Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
Jul 25, 2015

Speech to Clean Energy Rally, Melbourne

G’day friends —

I’m very proud to speak to a community rally today outside this important ALP National Conference and to do so as someone who is a proud member of the Labor Party and a delegate to this conference. Earlier this year we lost a great warrior for the environment, in my mentor Tom Uren.

What you may not know is that Tom Uren was the first environmental spokesperson for any political party in Australia, way back in the 1960’s. The platform that he put together as Labor’s environment spokesperson led to the vision that occurred under the Whitlam Government. Vision about ensuring that we looked after our natural environment but that we also understood urban environmental issues.

Then of course, we saw the great legacy continued by the Hawke and Keating including stopping the Franklin Dam; including making sure that we protected Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef; including making sure that Australia was a positive participant in the first conferences of the UNFCCC, including in Rio way back in 1992.

Labor continued that legacy in office under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard; the world’s largest marine parks. Ending the decades-long conflict over Tasmanian forests. Signing up to and ratifying Kyoto as our first action in Government.

As Labor’s then-environment spokesperson, I remember coming to a conference just like this and presenting a case for a 20% per cent renewable energy target by 2020 at a time when renewables were 2% of our electricity grid. And it has been achieved. It has been delivered.

At this conference Mark is going to tell you about how we’re going to take that to the next logical step. Because delegates to this conference just like people out there in the community understand that the challenge of dealing with climate change is the ultimate intergenerational issue. They understand that we need to have a vision for the future, not a pining for the past.

They understand that a government led by a man who says that he objects to solar and wind but doesn’t mind a coal mine, anywhere, even on prime agricultural land is a Prime Minister who is not worthy of support of the Australian people.

Delegates in there understand, just as I do, that when I’m not going to these conferences anymore, and I’m sitting on the porch with my now 14 year old son’s children, I want to be able to say that I did everything I could to deal with climate change.

It is an intergenerational issue, because what we do today impacts on what occurs tomorrow. That’s why the lecturing from first world countries such as Australia who have created the problems by having the highest per capita emissions in the world, to developing nations, where we’re not prepared to take action ourselves is simply not good enough.

It’s why we need a comprehensive, whole of government strategy.

It’s why Mark has the climate change portfolio but in reality, all of us have the climate change portfolio.

It’s why we need to invest in urban public transport, not just in roads.

It’s why we need proper emissions standards on cars.

It’s why we need to deal with the nature of our cities and making sure that jobs are closer to where people live and we have 20 minute cities whereby everyone can have access to work and recreational activity within 20 minutes by public transport cycling, or by walking with active transport.

So all of us have a responsibility.

But the bloke I’m about to introduce has a bigger responsibility than most. And the fact that he was elected ALP National President by the rank and rile of the Labor Party says to me and to all the delegates to the Party to which I belong that we value environment being front and centre.

Friends, Mark Butler.

Jul 24, 2015

Speech to ALP National Conference – Buffett Rule Amendment

Delegates —

I rise to speak in support of this amendment which will be seconded by the CPSU calling upon an incoming Labor Government to give consideration to the introduction of the Buffett Rule on tax, which I support.

This came about when US investor Warren Buffett came to realise that although he was a billionaire he paid less tax than the secretary who looked after his diary.

This proposal is the creation of a minimum tax rate levied on the total income of high-income earners. If adopted, wealthy Australians would continue to spend fortunes on accountants. But once they reached a certain rate – 35% is what was proposed in the United States – no further deductions could be claimed.

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has done research that showed that just for the top 1% of income earners, this could produce $2.5 billion revenue each and every year.

$2.5 billion that could be spent on infrastructure, on schools, on hospitals. The Australian Tax Office figures for 2011-12 show precisely why I believe very firmly that such a policy is needed.

They found that 75 wealthy Australians earning more than $1 million a year paid no tax. Of those 75, they had a combined pre-tax income of $195 million.

But their accountants managed to reduce their collective taxable incomes to just $82. That’s $82 in total out of $195 million that was earned. That is simply unacceptable.

That means that the burden of tax paid by those working men and women who are PAYG tax earners, are the people who are doing the heavy lifting. We hear a lot from this government about lifters and leaners.

