Bill's Speeches







Good morning everyone, welcome to Canberra. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

It’s a pleasure to be part of this emerging tradition, a time when local government visits the home of federal government.

All of you are here as representatives of your communities and as leaders in Australia’s most direct and accessible form of democracy.

Communities matter, and what you do matters to communities.

Your decisions don’t filter down from a house on the hill, they are made in meetings at the local hall.

Your constituents know you, not as a face on TV but as a neighbour, a fellow customer in the high street, a friendly face on the sidelines of weekend sport.

You are our frontline for delivering services in our wonderful country.

And, in our regional and rural communities in particular, local government is a real employer too.

Every day, in a hundred different ways, local governments build our civic identity and add to the heart and soul of our nation.

You are the ones:

  • Setting the stage for the new production at the local theatre.

  • You keep our streets clean and our civic spaces vibrant and renewed.

  • When there is natural disaster, there is a council worker first there to rebuild towns, and lives.

  • Running classes at the library.

  • Marking the lines on the oval.

  • Trimming the edges at the local park.

  • And delivering meals on wheels.

None of this work is easy, none of it is high profile, none of it is flashy or attention-grabbing.

But it has a place in the big picture, in the big story of Australia.

There are four defining trends underway in our world:

  • The surge in digital technologies.

  • The growth in clean energy

  • An older population, living longer

  • And the rise of Asia.

Those changes are non-negotiables in the decades ahead.

What matters is how we deal with them, how we respond to the challenge which we know is occurring.

Do we ride these waves, or are buffeted by the tides and swept along?

On each of the big questions, local government has a key role to play.

Digital technology has the potential to take geography out of the economic equation…it’s an opportunity for our regional communities to engage in global trade.

And for some, the flip side of digital technology can be a decline in personal interactions, greater loneliness, exclusion and isolation.

Here, it is local government which is the friendly face and a helping hand, restoring a sense of community and a great word I really love: neighbourliness.

More clean energy will mean a wider distribution of electricity: decentralising power generation and offering new opportunities for local authorities.

Already, local governments have been famous for providing vital leadership on community aged care – and this will continue to grow.

And when it comes to the rise of Asia, the greatest single economic transformation in the history of the world…local governments play a role in building the people-to-people links between Australian communities and their neighbours in Asia.

This has long been the case.

Fifty-two years ago, Yamatotakada City and the town of Lismore in New South Wales became ‘sister cities’, the first such partnership between Australia and Japan.

Today over 50 communities across our nation share such a partnership…with Japan alone.

Joined together in the spirit of friendship, of understanding, of the lifelong learning from each another.

People building friendships and personal connections through student exchanges, cultural exchanges and local government visits.

In Bundaberg and Settsu City.

Inakawa Town and Ballarat.

Geraldton and Kosai City.

You are ambassadors and economic drivers for Australia, you’re leading, not following.

And the Commonwealth government owes you the resources, support, independence and authority to seize the opportunities of the 21st Century.

This is why, in government, Labor put such a focus on targeted grants programs as well as Financial Assistance Grants:

  • Special packages for high-growth areas and communities in transition like north Queensland, East Kimberley and the La Trobe valley.

  • Roads to Recovery

  • BlackSpot funding

  • $1 billion in Regional Development Australia Funds

  • A further $1 billion in stimulus spending during the GFC

  • Liveable Cities and the Community Infrastructure Grants.

I following in the tradition of some of Labor’s former Ministers, Simon Crean and Anthony Albanese. They trusted Local Governments – and their trust was certainly repaid.

More than 6000 community projects were delivered.

From libraries and swimming pools to roads and childcare services.

And supporting local government means listening too.

This is why Labor established the Australian Council of Local Governments, so we could consult and engage directly with local government.

It is why Labor created a seat at the COAG table for the Australian Local Government Association.

Because when the State Premiers come to Canberra to talk about resources, service delivery and shared responsibilities, it is essential that local government is included in that conversation.

I’m here today because it is in the Labor DNA to work with local government.

Local government is central to the future of Australian prosperity and Australian community.

I believe, in the Asian Century…the second century of Australian Federation… and the third century of Australian local government…

Your work will be more important than ever before.

And co-operation between Commonwealth and local government will be more important than ever.

There are three areas in particular I wanted to focus on today:

One, the role of infrastructure in building more liveable cities and better-connected regional centres

Two, the great work being done by local governments to eliminate family violence – and the opportunities to build on this.

