'Governing well, driven by Labor values', Speech to the Queensland ALP State Conference, Brisbane
SAT 18 JUNE 2011
Thanks so much, Wayne, for that generous introduction.
I see so many of my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues here today, Federal and State, far too many to name; so many friends from Queensland’s great labour movement.
And so many hard-working Labor Party people, people who’ve lived a life in Labor politics and who’ve sought as your reward nothing more and nothing less than a better Australia.
Thank you - for all you do for our Party and our people
This year in Queensland I’ve been to many places and met many people I’ll never forget:
To Bundaberg on New Year’s Eve, where Sandy Kiddle told me the city's flood crisis had almost broken her heart – almost;
To St George in the first week of January, where Linda Bradley needed a cuddle as she cried about her house that was underwater for the second time in a year;
To Picnic Point at Toowoomba on Australia Day, where Peter Taylor and I seemed to meet the whole town at the barbecue after the Awards.
So many different people in different places from different backgrounds - what they had in common was their uncommon courage.
LEADING FOR QUEENSLAND
There’s another courageous Queenslander I’ve spent time with this year, someone I’d worked with before but who we all know a bit better now - your Premier, Anna Bligh.
And what I learned about Anna this year is what every Australian learned about Anna.
She’s one of you. She’s tough enough.
Hour after hour, Anna reassured the people and provided the leadership.
Day after day, Anna faced the floods with steel in her backbone and occasional tears in her eyes.
And as the months have gone on, Anna is still doing her job to rebuild the state.
It’s one thing to say you ‘can-do’ - Anna Bligh does.
I spent a lot of time with your Premier in Queensland in January and saw her up close.
Like in Grantham, where we sat a while with the residents in the space under the primary school, sheltering from the heat.
Anna’s leadership was wonderful then.
But what’s just as important is the leadership Anna still provides the Government and the state, every day.
I’ve seen what you’ve done together to rebuild, connecting the power, repairing the roads, opening the rail - after flood.
In City Hall in Toowoomba, where I visited in January and saw such shocking and emotional sights, and where I sat for lunch in April and heard such remarkable stories of recovery and resilience - after cyclone.
In the tropical north, where the day after Yasi I saw trees and debris washed right across Townsville and power and water cut off, and where I returned just 10 days later, to Tully, where amid the devastated banana crops I met growers and businesses, from Mission and Caldwell and Tully itself, people already working with the Government and planning their fight back.
And I’ve also seen what you’ve done together to govern this great state:
When I visited Goodna to see a truly inspiring public school;
When I visited Redcliff to see the GP super clinic and the hospital;
When I visited Gladstone to see work begin on the Curtis Island gas project;
When I’ve travelled this growing state and seen what Queensland Labor has done to make that growth work, I’ve seen what you’ve done together for health, for education above all for jobs.
And I want you to know today that you should be proud of your Queensland Labor Government.
You have a record to admire and a case for re-election as strong as any I have known.
GOVERNING FOR ALL
Friends, a Queensland Labor Government is a Government for every Queenslander.
And an Australian Labor Government is a Government for every Australian.
We share a vision, for the state as for the country.
A strong economy – and opportunity for all.
This year’s Budget includes many sound Labor measures.
$2.2 billion for mental health.
130,000 new training places and apprenticeships.
The parents of hundreds of thousands of teenagers with over $4,000 a year extra in family tax benefit.
Millions of low-income workers with more in their regular pay packet through the reforms to the Low-Income Tax Offset.
$1.8 billion for regional health facilities, investments in a sustainable Australia, new assistance for small businesses and manufacturers.
But these are not one-off measures to address isolated need.
They form a plan to make our vision reality: more jobs, more opportunity, better life chances.
And I have seen our plan at work in Australia today.
In Brisbane, where I’ve sat down with hard headed Australians, representatives of the state government, business and the community, who are backing in the hard decisions, like the flood levy, like our cuts to other spending, to rebuild Queensland while paying as we go.
I saw people who are rebuilding Queensland while getting the Budget back into black as our economy demands.
In Moranbah, where I’ve met women forging careers in the mining industry – geologists, engineers, a female mine manager, and we talked about what it must have been like to be one of the first women to turn up at a mine site; the first woman to climb into the cab of one of those huge trucks.
