Dec 3, 2019

Address to the Federal Australian Labor Caucus – Canberra – Tuesday, 3 December 2019



Six months on from a very difficult day, we are united, we are progressive, we are determined, and we are moving forward.

And that is more than you can say about this economy.

The latest figures today show that we have the lowest labour productivity in 25 years.

It might actually be worse because they have only been keeping records for that long.

Actually going backwards.

And that is why the core at the centrepiece of our economic vision statement just a couple of weeks ago in Brisbane was all about lifting productivity.

It’s what past Labor Governments have done.

That’s what we do.

Unions working with business to improve activity in the workplace, not just to increase economic growth, but to increase wages.

To actually deliver increases in living standards.

And yet what we see from this Government is that wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living.

People are struggling to get by.

What’s the Government’s response?

They have never had it so good.

That’s their approach that we see – the arrogance, the hubris everyday in Question Time.

And as we come up to Christmas, we have got to remember another blow that will be coming because this Government’s attack on penalty rates means that this Christmas time and festive season, there’ll be working people making tough decisions about what presents they get for their kids, about whether they have to cut back their four-week holiday to three-week or their two-week holiday to one-week.

About whether they can afford for their kids to go away with the school group over the break.

These are the real pressures are that are on working people.

And what is the Government’s response?

It’s to attack the organisations that working people need.

The trade union movement as a first step to attacking their rights in the workplace.

We have a circumstance whereby the Reserve Bank are saying that low wages is the new norm – the new norm, we should just expect that to continue.

How is it the case that in 2019 at a time when there’s no international global financial crisis, there was of course last time we were in office even though the Government pretends that that didn’t happen.

How is it that low wages are the new norm?

We know because Mathias Cormann, the Finance Minister, told us that it’s a deliberate design feature of Government policy.

Low wages.

He has said it from his own mouth.

We have low consumer demand.

We have retail figures the worst since the 1990s.

We have low interest rates that, of course, benefit people who already have assets.

And we know, and I outlined this in the Economic Vision Statement, that’s a part of feeding into inequality.

We have a circumstance whereby we’ve never had such a drift towards people who don’t need more wealth away from people who are really struggling to get by with their every-day expenses.

Their child care costs, their energy costs.

And what we have is a man in charge who’s an ad man with no plan.

An ad man who dismisses any form of accountability.

He regards democracy as an inconvenience.

Let me tell you in the old place, even on the 11th of November 1975, Gough Whitlam allowed a debate on the floor of the Parliament.

This mob shut down debate, shut down questions from the media by dismissing them as just gossip or it’s just in the bubble, don’t want to be accountable.

And the fact is that we have a job to hold them to account.

To hold them to account on behalf of working people.

To hold them to account on behalf of farmers.

I talked to a group of farmers last night and they are devastated by the fact that this Government doesn’t have a plan for the drought and I want to pay tribute to Joel Fitzgibbon and the work he’s done.

Fitzy has been representing the people of those communities.

The fact is that we also have circumstance whereby last week, not a great week for the Government, they also got knocked over in the courts on Robodebt.

More than 240,000 Australians have got debts that they didn’t actually owe, but we don’t know what the real figure is because when a lot of people got a letter
from the Government demanding a payment, of course many of them would have just paid it off.

And I want to pay tribute to Bill Shorten and Linda Burney for the work they have done.

And then we come to aged care.

Remember the royal commission – one of the royal commissions they didn’t want!

And the quite horrifying stories that are coming out about the treatment of our older Australians who have made this country, people who paid taxes their whole lives, not being treated with respect.

People who don’t have someone to stand up for them, the abuse of chemicals that’s occurred.

The fact that 16,000 older Australians who were entitled had been ticked off to get home care died while waiting for that care.

And, of course, we know the bloke who ripped the money out of aged care was Scott Morrison when he was Treasurer even though once again he tries to be not accountable for that.

And today we have made an important announcement on veteran suicide.

