.

Your decisions don’t filter down from a house on the hill, they are made in meetings at the local hall.

Your constituents know you, not as a face on TV but as a neighbour, a fellow customer in the high street, a friendly face on the sidelines of weekend sport.

You are our frontline for delivering services in our wonderful country.

And, in our regional and rural communities in particular, local government is a real employer too.

Every day, in a hundred different ways, local governments build our civic identity and add to the heart and soul of our nation.

You are the ones:

  • Setting the stage for the new production at the local theatre.
  • You keep our streets clean and our civic spaces vibrant and renewed.
  • When there is natural disaster, there is a council worker first there to rebuild towns, and lives.
  • Running classes at the library.
  • Marking the lines on the oval.
  • Trimming the edges at the local park.
  • And delivering meals on wheels.

None of this work is easy, none of it is high profile, none of it is flashy or attention-grabbing.

But it has a place in the big picture, in the big story of Australia.

There are four defining trends underway in our world:

  • The surge in digital technologies.
  • The growth in clean energy
  • An older population, living longer
  • And the rise of Asia.

Those changes are non-negotiables in the decades ahead.

What matters is how we deal with them, how we respond to the challenge which we know is occurring.

Do we ride these waves, or are buffeted by the tides and swept along?

On each of the big questions, local government has a key role to play.

Digital technology has the potential to take geography out of the economic equation…it’s an opportunity for our regional communities to engage in global trade.

And for some, the flip side of digital technology can be a decline in personal interactions, greater loneliness, exclusion and isolation.

Here, it is local government which is the friendly face and a helping hand, restoring a sense of community and a great word I really love: neighbourliness.

More clean energy will mean a wider distribution of electricity: decentralising power generation and offering new opportunities for local authorities.

Already, local governments have been famous for providing vital leadership on community aged care – and this will continue to grow.

And when it comes to the rise of Asia, the greatest single economic transformation in the history of the world…local governments play a role in building the people-to-people links between Australian communities and their neighbours in Asia.

This has long been the case.

Fifty-two years ago, Yamatotakada City and the town of Lismore in New South Wales became ‘sister cities’, the first such partnership between Australia and Japan.

Today over 50 communities across our nation share such a partnership…with Japan alone.

Joined together in the spirit of friendship, of understanding, of the lifelong learning from each another.

People building friendships and personal connections through student exchanges, cultural exchanges and local government visits.

In Bundaberg and Settsu City.

Inakawa Town and Ballarat.

Geraldton and Kosai City.

You are ambassadors and economic drivers for Australia, you’re leading, not following.

And the Commonwealth government owes you the resources, support, independence and authority to seize the opportunities of the 21st Century.

This is why, in government, Labor put such a focus on targeted grants programs as well as Financial Assistance Grants:

  • Special packages for high-growth areas and communities in transition like north Queensland, East Kimberley and the La Trobe valley.
  • Roads to Recovery
  • BlackSpot funding
  • $1 billion in Regional Development Australia Funds
  • A further $1 billion in stimulus spending during the GFC
  • Liveable Cities and the Community Infrastructure Grants.

I following in the tradition of some of Labor’s former Ministers, Simon Crean and Anthony Albanese. They trusted Local Governments – and their trust was certainly repaid.

More than 6000 community projects were delivered.

From libraries and swimming pools to roads and childcare services.

And supporting local government means listening too.

This is why Labor established the Australian Council of Local Governments, so we could consult and engage directly with local government.

It is why Labor created a seat at the COAG table for the Australian Local Government Association.

Because when the State Premiers come to Canberra to talk about resources, service delivery and shared responsibilities, it is essential that local government is included in that conversation.

I’m here today because it is in the Labor DNA to work with local government.

Local government is central to the future of Australian prosperity and Australian community.

I believe, in the Asian Century…the second century of Australian Federation… and the third century of Australian local government…

Your work will be more important than ever before.

And co-operation between Commonwealth and local government will be more important than ever.

There are three areas in particular I wanted to focus on today:

One, the role of infrastructure in building more liveable cities and better-connected regional centres

Two, the great work being done by local governments to eliminate family violence – and the opportunities to build on this.

And three, a challenge for all of us, getting more women involved in politics – at every level.

Infrastructure.

By 2025, an extra 4.5 million Australians will be living in our capital cities.

Millions more in our regions will be counting on the capitals, as a market for their produce, as a supplier for their business or as service-provider for health and aged care.

