ADDRESS TO 2019 FEDERAL ELECTION VOLUNTEER RALLY
SUNDAY, 14 APRIL 2019
Thank you, Tanya Plibersek.
For six years, I’ve been so fortunate, so very fortunate to count you as a friend, to have you standing alongside me as Deputy Leader.
So I know – I think better than almost anyone – just how lucky Australia will be to have Tanya Plibersek as Deputy Prime Minister of this country.
I wish to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
And in our party, and in the government that I hope to lead, those words of respect are also a promise for action:
- To close the gap in health and housing, in jobs and justice
- To support the work of truth-telling and treaties
- And to enshrine a Voice for our First Australians, in our nation’s birth certificate, our Constitution
At this upcoming election, Labor’s message to the people of Australia is very straightforward: you deserve better than you’ve been getting from the government in the last six years.
You deserve better than cuts to schools and hospitals.
You deserve better than ever-rising energy bills and increasing child care costs.
You deserve better than insecure work and stagnant wages growth.
You deserve better than a tax system which deepens inequality and entrenches intergenerational unfairness against Australian young people.
You deserve better than delay and division and dysfunction and denial on climate change.
You deserve better than a government that’s afraid of the future, obsessed and consumed with itself.
I say to the Australian people:
You deserve better than the last six years, Australia deserves better than the last six years, the next generation deserves better than the last six years.
And after six years of cuts, chaos, of division – friends, it is time for change.
It is time, friends, for a stable, united Labor Government.
And I have to say that when I call my team a stable and united political organisation, I am so pleased to have so many of them here today – I have got the best team running in this election without doubt.
You know, and we’ve seen over the last six years that they are an outstanding group of passionate and idealistic men and women – they’re talented, they’re diverse, they’re clever and they’re hard-working and they are committed every morning to every night to making their communities and our country a better place.
And nearly six years ago now, all of us in Labor, the parliamentary party, the rank and file members the unions, we made a choice as a movement.
We decided to rip-up the rulebook of Opposition.
We decided we wouldn’t just sit back and wait for the other side to trip over their own shoelaces – we couldn’t have imagined some of the mistakes they’ve made in fact – we decided instead that Australian politics has to be a better destination. It should be a contest of ideas. We decided we would set the pace, we would make the running, we would put forward our vision for the future.
Because – unlike our opponents – we do not seek government for the titles and the trappings, for the chance to do special favours to powerful mates.
Labor seeks government to do the big things, to manage the big changes, to build for the future, to be ambitious for Australia, to write Australia large.
In our movement we believe in striving for the best – because we believe the Australian people deserve the best.
We are a big thinking party, with big ideas and we believe that Australia should have the best.
The best in education and training and apprenticeships and universities.
We believe that we should be the best we can be in good jobs and fair wages.
The best in clean energy technology and advanced manufacturing.
The best in infrastructure – from our cities, to our suburbs, to our regions.
We should be the best we can be in achieving equality for women – in pay, in leadership, in freedom from family violence.
We believe Australia should be the best in aged care, helping look after people living with dementia.
We believe we should provide the best support for people with disability and their carers.
And we believe in the best healthcare and the best hospitals in the world.
And that really is the fundamental choice at this election: better hospitals for Australians or bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town. And I submit the answer is clear.
If we are elected the next government of Australia, we will put back every single dollar that the Liberals have cut from public hospitals.
Labor’s plan for better hospitals spans out across the nation – but I’m pleased to say, that our plan starts right down the road from here.
Today I’m proud to announce that if we win the next election, a new Labor Government will put in 50 million dollars to kick-start phase two of the redevelopment of Concord Hospital.
As Sam Crosby – our tireless candidate for Reid, and the candidate who’s been in the competition for Reid the longest – keeps telling me, the main building at Concord was completed back in 1941, it’s in desperate need of renovation.
And across the nation, run-down facilities make life harder for our amazing nurses, orderlies, doctors and they make things worse for patients.
Now you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know this….
…however it just so happens that our candidate in Bennelong is a brain surgeon.
And Brian Owler is right behind this project because he knows that improving Concord Hospital will help patients all through the Inner West.
And this is what Labor’s $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund will mean for communities right around Australia. It’ll mean more beds, more staff, more equipment, shorter waiting times, better care.
