Bill's Speeches

PRE-ELECTION ADDRESS TO THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB - CANBERRA - TUESDAY, 28 JUNE 2016

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Good afternoon.

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

I am determined to enhance the position of the first Australians – in our Parliament and in our nation.

That’s why I’m so proud that at this election there are more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates running for Labor Party than ever before.

I also want to thank all of you in the media.

For your encouragement and your discouragement, your support and the breadth of your hindsight.

Hello again to all of you who’ve travelled on the Bill Bus at some point in these past eight weeks – and those of you who’ve kept a safe distance too.

I never expected to win all of you over (and just as well).

But I don’t need to be told that one of the great things about our democracy is the vitality and the toughness all of you bring to it, you play an irreplaceable role in our political system.

But I think it’s fair to say we haven’t been a traditional Opposition.

We are a genuine alternative, offering an ambitious vision for our country.

My entire team deserves a great deal of credit for that – for their unity and hard work. I’m glad so many of them could be here today.

I’ve learned a lot these last 1,020 days or so.

I have been tested and taught.

And I wouldn’t swap a single day, or a single person I’ve served alongside.

Now, the eight week campaign, to be fair, wasn’t my idea - but I am enjoying it.  

And I think a lot of that can be traced back to September last year...

Around the time that some in the media had written me off...again.

I decided to go back to basics, to what I know best.

I started holding community forums, town hall meetings - in the regions and the outer suburbs and inner suburbs of Australia. 

The kind of gathering I’ve spent the better part of my life turning up to.

Maybe it was initially as an upstart in a denim jacket, or an up-and-comer in a bomber jacket.

Chilly halls and hard chairs full of people who work long days. 

Parents cradling their kids, older workers nursing sore joints.

Young people looking around wondering if this is what they wanted to be doing when they grow up.

It’s not so much that these events ‘took me back’.

It’s more they reminded me of who I am, and where I come from.

Some of the issues raised are new, some are the hardy perennials beloved of a thousand public meetings.

But most are personal:

A teacher asking on behalf of their local school, a nurse talking about the local hospital.

A good son trying to help an elderly parent with pension paperwork or an exhausted sister losing the battle as their brother disappears to the addiction of ice.

Whatever the case, in the Labor Party and the labour movement, we’ve always valued turning up, putting your question, saying your piece.

We expect a bit of humour, a bit of empathy, certainly some free advice and a fair dose of sentimentality alongside the hard dry facts.

But when someone puts their hand up – you deal with them straight, you respect the effort required to be there and the decision they made to ask this question.

If you can’t help, you don’t say you can.

Like I learned at Beaconsfield, you don’t pretend things are better or worse than they really are.

You treat people as smart, as engaged, as empowered decision-makers in their own lives.

And in a funny way all of this familiar scenery and energy, showed me that I had changed.

I’m a father now –  I share a connection when parents ask about their kids that I realistically didn’t fully understand or appreciate before.

Chloe has dedicated so much of her time and energy to tackling family violence, she’s educated me about the problems on the frontline.

I’ve had the privilege of learning about the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians with profound and severe disabilities and their loving parents and carers.

And on top of everything else now, when I attend a meeting now I’m there as a proud leader of the Labor Party.

I don’t get to say something is ‘not my problem’.

I feel an obligation not just to have a response, but to know the answer.

Better still, offer a solution.

Because when someone takes the time to come down and ask you about a problem that's important in their life, it’s not good enough to send them home with a talking point.

We owe them better than that – as political leaders and indeed, as people.

Tonight, in Nowra, I’m hosting my 33rd town hall.

Each one keeps my feet on the ground - it reminds me that politics and elections aren’t just about what happens up there on the hill, or even – dare I say it - here at the Press Club.

Politics is about the people who can’t ask a question in the chamber, it's about people who can’t afford advertising space, who don’t have a slot on Sky. 

The people who can only spare a few minutes a day, if that, to think about the government.

And people who the Government thinks about even less.

These people might not live in a marginal seat, they may not decide an election.

Yet they keep their family together and their businesses open.

They farm unforgiving country, they deal with a rapidly changing environment.

They make sacrifices for their kids’ education, and their parents’ health.

They volunteer, they teach, they serve, they care for each other.

They make this country what it is.

And for me, at least, this election is about them.

Their aspirations, their dreams, their opportunities, their hopes for their children.

