I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
And on behalf of the Australian Labor Government that I am proud to lead, I re-commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in full.
Including a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to our National Parliament.
Delegate Albanese, New South Wales Administrative Committee.
Thank you all very much for that warm welcome.
I have to say, I didn’t always get that sort of universal reception here.
There was a time which coincided with a Saturday morning contribution from myself where the microphone mysteriously failed to work.
But not today. Not with the Communications Minister in charge.
Proud representatives of the trade union movement.
True believers, one and all.
I first came to this great conference as a delegate back in 1983.
I never dreamed I’d be standing on this stage as leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party - let alone as Australia’s 31st Prime Minister.
On this beautiful Sydney day, I know all of us are thinking of our friends and fellow Australians facing rising flood-waters.
To everyone in Western NSW, in Victoria and in Tassie, you are in our thoughts.
And our government stands ready to do whatever we can to help, wherever it is needed.
Being here brings back a lot of memories. It is a very emotional entry for me this morning.
As you know, across the Saturday and Sunday mornings we hear from the Federal and State leaders.
That’s when my Mum used to come along – she’d sit just up there.
She was never a delegate.
She never sought – or held – a position in our party.
She never asked for anything.
In that, she was just like tens of thousands of other branch members over the years.
The people who hand out on pre-poll, sell raffle tickets, make phone calls, they talk to their neighbours, organise, volunteer, do their bit, give their time and keep the faith.
They don’t do it for personal gain - but because they trust in the power and the value and the necessity of reforming Labor Governments.
I want to thank all the true believers of New South Wales Branch for the work you did to help Labor win the Federal Election in May…
…I want to thank you for the work you are doing to help Labor win the State Election in March and make Chris Minns the Premier of New South Wales..
And I want to salute all the life members being honoured this weekend.
My Mum’s beaming smile lit up this stage when she was made a life member back in the year 2000.
And I like to think her light is shining down on me this morning.
I’ll never forget where I come from – and I’ll never take for granted that for over 130 years, the Parliamentary Labor Party has stood on the shoulders of rank and file party members and the trade unionists who want every Australian to share in opportunities for a better life and a more sustainable future.
This mighty colosseum of political engagement - a bit like the Roman colosseum - has seen the occasional mauling at the hands of a political lion, particularly on a Saturday morning.
It’s understandable that over the years the theatre and the drama, the internal issues and the intrigue, have grabbed the headlines.
But the commentators who don’t look deeper than this, miss what really matters.
They miss the great strength of the mighty New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party.
That strength is that our passion, our energy, our focus is not on ourselves –it’s always in the service of the Australian people.
And the arguments and debates we have here matter, the ideas we grapple with, the resolutions we move – shape the future of our nation.
Passions run high because we know the stakes are high, because millions of Australians count on Labor Governments – State and Federal - to get it right, to fight for them:
To stand up for fair pay and secure work.
To invest in reliable and affordable services
And to deliver the social and economic reforms that will open the doors of opportunity for people in every part of our great nation.
To create an economy and a nation where no-one is held back and no-one is left behind.
This is victory’s heavy responsibility - but also its great reward.
This is why Chris Minns and his team are seeking government in March.
It’s why Prue Car has come back to the fight.
Friends, this is why Labor always seeks government.
For the chance to change the nation for the better, to build for the future.
To implement the reforms that transform lives.
To pass-on a better deal and greater opportunity to the next generation.
Our government takes up this task in a time of significant global uncertainty.
- Military conflict in Europe
- Economic turmoil in the UK
- The risk of recession in the United States
- And ongoing security challenges here in our region.
Inflation is biting economies around the world – and central banks everywhere are responding with the sharpest, most synchronised episode of monetary policy tightening in recent decades.
And – amidst all this - our government has also inherited a home-grown mess nine long years in the making:
- A trillion dollars of debt
- A decade of wages kept deliberately low
- Denial about climate change
- Chaos and dysfunction in energy policy
- Cuts to schools and TAFE and apprenticeships
- Extraordinary pressure on hospitals and health care workers
- And a vendetta against local manufacturing that has left Australia vulnerable, the last link in too many global supply chains.
When we look at this legacy, when we sift through the wreckage of these wasted years, let us be clear:
Never again can the Liberals pretend to be the party of fiscal responsibility or good economic management.
Never again can the Liberals pretend they support aspiration, when all they do is promote insecurity at work.
And never again can the Liberals claim to be Conservatives, when all they do is trash our institutions and undermine our democracy.
It’s still beyond belief that the last Prime Minister, a man addicted to saying “that’s not my job” was going around secretly swearing himself into other jobs.
Unlike the last occupant, I have a great team, a team that I trust.
My colleagues and I never underestimated the size or scale or severity of the economic challenges facing us.
And after five months in government, untangling all the shady deals, reviewing every buried report, running the ruler over every rort, dragging the true state of the national books into the light, we can now see the problems and pressures are even greater than we imagined.
But we are not daunted – we are determined.
