Bill's Speeches



Queensland Labor Conference: beautiful one day, perfect the next.

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

And because this is a Labor gathering, our words are always a promise for action, a promise that we will deliver better opportunities and a more equal future for our First Australians, nothing can be more Labor than that promise.

Delegates, Queensland means a great deal to me.

This state is the birthplace of three of the most important things in my life: the Australian Workers Union, the Australian Labor Party and my wife Chloe.

Not in that order, darling.

I say that with respect to this party in Queensland for well over a century, it has been Queensland Labor that has given Labor nationally, ballast. You are the inheritors of a tradition which gives weight and stability, purpose and incentive to our cause.

Not just because the Labor Party's foundation was inspired beneath the tree of knowledge but because time and time again, Queensland Labor has shown the power of progressive governments to bring hope into people’s lives.

You are the inheritors of a tradition which goes right back to T.J Ryan and William Forgan-Smith.

The statement that you give ballast to Labor was true of Goss and Beattie and Bligh, and it’s very true of your very remarkable Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk. 

It's a bit easy in the digital age in the twelve hour media cycle to perhaps not take the time to reflect on how much has been accomplished by Queensland Labor.

You should hold your heads up in the family of Labor nationally because in decades past, when our party was falling apart elsewhere, in the bleak years of the Menzies era, true believers could always look to Queensland and your accomplishments.

From public health to workers’ compensation, they could see what Labor can achieve in government, we in the rest of the nation could draw upon the ballast of Queensland Labor in power.

And Queensland Labor is very special because of what you have given Australia.

You gave us the first majority Labor Government in the world, under a Queenslander Andrew Fisher legislating for aged pensions, you wove together the first strands of the social safety net which we rely upon today.  

Just imagine if we’d had that great Queenslander, Ted Theodore, as Prime Minister in the 1930s, Australia would have come through the Great Depression very differently.

And we know that that last statement is true because of the way those two great Queenslanders, Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd navigated Australia
through the Global Financial Crisis.

Every time you take your child to the doctor and get out your Medicare card, we should think of that great Queenslander Bill Hayden, the architect of universal health care in this country.

It is why this gathering today is so important, it is why the Queensland Labor conference does matter so much, because the decisions made here can help set the direction of the nation.  

Now delegates, some things have changed a great deal since our last conference together.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has won a second term as Premier. Outstanding. 

Malcolm Turnbull has left the building, in fact he’s left the country.

Julie Bishop is on the back bench.

And Peter Dutton is in all sorts of trouble.

I mean, seriously, what is the go with the au pairs? 

Who would have thought that such an arch conservative, inspiration to the Institute of Public Affairs, was secretly working towards a nanny state!

But delegates, some things are still to change.

The LNP is still in government in Canberra.

Now they’ve changed titles but they haven’t changed who they are.They haven’t changed their economic plan, one iota.

They are still cutting Queensland schools and hospitals, still cutting Queensland TAFE, still cutting child care for Queensland families, still cutting Sunday and public holiday penalty rates. 

They're still desperate to give billions to the big four banks and the top end of town.

LNP climate change sceptics still rule the roost, dictating energy policy and driving up your power bills.

And in Moreton Bay and Emerald and Bowen and Ipswich and Logan, people are still saying to me, that everything is going up, except their wages.

But on the plus side friends there is one other thing which hasn’t changed from the last conference,  and it’s something we can be proud of, Susan Lamb is still the Member for Longman.

Have no doubt, the Longman by-election was the beginning of the end for Malcolm Turnbull.

Queenslanders called him out.  You called him out. You changed the nation.

And, delegates, at the next general election I’m asking for your help to do it again.

Because despite all the shambles, the narcissistic selfishness on the other side, I and my team do not stand before you with any sense of
triumphalism. I promise Queenslanders there is not one shred of complacency in me or my team.

I take nothing for granted.

My team and I appreciate the size of the task in front of us.

Since the Second Word War, Labor has only won government from opposition three times.

And I understand that if we are to win the next election, the privilege to serve the nation, we have to win Queensland – from the suburbs to the regions.

We have to earn the respect and trust of Queenslanders.

This is what I learned when I was the Federal Secretary of the Australian Workers Union.

