Bill's Speeches








Good morning everyone.


It is fantastic to see so many people here and it is fantastic to see so many people gathered to talk about what a Budget, and indeed a Government, can do to empower and support the march of women through our society.


I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet.


May I also say to all of you who are here, this is arguably one of the most important gatherings you could have attended this year.


In this Budget, I believe that people were thinking that perhaps the Abbott Government might reconsider the meanness, the shocking nature of last year’s Budget.


But what none of us anticipated, I believe, was that we would have to start re-litigating the basics again with this rotten, unfair Government.


When I say re-litigating the basics, you know what I mean.


We’ve always had our suspicions about Tony Abbott’s commitment to working women and their rights and conditions.


We all know that he has said that over his dead body there would be paid parental leave.


Now, before the 2010 election, no doubt with the best possible polling advice he could get, they said ‘Tony, you’ve got a challenge’.


So then he came up with that signature scheme.


I was at International Women’s Day last year and when I listened to him, the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott when he compared himself to Richard Nixon - which was interesting.


The particular comparison in case you were wondering which part of Nixon he was comparing himself to, was he said that his reverse of policy on paid parental leave was akin to Nixon, the Republican, flying to China and recognising the communist government of China.


He on parental leave, his change of heart, was the ‘Nixonian’ event of our century, it was the big reversal.


We did wonder about this.


And then we discovered that the Abbott aeroplane never took off on paid parental leave because when put to pressure, he demonstrated his true commitment.


He dropped his paid parental leave scheme.


It was a silly scheme but it shows that this is the person who said he had the one thing he believed in, above all else, that Tony Abbott stamp, this was it, and of course he dropped it when the pressure was on.


But what I cannot believe in this Budget, and I think this has become unfortunately one of the more telling issues of the Budget 2015, is that this Government is now so uncommitted to paid parental leave.


So unfamiliar to what happens in the workplaces of Australia, to what employees and employers do, that they have decided to go after a new group of villains in the Australian community.


They have appointed some new bad people to go after, to demonise.


And you could wonder who this group could be but I could never have imagined, and this Government has managed to surprise me on many occasions, but I could never have imagined that they would say that retail workers, who have negotiated a deal with their employers and in response forgone other conditions to get a few additional weeks of paid parental leave, the nurses in the Victorian health system who have forgone other conditions, forgone other benefits in return for a few of additional weeks.


I could have never have believed that this Government could be so cynical, so ignorant – and it is ignorance – to say somehow it is a rort.


How on earth can it be a rort for low and modestly paid people who work hard every day, to negotiate a few weeks of additional of paid parental leave and say somehow these people are rorters?


And you watch this fellow Morrison, and he says ‘Oh, I didn’t say rorter’.


What he said on Sky News was that ‘people who do this, it is a rort’.


Only an Abbott-Liberal Government and its ministers could say that people who do something is a rort but that doesn’t in fact make them rorters.


It does, that is what they are saying. They are saying that women who have negotiated through their own efforts for a better deal on top of the minimum, the minimum standard, and the scheme that Labor lead and negotiated, and pushed against the odds and succeeded through Jenny, Tanya and Claire and the many others here.


Now that was the minimum.


It was never expected when we developed the minimum, that the minimum would become the maximum.


That was never the case.


There are many things in this Budget to talk about, there are many things to talk about, but the Abbott Government’s attack on working women who have managed to negotiate a few extra weeks, to be called ‘rorters’ – the use of the word ‘fraud’ has been flung around.


An then of course, what the Abbott-Government does when it is confronted with its own mistake, and we saw it with the whole of its last Budget, if it is confronted with its mistakes, its broken promises and its lies, what does it do? It doubles down.


It goes on again and again. If you don’t believe me, listen to some of the radio interviews some of these characters in the Abbott Government has done in the last 24 hours – trying to split hairs and navigate itself through the eye-of-a-needle of their inconsistences.


But for Labor, we believe fundamentally in paid parental leave.


We believe that one of the best things a government can do and a society can do is to support parents, in particular mums, in that marvellous event of having children, to get through it.


But unfortunately, it doesn’t stop for the Government at that.


They decided that child care is important. They are right, it is important.


But again, this Liberal Government suffers from the disease of trickery.


They get half an idea.


Child care, making it more affordable – that is a good idea.


Making sure it is quality, that’s a good idea.


Making sure there is enough places. Well, they haven’t got up to that yet.


