Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO FEDERAL LABOR CAUCUS

ADDRESS TO FEDERAL LABOR CAUCUS

TUESDAY, 10 FEBRUAURY 2015

 

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Welcome back everyone to 2015 and Parliament, although you could be excused for thinking it’s already been a busy week. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet. And I’d also like to acknowledge all of you. It is a privilege to lead such a united team, infused with a common purpose and complete desire to make this country better.

You know, they say a week is a long time in politics, but it's remarkable to think that it's been only 2 weeks since Tony Abbott ruined Australia Day by making Prince Philip a knight.

 

And when you think about those 2 weeks that we've seen, where the Liberal Party have been complaining about each other and fighting themselves, there's a couple of other numbers of the last 2 weeks which haven't got the same attention from the Liberal caucus as they size each other's jobs up.

 

More than 2,000 Australians have joined the unemployment queue, including almost 900 young people. More than 500 Australians a day have been seeking support from homelessness services while we have the Abbott/Turnbull/Bishop fiasco. These are the real consequences when the Liberals become absorbed by their own chaos.

 

17 months ago the incoming Liberal Government promised to be a stable and adult government. This is perhaps the biggest of the Government's broken promises and lies. It is clear to Australians that Australian politics is not working courtesy of this Government. There is genuine frustration from Australians that engagement in politics, as typified by this Liberal Government, doesn't seem to change the day-to-day problems in people's communities or in people's lives.

 

The Government is in chaos, it is most certainly in a mess of its own making. What's remarkable, and many of you have commented this to me over the summer break, is despite the Government, Australia is a most resilient nation. We continue to grow, we continue to adjust. But not because of how this Government is governing.

 

Despite the Liberal Government, our national spirit continues to support this nation. We're Labor people, we understand this. We understand the real economy. We know that there are families and people going to work every day. There are people teaching our children to prepare them for the future. There are nurses and doctors and carers looking after our sick and our aged and our infirm. In the last few hours today small businesses across Australia will have been opened up. Part of the ongoing willingness of Australians to invest, to take risks, to back themselves in and their dreams in and thereby make Australia a better destination.

 

But we should not simply, in this Parliament, or indeed in this caucus, just rely upon our national spirit. I believe, and I know every member of the Labor Parliamentary Party and our broader movement have a firm conviction that we have a responsibility, we have a responsibility and the privilege to add to the common wealth of our land. We have a responsibility not to detract from it.

 

It is vital that we, in this place at this time, add to the great markers of our future. And yet we've seen the Government in this last few weeks, and indeed since it got elected, trash our democracy, lower our expectations. They can pretend all they like, to whoever they like, that it's all just a matter of insider games, or electronic graffiti. They can tell Australians that all your problems are down to a national fit of absentmindedness. But it is their unfair Budget built upon their lies and broken promises that has beaten them.

 

It's not the embroidery, it's not actually their knighthoods and dames, their political ineptitude, that is a given. This Government is contributing to a far greater malaise because the Liberal Party has moved too far to the right and they are inflicting an extreme ideology through their own unfair Budget which Australians have rejected.

 

It is simple. The Liberals told lies. Tony Abbott told lies, the whole of his cabinet have been party to the lies of the last 18 months. The Liberals have broken the fundamental accord, the fundamental compact, the fundamental covenant of trust with the Australian people. That is Labor's message, it is my message to the Government. The Australian people do not trust them and they never will from here on in.

Sometimes we can make politics too complicated. The truth is that when governments lose, it is when they lie. Governments lose when they break their promises. Both sides of politics have historically learnt this lesson but this Government has no-one else to blame for a budget which has placed the burden of change, restraint, concession upon those who cannot afford it.

 

It is the Liberals, not just Tony Abbott, it is the Liberals, all of them voting gleefully in the cabinet, it is the Liberals who voted for 100,000 degrees, the cutting of the pensions, the tax on the sick, the GP Tax, punishing the unemployed. They are a most dishonest group. They are responsible for looking backwards, continuing the romance with the Australia of the 1950s. This is not a 21st century government. They have no plan for our future. It is purely the past.

 

In 2015 I feel confident looking at all of you that we will be a strong opposition to a bad government and its bad decisions. And my message on your behalf to the Liberals will be simple - it doesn't matter who you choose, it doesn't matter who we are up against, we know who they are and what they are and we will defeat them. And if they want to do something good for the Australian people, it is time to drop their unfair Budget in its entirety.

 

And let us talk about a group of people who never get talked about by this Government. We would say here very clearly that we will fight to the last drop of our breath the brutal attack on the poor in Australia. We will put social justice back up the political priority. And there's another group of people who never get mentioned anymore by the Liberals, it's the great Australian middle class. They are being marginalised and pushed to the side. And why do I say that? Because this Government wants to attack the minimum wage which is the underpinning of the middle class.

 

They want to attack Medicare which allows parents to be able to get healthcare for their children or their grandparents. They want to discourage the dream of the middle class that whatever your background and whatever your post code, town or country, whatever the occupation of your parents, the dream that you can go to university or get a good TAFE education, and we will not let them wreck this.

 

The Government now cry out what would the Opposition do. Well, we'll tell you what we will do. We stand for a strong national savings system in this country. We stand for raising superannuation, not cutting superannuation. We do not believe the tax concessions in superannuation should just be landed at the top half per cent of Australian savers. We also believe in a modern Australia. We believe in climate change, and unlike the great pretender of Wentworth, we will not sell out our convictions just to run the Liberal Party.

 

We believe in our role in Asia. You won't see Labor leaders going to Buckingham Palace to be part of the knighthood of Prince Philip. We would rather be in Beijing and Myanmar. We would rather be working through the greatest economic story of hundreds of years, the rise of Asia. We are capable of a nuanced foreign policy which understands where our future is, not just hankering to the past. And we should have the discussion about being a Republic. I believe Australians are ready for a discussion about an Australian head of State. If we want to be an independent nation with the blood energy running through our veins, our national veins, of a future which is exciting, it may well be time that we stop borrowing the monarch of another country and we are proud of who we are. And we will defend the ABC and SBS. And unlike Sir Brave Heart Andrew Laming, today he’ll cancel the knights and dames, tomorrow it’s not such a bad idea. We would just abolish knights and dames.

 

Returning to what I think is the story of 2015 and Labor, we say to the Government just because you are at your weakest we will not join you there. We will never reduce ourselves to your level. We will offer Australia more than a list of your lies, more than a catalogue of your deceit. We will make sure that Australians and Australia living through one of the great transitions in Australian economic history, from mining to our cities, from the west to the east internationally, we will offer a positive plan. We will have a plan to boost our national investment and to boost our national savings. We will make sure that we have plans to end the delays and infrastructure and encourage greater investment. We will have a plan for an Australia that we perceive can be smart, modern and fair.

 

We say to the Government enough is enough, stop your infighting, enough of your infighting, enough of your mutiny. Stop worrying about who's in the Prime Minister’s job or the Treasurer's job and start worrying about Australian jobs. I know this caucus well. I know what animates the passions. I know what drives you all to be here in this place. What I understand about all of you is that we know that when the Government is at its weakest, we must be braver, we must be bolder. The Australia that we love needs us. We will not only endure this next term of government, we will prevail. Thank you very much.

 

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