Bill's Speeches

TASMANIAN STATE LABOR CONFERENCE - HOBART - SUNDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2018

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Good morning everybody, great to be here.
 
I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet. I pay my respects to elders, past and present. 
 
I was just saying to some of the people outside that I love coming to Tasmania, I love Tassie, I love Hobart.
 
I actually took Chloe here a couple of months ago for her birthday earlier this year. 
 
It's rare for us to get away, just the two of us, because you know you've got to get somebody to mind the kids, and in case you hadn't heard, there's a national shortage of nannies in this country. 
 
I didn't know there was a shortage of polo players but there you go.
 
I'd like to thank Julie Colins for her generous introduction, I'd like to acknowledge all of my federal colleagues who are here today. 
 
I'd also like to particularly acknowledge the fantastic Bec White. 
 
Bec, you and I both know that being Opposition Leader isn't a job for the faint-hearted. 
 
It's not something that when you go to school and talk to kids in year 12, they don't list that on their to-do list when they leave school. 
 
But I think you'd probably agree that it's the best possible apprenticeship for the next job. It's the best possible apprenticeship for leadership. 
 
Like everyone here, I can tell from the way you have brought your team together, from the genuine enthusiasm  you spark in the people who meet you, and the courage of your convictions, you are going to be an outstanding Premier of Tasmania. 
 
Now traditionally at these conferences we reflect on our Labor history, we look back at the giants from our past and we draw upon their example. 
 
But I want to submit to you today that we don't need to turn back through the pages of the history books of Tasmanian Labor to find our inspiration. 
 
It was only 43 days ago that the eyes of Australia were upon Braddon, and all the way through that marathon campaign we knew that it was going to go down to the wire. 
 
But on polling day, once Turnbull had flown out after he'd finished pointing his finger in voters’ faces in Ulverstone, telling them that they were wrong - that's always a good way to get a vote - once that Prime Ministerial jet swooped into the air majestically about 3pm, the Liberals started to pack up their things and they went home.
 
I think they thought they had it in the bag, the champagne and the oysters were on ice. 
 
But meanwhile, as that sun was going down, that cold was creeping in on all those booths in Burnie, and Wynyard and Smithton and Penguin, Justine Keay and her team were still shaking hands. Still smiling. Still taking every opportunity to ask Tasmanians to choose better hospitals over bigger banks. 
 
I was very proud of the Labor family that day.
 
The army of volunteers on every booth. 
 
Julie Collins putting up bunting in Devonport at 4am and – incidentally -  she picked the result within about 40 votes.
 
Our Senate team and Brian Mitchell and Ross Hart and Anita Dow and Shane Broad - they were everywhere.
 
Anne Urquhart in particular, a vital part of the campaign and a true friend in need and support for Justine right throughout.
 
I want to say, delegates, it is possible in the tumultuous times intervening in the last 43 days to perhaps overlook what you accomplished in Braddon at the end of July. 
 
You didn't just return Justine to Canberra, you sent Malcolm Turnbull to New York.
 
Tasmanian Labor helped change the direction of a nation that day. You changed the face of politics. 
 
You made a bit of history. We made a bit of history. 
 
And we did it the true Labor way, with the passion of our volunteers, and the power of our ideas. 
 
My team and I have spent the last five years developing a comprehensive and social economic program for the future of Australia - from everything from education, to penalty rates, to climate change. 
 
But today, rather than go through all the policies, I want to talk about just one issue, my number one priority: health care. 
 
It is the number one issue in Tassie. 
 
It's a number one concern right around Australia. 
 
Because sometimes we can over-complicate politics, can't we? The observers, the commentators. 
 
Nothing matters more in the world than your own health or if you don't have it, and, of course, the health of the people that you love. 
 
If your health is OK, if your family is OK, then everything else becomes a possibility. 
 
But if you're doing it tough, or someone in your family is doing it tough, that tends to dominate everything else, as it should. 
 
Since I have been Labor leader, I have made it my business to visit every part of our health system, in every part of our country. 
 
I have been early morning to ambulance bases, I have visited children's hospitals. From emergency departments to aged care, from the sub-acute rehab facilities for people battling the scourge of ice, right through to specialist facilities for Australians going through chemo. 
 
I've spoken to people going through a rough spell, recovering from heart surgery, coming to grips with the early stage of dementia. 
 
I've met parents who live with the nightmare of being unable to protect their child from a childhood cancer. 

There are not words for children and families who endure these challenges, or the way they go about it. 
 
But from everything that I have been privileged to witness and observe, from everything that I have seen and I have learnt, the first thing I will say about our health system is very simple: thank God for the staff of our health system in Australia.
 