We are galvanised, above all, by our faith in the people of Australia.
Through pandemic and disaster, hardship and heartache, Australians have shown – time and time again – they are brave enough and smart enough to meet any challenge.
And just as the pandemic proved that our Labor values of fairness, security, looking after each other and the power of government to change lives are the right values in a crisis.
We know they are also the right values for our recovery.
Working together we can build a stronger, fairer, more productive and more competitive economy.
An economy where working hard means you can pay your bills, support your family, plan for the future and achieve your aspirations.
An economy that works for people, not the other way around.
And for 131 years now, our movement has understood this begins with a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.
Some of you might remember that day in Melbourne when I was asked during the campaign if I supported a $1 an hour rise in the minimum wage - my answer was: “Absolutely”.
And I’m so proud we have delivered for the heroes of the frontline.
We have also committed to funding a meaningful - and long overdue - pay rise for the aged care workers of Australia.
At the end of this month, the Parliament will vote on our plan to make ten days paid family and domestic violence leave part of the National Employment Standards.
And because we believe a fair go at work means a safe workplace, free from sexual harassment, we are implementing all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report.
In the months ahead we will make job security and gender pay equity objectives of the Fair Work Act.
We will close the loopholes that have allowed labour hire to be used as a tool to drive down wages, rather than as a source of specialist skills.
Put simply: Same Job, Same Pay.
And I reiterate this commitment: our Labor Government will make wage theft a crime.
We will achieve these changes by bringing people together.
Because just as Australian workers have lost a decade of pay rises to a Liberal Government that deployed low wages as a ‘deliberate design feature’ of their economic policy.
Australian businesses have also been denied a decade of opportunities in productivity and participation and innovation and competition because the last government never stopped attacking unions, and they never stopped goading local manufacturing offshore and cutting TAFE.
We are determined to do better – for workers, for business, for the economy.
That’s why we brought together the National Jobs and Skills Summit in September.
Not just to demonstrate we are serious about creating a new culture of co-operation – but to prove that when we listen to each other and work together on solutions, the outcomes will be better.
A billion dollar training blitz, with 180,000 new fee-free places in public TAFE next year.
Helping pensioners and veterans who want to work more, earn more without being penalised
Genuine reform to the immigration system - so we stop the revolving door of temporary labour and give skilled migrants the opportunity to put down roots, join our community and follow a pathway to permanent citizenship.
And fixing the broken workplace bargaining system.
Big employers, small business and unions all agree that the current bargaining framework is failing to deliver productivity gains or wage rises.
Not good for business. Not good for workers.
And it’s failing women worst of all.
Because whichever way you look at it, the workforces with the most women have the least bargaining power and the lowest pay.
We’re talking about people working in Aged care. Child care. Disability care.
Looking after our parents, teaching our children, fulfilling the great promise of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
These Australians deserve more than our thanks: they deserve better conditions, better support, and better pay.
Far and away the most significant personnel change I see when I look around the Sydney Town Hall today, compared to my first conference as a delegate is the number of women.
Our party had the foresight to adopt affirmative action provisions and to put in place rules and structures to make us truly representative of the nation we seek to serve.
I remember there was debate about which decade and what year we would achieve equal representation of men and women in our Federal Caucus.
Well friends, now we know the answer: 2022.
Because I am proud to lead a federal caucus, 103 strong of whom a majority – 54 – are women.
Labor at our best: setting a target, having an objective and getting it done.
Our party is better and smarter and stronger because we have made a real and substantive commitment to equal representation and equal opportunity for women.
And – friends – the same will be true for our economy and our nation.
Equality for women is at the heart of our vision for a fair go at work.
And equality for women will be at the centre of our first Budget in a fortnight’s time.
The full and equal and respectful participation of women in our economy is our nation’s greatest untapped resource.
Today, I am proud to announce that the first Budget of our Labor Government will deliver the biggest boost to Paid Parental Leave since it was created by the former Labor Government in 2011.
We will expand Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks. A full six months.
By 2026, every family with a new baby will be able to access a total of 6 months paid leave, shared between the two parents.
And single parents will be able to access all 26 weeks.
We will give families more leave – and more flexibility, to ensure the system works in a way that’s best for them.
Our plan will mean more families take-up this leave, share in that precious time – and share the caring responsibilities more equally.
This plan will support dads who want to take time off work to be more involved in those early months.
It’s a modern policy, for modern families.
It delivers more choice, it offers greater security – and it rewards aspiration.
And just like the cheaper childcare that we are delivering- this is economic reform.
This was one of the strongest points of consensus and one of the clearest calls for action from our Jobs and Skills Summit.
Businesses, unions, experts and economists all understand that one of the best ways to boost productivity and participation across the economy is to provide more choice and more support for families – and more opportunity for women.
And let me be very clear: the government views this as the foundation, the baseline, a national minimum standard.
And we are encouraged that there are already enlightened employers across Australia competing to offer working parents the best possible deal.
And we want to see more of it.