This is what Labor does best – prioritise the health of Australians.
And friends 10 days ago, in my Budget Reply Speech, I announced the most significant expansion of Medicare since Labor created it.
A vote for Labor on May the 18th will see a $2.3 billion investment to virtually eliminate out-of-pocket costs for our fellow Australians battling cancer.
Australians are currently, when they’re in the fight of their lives, are paying too much against cancer for their medical costs.
There are hundreds of thousands of our fellow Australians, perhaps some even in this room – who are living with cancer, and their families too. Our plan will take the cost of treatment from thousands of dollars down to nearly nothing.
Let me share with you what this difference means in the real world.
On Monday in Brisbane, Catherine King, myself, and Kristina Keneally visited the Royal Brisbane Hospital. We were in the day oncology ward at the RBH. I met an amazing woman. Her name was Elaine. She’s warm, friendly. An aura – a great sense of humour, you sort of wanted to pick her up and make her your neighbour at home, she’s just a standout human being.
Elaine was diagnosed with cancer in 2011.
She’s strong, she’s tried it all, been right through the system, the therapies, the treatments, when the drugs weren’t available on the PBS they would do the clinical trials to access them.
So far, it hasn’t worked.
She told me that, as she held my hand in the ward, she’s got one last roll of the dice, it’s a new trial, a new drug. She looked me in the face, said there’s perhaps a 10 per cent chance. She wouldn’t want me talking about that, what she said to me rocked me.
She said could I help her talk to her superannuation fund, so she could withdraw her life savings to pay some of the out-of-pocket bills.
Because this amazing woman, and there are hundreds of thousands of stories like her, her biggest worry wasn’t herself. It’s not the disease which is killing her, she was anxious about leaving a big debt for her family after she was gone.
Now we have sorted it out. And I want to thank industry fund Host Plus for moving as well as they did on it.
But is that who this country is? Do we have to, when you’ve got cancer, do you have to rely upon chance encounters, so that you can empty your retirement savings to pay for your treatment?
More to the point, should you have to dip into your super in the fight of your life, refinance your home in the fight of your life, or sell your home? Or do you just lie awake with the pain of cancer and the anxiety of debt?
Cancer makes you sick, but it should not make you poor, and that is what Labor is going to change.
Cancer is scary. One in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
One in two – if that is not you, it is someone you love.
If we are elected as the next government of Australia on May the 18th, we give this promise to everyone caught up in the battle against cancer:
- Your tests and scans and ultrasounds and MRIs – will be covered by Medicare/.
- Your appointments with specialists, and oncologists, your chemo, your radiation therapy – will be covered by Medicare.
- And the cancer medication that you need – will be funded by the PBS.
My view is simple and Labor’s promise is straightforward.
If you are in the fight of your life, if someone you love is in the fight of their life, it should not matter whether you live in the city or the bush.
It should not matter your postcode or your personal wealth.
Under Labor, there is only one thing that matters, there is only one thing you will need: your Medicare card.
Now there was a lot wrong with the government’s Budget a couple of weeks ago, but, there always is.
But this year one thing in particular stood out. This government shouldn’t surprise me, but they even managed to surprise me with new thinking of practicing meanness at a legislative level.
Short-changing the National Disability Insurance Scheme to prop-up a flimsy surplus forecast.
Even I didn’t think they could think of that.
I mean, you’ve got to hand it to them, the Liberals and the Nationals have created bottlenecks in the NDIS, they’ve delayed the funding agreements with the states to roll out the National Disability Insurance Scheme, they’ve prevented vital support getting to the people who need it most. They’ve done these things.
And then, having congested the flow of valuable and legitimate resources to people who deserve it, having created failure in the system, they then bank the failure and neglect as Budget success.
For many of our fellow Australians, the $1.6 billion underspend in the NDIS is not just a figure in the budget tables. What it means is that 77,000 people living with disabilities, severe and profound disability, and their families, are going without the support they are entitled to.
Many of the people who have access to their NDIS plan are – on average – using only 50 per cent of it, not because there is an underdemand for the services as the government would have you believe, but because the services aren’t there to support them and are taking too long to be processed to get to the people who deserve them.
Friends, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is too big, it’s too important to be hostage to dodgy government accounting.
All of us know someone waiting for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to live up to its promise.
