Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO QUEENSLAND LABOR CONFERENCE - GOLD COAST - SATURDAY, 29 OCTOBER 2016

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Good morning everybody and it’s fabulous to be here with you on the Gold Coast.


The Gold Coast is a place that millions of Australians regard with great fondness, it’s the scenes of literally millions of happy memories and of course, fun family holidays at the ‘worlds’.

But on Tuesday, as we all know, this beautiful part of our country was struck by tragedy.

And the sort of tragedy which we can all unfortunately think, there but for the grace of God, could have perhaps been us and our family and the people we love.

So today, let us all spare a thought for those families trying to make some sense of what is simply a nightmare.

And all our hearts go out in grief and sympathy to those in the middle of this horrible tragedy.

I in particular think, amongst all of the tragedy, of those two children, aged ten and twelve. They miraculously survived – but to witness the death of their parents.

And I salute, like your Premier did, the first responders – the paramedics, the park staff.

And we promise, of course, the loved ones of those, not just our sympathy, not just our shock at the random unfairness of this shaft of fate.

But it did touch every Australian.

There will be, I know, because of the calibre of your Government in Queensland, there’ll be thorough investigation, there’ll be honest answers,  and there'll be concrete steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

And of course, in Queensland, in Brisbane, and only yesterday, we'll all shocked and appalled by the horrific act of senseless violence to an innocent young Brisbane bus driver that cost him his life.

So there is a shadow in which we meet, but in doing so I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet today.

I pay my respects to their elders past and present.


And as Labor people, we know that our acknowledgement of country is more than just ceremonial - as important as that is.

Our acknowledgement in the house of Labor has to be a promise for action – a pledge to Close the Gap and deliver long overdue justice and equal citizenship to our First Australians.

Delegates, friends, true believers, one and all. 

At this 53rd Queensland conference, we gather in the proud continuous Labor tradition.

The Palaszczuk Government continues to deliver for the people of this great State:

  • Better hospitals and more nurses
  • New and overdue infrastructure
  • Renewable energy and the jobs that it creates

And of course, sitting opposite Annastacia and her formidable team, there's the good old LNP, continuing to show they've learned nothing - nothing at all from defeat.

Instead of abandoning Campbell Newman’s cuts to health, cuts to education, cuts to family services – they’ve made the bloke who came up with the cuts the new leader of the LNP - as you do when you never learnt from your mistakes.

If the best thing on Tim Nicholls’ CV is that ‘I was Campbell Newman’s Treasurer’ – what was he thinking? 

And I want to say to all of you in Queensland Labor: you are the guardians and custodians and the stewards of a treasure that Australia holds on trust for the world.

You are defending the Great Barrier Reef from a Liberal-National Party, negligent to its obligations to the future.

And on behalf of all Australians – and future generations - thank you to Queensland Labor.

Now friends, since we last met, I’m very pleased that Queensland has added new talent to the Federal Labor Caucus.

Milton Dick has succeeded Bernie Ripoll in Oxley.

Murray Watt and Anthony Chisholm have joined our Senate team.

Susan Lamb defeated Wyatt Roy in Longman - and Wyatt took that so well, as you do, he went on a holiday to Northern Iraq.

And in Townsville, Cathy O’Toole gained the seat of Herbert for Labor for the first time since 1993.

Friends – Queensland holds a special place in my heart - and I mean that.

Because It’s where my wife Chloe comes from and so many of my extended family live. From Ilfracombe and Cairns right through to the great suburbs of Brisbane.

Queensland is where I chose to start the 2016 election campaign – in Townsville - in school walks, and street walks, and town halls and shopping centres from Cairns and Townsville, Rocky, Gladstone and Mackay.

And it’s where, heading into the final week of that marathon eight-week campaign, our Brisbane Rally to Save Medicare gave every Labor person in Australia such a lift.

Thank you for all of what you did. We came so close. From those dark days at the end of 2013, when we had an almost insurmountable 21 seat gap to close. Now it's only six seats. Six seats to close the gap - 2,000 voters in each of six seats. We are very, very close.

And I'm back on the Gold Coast today, because I understand that if Labor wants to do better for Queensland, we must perform better in Queensland.

That means much effort, much more effort. More time here for me and the whole Labor team. We need to do better in the outer suburbs of Brisbane. We need to expand form our base in the regions. It's why I've asked Joel Fitzgibbon to launch Labor for the Regions, to talk to communities that have been taken for granted by the LNP. And all of us need to put new focus on the Gold Coast and on the Sunshine Coast.

We should never take a vote or a seat for granted and we should never write-off a seat or a vote as if we couldn't win it.

