Bill's Speeches

SPEECH - TASMIANIAN STATE LABOR CONFERENCE - SATURDAY, 1 JULY 2017

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I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I pay my respects to elders past and present.

It’s so good to be back here in beautiful Tasmania.

It's a place that holds a lot of great memories for me, and a home to so many natural wonders - from the coast to the mountains, from the Franklin to Freycinet.

But I’ve got to tell you, there is no finer view of Tasmania for me than looking at this conference floor of true believers - the very best of Tasmania.

Last time I spoke to your conference, we had one Tasmanian member in the House of Representatives.

I’m so pleased to report we now have four members in the House of Representatives.

Julie has been joined by Justine, Ross and Bryan.

And – friends - they are able to stand up for Tasmanians in the national parliament because of your hard work, house by house, street by street, community by community.

And at the last election, it's fair to say the Tasmanian Liberals suffered the same fate as the Tasmanian Tiger.

Speaking of unusual creatures hiding in the wilderness, I see Senator Abetz is still leading the Tassie Liberals, still trying to warn people about the outbreak of the 20th Century.

Meanwhile, Labor’s Senate team has five strong and progressive voices for the future: Carol Brown, Anne Urquhart, Catryna Bilyk, Helen Polley and Lisa Singh.

I know we’ve got the better team in Canberra – and you’ve got it here in Tassie too.

Rebecca White has brought new energy and new ideas to the leadership in Tasmania – and I know that if given the opportunity, she’ll bring new jobs and new opportunities to all of Tasmania as Premier of Tasmania.

I can’t wait for the Bill Bus and the Bec Bus to hit the campaign trail together.

It is important and, on your behalf, I also want to thank Bryan Green for the work he did to re-energise the Labor to become the competitive force it is today.

Thank you, Bryan.

This conference falls on a defining day in the Australian year, a defining moment in the fight for the fair go.

But it is a typical day for the Turnbull Government.

Prices are up, everything goes up except wages.

And, if you get weekend penalty rates, your wages will go down.

A typical day in the life of the Turnbull Government.

How is it - courtesy of Mr Turnbull - that today, someone who earns a million dollars a year, gets a tax cut worth $16,400.

But tomorrow, courtesy of Malcolm Turnbull…

  • A Mum working in retail, or the local pharmacy, you are now on the path of pay cuts and pay cuts. 

  • A student doing a Sunday shift in hospitality, or fast food…   

  • If you are one of 700,000 decent hard-working Australians in pharmacy, retail, fast food and hospitality, your penalty rates are going to be cut

Not only a cut tomorrow but a further cut in 2018, a further cut in 2019, and cut again in 2020.

How on earth did we get to be in a state of affairs where millionaires get a tax cut but workers get a pay cut?

Let's talk about these penalty rate cuts for a moment. This is not a case where workers have negotiated for better conditions, not bargained for a higher base rate of pay.

This is just a unilateral cut to your wages - on people who can't afford for their wages to be cut.

It is a Tasmania story too.

40,000 Tasmanians – 1 in 6 workers in this state, are covered by the awards where the penalty rates will be cut.

And what this out-of-touch government doesn't realise, is that when you cut the incomes of people $30,000-$50,000, you torpedo confidence in the economy.

The myth of right wing economics is that when you lower the wages of workers, somehow everyone is better off.

In fact, everyone is worse off because the wallets and the purses will be closed.

That great truth is that when you earn $60,000-70,000 a year, you spend every cent.

Sure, you'd love to save money but you can't when the bills are going up, the fees have got to be paid.

All this is is a wage cut.

No wonder why so many Australians are disillusioned with politics as usual. 

It's because the people in charge in Canberra have no idea how real people live their lives.

But this is all consistent with Turnbull's view of the world.

He says that lowering penalty rates isn't his problem - leave it to the umpire.

But when it was truckies' safe rates at work, he didn't just ignore the umpire - he sacked the umpire.

Labor makes no apology for being on the side of workers.

We always have and we always will.

Mr Turnbull, his cohorts in the conservative media and no less than 65 of his MPs have been on the record as saying penalty rates are unaffordable in their current structure. 

