REMARKS TO FINAL LABOR CAUCUS MEETING FOR 2016
LABOR CAUCUS ROOM, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2016
Good morning everyone.
This is the last time we are going to meet as a Caucus in 2016 and I wanted to thank you for your hard work your unity in the service of the Australian people this year.
We finished the year as a more determined, more united and bigger Caucus than we started the year.
And our contrast with our rivals, I don't believe, could be any more stark.
Over the weekend, we saw a watershed moment where we saw our old friend Tony Abbott make an hour-long job interview on PVO and Kelly - as you do.
He wants to be the Minister for Defence, but I suspect he wants to go on the attack in the Government.
Of course, we've seen the sorry saga of Satin George continue to wind its way through Parliament.
Such a long statement. So many words, desperately trying to say as little as possible.
But in the end, he did what the Liberals have been doing for the best part of 1,400 days - he blamed Joe Hockey.
Joe Hockey used to say that poor people didn't drive cars but he found out yesterday that George Brandis can drive a bus - right over Joe Hockey.
I don't think it's a matter of if the worst Attorney-General in Australia resigns, I just think it is a matter of when.
I don't think that Malcolm Turnbull has the guts to sack the most accident-prone and incompetent minister in an accident prone and incompetent government, whilst Parliament sits.
But as soon as the Christmas turkey goes in the oven, George Brandis will be cooked.
And again, we saw it at this time last year - 'Do you have confidence in Mal Brough and Jamie Briggs?’ ‘Absolutely!' the cry went out.
Between Christmas and New Year, when no-one is watching, out they go with the rest of the Christmas rubbish.
But a couple of weeks ago, if George Brandis's actions didn't take the cake, and if Tony Abbott's one-hour job interview was quite extraordinary, a couple of weeks ago, Malcolm Turnbull told the Business Council of Australia that we shouldn't judge economic change on the of ‘winners and losers’.
What an extraordinarily out-of-touch thing to say from an extraordinarily out-of-touch Prime Minister.
To airily discuss cuts to families, cuts to services, cuts to Medicare, when people are doing it hard and when real wages growth is flat-lining. Just to simply say: ‘In the long run, it all works out.’
In between the present and the long-run, a lot of people suffer along the way.
That is the Liberal and National Party ideology.
Survival of the fittest. The law of the economic jungle.
If you fall behind, you get left behind.
We are different.
We've always been different and we remain strong and proud in our difference to the Liberals.
We know that it is our job in this Parliament to make economic change work for everybody, to make the economy work in the interests of working class and middle class people.
To include all Australians in the opportunities of Australia.
We know it is our egalitarian tradition of the fair-go all around which makes Australia such a wonderful place to live.
When the parliament rises in the next few days, our opponents will go back to the electorates desperately trying to work out which horse to back next year.
Malcolm will be asking Cory, when he comes back, and George in Dawson - he'll be saying: 'What would you like for Christmas? What can I do for you?'
They'll probably make the ABC meet in their living rooms.
Tony, of course, has a busy summer writing the sequel of Battlelines.
Julie will be wondering who she will loyally serve for a fourth time as deputy.
Their focus has been, though, where it's always been this year - on themselves and their own jobs in their own born-to-rule mentality.
We know better.
We know that this job is not about us.
We know it is actually about older workers doing their 17th job interview, being knocked back because of age, not because of energy or skill or effort.
We know it is about teachers who look at strained resources in the school budget and how they can make sure that the kids next year get the best chance possible.
We know it is about a young Australian leaving school, end of Year 10, Year 11, looking for an apprenticeship and not being able to find one.
We know it is about loving couples across this country spending yet another Christmas not being able to be married to the person they love.
We know it is about the people who rely upon Medicare, parents who worry about how they're going to pay the bills, their kids have got chronic asthma and how do they balance out the power bills, the Medicare bills, the school bills and everything else.
We know it is about pensioners who worry, are increasingly anxious about their personal safety.
We know it is about unemployed miners in regional centres across Australia who have seen the housing prices halved and they don't see the jobs there for them to help make ends meet.
We know it is about grandparent careers who become parents again because their own children have fallen into ice addiction and worse.
We know it is about the families of more than 200 of our fellow Australians who went to work one day and did not come home.
We know it is about small businesses in the outer suburbs, frustrated beyond belief because of hopeless internet, not able to fulfil their enterprising ideas.
We know it will be about the people this Christmas who don't have secure accommodation, who have to queue up and rely upon a bit of goodwill and charity from their fellow Australian just to have a nice meal.
We know it is about women survivors, this Christmas, who go through another perilous festive season worried about the rage of their ex-partner - will they be safe or can they protect their kids? Will they have somewhere to go?
We know it is about other people. That's what makes us Labor.
We know that people out there count upon us.
They count upon us to focus on them.
It's not just about our strong opposition, it's about our positive plans for the future of this country.
We will take this rest period at the end of the year and we will come back refreshed, we will come back with a positive policy agenda which we'll roll out in the course of next year.
People depend upon us to stay united and people have done that very well, I might add.
People depend upon us to be solid and staunch and stand up for their conditions.
I know that this year has been a difficult year, but it's been a strong year for Labor.
We will keep fighting for Australians right up to the end of this year.
We'll start the new year fighting for Australians.
That's what we've always done and it's what we'll continue to do.
Thank you very much.