Woodford Folk Festival

28 Dec 2022
Woodford, Queensland
Prime Minister
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I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

I also want to reaffirm – proudly and clearly – my Government's determination to enshrine in the Australian Constitution an Indigenous Voice to our national Parliament.

We will heed the patient and generous call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

We will come together as a nation and take the hand that First Nations people have extended to us in an act of profound grace.

Because it will be when we join with our continent's mosaic of ancient nations that our modern nation will find our greatest strength.

That we will achieve our fullest potential.

And realise our truest self.

We live in the world's greatest nation, but an even greater Australia is so tantalisingly within our reach.

Together, I know, friends, that we can reach it.

And I want to acknowledge today Blanche d'Alpuget here representing the late, great Bob Hawke.

I acknowledge as well our Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the wonderful Linda Burney.

The Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, is here also.

After a gap of two years, it's so good to have Woodford back in its full glory.

It's especially satisfying to be here with you in the grand capital of Woodfordia as Australia's 31st Prime Minister.

There were so many things we missed during COVID lockdowns, but one of those things that we missed was the engagement that comes, can only come, from being together in-person.

Yes - you can have contact online, through Zoom calls and all of that.

But nothing beats the coming together of a festival like that.

What a great, aching absence it was – along with so many of the forms we think of as the arts.

You don't need me to tell you that the arts suffered terribly during COVID, and so much of that suffering was the result of deliberate neglect.

One of the things that the previous government never understood is that the arts are not a luxury.

The arts are central to our very being.

Whether it's our stories being told, or our music being played, or our world being interpreted through paint, dance, textile, stone or clay, we cannot separate ourselves from the arts.

The arts are central to our culture. And it is through the arts that we build our identity as a nation and a people. The arts contain, nurture and indeed protect our very sense of self.

And it fills me with such happiness to see so many people here again, including all the young ones whose hearts and minds are being filled with the wonder and the magic of expression – and through that, the wonder and magic of life itself.

As many of you are probably aware, I am a bit of a music fan.

Music brings people together with an ease and a power that very little else can.

You'll be pleased to know I won't be trying to perform here. As a musician, I am a good politician.

But music does really bring us together.

It adds to life's great highs, and helps us get through the lows. It lets us celebrate what makes us different, and rejoice in what we share.

Put it all together and what you have is a spirit that was so perfectly embodied by one of the greatest Woodford fans of all time: Bob Hawke.

Bob left a great a legacy, and that's because he understood that for any legacy to have staying power requires a government that lasts the distance.

Last time I was here, I spoke about how the strength of Bob's personality sometimes obscured what lay beneath that twinkle-eyed, larrikin surface.

At the heart of Bob Hawke was a prodigious dedication to work and to detail, and an energy that he channelled into making life better for his fellow Australians.

An extraordinary leader who knew that no true leader stands alone. His ministry was one of depth and breadth, and each of those ministers was fully trusted with their portfolios.

Bob relied upon them for their expertise and for their judgement – and he didn't secretly help himself to any of their portfolios along the way.

Above all, Bob's ambition embraced the rest of us, and that's because he knew we were capable of better and he knew we could do it – together.

The words that characterised his leadership — reconciliation, accord, consensus — were all about us heading in the same direction as a nation.

Yes, there will always be times when gaps and cracks open between us, but Bob never sought to widen them in search of votes. Bob was about closing them.

The lessons Bob Hawke taught us are lessons well worth heeding. Not just in what we do, as crucial as that is – but, importantly, how to do it.

No-one's time in government is infinite. The clock is always ticking. But I firmly believe that a good way to make the best possible use of that time is to carry on with Bob's example.

On 21 May, the Australian people voted for change. Change for the better.

We promised the Australian people that after a lost decade, we would not waste a single day.

From Day 1, we have done the hard work of building a better future, delivering what Australians voted for.

The Labor Government has been focused on delivering an orderly implementation of our agenda.

And even our critics could not argue that sat back and rested on our laurels.

We have been working hard.

An agenda that deals with immediate and urgent issues but always giving consideration to how we both anticipate and create a better future. Restoring faith in politics by delivering on our commitments.

Inclusive economic growth, social justice, environmental sustainability, and constructive international relationships that enhance regional peace and security – these are the values that will continue to drive our agenda.

And we will continue to search for common ground across the Parliament and beyond wherever possible.

Collaboration is a strength, not a weakness.

Let me take you on a quick tour on what the Federal Labor Government has achieved so far. In the seven months and seven days since we were elected to office, we have:

Got an increase in the minimum wage.

