Bill's Speeches

SPEECH - ADDRESS TO VICTORIAN LABOR CONFERENCE - MELBOURNE - SUNDAY, 21 MAY 2017

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Thanks very much for that welcome. 

Good morning everybody and I'd like to acknowledge, first of all, the traditional owners of this land upon which we meet, I pay my respects to elders both past and present.

And in acknowledging the traditional owners, let us pledge ourselves again to pre-selecting and electing more first Australians in the ranks of Labor to Parliament - and we need to do it in Victoria, it's been too long.

A Sunday morning of a conference, I thank you all for being here.

I’ve been a member of the party for 33 years. I’ve sat in conferences as a rank-and-file member, a union delegate, an FEA delegate, indeed as a Member of Parliament and as Minister in a previous Labor Government. 

But I’m nowhere near the record.   Yesterday, Dan Andrews and I presented life memberships to 160 true believers. 

6,500 years of political commitment. So I would like to get the conference to congratulate them.

Also, Marg Lewis - happy birthday Marg.

I think it is important, whether this is your first conference – or your fiftieth – it is important to remember what we do.

Our tribe, our movement, we come together to share our views, to debate, to set our direction – and we do it in the open.


The Liberals have their staged morning teas, they all shuffle-in to work out how to get rid of section 18C, the sooner they can do that they can get back to debating whether or not climate change is real.


One Nation are still flying around looking for a venue that doesn't do halal catering.


And as for the Greens…who knows where they are? Some windowless basement, convening in secret to work out a dud deal to to back-up Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to education.

But we're here, we take pride in what we think that the Labor Party can make Australia do. 

We did well at the last election, we did a lot better than I think many predicted. 
 
Everyone here deserves some of that credit: from our local volunteers to the mighty trade union movement, to the members of the Federal team and all the candidates.  


So I want you to know that I'm very proud of our efforts - but I also want you to know there is not a shred of complacency in me. 

Not a moment passes when I do not think about the next election. Not a moment does our team not think about winning the next election, whenever it is held. 

We are a movement upon which millions of Australians depend and hope. 

We can never be satisfied with an honourable second place.

Until we win, our job is not done.

Until we improve the lives of millions of Australians which you can only do from government, our job is not done.

Yesterday we heard from Premier Dan Andrews.

He's making Victoria a national leader: on education, on infrastructure and – just as importantly - in tackling the scourge of family violence. 

Today, I want to talk to you about Federal Labor’s vision for the future, the vision for this country.


We want to build an economy that works for everyone. Where prosperity is stronger because it is shared.


We want to build an economy and a society which works for people and everyone who wants to work can do so - in a fairer Australia.

We want a clever Australia which invests in the potential of our fellow citizens, invests in our education, invests in skills, invests in training.

And we want a fairer Australia, one where everyone has the right to a decent wage - and the right to come home safe at night from their workplace.

And we want an Australia where when people want to join a union they can, and unions are free to organise, to make sure people get a fair go at work.

And I promise, that no matter what the slander, what the vilification of the anti-union rhetoric of the Government, we're not going to give up on the fight for fairness in Australian workplaces.

Then we look at this Government and their most recent Budget, the 2017 Budget.

Two weeks ago, the Liberals released a budget designed to bury their past, to re-write history. 

It has taken the Liberal party three years since 2014 and one Federal election, to work out what the labour movement worked out in three minutes – this country can never go ahead when you punish working and middle class people.


And now we’ve got a Government desperate just to sit in power. With no plan for fairness, just the recitation of slogans that they think will pass the makeover test.

They look for this budget bounce everywhere, 'where's the budget bounce?' 

The point about it is, the budget is a means to an end, it's about making this country better, it's about giving people hope - and this budget contained precious little hope for most people.

Now we can pretend, for example, that the Liberals are genuine when they use the word 'fairness', that they know what it means. 

We could pretend for a moment that they've really changed their ways. 

But you have to ask yourself, if after 34 years of trying to destroy Medicare, they now claim to believe in it - why are they keeping elements and parts of the Medicare freeze and the cuts to healthcare up to 2020. 

If, after years of saying that money doesn't make a difference to schools, they now support needs-based funding - why aren’t they funding schools to the level that is needed?