And, friends, I can promise that a Labor Government will make it our mission to get the NDIS back on track, as it should be.
Now we’ll start getting it back on track by removing the staffing cap on the National Disability Insurance Agency, having more people there to help, with more resources going to where they’re needed.
In addition, we’re going to pay the upfront fees for 20,000 TAFE places to people who want to train as the carers of the future.
And today I can announce that we will invest a further $40 million into new training programs for carers; scholarships and support and skills that people can draw upon wherever they are in Australia.
Because not only do we owe a lot of gratitude to our carers, but we’re going to need more carers to deliver the NDIS, and we want those carers to be well-trained and well-paid delivering the best possible support for our fellow Australians living with disability.
- Better hospitals
- Stronger Medicare
- The NDIS back on track
This is at the heart of Labor’s vision for the future of a Fair Go Australia.
And friends, I have the Labor team here who’s going to deliver it. Let’s give them a round of applause.
And because we’ve been upfront, because we respect the Australian people and we trust them to put forward our ideas, because in no small part, the economic team lead by Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers and my shadow cabinet, we’ve made genuine long term reform decisions. We have a plan to pay for our priorities, to pay for the choices.
We’re going to make multinationals pay their fair share of tax in Australia.
And we are going to end the intergenerational bias in our tax system, reforming the subsidies that advantage property investors over our young, first-home buyers.
And we are going to close the unfair, unsustainable loopholes used by the top end of town.
And I have to say this: if you are getting a tax credit when you haven’t paid any income tax, this is a gift.
It is a gift, it is not immoral, nor is it illegal.
But it is a gift, and it is a gift lifted from the taxes paid by working class and middle class people in Australia today.
It is a gift that is eating our budget.
It’s now costing our nation over $6 billion this year, and pretty soon will cost $8 billion.
And if all of this talk of billions is too much, perhaps think of it in the following way:
Two minutes’ worth of the gift, the money that flows out of this one loophole, two minutes out of 365 days, could pay for someone’s knee replacement surgery.
Ten minutes worth of the gift is enough to employ a nurse, full-time, for a year.
In one hour, this loophole alone could pay for a hospital bed, for a whole year.
This is the difference that we’re talking about.
It is a fundamental choice in this election:
Better hospitals for all Australians, or bigger tax loopholes. Better hospitals, or bigger tax loopholes.
Friends, if we win the election, we will invest more in our public hospitals. We will invest more in our GPs, we will invest more in preventative health.
And it is clear now, that if the Liberals win the election, they will cut hospitals again.
When the current Prime Minister was Treasurer, he cut $715 million from hospitals.
And the new figures reported today reveal that if the Liberals and Nationals win the election, they will cut another $2.8 billion from our public hospitals.
After six years of cuts to health, the Medicare patient freeze, the cutbacks and the increased out of pockets to see the doctor, after six years of cuts, they’re getting ready to do it all again.
And ripping $2.8 billion from our public hospitals.
This is the equivalent of;
- sacking 1,900 doctors a year, for the next six years.
- Or 3900 nurses.
- Or closing-off nearly 700 beds.
Think about the difference that this will make.
Think about the strains these cuts will put on Nepean Hospital or Yass.
Think about the damage it will do to the Emergency Departments at Bateman’s Bay and Bankstown.
Think about the added pressure and stress and demand that these Liberal National cuts will put on your healthcare workers, from Wyong to Lismore.
And perhaps most importantly think about what these cuts will mean for people who are already living in pain daily, waiting too long to have their knees fixed up, or too long to have their hip replaced, or too long to have their cataracts removed.
It is true that our country, our precious country can’t afford to waste another three years living under conservative turmoil, conservative division and conservative infighting.
But it is equally just as important – to say that our nation cannot afford another three years of Liberal-National cuts to our precious Australian health system.
Now, the good news is that this time, unlike Tony Abbott’s cuts to hospitals, unlike the $715 million the current fellow cut from hospitals when he was the Treasurer, this time the decision is in your hands.
And that’s the message all of you, our mighty volunteers, can carry with you in your conversations with the Australian people.
Every one of you can make this message clear.
That the one thing that every Australian can do to keep Medicare strong is vote for a Labor government on May 18th.
You can carry this message in conversations with the Australian people and you can tell them that there is one thing that every Australian can do to get the National Disability Insurance Scheme back on track – it is vote for a Labor government on May 18th.