I believe the future liveability, sustainability and productivity of our cities is a key responsibility of the Commonwealth.

Labor is a party who believes in the role of the Commonwealth to assist our cities grow.

A Labor Government will:

  • Appoint a Minister for Cities;
  • Reintroduce the Major Cities Unit;
  • Reconvene the Urban Policy Forum;
  • Ensure the State of Australian Cities report is published annually.

My Shadow Minister for Cities, Anthony Albanese has already convened an Urban Policy Dialogue – an informal gathering of policy and industry experts and stakeholders from across Australia.

And when it comes to improving our cities, there is no better tool at our disposal…no more vital lever for the Commonwealth to pull…than investment in infrastructure.

The Commonwealth must use its massive balance sheet, its fiscal horsepower to work with the States, with local government and with private investors to:

  • provide more affordable housing
  • and develop our cities and towns.

Based on the latest figures, there has been a 17.3 per cent fall in spending on public sector infrastructure in twelve months.

And far too much squabbling and blame-shifting.

This inaction undermines confidence and investor certainty, it hurts State budgets and it burdens local government with congestion problems and road maintenance costs.

And the longer this goes on, the more time Australians spend stuck in their cars on the way to work.

This damages our productivity – and our quality of life outside work.

I do not have a vision of Australia of three large capital cities ringed by drive-in-drive-out suburbs.

A country where parents are never home in time to enjoy a family meal or help out with the homework.

We need a national change in our infrastructure mindset and method.

But that change must begin with those of us here in Canberra putting politics and partisanship aside.

Last month, in Labor’s Budget reply speech, I announced Labor’s plans for a long-term, generational approach to the big infrastructure decisions.

We want to boost the powers and resources of Infrastructure Australia – and put them at the centre of decision-making.

Just as the Reserve Bank sits as an independent authority, at the heart of national monetary policy…our plan will put Infrastructure Australia at the heart of capital investment and nation-building.

And I did something for Tony Abbott that I do not expect for a lifetime for him to do for me.

I said that if Labor was the Government, and they were the Opposition, we would consult them on every appointment to Infrastructure Australia.

I want the Opposition of the day at the table helping us make the decisions – it’s a lot harder to argue and play politics if you’re inside the tent.

Bipartisanship is more than just a word, it’s a way of recognising that no one has all the good ideas, but the more that you have people of good will, working  on the long term generational decisions, the chances are we will make something together which is better than what we could do separately.

We want to bring new certainty, transparency and rigour in – and take the frustrating, petty, short-term politics out.

Instead of worrying about what electorate a road or a train line runs through, Infrastructure Australia will recommend projects based on three key criteria:

  • Is it a benefit to our economy?
  • Is it a benefit to our community?
  • And does it enhance the capacity of our national productivity?

And when the experts at Infrastructure Australia recommend a project – like the Cross-River in Brisbane or the Melbourne Metro – I want them to play a more active role in getting these projects financed.

To act as an engaged and honest broker, bringing together:

  • construction companies
  • long-term investors like our super funds
  • And state and local governments

to get projects underway.

And we won’t stop there.

Leading on liveability, driving urban policy and linking in our regional centres means putting every option on the table…

Let’s think big.

Let’s take a comprehensive look at housing affordability: thinking through urban planning, land supply and the right use of tax incentives.

Matching up housing density with public transport corridors; taking pressure off our roads by making our trains, trams and buses the most convenient and accessible commuting option – not a sacrifice borne under sufferance.

We need to move away from the old model where one CBD per state which is the centre of all jobs growth and the destination of every commuter.

Instead, let’s think about how we can get governments at all levels to co-operate on new job centres, in our outer suburbs and regional towns

There are already ten regional communities with more than 100,000 residents and a few not far behind.

We need to aim to keep growing jobs and investment in Townsville, Cairns and on the Gold Coast, in Newcastle and Wollongong, Geelong, Albury-Wodonga and Launceston.

And for every level of government to co-operate on the development of second and third CBDs in our outer suburbs.

This might mean direct investment, such as in universities, hospitals and research centres, Badgerys Creek Airport or the Moorebank Intermodal project.

Or creating incentives for businesses to base themselves in our growing suburbs.

It is also a recognition that not every job in the Australia of 2025 and 2030 will mean driving to and from an office block every day.

