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Good morning everybody,
I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.
I'd also like to welcome the newest member of our Caucus, Senator Kristina Keneally.
There's always two times when you're popular in Caucus, when you arrive and...no, no, it's pretty harmonious.
Listen, in the week off that we've had from Parliament, our opponents did what they always do: they fought amongst themselves and they leaked against each other.
But I want to thank all of you for the work that you've been doing in the week in between the last sitting week and this week of Senate Estimates and of course, the House of Reps.
When I think about some of the things that people are doing we've had Tanya and Catherine King down helping Bec White in Tasmania with some important health announcements.
We've also had Tanya in Batman talking through our education agenda.
Albo's been talking infrastructure in Batman, and in Northern Tassie, and Adelaide and in Burt - actually, most places.
Penny held an excellent event with Ged Kearney in Northcote.
Brendan's been in Tasmania talking about jobs and wages.
I have to say, our Queensland Senators are performing very well, along with Jason Clare, helping me outline our Real Jobs for Regional Queensland and of course, Cathy up in Townsville holding the Northern front.
And in that tour through North Queensland, because let's face it, the LNP who take these voters for granted have been too busy in Canberra fighting each other, we were able to announce:
- We would do the second stage of the Port Access Road in Gladstone
- We would do the widening of the port channel access in Townsville,
- We would start the second stage of the Mackay Ring Road.
- We would do the Rookwood Weir and provide 2,000 agriculture jobs in the lower Fitzroy.
We are talking about real projects, real jobs, sustainable jobs.
And of course, wherever we have gone, be it Tasmania, be it South Australia, be it northern Queensland, we are talking about TAFE. We are determined to put TAFE back at the centre of vocational education.
And every time we are out in the electorates, we talk about the importance of tackling casualised work, insecure work, tackling the scourge of a very deregulated labour hire market, making sure that we put the wages and conditions of working Australians at the top of the national political agenda.
By contrast, I appreciate that Mr Turnbull probably gave a silent cheer when the plane door closed so he could fly off to America and escape the problems in Australia…at least for a few days.
But we have made very clear that we are not going to support his plans for $65 billion of corporate tax cuts at the big end of town.
I do a lot of public meetings, town hall meetings. They are not the invitation-only, highly-sanitised events in which Mr Turnbull periodically submits to the indignity of meeting people.
But what we do is we invite people, we hear their views. And one of the big questions we do sometimes get from people who feel dislocated by change, left behind by change - is they complain about foreign aid.
I made it clear that foreign aid to emerging communities is a positive for Australia in so many ways.
But I did say there is one type of foreign aid we wouldn't be supporting: giving large multinationals tax cuts, taking our money overseas.
Now, Mr Turnbull has had a giddy time in America, catching up with President Trump. He seems to be quite taken by Trump-onomics.
And indeed yesterday, in the House of Reps, it was show-and-tell time for what did on his break from parliament. He met Mr Trump and then he was so excited about corporate tax cuts he said: We must go down the American path, we must follow President Trump's lead.
Well, I make it very clear that whilst there are many things to admire about the United States, our closest ally in terms of security – we do not want an American-style wages system in this country.
We do not want an American-style health care system.
And we do not want an American tax system where the principle of trickle-down economics, if you look after the richest and most powerful in society, that through their largesse and generosity, they will then look after everyone else.
If Malcolm Turnbull thinks that Trump's America is a vision for Australia, he is more inept than we thought, more out-of-touch than we thought and he doesn't have a proper plan for Australia.
I want to give a shout-out to our Senate team - some of whom are in here and others who are holding the Government to account in Estimates as we speak.
We learned last night that the Kirribilli and Point Piper residences have 100 megabit NBN, well done.
But there are whole suburbs of Western Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane having to make do with a second-rate copper network operating at one quarter of this speed.
Mr Turnbull says that Australian families and businesses do not need a first-grade NBN but he's happy to use taxpayer money to look after his own suburb and make sure they do.
But it doesn't matter what the issue is, from Medicare to wages, to cost-of-living, to tackling the big private health insurance companies, putting real jobs - infrastructure jobs, blue collar engineering jobs in the regions of Australia, we have a better plan.
We will articulate more of our better plan this week and in coming weeks because we will not leave people behind.
Welcome Kristina, we enjoy your support. Congratulations.