"... Not a brand, a cause", Speech to the NSW ALP Conference
SUN 15 JULY 2012
Delegates, our party members are our greatest resource.
So after the last Federal election, I had no doubt at all - we had to reform our Party for our members.
When we met here last July, you were ready for renewal, ready to rebuild.
At our National Conference last year we made important progress by embracing a new recruiting target and making the big decision to trial community primaries.
Many of you were there, and you know: we had to overcome opposition and it was far from easy.
But we achieved real change.
Now here in New South Wales, you've used the rule changes of Conference to bring change to the streets of Sydney and the people of New South Wales.
Your primary pre-selection for the City of Sydney mayoral election was a truly historic step in the life of social democracy in Australia.
And you have held the Labor banner high and attracted 2700 new members, already passing the ambitious target we set seven months ago.
In 2012, New South Wales Labor is leading the country in building a stronger Party.
I congratulate you and thank you but I will continue to challenge you to do more.
So I say to Michael, Sam, to every delegate and member: keep leading the way to a stronger Party.
Delegates, sometimes when reforming our great Party is talked about, people say there is a problem with the Labor brand.
But delegates, Labor isn’t a brand, it’s a cause.
We seek to strengthen our Party so we are better able to fight for that cause.
We started our historic journey as a movement, as a Party fighting for fairness and dignity at work, for an end to exploitation and contempt and that fight goes on.
In 2005, Work Choices demolished rights at work, including attacking the penalty rates so many working people need to make their household budget add up.
We fought back and in 2007, the Australian people demolished Work Choices.
In its place, we built a modern andfair system that has got the balance right.
And we will fight to keep it as the onslaught against penalty rates starts up once again – no matter what gets thrown at us.
Delegates, you know there are a lot of differences between the two major parties in Australian politics.
But we do have this much in common.
Beliefs about workplace relations run deep in Labor blood and they run deep in conservative blood too. We saw that this week.
On Wednesday, the Opposition Leader had one of those occasional moments when he accidentally tells the truth.
He said: “There’s workplace relations changes over the last few years that are making it harder for you to stay open on Sundays, after hours, on public holidays ... [employers] do need more flexibility in your workplace arrangements.”
Delegates, when he said “more flexibility”, something tells me he didn’t mean making it easier to get time off when your kids are sick.
So the fight’s on and we will fight it and win it.
I am too proud of what we have achieved for working people, to do anything else but fight.
Safe Rates for truckies – we’ve got it done.
New protections for cleaners - done.
New laws to help stop the exploitation of outworkers - done.
A fairer deal for decent workers in building and construction - done.
Reforms to Australian shipping to keep ships under the Australian flag - done.
A Work Force Compact for those who care for our elderly loved ones – done.
And because of Labor, all workers can have security in retirement with our historic increase in super from 9 to 12 per cent.
Every step of the way we have been guided by our Labor values, by our essential belief that our nation can be both strong and fair.
Those values and that belief will guide us through our review of the Fair Work Act which is why I can tell you now what we won’t ever do.
We won’t make it easier to sack people.
We won’t make it harder to represent working people.
We won't enter a race to the bottom in our region on wages.
We won’t make it easier to cut pay or strip conditions like penalty rates or public holidays.
And we won’t bring back a culture of confrontation that sets employer against employee and destroys productivity through conflict.
We will use the Fair Work Act review to lock in fairness, to lock in bargaining in good faith, to lock them in for the future.
To lock in the vision we fought for in 2007 and 2010.
To lift the true drivers of productivity in the modern workplace and to support a modern balance between life and work.
Delegates, speaking to you today, as our nation’s first female Prime Minister, it is hard to convey to you in mere words how proud I am of our actions to close the gender pay gap and achieve pay equity for working women.
First and foremost among the working women we have sought to benefit are our friends in the social and community sector.
Every day, they’re hard at work, leading teams of counselling professionals, taking charge of homes for homeless men and the mentally ill, running women’s refuges, disability support centres and family support services.
Put simply, Australia cannot ever be a fair nation without the efforts of these workers and there are a few of these great people here today; better qualified than workers in most industries – more likely to be women than workers in most industries too.
But their average full time pay has been a lot less.
Getting equal pay for these workers couldn’t be done by a “stroke of the pen”.