There’s a tendency in campaigns to appeal to the here and the now, to urge people to look no further than the sausage sizzle at the polling booth.

But Australians aren’t waiting on government.

People are already organising their lives for the future.

Our fellow Australians are smart.

They are clever. They are adapting and adjusting – all the time - to the way they learn, work, travel, live and save.

Prime Ministers do not have the luxury of pretending the future is a remote prospect, or someone else’s concern.

You can’t dress timid stagnation up as stability, and plead with people to stick with your mob, for another time or for a while.

That’s why the choice Labor offers Australians at this election reaches further and runs deeper than the 2nd of July.

Our plan will not expire at 6pm on July the 2nd – it is for the decade that follows.

We are setting our markers for the Australia of 2030:

  • Strong, universal, affordable Medicare
  • A school system back in the top 5 in the world
  • 50 per cent renewable energy
  • A first-rate, fibre NBN, putting us at the centre of the Asian Century
  • Revitalising advanced manufacturing and apprenticeships
  • Building the nation building, productive infrastructure unclogging our cities and joining our economic operations
  • 3 per cent of our GDP dedicated to science, research and technology
  • 300,000 more women in work
  • Halving the national suicide rate, and
  • Reducing the rates of ovarian cancer.

All of this matched with an economic and fiscal plan for the next decade, to fully-fund our investments in the future.

Delivering the needed structural savings and tax reforms that will bring the budget back to balance in the same year as our opponents forecast, and build stronger, more sustainable surpluses in the years that follow.

Achieving these goals over the next decade means starting work next week.

My team and I have a clear set of priorities for our first 100 days.

A new Labor government will hit the ground running:

-    Offering certainty to Arrium in South Australia – and protecting jobs in Laverton, Rooty Hill and Acacia Ridge

-    Setting up our transition fund to support 200,000 automotive supply chain jobs

-    Developing the Financing Mandate for our new $10 billion Concrete Bank, so we can get private investment flowing into public infrastructure

-    Drawing up the terms of reference and appointing a Royal Commissioner to investigate the rip-offs, scams and credit card interest rate rorts in the banking sector

-    And convening a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence, an assembly of the frontline: counsellors, law enforcement, community legal centres, state governments and – most importantly – survivors.

The people who know, better than anyone, what is wrong with our system and what we need to do to end family violence.

Underpinning all of this – our long-term objectives and our immediate plans for action – will be an old-fashioned focus on good public policy.

A careful and considered approach – recognising that government is a most serious business, a long-term policy institution.

Dealing honestly with the challenges we face and being upfront about our plans.

There is a great deal my colleagues and I want to achieve.

But we don’t seek government as a collection of individuals, interested only in tearing down and undoing the work of our predecessors.

We offer ourselves instead as a team and we will govern in that spirit of co-operation.

Ever since I watched in admiration as a 15-year-old in Year 11, I’ve been drawn to the Hawke model of consensus.

Of bringing together business and unions, community organisations, charity and advocacy groups.  

I believe in solving problems by assembling the very best people possible, and seeking common ground, for the common good.  

That will be how I treat the Parliament too.

When we convene the 45th Parliament, we will hold a welcome to country in the chamber, the first of its kind.

And my immediate focus will be on finding the maximum we agree upon, and building on that.

There is no point pretending that any government elected can guarantee control of the Senate.

Keeping our promises and offering certainty over the next term depends upon a capacity to negotiate with the parliament.

To build on overlapping interests and shared objectives.

As Prime Minister, I will not seek to manufacture a crisis where one does not exist.

I’m not interested in imposing change through force of personality – or using the authority of office for settling political scores.

I want to make our country work better by getting us to work together.

And if I lead a Government, I will include the Opposition.

It’s been a source of great frustration to me that the opportunities for the major parties to co-operate are so constricted by petty partisanship and so hostage to the whim of the Prime Minister.

Australians rightly expect our Parliament to work better than that.

And – with this focus on co-operation and unity in mind - the first piece of legislation I introduce into the 45th Parliament will be a bill to amend the Marriage Act.

A simple change, the words ‘a man and a woman’ are replaced with ‘two people’.

No $160 million plebiscite, no hurtful, hateful government-sponsored advertising campaign for us.

Churches, temples, synagogues and mosques will be under no obligation to conduct ceremonies.

Faith-based schools will be respected.

Their beliefs, their faith will be respected.

