Address to Maritime Industry Australia Ltd Forum – Promoting Growth in Australian Shipping – Australian National Maritime Museum – Tuesday, 7 May 2019
There are just over ten days remaining until the Federal election.
I have been privileged over the past twelve years, first as a Minister and now as a Shadow Minister, to get to know the maritime industry and to learn from you.
While I am here today to talk to you about Labor’s plans for the next three years and beyond, I would start by saying that much of our plan reflects ten years of interaction with the industry through organisations such as the Maritime Industry Australia Ltd.
Your organisation performs an important role in advancing policy debate in the maritime sector.
Your contributions are always policy based; never political. So thank you for a decade-long partnership.
The Labor Party values the Australian maritime industry.
We see it as critical to our economy and critical to our national interests.
Virtually all of our imports and exports come and go by way of ship and one tenth of global sea trade flows through our ports.
And we have vast maritime activity occurring right around the coast line – from building infrastructure, ports, navigation buoys and offshore facilities to moving people, both commuters and tourists – and so much more.
We are an island nation.
Accordingly, Labor believes any serious Federal Government must put in place policy settings that promote a strong local shipping sector.
Over the past six years, the current Coalition has failed to support the Australian maritime sector.
Instead, it has undermined policy settings put in place by the former Labor Government without advancing any kind of alternative vision.
Today is a great opportunity for me to lay out my vision for shipping in this country.
I use the word vision very deliberately.
Vision is the ability to imagine a better future. It’s about recognising where you want to go and taking the steps that are required to make that vision real.
My vision for the Australian maritime sector is simple.
I want a vibrant industry that serves that nation’s economic, environmental and national security interests.
I want an industry that serves our nation’s shipping needs, creates profit for industry, secures a strategic set of maritime skills, and provides jobs and training opportunities for young people.
ECONOMIC SOVEREIGNTY AND NATIONAL SECURITY
One of the most enduring ideas of Australia is of the land that is girt by sea.
It’s a prominent symbol of our country, like the kangaroo and emu of our coat of arms, or the Southern Cross in the night sky.
But there’s another proud symbol of Australia that has not been afforded the same respect and prominence in our national memory – the Australian Red Ensign.
Just 30 years ago, around 100 large vessels flew the Australian flag while operating domestically and internationally.
Today that number is 14.
Internationally our fleet of big ships is a minnow. Norway, with a population one-fifth of Australia’s boasts 519 vessels bearing its flag, the United Kingdom 1,157 and China 4,608.
Even the Merchant Marine of Switzerland, flying the flag of a land-locked nation with a population one-third of Australia’s, is larger.
The decline of Australia’s fleet has cost our nation economic activity, profits and jobs.
Less than half a percent of Australia’s seaborne trade is carried by Australian ships and that percentage is set to reach zero as their operators remove them from service over the coming years.
No nation should surrender its economic sovereignty in this way.
The current Federal Government has stood idle when it should have been supporting your industry.
It sees no value in the existence of a vibrant domestic shipping sector – or any other part of maritime industry for that matter.
By contrast, Federal Labor would focus on policy settings that would encourage growth in Australian shipping – whether they work domestically, internationally, or ideally, both.
We want to see Australians crewing vessels that proudly fly the Australian flag.
It’s not only about the economy.
It’s also about national security.
There are real synergies between Australia’s merchant fleet and the Australian Defence Force.
A strong merchant fleet brings with it capability and expertise, greatly expanding career pathways for seafarers and, as in the case of Timor-Leste, providing crucial support to ADF missions.
There is also an environmental imperative.
Shipping is the most efficient form of long haul transport.
We should be utilising a lot more of it to move freight around this country, and we should ensure that this is done by people trained to the highest standards.
Australia seafarers on Australian-flagged vessels are trained to those standards, understand our waters and are sensitive to our precious marine assets like the Great Barrier Reef.
LABOR’S REFORMS AND THE COALITION RESPONSE
The former Federal Labor Government sought to promote these economic, national security and environmental interests with reforms designed to rebuild Australian shipping.
We consulted extensively across the industry and looked internationally to identify best practice.
The reforms we put through the Parliament were strategic and forward thinking and designed as a shot in the arm for the domestic maritime industry.
We created an International Shipping Register, developed the country’s first National Ports Strategy, and brought in a single regulator to administer a national set of laws, replacing the piecemeal and convoluted system of state and territory-based laws and regulations.
Our 2012 package also included:
- A zero corporate tax rate;
- More generous accelerated depreciation arrangements;
- Rollover relief for selected capital assets;
- New tax incentives to employ Australian seafarers; and
- An exemption from the Royalty Withholding Tax for ‘bareboat’ leased vessels.
These reforms were not protectionism.
They were not designed to eliminate foreign operators and vessels.
Instead, we asked firms that wanted to move goods through Australian waters to seek an Australian vessel in the first instance.
Where no Australian vessel was available, we allowed the use of foreign vessels on licenses, provided there was no undercutting of Australian wage standards.
Our reforms would have paved the way for a revival of Australia’s maritime industry.
However, even before the changes took effect in 2012, the Coalition, then in Opposition, sought to undermine them.
And after taking office in 2013, they tried to scrap them.
The legislation that the Coalition took to the Parliament in 2015 would have gutted our maritime industry under the guise of ‘cutting red tape’.
To the Coalition, the promotion of a vibrant maritime sector that serves our national interest is less important than reducing shipping costs.
It has to be noted that Coalition’s legislation that would have reformed the Coastal Trading Act acknowledged that 88 percent of the “savings’’ would come from replacing Australian crews with foreign crews working for foreign wages.
This was unilateral economic disarmament – destroying our own industry and the jobs of Australians.
It’s a good thing that crossbenchers in the Senate joined with Labor to reject the legislation.
Since the defeat of the legislation the Coalition has advanced no alternative.
Instead, it has allowed the abuse of the existing system of licensing foreign vessels which have led to more job losses and fewer Australian flags flying off the back of vessels working in our waters as well as internationally.
Labor will never compromise on our view that Australia needs a strong, competitive, growing and home-grown maritime industry.
If we are successful on Saturday week, will move quickly to get behind Australian shipping because to do so is to get behind the national interest.
First, we will direct the Department to enforce Labor’s 2012 reforms to prevent further undercutting of the Australian-flagged fleet.
We will stop the abuse of temporary licences that has occurred in breach of the existing legislation and ensure the national interest is prioritised when it comes to licensing foreign ships to work in Australia.
Second, we will create a Strategic Fleet of Australian flagged vessels that can be called upon in areas of strategic importance to the Australian economy, such as the importation and distribution of liquid fuel, namely crude oil, aviation fuel, and diesel.
The vessels will be Australian flagged and Australian crewed, privately owned and commercially operated.
They will also provide a platform for the training of a new generation of Australian seafarers.
A significant reform like this requires careful deliberation and broad consultation.
So as a first step, a Labor Government would create Strategic Fleet Taskforce to provide advice on the design of a Strategic Fleet.
The Taskforce would include representatives of:
- Ship owners and operators;
- Maritime Industry Australia Ltd;
- Maritime unions;
- Department of Defence.
Third, Labor will reinstate the Maritime Workforce Development Forum to develop strategic responses to skills development.
The forum would build productive working relationships with industry to properly align its needs with the training sector.
The need for this reform was underlined just two months ago in MIAL’s Seafaring Skills Census which identified an ageing workforce with few young seafarers in the pipeline and a shortage of more than 500 seafarers expected by 2023.
In addition to these three approaches, there is much more we can do to reverse the decline in the Australian shipping industry.
In close consultation with the sector a Shorten Labor Government would explore other ways to stimulate growth in the industry.
For example, if we want to encourage more investment in Australian shipping, we could take a closer look at the tax system.
Under current arrangements, shipping companies pay no tax on profits earned from profits made from the operations of their Australian-flagged ships.
However, when the profits from those companies are distributed, shareholders must pay tax on the dividends.
This arrangement facilitates the reinvestment of profits by the company rather than distribution of dividends.
This can be a positive when companies are growing or renewing fleets.
However, other jurisdictions adopt a variety of arrangements that in practice equate to complete tax exemption.
Retaining the existing zero corporate tax rate and exempting investors from paying tax on the dividends they receive could make Australia a more attractive place to invest in shipping, which could lead to growth in the Australian-flagged shipping fleet.
Another proposal worthy of consideration is a Seafarer Income Tax regime to exempt Australian seafarers working for foreign international shipping companies from paying income tax here in Australia.
Creation of such a regime would bring us into line with the situation that already exists in most other maritime nations including Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, Norway, the UK, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines.
At the moment, very few Australian seafaring officers, in particular, are working internationally for the simple reason that international wage rates are lower than Australian wages.
On top of that they are required to pay income tax, which most of their international counterparts do not.
This means Australians working internationally get less take home pay then those from other countries they work alongside.
Changing this system could create greater career opportunities for Australian seafarers.
In part it will address the significant shortfall in berths able to be utilised on Australian vessels for Australian seafarers to fulfil their sea time requirements by encouraging trainees to accept appointments on foreign vessels.
This proposal would help provide the strategic maritime skills and experiences our nation needs.
Before concluding, I want to touch briefly on the issue of super yachts.
The super yacht sector has been lobbying to make it easier for foreign flagged superyachts to charter in Australian waters.
It sees, correctly, great potential for an expansion of this sector, which would generate jobs and economic activity.
The sector has argued that importation costs associated with bringing a vessel into Australia, as prescribed by the Customs Act, are inhibiting the industry’s growth.
It proposes addressing this through a change to the Coastal Trading Act to allow super yacht operators to obtain temporary licences so they would be protected from Customs obligations.
However, the legislative change that was suggested would have harmed existing sections of our domestic maritime sector. It would have opened the door to foreign transhipment and bunker barge operators to apply for temporary licences to work around the Australian coast.
This would not have been a desirable outcome, because the companies currently performing those activities are Australian based and employ Australian seafarers.
Nonetheless, Labor is open to reforms that will promote the growth of the superyacht industry to the benefit of communities up and down the Australian coastline.
But in doing so, we need to act in a way that avoids unintended consequences such as those that I have just described.
Accordingly, we think a better, more sensible long term solution would be new, standalone legislation covering all tourism operators, both local and foreign, which creates a level playing field.
Labor’s vision for your industry is unashamedly bold.