Whether it was underground at the George Fisher Mine at the Isa, or in the sugar mill on the South Johnstone near Innisfail.

Whether it was formerly at the BP refinery at Bulwer Island, or the council workers at Pine Rivers, or hospital orderlies at the PA.  

I've learned from everyday Queenslanders that you must put in the time, you must listen to people before you talk to people.

It's why Chloe and I went to Ilfracombe and Longreach two weeks ago to talk to farmers and small businesses and contractors battling drought.

It’s why I promise to keep going to Biloela and Townsville, Mackay and Maryborough, 50 other towns that you could name. 

I will continue to visit every part of your state, because I want to present Queenslanders with a plan for every part of your state.

And Labor's Plan for Queensland begins with delivering a better deal for working people.

A better deal means a job that lets you pay the bills, plan for the future, have some time with your family, a bit of quality of life.

So first, we are going to restore Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for 360,000 Queenslanders, in our first 100 days.

And then we are going to put the bargain back into bargaining, so employers and employees can sit down to negotiate improvements without the unfair threat of termination of existing agreements and wage cuts hanging over every conversation.

And we are going to take action on insecure work, so I particularly today speak to those tens of thousands of Queenslanders who work as labour hire workers.

Because when your job is insecure, it means that when you’re sick, you don’t get paid.

You don’t get holidays. Your job may be there when you come back, or not.

You certainly can’t get a loan, good luck getting a mortgage.

There’s no such thing as redundancy. You don't have any say in your roster.

You just wait each afternoon into the night for a text message to know if you’re working the next day.

You all know the people we’re talking about, in the regions and in south-east Queensland. 

But in particular I want to talk to those older Australians, who work insecurely. 

You know them, we walk past them, we see them. 

They are people with desperation in their eyes, their hi-vis doesn’t quite fit, they're physically tired, they're wondering how it came to be that in their 60s they’re doing more physically-demanding work, more insecure work and less well paid work than they were in their 40s. 

That was not the promise they had when they joined the workforce a generation or two generations ago.

And friends, we are going to stop this. We’re going to change it.

Because if you do the same work as your colleagues, you do the same hours, the same classification, the same skills - then you deserve the same wages, the same security.

Do you know what we call our policy, which we're going to turn into a law? 

It's just four words: Same job, same pay.

And when we talk about fair pay, there can never be a conversation about fair pay in this country until the women of Australia receive equal pay.  

Yesterday was the end of the first two months of the financial year. This landmark means that effectively the women of Australia have worked those two months unpaid, compared to their male colleagues.

This is the reality of the gender pay gap. Women get paid 14.9 per cent less than men, so the women of Australia have effectively donated their first two months of work this year financial year, unpaid. This is unfair.

My fantastic daughter Clementine is here today. She’s nearly nine and she's lucky enough that this is her 10th Labor party conference.

But at this current rate, the gender pay gap will not be closed in her lifetime. It will in fact not be changed until her great-grandchildren are in the workforce.

Australia has to do better this. Australia can do better. Labor will do better - nothing less than equal pay for work of equal value.

And I think we need to discard the notion that somehow, woman are paid on merit and this explains why there are 'feminised industries' in the debate, that somehow, the work they do is the reason they get paid and that somehow, it is justified - it is not.

Because let's go through what some of the conservatives call, feminised industries:

•         educating our kids in those first 1000 days of life
•         helping the National Disability Insurance Scheme live up to its purpose
•         it is the people who care for our elderly parents in their later years

The people who do this vital work deserve greater recognition and better pay and Labor will deliver true equality in the workplace.

In our party, we understand that there’s nothing more important to a Queenslander than the health of their family, quality health care for people you love.

All of us who have had the experience of taking a sick child to the hospital, all of us who have felt the reassuring compassion and the firm grip of a nurse who tells you: ‘Don’t worry, we will look after her,’ we know how important a good health system is.

There is no issue any more important in the national political debate.

And that’s why at this conference, we re-dedicate ourselves to our pledge: Labor will always protect Medicare and we’ll put the money back that the Liberals have cut from Queensland hospitals.

We’ll tackle surgery waiting lists, so Queenslanders can get the knee replacements and hip operations to ease that chronic pain, or have their cataracts removed just to improve their quality of life.