Well I say, that one way we could deal with the tax system is to make sure that those people who should be paying tax do pay their tax and that those companies who should be paying tax do pay their tax as well, not offshore it.

We’ve had policy put forward by the Shadow Treasurer on multinationals to make sure that they pay their fair share of taxation. The adoption of this today will ensure that a Labor Government will give proper consideration to this proposal.

I believe it has the overwhelming support of the Australian community.

This is an issue on which we can mobilise people – because they know that the nurses, the teachers, the miners, the construction workers -they shouldn’t be paying all the tax while the millionaires simply are able to minimise theirs.

Delegates, I congratulate the CPSU on the leadership that they have shown on this issue and I comment the amendment to the conference.


Jul 24, 2015

Address to ALP National Conference event for the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons – Launch of Tom Uren Memorial Fund

Just after 11am on August 9, 1945, on the island of Omuta, prisoners of war noticed an odd discolouration on the horizon in the direction of Nagasaki, about 80km away.

Decades later one of those prisoners – Tom Uren – described the sight.

It reminded me of those beautiful crimson skies of sunsets in Central Australia, but magnified about ten times stronger, and it’s vividly… It’s never left me.

Watching a nuclear explosion that killed as many as 80,000 people had a deep effect on Tom.

In later interviews Tom noted that in 1945, he was glad the bomb had been dropped because it meant that war was about to end and he could go home after years of oppression in POW camps and being treated like a slave on the infamous Burma Railway.

But he also said that later, the more he thought about witnessing the explosion, the more he came to realise that nothing could justify the use of nuclear weapons.

He later told a journalist:

As I evolved and understood nuclear war, I found that it was a crime against humanity.

Really. I really do think that the dropping of a nuclear bomb on human beings, generally, was a crime against humanity, and a lot of my mates don’t agree with me.

It says a lot about Tom Uren that despite losing his youth to the war; despite undergoing unimaginable hardships at the hands of his Japanese captors, he was able to disconnect his own experience from the broader issue of nuclear weapons and their impact on humanity.

He came to understand that the world would be a better place without nuclear weapons and was happy to stand up and argue the point – anywhere, any time and at any cost.

Tom Uren was an extraordinary man – a great man of the Left who dedicated a lifetime of activism to a range of important causes.

If you look through the history books at photographs of some of the great public movements of the past half-century, there’s a very good chance you’ll see Tom leading the marches or rallies.

The Vietnam War.

Land rights for indigenous people.

Justice for former POWs.

Protection of our urban and natural environments.

Attacks on civil liberties.

Self-determination of the people of East Timor.

Tom was always there, right out front.

But when he retired from Parliament in 1990, he left us all in no doubt on what he saw as unfinished business.

“The labour movement has been good to me in all the years I have been in politics,’’ Tom said.

“For the rest of my life I will commit myself to the people. The struggle for nuclear disarmament is the most important struggle in the human race.’’

Although Tom passed away on Australia Day this year, his comment is as important today as it was when it was made.

In political life, we encounter many issues and fight many battles.

Some matter more than others.

But when everything is said and done, we are kidding ourselves if we don’t see the existence of nuclear arsenals that could result in the destruction of the mankind as the number one issue facing our race.

All of us need to consider this issue from the perspective of our legacy we will leave.

Only a fool would not want their children and grandchildren growing up in a nuclear world if they could do something to prevent it.

It’s true that the extreme tensions of the Cold War, which was still a cause of fear when I was young, have eased.

That’s a good thing, because in those days kids were told the world really could end at any moment.

But let’s not forget that even if tension has receded, the weapons are still out there – enough weapons to destroy the globe many times over.

According to ICAN, nine countries together possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.

A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people.

Even if global politics is no longer an intractable battle of ideologies, too many nations possess nuclear weapons.

Some use them as threats as they pursue their economic, regional or global policy ambitions.

We’ll never stop there being differences between nations over any range of matters – territorial disputes, ethnic battles, religion, politics.

But what we can do is work together to disarm so that, when nations have disputes, there is no chance that their arguments will get out of hand and lead to nuclear conflict.

International powers need to work together to that end.

They must put the arguments of the day aside and accept that the existence of so many nuclear warheads around the world represents a danger to us all.

That’s a threat we can do without.

