Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO THE NSW LABOR CONFERENCE - SYDNEY - SUNDAY, 1 JULY 2018

We can win this election! Are we ready?

I want acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, I pay my respects to elders past and present.
 
Delegates
 
Can you please thank Tanya Plibersek.  
 
Tanya, you are a fantastic Deputy Leader, you're a true friend and I cannot wait until you’re Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, changing lives as Education Minister, inspiring girls and championing equality for women.
 
Friends
 
I want to make a confession: I love Labor conferences, I really do. And it’s hard to top the great New South Wales conference.
 
As we gather here in this grand old building, we are part of the historical heart of progress in Australia.
 
And you can hear those great speeches, echoing somewhere up there in the eaves. Just think about it; the shoes in which we walk.
 
It was here in ‘57 that the Australian Workers Union helped launch the campaign for the First Australians to be counted in the census at long last.
 
Here in this hall, we opposed Apartheid when our political opponents were calling Mandela a terrorist.
 
It was here that conscription and the war in Vietnam were challenged.
 
It was here that the unions and Hawke and Kelty formulated wage claims and universal superannuation.
 
It was here that Whitlam argued, one of the first times, to recognise China.
 
It was here, from the floor, that Keating called upon us to lead the global debate in eliminating nuclear weapons.
 
From this stage, from this hall, every Labor generation has looked outwards, to face the big challenges and forge the big decisions.
 
We here love the Labor cause, we even love these conferences – because, though, we know they are not about us. They are never about us.
 
These conferences are about our nation, they're about our place in the world. 
 
This is when Labor can be at its very, very best, when we look outwards to the world.
 
Not into our souls, not back to the past, not down at our shoes to see if they're shined but outwards to Australia, to the world.
 
And today we look out at a very uncertain world:
 
Rising trade conflict.
 
Growing global debt. 
 
Stirring US bond rates.  
 
Humanitarian refugee crises. 
 
The rise of authoritarian and nativist, right-wing leaders growing around the globe.
 
A rapidly warming climate.
 
This is the world we face, and in particular, rising global insecurity - with the wealthiest one per cent grabbing an outsized share of the world’s income.
 
These are the less certain, less equal times in which our generation has to frame our policies.
 
At home, too.
 
Eleven, twelve million Australian workers have endured years of wage stagnation and yet the salary of a typical ASX CEO has grown from 20 times average weekly earnings in 1993, to 60 times average weekly earnings today.
 
It is a time when massive increases in the price of housing have been matched by massive increases in household debt.
 
It is a time when our national debt has more than doubled in the last five years, to $21,000 for every man, woman and child.
 
And a time when casualisation and the ‘gig economy’ are threatening to take us down the road to an American-style industrial system that treats people and the work they do as a commodity.
 
Our economic growth is too narrow, too reliant solely on exports and resources.
 
And the benefits of our tax system disproportionately flow to the most well-off.
 
And while corporate profits as a share of economic life go up and up, the share which goes to the mighty Australian wage and salary earners goes down and down.
 
This very day, July the 1st, because of the Liberals, Australian families will be worse off than they were as recently as yesterday. 
 
There are more than a quarter of a million families which will have their child care support cut today, some will lose access to child care altogether.
 
How on earth, friends, is it sensible or fair that Australian children growing up in families of modest incomes cannot even access child care in this rich and lucky country?
 
And of course this is on top of the increases to health care costs, triggered by the Liberals’ five-year Medicare freeze.
 
And there have been the relentless, the never-ending, you can set your clock by them, rises in private health insurance premiums, which this government supinely applauds.
 
And then there's the power bills that keep going up and up and up while the Liberals and Nationals argue over whether climate change is real.
 
And, as you all know, it is today that shop assistants and cooks and receptionists will have their penalty rates cut again.
 
This will leave some of our fellow Australian workers over $3,200 worse off.
 
Not negotiated in exchange for a better base rate of pay, not compensated with improvements to other conditions.
 
Just cut again. 
 
And in response to this uncertainty overseas we see around the world and the stresses on people’s pay packets and the family budget at home, what do the current Liberal government offer in the way of hope?
 
