16 December 2018


Friends, I know these people are well intentioned but the only people they are helping is the current government of Australia.

And I would say to everyone gathered here that I’ve waited as Opposition Leader for the next election, for five years and two months and if I’ve got to wait a couple more minutes, well I just will. 

Alright, I think because we have got a good schedule and there are a lot of people here and I do acknowledge people have got a right to protest. But you have got to ask yourself when you see these protests, who is the winner? It is the Coalition.

And what we are going to do as Australia's oldest and continuous progressive political party, is we will not be deterred because our eyes on the prize of a better and fairer Australia.

We have had two protests, and goodness knows what the current Prime Minister will do to try and upstage it.

Anyway, I love national conference.

We have been coming here and doing national conferences since 1900 and it is because we are the party upon whom the eyes of the nation are focused for progress.

So, thank you all very much for coming here today.

I have to say about Tanya Plibersek, and we saw her exercising that velvet strength for which she is very well known for.

Tanya, you are a true friend and an outstanding Deputy Leader and you will be a brilliant Deputy Prime Minister.

And I have to say, working alongside you, indeed working with everybody in our talented and united Labor team for more than five years now has been a remarkable privilege.

Thank you, Tanya. Thank you, to every member of my parliamentary team.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

And in this first hour of the first day of our 48th conference, let our party re-dedicate ourselves to the unfinished business of Reconciliation.

Let us pledge to take the Statement from the Heart, into our hearts.

And if I’m elected Prime Minister, in my first week, I and my team will sit down with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

  •       To talk about Closing the Gap, in genuine partnership.
  •       To talk about truth-telling and treaties.
  •       And to talk about Labor’s first priority for constitutional change: a Voice for First Nations people in the Constitution.

Now, delegates, Labor Conferences are unique: they are open, they are democratic and they do matter.

And only our party does this.

The Liberals host those awkward high teas where they resolve to sell the ABC.

The Greens, they assemble in their secret tree-house, exhibiting all the qualities of a cult except leadership.

But we gather and meet as a party, as a movement, as true believers in a cause.

And ever since that very first Labor conference – way back in 1900 – these gatherings witness real passion, genuine debate and the decisions that we make here, define our party, they reflect our values.

We should take pause and remember, at our last conference, we set a target of 50 per cent women in our federal parliamentary party, by 2025.

And, as Senator Wong reminded me, it was here in South Australia, the first state in the nation to give women the vote, the first place in the world where women could run for parliament.

I’m particularly proud to say if we win the next election, our Labor Government will be the first in Australian history with 50 per cent women in the parliamentary ranks.

Friends, these conferences are not just about modernising our party, they are about changing our country, changing our nation for the better.

Over the next three days, the eyes of Australia are upon us.

With the Liberals languishing in their sixth year of government and onto their third Prime Minister, Australians in greater numbers are looking to Labor like never before. 

Looking to Labor for unity and looking to Labor for stability.

And looking to Labor for our vision for the future, our plan for the fair go.


Our Labor mission begins with building an economy that works in the interests of everyone.

A strong economy with a skilled workforce, where businesses have the confidence and incentive to invest and grow and employ, including a 25 per cent tax rate for 99 per cent of all businesses.

A fair economy where the middle class and working class people get their rightful share of the national wealth, including our bigger tax refund for 10 million working Australians.

And a growing economy where we build upon what Australia does best, including new investments in infrastructure, tourism, advanced manufacturing, defence industry, rail and renewable energy.

Our plan for a stronger, fairer, growing economy is right for the times because our nation is doing it tough.

  •         Our nation’s economic growth has slowed
  •         Living standards are stagnating
  •         Wages growth is at record lows.
  •         More and more people are dipping into their household savings to pay the bills
  •         And inequality is eating-away at our prosperity

Yet this government pretends that Australians have never had it so good.

We live in a world of rapid and dramatic industrial and technological and environmental change.

Yet this government presents no energy policy for the people, no climate policy for the future.

No plan for skills and training but cuts.

No plan for wages at all.

Just when Australia needs policies for the future, the Liberals are mired in the past. This government’s single obsession is themselves.

And our current circumstance in the nation is not just a government of economic incompetence, environmental apathy and social irresponsibility – it is much more than that.