It took a Labor promise made in 2007, laws passed in 2008, an agreement struck between unions and Government in 2009, action in Fair Work Australia begun in 2010.
And last year, on the eve of the final decisions, I committed the Government to fund our share of the pay rises which Fair Work Australia was about to decide – thought likely to be worth $2 billion at the time.
After all of that, years of work, on the 1stof February this year, Fair Work Australia made its decision to give equal pay to these workers who had been unjustly treated for so long.
Take one of the witnesses in the case: I’ll call her Michelle.
Michelle has a law degree and a degree in youth affairs.
She works full time, manages programs, supervises staff and volunteers – and helps clients with legal problems as well.
Today, she is paid just over $50 000 a year.
The equal pay decision means that when fully phased in, Michelle will get a pay rise of almost $18 000 a year.
But to make this judgement real, to get Michelle and her fellow workers the wage justice they deserve, every Government should now do the right thing.
And we’re not waiting for the Liberal states before we fund our share – because frankly, we might be waiting a while.
So today, I can commit to $1 billion more for these workers’ pay; taking our final additional Budgeted commitment to $3 billion over the phase-in period.
Delegates, I know you are as proud of this great Labor fair work reform as I am.
But remember the scare campaign about our fair work changes?
Remember how the Liberal advertisements told us jobs would go and the economy would be threatened?
Remember how the headlines screamed?
‘Labor IR law bad for work’
‘Miners unearth holes in Labor’s policy’
‘Heavy hand of regulation will crush jobs’
And my favourite, ‘Employers will avoid hiring mothers under Labor’s policy, say Howard’
That was the scare but the economic reality is plain: strikes are still low, wages are up, we have created 800 000 new jobs and historic equal pay judgements are being delivered.
Delegates, in 2013, the reality of the carbon pricing scare campaign will be just as plain.
The economic reality: with a carbon price in place, the economy will be growing, living standards will be rising and we will be on our way to creating 1.6 million jobs by 2020.
The political reality too: the next election will not be fought just on the Opposition’s tired claims that Whyalla will be wiped off the map or Sunday roasts will cost $100 or our economy will be in a permanent depression.
These slogans of the scare campaign will be sounding as silly by then as the Opposition’s pretence that they will abolish carbon pricing.
Rather, the next election will be fought on the reality of our record and the whole of our plans.
Our strong economy with our surplus, low interest rates, jobs.
Our plans to spread the benefits of our strong economy and the boom to all: more dollars in the pockets of working people and pensioners, more doctors, nurses and dollars in health care, a new approach to aged care, help for small business and record investments in infrastructure.
And our positive agenda for the future: more jobs, better jobs because of Labor’s winning embrace of clean energy, high speed broadband, fairness at work and the new opportunities created by the spectacular growth in our region.
Greater opportunity because of Labor’s plans to give our children the world’s best education and our workers the world’s best skills and the fairness that can only come with a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Delegates, we will build this future, even as the naysayers tell us that our nation can’t be brave and strong and fair.
These preachers of doom always underestimate us – the men and women of Labor – and the men and women of our nation.
We’ve stared the scare campaigns down before and we will do it again and with courage, we will build that stronger, fairer future.
Delegates, when Tony Abbott was talking about his plans for penalty rate rip offs, he was actually speaking in this city to the Tourism and Transport Forum.
Doesn’t it say something about the Liberal Party’s absolute obsession with paying people less and ripping people off that their Leader turns up at a forum dedicated to tourism and transport and this state’s long-term future and he doesn’t talk about roads or rail, or a second Sydney airport or bringing life to the Harbour he talks about cutting wages for kids who work in cafes on weekends.
That’s the difference between the parties in a nutshell: their small-minded determination to stop people getting ahead, our nation-building vision of investment for the future.
And delegates, we will build new infrastructure because a good city is a place where people can live a good life.
And the good life isn’t a commute where you leave for work before the kids have breakfast and get home when they’re in bed.
A good Government can make a big difference to people’s lives by giving them less time on the train or in the car.
After almost twelve years of underinvestment and neglect from a Federal Liberal Government, Sydney strained at the seams.
Now, after almost two years of complacency and short-sightedness from a State Liberal Government, Sydney is straining at the leash.
Sydney needs a Government which will plan, will build, will support jobs.