We know the work cannot be completed within the life of a single Parliament. But we also know but if we do not start now, we run the very real risk of losing our domestic maritime industry entirely.
Australia’s status as an island nation with a continent to itself provides unique privileges and challenges.
We are a nation with just shy of 26,000 km of coastline and yet a nation nearly wholly reliant on others for our supply and the movement of our goods.
Labor recognised the folly of such a position when we took our 2012 reforms to the Parliament.
The past six years has undone the work we began and made our precarious position even more so.
Thanks again for giving me the chance to be here today to outline Labor’s plan to correct course and commit a Federal Labor Government to ensuring our merchant fleet and maritime industry reaches new heights.
We want a strong maritime industry – one that is globally competitive, continually growing, and supported by the Federal Government rather than neglected.
In the interest of Australia’s proud maritime industry and of the nation, our promise is one of partnership to achieve this vision.
More than 100 years after the end of the First World War, we gather again today to recognise and remember the sacrifices made by those Australians who served, as well as the service and the sacrifices made by those Australians who followed in their footsteps.
As the dawn breaks on ANZAC Day, all over Australia, we come to places like these, solemnly, silently, and respectfully.
We do not come to glorify war.
We come here to remember the sacrifices of so many ordinary Australians, caught up in extraordinary events throughout our history.
Young people who, in the prime of their lives, in places a world away from home, made the ultimate sacrifice for Australia, and for their mates alongside them.
Sacrifice means giving something up.
These Australians gave up their youth, their health, and many gave up their lives for Australia.
Young Australians like Henry Drysdale, who was 20 years old, and a junior blacksmith.
Or Roy Bogle, who was 23 years old, and a butcher.
Both young men were from Balmain.
They walked these streets.
Henry and Roy died within days of one another at Villers-Bretonneux in July of 1918, just months before the Armistice was declared and the guns finally fell silent.
The world would be a very different place without the service and the sacrifice of Australians like Henry Drysdale and Roy Bogle.
The world would also be a very different place without the sacrifice of Australians like Sister Marie Eileen Craig.
Sister Craig was born in Balmain, and joined the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service during the Second World War.
She flew into combat zones in New Guinea that were only accessible from the air, to care for and evacuate Australians who were wounded in the fight to defend our country from Japanese forces.
On the 18th of September 1945, the aircraft carrying Sister Craig and 27 of her patients went missing on a flight between Biak and Horn Island. She was 33 years old.
She gave her life to care for other Australians.
We must remember the sacrifice of people like Sister Craig.
We must remember all of those men and women who served in both World War One and World War Two.
Just as we must never forget the sacrifices of hundreds of other Australians who served in the Korean War, in the Vietnam War and in the many conflicts that followed.
Just as we must recognise the commitment of Australians who are currently serving around the world today.
Australians are fortunate to live in a democracy.
Ours is a wonderful nation, where people are free to make their own choices, to hold their own views and to live life as they choose.
We are so lucky.
On Anzac Day, we reflect on those who paid the price of our freedom.
Our nation owes them a great and incalculable debt.
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.
Speech to ALP Society Campaign Launch – ‘Why Australia needs a Labor Government – London – Sunday, 10 March 2019
It’s great to be back in the UK.
It’s great to be among friends who share my determination to ensure that when Australians go to the polls in May, they vote to end six years of Coalition chaos and elect a Shorten Labor Government.
I might have arrived here sooner.
But I could barely get out of Canberra without tripping over Liberal Party Ministers announcing their retirements and appointing their mates to boards while they still can.
They are dropping like flies.
Many of them have given up and would rather get out of politics than put their case for re-election to the Australian people.
There is a reason for that.
They have no case for re-election.
They’ve been part of one of the worst governments in the history of the Commonwealth.
They are a rabble. Out of ideas, out of touch and out of puff …
… and so bitterly divided on factional and ideological grounds that their government does not function on a day-to-day basis.
Australia needs a Labor Government.
But our case for election is not based on the fact that our opponents are hopeless, even though that is a fair description.
Our case to govern is based on one of the most comprehensive blueprints for government produced in our nation’s history.
It is a platform informed by our values and fuelled by our desire to build a better, fairer and stronger Australia.
Let me take your through it.
We need a Labor Government to build a stronger economy.
Australia is now in its 28th year of economic growth, a record built on the remarkable economic reforms of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
Bob and Paul understood, as we do, that you can’t spread opportunity without economic growth.
Scott Morrison’s economic agenda is pretty simple:
Cut taxes for the wealthy and big business.
Put downward pressure on real wages.
Undermine trade unions.
… and cut spending on health, education, infrastructure and welfare.
He seeks to limit opportunity and entrench privilege.
By contrast, Labor believes there are two ways to drive economic growth – investing capital in infrastructure and investing in human capital through education, training and skills.
We will invest in public transport, our road networks, fibre-based broadband, renewable energy and water infrastructure.
That will support business, lower emissions and drive growth.
To invest in our people we’ll rebuild our education system. Schools, universities and TAFE colleges will all get extra support from a Labor Government.
We’d also ensure that all three and four year olds have access to early childhood education to give our youngsters the best start possible.
Education is about opportunity. It allows the individual to reach his or her full potential regardless of their means, who they know or where they live.
But having a better-educated workforce is the critical foundation of a growing economy.
Our opponents have delivered record low wages growth.
… cut people’s penalty rates,
.. undermined the welfare safety net.
We need a Labor Government to repair our nation’s social fabric.
We’d rebuild our health system and ensure that all Australians, regardless of their means, have access to properly resourced hospitals.
We’ll ensure Medicare is at the very centre of our system.
Labor introduced universal health care in the face of opposition from the Liberals and Nationals.
We will defend it to our last breath.
The last Labor Government delivered the biggest increase in the aged pension on record.
The next Labor Government will continue to support the pension and also provide proper resourcing and better oversight of our aged care system.
We’ll work harder to help the unemployed find work, not just through education and skills training, but also by maintaining proper support while people are unemployed.
We’ll also increase investment in affordable housing, not just on the outskirts of towns and cities, but close to the support services people need.
As many of you would know, I was raised in Council housing with a single mum.
There’s a reason I was fortunate enough to go from a council house to the office of Deputy Prime Minister.
It was because governments intervened to give me the security of a safe home and the opportunity for an education.
We need a Labor Government to ensure that every Australian has access to the same opportunities I enjoyed.
I’ve just come out of an Australian summer that was the hottest on record.
Indeed, since 2005 Australia has experienced nine of its ten hottest years on record.
It’s an established fact that our climate is changing.
Yet there are members of the current Morrison Government who don’t believe in climate change and oppose greater use of renewable energy sources.
Just last week, a group of National Party MPs, again called for public subsidies to build new coal-fired power stations.
When Labor was last in Government, we introduced policies to facilitate a transition to a clean energy economy.
The Coalition tore them down.
It still clings to the fantasy that we can solve all of our environmental challenges by simply planting more trees.
We need a Labor Government to get climate policy back on track and restore our international reputation as a nation prepared to play our role in protecting the environment.
Back home, some people know me for a response to a media question, in which I declared: “I like fighting Tories. That’s what I do.’’
My opponents don’t like it when I use that term – Tories.
They argue that members of the Liberal Party of Australia hold values that are more progressive than the hard line conservatism usually associated with Tories.
That might have been the case in the past.
But in recent years the Liberal Party has shifted to the Right as people like Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton have seized control from the moderates.
The Liberals no longer stand for liberalism.
True liberals wouldn’t leave refugees in indefinite detention.
True liberals don’t cut real wages.
True liberals accept the science on climate change and the role of trade unions.
True Liberals don’t trash our important institutions like the ABC or blame people for their own disadvantage.
These are the actions of Tories.
Australia needs a Labor Government to return our national politics to a more moderate position.
Our opponents are dominated by ideologues that are out of touch with the everyday challenges of Australians.
They seem to hold the view that if only governments would get out of the way and let the market rip, everything will be fine.
They forget something.
Markets have no conscience.
Markets don’t care about distribution of income or opportunity.
That’s where government comes in.
Labor understands the importance of a strong economy.
We respect and applaud successful businesses because they provide employment.
But unlike our opponents, we also understand that there is a role government intervention to ensure the fruits of that prosperity are shared among the many, not monopolised by the few.
Once again thanks for turning out tonight.
Thanks for your support and your enthusiasm.
I know you will do your best to fight for a Labor Government.
Australia House is the biggest polling station in the Australian Federal election and more than 70,000 overseas votes cast in 95 locations will have a major impact on the outcome.
We face a desperate opponent with its back to the wall.
This Government’s failures, its internal divisions and the exodus of many of its most senior operators, like Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne, mean it has little to offer in terms of a positive election campaign.
All it is has is a scare campaign.
Scott Morrison and his colleagues have been scouring the top end of town for donations and raiding the public purse to fund what will undoubtedly be a very aggressive and negative advertising campaign.
Just last week they changed the rules regarding MPs’ electorate allowances, which are meant to cover office expenses like postage, so they can be used for radio and television advertisements.
So expect scare-mongering and misrepresentation.
That’s all they’ve got.
We on the other hand, have our passion, our shoe leather and a well thought-out blueprint for a better, fairer and most prosperous Australia.
And that’s what a Shorten Labor Government will deliver.
Speech to the Australian Logistics Council – ‘Playing the long game for a more prosperous Australia’ – Melbourne – Wednesday, 6 March 2019
History is a great teacher.
If you look at the most successful leaders in Australian and world history, there’s a common factor in their success – vision.
Vision is about imagining a better future and taking the steps now that are required to achieve it.
It’s about taking decisions which establish building blocks for future prosperity, even if they don’t provide an immediate political benefit.
For example, our nation is experiencing its 28th consecutive year of economic growth.
That was made possible by the vision shown by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating with their economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s.
Not all of the decisions that set up this extraordinary platform for prosperity were popular at the time they were implemented.
But we all benefit today because Hawke and Keating played the long game.
In 2019, it’s time we played the long game when it comes to infrastructure.
We need to stop making short-term decisions and ensure that decisions lay the foundations for future growth.
Today, just weeks from the commencement of the May election campaign, I want to give you an update on my thoughts about infrastructure and transport policy.
Some of these ideas will be familiar.
In particular, you all know that I have a strong view that vision in infrastructure policy requires that, wherever we can, we take the politics out of the process.
