ADDRESS TO THE LABOR CAUCUS
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 3 MAY 2016
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Welcome everybody and in particular, I'd like to welcome the newest member of our Parliamentary Labor family, Senator Pat Dodson.
I think it's fair to say that Pat will bring distinction not only to the Labor Party, not only to Western Australia, not only to the Senate but I think the political process generally in Australia so you are a very welcome member of our team.
And of course, tonight, when we watch the Liberal guests clap Scott Morrison and his Budget, just remember they all stood up and applauded Joe Hockey in 2014.
And remember that Budget was a Budget where it was all about living within our means.
I think the particular reference there was lifters and leaners. But what we did, is we made that Budget about its unfairness.
We called it for what it really was.
A Budget defines a Government and the response defines an Opposition.
A Budget is about the terms of engagement of political debate in this country.
The Budget which they brought down then and are again likely to repeat tonight, will be a Budget which does focus on questions of health and education.
But remember back in 2014? If it wasn't for the people in this room, Australians would have a GP tax.
There would have been thousands of dollars cut from families, students would have the prospect of $100,000 degrees and indeed, there would be an increase in the GST, except for the people in this room.
And so again tonight, there is almost a sense of deja vu. We've been here before with this Government.
This will be another unfair Liberal Budget with its unfair priorities.
If the reports are true, this is a Budget which will favour the big end of town over every day Australians.
How could it be fair that tonight someone who earns $300,000 will learn they will get a $2,600 tax cut, yet families, average Australian families, the people who make up this great country, earning $60,000 a year, will face cuts of $5,000?
How could it possibly be argued to be fair that the top one per cent of income earners are going to experience generous reductions in the amount of tax that they pay yet in Tasmania where only four out of every five workers receives less than $80,000, they get nothing?
Or in regional Queensland, four out of five people who go to work help make up that great State, earn less than $80,000 a year. How can it be argued to them that it is fair that people in the top one per cent of Australia's income earners are going to get massive tax cuts and the vast bulk of people who hold this society up get nothing?
And indeed, it is actually less than nothing they will get.
Study this Budget carefully for the cuts that it makes.
The greater pressure on kids going to university, the inadequate funding of our schools, the cuts to Medicare, the relentless and repeated assault upon bulk-billing, undermining the universality of access to healthcare in this country.
There will be the apology for climate scepticism, as poor old Malcolm Turnbull, vallently keeps running up the flag Tony Abbott's policies on climate change.
But what we will see tonight is proposals for income tax cuts for the most well off already, and for large corporations.
Now, I said at the beginning that this Budget is about the terms of engagement.
Malcolm Turnbull's about to give Australia one of the longest election campaigns they've never asked for but the terms of engagement will be set this week.
And all we see is the prospect of a mediocre Budget with the wrong priorities and policies.
And by contrast, this united team will be able to articulate a plan for the future.
For the last two caucus meetings, I've spoken about how we can win.
Today, I want to say to you, that arguably, with our policies we deserve to.
In saying that, there's no hubris, we're the underdogs in this election but what we have always fought for in this Party, is to offer Australians the best plan for the future.
Not put our future in the too hard basket. Not instead offer Australians the price of a cup of coffee if they earn more than $80,000 and say that's a reform.
We have positive plans in our schools. Funded policies in our schools because we believe that every child in every school deserves every opportunity.
We will unveil our positive policies for hospitals, for GPs, for the defence of bulk-billing, for primary and preventative healthcare because we believe it's your Medicare card, not your credit card, that determines the level of healthcare you get in this country.
And while we're offering the best to Australians, Labor has the best policy for tackling climate change focusing on renewable energy.
Nothing less than the best is good enough for the Australian people and that's who we are. We give them the best.
Today, this is the last caucus meeting for ten of our number. It's been a long journey this last nearly 1,000 days.
This caucus has answered up to the first question which millions of people who count upon a united Labor Party, are we united? And I couldn't be more grateful for the contribution of each and every individual.
I don't pretend that everyone here has agreed on everything that's been said. I can't. But what I can say is that there is no person in this caucus in the last three years who I wish I could swap away.
Just as I don't wish that any day of the last 940 days could be other than what it was, I do not wish, and I cannot wish, for a finer group of people to serve alongside.
We've established that we are united and we've done more policy work than an Opposition has done in many a year because not only is this team determined to be a strong Opposition, we are determined to be a strong alternative Government for Australia.
I want to thank all my colleagues, thank you.