When surgery is available to alleviate pain and the only reason why Australians live in pain is because we're not funding the surgery to remove it - that's not good enough, that's not government and Labor will change that.

We will deliver more MRI machines for towns in the regions, on the coast and in the outer suburbs, we will fund more urgent care clinics, we will make sure chemotherapy units for Queenslanders battling cancer are more available. 

Because when you are in the fight for your life, you should not have to club-together with other patients to hire a maxi taxi 50 minutes in one direction to get to Brisbane Central then 50 minutes back, just to get the treatment that other Australians take for granted.

Our fellow Australians should not have to wait weeks and months or pay thousands for a vital scan.

Australia is rich enough, Australia is smart enough to make sure our health system is there for you when you need it - we do not want to go down the American road where getting sick means going broke.


When it comes to this vexed issue of climate change and energy prices, Labor has plan for Queensland that is about more renewable energy, for cheaper power and more jobs - that's it.

We will deal in the simple facts: climate change is real, it hurts farmers on the land and businesses on the coast.

Renewable energy is going to be cheaper and it means we are going to leave our children a healthier environment to live in.

What we will promise Queenslanders is no more delay. We've wasted a decade arguing about energy prices, in the meantime, prices have gone up and our action on climate change has stalled.

Labor, if we get elected, our promise to Queenslanders and Australians is: vote for us, we will just get the job done. We're sick of talking about it like everyone else - action now.


It was last year at this conference I committed a new national Labor Government to a people’s vote on an Australian Republic, with an Australian head of state.

I’m asking you to join us in supporting that cause again today.

An Australian head of state doesn’t mean putting the country on hold, it does not mean disrespecting our history. It won’t stop you watching the next royal wedding, or the new season of The Crown.

But 248 years after Captain Cook first got into trouble on the Great Barrier Reef, it’s time that Australia faced the world with the confidence to declare we are running this place ourselves. 

It’s time that our head of state was not the head of another Royal Family but a member of our Australian family.

One of us, for all of us. Simple as that.

Labor’s plan for Queensland will mean building new infrastructure and creating new jobs, right around this great state.

We've just heard from Premier Palaszczuk talk of her frustrations with dealing with the current incumbents.

Annastacia, we will put money into building Cross-River Rail, here in Brisbane – 7,700 jobs in construction, another 550 ongoing. 

You've earned it, you paid the taxes, you deserve Canberra to support you. 

We’ll invest in the suburbs, we will build the Park and Ride stations at Mango Hill – and elsewhere - so in the morning, you don't need to get an uber from your car to the station.

And we’re going to put major funding into widening the M1 between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, because unlike the LNP, we don’t see infrastructure as a beauty parade between road and urban rail.  

It's not an either/or, great cities, great regions have both and under a Federal Labor Government, Queensland will get both.

But we know there’s so much more to Queensland than the South-East Corner - and if I didn't, Annastacia Palaszczuk would tell me again. 

What we are going to do is extend the Bruce Highway to Cairns Airport. 

We are going to deliver Stage 2 of the Mackay Ring Road. 

We will invest in better water security for Townsville, we will build a new flood levee for Rocky – and, at long last – we are going to put Commonwealth dollars to build the Rookwood Weir.

We are going to widen the Port at Townsville, to bring in more cargo, more naval vessels and more tourists. 

We’re going to build that Port Access Road at Gladstone.

And we’re going to get behind a new project to ease congestion on the Bruce and boost liveability in Rocky.

What we are going to do is work with the Queensland Government to relocate the Bruce Highway to the west of Rocky with a new Ring Road. 

This will take thousands of trucks off local streets. It will turn that regional airport into a freight hub. 

We want to back Rocky.

And, delegates, today I am pleased to announce that a new Federal Labor Government will invest $500 million to upgrade Queensland’s inland road network.

Queensland is like no other state and the people on the coast have family connections west of the Dividing Range, this is a lesson I have learned in my journeys here. 

You are the most decentralised state in Australia, half of your state’s economic activity takes place outside of Brisbane. Labor is determined to ensure that every part of Queensland gets top-quality infrastructure

Now, for generations, the primary focus has been on upgrading the Bruce, and that is a most important task.