What is their magnificent plan? 
 
It is a $17 billion tax giveaway to the big four banks and a $7000 tax cut for themselves.
 
Friends, that is the extent of conservative imagination in this country.
 
No wages policy.
 
No plan to lift living standards.
 
No protecting Australia in uncertain times.
 
Just a mates’ rates, Trumpian-style tax plan for the top end of town and cuts to schools and hospitals and wages for everybody else and it is not good enough.
 
The Liberals believe that an aged care worker on $50,000 should pay the same tax rate as an executive on $200,000. How is that fair?
 
And when we asked: how was it fair that nurses and carers and teachers and tradies were only getting $10 a week but the Prime Minister and his colleagues were pocketing $7000 a year?
 
He replied that if the aged care worker wanted a better tax cut, she should ‘get a better job’.
 
How out of touch can one Prime Minister be?
 
And this is where the other fellow and I are very different.
 
My father apprenticed as a fitter-and-turner, he became a seafarer and later he worked on Melbourne's docks. My Mum was a teacher and then a teacher of teachers, the first in her family to go to university.
 
They raised my twin brother and I to always look people in the eye when you shake their hand and to remember that no-one is better than anybody else. You treat no-one as your inferior and no-one as your superior.
 
These are my values, these are our values. It is what made me join the Labor Party, it is what drew me to the Australian trade union movement. It is the Australia I believe in.
 
It is the set of values, the fair go all round, which make this country the best country on earth, so long as we defend the fair go all round.  
 
And on behalf of this conference, I want to speak to everyone today who is washing dishes, cleaning the hotel rooms, or stacking shelves - all of those copping a cut to their penalty rates.
 
I say to these up to 700,000 of our fellow Australians, and hundreds of thousands more whose awards are currently contemplating having their penalty rates cut, I say to all of you hard-working Australians, you are just as important to Labor as the banks are to the Government.
 
I do not think you’re greedy, or selfish. I do not think the pay you earn today is unreasonable. I do not think you are an unreasonable expense that our economy cannot afford. I understand that you are working today because you need the money.
 
And your penalty rates will always matter to me and Labor just as much as the Prime Minister’s giveaway to the big banks and multinationals matters to him and the Liberal Party, we will fight for them.
 
In the Labor Party, we know that working on Sunday means giving up quality time with your family, the kids don't get to see you, you don't get to see them.
 
We get that your work today allows us to enjoy our weekend today.
 
We believe you should be paid fairly for your time.
 
That’s why today, I re-dedicate Labor to Australia’s oldest workplace promise: a fair day’s pay, for a fair day’s work.
 
And it why I am proud to pledge that in the first 100 days of a new Labor Government, we will reverse these cuts to penalty rates and protect take-home pay.
 
Delegates 
 
Protecting penalty rates is only one part of our plan to lift the living standards of Australians.
 
We have a plan.
 
We’ll cap private health insurance premium increases at 2 per cent for each of the first two years in government, saving the typical family $340.
 
We will restore the energy supplement for pensioners and for people on Newstart, to provide those who need it an extra bit of help with their bills.
 
And Labor will deliver a bigger, better and fairer tax cut and refund for 10 million working Australians. If you earn up to $125,000, we’ll provide a tax refund every year, almost double what the Liberals are offering.
 
And unlike the government, we’re not giving with one hand and taking with the other. We will not pay for our tax cuts by cutting your schools, your hospitals, your TAFE, your child care or your ABC.
 
Friends
 
There is a stark difference: the Government are saying that for $10 a week, please, can they give thousands of dollars to the top end of town and millions of dollars back to the big banks.
 
Our plan is different. We have a plan for the living standards of Australians.
 
We have a wages policy, we have a fair-dinkum income tax refund, we have a plan to put downward pressure on health costs, we have a plan to put downward pressure on energy prices. 
 
We have a living standards package for the nation, unlike the current occupants of the government benches.
 
And in order to have this living standards package, which we can pay for because we've made the serious economic reforms, we know that no living standards package for Australians is credible without a wages policy.
 
It is well past time to start getting the wages of Australians up and up.
 