It's why I'm pleased, for instance, that Murray is opening his Senate office on the Gold Coast.

And it's why all of our Senate team will be spending much more time beyond the South-East corner.

There are big parts of Queensland that feel neglected by Canberra.

And in 2016, indeed, too many of our fellow Australians feel that politics is remote from their lives, cut-off from their experiences.

At times such as these, there are people looking for someone to blame, someone to demonise. 

But in the Labor party, now is the time for us to more loudly than ever, reject the false promise of ‘us versus them’, of majorities versus minorities.

We celebrate many faiths, many cultures and many traditions.

We are home to Australians by birth and Australians by choice.

But we are one people, one country, one Australia.

The length of time, the number of generations that someone has spent here, does not automatically make them morally superior to someone whose family is more recently arrived.

My Mum's ancestors came here to this land as convicts 185 years ago – doesn’t make my citizenship any better or any worse than anyone else.

And the reason why I assert that with such confidence in this room, it's because we in the Labor Party believe that no one part of you defines all of your identity.

We believe that your postcode is not your destiny. 

We believe that your skin colour should not decide your future.

We believe that your parents’ inherited income should not determine your opportunity.

Your religion, your gender, your impairment - should not be the sum total of your future.

We believe that growing old doesn't mean that you should be forgotten.

And that losing your job does not mean that you should be left behind.

And that your sexuality should not determine your legal right to get married in this country.

Friends, we are at our best in Labor when we reject the politics of fear, when we reject the politics of divide-and-conquer.

And we demonstrate this story by tackling inequality, by rewarding hard work, by delivering economic growth that includes all Australians. 

And we know what that means in practical sense for we are a practical party:

  • Better schools and properly funded TAFE for a smarter and skilled economy.
  • Protecting Medicare – keeping the productivity of the nation up, the health costs down - keeping faith with the Labor idea that the health of any one of us, matters to every one of us.
  • Because no one benefits when ordinary Australians are being ripped off by big banks, we will never give up on a Royal Commission into our banking and financial sector. 
  • And we do believe in a fair-dinkum, fibre National Broadband Network – plugging small businesses in our regions, into our regions and markets around the world.
  • We do believe there is a role for public infrastructure investment. Local Government, State Government and National Government working together driving growth. Not just taking selfies on the light rail – but funding it and for the long overdue upgrades to Queensland’s struggling motorways - Federal partnership.

And there are three things that Queenslanders in the suburbs and regions need most: jobs, jobs and jobs.

If I could talk to every Queenslander face-to-face about Labor’s plans, I’d jog from Coolangatta to Cape York... but we actually don’t have ten years to waste - the election will be before then.

So instead, I want to see us have a Labor presence everywhere.

There is no such thing as an unimportant Australian or an unimportant vote.

There is no such thing as an LNP stronghold if we roll up our sleeves. 

Everywhere from Wide Bay to Bundaberg, from the Sunshine Coast to Mackay - on the ground, door-to-door.

And that is where you come in. That is where the mighty Labor movement comes in.

In 2016, 5,000 Queensland volunteers:

  • Made 334,000 telephone calls
  • You knocked on 100,000 doors. 

That's a 186 per cent increase from 2013.

And of course, these efforts were matched by the mighty trade union movement.

All of their calls urging Queenslanders to put the LNP last.

And have no doubt – those conversations made the difference – you were making politics relevant to the lives of Queenslanders.

So I’m here to say thank you – but I'm asking you also to get ready to do it, and perhaps soon.

In the last few weeks, you wouldn’t want to take a bet on the Turnbull Government lasting the next three months, let alone the next three years.

And it's going to take more than Malcolm and Barnaby’s Burke and Wills style adventure around Queensland to change that.

In fact, I'm going to do something I never thought I would do. I want to give Tony Abbott a shout-out. You wonder why and how.

For more than year, no one and nothing could persuade Malcolm Turnbull to venture out into regional Queensland.

Tim Nicholls has been ringing him for up for a year – no dice.

But as soon as Tony popped up on 7:30 – Malcolm ordered the first ferry out of Point Piper.

The Prime Minister and I have had our fair share of disagreements.

But I have to say, on Monday, I even felt for him.

What a dilemma!

Stay in Sydney and try and calm down Tony Abbott, or come to Queensland and hang out with Barnaby Joyce!

Now I’m sure you’re all relieved that Barnaby has left Queensland for New South Wales, but think about the rest of us!

He’s the National Party's answer to the cane toad, coming south.

As laughable as this Government is – the consequences of their neglect, their failure, their out of touch policies, they're no joke.

112,000 full time jobs have now been lost since the start of the year.