Secured a pay rise for Aged Care workers.

Passed a Climate Change Bill and updated our climate targets.

Made child care cheaper, which works for children, works for families and most definitely works for the economy.

Established 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave, because no one should ever have to choose between their physical, emotional and economic security.

Extended Paid Parental Leave to six months, the biggest expansion to it since it was introduced by the last Labor Government.

And we have worked to expose and close the gender pay gap.

If you look across our achievements and our goals, you'll see a common theme is the drive to achieve gender equality.

It's underpinned by the Budget handed down by Treasurer Jim Chalmers in October, a budget that put the needs and aspirations of women front and centre.

And I am proud that these are the achievements of the first Australian government to have a majority of women.

Fifty-four of the 103 members of the Labor Caucus are women. A first. And it does make a difference.

The majority of Parliamentary Committee chairs are women. A first.

A record 10 members of the Cabinet are women.

Add to that the swiftly growing cultural diversity of the Labor Caucus that I lead, better reflecting the extraordinary diversity of Australia – new members with surnames including Mascarenhas, Sitou, Fernando, Lim and Ananda-Rajah mean we are much more representative than has ever occurred since Federation.

With the Leader in the House of Representatives called Albanese. And the Leader in the Senate called Wong.

We convened the Jobs and Skills Summit, bringing together a great cross section of business leaders, unions, employees and civil society.

We have established Jobs and Skills Australia.

We've made medicines cheaper from January 1. The first decrease in 75 years since the PBS was introduced.

We have created 180,000 new fee-free TAFE places.

We said we would abolish the the Cashless Debit Card and we have.

Expanded the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.

Established the Royal Commission into Robodebt, because there are some things that must never be swept under the carpet and forgotten.

We have delivered the Regional First Home Buyers Guarantee.

We are advancing a Voice to Parliament, not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is the best thing to do.

We have repaired our international relations and got Australia out of the naughty corner.

Consider how much the mood has changed in just seven months of a Labor Government.

We've gone from a government that treated both climate change and the fate of our Pacific neighbours as a punchline to a bad joke.

We have restored our relations in the region, and we have restored respect.

And we've gone from a government that chose to not have a single conversation with China – our major trading partner – for the entire last term they were in power, to one that understands that dialogue is always a good thing.

Australia and China are talking again.

I have met with President Xi Jinping, which was constructive.

A week ago, Foreign Minister Penny Wong visited Beijing.

It doesn't mean we agree with China on everything. It doesn't mean we don't raise our concerns and our significant points of difference.

We will co-operate with China where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in Australia's national interest.

We are undoing so much of the damage done by the LNP government.

We are a mature nation. We're not afraid to act like one.

We have established a National Anti-Corruption Commission, because restoring integrity and trust to our politics is essential if we are to maintain the health of our democracy.

Those are qualities that went missing in action under the last government.

And in their defence of Scott Morrison's multiple ministries, the Coalition have rejected the opportunity to distance themselves from the abuse of power that characterised their government they were a part of.

I urge anyone who thinks our democracy is unassailable to have a look around the world.

Even some of the oldest, most stable democracies have come under attack from whole range of corrosive, insidious forces. No one is immune.

Our democracy is precious, something we have carefully grown and nurtured from one generation to the next. One of our core responsibilities is to make it stronger, and key to that strength is transparency and accountability.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission is a crucial step in this.

We have passed our Secure Jobs, Better Pay legislation, which will get wages moving again.

With the help of a special sitting day of Parliament earlier this month, we have delivered our Energy Price Relief Plan with caps on the price of gas and coal.

And now that we've had the legislation passed, we begin the work of putting it into practice.

We have done a lot in the past seven months.

It may sound like a lot – especially after the last decade – but to quote the great Deborah Conway, it's only the beginning.

We have established our momentum, and we're just going to keep building on it. As we move out of the upheaval of an election year, we will aim to keep delivering on the commitments that we made to the Australian people.

The commitments that the Australian people voted for, and that includes addressing the realities of climate change and protecting the extraordinary natural heritage of which we are the current custodians.

Unlike the inertia of the previous government, we are serious about cutting emissions. We are serious about tackling the challenges of climate change, and finding the opportunities that those challenges can present.

We know that the best possible version of Australia's future sees us taking our rightful place as a renewable energy superpower.

As a nation, we are blessed with so much sunshine and wind that it would be an act of perversity to not harness them.

They are there for the taking.

With them we can drive down emissions …

We can drive down power prices for households and for businesses …

And we can drive forward a renaissance in advanced manufacturing.