It is a discount on our ambition, it diminishes our imagination and devalues our hopes.

It drives a wedge between the generations. It rips up that covenant of trust that each successive generation will have regard for the next.

It polarises our nation, it disconnects us, divides us.

When I hold my town hall meetings, I can hear it in people’s voices, I can witness it in their eyes.

They’re working hard, and trying their best but they can’t figure out what’s happened to their country.

They feel like that no matter what they do, the fix is in and the game is indeed rigged.

Our fellow Australians who drive hours every day, to insecure work in three different jobs, earning less than they deserve, being paid less than they’re owed and yet paying more tax than a multinational company.

Families are loading-up the credit card at the end of every fortnight to pay the bills.

People are being ripped off by power companies.

Driven out of private health insurance by private health insurers increasing the premiums.

Ripped off by dodgy banks and the big bosses.

And people being let down and ignored by their government, you know who I speak of.

Teenagers who can’t find an apprenticeship, mature-age workers who can’t get a look-in.

Farmers and rural communities battling drought - but  buried in paperwork and red tape.

Small businesses burdened with a second-rate NBN.

Pensioners and veterans treated like second-class citizens, made to wait months for modest entitlements you’ve paid taxes for your whole life.

Yet this government can find half-a-billion dollars in half-an hour for well-connected private foundations.

There are school children who can’t understand why it’s so hard for the so-called adults in government to recognise that climate change is real and the need to do something urgent.

There are people right now in our communities, financially ruined by the cost of cancer treatment, or who can’t find aged care for a parent diagnosed with dementia.

These are Australians on the wrong side of inequality, cut-off from the fair go, isolated from the promise of our nation.

And for our fellow Australians, politics is just another part of the problem: unhelpful, irrelevant, out-of-touch with their daily lives. 

This is why, in a very real sense, our opponents at the next election are not just the Liberals and the Nationals, One Nation or the Greens.

Our deeper opponents are distrust, disengagement, scepticism and cynicism.

Our Labor mission is not just to win-back government, it is to rebuild trust in our very democracy, to restore meaning to the fair go.

Around the nation, we must breathe new life into an idea that we gathered here in this hall hold as an article of faith, the idea that government has the power to bring meaningful progress into people’s lives.

This is why we are committed to a real National Integrity Commission, with proper powers, to rebuild trust in our Commonwealth institutions.

It is why we have rejected a small target strategy. It is why I and my team have built a bold and detailed policy agenda for the nation.

A program for the next decade, not just the next election.

Wherever I travel, the Australian people want to hear a plan for the future. And Labor will present a vision of social and economic progress for the 2030s, that the Australian people are desperately crying out for.

It will be a plan at all times answering the question: are we handing a better deal onto our kids.

And our plan begins with a once in a generation reform to early childhood education.

Delegates, under a Labor Government, every Australian child will have access to two years of preschool or kindergarten.

Fifteen hours a week, 40 weeks a year, for every three year old and four year old in our nation.

All the experts tell us that 90 per cent of a child’s brain develops before the age of 5.

And everywhere from the UK, France and Norway to China, South Korea and New Zealand, universal preschool for 3 year olds is the norm.

I say to you, that if this is the world's best practice, and it is, when it comes to our kids, Australia should never settle for anything less than the best for our kids, and Labor will not settle for less than the best.

And I say to our early educators, the first people with whom we trust our children outside the family, we hear you, we understand. You should be trained and paid like the skilled professionals they are.

At long last, we will pay early childhood educators what you deserve.  That’s Labor’s promise.

Delegates, I am the son of a great teacher, I’m a parent to three amazing children.

And if I’m elected Prime Minister, I want every Australian child to get a great education at a great school.

No matter what their parents earn, no matter where they live.

Every school should teach the basics well: reading, writing, science, maths and coding.

Every child should have the chance to try art and sport and music and drama and camps.

Every child should get the individual attention they deserve and need to flourish.

And every Australian school child should be safe, safe from bullying and discrimination in the playground and online.

So a Labor Government will put in the money and resources and teacher training to make this a reality. 

Under a Labor national government, no ifs, no buts. Nothing on the cheap. No more blaming the teachers, no culture wars, no obsessing over the number of times Captain Cook is mentioned in the curriculum.

