Address to Caucus

07 Feb 2023
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
Check against delivery

Welcome back.

It feels like we never left. Well I didn’t.

It is good to be back here and it’s good to be back here on this side of the partyroom meetings.

In 2022, since May, we’ve certainly hit the ground running.

But 2023 will be the year of further delivery on our commitments for a better future.

If you look at what we put in place in 2022, we have already extensively carried legislation which is already making a difference.

On the 1st of January, cheaper medicines began, the first decrease in 75 years.

Last week, 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave.

We are already delivering right across the board.

Our climate change policy is meaning that we're seeing the investment flow through in renewables and that transition occur that will be so important for our long-term future.

But it's important as well for how we reset for the world.

Because that's the entry fee into the international forums in which in today's interdependent world we need to engage.

And that's why in the last week, you've seen the benefit of Penny and Richard attending meetings with their French counterparts, in the United kingdom, in the United States.

It's why you've seen the increased engagement with the Pacific Island Forum, with ASEAN, and yesterday as well we saw some positive developments again towards a stabilisation of our relationship with our largest trading partner China, with the meeting that Don had with his counterpart there, following on from Penny Wong's visit on December 21.

These are all important measures as well.

This year already we're seeing 180,000 fee-free TAFE places put in place to address the skills shortage.

And you've seen as well the alternative down the road there.

That have taken the message of the 2022 election to be ‘we're not right-wing enough’, ‘we're not conservative enough’, ‘we're not divisive enough’.

Last night they made a decision, that I did ask to check and see a direct quote this morning when I was told about it, they are going to oppose the National Reconstruction Fund.

Now, the National Reconstruction Fund is about making more things here - it's that simple.

It's about revitalising Australian manufacturing and Australian jobs.

It's about stopping our vulnerability to global supply chain issues which were shown and highlighted by the pandemic.

Now, they can't say we didn't have a mandate for it.

This was included in my budget reply speech, when budget reply speeches had policy announcements, which ours all did.

And we spoke about it, day in, day out, during the election campaign and we've spoken about it ever since.

But in this, they show how out of touch they are.

And there is another issue in which they've shown how out of touch they are as well.

With the revelations last week that we know they're prepared to put a political frame on absolutely everything, including the way that taxpayer funds are used.

But the reprehensible action of rorting bushfire funds based upon electoral boundaries is just extraordinary.

The Nats certainly show no bounds whatsoever.

This week we will have some important legislation.

The National Reconstruction Fund, the creation of the Housing Australia Future Fund, that is about increasing the supply of social housing.

It's about making sure that, as well as the work that we've done with the Housing Accord, to encourage private sector investment.

The increased investment that we had for emergency housing in last October's budget.

That we have the increase in social and community housing, and some of that quarantined specifically for those people who are escaping, women and children escaping family and domestic violence as well.

An important initiative that we do.

That legislation will be before the House and the Senate during this fortnight, as well as the legislation arising from the Bell Inquiry.

I can assure the Caucus that I have not appointed myself to any other ministries.

But we need to make sure that no-one else can do that in the future.

And that is why the legislation will be debated in the Parliament.

It will be interesting to see what they do with it, given that when we had the censure motion of the former Prime Minister, they all not only - with a couple of exceptions - voted against that resolution, but went up to make sure that they shook Mr Morrison's hand and say, "job well done". Or jobs well done, indeed.

I've got to say, we clearly didn't know about it, otherwise throughout the last term I wouldn't have said that the Prime Minister had just two jobs, because clearly he had many more than that.

But that, of course, will be dealt with.

But we know there are consequences behind that as well with some of the legal processes that have taken place.

Now what matters just as much as what we do, is how we do it.

Last week I met for the third time with the Referendum Working Group on the constitutional change that we will put to the Australian people in the second half of this year.

A constitutional change that is about two things.

It's about recognition - recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution.

And it's about consultation - that they should be consulted on matters that affect them.

That's what it's about.

And all of the misinformation that we're seeing out here there won't distract from that great task.

Yesterday morning, at the ecumenical service, we received a reminder with a magnificent sermon of why this was something that was so important for Australia as well as being important for showing respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

So we will continue to engage in a respectful way and encourage people to come on board with this journey to reconciliation that is so critical going forward.

We’ll continue to engage with business, with unions, with civil society, because we want to be a consultative government that continues to engage, and we engage where people are as well.

Already this year I've been right around the country, including to regions.

I've also had a very successful visit to Papua New Guinea, where I was given the great honour of being the first foreign representative of any form to address the Parliament in Port Moresby, and that was a great honour.

So we'll continue to stand up for our issues at home.

We'll continue to engage in Australia’s national interest with the world.

Today, I'll be hosting the new New Zealand Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, who will be here and attending Parliament and that will be another important day today to advance the relationship with our family across the ditch.

And Chris, I know quite well, and many of you will know as well I'm sure, will do a great job as the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Can I thank everyone for the hard work that they did over the Christmas-New Year break?

I, myself, am planning to have some time off in April.

But we continued to work to create the better future that we promised.

We are seven months in now, or a bit more than that, eight months in to our term.

There’s a lot more to do.

This a government with a sense of purpose.

And last week when I was in the West - in Tangney and Pearce and Cowan and Perth.

In other seats where I've been - in Bendigo, in Braddon, right around the country.

What I get back is that people do appreciate the fact that this government is governing based upon what we said we would do.

There are big challenges ahead this year.

We have a big agenda, but I'm very confident that the Ministry as well as the entire Caucus, the people in this room, will be able to deliver that better future that we committed to last May.

Thanks very much.