This requires commonsense and goodwill, commodities that are sadly often absent when it comes to the debate about nuclear weapons.

Just earlier this month when US President Barack Obama clinched a deal with Iran to surrender 97 per cent of its enriched uranium and allow intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities in return for the lifting of economic sanctions by the US and Europe, he made a critical step forward in reducing the chances of a Middle east arms race.

Yet there are conservatives in the US and Israel who are uncomfortable with the idea. They are wrong.

They have given in to fear and paranoia or because they simply can’t bring themselves to trust people they see as their enemies – they can’t see the forest for the trees.

It is that sort of approach to the issue that we really need to eliminate.

We need to accept that, whatever our arguments, the existence of nuclear weapons is a threat to us all and that the only way to reduce the threat is to work together.

Or, in the words of British songwriter and activist Billy Bragg:

The only way to disarm is to disarm. (from his song The Warmest Room)

What Billy was trying to say is that we can find all sorts of excuses about why we should not disarm, but if we stop using those excuses and just get on with it, the world will be a better place – for all of us.

I don’t know if Tom Uren ever met Billy Bragg.

But I do know that after all of his experiences, Tom had a similar view on the issue.

Indeed, in 1959 Tom gave one of his first speeches in Parliament in which he expressed his dismay that when conservative politicians debated issues to do with nuclear weapons, their comments were laced with paranoid Cold war rhetoric about the evil of Russia and China.

Clear-headed Tom said: “We on this side of the House do not want a hate session with anybody.

“We must do our utmost to stop nuclear tests. Problems can no longer be solved by wars. We must solve them by peaceful negotiation.’’

More than half a century later, Tom’s words ring down the decades.

Peaceful negotiation in the interests of common humanity is the way forward.

I’m very pleased to have been asked to speak today about Tom.

As most people here would know, I used to work for this great man.

He was like a father to me and we spoke often of these issues, as well as his concern about the use of nuclear energy given the unresolved issue of safely disposing of nuclear waste.

My position on the nuclear fuel cycle is clear.

Until the issues of nuclear waste and nuclear proliferation are satisfactorily solved, I oppose any further Australian involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Nuclear waste created today, remains an issue for generations to come.

That’s why I am proud that Labor is sticking by our strong commitment to develop alternative energy sources and will seek a target of 50 per cent use of renewables by 2030.

That’s a sensible and responsible approach.

I note that Tony Abbott doesn’t like solar or wind energy.

The problem of course isn’t that Tony Abbott is stuck in the past, it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company.

I’ve had concerns about nuclear energy for my entire period in parliament, so I thank you for the chance to speak today.

I’ll speak about Tom Uren any time. He was a special man whose sense of justice and love for humanity make him one of our nation’s all-time greats.

I miss his love, his friendship, his counsel – and his hugs.

It’s fitting that ICAN has chosen to create the Tom Uren Memorial Fund.

Long may people rally behind his name.


Mar 24, 2015

Speech to the Bus Industry Confederation – Stepping Up for Urban Policy


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Former US President Abraham Lincoln once made a very important observation about the burden of leadership.

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

That’s not a bad rule for people who offer themselves up for national leadership.

If you see a problem, act now or stand idle and watch the problem get worse.

Step up.

Do something.

Don’t look the other way or claim it is someone else’s problem.

Right now, Australia is suffering a genuine problem that is crying out for national leadership.

And if we are smart, we won’t look the other way or try to make it someone else’s problem.

I’m talking about the immense pressure on our major cities.

More than 80 percent of Australians live in cities and our cities produce 80 per cent of the total value of the nation’s goods and services.

Yet urban Australia faces real challenges.

  • Traffic congestion that is a hand brake on productivity growth.
  • A mismatch between areas of population growth (in outer suburbs) and jobs growth (in inner suburbs).
  • In some places, crippling housing costs, particularly for first-home buyers.
  • Inadequate public transport, which worsens congestion.

Together, these and other problems are holding back economic growth in this country.

They prevent our cities from being the very best they can be

And if our cities are not at their best, our economy is not at its best

Neither is our standard of living

We need our economy to be at its most productive if we are to maintain and improve our standard of living and if we are to provide job opportunities for young people.

On top of this, we need to protect our quality of life.