That's 112,000 full time jobs – in 300 days.

Like all Australians, plenty of Queenslanders are doing it tough. 

And even for people in work, the cost of living is creeping higher, the household bills keep piling on – yet real wages are not keeping pace.

But Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t understand this. I don't think he understands Queensland.

Where you've got families under pressure, small businesses feeling the pinch, the only idea he has is to re-heat Tony Abbott’s anti-worker, anti-union, anti-fairness agenda.  

In the past two weeks, the Liberal obsession with attacking unions, creating an easy-to-hire, easy-to-fire society has sunk to a new low.

They have shown that they were willing to risk more guns on the streets – in exchange for one vote in the Senate.

Guns for votes – what a disgrace.

Rob Borbidge was from this part of Queensland - he stood up for gun control, there were political consequences.

This modern LNP, they have no such courage, no such principles.

Although Bob Day himself has declared his position ‘untenable’, has left a trail of unpaid sub-contractors and distressed families without completed homes behind him, the Liberals are willing to keep him in the Senate for just long enough to secure one more vote in their attacks on unions.

This is a morally weak Prime Minister, a morally bankrupt Prime Minister - relying upon an insolvent Senator.

Friends, Labor is the party of jobs – it is why we exist.

Jobs with decent pay, with fair conditions – in safe workplaces.

So if the Liberal Party want to have a debate about workplace relations – let’s talk about the employers who are rorting 457 visas, bringing overseas workers here and risking their lives.

If the Liberals want to have a talk about workplace relations, let's get to the bottom of the extraordinary allegations of bribery and corruption in the front line of the work visa system.
 
No one wins when people are brought in from overseas to work in worse conditions, for less money.

There are the good employers, the good companies who do the right thing - they're put at a competitive disadvantage.

And wages across the nation are undercut.

Of course, guest workers will always be a part of our employment mix.

But I tell you who else should be part of our employment mix. I mean, there are 1 million visa-holders with work rights, approximately, in this country.

But there's some other people who need to be part of our employment mix too. 

There are than one million plus of our fellow Australians who regularly record that they would like more hours of work.  

There's another 800,000 of our fellow Australians on the disability pension, not given the opportunities to work. 

There are over 700,000 people monthly recording they can't find one hour of paid work a week. 

There are men and women in our communities, over 55 looking for work, experiencing twice the average length of unemployment than younger Australians. 

And there are tens of thousands of people each month just giving up looking for work altogether.

When you have millions of our fellow Australians unemployed, underemployed, discouraged, kept out, locked out of the labour market, we can't just have a work rights visa system, business as usual. 

And this is not a hypothetical, this is not a theory. We've already seen the disgraceful action of labour hire firms and 7-elevens across this country.

These aren’t a couple of dodgy sub-contractors, this is not a couple of small time operators.

There are multinational companies putting people in jobs with no security, no safety net, no regular hours – paying less than half the minimum wage.

And friends, this was not an oversight, it's not a slip-up.

This is core to the business model, it was a calculated strategy, a deliberate attack on the Australian social contract.

And unless the Labor Party speaks up, unless we take action – it will keep happening.

This is a principle that runs all the way back to Barcaldine.

It's as fundamental as a ‘fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work’

And I promise you no matter how much Turnbull, or Abbott, or the rest of that gang attack the representatives of workers - we will not be deterred. 

We will never give up in standing up for the right of people to get a fair day's wage for a fair day's work and the right to be represented by unions. We will never give up on this. 

We understand that the safety net, the industrial safety net: penalty rates and superannuation, regular wage increases, the ability to be represented. 

It is what stops the working class and middle class of this country from slipping into the trap of going to work and being below the poverty line that we see in North America. But we see other attacks on working conditions.  

In a State led by a great Labor woman, it is worth celebrating that Federal Labor now has more women Members and Senators than at any time in our history - and that's due to all of you. 

Equal representation of women in our parliament is essential to equality for women in our nation.
 
If Australia achieved nothing else in the next decade but the full and equal treatment of women in our society, we would be the richest nation in the world.

And we would be rich in every sense.

That is why though, not only in leadership do we need to see more women, but we need to actually deal with what is the greatest national disgrace of family violence. 

Every Australian woman has the right to be safe at home, full stop.

And until we have that day - we must properly fund our community legal centres. 

The Liberals have cut it - I appreciate that they talk about family violence, but you've got to walk the walk. 

And if women can't get represented in the legal system, than that is injury upon injury and it's not good enough.

When women are driven from their own accommodation by violence, and unable to find secure accommodation, then the least we can do is make sure that these victims - so they don't have to give up their job in the search to find accommodation and schooling for their kids. 