You know, nurses and health care workers, doctors, paramedics, allied health professionals, hospital orderlies -  the allied health professionals. They all do a pretty remarkable job, don't they? The speech pathologists, the occupational therapists, the physios. 
 
And they work in all kinds of challenging circumstances. 
 
It is physically and mentally demanding work - all hours of the day and night. Moving patients in and out of beds, helping people shower, and eat, and toilet, and take their first steps to recovery. 
 
It is always under time pressures, there is always stress and urgency. 
 
You always also have got to be emotionally 'on', for the family and friends, and the patients, most importantly, taking their emotional cues of recovery from the demeanour and the energy of the staff. And there's never any room for error. 
 
As you know, as I know, when your child is sick, perhaps the fever is getting worse not better, the cough isn't going away, or heaven forbid it is something even more serious, in that moment of vulnerability where a parent's greatest nightmare is their inability to protect their child, there is nothing more reassuring than the calm, compassionate grip of the nurse who says, "Don't worry. We will look after her." 
 
The health care workers of Australia put everything into their job, and it is not right that Liberal administrations keep cutting funding and support and expecting, and indeed, relying upon the work of the staff to make up for the lack of leadership of Liberal governments. 
 
How can we ask hard-working people in our health care system to keep doing more and more with less and less? 
 
All Australians deserve better than this. Because when Liberals cut funding for health care, our nation pays a price. 
 
The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Medicare freeze has inflicted upon Tasmania the second lowest bulk billing rate in Australia.
 
Under the Liberals:
 

  • The average out-of-pocket cost to see a GP in Tasmania is up by 26 per cent.
  • The average out-of-pocket cost to see a specialist in Tasmania is up by 42 per cent.
  • One in 10 Tasmanians don’t see their GP, because they simply can’t afford it.
  • And emergency department wait times are the equal second worst in the country.

 
Less than seven out of 10 people, are seen inside the recommended time.
 
On the mainland, half of all patients will be seen in an emergency department within 19 minutes.
 
But in Tassie, you now have one in 10 per patients waiting two hours.
 
This is the result of Liberal health cuts for Tasmania - for every Tasmanian, your neighbours, your family, your friends.
 
It's a result in terms of seeing your GP, seeing a specialist or the emergency department: you wait longer, you pay more and you have to travel further.
 
Regional communities, not just in Tasmania, are suffering a doctor drought, people suffer in greater proportion: from obesity, asthma and osteoporosis. 
 
It’s why I’m really pleased, and full credit to Justine Keay, that one of the first things Labor will do for Tassie is put back the $4.5 million that the Liberals have cut from TazReach.
 
Because if you live in the North West of Tasmania, you shouldn’t have to fly to the mainland to get the care that you need.
 
Friends,
 
We know that general practitioners, the family doctors, are the frontline when it comes to keeping our people healthy.
 
But every day that the Liberals remain stubbornly in charge of our health system, is a day closer to the American-style, user-pays, system where getting sick means going broke.
 
And if they keep throwing up cost barriers between our fellow Australians and the GPs, then people will either put off seeing a doctor until they are much more sick, or they will turn up at the emergency ward and increase the pressure there. 
 
It is why Labor will always protect Medicare, it's not just the fair thing to do, it's the most efficient, it's the most effective.
 
It's why our plan for Tasmania will put back the money that Abbott and Turnbull and Morrison have cut from Tassie hospitals. 
 
And I'm proud to say that a new Labor Government will invest an additional $30 million in the Tasmanian health system to blitz the waiting lists.
 
Four years of Will Hodgman's hospital cuts have created a health crisis in Tasmania, and the waiting times for elective surgery are amongst the worst in the nation. 
 
So let's be clear - when we talk about elective surgery, we don't mean the cosmetic stuff. 
 
This is Tasmanians living with chronic pain, knees that ache every minute of the day, hip problems that restrict your mobility and your independence and your happiness, cataracts that prevent you from reading the paper or watching your grandkids play sport. 
 
Tasmanians are waiting too long for operations that are essential to their quality of life. 
 
Tasmanians are being treated as second class Australians by hospital cuts and Liberal neglect. 
 
A new Labor Government nationally will cut the Tasmanian waiting lists in half to begin with, because we will always put the health of Tasmanians ahead of the interests of the top end of town, full stop.
 
Friends, there are the universal struggles of our health system and this is some of what I've mentioned, but there are a unique set of challenges that our generation is the first to confront.  
 
There is the scourge of ice eating away at communities, families and endangering the lives of our emergency services personnel. 
 
We also have a new generation of Australian military veterans who deserve better support with their transition back to civilian life. 
 