Just as people’s relationships, their sexuality and their identity should be respected as well.

This is how we make marriage equality a reality.

A Prime Minister prepared to show leadership, and a parliament doing its job. 

I understand my opponent is scheduled to be here this week – and most likely stick to his script.

Brexit. Stability. Exciting and Uncertain Times.

Let me deal with Brexit.

The UK's choice is not one I or Mr Turnbull would have advocated.

But I’m not here to lecture the British.

For well over a generation we’ve made our own way in the world.

We’re no longer a branch office – we’ve built our own markets, our own savings, our own opportunities.

Brexit by itself is no cause for alarm – but its political and economic lesson cannot and should not be ignored.

The Liberals invoke it to call for stability – but they fundamentally misunderstand the source of the instability.

It comes from a sense of inequality, from people feeling marginalised, forgotten, alienated, left behind by global change. 

It is a deep-seated sense that political promises are wasted words.

It comes from exactly the same sort of cynicism in policies that Mr Turnbull offers Australians at this election:

Tax cuts for the rich, nothing for the working and middle class Australians.

Telling a generation of young Australians, shut out of the housing market, to ‘get rich parents’.

Pricing kids out of universities, cutting funding from Medicare.

It comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of both our world economy and our Australian economy.

What Australia needs most of all is the political capacity to build and invest in the economy – without giving away the returns.

Investments which improve the living standards for all Australians:

-      Education

-      Roads, rail, bridges, ports

-      The NBN

-      Medicare

That’s what this economic debate is all about.

Instead – having changed their leader, their Treasurer and half their Cabinet, the Liberals now urge ‘stability’.

Having proposed:

  • until March, a 15 per cent GST – Plan A.
  • replaced by a new, second state income tax in April – Plan B
  • and a massive cash-splash for multinationals and big companies in May – Plan C

Mr Turnbull now says ‘stick to the plan’.

So when he comes before you this week, I encourage you to ask – straight up and down – is he planning to legislate and lock-in his full $50 billion tax cut for the next ten years.

Is this $50 billion going out the door – regardless of events?  

Or is it just something he thinks sounds good enough to get him to July 2nd and he can ditch if times change?

For instance, if his giveaway puts the AAA credit rating at risk?

If Mr Turnbull wins the election, in 12 months’ time – will he be sticking with his Plan C?

Will he be onto some new and exciting and innovative and agile Plan D?

Or will he be back where he’s always wanted to go – Plan A - a 15 per cent GST.

The truth is, Mr Turnbull has only ever had a plan for his own re-election, he has never had plan for the country, never had a plan for our economy.

The biggest economic risk to Australia, to working and middle class families, is Mr Turnbull's $50 billion big business tax giveaway.

It is a risk to our economy, it's a risk to our society.

The Liberals are asking Australians to reject the co-operative economic model and the social wage that has held our nation together for more than 30 years and delivered a quarter-century of growth.

And instead, they want Australians to embark upon a radical, expensive experiment in trickle-down economics.

We know how this story ends.

Reagan tried it. Thatcher tried it.

A generation later we got Trump and we got Brexit.

The transition underway in our economy is not an excuse for cutting money from schools and infrastructure – it’s the reason why we need to invest in them. 

In a time of global uncertainty and domestic fragility – the last thing our economy and our society needs is a Liberal Party assault on the living standards of working and middle class families.

The worst thing we can do for the national budget is smash the family budget.

The worst thing we can do for our future is allow a divided government to divide our society.

This is why Mr Turnbull’s ‘stability’ pitch is so fraudulent.

There is no stability - or certainty - for a family on a combined income of $90,000, having $2000 cut from their budget.

There is no stability - or certainty - for single Mum on $60,000 losing $3000 a year.

There is no stability - or certainty - for a couple with a new baby where – because the Mum has negotiated paid parental leave with her employer – the government considers her a ‘double dipper’, leaving her nearly $13,000 worse off.

And the only certainty for 14.5 million patients is that under the Liberals they will have to pay more to see a GP.

Political insiders might be ‘bored’ by the discussion on Medicare.

But let me tell you something about the thousands of people I have meet out on the campaign trail throughout this great country.

Working class and middle class Australians.

The people who don’t just care about Medicare, they need it.

They stop me in the street and say ‘don’t give an inch’.

They know something’s up.

The people who rely on bulk-billing understand – better than many of us here – that the Liberals are hollowing out the Medicare system and pushing the price of healthcare onto the Australian family.