That is why it is appropriate to have a minimum standard in our industrial conditions to have some leave to deal with the scourge of family violence.

And I agree with Rosie Batty, that we need to address the imbalance of power in our legal system which currently means that a woman seeking justice in the courts can be cross-examined by the man who has hit her. 

This just shouldn't be the case. 

This is not a matter of totting up the cost-benefit analysis. This is not a morally relative argument.

There is no case to allow this to happen - there is simply no case, and we will fight every day to stand up for the principle that a victim shouldn't be re-injured again in the legal system.  


And equality for women isn't just in terms of leadership, or dealing with the scourge of family violence. It also means equal treatment at work.

Why is it that our baby daughters, my little girls, because of the gender pay gap, effectively, will spend the first two months of every year of their life when they work, working for free. 

That is the consequence of the gender pay gap. And we need to therefore stand up for the advances we've made.

And I talk about paid parental leave. Since 2011, Labor's national minimum standard has helped 700,000 Australian families spend a little bit more time with their new born.


It's a foundation for workplaces to build on – but we also want employers to compete as to who can offer the best deal for their workers.

And women who have negotiated in good faith, forgone pay rises in their industrial conditions, in return for enhanced paid parental leave conditions, they shouldn't be double punished by a Government who says "You've gone without the pay rise, and now you'll go without the minimum government standard".

They talk about double-dippers, this is the Government double-dipping on working women in this country and it is not good enough.

This is the Government who said there was a rort. They attacked working women and said that somehow through their own efforts, they were rorting a system. 

This is a disgrace. 

This is a Government though that will die in the ditch to stop a Royal Commission into the banks.


But now they're launching their third attempt to strip paid parental leave from nurses, from Woolies workers, from the people behind the counter at Medicare.

If Mr Turnbull gets his way with his current legislation, women who are already pregnant will lose up to $12,000. I mean, that's just a retrospective rip-off - it's oxygen-stealingly audacious in its shame.

But I've got to say to Senator Xenophon and some of those others who just say they want to move the date of the legislation forward, it doesn’t matter when their rip-offs starts - it's unfair every day.

And the date of a woman's pregnancy shouldn't determine whether something is the case or whether it isn't the case. 

It's unfair Nick Xenophon - stand up for working women.

But perhaps it’s all we can expect for a Liberal-National Coalition where they have more men aged over 50 in the House of Representatives, than they have women in the entire Parliament.

Now let me spell out to the Prime Minister. You just say loftily, 'Well perhaps we can just negotiate a new start date for unfairness'. 

Unfairness was  bad idea in 2015. Unfairness doesn't cease to be unfair because of the date when it's introduced - it's a bad idea.

I'm not worried about the start date for these cuts, because if Labor has its way, there'll be no start date at all.

Delegates,

Last week, in Sydney, Malcolm Turnbull told the Liberal Party not-so-faithful that their sole purpose of existence was ‘winning’.

That’s it, 'winning'. They just want to occupy the chair, but that’s not our Labor way.

We don’t seek the trappings of office, or the rewards of status – we pursue government for the good we can do.

For us – it’s not about a plaque on the wall or a statue in the park.

It’s never been about knighthoods, or the London postings.

We measure ourselves by a higher standard.

For us, success is a young apprentice in Townsville getting a start.

For us, success is an Aboriginal Ranger in Georgetown, setting an example for his community – and caring for our environment.

For us, It is when a child raised in poverty in Cairns, becomes the first in her family to enrol at James Cook University.

For us, success is the elderly parents in their eighties of an adult son with a profound disability in Redcliffe, knowing that there'll be someone to care and love for their child after they are gone.

For us, success is a small business on the Southside of Brisbane, growing and succeeding thanks to a proper NBN.

These are our definitions of success. It is who Labor is – it is who we are.

The Government's been complaining about me travelling the length and breadth of Australia since the election. 

Talking, listening, learning - treating Australians with respect. 

They accuse me and us of still fighting the last election. They haven't worked it out - we've already begun to fight the next election.

And what they also don't realise is what ordinary people say to me: the baggage handlers at airports, the mums at the school pickup, the factory workers, the renewable energy workers, the pensioners at their centres, the businessmen, the people in the country towns and the cities - and so many of them have come up to me in the last three and half months, and they just shake hands or they quietly say two words: next time.

And friends, next time it will be. We will deliver a great set of economic and social policies for this nation at the next election.

We will stand united. We will stand up for a united Australia, one that that doesn't pit majorities against minorities.


One which believes that fairness is fundamental to our future and sustainable growth.

Next time, my friends, the mighty Labor Party will be strong in the election. 

ENDS


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