There are hundreds of thousands of Australians living with profound and severe disabilities, and their families and carers who are still waiting for the NDIS to work the way it should.
 
And there is a crisis in aged care. 

  • Over 100,000 Australians have been assessed as needing extra support to live with dignity in their own home, they are waiting in vain.
  • There are the challenges of abuse and neglect of older Australians. 
  • There's the pressures on the staff who are not getting the support, the training or the fair pay that they deserve. 

Today, 244 Australians will be diagnosed as living with dementia. There will be 500,000 Australians who will be living with dementia by 2025. 
 
We need to have the long overdue national conversation around childhood obesity and sugar, and the way that junk food can be force-fed to kids through relentless, targeted television advertising. 
 
And, of course, there is mental health, especially for young people, but also for adults, especially outside of our capital cities. 
 
Growing-up has never been easy, but in an era where social media means peer pressure can operate 24 hours a day, we need to make sure there's support for our young Australians when they need it. 
 
This is why, for starters, we're going to put in the money to open a new headspace in Burnie, because what happens in regional Tasmania matters as much as Sydney and Melbourne. 
 
And it's as fundamental as this isn't it - that if we do not get serious about these challenges now, if we don't start putting the resources into our health system today, we will be the first generation of Australians to pass on to our children an inferior health system than the one we inherited from our parents. 
 
But amongst all of these challenges in health, the final health challenge I wanted to touch on today is all too common and it's all too cruel. 
 
And I'm sure that for many of you in this room, one way or another, cancer has brushed up against every Australian family. 
 
They call cancer the 'emperor of all maladies' but it's also, unfortunately, tremendously normal. 
 
My mother battled breast cancer, my cousins have had to fight it, my aunt, and little ones in my family. 
 
If you've ever had a loved one caught up in the struggle, you know it's not just an emotional and a physical ordeal, it's too often exhausting and impoverishing as well. 
 
More than a quarter of Australians with cancer pay over $10,000 out of their own pockets during two years of treatment. 
 
It is unacceptable that Australian women with breast cancer pay $750 for a scan. 
 
We are a rich country, we are a generous country, we are a smart country - we can do better than this. 
 
If someone you love is in the fight of their life, you shouldn't have to save and scrimp for a flight to the mainland every time you need chemo or a scan or a test. 
 
The system should be there for you and your family when you need it no matter where you live, no matter how much money you've got in your pocket. 
 
Australians have paid for their health care system through their taxes, through Medicare. It is right and appropriate that Australians who have contributed to our national health scheme, receive the support when they need it, regardless of their personal wealth, regardless of their individual circumstances, regardless of the postcode of where they live in Australia. 
 
And let's be really straight with each other today. 
 
Delivering better care for Australians battling cancer matters far more to me, and to you, and to Labor than someone who is negatively gearing their seventh income investment property.
 
This current government loves to say that somehow us prioritising health care and being able to pay for our promises to Australians is setting one group of Australians against another. 
 
Leadership is about making choices. 
 
You may be able to claim a tax deduction for your seventh negatively geared property, but to me it is more important to use that tax concession in the future to fund you when you're in the battle of your life or someone in your family is in the battle of their life. 
 
It is much more important to me, and you, and Labor, to help over 100,000 older Australians waiting for aged care resources, that is much more important than letting people on high incomes minimise their tax through a discretionary trust. 
 
Breaking the cycle of abuse, and addiction, and violence that ice is perpetrating on so many communities and families - that matters far more to me than giving someone earning $1 million a $17,000 tax cut in 2024.
 
I would rather that Australia was the best country in the world at helping people live with dementia than being the only country in the world that pays cash bonuses to people who don't pay income tax.
 
These are my values, these are Labor's values. It's the kind of Prime Minister I want to be. I will be a Prime Minister who puts the health of Australians ahead of unsustainable tax concessions for the top end of town. That is what Australians really want. 
 
And, to be fair, it's too nice a day, you're too civilised an audience, to waste too much time talking about the other side.
 
I haven't even made an Eric Abetz joke today. 
 
There are only two things that I really want to say about the other bloke. First of all, Mr Morrison needs to be open and truthful about bullying in his party. 
 
Bullies are not entitled to the protection of secrecy, and they certainly should not be protected by the deliberate silence of an Australian Prime Minister. 
 
And if you want to know the difference in our priorities that our parties do about putting women in parliament, you only need to look at Tasmania. 
 
We have a fantastic team of great Labor women, compared to the collection of has-beens and never-weres and Eric Abetz.
 
Secondly, I notice that the other fellow always tries to criticise us for the 'politics of envy', but that's actually a million miles away from what our policies are about. 
 
