Bill's Speeches

New Zealand Labour Congress








In Australia we like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – I’d like to pay my respect to the Māori people.


And thank you Clare for that introduction.


I know when I am in the presence of true believers.


You are true believers.


Thank you for inviting me to be here today to be your witness.


Next year will be the 100th anniversary of ANZAC.


ANZAC has deep meaning of course, for both our nations.


58 per cent of the serving men of New Zealand were casualties of Gallipoli, and Flanders, and France.


And as a former New Zealand Labour Prime Minister said in Washington recently -


‘Crisis and hardship don’t just build character, they reveal character.’ 


The kind of character revealed by New Zealand and Australian fighter pilots and bomber crews in the Battle of Britain and the battle for Europe after D-Day.


And in the parallel and like-minded Labor administrations in both countries afterwards.


Norman Kirk and Gough Whitlam both abolished conscription and concluded our involvement in the Vietnam War with dignity.


And they fought the obscenity of Apartheid from 1972 to 1975.


As did David Lange and Bob Hawke in the 1980s, who also led the way in campaigning for the preservation of Antarctica.


Both Labor governments took action against French nuclear tests in the Pacific in the International Court of Justice, which helped end the atmospheric atomic tests.


But only New Zealand sent a vessel into the testing area with a Cabinet Minister on board.

Under Labor, New Zealand and Australia have always punched above our weight in international matters.


And we are rightly proud of Mike Moore, running the World Trade Organisation.


The work of Helen Clark with the United Nations Development Program.


Gareth Evans with the International Crisis Group.


And Australia’s seat on the United Nations Security Council, supported by New Zealand.


Not to mention Peter Jackson’s contribution to world cinema, that brought the Lord of the Rings to a new generation, and a new generation of tourists to New Zealand.


And the inspirational work of Fred Hollows, who will always belong to both of us, improving health in the developing world.


New Zealand got to female suffrage before we did - by a few months.


But in old age pensions, fair pay, the 40-hour week, the right of unions to organise, and the ongoing fight for a safe workplace, we share a story of tragedy endured, of bereavement comforted and hardship fought to the final inch of effort.

We in Labor, in our two countries, have led the world so often beneath this shared patch of sky.


We have shown a neighbourliness, and a courage, and a lack of prejudice, and a love of the outdoors and a life of the mind that has drawn to our region - not just tourists attracted by our natural wonders - but all those who admire our civilisation, our society.


At its best a society working, without panic, without snobbery, without cultural warfare, in a spirit of affable consensus and decent communal care.


We believe in the fair go, and a chance for all.


A pleasant neighbourhood, rewarding work, and a life outside work, great schools and quality healthcare.


Our countries share so much.


A profound respect for the traditional owners of our lands.


A colonial past, a democratic present - and an independent future.


Communities and economies enriched by every culture and tradition, from every corner of the world.


And what we share goes beyond friendship.


Australia and New Zealand are family.


For thousands of years –people in our lands have looked up at the same stars, and slept and dreamed beneath them.


When bushfires rage or floods wreak havoc or earthquakes strike, we are there for each other – without question, without hesitation.


Side by side.


And our two great Labor parties share an unbreakable bond.


A bond of common cause, and shared belief.


Our belief in equality, our faith in fairness.


Ours is a universal mission – it is a global summons– a calling that reaches back more than a century.


Reaching down to lift up those who have been struck by what Robert Frost called ‘the shafts of fate’.


We are the defenders of the vulnerable.


The voice for the voiceless.


The hope of ordinary people.


And our work is never done.


There is always more for us to do.


There always will be.


There will always be another baby being born – whose parents need the right support.


There will always be another child starting school – who deserves the best education.


There is always another self-made small business owner aspiring to do more – to grow their ideas and create jobs.


There is always someone who has lost their job – and needs the skills and training to find a new one.


There are always older workers looking for comfort and dignity in retirement.


There will always be hardworking nurses in public hospitals, counting on Labor for a fair deal.


There will always be dedicated teachers in public schools, looking to Labor for the resources they need.


No matter what side of the ditch they call home, these are our people.


People working hard, making sacrifices – building a better nation and a better future.


Parents, small business people, teachers, carers, nurses, veterans and children.


These are our people.


The people who depend upon the Labor party.


To look after them, to support them, to help them be their best.


And if we are going to serve our people, to represent their interests, to fight for their hopes – we cannot just be Labor parties, or a labour movement.


We have to be Labor Governments.


It is only in Government that we can do the big things, make the big changes, drive the reforms that make the lives of our people better, longer, healthier and happier.


It is only in Government that we can make our countries fairer - more equal.


Countries where everyone is included, and everyone is welcome.


Citizens by choice, and citizens by birth.


People born under the Southern Cross – and people who have come in search of a better life here under our southern skies.


New Zealand and Australia – the lands of the second chance.


It is only in Government that we can build a fairer society, and a stronger competitive, productive economy.


It is only in Government that we can drive the economic growth that creates jobs, raises living standards and extends opportunity.


Only in Government can we share the benefits of national prosperity with the people who are counting on us.


That’s why Labor seeks government.


We believe in the difference it can make to people’s lives.


For us, governing is never about exercising power over people.


It is about empowering people.


Breaking down the barriers of poverty, discrimination, disadvantage and inequality.


For Labor, engaging with young people does not begin and end with some hashtag.


It’s about listening to their concerns, and speaking to their issues.


Caring for our environment, and acting on climate change for future generations.


Helping our neighbours and doing our duty as good global citizens.


Opening doors to classrooms, lecture theatres and training centres.


And when I hear David Cunliffe speak of his vision and passion for education – I hear the words of a true Labor leader.


A man who understands the Labor mission – and stands ready to fulfil it.


In Wellington, in Canberra – and in every community across our two countries – Labor is the party of education.


We know the power of education.


The lifelong benefit it brings – to our people, our economy and our society.


Education embodies the Labor mission.


Extending opportunity, and giving everyone the chance to fulfil their potential.


Tackling the challenges of the 21st Century.


Creating jobs, rewarding hard work and raising living standards.


Giving people the skills, and the confidence, to adapt to change, to embrace it, to make it work for them.


That’s the Labor way – embracing the future with confidence and optimism.


Labor embraces change because our world does not stand still.


We reject the lazy lethargy of those who say that the great races have been run and won.


That the great battles have been fought and that the only job for government is to preserve the status quo.


This is not conservatism – it is complacency.


There is no comfort in complacency – only peril.


Complacency delivers no return to investors.


There is no bravery in complacency.


No reward for effort.


No way to better yourself, to build yourself up, to give your children a better life than the one you led.


Complacency means apathy, it means decay, it means the gentle erosion of progress by the power of vested interests.


Complacency means entrenching old problems, reinforcing old obstacles – the barriers that restrict our people, and limit our countries.


Complacency is simply not an option for true believers.


The world is not waiting for us – it never has – it never will.


If we do not change, if we stand still, if we opt for complacency - we will be battered and bettered by a world that is always changing.


That’s the message Labor has to spread – that’s the case we have to make.


We have to be what we have always been – a force for change, the party with a vision for a future that includes everyone.


Labor’s ability to tell that story, the story of change, of renewal, of reform of a better future for New Zealand, depends upon you.


This is the task for each and every one of us.


To tell the Labor story on every street, in every city, suburb and town, every day –


Then New Zealand and Australia will have governments as ambitious, as fair, as bold and as generous as the people of our great nations.