In 2008, the former Labor Government established Infrastructure Australia to provide independent, evidence-based advice to the Government about infrastructure policy and projects.
The organisation was designed to produce a pipeline of properly assessed projects capable of being embraced by both sides of politics on the basis of demonstrated merit.
We wanted to break the nexus between the short-term political cycle and the long-term investment cycle.
But upon coming to government, the Coalition immediately cancelled a series of Infrastructure Australia backed projects aimed at reducing traffic congestion and improving the movement of freight within and between our big cities.
Infrastructure Australia also worked with the former Labor Government to improve transport planning.
Infrastructure Australia produced the National Ports Strategy and the National Land Freight Strategy.
This meant that when the current Government took office, it had at its disposal a blueprint for a more efficient transport system.
It would have had great benefits for the Australian logistics sector.
But instead of grabbing the ball and running, the Coalition did nothing until 2016, when it began preparing its National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.
More wasted time.
In good news, a future Labor Government would not try to reinvent the wheel yet again.
Our vision begins with greater investment.
While I agree that governments should seek to attract more private money into public infrastructure projects, I don’t kid myself.
For real progress, Commonwealth grant money is required – real investment for real projects that will make a real difference.
Over the past five years the Coalition Government has overseen a reduction in infrastructure investment.
During the period of the current Government, average annual investment (public and private), which had doubled under Labor, has fallen 17 per cent.
In the case of investment in Australia’s transport infrastructure, the decline has been even greater at 19 per cent.
And the projections are all heading in the wrong direction.
The Government’s own Budget documents show that in the short term, annual Federal infrastructure grants to the states will fall each and every year from $7 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion in 2021-22.
Over the medium term, the Parliamentary Budget Office has calculated that Commonwealth infrastructure investment expressed as a percentage of GDP will halve from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent.
By comparison, I can assure you that between now and election day, Labor will outline an ambitious infrastructure investment agenda.
It will be an agenda that builds on the record of the former Labor Government, which doubled road funding, rebuilt a third of the interstate rail freight network and committed to more urban public transport infrastructure than all of our predecessors combined.
When it comes to freight, rail is often more efficient than road transport.
One freight train can take 100 trucks off the road.
Rail is also cheaper, more energy efficient and produces lower levels of carbon.
We must work to capitalise on these advantages by ensuring our rail infrastructure is up to the task.
In this area, the former Labor Government got the ball rolling.
We invested heavily in separating passenger and freight lines to Sydney’s north and south.
We kicked off work on the much needed Moorebank Intermodal Terminal.
We also allocated funding to duplicate the Port Botany Line – another investment cancelled by the incoming Coalition Government, but later revived when they realised their mistake.
There is more work to be done.
For example, it remains the case that rail access to the Port of Brisbane is constrained.
We need to confront that challenge, particularly if we are to deliver an Inland Rail project between Brisbane and Melbourne that actually goes to the Port of Brisbane, rather than stopping 38km short at Acacia Ridge, which is the current plan.
On the topic of Inland Rail, let me restate Labor’s support for the project.
We invested $900 million in this project last time were in office.
However, I remain sceptical about the current Government’s financing model.
The use of an equity investment in the Australian Rail Track Corporation to fund Inland Rail is based on the Government’s assertion that the project will somehow stack up on a purely commercial basis.
But let’s get real. That won’t happen.
This fact was recognised by former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson’s 2015 Inland Rail Implementation Study, which found that the project’s revenues would not cover its capital cost in its first 50 years.
I’m also concerned about growing public disquiet over poor consultation with affected land owners along the Inland Rail route.
The NSW Farmers Federation has been leading the case for an independent and transparent inquiry into the planning underpinning the roll-out of this project.
They aren’t troublemakers. They are serious players who should be taken seriously.
Just as we need to increase the share of the national freight task carried by rail, we must also revive Australian shipping.
The former Labor Government sought to arrest the long-term decline in the Australian shipping fleet after close consultation with the industry, employers and unions.
In 2012, we implemented a range of reforms including a zero tax rate, more generous accelerated depreciation arrangements, rollover relief for selected capital assets and new tax incentives to employ local seafarers.
Regrettably, the Coalition sought to undermine these reforms in Opposition and abolish them in Government.
In 2015, the Senate rejected legislation that would have destroyed Australian shipping by putting it at a competitive disadvantage when bidding for work against overseas-flagged vessels with overseas crews.
I want to see a vibrant Australian maritime sector that serves our economic, environmental and national security interests.
Labor will create an Australian Strategic Fleet in areas of importance to the Australian economy, such as the importation and distribution of liquid fuel, namely crude oil, aviation fuel and diesel.
The vessels will be Australian-flagged and Australian-crewed, and while they will be privately owned and operated on a commercial basis, they will be available for requisition by the Defence Forces for operational requirements in times of national need.
The fleet will also provide a platform for the training of future seafarers.
With the final two Australian flagged oil tankers carrying fuel to this country recently deregistered, Australia does not have a direct capacity to ensure its fuel security.
A Labor Government would also create a National Fuel Reserve to ensure this nation always has at least 90 days’ fuel supply at hand.
I see this as a sensible measure.
It has certainly been welcomed by people with experience in the nation’s military.
Indeed, the establishment of a Strategic Fleet and creation of a National Fuel Reserve would enhance Australia’s economic sovereignty and security.
As much as Labor wants to increase the role of rail and shipping, we understand that road transport will always play a huge role in meeting our nation’s freight task.
We need better roads that are safer, not just for truck drivers, but also for those with whom they share the roads.
That’s why we would complete the duplication of the Pacific Highway and accelerate the upgrades of the Bruce Highway and other key freight routes.
It’s also important that we increase our effort to make better use of existing road assets through the adoption of smart technology.
Building new roads is not always the best solution to traffic congestion.
We need to increase our focus on fitting new technology to improve traffic flows along major motorways, using higher productivity vehicles, creating dedicated freight routes and separating passenger trains from freight trains.
The former Labor Government invested in the Managed Motorways Program, which sought to incorporate intelligent transport solutions into urban motorway networks.
These included entry ramp signalling, variable speed limit signs, CCTVs and digital message signs that provide motorists with live updates on traffic conditions and delays.
The next Labor Government would pick up where we left off.
Delivering new infrastructure projects in the public interest is one thing.
But I’m determined that in doing so, we take the opportunity to secure lasting benefits outside of the delivery of the individual project.
I have three particular approaches in mind.
First, we need to ensure that we use the construction of major projects to provide jobs and training for Australian workers.
Accordingly, under a Labor Government at least one in ten jobs on Federally-funded construction sites would need to be filled by Australian apprentices.
When it comes to the rail industry we would go even further.
We would implement a National Rail Manufacturing Plan to maximise the benefits from the $100 billion-plus investment expected in rail over the next decade.
For the record, Australia will spend more on rail over that period than it will on submarines.
By establishing a National Rail Plan, a Labor Government would ensure that more trains are built here in Australia by local manufacturing workers and that every dollar of Federal investment in rail projects goes towards creating local jobs, training Australian workers, and protecting our rail industry for the future.
This commitment was based on landmark research produced last year by the Australasian Railway Association.
As well as training Australia’s future workforce, a future Labor Government would use its investment in infrastructure to make sure Australia’s mid-tier construction firms not only survive, but grow and thrive.
In practice, the states and territories would be required to either ensure a mid-tier contractor is included in the main contract or alternatively, split large projects up into smaller packages of work so mid-tier contractors can tender and compete.
Before I wind up let me say a few words about the current Government’s poor handling of the proposed bio-security levy arising out of the review of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Bio-security.
I know that this matter has been a topic of discussion at this important forum.
While the review proposed a levy of $10 on all shipping containers to take effect from July 1, the Government is attempting to impose a general import levy based upon volume on all shipping movements.
This appears to be a revenue grab.
It has created understandable concern about whether the money collected will even be used for bio-security.
Bio-security is important. It has to be paid for.
But the Government has botched this process by failing to consult or produce a Regulatory Impact Statement.
It has treated industry without due respect and is seemingly more focused on the revenue than the right outcome.
You have been patient on this issue, and you deserve better.
The plans and reform proposals I have outlined today are about maximising national long-term prosperity.
When we spend billions of dollars on public infrastructure projects, we should extract every drop of public benefit we can to serve the national interest.
Too often, governments lose sight of the national interest.
Conservative governments often make the mistake of convincing themselves that if only governments get out of the way, the market can solve all of our problems.
But the market by itself does not deliver the type of strategic vision that is required to deliver a more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.
It does not play a long-term game.
That’s the job of governments.
I stand ready to deliver.
Speech to the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards – ‘Investing in Our Future’ – Launceston – Friday, 1 March 2019
It is a pleasure to join colleagues from across the tourism industry here – at Launceston’s famous Cataract Gorge – to celebrate excellence in Australian tourism.
I congratulate all of tonight’s award nominees and winners.
Northern Tasmania is a truly phenomenal part of the world.
It is home to the purple fields of the Bridestowe Lavender Farm, the rolling hills of the renowned Tamar Valley wine region and numerous heritage sites across both the natural and built environment.
And when it comes to tourism, Tasmania as a whole always performs well, with the latest International Visitor Survey showing a 15 per cent increase in visitor numbers and a 13 per cent increase in expenditure.
But many of our unique and varied tourism offerings depend on the natural environment and I want to acknowledge the devastation wreaked by recent fires in the Huon Valley and Central Tasmania.
For my part, I will continue to work with the tourism sector to identify ways in which we can restore and rejuvenate affected areas.
Tourism in Australia is also dependent on another critical and equally unique asset: you right here.
And we must remember that this requires investment as well.
That’s why I’m pleased to announce tonight that a Shorten Labor Government will invest $6 million in the Australian Tourism Industry Council’s Quality Tourism Framework.
The fact of the matter is that tourism can be a job for life.
Tourism is a career.
And it deserves recognition as such.
Not only does this investment in skills and training acknowledge the important work that you do, but it will also give Australia a competitive edge.
We live in a rapidly changing world where people are more connected and have more information available to them than ever before.
This naturally impacts tourism.
It affects where people decide to go and the experiences they choose to participate in.
By investing in product development we can make sure that we are adaptive and innovative and continue to provide the quality tourism experiences that people expect from Australia.