And that means putting the balance back into bargaining, so that our negotiations will be about boosting pay and productivity - not unilaterally terminating agreements, threatening workers with the award and reductions.
 
And we will crack-down on the abuse of labour hire contracting, so workers are not forced to sacrifice permanent jobs.
 
We’re going to protect workers in the ‘gig economy’, we are going to start with new action on sham contracting and wages theft because I do not want us to be a nation where people have to do two or three or four different jobs at all hours of the day and night, because none of them pay a living wage. 
 
Australia is better than this and we will be better than this.
 
And, friends, in the Labor party when we talk about fair wages, we mean equal pay for the women of Australia.
 
My youngest daughter is eight. At the current rate of progress on equal pay for women, it will be her granddaughter’s generation which will be the first to grow up in an Australia with equal pay. So we must do better.
 
So I pledge to this conference that fair pay for working women is a first-order economic priority for a new Labor Government.
 
And we will achieve these improvements in constructive partnership with employers and alongside the mighty Australian trade union movement.
 
Every day that the Liberal Party attack me for having been a union rep and try and take the label of unionism and throw it into the ground, I pick up the badge of unionism, I put it back on the Labor Party because I am proud of every day that I have spent representing working people, I am grateful for the lessons that the working people of this country have taught me and I will never forget where I’ve come from.
 
And no matter what the Liberals say or their ringmasters of vested interest, in this hall we know the truth - the union makes us strong and solidarity is forever.
 
Now, Chris Bowen and I have made it clear that Labor won’t give the big banks and multinationals billions of dollars to spend on share buy-backs and bigger bonuses for CEOs.
But we will deliver a tax cut which will be the same or better for 99.8 per cent of Australian businesses.
 
And we’ll create the funds to back advanced manufacturing, to back defence industries, to back the tourism industry and to back renewable energy.
 
We will get the NBN working better, for business and households alike, in the city and in the bush.
 
And we will provide an Australian Investment Guarantee, for every local business who invests in new capex, new equipment and new productivity-creating technology, right here in Australia.
 
But it won't just be our investment in business which marks our new Labor Government, a Labor Government will invest in people too.
 
We are going to renovate TAFE campuses around the country like we haven't seen. And we're going to waive the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE courses in our first 3 years of government. So instead of importing workers on skills visas, we will just train our own - as should be the case.
 
We will create an extra 200,000 university places over the next decade, so more kids from the regions, the suburbs and working-class backgrounds can get the chance to go to university without relying on rich parents.
 
We’ll reform the two-class tax system, pay down national debt and do budget repair that is fair so that Australia is prepared for whatever this uncertain world can throw at us in the future.
 
Now, delegates, your federal New South Wales team assembled on this stage, they have run small businesses and they have worked in remote communities.
 
They’ve taught in schools and TAFE, they’ve worked in health care, they’ve worn the uniform of this country. And in case you hadn’t heard, we’ve also even got a former Premier of New South Wales in our federal team. 
 
This smart and dedicated, passionate group of people I have the privilege to lead have been doing serious policy work.
 
We are getting ready. We are treating our time in opposition as preparation for government and meanwhile the government act like they’re in opposition.
 
They spend all their time talking about us and they’ve got no regard for the future of our country.
 
Yes, they’re passionate, they are passionate about finding new ways to attack unions.
 
They’re certainly determined, determined to do a deal with One Nation to give their $17 billion away to the big banks - after the by-elections.
 
But on everything else, they have a common refrain, they say: bad luck, too hard, give up. 
 
They say give up on real tax reform.  
 
They say give up on fair wages and a secure job.  
 
They say give up on quality well-funded schools and decent hospitals.
 
They say give up on manufacturing, and they did.
 
They say give up on local apprentices, and they are.
 
They say give up on public transport and a proper NBN, and they certainly did.
 
They even say give up on the First Australians and finding a better environment for the kids.  
 
They say give up on the Republic and they say give up on winning in Asia.
 
The Liberal Party say working people just have to wear the consequences of their government’s failures now and young Australians can pay for them in the future.
 
It is not nearly good enough for our nation, or for our children.
 
