I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past and present.
And on a night focused on tackling inequality, and extending opportunity, alongside those words of respect we rededicate ourselves to closing the gap and affording the first Australians a more equal share in our nation’s future.
It’s great to be here among such distinguished company.
We have here assembled, leading experts on social investment, social justice, inclusive prosperity, service delivery, community programs and inequality.
And that’s just Jenny Macklin.
It’s my privilege tonight to introduce Jenny – but before I do, I want to make a couple of observations about her report and what it stands for.
Jenny’s report draws on some of the 73 fully-costed policies Labor has announced so far.
It emphasises that our education, skills and technology policies are not just as a means of extending equality of opportunity…
They are tools to prepare our people and our economy for the next generation of industries and the next wave of growth.
However this is not a grab-bag of ‘announceables’ or an election manifesto.
Nor is it a Commission-of-Audit style exercise, where a series of radical proposals are floated as political cover for marginally less extreme, but equally wrong-headed measures.
Growing Together stretches a larger canvas and paints a bigger picture.
And rightly – it seeks to challenge our preconceptions and our perspectives.
To bring us face-to-face with the enduring and growing problems of inequality, poverty, intergenerational disadvantage and unemployment.
To ask if we truly measure up to our most-invoked national idea – the fair go.
Say there are 100 of us in this room – representing all 24 million Australians.
Say we organised ourselves into five groups of 20, from richest to poorest.
And we had $100 to share, representing Australia’s national wealth.
- The first group - the wealthiest 20 per cent in Australia – would get $62.
- The second group of twenty, $21.
- The third group, $11.
- The fourth group of twenty get a five dollar note to share.
- And finally, for last group - the poorest 20 per cent of Australia - there is 90 cents left.
90 cents, between twenty people.
I think a lot of Australians would imagine a fairer distribution than this – and that is the vital point.
Growing Together holds up a mirror to our nation – it says this is who we are, this is the scope, scale and severity of the challenges we face.
But this report is much more than a long tale of woe.
It is an agenda, a collection of ideas for tackling inequality and growing the economy.
More importantly, a strategy to grow the economy by tackling inequality.
Because fairness, opportunity and inclusion are growth strategies, they are economic strategies.
And so is full employment.
Now, the Liberals mocked the idea of full employment yesterday.
They are simply too small for this big idea.
Too fixated on fear, to believe in aspiration.
Treasury defines ‘full employment’ as a 5 per cent unemployment rate.
But Labor’s goal is about more than one number.
For Labor, full employment involves every Australian fulfilling their potential and performing at their full capacity.
A capacity we enhance as governments with:
- Universal Medicare
- Needs-based funding in our schools
- A strong TAFE sector
- Accessible and affordable university education
- The great Australian safety net: fair wages, decent pensions and universal superannuation.
- And a National Disability Insurance Scheme, empowering hundreds of thousands with disability and their carers.
This is Labor bedrock.
But as Growing Together makes clear, these are not just instruments of equity – they are essential for building the next generation of inclusive prosperity.
Enhancing the capacity of Australians through these measures, extending opportunity to all… is by far the best way of growing the middle class, increasing our national wealth and including more Australians in the benefits of economic progress.
It is a mission the private sector can join too.
A plan infinitely better than the miserable, trickle-down theory of economics which is as ineffective as it is unfair.
Undoubtedly, people will say this report is a catalogue of un-fixable, un-fundable problems
That ‘the poor will always be with us’.
That inequality is a bottomless pit, which no amount of social investment can fill.
It’s not a new argument.
Jenny and I heard it a lot when we first started talking about a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
You hear it still.
A sinister whispering campaign that says freeing Australians with disability from the exile of a second-class life is some sort of unsustainable drag on the Budget.
This is wrong - not just in principle, but on the economics.
The operating costs of the full NDIS are estimated at $22 billion a year.
PricewaterhouseCoopers found that, without the NDIS, government spending on disability would be between two to three times that sum.
If you put consumers at the core of service delivery, and give them control over packages of support - you will get a more efficient allocation of resources.
Trusting people to pursue their own futures invariably provides better outcomes.
And the money goes where it is needed, rather than being absorbed by administration costs.
But it’s not just about improved service delivery, or efficiencies.
The Productivity Commission also found that by 2050, the NDIS will empower an additional 320,000 people with a disability and 80,000 carers to find work.
This will add one full percentage point to Australia’s GDP.
Tackling inequality is a growth strategy.
Fairness is not a dividend of prosperity – it is a precondition for prosperity.
This is a truth Jenny Macklin has served her whole working life.
It is the message underwriting every line of this report.
Prosperity for everyone who works - and prosperity which works for everyone.
An Australia where we grow stronger and fairer, by growing together.
It’s now my pleasure to invite Jenny Macklin to launch this report.