The Quality Tourism Framework will develop 10,000 high quality tourism businesses and bring to market an annual stream of new internationally competitive tourism experiences.
It will provide businesses with a single pathway for online training, quality assurance, product development, digital distribution and market development.
Part of our investment will contribute to domestic marketing of Quality Tourism Businesses, by promoting and facilitating bookings direct to businesses without losing commissions to international online travel agencies.
This will make a difference to your bottom line, it will promote the diversity of tourism offerings around Australia to Australians, and it will provide a better all-round experience by linking customers direct to businesses.
The future of tourism in Australia is bright.
You know the facts: this is a super growth sector that employs one million Australians and generates more than $97 billion each year in economic activity.
And this trajectory is set to grow.
The Quality Tourism Framework has an important role to play in unlocking tourism’s future potential and I congratulate the Australian Tourism Industry Council on their effort in this space.
Thank you for the invitation to speak tonight and I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to grow and develop Australia’s tourism potential.
Speech to National Growth Areas Alliance – Catching up and Planning for Future Need – Monday, 18 February, 2019
Thank you for the invitation to address today’s launch of ‘Catch Up with the Outer Suburbs.’
This is a carefully considered policy document that sets out the priorities of the NGAA and I congratulate them for their work.
These priorities include:
- Accessible public transport and effective road networks so people can get to their destination on time;
- Local job creation so that there are employment opportunities outside the CBDs of capital cities; and
- Investment in the appropriate community infrastructure so that people can come together and kids have somewhere to play sport…
This shouldn’t be too much to ask.
But the everyday experience for the five million people who call our outer suburbs home is vastly different.
Government complacency will only exacerbate this, restricting the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities.
The simple truth is that if people can’t access employment, training or educational opportunities; if people are stuck in their cars for hours commuting to and from work; and if people cannot enjoy their quality of life, then they can’t achieve their potential.
And of course this means that, in turn, our cities won’t fulfil theirs.
Successful cities are inclusive cities, with diverse vibrant communities – not disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage.
We must ensure our cities are places of opportunity – for all people.
But of course, to achieve this we must do more than just catch up across our cities.
We need to plan for future demand.
A failure to do so only leads to bad outcomes and a higher cost of retrofitting infrastructure to try to catch up with the community’s needs and fulfil their expectations.
We also need to be strategic about growing opportunities in our outer suburbs, including in advanced manufacturing, or through the establishment of business or science and technology precincts.
Our City Partnerships proposal provides a model for unlocking this potential through targeted investment in growth areas.
But we intend to do more than just level the playing field.
City Partnerships provide an opportunity to address spatial inequality in our cities by driving and facilitating investment in outer suburbs and growth areas to enable them to become more productive, sustainable and liveable.
Our approach emphasises collaboration and we will start by listening to what you have to say.
Already many councils in this room have presented me with project proposals outlining a strategic vision for their region that trials innovation while providing local employment.
The Federal Government has a natural role to play in supporting these efforts, providing leadership and investment where it is required.
I am pleased that there is bipartisanship, at least on the rhetorical level, on the need for Commonwealth involvement in our cities.
This is necessary for continuity of urban policy in Australia.
But we can and indeed must do more, particularly when it comes to incorporating sustainability and smart technology in our planning processes.
For this to be achieved at a meaningful scale, coordination across local, state and federal governments is required.
And this is where organisations such as the NGAA play such an integral role in providing a unified voice.
I look forward to continuing to work with the NGAA and the councils in this room in the months ahead to advance opportunities in our outer suburbs and ensure their ongoing productivity, sustainability and liveability.
Speech to the 48th National Conference of the Australian Labor Party – Moving Support for the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty – Adelaide Convention Centre, SA – Tuesday, 18 December, 2018
I want to begin by thanking my two friends and shadow ministerial colleagues Penny Wong and Richard Marles for the constructive engagement, along with other caucus members, who participated to get an outcome, which really takes us forward today.
Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created.
Today we have an opportunity to take a step towards their elimination.
Ours is a great Party.
Our members have seen a lot of history over more than 120 years.
One of those was my mentor, a fellow called Tom Uren.
In 1945, having served his country and fought for his country, and been captured in Timor in 1941 – and had a tour of Asia – Changi Prison, Burma-Siam Railway, he ended up on an island close to Nagasaki.
He saw there the second atomic bomb with his own eyes.
He came back, having fought for Australia, a fighter for peace and disarmament.
And he described in his retirement speech: “The struggle for nuclear disarmament is the most important struggle for the human race.”
And delegates, there is a continuum.
Gareth Evans, one of Labor’s great Foreign Ministers, spoke just a couple of weeks ago at the Tom Uren Lecture that I host in my electorate.
He said that the difficulty of achieving disarmament was no excuse for inaction.
He said and I quote: “Nuclear disarmament is core business for any Labor government worth the name.”
And that is why I am pleased that this motion before us today says that Labor in government will sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
It also says these issues are complex – they’re not simple.
That we need to take into account and work through a range of complex issues on enforcement, on effectiveness and on verification.
But we must not be timid when it comes to verification.
Article Four of the Treaty outlines a process of verification.
Article Three sets out the safeguards which are as strong as those in the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons).
Some argue that signing the treaty will undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But that’s not the view of the experts.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said recently: “It must be said that the ban is fully compatible with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. I think there is complementarity.”
The third issue that we need to consider is universal support, and that’s very relevant.
That’s a practical issue of how we bring those states, which are nuclear states, forward, so that this isn’t just a gesture – and we want outcomes, that’s what we’re about as a political party.
But one way in which you secure universality of support, in terms of a step towards that, is by Australia playing a role. And Australia, of course, played no role at the UN processes where this treaty was finalised.
Others have raised concern that somehow this would interfere with our relations with the United States.
I am a very strong supporter of our friends and our alliance with the United States, it goes beyond a relation between individuals.
The fact is that we can disagree with our friends in the short term, while maintaining those relations.
When other treaties such as landmines first came up, the United States and many other countries that ended up supporting it today were hostile to the idea.
But the fact is that we have, on our side, the overwhelming support of the Australian people.
The fact is that around four in five of our Federal Labor Caucus have signed up to support this process, and that’s because it’s consistent with the Labor way.
It’s consistent with what we did on the Canberra Commission.
It’s consistent with what we did on the NPT.
It’s consistent with the role that we’ve played internationally.
It was of course a Labor Member, a Labor leader, Dr Evatt, who became the first President of the United Nations.
So we’re up to the task of advocacy, 122 countries have signed up and ratified already.
We need to be out there advocating advancement on these issues because progress always requires leadership. And there’s a lot of discussion about what leadership looks like.
Delegates, this is what leadership looks like.
This is a Nobel Peace Prize.
Awarded to an organisation made up of activists concerned about our place in the world, formed in Melbourne.
ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, just 10 years after they were formed.
That is something that we should be incredibly proud of and I’m pleased that the resolution today recognises that.
The fact is the people who change the world are those that are ambitious.
We just had a debate and changed the Labor Party policy with people campaigning for it, consistent with what’s happening internationally.
I don’t argue that this is easy.
I don’t argue that it’s simple.
But I do argue that it’s just. I do argue that it’s consistent with what the Labor Party is about.
I believe that unless we do move down towards the path of disarmament, then we know the concern that the global community, including us right here, felt when North Korea was so close to being in a position whereby someone erratic would have their finger on a button.
That’s why we need to be a part of the global community.
This resolution is Labor at our best.
It enables us to participate in the debate in a constructive way and move it forward.
I commend the resolution to the conference.
Speech to AusRail 2018 Conference – Investing To Get Rail back On Track – National Convention Centre, Canberra – Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Thanks for the opportunity to address AusRail 2018.
It is now nearly 11 years since I was appointed Labor’s spokesman on transport and infrastructure.
Eleven years as either the Shadow Minister or Minister.
And on each and every day, I have learned something new.
Either I am very committed to the portfolio, or I am a glutton for punishment.
Let me start today by acknowledging that during those 11 years, the ARA has been a constant voice for serious debate on infrastructure and transport policy and the ways in which rail can best serve the national interest.
You’ve always been constructive.
We have usually, but not always, agreed.
But your advocacy has been of real assistance to me, as have events like AusRail, which have allowed me to develop a serious dialogue with your industry and an understanding of its issues from your perspective.
So thank you.
The value of your advocacy has been highlighted again today by yesterday’s release of your research by BIS Oxford Economics.
It provides a compelling case for greater collaboration between government and industry to address the looming skills shortage in the rail sector.
This is an important contribution to public discourse.
I would like to offer strong in-principle support for this report and its recommendations, particularly the establishment of a Rail Industry Skills Development Strategy.
You are certainly on the right track, so to speak.
This year’s AusRail takes place at a time of significant political activity in this country.
We’ve just had the re-election of the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria with an ambitious infrastructure program and now the campaign for the NSW state election will begin to gear up.
And then the big dance – the Federal election, probably on the 18th of May.
Today I want to focus on the obvious – what you might expect from a Federal Labor Government.
Simply put, we would build more rail – a lot more rail.
Over the past five years the Coalition Government has cut infrastructure investment overall, but particularly in rail.
The process began as soon as it took office in 2013, when Prime Minister Tony Abbott cancelled the billions of dollars put into the Budget by the former Labor Government for projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and the Parramatta to Epping line.
Mr Abbott did this for purely ideological reasons.
As he outlined in his 2009 book Battlelines, Mr Abbott believes Australians don’t want to use public transport because: “Mostly there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car and cars need roads.”
Instead of investing in rail, Mr Abbott diverted the money to toll roads, two of which he was unable to get off the ground.
That was five years, or two prime ministers, ago.
Mr Abbott’s successors Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison seem to have less antagonism toward rail, but have nonetheless failed to reinstate the bulk of his cuts.
There was some new investment in the 2018 Budget. But 85 per cent of that funding will not appear until beyond the Forward Estimates period.
Indeed, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office says Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states expressed as a proportion of GDP will halve over the next four years to 0.2 per cent.
So we not only have a reduction in total infrastructure investment, but it has been skewed toward toll roads and programmed off into the Never Never.
Recently, the Coalition appears to have shifted its rhetoric in response to growing public concern about the erosion of quality of life caused by traffic congestion in our big cities, particularly in Sydney, Melbourne and South East Queensland.
