Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO THE VICTORIAN LABOR CONFERENCE - MELBOURNE - SUNDAY, 27 MAY 2018

There's nothing like a Sunday morning a at Victorian Labor conference. This is church for the true believers, great to see you all here.

Now, I'm not sure, I haven't seen the full agenda, but I imagine there's still registration for delegates, to make sure you get your POSC ballot. I'm sure there is probably a rules debate later today, it's reassuring that the more things change, some things at least stay the same.

I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet. I pay my respects their elders both past and present. 

And did you know that it was on this day, 51 years ago, that Australians voted in overwhelming numbers to change our Constitution to make sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were finally counted as citizens. 

So that's a day, an anniversary which should animate us again now. Fifty-one years after Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were first counted in our Constitution, they now deserve to be heard.

That is why we should re-pledge ourselves to ensuring we put a voice, a voice for our First Australians in our parliament and in our Constitution.

And I think in the spirit of truth-telling it is important that Victorian Labor adopts a goal too. We are long overdue to pre-select and elect an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander as a member of parliament from the Victorian branch of the Labor Party. 

I was explaining to Chloe the importance of the state conference, and it's important to me for plenty of reasons. But one of which is that after a week of sitting opposite that born to rule mob of out of touch and arrogant conservatives, it's very good to come back here, to feel your energy, to feel your passion.

As Lisa said: I am one of you. I come from the labour movement. I'm proud of coming from the labour movement and this labour movement has much to do.

Today we’ll be debating - and yesterday, issues and going through the policies and propositions. But whatever the debates, whatever the arguments and discussions we have, whatever the shades of difference that may periodically percolate up, there is one proposition which animates all of us. 

From the youngest of Young Labor members, to the oldest of life members, from members who have come here from different parts of Victoria, to the people who live here in my own electorate of Moonee Valley and Maribyrnong. 

We believe that only when Labor gets elected can we truly achieve progress and fairness for all Australians, that unites us - always has and always will.

And we need look no further than the last four years of state Labor government to show you what we can accomplish when we form governments.

Look at the level crossings being removed in the suburbs, train services restored in regional Victoria.

I see the work it has done in our schools, in our hospitals, in prioritising local manufacturing, in making sure that we have a fairer and better home to raise our kids and to grow old in. 

I see it in the national leadership on family violence, I even see it in the improved ambulance services in this state. 

Dan Andrews deserves another four years because this Labor Government has been doing a great job for Victoria.

But if we can count up the benefits of the last four years in the state, then I think we also need to total up the last five years of costs under successive Coalition conservative governments. 

You know the list of the last five years of missed opportunities for the nation.

Five years of cuts to hospitals and schools. 

Five years of increasing the cost of going to university.

Five years of reduction in the number of apprentices in this country.

We see five years of relentless union-bashing.

And the reason why this government goes after the trade union movement with such ferocity is they understand that if you weaken trade unionism in this country, you weaken wage outcomes in this country.

The reason why this government is so obsessed with trade unions is they understand that when you have relentless attacks on unions, you actually see lower wage outcomes for Australian workers - and the last five years most certainly proves that point. 

And we see what five years does in climate change, of not having a policy. Power prices are up and up and up, we're handing on a worse deal to our kids in terms of inaction on climate change.

And we see what five years of Coalition government does to the fair go in this country. 

Five years of increasing out pocket costs to go and see the doctor. 

Five years of reduction in support in aged care.

Five years of growing inequality.

We now live in a country where if you have a lot of physical assets, a lot of property, a lot of wealth, you're doing very well. But if you are someone who relies on your pay-as-you-go income of your job, you are doing worse. 

We are seeing growing inequality in this country. Unimaginable really, five years ago. 

What we see is that if you have a lot, you are doing very well. But if you are like so many of the people even in the suburbs around where this conference meets - yesterday I was in the shopping centre, talking to people who work for a living. They work every weekend, they haven't had a pay rise in years. 

We are seeing mounting inequality and that is the cost of five years of conservative government, and we cannot sugar-coat it and we cannot shirk our obligations. 

And nowhere is this five years of inaction more clear that when you look at the economic mismanagement of the nation.

My great colleagues who are here in such numbers today, we sit there and we get the painful lectures from this government who think that they are economic supermen.

Economic supermen do not double the national debt in five years.

Economic supermen do not increase the debt for every man, woman and child from $9,000 to $21,000.

Economic supermen do not defend a two-class tax system.

Economic supermen do not argue that somehow defending negative gearing, defending income-splitting in trusts, defending handing back income tax refunds to some people who do not pay income tax - they do not argue in defence of this system.

But this is what we face every day in the nation's capital.

And economic supermen do not bake-in cuts, sneaky, hidden cuts to universities, to schools, to TAFE and to hospitals.

Economic supermen do not cut hospital funding in the next three years across Australia by $715 million. 