Our promise is just a quality education, for every Australian child. That’s Labor’s promise.

Delegates, you understand that in the next four years, nine out of every ten new jobs will need either a university degree or a TAFE qualification. 

And I want ten out of every ten young Australians to be prepared for that economy and for those new jobs.

So Labor will uncap university places, meaning that in the next decade alone, another 200,000 children and adults from the regions and the suburbs can become the first in their family to get a degree.

This is what Labor governments do. Labor values open the doors of higher education to everyone who studies hard and chases their dream.

And further friends, I am really proud to declare that when it comes to vocational education, Labor is backing public TAFE all the way. 

In our first year in government, we are going to launch a great national program of renovating, upgrading and modernising TAFE campuses, starting in our regional centres and the outer suburbs.

I truly believe you measure the value a society puts upon education by the spaces and buildings in which
we house our education.

I want to send a message to the next generation - that we think that TAFE education is important, and we'll give you the best resources to show that our society values an education above all else.

I want our TAFE campuses to stand as monuments to the nation's respect for apprenticeships and training and the bright future that technical training has in this country.

So in our first three years, a Labor Government will eliminate the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE places in high priority courses. That’s Labor’s promise.

I say to every Australian parent watching this address. Labor’s promise is if you want your child to get an apprenticeship, we'll deliver on your dreams for your kids.

And we'll come down like a ton of bricks on companies using and abusing 457-style work visas to merely avoid employing local workers and paying fair wages.

Labor believes that no skills shortage in any calling, in any occupation or trade, should last one day longer than it takes to train an Australian to fill that vacancy, full stop.

Now if my team and I have the privilege to form the next government of Australia, we understand that our job means representing everybody.

Everybody. Small business owners, farmers, start-ups.

Everybody. Young and old, wherever you live, whoever you love, whatever god you pray to, indeed whoever you vote for.

Our job will be to represent everybody.

But we will do something this government are pathologically incapable of doing: we will work with the

Australian trade union movement and we will stand up for Australian workers.

My goodness, we will indeed stand up for jobs. Good jobs, secure jobs, jobs with fair pay and decent conditions.

And let’s be clear: it’s not a secure job if you have to sit up each night waiting for a text to let you know if you’ve got a shift the following morning.

It’s not a good job if you have got to work two other jobs, all hours of the day and night to pay the bills.

It’s not decent conditions if your wages are stolen, or you do not have the right to be represented by a union, or you can’t seek fair recourse because your employer is manipulating labour hire to dodge responsibility

And it’s neither a good job nor decent conditions if you don’t come home safe. If you’re made to drive dangerously long hours, or exposed to industrial diseases or sent onto sites without the safety checks and training being in place.

Working people are not commodities to be traded at the lowest possible price.

They're not costs to minimise, they are not anonymous or inevitable casualties of economic and technological change.

This is not the Australian way, it is not the Labor way.

That is why, in our first 100 days, we are going to restore Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for 700,000 workers.

And for the record, we are going to make bargaining work again. So employees and employers can negotiate without the unfair threat of the unilateral termination of workers' conditions in the current system.

We are going to crack down on the overuse and abuse of labour hire casuals. Because it’s pretty simple
really: if you wear the same uniform, in the same workplace, perform the same tasks at the same classification, you deserve the same wages and conditions.

So we'll make law, if we're elected, if you do the same job, you get the same pay. Same job, same pay.

We are going to stop sham contracting and introduce a new, stronger test for the definition of casual employment.

Because many Australians are sick and tired of being classified as ‘casual’ for years, just because your boss doesn't want to pay you holiday pay or sick pay. It's not good enough.

And we'll create a Just Transition Authority, so workers and communities affected by significant change can be helped adapting to industrial change.

And friends, I'm very pleased today, proud in fact, to announce that we are going to make superannuation part of the National Employment Standards.

The retirement savings of Australian workers are a workplace right. They deserve the same strong protections as any other workplace right.

And bosses who rip-off their staff and steal their super should receive the same punishments and penalties as those who violate any other workplace right.

And for every Australian who can’t find a job, we will review and reform NewStart. Because that system should support people back into work, not punish them in poverty.

And delegates, every time we talk about fair pay, this includes equal pay for the women of Australia.