It is just a tragedy that more people, more veterans, died in one year than are killed in active service over decades.

I met last week along with Richard and Shayne and I pay tribute to the work they have done on this issue, we met Julie-Ann Finney, her son David died earlier this year.

A sailor, who when he was – when he left the Defence Forces, just wasn’t given the support that he needs.

We don’t seek to make this a partisan issue at all.

We want the Government to come on board with this.

And I have listened to veterans whether they be veterans like Luke Gosling and Mike Kelly and our team, or whether they be veterans around Australia who I have spoken to about this issue.

And came to a view that really it is time to have a comprehensive look at this issue and I pay tribute also to Amanda Rishworth and the work she did as Shadow Veterans’ Affairs Minister.

I spoke to Julie-Ann Finney this morning.

It was a difficult conversation with her.

She is a remarkable woman and an incredible advocate and there is no-one who could sit in a room with her and have a discussion and not come to the view that I came to.

She said today that for her, a Royal Commission, I quote her, and I asked for her permission to do that, she said today that, a Royal Commission for her is an act of love, compassion and gratitude for her son.

That’s the way that these people feel.

People who join the defence force do so to defend our nation, to defend our way of life and give up a lot.

There are too many kids who have lost their mum and dad.

Too many mum and dads who lost their sons and daughters.

We can do better.

We can do better.

I know the Government is doing some good measures in this area, and I believe Darren Chester is a very decent man and I respect him.

I’d say to the Government it’s time.

It’s time for this to happen.

Can I talk a little bit about last week and pay tribute to our amazing Senate team?

Every single one of them spoke on the so-called, you know, integrity legislation.

I mean, from this Government talking about integrity at the same time in the
Senate, the same time we were talking about the integrity of a minister who is involved in a rolling scandal in the House of Representatives is incredible.

But every single Senator spoke.

And last Friday I went to Australia’s largest union – the Nurses and Midwives – and there we celebrated what was a great victory for working people.

But also, I want to say that it says something about this movement.

We don’t shy away from our connection with the trade union movement.

I’m a proud trade unionist.

Without trade unions, we wouldn’t have the working conditions that enable us to enjoy the Australian way of life that we all enjoy today.

And the people in this room made a difference.

But the people who I think really made an even bigger difference are the nurses, the police, the emergency service workers, the teachers, the people who got in touch with the crossbenchers and just put their case for why this was an attack on them.

It’s the first of two stages.

We know the Government’s plan is you attack workers’ organisations through their unions as a first step to leaving them defenceless against the attacks – further attacks on wages and conditions.

This mob believe in a race to the bottom.

They don’t believe that workers’ organisations have a role in our democracy.

And last week with that vote, it should have sent a message to the Government as well – I think.

How arrogant are they to have assumed that they would have support for that legislation without really putting a case except this sort of rhetorical nonsense about anyone who’s a union member is a thug?

That was a view that they were putting forward and it’s no wonder it was rejected.

So, as we go in to the festive season and prepare for next year, the review is behind us, it’s in the rear-vision mirror.

We’re looking forward, straight ahead.

We have the third vision statement coming out on Saturday.

On democracy, it will speak about media reform, it will speak about the Parliament and the need for our democracy to be strengthened.

We’ll have on Friday the first meeting of the National Policy Committee, the four stages that we’re doing, we’re already into stage three.

And might I say, an ongoing support for stage 4 as well.

That will meet on Friday to get that process going.

We will go in 2020 with confidence.

Confidence that we can hold this Government to account.

Confidence that we can defeat legislation.

Confidence that we can present an alternative vision for this nation.

An alternative vision that’s based on fairness, that’s based on creating wealth but also is concerned about its distribution.

Confidence that we can deal with climate change with a plan which creates jobs, lowers emissions and lowers emergency prices.

Confidence that we can stand up for Australia’s view in international forums.

What have the other mob got?

Has anyone heard what their legislative agenda is for next year?