The fact is that cuts to penalty rates are something Australians cannot afford.

They'll never understand that for people who work on a Sunday, are working parents, a kid trying to pay their way through university, a renter –

They will never understand that when you have a cut of $77 a week, it makes the bills harder to pay.

It means you make choices about which day of the week you go to the petrol station.

Decisions like this mean that people make calculated decisions about how long they can put off the Telstra, gas and electricity bills.

These decisions mean you start a process of negotiating payment plans with the utility company for basic bills.

This is not the way the deal was meant to be.

We are meant to be a country where the harder you work, the better you do.

But when you are cutting penalty rates, when the price of everything goes up, the old deal isn't happening for too many Australians.

So to all the conservative commentators and Turnbull cheer squad, who say that this government is trying to be 'Labor-lite'…

This is not a 'Labor-lite' government, it is not a mid-strength Labor government, it is not a heavy Labor government, it is a conservative government run for vested interests and the established in this nation.  

I want to say look at what’s happening in Tasmania - but not only to you and other Tasmanians watching - I want to say to all Australians that the labour movement, including the magnificent union movement, we will keep campaigning.

Campaigning in the parliament, in the workplace and campaigning in our communities.

And to people concerned and anxious about where this country is going –

I can promise you this: that within 100 days of a Labor Government, if elected at the next election, we will reverse the tax cuts for millionaires and we will reverse the penalty rate cuts for workers.

And when we talk about protecting people's take home pay, we are going to do something else.

We will protect every Australian who earns less than $87,000 from Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to increase their taxes.

In the last Budget, Mr Turnbull announced they want 170,000 Tasmanians who earn less than $87,000 to pay more tax.

For someone on $60,000 – that’s an extra $300 a year, every year in extra tax.

They haven't had a pay rise for years.

We live in a period of the lowest share of GDP going to income, flat-lining wages growth, anaemic economic growth...

But now, Mr Turnbull says it's now time for you to pay $300 more if you earn $60,000.

And what he has also said, at the same time as increasing taxes by half a per cent on people who earn less than $87,000, he has said that people on the top tax bracket should pay less.

They have decided to cancel the budget deficit levy even though the deficit has increased.

And when we say that we don't support getting rid of a 2 per cent deficit  levy on people in the top tax bracket, the top 2 per cent of income earners...

When we said this nation cannot afford to give a 2 per cent tax refund to millionaires, he has said we are taxing success.

That shows the true measure of this elitist, out of touch government. They think that the more money you earn, the more of a success you are.

To them, your success and worth is measured by how much money you have.

And if you follow this logic of Mr Turnbull which says that by increasing the tax on people in the top income bracket, somehow Labor is taxing success...

Then why is he increasing the tax on people who earn less than $87,000 a year?

How is it that you can decrease tax for the very wealthy because you're on the side of 'successful people'?

Is there a judgement, is there implied snobbery that somehow if you don't earn a lot of money, we can increase your taxes because you are not 'one of us'? That somehow you are not successful in the classic Turnbull definition of success?

Well let me state very clearly on behalf of the Labor Party, not just to this room but to this country...

  • If you’re a police officer in Launceston earning less than $87,000 – you’re a success in Labor’s view.

  • If you’re a child care worker in Burnie and earn less than $87,000 – you’re already a success in my book.

  • You might be a garbo on the council, you might hairdresser in Hobart, you might be a teacher - and if you earn less than $87,000 a year, we're not going to increase your taxes – because you are a success. 

We believe in our movement that what makes you a success isn't how much money you bank overseas, it isn't how much tax you minimise, it isn't the number of corporate structures which are opaque which the tax office can't follow –

Success in my book is whether or not you are a good parent. 

Success in my book is if you are a kind neighbour.

Success in this country isn't measured just by money alone, it's what is in here.

And that is why the Labor Party is not going to stand by and see working class people who don't earn a lot of money be asked to pay more tax when there are other ways to fund the necessary commitments, the social safety net of Government.

If you want to find some money, don't start with 8 million people who earn less than $87,000.

Start with reforming negative gearing - put the investors behind the people who want to buy their first home.