They aren’t just proud to be coal miners’ daughters anymore, they’re proud to be coal miners.
And I didn’t just see some really inspirational Australians - I saw people who are working hard, are getting educated, are seizing the employment opportunities the mining boom creates and the training opportunities government extends.
I saw people who are becoming the productive workforce that our economy needs.
In Brisbane’s north, where I saw one of the fastest growing areas in the country, where congestion means parents spend more time in cars than they want and business isn’t as productive as it could be, and so with Anna Bligh and Allan Sutherland I signed a $1.1 billion intergovernmental agreement to build the Moreton Bay Rail Link at last.
I saw an investment which means that when construction is complete in 2016 the State’s south-east will have a critical new piece of economic infrastructure.
Our Labor Government is delivering – delivering our plans to spread the opportunities of the mining boom, to get more Australians into jobs, to get the Budget back in the black, to keep our economy strong and spread opportunity to all.
Friends, while it is our unchanging Labor values that drive our plan for the economy, it is our changing climate which demands we act on carbon pollution.
So we will put a price on carbon.
I believe Australians are a smart people, much smarter than either our opponents or some commentators give them credit for.
Australians are right to believe climate change is real and to want Government to act.
And at the same time they are right to ask us tough questions about our plan.
Like the workers did at Origin Energy’s gas plant in Dalby, when we met in the tea room and heard about one of the cleanest baseload power stations in Australia.
Like the staff did at CS Energy’s power station at Kogan Creek – when I sat in the canteen and heard about the Australian-pioneered solar thermal energy technology system which will begin construction there later this year.
These were real conversations about the real issues with hard-working people who have a good grip on this debate and a good grip on their future.
So it’s no surprise they cut through the relentless negativity and scare-politics to ask me the really important questions, the questions I think most Australians are asking.
Will a carbon price really make a difference to the climate? Will it hurt my family budget? Will it threaten my job?
I believe these are absolutely the right questions for Australians to ask about our plan – indeed they are the tests the Government has set for ourselves as we develop our policy.
And I know our plan will answer these questions and pass these tests.
Friends, our plan will make a difference.
We are part of the key group of countries whose actions count – the 20 big countries which make up more than 80 per cent of the world’s carbon pollution.
Introducing a carbon price in Australia will make dirty energy more expensive and clean energy like solar, gas and wind cheaper. This is how we can do our bit.
Our plan comes with generous assistance for households.
All of the revenue from a carbon price will be used to provide households with fair and generous assistance, to support jobs in the most affected industries and to invest in clean energy.
The help we give will be generous and it will also be fair - assistance for the people who need it most.
And our plan will protect existing employment and create many new jobs.
Building more gas plants like the one I saw at Dalby.
Using more solar thermal technology plants like the one I heard about at Kogan Creek.
Like the Solar Dawn Project which Premier Bligh and I announced today: a 250 megawatt solar thermal gas hybrid power plant near Chinchilla that, when complete, will generate enough power to meet the electricity needs of more than 70,000 homes.
And let me say this very clearly: we will protect Australian jobs at the same time as we create new ones.
We are committed to helping Australia’s trade-exposed emissions-intensive industries as the world transitions to a lower carbon future.
Action will protect jobs. Inaction will cost jobs.
For a Labor Government, there is only one choice.
Now, you may have noticed that our opponents don’t support our plan, and it is an opposition which is built on myths.
They say coal mining will be shut down.
Now put aside the fact that for the vast majority of mines fugitive emissions will create a liability which is less than one per cent of the average price of a tonne of coal.
And put aside the fact that Government is already working with the industry to support jobs and competitiveness and help the most affected coal mines.
I say: don’t believe what the Liberals say – believe what the industry does.
You’re Queenslanders, you’re here where the investment boom is on - believe your eyes.
I’ve opened the projects, visited the plants, shaken hands with the workers - and so have you.
Could any Queenslander really believe the mining industry is on its knees this year?
Don’t believe the silly scare campaign - believe your eyes.
A PARTY WITH A FUTURE
Just as we prepare our nation for the future, we prepare our Party as well.
This will never distract us from governing but we do have a responsibility to renew ourselves and our organisation.
The election review I initiated gives us a chance to renew our Party processes and make ourselves better.
On the day I ordered this review I was determined to create an opportunity for reform which this great Party would not squander.