With our $20 billion Rewiring the Nation program, we will bring our power grid into the 21st century, creating the infrastructure for transmission that is essential if we are going to be able to transition.

Last week, we announced a major renewable energy partnership with the NSW Government, creating multiple renewable energy zones that will create jobs as we build for the future …

… and taking an important vital step the last federal government never quite got around to taking with Snowy 2.0 – plugging it in.

We are working on power in Tasmania with Marinus Link, Victoria with the offshore wind power and Queensland where in Central Queensland you have a massive expansion of hydro and renewable power going forward.

These are the hallmarks of our approach. Mutual respect, and a national cabinet actually worthy of the name.

And each and every decision guided by the national interest, not political self-interest.

There is a great future on the horizon, and it is so exciting. Australia can be a renewable energy superpower.

Along with all that solar and wind power to generate clean, cheap, reliable electricity, we have – with our great abundance of lithium – everything we need to build the batteries we need right here.

The batteries to store that power for our communities and our businesses …

… as well as the batteries to power the electric vehicles, which my Government has cut taxes on to make more affordable, just as we promised we would.

Cheaper, cleaner energy can drive advanced manufacturing and a future made here in Australia.

By using the National Reconstruction Fund, we will support existing industries to transform and new industries to emerge.

One of the lessons of the pandemic is we need to be more self-reliant. Put simply, we need to make more things right here.

Everything we do to drive down emissions strengthens our efforts to protect the unique natural environment, including the Great Barrier Reef.

Every step of the way, we will be guided by reality, by science, and by expertise – not ideology.

It will be shaped by our conviction that we owe the next generation – and every generation that follows – nothing less than the preservation of this magnificent land and these mighty seas.

We will continue to act on the urgent challenges facing Australia, while building for long-term opportunities.

This is why we have created Jobs and Skills Australia to ensure labour market planning maximises opportunities for Australians to secure well-paid jobs.

This will work with the 20,000 additional university places and 180,000 fee-free TAFE places that come into effect from next month.

A vision - cleaner, cheaper energy being driven to create new industries, and then training Australians for those jobs.

You can't change it with a slogan.

You need to change it with good policies that put in place those transitions.

And that is what my Government is doing.

When Woodford takes place next year, the referendum on the Voice to Parliament will have been held.

This is an opportunity for all of us to be a part of enriching our nation and being even stronger in the future.

There are some who argue that it is a risk holding a referendum.

I assure you that we understand that.

We understand there is a risk.

But I will tell you what is certain - you won't get constitutional change without putting it to a vote. That is what is certain.

That vote will achieve two important things.

It will recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution …

… and it will enshrine a Voice to Parliament to ensure consultation on matters that directly affect Indigenous Australians, such as education, health, housing, and justice issues.

We know we will get better outcomes if people have input into the decisions that affect them.

How do we know that?

By examining the progress that all the most successful programs - justice conferencing, Indigenous rangers - they all have something in commonv which is they directly empower Indigenous people.

It is not people in Canberra or in State Parliaments. It is made in consultation together. And we know that is what works.

A successful referendum will give respect to First Nations people, but it will also enhance both the way Australians see ourselves, and the way we are seen by the world.

Momentum is growing. Local government, community groups, churches, business, trade unions, and sporting codes have joined every single state and territory government in pledging support for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to our national Parliament.

This can indeed be an inclusive moment of national unity and reconciliation.

I respect everyone's right to make their own decision on the referendum, but I encourage Australians to consider the generous and gracious request from First Nations people themselves.

As the Uluru Statement itself says - to remove "the torment of our powerlessness", and to take up the invitation "to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future".

Thank you for having us here today.

It is such an honour to come to this joyous event – one that, frankly, has one of the greatest soundtracks Australia has to offer – and stand before you as Prime Minister.

It is a great privilege, one that I will never ever take for granted.

I, and every single member of the Government I lead, will always be guided by the desire to do what is best for our country.

To change the lives of our fellow Australians for the better.

To do what is right and to do what matters.

And, without ever seeking to iron out the differences that make our nation so vibrant, strong and attractive, we will always seek out the common ground between us – because that will always be the most fertile place to plant our dreams.

My determination has always been that we will be a Government for all Australians.

It is how we are acting in the Parliament as well.

An orderly, methodical Government that does exactly what we said we would do, honouring all the commitments we have made to the Australian people.

A Government that once again stands firmly on a foundation of integrity, accountability and trust.

We will listen. We will consult. We will keep our doors open, along with our ears and our minds.

There is a wonderful journey ahead. But we can only travel it together.

I am very confident that we can.