But its response has largely focused on the hot button political issue of immigration levels.
Immigration levels are relevant to urban growth.
But whatever factor drives population growth, governments must respond to it with commensurate infrastructure investment, or else cities become more congested.
This isn’t rocket science.
Yet the Coalition has failed to invest at a rate appropriate to the growth of our cities.
I go back to that short-sighted decision by Mr Abbott in 2013 to cancel all Federal investment in public transport.
At a time of strong population growth and worsening congestion, this was just madness.
If that had not happened, important projects like the Melbourne Metro and Cross River Rail would today be nearing completion.
DISTORTION OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE MARKET
Worse still, conservative governments have in recent years become so obsessed with “off-budget” and “innovative” financing of projects that they have chosen to overlook the benefits offered by rail in favour of toll roads.
For example, last year it was revealed that the NSW Coalition Government ordered its bureaucrats to ignore rail as an option when considering ways to tackle traffic congestion and improve commuting times between Sydney and Wollongong.
The bureaucrats were told to design the F6 Motorway as a toll road, even though a Transport Department paper advised that a rail option would be cheaper.
Departmental documents said completing the Maldon to Dombarton freight line would remove coal trains from the existing Illawarra line, freeing up space for passenger trains.
This, combined with construction of the Thirroul Rail tunnel between Waterfall and Wollongong, would reduce travelling time from Wollongong to Central Station by a third to 60 minutes.
Yet the NSW Government wanted a toll road.
A Federal Labor Government would end these distortions.
We would invest in the projects that best serve the public interest.
Now, I can’t change the past.
But I can offer a better future.
Our starting point would be the restoration of proper process when it comes to assessing infrastructure proposals.
When we were last in government we created Infrastructure Australia to independently assess infrastructure proposals on the basis of value for money and whether they would fit within the existing infrastructure landscape.
The aim was to create a pipeline of worthy projects that could attract bi-partisan support across parliaments.
We wanted to break the nexus between the political cycle and the project development cycle.
Regrettably, the Coalition has spent five years undermining Infrastructure Australia.
First, Mr Abbott ignored its recommendations to invest in urban rail.
In 2012 Cross River Rail topped Infrastructure Australia’s priority list, which it declared viable and ready to go.
Because this project does not fit in with the Government’s political agenda, the figures were reworked and it slid down the list.
At the same time, projects not even assessed by Infrastructure Australia, like the ill-fated Perth Freight Link, received funding.
Then came Mr Turnbull.
He tried to sideline Infrastructure Australia by creating his own Infrastructure Financing Unit, which he said would work with government and industry to utilise innovative funding mechanisms to increase private investment in public infrastructure.
The problem was that Infrastructure Australia already had the expertise and the legislated role to provide such advice and had done so in the past.
The IFU has failed to deliver a single new project.
A Labor Government would abolish this waste of resources.
We’d restore the independence of Infrastructure Australia and re-establish within it the scrapped Major Cities Unit to focus on the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australian cities.
Elected representatives must always be responsible for making funding decisions because it is they who are accountable at the ballot box.
But when it comes to major infrastructure projects, taxpayers rightly expect decisions to be based on evidence, not political whims or rigid ideology.
Of course, while proper assessment processes and an effective, respected and independent Infrastructure Australia are vital, they must be backed with real dollars from government.
And the good news here is that despite the decision of the current Federal Government to largely vacate the field, state governments of all persuasions, together with the private sector, have been stepping up.
Over the course of the past decade we have gone from a situation where there were few projects on the drawing board to a pipeline of heavy and light rail projects worth some $46 billion.
In the area of urban rail, there are major network upgrades and expansions planned, or in some cases already underway, in every mainland capital city.
In Brisbane, major works will soon commence on Cross River Rail.
In Sydney there’s the Metro, CBD and South East Light Rail and Parramatta Light Rail.
In Australia’s fastest growing city, Melbourne, work is ramping up on the Metro Tunnel and the removal of level crossings.
Meanwhile here in the nation’s capital, Canberra, the first stage of its new light rail network connecting the fast growing area of Gungahlin to the City is progressing apace, with planning on the next stage well advanced.
In Adelaide, the completion of the long-delayed electrification of the Gawler Rail Line will soon be underway, while in the West, the McGowan Labor Government is steaming ahead with METRONET.
This is Perth’s most ambitious public transport program, the first stage of which – the Forrestfield-Airport Link – is on track to be completed in 2020.
On top of all these public sector projects, the resources sector is also expected to invest heavily in coming years, building new and extending existing rail lines to transport their valuable commodities to port for exporting.
To round out the picture, a change of government at the next Federal election will result in a further injection of real investment in the nation’s rail infrastructure – and the money will begin to flow in our very first budget.
Federal Labor’s position is clear: for sound economic, social and environmental reasons, rail must play a central role in not only moving freight around our country but also people around our cities.
Rail will be at the heart of a Shorten Labor Government’s infrastructure agenda.
When it comes to moving people, rail offers greater value than roads.
Cars are among the most inefficient modes of transport.
According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, for each lane 3.5 metres wide, cars can transport 2,000 people per hour.
Trams can move 22,000 people per hour in the same amount of space and trains a massive 88,000 people per hour.
In the case of freight, rail also offers advantages over road, not the least of which is safer roads and fewer carbon emissions.
Indeed, just one 1,800 metre freight train is equivalent to removing 70 B-Doubles off our roads.
I don’t argue that we should never build a new road.
But if we are to keep our nation moving we need to invest in both roads and rail.
That’s why, as well as proceeding with all the projects currently in the Federal Budget, we will add to them to create an even more ambitious capital works program, particularly in the area of urban public transport.
For one, we will invest in Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.
In Sydney we will partner with the State to build the Western Metro as well as ensure the new Western Sydney Airport is connected to the City’s passenger rail network from the day it opens, as a part of a north-south line through Western Sydney.
The latter project, in particular, would help unlock the full potential of Western Sydney, a region that is already home to two million people – nine per cent of the Australian population – and the country’s third largest regional economy.
According to an analysis conducted by Deloitte and Arup:
“The economic benefits of the corridor are clear. From 2024 to 2040, north-south rail will add $44.7 billion in benefits to the economy, reaching $3.6 billion per year in 2040.
“There can be no doubt that a north-south rail solution is crucial to the sustainable development of the Western Sydney Growth Corridor and its future as a smart city.”
This statement could not be clearer about rail’s potential to transform cities.
Lastly, we will partner with the recently re-elected Andrews Labor Government to build what will be Victoria’s biggest and most transformative public transport project, the Suburban Rail Loop.
This new 90 kilometre underground rail line will run through Melbourne’s western and eastern suburbs via the airport, linking all of the city’s major train lines.
The $50 billion project will allow commuters to travel between suburbs without having to come into the city, thereby reducing travel times and making it much easier to get around for work or leisure.
Expected to be used by 400,000 passengers a day, the new line will also take pressure off existing lines and 200,000 cars off the city’s road network.
As well as investing in the infrastructure itself, Federal Labor is also determined to ensure that the rolling stock required for these new projects is built in Australia, rather than sourcing it from offshore.
This is an issue the ARA highlighted at AusRail a year ago.
And in response, Federal Labor announced earlier this year that if elected we will work with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Government to develop a National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy.
As part of this strategy, future Commonwealth grant funding for rail infrastructure projects will be linked to objectives such as work being undertaken in Australia, rather than commissioning overseas companies, and cooperation between jurisdictions on procurement.
Simply put, a Shorten Labor Government will ensure that more trains are built locally by Australian manufacturing workers.
Add to this the long-term projects like a High Speed Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.
You have heard me say for years that High Speed Rail would revolutionise interstate travel.
But its other big benefit would be to promote decentralisation, which this nation desperately needs as our capital cities struggle to cope with growth.
Today we meet in Canberra.
Imagine the potential for economic development in this city if people could travel from Canberra to the Sydney CBD in less than an hour.
Suddenly, establishing businesses here or moving here to work would be far more attractive.
High Speed Rail would turbo-charge development opportunities for the other regional communities along its path – cities like the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.
Successful decentralisation requires fast connections between regional centres and capital cities.
That’s why High Speed Rail is so important.
In Government, Labor would move quickly to create a High Speed Rail Authority to work with the Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victorian governments to commence detailed planning and corridor acquisition.
It would also put in place an expressions-of-interest process to seek feedback from international rail companies with expertise when it comes to building High Speed Rail projects.
A Labor Government would also support the further development of the proposed Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne.
We see great potential in this project.
That’s why we supported it with investment when we were last in Government.
However, over the past five years the Coalition has failed to confront key impediments to Inland Rail, including the fact that on current plans, it does not connect to the ports of either Brisbane or Melbourne.
I know it’s called Inland Rail.
But this shouldn’t be taken literally.
It shouldn’t mean it doesn’t go to our ports.
The Government has put massive effort into promoting its commitment to Inland Rail as part of its political strategy in regional areas.
But it has failed to use its five years in office to put in the hard work necessary to give all Australians a clear picture of the actual cost and viability of the project.
The Government has also failed to address widespread concerns about the credibility of its Inland Rail funding model, which assumes the project can be funded via an equity injection without government grant funding.
For such arrangements to stack up, projects need to be able to make returns to the Budget.
And even the Government’s own implementation report concluded that won’t happen for at least 50 years.
From the roll call of rail projects currently on the drawing board, it is clear this nation is headed towards a golden era for rail.
But that brings me back to the BIS Oxford Economics research released by Danny Broad yesterday.
As your research indicates, this industry faces a serious skills shortage.
Training of train drivers, controllers, track workers, signalling engineers and technicians, maintenance workers, electrical technicians and tunnellers is not keeping up with growing demand.
The challenge is further complicated by the ageing of the existing workforce and the emergence of new technologies in your sector that require new skills not previously required in rail.
The research warns that by as early as 2023, the peak of the construction phase, we may have a workforce gap of up to 70,000 workers.
This will not only slow down progress, but also drive up prices as projects fight against each other for scarce labour.
It’s already the case that states within the commonwealth are aggressively attempting to poach each other’s workforces.
The current situation is the end result of poor long term planning by governments and a reduction in investment in training and skills development by both government and industry.
The conservatives have trashed the TAFE system. What now remains in states like NSW is little more than a shell of a once great institution.
Today in this country there are 130,000 fewer apprentices than there were under the previous Labor Government.