And three, a challenge for all of us, getting more women involved in politics – at every level.


By 2025, an extra 4.5 million Australians will be living in our capital cities.

Millions more in our regions will be counting on the capitals, as a market for their produce, as a supplier for their business or as service-provider for health and aged care.

I believe the future liveability, sustainability and productivity of our cities is a key responsibility of the Commonwealth.

Labor is a party who believes in the role of the Commonwealth to assist our cities grow.

A Labor Government will:

  • Appoint a Minister for Cities;

  • Reintroduce the Major Cities Unit;

  • Reconvene the Urban Policy Forum;

  • Ensure the State of Australian Cities report is published annually.

My Shadow Minister for Cities, Anthony Albanese has already convened an Urban Policy Dialogue - an informal gathering of policy and industry experts and stakeholders from across Australia.

And when it comes to improving our cities, there is no better tool at our disposal…no more vital lever for the Commonwealth to pull…than investment in infrastructure.

The Commonwealth must use its massive balance sheet, its fiscal horsepower to work with the States, with local government and with private investors to:

  • provide more affordable housing

  • and develop our cities and towns.

Based on the latest figures, there has been a 17.3 per cent fall in spending on public sector infrastructure in twelve months.

And far too much squabbling and blame-shifting.

This inaction undermines confidence and investor certainty, it hurts State budgets and it burdens local government with congestion problems and road maintenance costs.

And the longer this goes on, the more time Australians spend stuck in their cars on the way to work.

This damages our productivity – and our quality of life outside work.

I do not have a vision of Australia of three large capital cities ringed by drive-in-drive-out suburbs.

A country where parents are never home in time to enjoy a family meal or help out with the homework.

We need a national change in our infrastructure mindset and method.

But that change must begin with those of us here in Canberra putting politics and partisanship aside.

Last month, in Labor’s Budget reply speech, I announced Labor’s plans for a long-term, generational approach to the big infrastructure decisions.

We want to boost the powers and resources of Infrastructure Australia – and put them at the centre of decision-making.

Just as the Reserve Bank sits as an independent authority, at the heart of national monetary policy…our plan will put Infrastructure Australia at the heart of capital investment and nation-building.

And I did something for Tony Abbott that I do not expect for a lifetime for him to do for me.

I said that if Labor was the Government, and they were the Opposition, we would consult them on every appointment to Infrastructure Australia.

I want the Opposition of the day at the table helping us make the decisions – it’s a lot harder to argue and play politics if you’re inside the tent.

Bipartisanship is more than just a word, it’s a way of recognising that no one has all the good ideas, but the more that you have people of good will, working  on the long term generational decisions, the chances are we will make something together which is better than what we could do separately.

We want to bring new certainty, transparency and rigour in – and take the frustrating, petty, short-term politics out.

Instead of worrying about what electorate a road or a train line runs through, Infrastructure Australia will recommend projects based on three key criteria:

  • Is it a benefit to our economy?

  • Is it a benefit to our community?

  • And does it enhance the capacity of our national productivity?

And when the experts at Infrastructure Australia recommend a project - like the Cross-River in Brisbane or the Melbourne Metro - I want them to play a more active role in getting these projects financed.

To act as an engaged and honest broker, bringing together:

  • construction companies

  • long-term investors like our super funds

  • And state and local governments

to get projects underway.

And we won’t stop there.

Leading on liveability, driving urban policy and linking in our regional centres means putting every option on the table…

Let’s think big.

Let’s take a comprehensive look at housing affordability: thinking through urban planning, land supply and the right use of tax incentives.

Matching up housing density with public transport corridors; taking pressure off our roads by making our trains, trams and buses the most convenient and accessible commuting option – not a sacrifice borne under sufferance.

We need to move away from the old model where one CBD per state which is the centre of all jobs growth and the destination of every commuter.

Instead, let’s think about how we can get governments at all levels to co-operate on new job centres, in our outer suburbs and regional towns

There are already ten regional communities with more than 100,000 residents and a few not far behind.

We need to aim to keep growing jobs and investment in Townsville, Cairns and on the Gold Coast, in Newcastle and Wollongong, Geelong, Albury-Wodonga and Launceston.

And for every level of government to co-operate on the development of second and third CBDs in our outer suburbs.

This might mean direct investment, such as in universities, hospitals and research centres, Badgerys Creek Airport or the Moorebank Intermodal project.

Or creating incentives for businesses to base themselves in our growing suburbs.