Why are they cutting $22 billion over the next 10 years and robbing our kids' educational future?

If, after years of saying housing affordability is not a problem - 'just get rich parents' - now they apparently want to help.

If they want to help why are they not scrapping negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions for existing houses, which keep young people out of the market? 

They say that they're for the future of Australia - so why are the Liberal Party waging war on our young people?

Why are they cutting the penalty rates of our young?

Why do they refuse to take real action on climate change, which will affect the young?

Why are they increasing the cost of university?

Why are they denying young people the chance for an apprenticeship?

And why are they denying them the  chance to buy their first home?

Governments of all persuasions have a generational transaction. It is the job of every generation to pass on a better standard of living, to pass on better conditions to the next generation. 

This is a government who is failing a contract with the future. 

This is a government who does not support our young people. 

We ask more of our young people than ever before.

To pay more HECs, to save on superannuation for their retirement, we ask them to pay their Medicare levy, we expect them to pay the GST. 

And much of what gets paid by young people is for the present generation.

But now we are seeing a situation where if you are young in this country, you better hope that you have got rich parents to get your house, to be able to afford to go to university.

We are seeing a generational contract being ripped up by Mr Turnbull and his Liberal Party.

We do not accept that this government actually understands what the word 'fair' means. 

Let me tell you about their Medicare changes that they patted themselves on the back about.

This week we found out that the changes that they announced will only apply to 6 per cent of procedures from 1 July.

So what it means is if you’re pregnant – you’ll still be paying more for scans and tests to monitor the health of your baby. 

If you have cancer, you will still be paying more for blood tests.

If you’re one of the 1.2 million Australians who have diabetes, you’ll still be paying more for your regular check-ups.


First came the six year freeze in Medicare rebates - and understand what this Medicare rebate is, it isn't a payment to the doctor, it's a patients' rebate.

When this Government freezes for 6 years, the rebate which patients receive, they are affecting the cost of living and the health outcomes of Australians.

But this Government hasn't fixed Medicare, all they've tried to do is band-aid over the problems.

It takes a special brand of indifference and cynicism to outline $65 billion worth of tax cuts to corporate Australia and only find $9 million in the next year to start reversing some of the freezes.

The difference between us and them, is we fight for Medicare every day - because it's our belief, it's our values.  

We don't believe that Medicare is simply something to be focus group tested by the Liberals and by Textor, just simply trying to pretend that you care.

And the same goes for these work visas. Only a government who is truly cynical could on one hand propose increasing the fees for temporary work visas, but on the other hand take $600 million out of the training system.

So don't look at their front announcement, look at the detail in the fine print.

Whereas Labor has a plan for our apprentices and our training system.

We are going to have the 1-in-10 rule, wherever the Commonwealth spends valuable, scarce dollars on infrastructure projects: on social and public housing, wherever there is Commonwealth money, we want to see one in every ten of the employees be an apprentice - because that's what we stand for, looking after our young people. 

On education, it is about time to call out the hypocrisy of the Liberals and the conservatives in this country.

I for one, am tired of Liberal conservatives saying "more money doesn't fix a problem - more money doesn't help in schools". 

You have to ask yourself, why is it that people who don't need more money, always say everyone else shouldn't have more money for their kids? 

We will put back every dollar that should have been there. 

The $22 billion over the next 10 years, the on average $2.4 million cut from every school. 

We will have needs-based funding because we believe, in our party, that your postcode should not be the determinant of your success in life.

And don't doubt our commitment on TAFE. 

Let me be very clear, the swing towards the privatisation of vocational education in this country will stop under Federal Labor.

We will commit that at least 2 in every 3 dollars that the taxpayer spends on vocational educational will be spent on public TAFE - because we'll put public TAFE into the centre of what we do.

And just a little word for Mr Turnbull, who loves to be photographed on our trams as a tourist: stop taking Victorians for a ride when it comes to infrastructure spending. 

Eight cents in every Commonwealth dollar under Mr Turnbull is going to Victorians.

25 per cent of the population, economically contributing its fair share and more to the future of this country, but Mr Turnbull can only find eight cents in every dollar for Victoria.

He's just not a friend of Victoria and Victorians will remind him of what they think of him at the next election. 