All up, Federal funding for TAFE and skills training has been cut by $2.8 billion.
It has cut nearly $4 billion from our universities.
Most worryingly, and this is the point of your research, there seems to have been little serious effort to plan for future workforce needs despite the obvious signs that rail was entering a renaissance period in this country.
We cannot ignore the skills challenge before us. Addressing it must be a priority.
But in doing so, we need to accept that we cannot import our way out of this skills challenge.
Instead, Labor will never waiver from the principled position that the national government’s first priority must be to train and skill up Australians to fill Australian jobs.
Accordingly, a Shorten Labor Government will adopt the central recommendation arising out of the report released by the ARA and establish a Strategic Rail Workforce Development Forum.
It will be tasked with developing strategic responses to the skills issues facing the industry, and building productive working relationships across the industry and with TAFE and other training providers.
The resulting skills development strategy will not only aim to boost the national training effort, but also to ensure that the training is fit for purpose.
That simply makes common sense.
Before leaving the issue of skills, I will say this: the challenge facing your industry is far from unique.
Indeed, your concerns about a lack of proper long term planning and investment in skills are reflected in other strategically important sectors of the transport industry.
The same issue has been raised with me by aviation maintenance engineers, who warn that the increased offshoring of aircraft maintenance is leading to a reduction in critical skills development in this country.
The same concern is also reflected in maritime, where the conservatives want to legislate the local industry out of existence, leaving only foreign-flagged vessels with seafarers earning third world wages to move goods around our coasts.
This is no way to run a modern economy.
The lack of proper investment in our people is undermining Australia’s economic sovereignty and security.
Recently I was honoured to deliver this year’s John Button Lecture, which honours the memory of the man whom I believe was the nation’s greatest industry minister.
During the Hawke era John Button used the power of government to create industry plans in areas like steel and automobiles that were central to the opening up of the Australian economy and dragging it into the 21st century.
Button’s work helped establish the conditions for 27 years of continuous economic growth in this country.
John Button understood there was a role for government to work with industry, unions and other interested groups on long-term policy settings.
While much of his work is related to tariffs and exports, the same spirit is required when it comes to skills training.
It is hard to believe we have a situation where we know our future training requirements, but have failed to act to meet those requirements.
Labor accepts absolutely that markets can drive the creation of prosperity which leads to higher living standards and the expansion of opportunity.
However, we also understand that there are times when it is appropriate for governments to intervene to secure national interest outcomes.
I often say that one of the weaknesses of the market is that it has no conscience.
Your report also shows us that markets, left to themselves, have no vision.
They don’t consider future needs.
That’s the job of governments working with industry.
The current Government’s hand-off approach, combined with its cuts to skills training, has failed to meet the future needs of your industry.
A Labor Government will intervene.
We’ll work with you to look to the long-term and put in place the policies needed to produce the skilled workforce your sector requires.
There has always been a role for government in industry policy.
But in the 21st century – a time of accelerating technological change – forward-looking industry policy is needed more than ever.
As Stephen Hawking said:
“We are not going to stop making progress or reverse it, so we must recognise the dangers and control them.”
Hawking was right.
There’s no need to panic about the inevitability of change.
The point is that you need to plan to cope with its effects.
I said when I started my contribution today that the obvious question for your industry is what would change under a Federal Labor Government.
I’ve outlined some of our approaches today. And we will have more to say in the lead-up to the election.
But sometimes the past can illuminate the future.
To get a real idea of where a Labor Government might take transport policy, particularly when it comes to rail, let me conclude by pointing to our record last time we were in Government.
We lifted federal infrastructure investment, expressed on a per-capita basis from $132 per Australian to $265.
We rebuilt a third of the interstate rail network, or 4,000 kilometres of track.
We committed more federal investment for urban rail than all previous federal governments combined since Federation.
Once again, thank you for years of serious and productive engagement.
I very much hope that I will be able to join your for AusRail 2019 – hopefully without that pesky word “shadow’’ in front of my ministerial designation.
Speech to the National Growth Areas Alliance 2018 Congress – Growing Our Outer Suburbs Fairly – Campbelltown – Monday, 19 November 2018
I’m very pleased to be with the NGAA again, this time in Campbelltown with my friends and colleagues Anne Stanley and Mike Freelander.
A little over 160 years ago Campbelltown Train Station opened and at that time it was the end of the line, with the journey from Sydney taking 1 hr and 45 minutes.
Since then Campbelltown has changed significantly.
From wheat crops to grapes, dairies, the 38 post World War I soldier settlements and the steady churn of small businesses that kept the town moving as Sydney stretched out towards it.
In the early 1960s Campbelltown was designated a satellite city by the New South Wales Planning Authority and a regional capital for the south west of Sydney.
Back then, its population was just under 20,000.
But this quickly grew to 43,000 in 1974 and 144,000 in 1996.
Today the population is just over 167,000.
This is expected to grow to more than 273,000 people by 2036.
Campbelltown has always been a centre for growth.
It services the much larger Macarthur catchment area, providing employment opportunities across a range of sectors.
But with greater south-west Sydney also anticipated to grow by more than double again and Western Sydney as a whole expected increase its population from two to three million people, governments cannot afford to be complacent.
The truth is that while thriving growth areas such as Campbelltown continue to build upon their success, they require, first, a strategic vision and, second, significant investment in order to secure their productivity, sustainability and liveability.
This is because we need to position growth areas to maximise the benefits that come with increased urbanisation, while also efficiently dealing with the challenges.
As Socrates once said, “by far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities.”
So this is not a new problem.
Too often we see the population of our outer suburbs increase before the necessary infrastructure such as public transport and social infrastructure like schools, hospitals and recreational space are put in place.
For instance, in the Macarthur region some of the recent developments like Oran Park, Gregory Hills, Bringelly, Appin, Wilton and Cobbitty are also the areas with the least public transport.
Locally, this has led to worsening traffic congestion and placed increasing pressure on essential services like hospitals and schools.
This year was the 50th anniversary of the electrification of the rail line to Campbelltown, but even simple measures such as the extension of electrification to the south west and the completion of the Maldon-Dumbarton rail connecting Macarthur to the Illawarra have been ignored.
What’s more, planning for a future M9 motorway has been a complete debacle and has now been temporarily shelved.
Ultimately, bad planning leads to bad outcomes and a higher cost of retrofitting infrastructure to try to catch up with the community’s needs and fulfil their expectations.
What’s more, if people can’t access employment, training or educational opportunities; if people are stuck in their cars for hours commuting to and from work, and; if people cannot enjoy their quality of life, then they can’t achieve their potential.
And of course this means that, in turn, our cities won’t fulfil theirs.
Successful cities are inclusive cities, with diverse vibrant communities – not disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage.
We must ensure our cities are places of opportunity – for all people.
This perspective underpins Labor’s national urban policy agenda.
We recognise that the national government has a particular responsibility to invest in our growth corridors.
We also recognise that if we are to achieve genuinely positive change then we must work from the bottom up.
This means working with communities and local councils as well as the private and not-for-profit sectors, and, of course, state and territory governments.
However, Labor’s City Partnerships proposal and commitment to investing in growth areas is about more than just levelling the playing field.
It’s about creating new places of opportunity, beyond the CBDs of our cities, and ensuring they are productive, sustainable and liveable both now, and for the decades to come.
ARE WE THERE YET?
This is the third year in a row I have addressed the NGAA conference – and the first with Bronwen Clark officially at the helm.
The 2018 conference theme is, ‘ten years on; are we there yet?’
The simple answer is no.
But we shouldn’t dismiss the gains that have been made.
There is now broad bipartisan agreement that the national government must be engaged in urban policy.
This is underscored by the recently released, cross-party House of Representatives Committee report ‘Building Up and Moving Out’, which is the product of extensive consultation and provides numerous recommendations on the way forward.
Your organisation, along with others, has helped us reach this point.
We also have a greater awareness across the sector, in the media and communities, about the impact our urban challenges, such as congestion, housing affordability and sprawl, are having on everyday life.
This includes the Heat Island Effect, which is scorching our outer suburbs because of higher inland temperatures.
Yet with this comes questions not just about whether we’re there yet, but where it is we want to go and how we plan to get there.
And I think we all agree that each person in society should have access to the opportunities and services they need to advance themselves.
But I am concerned by the failure of some people to consider communities as a whole – colourful, vibrant tapestries composed of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds – and the positive contribution this diversity has already made to the nation we are today.
If we are to be truly successful in our endeavour to make cities better places for everyone, then we can’t let ourselves be side-tracked by a divisive debate around immigration.
It only entrenches fear and division in our neighbourhoods and this dog-whistling must be called out for what it is.
We must work together – across governments, across politics, across industries and across communities.
Since World War II, every Labor Government has made an important contribution to Australia’s urban development and progress, including in our outer suburbs.
In 1945, Ben Chifley commenced post-war reconstruction with large-scale investment in public housing.
Gough Whitlam connected Western Sydney and other suburban areas to sewerage and established the Department of Urban and Regional Development.
Bob Hawke and Paul Keating invested in the Building Better Cities Program.
And the Rudd-Gillard Government put in place a large number of policies to support the development of our cities.
- Establishing Infrastructure Australia to provide independent advice to government about the merits of major projects;
- Creating the Major Cities Unit and Urban Policy Forum to ensure policy is informed by expert opinion and underpinned by an evidence base, including through the annual State of Australian Cities report;
- Establishing the Australian Council of Local Government to bring local councils into the conversation;
- Creating the Centre of Excellence for Local Government at UTS to promote best practice;
- Conducting a review of capital city strategic planning systems through COAG – this was chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe with Lucy Turnbull as Deputy Chair;
- Releasing the Urban Design Protocol after consulting extensively with industry, which promotes guidelines for sustainable urban development and;
- Releasing Australia’s first ever comprehensive National Urban Policy, which identified three key pillars of productivity, sustainability and liveability.
BEYOND THE NEXT DECADE
Labor will build on this urban policy legacy if we have the privilege of being elected at the next Federal Election.
But we’ll also take action on climate change.
Invest in advanced manufacturing.
Properly and fairly fund our schools, universities and TAFE.
Improve housing affordability for those currently locked out of the market.
Support the growth of business.
And upgrade health services around the nation.