Economic supermen do not cut $17 billion in school funding over the decade. 

Economic supermen do not reduce TAFE funding and cut apprenticeships by 140,000 over the last five years. 

And when we go through that ordeal, that schoolyard ordeal of Question Time, we will not allow the Government to lecture us when they argue that tax loopholes for the wealthy are actually a secret socialist mechanism to redistribute income to the least well off in this country. 

I believe that Australians actually want a better tax system.

They want a tax system which doesn't subsidise the high-priced medico on $500,000 being able to split income and pay less tax than the nurse on $50,000 a year. 

Australians do not want to see a tax system which finances the lucky few who own big pools of shares. And then not only do they get the dividends from the shares, the income from the shares, and pay no tax - they shouldn't in this case be allowed to get a 30 per cent loading for owning shares in this country and pay no income tax. It is not sustainable.

It is not illegal but it is simply not sustainable. 

And certainly, I do not believe Australians want to pay their taxes just so that the high rollers can pay their taxes in the Cayman Islands and other low-tax and no-tax jurisdictions. 

And when we talk about tax in this country, I am damn sure that Australians do not want to give a $17 billion tax cut to the big banks in Australia, who've been proven and demonstrated to be ripping off consumers in the most shameful, most unfair and, dare I say it, most unAustralian manner, which the banks have been doing, and caught out doing in the Royal Commission. 

I actually think that Australians want to see the scarce taxpayer dollars being re-invested in their hospitals, being reinvested in their schools, being reinvested in TAFE, being reinvested in universities. 

I think Australians want to see scarce taxpayer dollars being invested in pensioners, not the billionaires.

And I am very, very, very sure that we will defeat the Government's flawed and discredited and out of touch enterprise tax scheme.

This is the proposal, the brainchild of the investment banker. The former investment banker, once an investment banker always an investment banker, where they are ludicrously proposing to give $80 billion principally and much of which would go to mega businesses. 

I don't know about you but when I see what's happening to those Esso workers, the maintenance contractors, they are being set up in an unfair system. 

But one thing - and I will return to that in a moment -  one thing is for sure: how did it come to be in this country that 200 maintenance contractors face literally wage cuts of thousands of dollars, yet the same government presiding over the same rotten system and the same rotten corporate conduct, wants to literally hand hundreds of millions of dollars back to Esso and other large mega businesses, from taxpayers money. 

This government has got its priorities all wrong. 

So I say to the Government on their corporate tax plan: we have won the argument. It is not a matter in my mind of if the Government gives up, for the time being, its rotten corporate tax plan, it is a matter of when. 

Now you may say this sounds a trifle confident. But there is not an Australian from the top of the Torres Strait to the bottom of Tasmania, from Byron Bay on the east coast to Bunbury on the west coast, not an ordinary Australian anywhere in between, who backs these corporate tax cuts.

And I promise this conference, Labor will win the argument to defeat the corporate tax plan. But I say to Australians: that if you want to see the corporate tax plan dead, buried, and cremated, do not believe what the investment banker and those who sit opposite tell us. Because you know that if they ever control the Senate, that corporate tax plan, that rotten scheme, will be right back on the agenda. 

The only way to effectively finish off the corporate tax cuts for the big banks, for the mega businesses like Esso, is to vote Labor at the next federal election.

And as we are at Moonee Valley, the racecourse where legends go to race, I think it is appropriate to further reassure this conference and through you the people of Australia, that Labor is not just a strong opposition. 

It is not just us who finished off my opposite number's desire to increase the GST, or to have double income taxation, or indeed finished off Tony Abbott.

It is not just that we are a strong Opposition to help put the nail in the coffin of this rotten corporate tax giveaway for the big banks and mega businesses.

We provide Australians with a winning trifecta. 

Not only are we capable of reducing the national debt and protecting Australia against the uncertainty of global changes of a US-China trade conflict, of rising global debt.

Not only are we able to do that leg of the trifecta.

We are able to properly fund our schools and our hospitals. 

We are able to properly provide the opportunity for the first in a family to go to university with 200,000 extra university places over the next 10 years. 

And we are able to provide 100,000 TAFE students, both young people and adults re-training - we're paying off their upfront fees. 

We're able put back $17 billion into our schools, we're able to do all of this in education. 

We're able to make sure that we reverse the cuts to hospitals:

  • to unfreeze the Medicare patient rebates
  • to make sure that our hospitals are properly funded so we can reduce waiting times for elective surgery
  • take the pressure off of emergency departments and the staff who work in them. 

Not only are we able to promise to be better on health and Medicare, better on education, schools, TAFE, and universities.

Not only are we able to promise pensioners they don't have to work 70, in the world's oldest retirement age. Not only are we able to restore that energy supplement for our pensioners. 

We can do all of these good things, we can put social justice and a strong safety net, because we are making hard, overdue, sensible economic reforms. 