What is wrong with a world class, fibre-to-the-premises National Broadband Network will let more Australians work from home and engage with clients and colleagues online, as well as boosting our international productivity and competitiveness.

Liveability is also about investing in sustainability.

Supporting renewable energy, strong environmental planning standards and backing buildings and precincts that produce their own power in new developments.

And rehabilitating our urban waterways, which for far too long were used for industrial waste.

If we’re going to tackle these challenges, if we’re going to unlock our cities, link our regions and deliver the competitive, productive infrastructure that Australia needs in the 21st Century then we will need to show leadership at a Commonwealth, State and local level.

Because just as with aged care, child care and community services – we will depend upon local delivery and ownership of solutions in construction, design, planning and zoning.

Family violence

This is true for family violence too.

Family violence has sometimes been viewed as a women’s issue, an issue on the margins, something you might add on.

I do not believe that.

I believe family violence is a topic of national importance.

People like to use the word leadership a lot – it means many different things.

But to me one issue of leadership is demanding that matters of national priority be what the Parliament deal with.

It means saying to a nation: some things are too important to be neglected any longer.

I believe it is possible to turn the tide on family violence in our nation.

I believe – many years from now – people will look back on this time as a tipping point for the way we looked at family violence, and spoke of it.

They will say that, with Rosie Batty as Australian of the year…we finally came to grips with the notion that family violence is not a ‘family matter’, it is not, ‘none of our business’.

Hopefull we can come to a point when we say in the wake of another, all-too-common death, the question is not ‘why didn’t she just leave’, or ‘how could she let that happen’?

The question we did ask is: how do we just stop it?

What can we do to prevent it ever happening again?

We need to understand – in politics, in the media, in our day-to-day conversations that it is about men’s behaviour and men’s attitudes.

It doesn’t matter what suburb you live in or what ethnicity to are or what god you worship. It doesn’t matter if you live in the country or the city.

The universal link in the forty-three deaths this year on family violence, there is one common link: they were women, and the people who did the killing were men. That is the link.

Now I know that local government in many parts of the country are tackling this issue.

It might be my state-of-origin bias showing, but I’m especially conscious of the efforts of the Municipal Association of Victoria, whose focus on primary prevention and professional development is a model we could roll out across the country.

Improving our national awareness is fundamental – but so is our local, grassroots response.

Eliminating family violence from our national life depends upon national support for local communities: service providers, case-workers, refuges and legal centres.

In March, I wrote to the Prime Minister, calling for a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence – a gathering of experts, law enforcement, social service providers, levels of government and, above all, survivors – the people who have seen the faults and flaws of our current system from the inside.

A Labor Government will hold this summit in our first 100 days.

It is a declaration that the nation that Australians want to see in the mirror, the nation that we want our children to believe in or that we can tell strangers who we are will not tolerate family violence full stop.

We’ve also outlined a $70 million interim package, including a $15 million safe at home program.

On average, a woman affected by family violence moves three times.

Those upheavals – away from their support network, their family, their friends, their communities and their job.

Sometimes women are still paying the mortgage when the abuser is sitting in the family home.

Our plan is designed to ensure the abuser is not rewarded and the survivor can stay.

This means providing resources for:

  • key changes and lock upgrades to doors and windows
  • sensor and security lighting
  • security screen doors
  • external CCTV cameras, training and monitoring
  • alarm systems

It’s a mundane list of practical things because we can do it, because every Australian woman has the right to be safe in her home.

And delivering this measure, depends upon a strong partnership with local government.

Women in Politics

There’s one more challenge I would like to put forward to you today, a shared goal I believe we should strive for.

Let’s get more women involved in federal, state and local politics.

Today:

  • One in three councillors are women.
  • One in four mayors are women.
  • And one in ten Council CEOs are women.

These ratios are all too low, far too low.

Yet, interestingly, the proportion of women being elected is about equal to the proportion who run.

We don’t need to convince the voters, they know the contribution women make, the value they add, the quality they bring as representatives, leaders and decision-makers.

The challenge is to encourage more women to run, to convince more women that local politics is a forum where they can make a difference.

This responsibility, driving cultural change, is on all of us who serve: federal and local, women and men.

There is nothing for us to fear, or to lose, from the march of women through the institutions of power.

There is everything to gain.

Friends, I’m a believer in local government.

I’m confident that if we work together, this country can be an even better country than the marvelous one we already have.

Thank you.

ENDS

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

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