30th Anniversary of the float of the Australian dollar
THURSDAY 12 DECEMBER 2013
Good morning everyone, it’s a great pleasure and an honour for me on our behalf, to welcome Paul Keating back to the Caucus room for the first time in seventeen years.
As Chris has said, today marks the 30th anniversary of the floating of the dollar - the first step in terms of Labor transforming Australia’s economy.
The start of a 13 year journey by Labor of economic and social change that is without parallel in Australia’s peacetime history.
It did signal an end to the inward-looking years of Menzies and Fraser and Howard.
It was the beginning of an internationally competitive and proud Australian economy, determined to seize the opportunities of our region
I think the floating the dollar highlights so much of what we admire about the Hawke and Keating eras.
Courageous decisions made confidently for the long view of Australia’s story.
An act which respected the capacity of Australian to understand the need for change.
It put faith in the quality of the policy to deliver the political dividend for the nation.
And one of those decisions that after it’s made, everyone wonders why it took so long to actually make.
I’ve got the precise quote of eleven years later, when that well known economist Tony Abbott wrote of a floating economy:
‘makes no more sense than altering the price of cornflakes every time a buyer takes a packet off the shelves’.
He’s now our Prime Minister.
Today we can see that a floating currency acts as a shock absorber.
It’s guided us through the Asian Financial Crisis, the dot-com bubble and, of course, the GFC.
It helped deliver the longest period of uninterrupted economic growth in Australia’s history.
Of course the economic legacy of this decision is only one chapter of the Labor and Australian story.
Because Labor Governments, both then and now, don’t pursue economic growth as an end in itself.
In this Caucus, and in this place, Labor does not see governing as a choice between a strong economy and a just society.
Be it Keating, Hawke or Kelty, they believed, as we believe now, that we build a strong economy so that we can build a strong and just society.
To borrow a phrase from our guest of honour, if a group drops off the pace, we think it’s our responsibility to reach out a caring arm and pull them up with us.
The Hawke and Keating Governments used economic prosperity to fund social equity.
Universal healthcare through Medicare.
National universal superannuation.
Extending social justice to Aboriginal people with Native Title – an act of political courage and decency that has few parallels in Australian history.
Perhaps to our shame, after 1996 and the election defeat some in Labor were too quick to cede the legacy to the political revisionists opposite.
We ceded the field to the new Coalition Government, and they set about busily trying to rewrite history.
Thankfully Paul, over time, facts have triumphed over conservative fiction.
And we will not repeat the errors of 1996.
I cannot imagine this current government endeavouring to try and change Australian society.
But what we also know in listening to our speaker, he delivered the economic silverware of Labor reform to the Australian economy.
This Caucus is aware of the great privilege that former Prime Minister Keating does to us.
He will remind us that it is this current generation in Labor that has the obligation to again deliver the economic change in the interests of all.
But to hear from former Prime Minister Keating of the accomplishments of thirty years ago could be no better way to end the final day of Parliament this year.
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