But as a result, from Canberra, crucial regional roads have not received the investment they deserve:

-       the Barkly Highway between Mt Isa and Cloncurry
-       the Capricorn Highway between Emerald and Rocky
-       the Mitchell Highway from Cunnamulla to Charleville
-       the Kennedy Highway between Cairns and Mareeba

Some of the roads around Longreach and Winton have barely had an upgrade since Banjo Patterson was up there writing Waltzing Matilda.

And whilst some of these regions are traditionally regarded as safe LNP - that is not the issue for us.

Because when these roads are not up to scratch:

-       drivers’ safety gets put at risk
-       truckies are forced to go the long and expensive way around
-       the cost of moving goods on these roads increases
-       flood damage is a bigger problem than it ought to be
-       and – of course – the same few reliable roads are more crowded.

If I’m Prime Minister, I will work with Premier Palaszczuk on a staged upgrade of more than 3000 kilometres of road – and up to 300 bridges. 

We will rebuild these beef roads because when I travel across Queensland, I do not see LNP electorates or Labor electorates - I just see
Queenslanders, that's what we should be doing.

Labor has a plan to get the arteries of regional Queensland pumping again. 

We want to make it easier for farmers to move cattle and sheep and feed.

We will put inland Queensland at the heart of our infrastructure plan.

And by the way, we'll create up to an extra 13,000 new jobs while we do it. 


Clearly, it is in the Labor DNA to know that the best thing that we can do to secure a child’s future, and a nation's future is to give those children a quality education. 

We have to make sure our children get that individual attention to nurture their talents, to help them fall in love with what they’re good at, to discover what they like doing. 

And education doesn't start in the first year of primary school, it starts in those all-so-important first years of life, the early years and continues in our schools and beyond.

Some of you may know that my Mum was a teacher, my Dad was a fitter-and-turner then a seafarer,and he worked on Melbourne's docks when he came ashore. 

They both always said to my twin brother and I that we could go to uni or we could do a trade - they would support whatever choice we made. 

So I'm going to keep faith with my parents. If I’m Prime Minister, I am going to offer every young Australian that choice: a trade or uni, we're going give them the choices. 

We are going to open the doors of university even wider for working-class kids, the kids who come from families where no one has ever graduated from university before. 

We will do that in the suburbs and the regions, regardless of postcodes. 

And when it comes to skills and training: Labor’s backing public TAFE all the way.

In our first year, we will get to work, working with the Queensland Government to renovate, rebuild, upgrade TAFE campuses, right around the country.

And in our first term, we will create 100,000 free TAFE places right across Australia so that Australians young and old can train and re-train in high-priority sectors with no upfront costs.

We say to young Australians and their parents, and older Australians who want to re-train, if you want to go to TAFE, we're going to help you learn a new trade, full stop. 

If you vote Labor:

We will use TAFE to make sure that Australians are ready for good jobs.

And we're going to put Australian apprentices front-and-centre on all tax payer funded projects, one out of every 10 employed on any
Commonwealth funded project must be an apprentice. 

And when it comes to tightening-up skills visas, if I’m Prime Minister, I can promise Queenslanders that Australian workers will get a fair go and they will get first go. 

Because when 720,000 people can’t find a job. 

When over 1 million Australians would like to work more hours but simply can’t get them. 

When we have hundreds of thousands of people stranded on the disability support pension. 

When we have job-seekers who have given up work altogether. 

When apprenticeship numbers have fallen in this nation by over 140,000 places in the last five years.

Companies should not be simply allowed to import skills to fill positions, when we should be training our own.

Today, at Queensland Labor Conference I announce a new Labor Government will establish an independent labour market testing body – the Australian Skills Authority.

The Australian Skills Authority will have two responsibilities:

First, working with unions and business and training providers and state governments to put together one, consolidated list of occupations with legitimate skills shortages.

And second, once we have that list, getting those occupations off that list – and keeping them off.

Because I believe, and Labor believes, no skills shortage should last one day longer than it takes to train an Australian to fill that task.

Did you know that if Labor’s plans for better TAFEs and stronger visa standards had been in place these past four years, there would be 120,000 fewer workers here on 457 visas. This is the delay and missed opportunity of conservative governments.

And what we also promise, is we will ensure that labour market testing is a compulsory part of any and every future trade agreement that Labor signs in government. 