Because a parental leave system that empowers the full and equal participation of women will be good for business, good for families and good for our economy.
Ten days from now, the Treasurer Jim Chalmers will deliver the first Labor Budget in a decade.
It will be a true Labor Budget: responsible, fair and reforming.
And it will be a Budget that closes the book on a wasted decade that has weakened our economy and held back our nation.
Of course, we understand that not every problem can be solved in one Budget, or even one term of government.
We all know that progress demands patience, change can be painstaking.
Building to last always takes time.
But this is not an excuse to delay, it is the reason we must begin.
After a wasted decade, my team and I are determined not to waste a day.
After 9 years of division and denial and dysfunction on energy policy, we are lifting Australia’s ambitions on climate change.
After 9 years of wage suppression, we’re getting wages moving again.
After 9 years of shameful neglect in aged care, we’re taking action to fix the crisis.
After 9 years of attacks on the national broadcaster, we’re restoring funding certainty to the ABC.
After 9 years of Australia’s international reputation being trashed, we’re rebuilding our relationships in the region and restoring our credibility in the world.
After 9 years of sordid scandals that shook people’s faith in democracy, we are restoring integrity to politics with a National Anti-Corruption Commission.
After 9 years of government attacking unions, sidelining business, marginalising women, targeting minorities and dividing the nation we are working to bring Australians together.
And after all those years, of acting like an opposition-in-exile.
What have the Liberals learned from their defeat? Absolutely nothing.
They take no responsibility for the mess they have left.
And they show no interest in helping clean it up.
Indeed, in a rare moment of clarity, one of them recently declared:
“We don’t have policies, we’re the Opposition.”
The only suggestion they’ve put forward is the extraordinary idea that we should move to the most expensive form of new energy…and embrace nuclear power.
Delegates: we’ve got the light on the hill – they want to glow in the dark!
Our government’s first Budget will signal that the era of policy chaos and shameless, reckless pork-barrelling is over.
Our Budget will be a strong foundation for the next decade – not a cynical short-term giveaway for the next election.
Cheaper child care, cheaper medicine, rescuing bulk-billing with our new Urgent Care Clinics - taking pressure off the cost-of-living without adding to inflation.
Investing in cleaner, cheaper energy and funding infrastructure on the basis of productivity gains and community benefit – not National Party Politics.
Restoring humanity and dignity and security to aged care.
Beginning the generational reform of universal, affordable child care - in the great Labor tradition of universal Medicare and universal superannuation.
And expanding Paid Parental Leave to 6 months.
These are the building blocks for a better future.
They are at the heart of our plan for an economy that repays hard work, rewards aspiration and provides certainty and security for families.
An economy true to our Labor values: no-one held back, no-one left behind.
There are no easy choices in uncertain times.
There is no smooth sailing in a global storm.
But none of us joined the Labor Party for a cruisy ride or a quiet life.
Just as we don’t come to government to occupy the space, or pass the time.
We don’t seek government for its own sake, for the opportunity to change the name on the door.
In May, we asked the Australian people for a mandate to deliver a better future – and we are.
We are delivering on our commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart – and we will hold a referendum on a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament in the next financial year.
Now, I know some commentators have said this is a risk.
But no team ever won a grand final by not running on the field and forfeiting.
The Uluru Statement was five years in the making. It has been five years since that generous statement was made.
If not now – when?
The Constitution is our nation’s birth certificate.
Constitutional recognition will give respect to First Nations people.
It will give all Australians a greater sense of who we are, of the privilege we have to share this continent with the oldest continuous culture on earth.
We should all be proud that our history goes back 65,000 years.
It will send a message to the world, that we are a mature, confident nation on the road to reconciliation.
In May, Australians across the nation voted for action on climate change – and we are delivering.
Families everywhere voted for cheaper child care – and we are delivering.
Australians voted for cheaper medicine –the first cut in the cost of prescription medicine since Curtin and Chifley created the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – and we are delivering.
People voted for decency, to safely return the Nadesalingam family to Bilo – and that is exactly where they are right now.
Australians in our cities and our suburbs and our regions voted to revive local manufacturing, to make things here again – and we are delivering.
Australians voted for our promise to back a real increase in the minimum wage – and we delivered.
Australians voted to abolish the discrimination of the Cashless Debit Card – and it is gone.
Australians voted for us to rebuild Australia’s reputation on the world stage – as an ally, as a trading partner, as a neighbour and a leader – and we are delivering.
And, friends, Australians in every state and territory voted for us, trusted in us, not just because we promised to be a different government – but because we promised to be a better government.
A government that treats people with respect.
At a time when democracy is under challenge, when disinformation is rife and disillusionment with institutions is rising, we are seeking to rebuild trust and faith and hope in the purpose and value of government.
To prove that a government with vision, with patience and with determination can change lives for the better.
There is no higher calling.
No greater responsibility.
And nowhere else we would rather be.
We promised a Better Future.
And that is precisely what we will deliver.
Thank you very much.