It is also a recognition that not every job in the Australia of 2025 and 2030 will mean driving to and from an office block every day.

What is wrong with a world class, fibre-to-the-premises National Broadband Network will let more Australians work from home and engage with clients and colleagues online, as well as boosting our international productivity and competitiveness.

Liveability is also about investing in sustainability.

Supporting renewable energy, strong environmental planning standards and backing buildings and precincts that produce their own power in new developments.

And rehabilitating our urban waterways, which for far too long were used for industrial waste.

If we’re going to tackle these challenges, if we’re going to unlock our cities, link our regions and deliver the competitive, productive infrastructure that Australia needs in the 21st Century then we will need to show leadership at a Commonwealth, State and local level.

Because just as with aged care, child care and community services – we will depend upon local delivery and ownership of solutions in construction, design, planning and zoning.

Family violence

This is true for family violence too.

Family violence has sometimes been viewed as a women’s issue, an issue on the margins, something you might add on.

I do not believe that.

I believe family violence is a topic of national importance.

People like to use the word leadership a lot – it means many different things.

But to me one issue of leadership is demanding that matters of national priority be what the Parliament deal with.

It means saying to a nation: some things are too important to be neglected any longer.

I believe it is possible to turn the tide on family violence in our nation.

I believe - many years from now - people will look back on this time as a tipping point for the way we looked at family violence, and spoke of it.

They will say that, with Rosie Batty as Australian of the year…we finally came to grips with the notion that family violence is not a ‘family matter’, it is not, ‘none of our business’.

Hopefull we can come to a point when we say in the wake of another, all-too-common death, the question is not ‘why didn’t she just leave’, or ‘how could she let that happen’?

The question we did ask is: how do we just stop it?

What can we do to prevent it ever happening again?

We need to understand – in politics, in the media, in our day-to-day conversations that it is about men’s behaviour and men’s attitudes.

It doesn’t matter what suburb you live in or what ethnicity to are or what god you worship. It doesn’t matter if you live in the country or the city.

The universal link in the forty-three deaths this year on family violence, there is one common link: they were women, and the people who did the killing were men. That is the link.

Now I know that local government in many parts of the country are tackling this issue.

It might be my state-of-origin bias showing, but I’m especially conscious of the efforts of the Municipal Association of Victoria, whose focus on primary prevention and professional development is a model we could roll out across the country.

Improving our national awareness is fundamental – but so is our local, grassroots response.

Eliminating family violence from our national life depends upon national support for local communities: service providers, case-workers, refuges and legal centres.

In March, I wrote to the Prime Minister, calling for a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence – a gathering of experts, law enforcement, social service providers, levels of government and, above all, survivors – the people who have seen the faults and flaws of our current system from the inside.

A Labor Government will hold this summit in our first 100 days.

It is a declaration that the nation that Australians want to see in the mirror, the nation that we want our children to believe in or that we can tell strangers who we are will not tolerate family violence full stop.

We’ve also outlined a $70 million interim package, including a $15 million safe at home program.

On average, a woman affected by family violence moves three times.

Those upheavals – away from their support network, their family, their friends, their communities and their job.

Sometimes women are still paying the mortgage when the abuser is sitting in the family home.

Our plan is designed to ensure the abuser is not rewarded and the survivor can stay.

This means providing resources for:

  • key changes and lock upgrades to doors and windows

  • sensor and security lighting

  • security screen doors

  • external CCTV cameras, training and monitoring

  • alarm systems

It’s a mundane list of practical things because we can do it, because every Australian woman has the right to be safe in her home.

And delivering this measure, depends upon a strong partnership with local government.

Women in Politics

There’s one more challenge I would like to put forward to you today, a shared goal I believe we should strive for.

Let’s get more women involved in federal, state and local politics.


  • One in three councillors are women.

  • One in four mayors are women.

  • And one in ten Council CEOs are women.

These ratios are all too low, far too low.

Yet, interestingly, the proportion of women being elected is about equal to the proportion who run.

We don’t need to convince the voters, they know the contribution women make, the value they add, the quality they bring as representatives, leaders and decision-makers.

The challenge is to encourage more women to run, to convince more women that local politics is a forum where they can make a difference.

This responsibility, driving cultural change, is on all of us who serve: federal and local, women and men.

There is nothing for us to fear, or to lose, from the march of women through the institutions of power.

There is everything to gain.

Friends, I’m a believer in local government.

I’m confident that if we work together, this country can be an even better country than the marvelous one we already have.

Thank you.