I am particularly concerned about the rise of drive-in/drive-out suburbs in outer suburban areas caused by the mismatch of the locations of jobs growth and population growth.

Too many Australians live in areas where they can afford to buy a home, but where there are no jobs.

They spend too much time commuting and not enough time enjoying their lives.

My greatest fear is that the trend will entrench disadvantage, by denying young people in the outer suburbs access to work – a prospect that opens up the possibility of social dysfunction.

I don’t want to live in an Australia where a person’s income is immediately recognisable from their postcode.So for economic and social reasons, I believe any responsible political party seeking to run this nation needs to have a plan for our cities.

In the 21st century, the economics of the issue make it a no brainer.

I would go so far as to say that any non-rural government in this country not involved in urban policy is not doing its job.


I can’t think of many issues on the federal political scene where there is a clearer distinction between the major parties than on urban policy.

While my side of politics sees a significant role for the commonwealth in urban policy, the current government regards cities as a policy no-go area – the province of councils and states.

This policy divide has manifested itself throughout our recent political history.

The first major commonwealth policy effort in urban policy came under the Whitlam Government.

It came to power concerned about inadequate services, particularly in the outer suburbs of Australian cities.

Gough Whitlam and his minister for Urban and Regional Development, Tom Uren, unrolled a comprehensive policy approach to cities and set to work investing heavily in urban Australia.

They invested in sewerage in outer suburbs as well as parks and open space and in public transport.

Money was invested on a needs basis.

The argument was simple: Governments are elected to serve citizens.

Direct investment in cities allows genuine material improvements in people’s lives.

Whitlam and Uren created the capacity for the commonwealth to provide policy leadership to other levels of government by recruiting some of the best young minds in the country to the Department of Urban and Regional Development.

It oversaw the first attempts at decentralisation through, for example, the Albury-Wodonga project.

It worked with councils to deliver Financial Assistance grants so they could improve community facilities based on their understanding of local needs.

The conservative government that followed Whitlam’s withdrew from the urban policy space.

The Hawke and Keating Governments picked up the mantle and forged deeper partnerships with councils, protecting inner-city heritage areas and ensuring that ongoing urban development did not destroy environmental assets like the Sydney Harbour foreshore.

The subsequent Howard Government again withdrew from urban policy.

By the 2006-07 period, the Howard Government had squandered the fruits of the long-running mining boom, using it for pre-election bribes when it could have been used to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure.

Arguments about inadequate infrastructure, particularly with regard to ports and roads, routinely degenerated into an inter-government blame game as the commonwealth and the various states sought to avoid responsibility.

I’m proud to say that Labor Government that followed the Howard era delivered record infrastructure investment.

We built or rebuilt 7,500 km of road.

We built or rebuilt 4,000 km of railway line.

We created the Major Cities Unit to drive the policy development process and ensure that our efforts were co-ordinated with those of states and councils.

We cemented those inter-governmental links through the Council of Australian Governments, sealing deals with states on the development of Capital City Plans and national agreements for co-operation on our national freight, port and public transport strategies.

We also involved industry and interest groups in the planning process through our Urban Policy Forum.

We put in place the policy apparatus and we treated cities as major components in the national economy.

Unfortunately, since the change of government in 2013, the Abbott Government has withdrawn from the urban policy space.

It abolished the major cities unit.

It cancelled planned investments in major public transport projects, including the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.


In 2015, this is not good enough.

Cities are too important to the national economy to be left off the national agenda.

The days when this nation was a farm and quarry are long gone.

If we glibly dismiss our cities as just the places where people live, we miss the point about how critical they are to our economy, to job prospects and to our future.

Various estimates put the cost of congestion at more than $10 billion a year.

Imagine if that money was not lost to inefficiency but remained in the pockets of business to be invested in further enterprise and more jobs.

When Labor came to office in 2007, we set about improving urban passenger rail, with the projects that I mentioned earlier which have since been scrapped by the current government.

But we also invested heavily in improving the way in which goods move through our cities to our ports by untangling urban freight and passenger lines so they could operate independently.

Projects like the Southern Sydney Freight Line project mean that freight can move through the city on rail at any time of the day, whereas it was previously frozen during peak hours when passenger trains dominated the lines.

This is a perfect example of the way in which governments need to see the debate about urban policy as an economic debate.