We've been having such a nice time here that you've probably noticed that I haven't wasted much time talking about the other side today. 

But the problem is they’ve already wasted five years of Australia’s time. 

So there’s only one simple point I want to make about them: this week’s Prime Minister is still last week’s Treasurer.

The Treasurer who presided for three years over the lowest wages growth on record.

The Treasurer who is the architect of the $17 billion giveaway to the four big banks and the Treasurer who spent every day of the last number of years fighting for this one point economic plan. 

And I have to say this plan hasn’t disappeared, it’s just in hiding.

Scott Morrison wrote the budgets that cut $160 million from Queensland hospitals.

He signed-off on every LNP cut to Queensland schools and TAFE and child care.

And he still wants Australians to work until the age of 70 before accessing the age pension. 

Now, it is true, the Australian people never voted for Scott Morrison.

But he has voted eight times to cut their penalty rates.

The Australian people never voted for Scott Morrison.

But he voted 26 times against a Royal Commission into the big banks.

He has been at the centre of every cabinet decision by the Abbott and Turnbull Governments.

And, sadly, a change of job title doesn’t change any of this.

What we need to remember amidst all the self-indulgent civil war last week, that none of the fighting was about changing their policies. The LNP
have given up on that.

The LNP have lost the will to govern, and every day they fight, the big decisions of this nation are being put off time and time again. 

They would rather spend their time fighting each other than fighting for Australians. 

They have let our country down - and Australians will judge them for it.

The idea that a majority Government simply shut parliament down, because it was all too hard, is an abdication of responsibility. 
Imagine everyday workers saying "it's all too hard." On a construction site, if you had that, you'd have the ABCC all over them like a rash. 

The point about this is, this is a government who has stopped governing. 

Do you know, last Thursday night, the Thursday night before all of this happened, when the Government disappeared, people still were at work, businesses were still businesses, carers were still caring, 10 million dinners got cooked that night. 

The Government didn't stop any of that - but the job of government is a bit bigger than that. 

The job of Government is to lift the eyes of the nation to a better Australia for all Australians. They are simply not interested in that. 

So, in conclusion delegates, I looked across two days ago and saw former Vice President Joe Biden, Democrat give a speech at the funeral of
Senator John McCain, Republican.

These two men had spent had decades on opposite sides of the US Senate, fierce political rivals but they did share a deep respect and a long friendship.

Biden eulogised McCain as a man who saw politics as a clash of substance, as a test of values, as a project bigger than the individual.

That’s what I want the next election to be about: substance, values, a contest of policies.

I promise Queenslanders, indeed I promise all Australians, that we are not complacent in Labor. 

We do not assume that the negatives of the Government automatically flow into the positives for Labor. 

We want to earn the respect of people.

We want the next election to be a test of who has the best plan for the future of our country. 

This is how we restore faith in the system, it’s how we lift the eyes of the nation to a better Australia.

And I want Queenslanders to know this about the Labor Party and the labour movement: we are up for this contest.

Our team is united, we are steady and stable, we are focused on the future.

We have the plans and policies to fulfil the fundamental aspirations of the mighty Australian people, to bring the fair go back to the heart of our nation.

Because we know that fairness and equality are not just social goods, fairness and equality are the best economic strategy for the future.
If you deny an individual opportunity, the nation misses out on their contribution.

But when we enable every Australian, regardless of their background or their faith or their gender or their postcode, if we enable every Australian to fulfil their potential, then we are a more prosperous and successful destination. We hand on a better Australia to our kids than we inherited from our parents. 

So, delegates, when you leave here, and whenever the election is called, when people ask you what does a vote for Labor mean - you can say, with pride and confidence:

A vote for Labor means a plan for Queensland.

A vote for Labor means a better deal for working people. 

It means protecting Medicare and funding hospitals

A vote for Labor means a quality education for every child and quality child care for every family. 

A vote for Labor means clean, affordable energy powering the economy and doing right by the environment.

A vote for Labor means dignity and comfort for older Australians, it means equality for the First Australians. 

It means a strong and independent  public broadcaster, the ABC and an Australian head of state. 

And delegates, a vote for Labor means a government that will work hard every day to deliver a fair go for Queensland and a fair go for all Australians.

Thank you very much.

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