I, and you, and Labor do not begrudge people who have made a lot of money. I'm happy for them. 
 
But I just don't think that people, the very few, who are already doing very very well, should be the Government's first and only priority. 
 
Funding hospitals is about decency, not envy. 
 
Helping vulnerable people is about compassion, not jealousy.
 
Tackling inequality is about understanding that you judge a society, not just about how the very best are doing very well, but how the most disadvantaged are going. 
 
No nation can be rich when we have 100,000 people sleeping rough. 
 
No nation can be rich if we have women treated less fairly than men. 
 
No nation can be rich when our farmers are in drought. 
 
No nation can be rich when we have people waiting for aged care packages, where we have people looking for their National Disability Insurance Scheme packages. 
 
No nation can be successful at the expense of disadvantage and inequality. 
 
Inequality denies the nation the contribution of all Australians, and that is such a dreadful waste.
 
I promise you, that if we are elected, my Labor administration will not walk on the other side of the street away from the people in need. 
 
And I hear, though, the current Prime Minister saying the other day that a big part of his philosophy is: "We look after our mates." 
 
That is the problem. The Liberals do look after their mates, they look after their donors, the big businesses, the vested interests. 
 
They look after the people with money and power and influence to pick up the phone to talk directly to the minister, or via the CEO of the AFL, to the minister. 
 
But this is not how it should be in this country. This country should not be governed by the principle that what you know is less important than who you know. 
 
This is why, for example, we need a national anti-corruption commission to make sure that the same rules apply to everyone.
 
You're actually not looking after Australians, when everyone else, other than Liberal mates, have to wait longer in the emergency department, pay more to see a doctor, drive further to get that lifesaving scan, wait longer for a vital operation, or, indeed, an elective operation, or if you're an Australian who just misses out altogether on the help that you need. 
 
This is what the conservatives don't get, have never got and will never get. 
 
The fair go is not some corporate brand name, it is not some trade mark that you can register. 
 
You can't just magic the fair go into existence by constantly repeating the word "fairness". 
 
It's not something that you can pin on your jacket to remind you every day of why you do your job. 
 
Fairness is not measured by words alone, or by focus group testing. It is the test of values. It is the test of policies. 
 
This is what the next election will be about - values and policies. 
 
It will be a choice between Labor's decision to fund and defend a health system which is the same for every Australian. 
 
It's a choice between that and the same old Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison agenda of cutting hospitals and Medicare to fund tax breaks for the very well off. 
 
It is a fundamental choice about what matters to you. 
 
In our party, we choose health and hospitals and Medicare and aged care every time, no compromises.
 
I said at the start of my address that a Labor conference is sometimes the opportunity to look back at Labor history. 
 
So many of you would be aware of this simple fact - at a federal level, Labor has only won from Opposition on three occasions, three times since the Second World War.
 
So, despite the self-indulgence, the self-destruction, the narcissism of the other side in these past few weeks, I can assure you that I and our team, take nothing for granted.
 
There is not a shred of complacency in the work we currently do. 
 
I said at the beginning, being in opposition is not a glamorous gig. I am proud, though, of the way my team and I have spent the past five years. 
 
We are united as a party, we're focused on policy, we are steady in the way we conduct our matters. 
 
I actually believe that Australians are hungry for something better than the Punch and Judy show - the politics as usual, the politics of destruction, the politics of tearing-down your opponents, rather than promoting your case by your own positive ideas. 
 
I believe that Labor does best when we present Australians with our economic and social program. 
 
I said five years ago when I became Opposition Leader that I had an ambition for Labor and an ambition for the nation. 
 
My ambition for Labor is that when people ask for a how-to-vote cards at the polling booths at election, they would know what we stand for. 
 
I had an ambition for Labor that when people choose to vote for us, to trust us with their vote, that we would actually do what we said we would do, that what was written on the label was actually what you were getting. 
 
Now, I believe that we are fulfilling some of that ambition. 
 
When we go back to parliament tomorrow, we will be focusing on the people of Australia and the Liberals will be obsessing about themselves and fighting amongst themselves. 
 
We are determined to present at the next election, policies which earn the respect of people. 
 
We do not rely on the negatives of the Liberals flowing into a vote for us. 
 
We believe that this country can do better in health care. 
 
We have a vision - not only to maintain the health system that we've got, but to make it better. This is our vision for healthcare in this country. 
 
And today, and every day, we will promise Tasmanians, we will promise Australians, that a Labor Government will mean a stronger, better health care system, where it is your Medicare card, not your credit card, that guarantees you quality health. 
 
Thank you very much.
 
ENDS


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