Chloe and I are parents to three great kids, aged between 8 and 17.
 
And I think we're no different to every parent in this hall and across the nation, we all understand the generational contract.The generational contract which says in our DNA we must hand-on a better set of circumstances to our children than what we inherited from our own parents.
 
And in the Labor Party, we say this is no time to give up on the fair go. 
 
No time to abandon the great ongoing national project of our social democracy.
 
No time to be ill-prepared and indifferent to the uncertainties of a changing world. 
 
This is exactly the time to build for a fairer and more secure future which includes everybody.
 
And we will begin that building work right here in New South Wales.
 
Delegates
 
You all know Western Sydney is one of the most marvellous and fastest-growing regions in the nation. In just the next 20 years, the population will grow by 1 million people.
 
We have a serious responsibility to make sure that these communities remain great places to live, work and raise your family.
 
So governments need to manage population growth by investing in public transport.
 
Every passenger train we put on the tracks will take another 1000 cars off the road. And that has to start right now, right here.
 
For too long, the Liberals have drifted on with their ‘studies’ and their self-congratulatory press conferences and taking selfies of themselves in the experiment of catching a train…but it does avoid talking to people.
 
Pretty soon though, much more seriously, the current headaches with traffic jams and slow commutes could well seem like the good old days if we have more Liberal indifference to public transport.
 
Now, at the last election, we said that if there was going to be a new airport in Western Sydney, it should be connected to the Sydney rail network on day one.

In 2017, Albo and I announced a commitment of $400 million to get the project underway. 

And today I announce a new Labor Government will invest $3 billion to build the Western Sydney rail link.

It will be delivered in stages:

We’ll extend the South-West rail link from Leppington via Bringelly to the new airport at Badgery’s Creek.

We're going to build a new connection from Macarthur in the south to St Marys in the north, serving the massive job corridor at Sydney Business Park.

And there's more, there will be a new rail line connecting St Marys to Sydney Metro at Rouse Hill.

But as well as maximising the economic spin-offs that will come with the airport, we also want to make it easier for locals to get around Western Sydney.

For a very long time now, my colleagues who call the West home have been telling me that a north-south line won’t do the job by itself.
 
In the next 20 years, something like 300,000 new jobs will be created in the 25 km space between Parramatta and the CBD, particularly around the Bays Area and Olympic Park.
 
I'm motivated to do this so that people will get home in time to help with the dinner, to help with the kids' homework. To rediscover a bit of the work-life balance that gets lost if you’re spending hours every week going to and from your job.

So I am very pleased to announce that following up on Luke Foley's most excellent announcement yesterday, a new Federal Labor Government will provide an additional $3 billion to build stage one of the Sydney Metro West, long overdue.

As you clearly appreciate, it will be a new connection between west and east, between Parramatta and the CBD.

This will effectively double the rail capacity on the T1 and it will make room for additional services to Blacktown, Penrith and the Blue Mountains.

Yesterday, as I said, Luke Foley promised that his New South Wales Government would fast-track this project.

And Luke, I can promise you that if I am Prime Minister, my government will do our part, we’ll do it from day one.

We'll make sure that Commonwealth taxes paid by New South Wales people get re-invested to make Metro West a reality. And I can promise we will do much more to ease the congestion for people in outer Western Sydney too.

And because of our Labor values, which we cherish, when we build these new rail lines - not just in Sydney, but across Australia, when we do these sort of projects across the metropolitan centres of Australia and in the regions of Australia, we're going to introduce a new idea back into the Commonwealth: we’re going to use Australian-standard steel and local content.

We are going to reverse the terrible attrition of apprenticeships, where once upon a time before privatisation the big state entities would employ apprentices.

What we will say when we fund new projects, either directly or through partners at the state or local level, we want one in ten of the people working on taxpayer-funded projects to be Aussie apprentices. 

That's what we will offer Australians, we offer higher productivity, we offer faster commutes, we offer a better quality of life and we offer more jobs for Western Sydney.
 
Now, Delegates, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is that I get to hold town hall meetings all around Australia. 