I remain so determined.
When I think about party reform I think about what it was that attracted me to the Labor Party in the first place.
I saw the Labor Party as the Party of the people – of ordinary Australians looking a fair go in life.
I remember my first branch meeting.
It was full of people who valued civic duty – local school teachers and nurses, the local volunteers who make kids’ sport possible.
My values have not changed from that first meeting and nor has my belief in Labor as the party of reform.
And in debating Party reform, I want Labor people to ask themselves that same question, to think about what it was that made you join the Labor party in the first place, because the Labor Party must always be more than just an exercise in counting numbers and holding ballots.
It should be a party of genuine civic engagement;
For people who are engaged in civic projects in their street and in their neighbourhood;
For people who are engaged in nation shaping projects.
We must continue to reach out to new groups of voters and to those who have always supported us.
Not just on election day, but on any day that a person is looking to make a difference to their street, to their suburb, to their town or to their country.
And as our Party reforms we must have reform with a purpose - not changes for their own sake or concessions to critics but practical steps to improve.
I believe there is a strong appetite for reform within the Party, and ultimately change will happen because the members want it.
Friends, never forget who we are and who we stand for: for working people, for every Australian.
And never forget that politics is a contest, where the life of our nation is ultimately defined not only by who we are and who we stand for, but by whether we can defeat those who we stand against.
We can be pretty tough on ourselves in the Labor Party and we don’t mind talking about our own problems.
But at least we don’t find ourselves where the Liberals are at, where when they looked for a former minister to take charge of party reform they found themselves with Peter Reith.
How’d you like to have been down at Liberal headquarters this week, where they were up all night knitting new balaclavas.
And just as we’ll never need Peter Reith in charge of Party reform, we must never let Tony Abbott run industrial relations in Australia again.
Because of who we are and for the sake of who we stand for.
Ask teachers in Victoria about our opponents. Before the election the Liberals promised they’d be the best paid in Australia - before the election.
Ask firefighters and nurses, public servants and community workers in New South Wales. Before the election the Liberals said nothing about their plans to put a lid on wage increases, to tear up rights and conditions enjoyed by every Australian - before the election.
Before your state election, you’ll hear the same smooth words from the LNP - before the election.
And before the 2013 election Tony Abbott will say the same - “No Workchoices.”
He’s good at saying no.
But listen to what his friends say.
Steve Ciobo from the Gold Coast:
Labor's changes to the unfair dismissal laws have created a disincentive for small businesses to employ people.
Joe Hockey, the Shadow Treasurer:
Unfair dismissal laws for small business are complex ...
The thought that you're going to have an industrial relations minister sit on the porch of Parliament House and smoke a cigar for three years is just ridiculous.
Julie Bishop, the Deputy Liberal Leader:
Bringing back inflexible working conditions such as the penalty rates regime is costing employers more.
Or who said this?
Workplace reform was one of the greatest achievements of the Howard government.
That’s right - Tony Abbott.
We know Work Choices is in the Liberal DNA.
In Victoria, in New South Wales, in Queensland, in Canberra.
We know only the election of Labor Governments could kill it.
And we know only the re-election of Labor Governments can keep it that way.
Because just as Work Choices is in the Liberal DNA, fairness at work is in our party’s blood.
A PARTY OF COURAGE
Over the past year we have done good things together.
2011 is truly a year of decision and delivery:
Reforming hospitals and investing in mental health;
Creating jobs and expanding training;
Bringing high speed broadband to the Australian mainland;
Making the decisions to pay for rebuilding the state;
Making the case for action on climate change.
These things worth doing are hard today, but they’ve always been hard.
This Labor Party, this labour movement, was created by people who were prepared to face up to the challenges of their times and they were at least as hard as those we face now.
When this Party was formed the challenges of fighting two world wars were still to come.
When this Party was formed the challenge of the Great Depression was still to come.
When this Party was formed what we needed to do to modernize our economy and be competitive in the world was still to come.
And people from the Labor Party and people in the labour movement looked inside themselves and found the courage to face those challenges.
Now we must summon that courage again:
The courage to rebuild the state;
The courage to act on climate change;
The courage to keep Work Choices dead for ever;
The courage to renew our party;
The courage to defeat our opponents in Queensland;
The courage to look to the future;
The courage to govern for all.