Chloe and I don’t want our daughters growing up in an Australia where the gender pay gap means that they effectively work the first two months of the year for free, compared to their male counterparts.

No more pay discounts just because you’re a woman – that’s Labor’s promise.

We will strive from the first day of an election, for pay equity for feminised industries, including but not limited to:

  •       aged care workers
  •       early educators
  •       and paid carers, the Australians we are counting on to deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

And speaking of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a great Labor initiative.

This great Labor initiative needs a Labor government to get it back on track.

I know the conservatives voted for it. But you know their heart is not in it, and the last five and a bit years has shown their heart is not in it.

The current system is over-engineered, over-complicated and over-populated with consultants and
corporates who have no lived experience in disability.

There are too many layers, too many delays, too many people with genuine need who are made to feel like frauds and cheats by assessors.

One father I know was asked: “How long has your daughter had Downs Syndrome?” Can you imagine that.

Labor created the NDIS to empower the lives of people with disability, to put them in control of their lives.

Labor will restore the NDIS to its proper status.

We'll rescue the NDIS from the Coalition, and put people with disability back at the centre of decision making, as it was always intended.

Friends, a hidden struggle in this country is being fought by hundreds of thousands of our fellow Australians who can’t afford to live anywhere near where they work.

They're spending between 30 per cent and 60 per cent of their pay packet on rent, and plenty more each day on petrol when they travel.

Nothing is more soul destroying for a person renting, than at the start of every fortnight, there goes a significant chunk of their pay packet and they wonder how on earth will they ever make ends meet.

This is a national challenge and it demands national leadership.

So, today I am proud to announce that if we are elected, a Labor Government will build 250,000 new affordable homes.

250,000 new homes:

  •       For low income, working families.
  •       For key workers like nurses, police, carers and teachers.
  •       And for the fastest growing group of Australians at risk of loneliness and homelessness - women over 55, voiceless in the political debate, until today.

250,000 new homes:

  •       Universal design, fully accessible for all ages and for people with disability
  •       More energy efficient, meaning lower power bills
  •       And with a rental discount of 20 per cent.

Our plan will mean that a family paying the national rental average would save up to $92 a week, every week of the year.

And we'll work with the states and territories, local councils, and those mighty community housing providers, to manage development and congestion. To make sure these homes are built where they're needed most, and to go to the people who need them most. Not foreign investors, nor international students.

And I want to see industry super stepping up and investing in affordable housing projects, investing in the homes for the people of this country.

Delegates, this is a conference which always looks towards the big ideas.

Today, this is a big idea. It will be the biggest national housing program since the Second World War.

And we can pay for this $6.6 billion investment in jobs and housing and productivity and the future of our cities, because we’ve made the big reform decisions.

This is a boost for renters and for the liveability of our growing suburbs and our rural and regional towns. 

And alongside our plans to make negative gearing fairer, it will drive a boom in construction jobs and apprenticeships.

And just like our plans for:

  •       new public transport
  •       regional roads
  •       developing the north
  •       new energy pipelines and interconnectors

When we invest precious Australian taxpayer dollars:

  •       We’ll maximise local content, like Australian standard-steel
  •       We’ll make sure that regional towns, like Cairns and Townsville, the Central Coast in New South Wales and Northern Tassie, get their fair share of contracts, jobs and opportunities
  •       And we’ll make a concrete rule: wherever there is a Commonwealth dollar being expended in infrastructure, one in 10 people employed on the site will be an Australian apprentice.

Building more affordable housing is infrastructure policy. It is cities policy. It is jobs and productivity policy. And it is population policy.

Labor is the party of home ownership, and we are the party of affordable housing and community housing.

Because when you provide an affordable home for hard-working people, you give them the level playing-field and fair start they need.

I know that when every Australian has the chance to fulfil their potential, the whole nation benefits. And the opportunity to have a roof over your head will turbocharge the potential of the Australian people even more.

Delegates, we know we are all lucky to live in a country with some of the best and most dedicated health care workers in the world, our people are the best in the world.

In fact, we are fortunate to have our fair share in Caucus too:

·        Mike Freelander, a paediatrician
·        Emma McBride, a hospital pharmacist.
·        Ged Kearney, a nurse.
·        Amanda Rishworth, a psychologist.
And, of course, our outstanding candidate for Bennelong, Dr Brian Owler, Mr Medicare.