No one is barred, anyone can enter, they can put up their protest signs or whatever up the back, anyone is welcome. It's not a sort of gilt-edged Liberal party event, anyone can come. I’ve held 75 or more and all are welcome.

But one proposition I hear time and time again is when I meet people who commute to the city from the suburbs, they complain to me that every parking space at their local station is gone well before 7.00 AM.

This is what happens when governments are not accountable to the people, it's called overdevelopment.

Thousands of new homes and apartments but only a handful of car spots at our stations.

The mighty Michelle Rowland shared a story with me from Schofields, where people are parking so far away in the morning they have to get an Uber from their car to the train.

What a terrible way to start your day: rushed, stressed, hoping it doesn’t rain, worried you’ll get a parking ticket or that you'll miss your train.

And then of course you've got the trip home, when you just want to go home at the end of the day, you’ve got to go through those same hassles again but at night time, with poor lighting.

This discourages people from using public transport, it diminishes quality of life, it decreases choices.

So today I am very proud to announce that a new Labor Government will create a $300 million Park and
Ride fund to build multi-storey new car parks and more car spaces in high-growth, high need areas.

We’ll co-operate with councils and state governments and public transport instrumentalities because we want to get these started not in second term or a third term we want to get these started - and ideally built - in our first term.

Now it mightn't sound glamorous to some at the top end of town, about carparks and railway stations - it’s not ‘2.0’ is it? 

But I reckon that when there are practical things that we can do to make people’s lives easier, when we can join the dots of the lives that people live, that is what Labor should do, just get on and do them.

And friends, never forget why we can do these things: big public transport projects, better regional roads, better car parks at railway stations.
 
The reason why we can invest in infrastructure and depoliticise it is the same reason we can properly fund schools, that we can properly fund our teachers, we can properly fund more money into beds and healthcare workers and MRIs into hospitals.
 
It's the same reason that we can back public TAFE.
 
It's the same reason that we can put the money back that the Liberals have cut from the ABC.
 
We can build the future of Australia because we've made choices, we've chosen to put the people of Australia first, not the top end of town. That's how we win. 
 
Delegates

My colleagues and I see every day in Question Time, the current Prime Minister taking long rants about how Labor has 'changed' since the 1980s.
 
Apparently, things are different now to when he was chasing poor old Neville Wran from Macquarie Street to Sussex Street trying to get himself a spot on the Labor Senate ticket.

Mind you, of course, Abbott used to say this stuff too.

It says a lot about the intellectual wasteland that is the modern Liberal Party that they think it is a devastating insult to say that our movement has changed in over 120 years.

Of course we’ve changed. We’ve changed for the better.

Just take a look at these great champions behind me on the stage.

Yep, give them a clap. My team is better than his team, isn’t it? Just have a look.

We get these faux, mocking lectures from the Prime Minister he says ‘Oh you’ve changed, you’ve changed’.

Well, yeah, we have changed.

One hundred years ago, we didn’t have any women in our Caucus.

We are better now because we looked outwards and we have nearly 50 per cent women in our Caucus.

One hundred years ago, we didn’t talk about Reconciliation or the rights of Aboriginal people, or Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations but we have made this a Labor cause and now we have a remarkable and talented Wiradjuri woman, right here in our Shadow Ministry.

One hundred years ago we turned our backs on Asia, we fearfully shut ourselves off from the wider world.

We are better now because this party always looks outwards, we’ve embraced migration, we’ve embraced diversity.

And friends we have changed for the better because we have built the great safety nets which people now take for granted: universal superannuation, a strong minimum wage, Medicare and the National Disability Insurance Scheme

What we haven’t changed is our values and we are not done yet improving this nation.

Of course, though, seasoned political veterans like many of you here can always tell when the Tories are
in trouble, they always go to the same playbook of Menzies and Fraser and Howard and now, the current fellow. 

All they do is say the same three things:

“Quick, throw around some cash on tax cuts - but make sure you look after our own base more than anyone else.”

Two, they attack the union movement reflexively.

And three, whenever we talk about a fair go for all, they immediately mouth-off about ‘class war’.

This is their mantra, this is their default setting: faux tax cuts, bag the unions and talk about ‘class
warfare’.