The Federal Liberals wouldn’t – too busy attacking workers rights to build for the future.
The State Liberals can’t – a lazy party with small ideas.
Only Federal Labor can get the job done.
We’re the party of infrastructure, right across the state.
We’re switching on high speed broadband in the regions, making vast improvements to state-wide roads like the Hume and the Pacific Highways, ensuring jobs are created where the people want to live.
And in five Federal Labor Budgets, we have already pledged $3.7 billion to transport infrastructure in this city – more than ten times what was invested in the twelve Federal Budgets that came before.
And in this year’s Federal Budget we outlined our detailed plans – projects that have been talked about for long enough.
We put money on the table to get these projects done to fill in the missing links in the city’s motorway network.
To make existing roads flow more smoothly, to get interstate freight trucks off urban roads, to ease congestion on the tracks and crowding in the suburbs and funding to build the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link.
Fourteen kilometres of new line, a new station and five station upgrades – $2.1 billion in Federal Budget funding a major new connection to lift the performance of the whole network.
A major urban investment which would truly make Parramatta not just Sydney’s geographic heart but Sydney’s second CBD.
The cheque is signed, the money’s in the account ready for the State Liberals to take up as soon as they wake up.
Barry, you don’t even have to come into the office for a meeting. Just get on the phone, say yes and get on with the job.
Delegates, we’re making it easier to get around the city, to get access to the Port and the Airport but we know one Sydney airport is not enough.
So the detailed investigation into the suitability of our preferred site of Wilton is already underway.
And today, I’ve announced new plans for Harbour tourism.
When the Queen Mary II, the world’s biggest cruise ship, came to Sydney in March it brought 2500 visitors to the city on its own.
With a guarantee of expanded capacity, we could see a visit of that kind every month in summer.
That’s why we’re expanding the number of guaranteed berths for the biggest visiting cruise vessels – ensuring three visits this coming cruise season and another three the next.
And we’ll prepare a plan to meet the long-term needs of our cruise industry.
Sydney needs better infrastructure, a link from Parramatta to Epping, a second airport, new life in the Harbour – only Federal Labor can get it done.
Delegates, a lot of things get said about Prime Ministers, some of them are even printable!
And this year, I received the best compliment I have ever had in my life time. It came from the Opposition so never let it be said it’s impossible to get agreement between the two parties!
Tony Abbott got it right, when he told his party room: ‘She won’t lie down and die.’
Too right, I won’t.
Not while I have our great program to fight for, not while I have our great movement to fight alongside.
You see when he said that, he wasn’t just talking about me.
He was talking about you.
I will stand and fight because I know you will stand and fight.
And like you did in 2007 and in 2010 ... I know you will amaze us with your efforts in the 2013 campaign.
Delegates, and as we fight together, we know who we will be fighting for.
This year’s Budget, a surplus Budget, with the lowest Budget spending forecast in thirty years, following a year in which business investment reached a fifteen-year peak – was called a plan for ‘class warfare’.
Now, myself, I’m not absolutely convinced that an $820 payment to parents of high school kids is a ‘class war’.
But I took this much out of the debate.
If they’ve started accusing us of ‘class war’ at least they've stopped accusing us of not knowing whose side we’re on because only Labor stands for a strong economy and stands and fights to spread the benefits to all.
Because only Labor is here for every Australian family not a handful of Australian dynasties.
Because only Labor stands for every Australian who works and every Australian who needs help.
And only Labor tells the big story, the unifying story, the great national story; weaving all the threads together: fairness and strength, the suburbs and the regions, the courage to face and shape the future.
Labor tells that whole story – ours is the nation’s truly comprehensive party.
No other party ever genuinely stands for the many. No other party ever will.
The politics of progress – the cause for change – the work of Labor – never passes through a wide gate or an easy way.
But a hundred and twenty years after our founding in this country, political Labor is still a unique force in the politics of Australia.
Only one party in the history of our democracy has ever stood and fought for working people – for progress and for the responsibility of governing Australia.
The great vested conservative interests always find their Parliamentary voice – the party names change but the song stays the same.
Other parties come and go – often promising more, always delivering less.
But we endure – not a brand, a cause.
Not captured by the privileged few, but sworn to serve the many.
Not a party for the moment, a party for the ages and, twelve decades on from Barcaldine and Balmain, not done yet.