The difference between us and the current occupants of the ministerial wing is not just that we understand inaction has serious consequences for our nation, but also that we’re prepared to do something about it.
And we know that people in regional towns and cities, as well as those in major cities and growth corridors need this action now because the culmination of inaction or bad policy in each of these areas is devastating.
Over the coming decades the population of South-East Queensland is projected to increase by 2.2 million people.
Wanneroo, in Western Australia, will become Perth’s most populated local government area by 2050.
Wyndham, in Victoria, is expecting its population to grow by more than 74 per cent by 2036.
Managing this will not be easy.
But one thing is certain: a failure to plan and build the infrastructure that will be needed will leave many people and communities socially isolated and economically disadvantaged.
And that would inevitably harm the productivity and performance of the Australian economy.
Put simply, if we fail to plan, we are planning to fail.
If we get the planning right, particularly in our growth areas, then we can improve quality of life for people and make our cities more efficient.
But because the nature of Australia’s federation means that all three levels of government have both distinct and overlapping roles in urban development, collaboration and alignment are needed to maximise the effectiveness of investments and policies.
Labor’s City Partnerships policy will engage all three levels of government through genuine collaboration, as well as with the private sector, to set out a strategic vision for our cities.
This will be linked to a renewed National Urban Policy that focuses on the three pillars of productivity, sustainability and liveability.
To help achieve this we will re-establish the Major Cities Unit within Infrastructure Australia and task it with independent oversight of the program, including recommending City Partnerships to the Minister.
Guidelines for City Partnerships will be developed in consultation with urban policy experts and we’ll make sure that these are publicly available so that any city, or group of cities, can apply.
We want people to focus on what gains can be made through productivity uplift and the additional revenue that will flow to the Federal Government as a result.
This could be achieved by setting targets across areas such as employment, education or health.
Importantly, City Partnerships provide an opportunity to address spatial inequality in our cities by driving and facilitating investment in outer suburbs and growth areas to enable them to become more productive, sustainable and liveable.
Ultimately, we want to unlock the potential of our cities by bringing together all levels of government, the private sector and community in a way that is meaningful so that we can achieve genuine structural change.
Our approach emphasises collaboration.
It is a product of extensive consultation with stakeholders, including hearing about the experience of local councils with the current City Deals program, which we know has failed to deliver real change.
The lack of rigour and independent oversight means City Deals are subject to political whim.
The absence of transparency and clear guidelines has left local councils in the dark about how to best be involved.
And limited engagement with the private sector and an absence of detail around the funding of projects means that all levels of government are missing out on potential value uplift.
We know that here in Western Sydney, local councils were asked to sign on to a City Deal without knowing what the content of it would be.
Blacktown Council was completely left out of the picture.
Here, Macarthur received no additional investment for major infrastructure, despite its growth.
And the rail project at the centre of the city deal remains unfunded by the Coalition.
We must do better – our growth areas need us to do better.
The original intention of the UK City Deals was to provide a mechanism through which various levels of government can work together to develop area-based strategies that improve overall economic growth.
It’s particularly relevant for growth corridors, as it provides a model through which they can receive greater investment.
Given these areas face substantially different challenges to inner suburbs, the strategic and targeted approach of this program matters.
Ultimately City Deals are intended to provide a long-term vision for how structural change can be achieved.
But, most crucially, City Deals are underpinned by the idea that investment should be guided by the level of government that sits closest to the people.
They encourage a bottom up strategy that recognises local government as genuine partners – well placed to lead structural change and foster local community ownership.
Not just another stakeholder.
And through this process all cards are put on the table from the outset and priorities determined in collaboration.
From the conversations I have had it is clear to me that many local councils are thinking comprehensively about what they can do to positively shape the economic future of their region.
They are thinking strategically about how innovation can be used to advantage the people they represent through job creation.
And they are thinking about how they can work with neighbouring councils, engage the private sector and bring together all levels of government to achieve positive structural change that empowers a broader geographical area – not just their own.
It’s nation building – from the bottom up.
But the national government must do more to support these ambitions and that’s precisely what our City Partnerships program intends to do.
INVESTING IN OUR GROWTH AREAS
But real investment in our growth areas is also required.
That’s why we have already committed $3 billion towards the construction of Western Sydney Rail.
This project will reduce congestion and car dependency, by connecting the communities of Western Sydney to each other as well as the region’s new Western Sydney Airport.
Western Sydney Rail alone is expected to take 1,000 cars off the road every time a train leaves the station, and Deloitte estimates the project will add over $44 billion in benefits to the economy by 2040.
Elsewhere around the nation we’re committed to investing in projects like Cross River Rail in Queensland, which will benefit the entire South East Queensland growth area.
This complements our significant investment in improving the road connection between the growing suburbs of Brisbane and the Gold Coast through our $1 billion upgrade to the M1.
Additional investment in Perth METRONET will connect the north-eastern suburbs around Ellenbrook to the city’s heavy rail network, linking passengers to the major employment hubs of Malaga and Morley along the way.
This will build on Labor’s legacy of investing in rail and road projects around the nation.
Indeed, the former Federal Labor Government invested more in urban passenger rail than all our predecessors since Federation combined.
Projects, like the Regional Rail Link through Victoria’s burgeoning western suburbs is an excellent example of delivering public transport in anticipation of residential development.
The Gold Coast Light Rail, or as the locals affectionately call it, “the G”, is a transformative piece of infrastructure has helped change the way people get around the Coast.
But it is important to remember that even when governments deliver new projects, the job isn’t necessarily over.
Right now, in parts of Australia in 2018, a lack of car parking at train stations is emerging as an unwanted impediment to efforts to tackle traffic congestion, which costs the nation about $16 billion a year in lost productivity.
Unless governments act on parking, we risk creating a situation where commuters give up on public transport because it is too much trouble.
Federal Labor has part of the solution.
In Government we would create a $300 million Park and Ride Fund to work with state and local governments to expand community car parking at public transport hubs.
Already, we’ve announced ten park and ride projects, including at Mango Hill, Narangba and Northgate in Brisbane’s outer northern suburbs; Gosford, Woy Woy and Tuggerah on the NSW Central Coast; Riverwood and Schofields in Sydney; and Tarneit and Frankston in Victoria.
The rationale is simple – if we want commuters to use trains, train stations must be accessible.
It’s not enough just to build rail networks. We must also ensure they are easy to use.
In an ideal world, commuters would live within walking distance of train stations and have no need to park and ride.
Indeed, that is the situation in many long-established urban areas of Australia.
But outer suburban areas are often served by a single train line that draws in commuters from far and wide.
When it’s too far to walk to the station, parking becomes critical.
Traditionally Federal governments have left park and rides to state and local governments.
But after five years of under-investment in infrastructure by the current Federal Government, traffic congestion looms as a genuine threat to national economic growth and our quality of life.
The emergence of the parking problem points to a broader challenge relating to population growth and development in urban Australia in coming decades.
And to truly deal with traffic congestion, we must ensure we provide the infrastructure investment needed to support this growth.
Today the train from Sydney to Campbelltown takes just over an hour – and up to an hour and a half on weekends.
But the changing nature of our cities means that it is no longer just about how people get from outer suburbs to the CBD.
It’s also about how people connect to their surrounding suburbs and how we can grow more opportunities locally as our cities expand.
Collaboration across all levels of government, with the private sector and communities, as well as strategic investment, is required to support this shift.
I look forward to continuing to work with you to invest in our growth areas and ensure they are places of opportunity – for everyone, not just some.
I am honoured to have been asked to deliver the John Button Lecture for 2018.
Tonight I want to discuss progressive political change and offer some views about how it is achieved.
Secondly, I want to address the changes in technology and political discourse that have transformed the nature of political engagement over recent decades since John Button’s period as Minister, to what some have called the “age of disruption”.
If ever there was anyone who understood the power of policy to change lives, it was John Button – Australia’s greatest Industry Minister.
John’s ambitious industry policy program across a range of sectors during the period of the Hawke Government helped to set up Australia to succeed in the global economy of the 21st century.
We in Labor are justly proud of the economic achievements of the Hawke-Keating era. They set the scene for 27 years of continuous economic growth.
John Button manned the engine room of that reform process.
With Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and the rest of that formidable team, John created opportunities for literally millions of Australians.
It was not easy.
His victories sometimes came in the face of opposition from business, the bureaucracy, and some in the labour movement concerned about the impact of change.
He had to work doubly hard to ensure his reforms were gradual and included measures to minimise job losses and offer retraining opportunities and adjustment packages.
He understood that change was constant and inevitable, but its consequences were not. The Labor Government worked with unions and many in civil society through the Accord process to manage change in the interests of working people.
John Button, working off Bob Hawke’s model of consensus-building, revolutionised a range of Australian industries, starting with steel.
Then came automobiles, pharmaceuticals and textiles, clothing and footwear.
The objective was an interventionist industry policy that would allow these sectors to compete in a global economy.
At the same time Labor was increasing the social wage, introducing Medicare, compulsory superannuation and enhancing the urban and natural environment.
It was addressing entrenched disadvantage by increasing Year 12 completions from 3 to 8 out of every 10 students and opening up access to university.
It was supporting women’s campaigns for gender equality and promoting respect for multiculturalism and opportunity for the First Australians.
This record stands in stark contrast to the rabble that is the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government which seems bereft of an agenda besides entrenching privilege and occupying the Ministerial Wing.
Five years without troubling the scorer, except perhaps for throwing in the towel on the car industry that John Button did so much to reform.
Australia does have marriage equality.
But Malcolm Turnbull had so little authority in his own party room that he had to outsource that decision to the Australian people by holding an unnecessary voluntary postal survey.
The lesson here for contemporary Labor is simple.
The path to achievement in Government is policy development that both addresses the urgent necessities of immediate challenges, but does so in a manner that both anticipates and creates the future.
At our best, Labor does not just seek to win power. We wield the power of the state in ways that change our nation for the better.
By contrast, our opponents fear change.
Their whole ideology is based on maintaining the status quo.
The most extreme among them, like Tony Abbott, are not even conservatives, but reactionaries bent on destroying the hard-won gains of the past.
That’s why, for example, Mr Abbott, the most divisive political figure of his generation, held a Royal Commission into trade unions.
He’s offended by collectivism. He feels threatened by it.
For him, everything is about reconstructing an imagined past – a place of knighthoods and the preservation of privilege.
