Bill's Speeches



First of all I would like to thank a bloke who wears his Labor heart on his Labor sleeve every day, Senator Glenn Sterle.

I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

Now we are here tonight celebrating Bert Hawke and his legacy.

Not only 35 years in the West Australian Parliament and six as Premier but he was ahead of his time on Indigenous rights and I promise you that if we win the next election they will say about our generation of Labor that we delivered for our time in closing the gap for Indigenous Australians.

Now all the introductions have been done and the unions have been recognised and the MPs and the rank and file and the true believers but I do want to say that in my journeys I don’t always get to have my wife Chloe with me and I’m rapt she’s here tonight.

I also want to acknowledge my mainly friend - except when he's in trouble - but I want to acknowledge, seriously, Senator Sam Dastyari.

In your time in the labour movement, you will if you're doing your job periodically cop some abuse.

But watching those rolled-gold idiots I want to say, Sam, that you handled yourself calmly but it wasn't pleasant and I felt for you.

You know, we've all had idiots come up and get in our face and they want to make their point and they want their 15 seconds of fame but the abuse which you got was racist, it was disgraceful.

It was an attack on our political system because Members of Parliament and members of the labour movement, anyone should be able to go out and say their piece without that sort of abuse.

Sam, watching that footage reminded me of Australian-Asian kids getting heckled on the trams, someone driving a truck or a cab working the night shift at a service station, being mocked by drunks. You spoke up for them.

Not only for them but for every child who might be a migrant or the child of migrants, who've had to come home to their parents saying they're making fun of me, or my accent or the great lunch that you make for me, or whatever, whatever passes.

And Sam what you did is you stood up for all those people who have to put up with the petty indignities that only prejudice can inflict.

You gave a little bit of hope to a lot of people and that is what the labour movement does every day.

But it is interesting when you think about migration and change, I think tonight's dinner is well timed.

Think about the difference between Bert Hawke’s time and ours; the massive shifts in population, in migration in our social institutions and in the world of work.

But one thing hasn't changed – back in the 1950s Bert Hawke's opponents attacked him for being too close to the union movement.

In the 1980s the same crowd said that about Bob Hawke.

And every day in Question Time they say that about me and modern Labor, they say the day of unions is over – well I think I'm in good company when I stand up for unions, their representatives and working people in this country.

Glenn in an uncharacteristically anxious moment cautioned me about not speaking too long tonight, but I did want to use this opportunity to briefly talk about two ideas.

I want to tackle the myth of the so-called Liberal economic super-men.

I want to challenge the idea that somehow the economy and the management of the economy belongs to the conservative parties and that Labor should leave that issue alone, that we should fight our political issues on different ground.

Tonight I want to measure the Liberal rhetoric against the Liberal reality and I also briefly want to outline to you Labor's priorities: our reform agenda that we will present at the next election to help reform this country in the interest of working people for the next decade and the next two decades.

And in doing these two things let me state, I believe that the Labor Party the Australian Labor Party is competitive for the next election.

We did well at the last election and Western Australia delivered - but we didn't quite get there.

We got closer though than many predicted and since then the Turnbull Government has got closer and closer and closer to self-destruction.

And as more and more Coalition Members join the citizenship circus in this country and as the Prime Minister's press conferences get weirder, weirder and even more weird - it is most important for us to prepare our plans and our program most diligently.

And I want to promise you there is not one millimetre of complacency in me.

I feel, and my parliamentary team feel, the obligation to present a program of economic and social progress for this nation for the next decade, most keenly.

We feel that responsibility, without complacency. Because the current Prime Minister shows exactly what happens when you believe your own hype.

But let us look, as I said, at the myth of the so-called Liberal economic supermen - and there are very few women among their ranks.

Debt and deficit. If you recall at the 2013 election, the Liberals said: the case to vote Liberal was to "fix the budget emergency" and to solve the "debt and deficit disaster".

Since then they have delivered a record high in gross debt, over half a trillion dollars and since their first budget the deficit has grown out by a factor of ten - so much for debt and deficit.

And we hear a lot from our opponents about myth number two - jobs and growth. As if the simple repetition of a mantra will deliver results.

When you have more than one million of our fellow Australians underemployed, when they want more hours of work but cannot find them.

When we have millions of our fellow Australians in insecure work worried about casualisation, automation, off-shoring, privatisation and when we have 700,000 working two or more jobs and when we have hundreds of thousands of people on the unemployment queue and we have tens of hundreds of people who have given up looking for work

And we have thousands of our fellow Australians on the disability pension treated as too hard to be able to find work, it is a myth when they say they care about jobs.

We are not yet the United States in terms of the two-class labour market but if this Government gets another opportunity we will be a lot closer than our parents and grandparents would ever have thought possible.

And as for this economic growth, it is neither strong nor shared amongst Australians equally.

Our GDP growth, the measure of economic activity for 2016-17 was two per cent - that is the weakest annual result since 08-09 the year of the GFC.

And this anaemic growth comes at a time when our terms of trade what the rest of the world is willing to pay for our commodities has jumped by 15 per cent.

So what we have is economic growth dangerously reliant upon what the rest of the world is willing to pay for our raw materials and not reliant upon our own domestic capacity.

We have narrow growth and it has been narrowly distributed.

Myth number three, when Morrison, the ineffectual Treasurer- proof that you should never accept the final promotion because you will be found out - when he says there are ‘better days ahead’, when he says that 'inequality is not getting worse' that friends, is a myth.

