18 December 2018


I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, and I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.


It was at our National Conference in 2007, the Australian Labor Party honoured Gough and Margaret Whitlam with life membership.

In 2009, we bestowed the same tribute on the great Bob Hawke.

And today, it is my privilege to propose that this Conference honour three remarkable Labor Prime Ministers with life membership.

I refer of course to Australia’s 24th Prime Minister, Paul Keating - he sends his regards to you too today. He was a leader and a reformer of courage and imagination - a hero of the true believers.

I refer also to Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, Julia Gillard - she too sends you her regards. She was a fierce champion for the opportunities of education, she is a continuing inspiration for women and girls.


We look forward to reflecting on Paul and Julia’s achievements – and presenting their memberships in person on another occasion.

But today, I'm very pleased that we are joined by two honoured guests: Australia’s 26th Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd - and his wife Therese Rein.

Kevin, you led Labor back into government after 11 and a half years in the wilderness.

You signed Kyoto and abolished WorkChoices.

And you saw the storm clouds of global recession and you - and our National President Wayne Swan - and your Labor government ensured that Australia actually grew through that crisis, when every other economy faltered.

You had the vision to begin a first-rate, fibre National Broadband Network.

Your government had the Labor values to deliver record investments in affordable housing, in public hospitals, and the single biggest increase in the age pension, lifting one million pensioners out of poverty.

You had the understanding of our Australian identity and independence, to elevate the importance of the G20, to pursue for our nation a seat at the table in the councils of the world.

And you had the compassion and decency to face historical truth, to recognise the wrongs of the past and to say Sorry to the Stolen Generations.

And while we were defeated at the 2013 election, it was your campaigning skills that ensured that we entered Opposition as a strong, viable electoral fighting force. 

And the reforms you made to our party rules that year in Balmain, have helped instil such stability and unity of purpose in our team.

Kevin, today we are proud today to honour your nation-building contribution to the Australian story and your Labor legacy. 


None of us who are called to serve in public life could do what we do without the patience, the support, the love and forbearance of our families and our partners. 

Therese, you and Kevin and your children know the cares and burdens of high office, take a hidden price, the toll it can take on a family. 

Yet Therese, you brought such zest and joy and drive to your role in the public life of the nation. 

On a very personal note, I will always be forever grateful for the interest and insights you took through your own family's experience, your own passion to empowering people with disability, ensuring they had access to the dignity of work. 

Therese, we all thank you - for the contribution you have made in your own right, the service you have given, to your family, to our Labor family and to the nation.


It’s always been the Labor Party that makes the political heroes in this country.

At our best, we are a movement focused on the future - but as Australia’s oldest continuous political party we have always revered our traditions and we take inspiration from our struggles in the past. 

And we are better, we are stronger, we are more confident and more complete when we extend to our former leaders and legends the respect they deserve, the gratitude they have earned. 

Labor can do more, indeed Australia can do more, to recognise the contribution of our past leaders - and to call upon their wisdom, their talents and their capacities in the continued service of our country. 

There has been a lot of pain. 

But today, I say to the conference, it is time for healing, to make peace with our past in the same way we are united about our future. 

Our members and supporters - and more importantly, millions of Australians, they want to see us, Labor get this right.

To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

And the time for recognition that what unites us is greater than what divides us has come.

So in the spirit of unity and solidarity and gratitude and respect.

I move that the party recognises the extraordinary contribution that Labor Prime Ministers make to Australia and to the Labor Party by bestowing life time membership on former Labor Prime Ministers –

And that this conference acknowledges the presence of our 26th Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and his wife, Therese Rein - and their strong and enduring contribution to the nation and the modern Labor Party.

Delegates, would you please welcome to stage: Therese Rein and Kevin Rudd.