They know, indeed we all know, that Liberal cuts to health and hospitals are putting the staff and our system under terrible strain, pushing up the out-of-pocket costs, putting services out of reach.

We are a rich nation, we are a smart nation.

And if you’re fighting breast cancer, or melanoma, or your child is seriously ill.

If you’re living with chronic pain from bad knees or a crook hip, if you’ve got cataracts that you need removed to get your quality of life back.

There’s only one thing that should matter.

Not your wealth. Not your postcode. Not your ability to pay a bit extra.

One thing only. A Gough Whitlam vision that Bob Hawke made reality.

A Labor promise, written in green and gold, the one thing that matters is your Medicare card.

That is why we are going to end the Liberals’ Medicare freeze.

That is why we're going to put the money back that they have cut from hospitals.

That is why we will fund more beds, more staff, and more equipment.

Because quality health care should be available to every Australian, whenever and wherever they need it.

Labor wants every Australian to get quality health care, whenever and wherever they need it.

No issue is any more important than your health care and that is Labor’s promise.

Delegates, when it comes to climate change, our opponents trade in toxic politics, we deal in simple facts.
Climate change is real: it’s a threat to our economy and our environment.

Ignoring it, or fighting about it, won’t make it go away.

For the sake of our farmers, for the sake of our Reef and for the sake of our kids and grandkids, we have to take action.

We will cut pollution by 45 per cent by 2030.

And today I announce that a Labor Government will pass a new Environment Act and create a new Commonwealth Environmental Protection Authority to preserve our oceans, rivers, coasts and bushland and to protect the native species that call Australia home.

And we will deliver 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

We are going to unleash the potential of a renewable energy revolution.

It was only back in 2007, a mere seven thousand homes in Australia had a solar panel on their roof.

Today it’s over 2 million.

More and more families are:

  •       taking back control of runaway power bills
  •       taking pressure off the energy grid
  •       and they have the chance, while lowering their cost of living, to individually take up the fight against climate change, house by house, street by street.

Nothing more highlights the waste of the last five and a bit years under the Coalition than the inability of the government to deal with climate change. Australians are so far out ahead of the current government, it is no longer funny.

But I can promise every Australian committed to taking action on climate change, every Australian concerned about their energy bills, help is on the way.

An elected Labor Government will back up the people of Australia, and we'll start with a $2,000 subsidy for 100,000 households to install their own battery storage system.

So when the kids are at school, and you’re are at work and the sun is shining, you can store-up the power to use for the evening peak.

Batteries are the bridge that turns renewable energy into the conservative solution.

But I don't believe that Australia should be installing just more batteries alone. We should be making them here.

We already produce every metal needed to make a lithium battery in this country. 

We’ve got the mining industry, the scientists, the skilled workers, our people have got the get-up and go. They just need the leadership.

You know, time and time again, if you look at Australia's economic history, we've been a quarry and a mine for the rest of the world, we've been a commodity centre. We wave goodbye to our commodities and we buy them back at 30 and 40 times the price.

We pay someone else for turning our commodities into our manufactured products.

Time and time again, governments have missed the opportunity to invest in Australian industry.

Well this time, we’re going to get it right.

We’re not going to miss an opportunity to value-add in renewable energy this country.

And in years to come, when people are installing battery storage systems, I want the mark of quality – worldwide - to be three famous words:  Made in Australia.

Delegates, we can build a stronger economy, we can achieve a fairer society, and still champion a bigger and bolder sense of our Australian identity.

We do not need to be a nation constantly fearful of the world around us. As if we cannot compete, as if we cannot flourish, as if somehow our values are a luxury.

We can be a country that can write the nation big, not small.

We can be an Australia more at home with Asia, a better partner in the Pacific, a more independent foreign policy that speaks with an Australian accent.

We can be proud champion of our scientists and artists and athletes alike.

We can be a defender of our ABC.

We can be a nation back on the road to Reconciliation. 

We can be a multicultural society that knows that what makes a good Australian is not whether you've been here 1000 generations or eight or one, not how your family got here, but rather it's the life you build here.

Good Australians are not defined by the length of time they've been in this country, good Australians are defined by: are they good neighbours, do they pay their taxes, do they raise their kids well, do they help build communities?