You can go from here and tell the Australian people that there is one thing that every Australian can do to stop the cuts to our public hospitals - vote for a Labor government on May 18th.
So friends, that’s what we’ve focused on in the first week of this campaign.
- Public Hospitals
- The National Disability Insurance Scheme
But what, by the way, have our opponents spent their week talking about?
It’s not the country. It’s not ideas. It’s not a new policy or plan.
They spent their week talking about us.
They talk about Labor and they talk about the past, because they have nothing good to say about themselves and nothing positive to say about the future of the Australian people.
Now, I know that the current Prime Minister keeps trying to say the election is about him and me.
But he’s just plain wrong actually.
This election is not about two politicians, it’s about the people of Australia.
Now I suspect, over the next 34 days, we will hear a little more shouty nonsense. Perhaps a little bit of trademark truculence from the current fellow.
We’ll hear more dodgy numbers from the Treasurer.
And more low-rent personal vilification from the Minister for Home Affairs.
Now we don’t want to dwell on his pathetic attempt to bully our great candidate in Dickson, Ali France.
But a negative slur often tells you more about the speaker than the recipient and I think it says a lot about the modern Liberal party. That rather than apologise straight away, his first instinct was to double-down on his attack.
And the current Prime Minister’s first instinct was to rush in and back him up - to defend the indefensible - rather than just do the right thing.
It was a test of character, it was a test of leadership – and the Prime Minister failed miserably.
And of course, friends, it won’t just be the Government attacking us.
The vested interests will rage against our reforms.
And some sections of the media will back them in.
I opened one particular paper last Saturday – you know, it’s the one you get for free at the airport. Hypothetically, let’s call it The Australian - and I saw this headline.
It actually, seriously, this was the quote on the headline:
“Vote Shorten and Bowen for the end of the world”
Now, I know in politics you’re not supposed to go around ruling things in or ruling things out.
But let me put it beyond any reasonable doubt, I wish to make it clear today that Labor has not either an Apocalypse Policy, nor an Armageddon Agenda.
I mean – more to the point – it’s not that angry ranting articles that are going to decide this election, it’s actually the conversations that we have with our fellow Australians.
It’s the policy work. It’s the vision of Australia. It’s understanding what’s happening in the kitchens and the lounge rooms of Australia that’ll matter.
But to have these conversations, to outline our fantastic fair go plan for Australians, it’s going to be your energy, the people in this room and the tens of thousands of Labor supporters across this country - that will make the difference.
If we are to change the nation, we need to engage with people and change minds, that is the difference.
This is the message that I want each and every one of you to take out from here and talk about, each and every day for the next 34 days.
This election is a choice between better hospitals and better schools – or bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town.
It’s a choice between getting wages moving again – or three more years of wage stagnation and cuts to penalty rates.
It’s a choice between real action on climate change – or three more years of infighting and rising power prices.
I mean after all voting Liberal on climate change when Malcolm Turnbull is no longer the Prime Minister is the triumph of hope over experience.
It is a choice between a party that believes in TAFE and apprenticeships or three more years of cuts to training.
Friends, after three Liberal Prime Ministers, 13 energy policies, 22 reshuffles, six wasted years of liberal chaos and division, our united Labor team is ready.
And we are deeply conscious that millions of Australians are counting upon us.
And I want to say to all those millions of Australians who are counting on Labor to deliver – we will not let you down.
I say to the pensioners struggling with their power bills, we will not let you down.
To Australians fighting cancer, we will not let you down.
To young people who can’t find an apprenticeship, we will not let you down.
To the farmers battling drought, we will not let you down.
To small businesses being squeezed by big businesses, we will not let you down.
To women who deserve equal pay and opportunity, we will not let you down.
To the Australians living with disability waiting for the NDIS, we will not let you down.
To people stuck on hospital waiting lists, we will not let you down.
I cannot promise these people that victory is assured, that will be up to the judgement of our fellow Australians.
But I can most certainly promise that my team and I will work as hard as we can every day between now and the election.
I can promise that at 6.00pm on election night, we will have given it everything we have.
And if we do that, if everyone in this room, if everyone in our movement who is interested in the progress of this nation, if we all give it everything what we have in the next 34 days then we will make Australia a better country.
Thank you very much.