Besides bringing stuff back which they brought back from before the last Parliament?

They have spent their entire time not sitting down and trying to develop
an agenda for this term, but one of going through the grievances of not getting through their regressive actions from last term.

Sitting down not talking about what can unite the country and be inclusive and take us forward, but sitting down and talking about how do we get Labor to vote against things.

How do we create division?

How do we divide society?

That’s their agenda.

Our is very different.

Our is inclusive, ours is positive, ours is optimistic, ours is one of hope, not sowing fear, and we’ll continue to do that.

And we’ll continue to do that.

Scott Morrison talks about quiet Australians.

What he really means is everyone should shut up and listen to him.

That’s what he means when he says, “quiet Australians”.

We won’t be quiet.

Australians won’t be quiet.

It’s not our nature as a people.

We’re up-front.

We’re bold.

We talk about things.

We put forward our view.

It’s the Australian way.

You walk into any pub and hear a discussion, you don’t hear quiet people sitting there sipping on a beer.

You walk in, they’ll tell you what you, what they want to tell you.

Sometimes it’s difficult to hear it, but they give you messages.

They give you messages.

That is in our way and that should be encouraged.

It’s called democracy.

It’s called democracy – people having a say.

Well, this week we’ll continue to pursue Scott Morrison about the Angus Horribilus that’s going through.

The test for this bloke isn’t whether a crime has been committed although that’s being investigated by the Strike Force Garrad.

Someone has a sense of humour.

The test is, has he misled Parliament?

That’s the test to be a minister.

We know in his own words he has because he’s apologised to Clover Moore for doing so.

And after three months he still hasn’t said where the document comes from except that it was downloaded off the City of Sydney website.

If that was the case, why did he apologise, late on a Friday afternoon after the media was put to bed?

This is a bloke who started misleading Parliament in his first speech.

He started where he intended to continue and end.

When he named Naomi Wolf as being his neighbour.

Naomi Wolf, who wasn’t even there.

Who was at the time writing one of the best selling books in the world in that year.

So, when you getting sledged from across the world for misleading Parliament, you’re in a spot a bother.

But then Scott Morrison misled Parliament four times, at least, in defending the mislead.

This bloke, the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, in the scandal about grasslands. He’s brought Christian Porter, the first law officer of the land.

Sitting in a room while Scott Morrison rings, on his mobile phone, the Police Commissioner on the day the investigation begins, at least four times.

Because you gave three missed calls from the Police Commissioner.

Nothing to see here. No problem.

Wow, their arrogance is just there for all to see.

And we will hold them to account.

But we’ll do more than that.

Because what will develop is our positive program.

And by the time of the next election, people will be sitting there and going, ‘Well, this mob have had three terms. They’ve had nine years. What was the point of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government?’

Interesting that two of those probably agree.

And I am looking forward to Q&A on Monday night.

I don’t know if the Government might be.

But I do want to say Happy Christmas to you and all of your family.

This is a fantastic group of people.

I’m incredibly proud to lead you and to lead this great party that has a history that the other mob can only dream of.

Spend time with your family and friends.

We will continue, we’ll have a bit of a roster but we will continue to work over the break.

But, we want to come back reinvigorated in February next year.

I’m convinced that there some more announcements of over that period.

But I thank you.

Truth is it was tough in May.

We have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, renewed ourselves with vigor, with energy with commitment, with principle.

Because at the end of the day, it’s about the people we seek to represent.

The childcare workers.

The nurses.

The teachers.

The working people.

The tradies.

The young people who want the opportunities in life, good education skills brings us.

Those people who need an economy to grow.

The people who need wages to grow.

The people in need their penalty rates, over this Christmas break.

All of those people.

We think of them.

We think of them when we’re feeling a little bit tired or a little bit disappointed about where we’re sitting.

And we reinvigorate over the Christmas break so that we come back here and charge forward.

And charge into that room down here.

That’s our objective.