They are astonished that this Prime Minister is giving the banks a $7.4 billion tax cut – but raising the price of medicine.

And they are angry that he’s sending $30 billion of taxpayer money overseas – while perpetrating a six-year freeze on GP rebates.

Australians know the difference between universal, accessible, affordable Medicare – and the American model of cash up-front.

And when you’re a woman who suddenly has to pay $100 for a mammogram – that’s not Medicare.

If you’re a Mum facing a $300 charge for breast cancer diagnosis – that’s not Medicare.  

If you’re an Australian in the fight of your life, with melanoma and you’re being hit with an upfront-fee of up to $1000 – that’s not Medicare.

That’s not the Medicare Bob Hawke created, it’s not the Medicare Labor will always fight for – it’s not the Medicare Australians know and love.

And the Liberals aren’t waiting for the election to begin this push to private costs.

These new upfront fees take effect this Friday - July 1.

Rest assured, this is only the beginning.

Piece by piece, brick by brick.

If Mr Turnbull wins on Saturday he will claim the continued dismantling of Medicare as his mandate and his right. 

John Howard promised to never, ever introduce a GST.

Tony Abbott promised no cuts to health.

And next time you see the Liberal ad where Mr Turnbull says ‘Medicare funding is guaranteed’.

You should know that he is lying to your face.

And today – Mr Turnbull’s mask finally slipped.

It will go down as the defining moment of this campaign.

The gaffe that marked the end of the Prime Minister’s credibility.

He said, ‘What political parties say they will support and oppose at one time is not necessarily what they will do.’

Tony Abbott famously told us: ‘don’t listen to what I say, get in writing’.

Malcolm Turnbull has simply said – don’t bother, it’s a lie.

There can be no economic stability from widening inequality.

Cutting education, broadening the divide between schools in the city and the bush. Between the rich suburbs and the less-well-off suburbs.

Pricing working class and middle class kids out of university with $100,000 degrees.

Propping up dodgy private providers and undermining TAFE - denying young people the chance to learn a trade, robbing mature-age workers of the opportunity to re-train and re-skill. 

Shedding apprenticeships at record levels while 457s and other work visas are being rorted.

Just as a bad free trade agreement harms the democratic case for open markets, a flawed, criminally run work visa program undermines Australians’ faith in an open economy.

The gathering push of extreme right-wing populism around the globe is a warning to all of us, not to leave people behind.

Governments must include and must empower people.

We must give every citizen a sense of being an active participant in transition - in control of what is happening to them - not a passive observer of change left behind on the scrapheap.

We must be a nation where everyone can see and know the value of shared effort, for shared reward.

Not a place where the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

If we want a strong, free-market economy, open to the world, that’s lifting living standards and encouraging participation rather than perpetuating disadvantage and feeding resentment.

We have to make Australians partners in the national project.

If we want to transition our economy – we must to take people with us.

We have to offer a sense of hope.

A place of respect in our society.

The best inoculation against division, against regression is inclusive economic growth.

That’s the real choice between Mr Turnbull and myself.

Not whether we believe Australia can succeed, or whether we want it to.

But how we achieve that success, and who shares in it.

The Prime Minister glibly misappropriated the phrase ‘the lucky country’ on the weekend, devoid of its context.

But Australia’s success has never been a question of good fortune.

It has always come from hard work – and from working together.

From true equality of opportunity.

From the oldest, most Australian, aspiration – the fair go all round. 

That’s the principle, the value proposition, the fair go all round, which binds Labor’s policies together, which binds our team together – for the next hundred days and for the decade ahead.

It’s why Labor chooses nation-building infrastructure – creating jobs and boosting productivity in our cities, our outer suburbs and our regions.

We choose local content and Australian skills.

We choose a first rate, fibre NBN.

We choose better schools and the Gonski formula needs-based funding.

We choose to act on climate change, not pass the problem onto the next generation.

We choose better, more affordable childcare, sooner.

We choose a Royal Commission into the banks – not a tax cut for the banks.

We choose to make the elimination of family violence and equality for the women of Australia a national mission.

And above all - we choose to protect Medicare.

We have made these our priorities in Opposition.

And given the privilege, we will keep faith with the Australian people.

A new Labor Government will be as good as our word.

We will live up to the trust of Australians. 

And we will always, put people first.

ENDS


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