There's $37 billion.

If you want to find some money, don't tax people on $50,000 - just don't let people deduct tens of thousands of dollars off for the money they pay their accountant to minimise their tax.

How is it in our country that 50-70 people, that we know of, who earn more than $1million a year, pay no tax?

Mr Turnbull, if you want to save some money - do some budget repair that is fair.

Don't start with the people who have got the least.

Start with large corporations. They do not need a $65 billion tax giveaway.

All together, Labor can find $128 billion to go bottom line - and it doesn't involve making working people pay more tax.

And I said today was a classic day in the Turnbull Government - 1st of July.

And there’s one more thing Tasmanians need to know about 1 July - the Medicare freeze is still in place.

And much of the items in the Medicare freeze will still be in place on 1 July 2018 and 1 July 2019.

Let me explain what a Medicare freeze is - it is rebate paid to you when you use medical services.

The workers, families and taxpayers in Australia have already paid for Medicare.

In 1985, people went without a wage rise and part of the accord to pay for Medicare.

We pay a Medicare levy now.

But this Government has frozen the rebate for patients.

This freeze is the rebate you get back when you visit the doctor when your family is sick.

  • GP consults for chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes - frozen until 2020.

  • GP items for pregnant women and women who have recently had a baby - frozen until 2020.

  • Rebates for GPs to conduct pap smears - frozen until 2020.

  • And rebates for GPs to undertake mental health assessments - frozen until 2020.

This Government has not learnt the lessons of the last 12 months. 

It has not learnt that the health of anyone of us matters to all of us.

That it's your Medicare card, not your credit card which determines the healthcare you get.

They haven't learnt because the freeze is still in place.

And here in Tasmania we are seeing the impacts of these cuts in increased pressure on your hospitals

Longer waiting times for emergency departments, falling well short of the National Emergency Access Target

The longest waiting times for elective surgery in the country are here in Tasmania.

More than 15 per cent of patients wait more than a year for elective surgery.

Tasmanians are pretty tough people, they don’t book in for surgery lightly.

The pain and discomfort are too much to bear, that surgery is the only option…and then waiting a whole year – that is shameful.

I said that I loved coming to Tassie, love talking to locals and hearing from you.

But I know there are plenty of our fellow Tasmania's who are doing it tough.

The economy is changing fast.

But the change isn't affecting everyone evenly, fairly or beneficially.

But in the Labor Party we don’t shrug our shoulders and say ‘there’s nothing we can do’.

We do not believe that another person's misfortune is somebody else's responsibility. 

We are here to reach out a helping hand.

Not to be complacent, to make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens.

That's why we invest in job-creation, in training, in skills.

To make sure people aren’t left behind, which is what we see now.

This means backing what Tassie does best: from tourism and education to agriculture, science and advanced manufacturing.

There is an exciting story to be told in Tasmania - but it means everyone gets included.

We don't believe in change that leaves people behind.

So I can promise you that if we form a government in Canberra, every time the Commonwealth spends money on infrastructure, we’ll have a 1-in-10 rule.

At least 1 in 10 of the workers employed by jobs funded by the Commonwealth is an Australian apprentice. 

You and I understand that we live in an unprecedented time of growth of India, of China, our near neighbours to the north. 

What has sustained Australia so far is the export prices for our commodities. That's good but we can't keep depending on our global terms of trade.

That's the good luck the rest of the world gives Tasmania and Australia.

But what is the luck we are making ourselves?

And it always falls to the Labor Party to deliver the nation's luck, and that means investing in education, skills and training.

Tasmania schools are not getting a fair deal out of the recent education cuts in Canberra.

Only this government can argue that instead of cutting $22 billion from schools funding over the next 10 years but cutting $17 billion is a victory.

It is not a victory.

The pressure will go onto government schools. On a lack of resources.

Teachers will be asked to do more with less - and heaven help trying to negotiate something better for the teachers under a Liberal government in this new constrained funding package.

And parents who send their kids to low fee catholic schools, their fees are going to go up.

This is not a change for the better.

Why is it that the very well-off in this country argue that money doesn't matter in education.