And because Labor makes promises that it intends to keep, we never forget the need to identify savings in the Commonwealth Budget.

This is the great magic of Turnbull: he's not one of us, but he's not even one of the conservatives. 

He handed down the biggest spending budget in Australia's history. 

He is not for small government, less taxes and less debt - but he is implementing the wrong priorities.

He can cut schools, he won't help our hospitals and our Medicare - but he can find $65 billion for corporate Australia in tax reductions.

So this is how Labor pays for its promises. 

We won't go ahead with $65 billion worth of giveaways to corporate Australia - much of which will go to overseas companies.

And we certainly will reform negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions - so we will save another $37 billion there.

If Mr Turnbull was really fair dinkum and fair about Medicare, education and infrastructure, we can find him $100 billion-plus of reductions in the Budget bottom line to help pay for our commitment to a fairer Australia.

And we offer Malcolm Turnbull this invitation this Sunday morning: he can take our ideas - just take all of them. Don't just cherry-pick some of them.

Let me also just reiterate another $170 million we can save the Budget - we will not allocate any money for a plebiscite on marriage equality, we'll just vote and be done with it.

And to be straight, if we want to have a fairer system, then we do need to look at our taxation system.

We have a bell shaped tax system in this country - you know the bell shape.

On one end, if you earn no money, you pay no tax - the problem with that is that you're poor.

Then you come up the growth part of the bell, that's the men and women in this room and much of Australia. 

You go to work, you earn your money, but you don't really get access to the big deductions, the negative gearing on your 7th house, the Cayman Islands special deals - you just pay your tax.

But at the other end of the bell shape, there's people who make  a great of deal of money, but they don't pay their fair share in taxation.

We have a two-class tax system in this country, where how much you can pay for your accountant indicates how much you can get out of the system and avoid paying your taxation.

We should not have a taxation system in this country where paying tax is an opt-out benefit for the very wealthy. But that is what we have at the moment.

So we are taking - just as we've done with negative gearing - our next stage in creating more fairness in our tax system.

We are going to eliminate the ability to claim more than $3,000 on your accountant's costs.

What sort of an absurd situation do we have in this country, where not only if you have a lot of money you can claim a lot of deductions, but you can even elect to deduct the cost of deducting the costs - that is a double dip! 

There are two economic stories about the future of this country for the electorate to consider in the next year and a half. 

There is the Coalition story of trickle-down economics - the crumbs from the rich man's table.

The proposition that if you look after the top two per cent, somehow everyone else benefits.

We see that on show in the 2017 Budget.

No budget will ever be fair which sees on 1 July, millionaires in this country pay less tax and yet on 2 July, we see penalty rates being cut for people who work on a Sunday.

That is not fair - never is, never was, never will be. 

There's another proposition though, another economic story. If you look after working and middle class people, then you actually have the circumstances for real opportunities for individuals to make the most of.


And nothing could be clearer in our commitment to that second economic story, than our commitment to having a strong safety net.

Just as education and health are enablers of a productive and competitive economy, they are also a part of a strong safety net.

Nothing speaks to our commitment for a strong safety net greater than the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This Government says that the only way that you can look after the strong safety net of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is by making working class people pay more in tax.

Labor doesn't buy the argument that in a $464 billion Budget, that somehow the lazy approach of raising the taxes of people on 40 and 50 and 60,000 a year is the only way to look after people with profound and severe disabilities.

Labor will always champion the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Just as Jenny Macklin says when she speaks to people with disabilities - we helped invent it, we own it, we will back it in.

And we will never hold people with disabilities hostage to a grubby income tax increase by this Government on working class people. 

Not when millionaires are paying less, large companies get a tax cut, and you get the cost of deducting the rorts from the taxpayer yourself.

We are the party of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

We will not be deterred from this Government by properly funding it.

But one thing is for sure, if you want to have fairness in this country, you have a strong safety net and you don't play political game like this politically biased Government of Turnbull and Morrison - we will always back disabilities.

So we have the 2017 Budget, and we have an election to fight, and we have people to talk to and people to represent, and a campaign and causes to argue for, but let us remember that this Budget of 2017 is unfair to its core.