Put it another way not only are we not generating enough natural wealth to keep our living standards moving forward, we are not sharing fairly the distribution of national income of the Australians who create our national wealth.

Let us look at the very simple disconnect between productivity, what the workers are doing every day to work smarter not harder, to create greater value from existing enterprises and practices.

Labour productivity, the productivity of working people in this country in the past decade has increased by an impressive 20 per cent.

But is that 20 per cent is being distributed in national income to the workers, to the people who create it? It is not.

Real wages in this country in the last decade have increased by 6 per cent but what this demonstrates beyond any argument, beyond any editorial from one of those right-wing newspapers complaining about the labour movement is that the working people in this country, their productivity has gone up by 20 per cent but their share of national income, has only been improved by 6 per cent.

Or put it another way bluntly, currently, in this society, we are on a trajectory where the workers are working harder and capital is doing better and receiving a disproportionate benefit of the work of Australian people

Real wages growth is amongst the lowest it's ever been on record.

Since the Global Financial Crisis if you have a property portfolio and lots of physical assets you are doing well but if you rely upon income predominantly for your standard of living you are falling off the pace.

And this goes to myth number four - the growth is weak, the deficit is worse, the inequality is growing and myth number four is cost of living.

That the Liberals are better economic managers on cost of living.

And without giving you a whole lot of statistics let's just put it as bluntly as this:

You pay more to see a doctor under the Liberals, you pay more for your childcare, you pay more at the supermarket for many products and you are paying a lot more for energy when Australia is an energy superpower, the great paradox of the Liberal administration.

So we have a situation in this country where the people who earn the least are improving the least and this is a disaster for confidence in the economy.

It is a fact when you earn 50 and 60 and 70,000 dollars a year, you spend every cent.

And that expenditure which drives business in the high streets and regional shopping centres in this country.

So this Government, having achieved power, is actually undermining the confidence of the economy.

Because when they cut penalty rates, when wages growth is low, when they make it harder to bargain, when they go after people on the pension what they are actually doing is starving the dollars which flow into the small businesses and the high streets of Australia. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And of course the final economic myth which we should never let the Liberals off is that somehow Liberals are low taxing.

To be fair though, as I must be, if you are in the wealthiest 2 per cent of Australia, if you are an aggressive tax minimiser, if you are a multinational company, if you are a big property investor or you can put your money in a tax haven in the Caribbean- times have never been better.

But for everyone else, for everyone else, our charges have gone up: from energy to Medicare and only my Labor opposition has got the political strength of character supported by the movement to do something about it.

We believe in one tax system for all, we repudiate the notion that multi-national companies should have a reduction and that somehow if you give millionaires a tax cut and increase the Medicare levy on working class Australians then this is a fair outcome.

So tonight, I hope I have demonstrated that the myth of the Liberal economic supermen is just that, a myth.

But I did promise that I would just briefly point to what we are working on in our federal opposition and let me make very clear, there is one test that matters in politics.

It doesn't matter if you are a branch member, a union rep, state or federal - one test matters.

What matters in the Labor family is what legacy do we leave, what difference will you or I make to the political system and more importantly to the families of working Australians.

I want to promise you that if we are elected the following matters are our priorities, our legacy.

That if we were to meet here again in ten years’ time we could say: yes we did those things that we spoke about at the 2017 dinner.

I promise our legacy and our priority will be the equal treatment of women in this country.

I promise that we will make sure that Western Australia gets its fair share of Commonwealth resources.

I promise that we will make sure that every working-class and middle class kid, regardless of the postcode where they live, regardless of the wealth of their parents, regardless if they live in the wheat belt or the bush, regardless if they are Indigenous or not, regardless if they are a young woman or a young man, they will get the best school education, the best TAFE education, the best university education.

I promise that we will make the infrastructure of this nation hum: from better quality NBN to a proper public transport system in Perth and everywhere else.

And I promise that we will have genuine reform in health, which is not about cutting, which is not about privatising.

Yes, we want an efficient health system- but we will deal with the issues in the too-hard basket. I make no apology that I would rather properly fund our hospitals, our Medicare, our age care, tackle the scourge of dementia than give multi-millionaires and multinationals a corporate tax cut.

I promise that we will back in Australian manufacturing from the Kwinana strip, right across Australia, because we should be a country that makes things not just imports things.

And I also promise that when we talk about jobs, we talk about full-time jobs, properly-paid jobs, jobs above the minimum wage and a bargaining system which allows workers to be represented by a union to create mutually beneficial outcomes for enterprises and employees - and we will scrap that rotten ABCC too.

As I travel around Australia and I meet optimistic Australians I understand that what they want from all of us, not just Labor, but the political democratic system in this country is they want Members of Parliament who are accountable to the people.

Who have got a plan for the future, who believe in leaving something better than they found it and that is why we will not just do our job on behalf of the jobs of Australians, we will be proudly Australian.

We will support becoming a Republic and we will support closing the gap and constitutional recognition for the First Australians.

Friends tonight we are here to celebrate the legacy of Bert Hawke, we are here to come together to get strength from each other.

The times, I suggest, favour Labor - but no outcome is certain. Every victory has to be hard fought for.

I promise you that I understand, that if we want to leave a legacy, if we want to meet here in a decade or two decades time and say: remember when our generation stepped up, I understand that the greatest threat to progress in this country is when the Labor Party is timid.

We will be a strong opposition and we will be an ever better Government if we get that privilege.

Thank you very much.

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