And we can be a country that stands on its own two feet: an Australian Republic with an Australian head of state.

Delegates, there’s a final, crucial point I want to make about our plan for the future.

Every pledge, from education and health to defence and national security is fully-costed and fully-funded.
Chris Bowen and I and our team have made the big calls, so that we can keep our promises, and pay for them.

And we can guarantee stronger budget surpluses. Not for the sake of it, but to ensure that along with the fair go for all, that our nation is prepared for global uncertainty and international shocks.

We do not view future budgets as a last desperate attempt to try and hold power. But rather for a purpose.

A budget is not a means in itself. Its purpose is to serve the nation and make sure the economy is run in the interests of all.

This is the Labor approach: social investment, economic responsibility, preparing for a great future.

Now of course, no tax reform is universally loved. I get that.

But for us, governing is about choices, it’s about priorities.

I would rather see more young couples buy their first home, than spend billions subsidising investors acquiring multiple properties.

I would rather help older Australians get more speedy elective surgery, and the aged care package they need, than spend $5 billion on an income tax refund for people who didn't pay any income tax that year.

And I want more multinationals to pay their fair share of tax in Australia, so Australians don’t have to keep
paying more to see their doctor.

I want to be Prime Minister of an Australia with the world’s best schools and hospitals, not the world’s richest banks and the most generous tax loopholes.

Delegates, it was way back in 1891, the year that our party was born, Henry Lawson spoke of our continent as ‘a garden full of promise’.

And it’s always been Labor, the party and the movement, that makes good on that promise.

A living wage.

The age pension.

Workers compensation.

The right to organise for a better deal.

All these began their life as dangerous experiments, radical notions.

We’ve made them universal rights.

Higher education used to be an exclusive privilege.

Universal healthcare, a pipedream.

Superannuation was a luxury known only to a few.

We made them the definition of the fair go.

And we did not do this by looking around the world and aiming a little lower.

We did not do this by settling for less. We made our own way, our own story.

We planned for the future. We built for the best, because our people deserve no less.

We trusted Australians, their imagination, their courage, their faith in a common wealth in spirit as well as in name.

That’s how Gough inspired us.

It’s what Bob taught us.

It’s Paul’s big picture. 

Kevin’s victory.

Julia’s determination.

It’s what our Labor Premiers and Labor leaders are doing, around the country.

It’s Curtin’s ‘task ahead’, it’s Chifley’s light on the hill.

It is our Labor way: write the country large, build for the best. Draw upon the bravery and compassion that ordinary Australians live every day.

This is the Labor tradition that will guide us now.

Passing on a better deal to the next generation, than that which we inherited from our parents.

Passing on a better deal, social progress, economic prosperity, a fair go for all.

Delegates, as I said at the beginning, over the next three days, truly the eyes of the nation are upon us.

We have an obligation to millions of our supporters and millions of Australians who want and need a

Labor government, that we measure up to it.

Collectively, all of us, need to earn the trust of the Australian people.

Because when we leave here on Tuesday evening, we have a most enormous task in front of us.

Federal Labor has only won government from opposition three times since the Second World War.

I know that nobody will work harder than the people in this room to win the next election.

And nobody will work harder to be the government that the nation deserves, the government that our nation needs.

Because we don’t seek victory to make history for our party.

We seek government to build a fairer future for our country.

And if we win this election, our number one challenge and my greatest ambition is to restore trust in our system.

To prove to the Australian people that politics and government can still serve the interests of everyday Australians, still make a difference in the daily lives of our fellow Australians.

To show there is still life and hope in the fair go.

And if I have the privilege to serve as Prime Minister, my greatest hope is that people will say about me at the conclusion of that time:

“He delivered. He kept to his word.” 

I want the citizens of this country to come up to my parliamentary team over our time in government and say,

"You know, we did try this together. Maybe we didn't always succeed in every issue, but at least we had a government focused on the people."

And when I look at my team and I look at our plans, I know that if we keep to our word, we can do great things for this nation.

So friends, we indeed have the vision for the future, the plan to pay for it and the team to deliver it.

We are united. We are determined. And we are ready.

Ready to serve. Ready to lead.

Ready to deliver: a fair go for Australia.

Thank you