The problem isn’t so much that Tony Abbott wants to live in the 1950’s; it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company.
But with all that looking backwards, neither Mr Abbott – nor his successors Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison – left themselves any time to confront the issues of the present, let alone the challenges of the future.
Take climate change.
It’s real. We must reduce carbon emissions.
But as of today, the Government of Australia has no policy on climate change.
They used to have proposals for emissions trading, then an Emissions Intensity Scheme, followed by a Clean Energy Target and then numerous versions of the National Energy Guarantee. And Labor was ready to work with them in the national interest.
But since the last spin of the revolving door outside the Prime Minister’s office, they have just given up.
Australians want a Government equipped to deal with the challenges of today and to build a better tomorrow.
Instead, they are led by a Government with no ideas.
A Government that is frightened of the present, but terrified of the future.
The problem is a reactionary ideology, coupled with a lack of preparedness for Government.
When Mr Abbott took office in 2013, he had plan to get rid of Labor, but no plan to govern.
Likewise, Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott, but also had no plan to govern.
There was a time when Mr Turnbull had policies. He used to be in favour of an Australian republic and genuine action on climate change.
But he was so possessed by his sense of destiny that he would be prime minister, that he was prepared to trade in all of his principles in return for the keys to the Lodge.
And we all know how that ended up.
As for Scott Morrison, it remains a mystery why he is Prime Minister, much less what he stands for.
In the weeks since the Morrison Coup he has shrunk in the job and increasingly looks like the product of marketing, rather than conviction.
This brings us to the current election here in Victoria.
An election with much at stake.
Where the hard right wing elements of the modern Liberal Party are on the march, recruiting thousands of new members modelled on Donald Trump’s usurping of mainstream views on the conservative side of politics.
The Branch that produced Ian MacPhie and Petro Georgiou, now produces James Paterson, Michael Sukkar and Sophie Mirabella.
And we have the extraordinary circumstance of the Liberal Party not nominating a candidate in the Electorate of Richmond, abandoning their supporters in a strategic act of contempt.
This has exposed the informal alliance of the Liberals with the Greens political party that we saw demonstrated when after the 2014 election they combined to elect a Liberal to preside over the Legislative Council.
It also represents an acknowledgment by the Liberal opponents of progressive reform that it is Labor that is the vehicle for that change.
Whereas the Liberals seek to use government to promote a reactionary agenda, the Greens Party seek to wait for whoever is in Government to make decisions and then determine whether to support or oppose them.
They are the observers and would-be judges of Australian politics, rather than the participants.
My friend Richard Wynne is a participant in the tradition of John Button, Brian Howe, my mentor Tom Uren and many others in the progressive Labor tradition in a Government led by Daniel Andrews, who is leading the nation with his progressive economic, social and environmental agenda.
Richard is making a real difference, with real policies, improving the lives of real people in the Richmond community and beyond.
The new high school on the gasworks site in Fitzroy, Collingwood Arts Precinct, upgrading Victoria Park, better bike paths, enhancing the Yarra River with trees on its banks, not high rise development, are all real measures that make a difference.
As will the massive expansion of rooftop solar, as well as the Royal Commission into Mental Health, the expansion of social housing and the massive investment in public transport through the Metro and other game changing initiatives.
All of it being made possible by having the fastest economic growth of any State as well as the highest jobs growth.
Only Labor in Government can deliver on these reforms and the Andrews Government needs Richard Wynne around the cabinet table arguing for a future progressive agenda.
THE NEW POLITICS
This brings me to the new politics in context. By that I mean not just in Victoria, or even Australia, but the phenomenon we have seen globally in western democracies.
The polarisation in global politics has seen the demise of many of the historically successful progressive political parties such as France’s Socialist Party, Pasok in Greece, the Partito Democratico in Italy, the Social Democrats in Germany and many other affiliates of the Socialist International.
In many countries parties of the radical right have emerged with disillusioned working class people as their social base. The disruption of economic change in these economies has incubated a group of people who are angry that change has not benefited them.
Opportunist politicians such as Donald Trump have found an audience from those looking for answers as to why their expectations of quality of life have not been met.
On the progressive side of politics, some have retreated into the comfort zone.
Social media has aided this process.
It is easy to forget that at the time John Button was advancing his agenda, emails, the Internet, Twitter and Facebook did not exist.
Social media means that every consumer can also be a news producer. Algorithms are designed to encourage people to engage with the content of people who share their world view.
The term, “everyone thinks” is more and more common, as genuine political discourse and problem solving is discouraged.
Alternative views are not just dismissed, they are not even considered.
This creates a shock when the outcomes of elections are not what was anticipated, the most notable of which is the election of Donald Trump as US President.
To a lesser extent the fact that many Labor electorates in suburban areas returned solid votes against marriage equality surprised many activists.
I argue we need to talk with people who disagree with us. Engage. Debate. Advance.
To put it simply, we need to argue our case – every forum, every opportunity.
Conducting politics in an echo chamber does nothing to advance a progressive agenda.
If you have faith in your ideals and policies, there is nothing to fear from debating them.
What’s more if one of the distinguishing characteristics of being on the left of the political spectrum is a faith in humanity, there is an obligation to engage as broadly as possible.
Too often progressives have romanticised the past, while dismissing the recent gains that are made.
Marriage equality, the rights of First Nations and representation of women in Parliament have seen significant reform in recent years.
The gains of the Andrews Labor Government have been dismissed by the Greens Party as inconsequential.
As we have seen on issues like Climate Change, gains can be reversed if you don’t have long term Government.
And one of the consequences of the increased polarisation of politics is that compromise and searching for outcomes are seen as weakness.
Australian politics and climate policy would be very different today if the Greens Party Senators had voted for a price on carbon in 2009.
The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was economy wide and had fewer concessions that the Emissions Trading Scheme that was eventually adopted. It also had a more ambitious emissions reduction target.
Penny Wong led an extensive consultation process with industry, unions, the environmental movement and the broader community to produce a comprehensive plan.
On the crucial votes all that was required was for the five Greens Party Senators to vote with Labor and the two Liberals who crossed the Senate floor and the system would have not only been adopted, it would still be reducing emissions today.
Instead opportunism and transactional politics took priority over long term reform.
A major lesson of the Hawke and Keating legacies, is that long term Government entrenched Medicare as the cornerstone of health policy and compulsory superannuation as a key element of economic policy.
As the moderates in the Liberal Party concede ideological ground to the reactionaries, there is an opportunity for Labor to gain hegemony as the future Party.
The Greens have a common characteristic of defining themselves by what they are against.
It’s not enough to say what you want someone else to stop.
You have to be able to say what you are going to advance.
And Labor is leading the policy debates about the future whether in Government under Daniel Andrews here in Victoria, or from Opposition under Bill Shorten in Canberra.
Chris Bowen’s great policy work in areas including negative gearing, tax avoidance and family trusts have shown Labor is prepared to be bold in advancing a progressive economic agenda.
In health, education and across the board, Labor has done what Mr Abbott failed to do – we have used our time in Opposition to create a program for a better Australia.
In infrastructure we have plans for public transport including the Suburban Rail Loop, including the Airport Rail Link, and building on the Melbourne Metro.
We will once again lead on urban policy through City Partnerships focussing on productivity, sustainability and liveability. We will improve the quality of our urban waterways and promote green space.
We recognise the diversity of our community is a strength to be cherished, not an opportunity to promote division.
And we will through our actions promote discussion of further ideas, rather than yelling.
Should we be privileged to return to Government, our immediate challenge will be transit swiftly away from being in Opposition.
When you are in Government, you actually have power to do things; to make a real difference.
So you need to make an intellectual and tactical transition of the kind the current Government has failed to do.
Next time you turn on Question Time watch and see how minister after minister in the current government, when asked to respond to a reasonable question, will blame the former Labor Government.
This after five years in office.
It’s a pattern reflected in their media messaging, where their focus is about trashing our achievements rather than writing their own story of positive reform.
This Coalition has never looked like a Government.
It has operated as an Opposition in exile.
The current Government has made the mistake of believing Australians are as interested as they are in the preoccupations of the Menzies Institute, the Institute of Public Affairs or the hard right echo cave that is Sky News After Dark.
It is indeed a mistake for anyone in public life to think their Twitter feed is representative of broad public opinion.
Complex issues cannot always be reduced to 280 characters.
What characterises the most valued reforms is the consideration of detail, and successfully arguing the case.
Maintaining a serious and reformist Labor Government across many electoral terms requires a vision and clear objectives, but it also requires outcomes.
My view of what Australians want is pretty simple.
We want fulfilling lives in which we can find work and the means to live and raise our families.
Labor’s direct and enduring connection to the trade union movement means we can never forget people want to be respected at work and have pay and conditions that show they are valued.
Australians want to create a world in which our children have more opportunities than we enjoyed.
In practical terms, that means government should focus on basic services like health, education, workplace training and housing affordability.
They also want future generations to inherit a natural and urban environment that is in better than they enjoyed.
GETTING THINGS DONE
There are many lessons to take from John Button’s political activism.
The first is that we must mobilise support for reform.
Engage with working people to ensure change benefits them as change occurs.
Engage with business to promote employment and fairness.
A big lesson of the Hawke era is the value of consensus building.
Through the Accord, Bob Hawke got business and trade union leaders to sit at the same table and recognise their shared interests.
Compare that mature and constructive approach to the division promoted by the current Government.
It attacks unions, rather than engaging with them.
It cuts services relied upon by Australians, particularly disadvantaged Australians, while arguing for tax breaks for the rich.
And when the First Australians offered to collaborate on reconciliation via the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Malcolm Turnbull falsely claimed they were asking for a third chamber of Parliament, which was never the proposal.
Governments should promote consensus and seek to create prosperity that can be shared among the many, not monopolised by the few.
But the Coalition’s business model has been division.
Instead of working with institutions, they want to tear them down.
Ruthless partisanship is a failed model of Government.
It produces plenty of heat. But no light.
It saps your energy, but gets you nowhere.
Part of their problem is a slavish devotion to the fantasy that the free market holds the solution to everything and that everything will work out perfectly if only governments would get out of the way.
But the market has no conscience.
There is a role for government intervention in circumstances where market failure is working against the public interest.
That is why Labor seeks government – as participants, rather than observers.
Not as an end in itself but to improve the lives of the many, rather than the few.