It is unfair when you have got stagnant wages growth, yet income taxes are going up for working class people.

It is unfair when corporations get $65 billion in handouts, yet we see cuts to training and TAFE.

It is unfair when we see education and schools reduced by $22 billion, yet this is a Government who is willing to give millionaires a 2 per cent tax reduction from 1 July this year.

It is a tough fight ahead of us. We can take nothing for granted and we cannot afford to be complacent.

In fact, at this racecourse 35 years ago, that great race caller, Bill Collins, delivered his most famous line. 

As they rounded the home turn for the 1982 Cox Plate, he said 'Kingston Town can't win'. 

And then that great horse stormed home.

Friends, in this next year and a half, there will always be people prepared to say and to write Labor off, to say that Labor can't win.

And remember when you hear that, remember the 2014 Budget, which the Government said was right for the times.

We opposed it, we disagreed with it, we saw the unfairness at its core. 

Initial headlines were that this was a magnificent start to the Abbott period - three terms at least they said. Hockey, the triumphal genius.

They said that Labor wouldn't be strong enough or united enough to stop the cuts to pensions, the cuts to families, the GP tax.

They said we should roll over on the cuts to schools, the cuts to TAFE, the cuts to universities and the cuts to Medicare. 

But really, what we saw then and what we see now is what our movement has seen for over a century. 

The opponents of progress have always said the same thing about Labor, about our movement: 

"It can't be done, You can't win." 

"Know your place, keep to it." 

"Be happy being an opposition, loyally serving the Government of the day".

That is not, never was and never will be the Labor way.

We aim for the best. 

We are ambitious, not just for our movement, we are ambitious for this country.

I make no apology for wanting to have the best healthcare in the world, for wanting to have the best schools in the world, for wanting to have the best infrastructure in the world, for wanting to have the best rates of pay and the strongest minimum wage safety net in the world.

We don't want to slip back in the pack. 

What has made Australia such a special country, is in fact that social contract between governments and the people. 

That contract which says that it is the role of government to help make opportunity for people.

That it is the role of government to look after people who fall behind the pace.

That it is the role of government to temper the excessive economic power of some of the businesses and institutions in this country.

But every day that this Government remains in power, it digs a deeper hole for the Australian people to climb out. 

Every day that this Government remains in power, it cements privilege, it cements inequality and that valuable, essential quality of life, that flicker of hope for families, dims a little more under this Government's pattern of unfairness.

A change of rhetoric from the Government is not good enough - we need a change of government in this country.

All of us here are in politics for one reason above all others: to implement the best possible policies for the people of Australia.

Australians deserve nothing less than the best.

We believe in a country where you should get paid properly for working on a Sunday. 

Where young Australians and adult Australians can find a trade, can find an apprenticeship, can re-train again.

We believe in an Australia where the housing market should be a level playing field and a young family and their parents should not have the unfair competition of the investor supported by the taxpayer. 

We believe in an Australia where opting-out of taxation for multinationals and wealthy individuals is not an option - that it's the same rules for all.

We believe in an Australia where our first Australians are recognised.

We believe in an Australia, where you're allowed to marry the person you love, for goodness sake.

We believe in an Australia which will take real action on climate change.

And we believe in an Australia where insecure work, casualisation, wage theft and offshoring are not part of the norm.

We believe in an Australia where we will abolish the ABCC.

Let's face our new challenges in this new generation of Labor.

Our challenge is to make sure that we keep our head afloat as the world changes around us, that our standard of living isn't squeezed, that the middle class and the working class are not going backwards.

Our challenge is, when we live in this period of the rise of India and China, to make sure that Australia has a bright future. 

And that bright future is guaranteed by being a clever country. 

It's guaranteed by investing in people - that's what Labor has always done for 120 years.

We will never give up on a fight for fairness. 

If Mr Turnbull want to play on the away ground. 

If he wants to move to the fairness ground. We know every blade of grass on that ground. 

We helped build that ground.

We are the party of fairness and we will never surrender the fight for fairness - and it starts again tomorrow in Parliament and it'll be every day until the election.

We are a good movement. We are a good party. We want the best for the people of Australia. 

And most importantly, we know what we believe. We believe in the fair go all round.

Thank you very much. 

ENDS


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