And who knows, at the next election, the way they’re going, they may well dig up old footage of Hawkey singing ‘Solidarity Forever’ and complaining about the ‘greedy parasite’.

They might even show a picture of me, wearing my bomber jacket and the double denim. 

And what they will definitely say is that Labor is just out to attack the rich.

Friend we are not – and have never been – a party fixated on ‘class’.

We are a party of ideas, a party of compassion and imagination, a party of energy and hard work.

We believe in conciliation not confrontation.

We believe in discussion and debate, we believe in democracy.

We champion the things that matter to Australians: jobs, health, education.

Not just for some of us, but for all of us.

Not for some of us, but for all of us.

Because regardless of your postcode, or your parents’ wealth, no matter whether you’re old or young, whether you live in the city or country, whether you are a woman or a man, whether your family has been
here two thousand generations, eight generations or one…

We know it is education that provides the greatest source of hope.

It is decent wages that help you pay the bills and put a roof over your head.

It is health care that looks after your family.

It is productive infrastructure that drives quality of life.

It is superannuation that gives us the capacity to invest and save.

It is a better environment that meets the test we owe to our next generation

And it is communities – not the free market or its invisible hand – that will help families raise children.

None of these priorities, none of these values, are class issues.

This is the common ground that every Australian is entitled to.

This is the common wealth that every Australian citizen is entitled to by birthright and by citizenship.

Delegates

We look here out at uncertain times but we are going to build economic security for Australia and Australians.

We are going to lift living standards and get wages up and going again.

We are going to reform the tax system and make it fairer and more sustainable.

We are going to invest in our hospitals and Medicare.

We’re going to drive real change in education:

  • Better resources for schools and better treatment of our teachers
  • 100,000 TAFE places for Aussie apprentices
  • Proper investments in child care, the workforce and those vital early years
  • 200,000 more university places over the next ten years

We’re going to sort out aged care, for the people who raised us and we’ve got a new focus on fighting the scourge of dementia.

We’re going to drive renewable energy and we’re going to end the argument over climate change by winning the argument at the next election.

We’re going to engage with our First Australians in a truly equal partnership.

We’re going to build the very best rail and public transport in the nation and we’re going to make infrastructure about nation-building not pork-barrelling.

Oh and while we’re at it, we’re going to make the NBN work better.

We’re going to make sure the NDIS gets back on track and lives up to its noble purpose.

And for the record, we are not going to silence the ABC, we’re not going to starve the ABC, we’re not going to sell the ABC - Labor’s just going to save the ABC.

And we do these things not for some of us, but for all of us.

Not for some Australians, but for all Australians.

Delegates

It is our privilege to serve the future of this nation.

We are not the party of complacency, of indifference, whose only reason to be is to protect the status quo for the fortunate few. 

And we will not stand by as inequality grows in this country and the fair go all round becomes less certain and the requirement for having wealthy parents becomes ever more urgent and necessary.

But let me also be clear, delegates, we’ve never been a party of protest either.

We don’t sit on the sidelines like the Greens political party and say: “We’ve got a better idea but we don’t know what it is right now and we’ve certainly got no intention of every delivering it.”

And we are not a party of pretenders who boast about representing the bush whilst presiding over the poorest electorates in Australia, whilst cutting penalty rates in regional towns and cutting funding to the
ABC.

And what we are most certainly not is a party of dividers, we don’t call ourselves One Nation whilst spending our time trying to create two Australias.

We don’t go on Sunrise posing as the friend of the battler and then fly down to Canberra and vote with the Liberals on the side of multi-millionaires and the multinationals and the banks.

In this grand hall, this scene of so much struggle and success, in our movement, we know where we stand and who we stand up for. We always have.

We defend the fair go, against all-comers.

We will defend the fair now and in the future, against inequality, against discrimination, against prejudice and against racism.

We will expand the fair go, we will bring new opportunities to every generation, just like those who’ve been here before us have done for us.

We will advance the fair go, into every part of the nation.

And, if it is our considerable privilege to serve as your next government, we will deliver a fair go for all Australians.

Thank you very much.

We can win, we are ready.


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