Not only are we able to do those two legs of the trifecta - the schools, the education, the health, making sure we've got a better balance sheet for the nation. 

But we're able to offer lower income tax cuts for 10 million working Australians. 

If I hear, one more time, that puffed-up imitation of a Treasurer say that under the Liberal Party they look after you with lower taxes. Well you know what? They don't. 

If you are one of 10 million Australians who earns less than $125,000 a year, it is Labor giving you back some of your hard-earned income. Because we prioritise in the tax system, working class and middle class people, not the wealthy and the mega businesses - and that's why we can afford to do these things.

When you think about that trifecta:

  • better at the financial management;
  • better at looking after working class people who go to work every day;
  • better on reversing the sneaky cuts baked-in over five years to hospitals and schools. 

We're also better, I have to say, at wages policy. This government has no wages policy except to cut wages. 

What a cheeky bunch of roosters this Government are in their last budget. 

They proposed, heroically some would say, mischievously others would say, and dishonestly I propose -  that wages are going to go up 13 per cent in the next four years. 

How can this be? 

In the last 12 months wages went up 2 percent. 

This is the government who has never seen a wage rise for workers they didn't hate. 

Never seen a workers’ representative they didn't want to blacken and demean in reputation.  

Never seen a bargaining system which they didn't want to tilt the balance in favour of the vested interests. 

Well, we have a wages policy.

The first part of our wages policy is give a fair dinkum tax cut, and the next part of our wages policy is this: we will restore penalty rates and we will change the system and put equality back into it.

And, while you're on your feet, let me also say: we're going to clean up labour hire, it will not be used to cut wages. The ABCC is gone.

And we're going to close the gender pay gap, because women should be paid the same as men in this country. 

I said I like coming to Moonee Valley.

It's not because I've backed too many winners on the track but I tell you what, I've represented racing workers at this track. And I've represented shearers and I've represented construction workers and I've represented underground miners and I've represented Esso maintenance workers.

And I know, that whatever the government says about me, about Labor, about unions, no matter the amount of abuse, no matter the amount of lies they tell, no matter the number of Royal Commissions they throw at us: I am proud to represent workers.

I am determined to make sure that if we form a government, working Australians get a place at the top table - where they belong.

So, friends, the things that matter in life, the things that we get most satisfaction out of, are the things we work hardest for. 

Our movement, our party worked hard for Medicare. We worked hard for superannuation. We worked hard to get the NDIS up and we're going to have to repair the damage these clowns have done to the NDIS.

And by the way, we're going to fight hard for the ABC - we will not let them be silenced. 

It's a pretty straightforward equation for our mighty movement, there are choices.

We choose to fight for everyday people, working class people,  middle class people. The people who want to work, who are working, or have worked in their life.  

We stand for the people who don't have the vested interests, that is the people we choose. 

We do not choose the big banks. We do not choose the mega corporations, like Esso. 

We do not choose to represent the lucky few who can opt out of the tax system and minimise their tax.

We stand for all Australians.

We stand for the kids who go to school and their parents. We stand for the young people and their parents who want an apprenticeship.

Yesterday, I'm just down the road doing the shopping at Moonee Ponds, and again as I've seen frequently on travels all over Australia, older Australians holding their CV, they're immaculately dressed. They are very well presented, they have in that plastic sleeve, that transparent plastic sleeve, their CV.

And they say: "Bill, what is wrong with this country. I go for nonsense interview, after job rejection, and I don't want to give up."

These are the people we speak for in our Party. The people who don't have the voice.

And so I have to say that it's all hard work. And our business now, our business now is by-elections.

And I have to say to people who are perhaps frustrated by the other bloke's Deidre Chambers moment:  "Oh, goodness me, imaging having five by-elections at the time of your national conference!" 

Can I say to people, just ignore it.

Of course it's not fair, but politics isn't fair when you tackle the vested interests. 

Of course it's not fair. But I say to people, in nine weeks' time, across four states, we present to the by-elections and we tell Australians our story.

And we tell Australians that only Labor can be trusted not to have the big business tax cuts. Only Labor can be trusted to call for the Banking Royal Commission.

Only Labor can be trusted to have a wages policy, a more fair-dinkum income tax cut for working Aussies.

Only Labor can be trusted to reverse the cuts to schools, and hospitals, and TAFE and universities. 

Only Labor can be trusted to stand up for the pensioners.

And we will deal with these by-elections with the same fighting spirit no matter what obstacles the Government puts in our path and after those by-elections, we will then be ready to fight the next general election, whenever he calls it. 

Are we ready to fight the election?

[Crowd: Yes!]

Are we ready to serve this nation as a government?

[Crowd: Yes!]

Are we ready to put fair go economics on top of trickle-down economics?

[Crowd: Yes!]

Thank you very much


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