Of course money is not the only issue.

Of course teacher quality, engaged parents are important to a child's education...

But let us not short change our kids.

When we fall behind the pack in terms of global education outcomes, it is very hard to come back.

We are not a large country in the pattern of the world.

And so therefore, we must make our own luck and educate our kids.

That's why a Labor government will do needs-based funding properly because we are the only party who believes in needs based funding.

And you can't have a discussion about education without mentioning TAFE.

TAFE is the second chance, the opportunity for young people and adults to retrain.

So we will look after Tassie TAFE too.

Friends

In conclusion, the Liberals had their Federal council get together in Sydney.

But unfortunately for them, Christopher Pyne’s antics at the Cherry Bar grabbed most of the headlines.

They took attention away from an even more extraordinary development.

The Liberals launched a new website – get this, it’s called “The Fair Go”. 

That’s right, the same Liberals who are:

  • Closing TAFEs

  • Freezing Medicare

  • Cutting penalty rates

  • Increasing taxes for workers

  • Locking young people out of housing and making it more expensive for them to go to university.

…they want to start a conversation about fairness.

So I had to check this out – thought I’d save you the trouble.

The first post I saw was pure gold. 

It was called – and I quote - “Women are Just People”

Someone better tell the Tasmanian Liberals!

Here in Tassie, in our Labor Party, women are also Senators - Senator people and House of Reps people – future Premier people.

And in our Labor Party the fair go isn’t a website, it’s the reason we were formed and why we fight.

Fairness isn’t a domain-name for us. It’s in our DNA.

Something our movement, union and party, have dedicated ourselves to for more than 120 years.

It's why we joined.

It’s why we get up every day, to fight for good jobs with decent pay – including penalty rates.

It’s why we invest in the early years, in great schools and skills, TAFE and universities.

Fairness is why we created universal healthcare.

Fairness is why, when two people love each other – they should have the right to get married.

It took Germany one week, no decisive plebiscite costing $170 million.

If Angela Merkel leading a conservative party in their parliament has the courage to have a vote, wouldn't it be a great legacy for Mr Turnbull to have a vote in our parliament in his remaining term?

We understand that fairness is not passing on to future generations inaction on climate change.

We have said we are prepared to look seriously at the chief scientist's report - but you need two to dance when it comes to climate change.

We are willing to do our part, give it serious consideration.

Fairness would require that we end the climate change wars once and for all.

It is the greatest pressure on electricity prices -  a lack of policy certainty.  

Friends,

Tomorrow in Brisbane, it is Pacquiao v Horn.

Everywhere else in Australia, it is still Turnbull v Abbott - and that fight will go on.

And I don't know who our team in Canberra will face - which Liberal has-been or could-a-been or wannabe.

Those are things we can’t control.

But it is clear - their disunity continues. 

But we won't be distracted by that.

Because we can decide to offer the Australian people a positive alternative.

I promise you, we’ll be campaigning on a lot more than just a list of Liberal failures - we will campaign on positive reasons to vote Labor.

Australians are hungry for more content in their political debate.

And as we approach this weekend - when millionaires get a tax cuts, when workers are getting penalty rate cuts.

When the price of everything goes up and up - except for wages.

We will make sure we do not back off being the strong alternative.

We want an economy that works for everyone.

We don't believe in the 'crumbs from the rich man's table' book of economics. We want a rising tide that doesn't just lift the yachts, but lifts all boats. 

And we can deliver this:

  • A tax system that's fair for all.

  • A healthcare system which is affordable and available when you need it. 

  • Energy prices going down, not up.

  • A properly funded schools system, TAFE and higher ed. 

We can do this because the Labor Party is committed to looking after working and middle class Australians.

The top 1 per cent are pretty good at looking after themselves. They don't need help from us.

We don't accept the proposition that on July 1, the only way to get this country going is to look after the top end and hope everyone else is ok.

Malcolm Turnbull and his team have been in Government for 4 years now. They have made their choice.

He wants to be the Prime Minister for multinationals and millionaires.

I want to be the Prime Minister for middle and working class Australians.

Together we can win this election.


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