But making sure that child care works so people can participate in the work force, so that children can get quality care in their early years – these are good ideas.


But how do they then propose to fund it?


They then decide after having damaged the paid parental leave scheme, they decided that they are focused on the 3 and 4 year olds, which is great.


They are dragged kicking and screaming to refund the commitment for access to pre-school for four year olds for the minimum number of hours. They are dragged kicking and screaming – and they have only funded that for two years, love to trick.


They are right. A 4 year old should get a certain number of hours that is right. But they are only going to do it for two years because that makes their Budget numbers look slightly better in the 3rd and 4th years.


We all know that we are going to hit this cliff again.


These people aren’t preparing for the future; they are just dealing with the very short-term to save Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s jobs.


But on child care, they proposed to fund child care by taking family payments off working parents who children are 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.


Families who are on $60,000 a year.


This is a Government who fundamentally in my opinion doesn’t appreciate the role and march of women through society.


No doubt there will be conservative bloggers who will be reaching - double fingered for their Tweets right now saying ‘How dare Shorten and Labor say this Prime Minister is out of touch with the needs of working women.’


Well, in case you didn’t hear me – I think Tony Abbott is out of touch with the needs of working women in this country.


How could it be that in the space of a year or two, Tony Abbott’s signature policy for women of calibre has now become an attempt for people to stop people committing rorts?


How can he say to people who have negotiated over the years additional parental leave, that you are going to be penalised?


And by the way, does anyone think he is going to save a billion dollars by this?


Does anyone think that an employee and an employer, knowing that if they negotiate a benefit at work in return for offsetting other conditions, that if they do that, they will be penalised?


Does anyone think they will keep doing that?


Therefore, if human behaviour determined to confront Liberal Government trickery triumphs, it won’t be a billion dollars in savings, it won’t be a cent.


But in the meantime, I think we have seen the deeper issue which is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature in which this society should be organised and a misunderstanding of the future.


We know the future’s happening right now, Australians are smart enough. We get it, you get it. We get that Asia’s rising, and we get that we’re living longer and life’s full of quality and meaning. We get that we’re going to have a lot more services to sell and export, we get that we need to educate our children even better.


We get that the mining boom’s over, but we get one other thing, and this is at least important as every other point of change that we understand.


We understand, Australians understand, the Labor Party that I’m proud to lead understands, that it is only upon the full expression of the equality of women in our society that we can achieve the destiny which we could have.


It is only upon the equal treatment of women in our society that we can be the nation that we should be.


When you’ve got half the population being treated as equally as the other half of the population, it’s a rising tide that lifts all boats.


It is where we need to go as a nation.


And I say to the Prime Minister, on the issue of family violence, let us work together.


We made an offer earlier this year. Let’s work with the marvellous Rosie Batty, let’s work with Ken Lay, let us work on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of victims.


Let us speak up on behalf, already too late, for the women who’ve died each week this year in family violence.


Let us not make the Budget a battle ground on this question, let us make it an expression of the finer spirits of what this Parliament can do together.


So when we talk about this Budget this year, there are many things to talk about, there are many, many things, and many of my colleagues speak up firmly and loudly on them all.


But today I just want to talk about what I think is the fundamental proposition.


A Budget is not the economy but it is an influence upon the economy.


A Budget is a sign of the priorities of a nation.


A priority of this nation has to be accelerating and advancing the legitimate march of women through every part of our society, to equal treatment.


And from the attack on women who have negotiated a top-up on the minimum on their paid parental leave, this Government should be ashamed, and we will not let go of this point.


And when it comes to the issue of how you properly fund child care it shouldn’t be at the expense of other working women whose children are six and seven and eight and nine.


When it comes to family violence, let us work together, let us work together and let us ensure that we have budgets and politics in this country which is not just about the today or tomorrow or next week.


But what sort of nation we want to be in 2020 and 2030. Are we giving our young women the same chance in our schools to have the jobs of the future?


Are we supporting our women small business entrepreneurs who are taking risks and building a better country?


Are we making sure that in every facet of our health care system and our aged care system, the women who haven’t had the same chance to save as men get at least dignity in retirement?


I can promise you the Labor Party I lead, with so many capable women in its ranks, I can assure you that we fundamentally believe not just at the Budget time, not just at an opinion poll, we believe in the empowerment of women, and we will not compromise in that goal.


Thank you very much.