When we talk about the level to which governments want to engage with urban policy, we are actually talking about the extent to which governments involve themselves in genuine economic policy.

I must say I was concerned last week when I heard that than man in charge of our economy, the Treasurer, had recently told Melbourne planner Rob Adams he believed cities were a no-go zone for the commonwealth.

“Not our jurisdiction,’’ Mr Adams quoted Joe Hockey as having said to him in a recent meeting.

Recounting this at a conference in Melbourne last week, Mr Adams said:

And I sat there stunned thinking, ’80 per cent of the economy is not your jurisdiction?'”

Mr Adams is spot on.

Given the centrality of the health of cities to our economy and to our standard of living, it is extraordinary that the man in charge of our economy sees no role for urban policy.


I am very pleased that the Bus Industry Confederation understands the importance of cities.

People in your industry have a firsthand understanding of issues like congestion and traffic planning.

I note that your organisation today released new research promoting the 20-minute city – the idea that an individual’s work, social sporting, educational and other needs should all be within 20 minutes of home by walking, cycling or catching public transport.

Your chief executive Michael Apps noted in a statement today that:

The federal government must have a vision for our cities and get involved or we will end up with more long term strategic plans for our cities that only last as long as the term of the state governments that make them.

Michael is quite correct.

I congratulate your organisation for your advocacy in this important area.

I also thank you sincerely for your participation in the Opposition’s urban policy dialogue, which I have been using to help inform the policy formulation process for the next federal election.

I assure you Labor’s policies will be geared toward giving cities the prominence the deserve in the national policy debate.

In particular, this forum will allow the Opposition to put flesh on the bones of the ten-point plan for cities that I released last year in a major speech to the National Press Club.

  1.  Investing in properly integrated transport systems involving public transport and roads;
  2. Investing in active transport solutions which connect up with public transport, education and employment hubs;
  3. Addressing housing affordability through the use of urban planning, land supply and use of incentives;
  4. Aligning greater housing density with public transport corridors;
  5. Promoting jobs growth in outer suburbs. This could be through direct investment such as Badgerys Creek Airport and Moorebank Intermodal project, or by giving consideration to incentives for location of business;
  6. Promoting jobs growth in middle rings around cities by investing in research precincts around universities and hospitals;
  7. Supporting connectivity and productivity through fibre-to-the-premise National Broadband Network;
  8. Supporting renewable energy including buildings and precincts that produce their own power in new developments;
  9. Enhancing sustainability and resilience of household and industrial water supply and rehabilitating our urban waterways which for too long were used for industrial waste;
  10. Cooperation between Governments to promote the development of second or third CBD’s to decentralize jobs growth.


Let me turn briefly to a couple of current issues closely tied to the future of cities.

The former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia to provide the government with independent advice on the relative merits of infrastructure projects competing for commonwealth funding.

The idea was that if elected representatives had access to evidence about the economic cases for investing in one project or another, they could make decisions that would provide the maximum lift to national productivity.

We wanted to break the link between the infrastructure investment process, which is long term, and the political process, which is short-term.

Prior to the 2013 election, the Coalition committed itself to this evidence-based process, promising it would not invest any money in projects worth more than $100 million without a published cost-benefit analysis.

The Opposition is concerned the government is drifting away from this evidence-based approach.

Two examples that bear upon your business highlight this trend.

In last year’s election, the Abbott government committed $3 billion to the former Napthine Government’s proposed East-West Link toll road project.

After Labor won last year’s Victorian state election, documents emerged showing the project would return only 45 cents for every dollar invested.

Anyone in the private sector who was handed a project with such a poor a benefit-cost ratio would order it be taken back to the drawing board.

But the documents also suggested the former Napthine Government sought to conceal this research, knowing it would not stand up to Infrastructure Australia scrutiny.

So it is clear that the commonwealth was happy to fund this project without having seen a proper business case – a direct breach of its pre-election promise.

The Auditor General is examining this case to determine how such a decision could have been made.

In Sydney, the commonwealth is enthusiastically backing the proposed Westconnex project.

For as long as this project has been discussed, its object has been to take cars from Sydney’s west to the CBD and freight to Port Botany.

As it is currently proposed, Westconnex does neither.

I’m all for a solution to ease traffic congestion in Sydney.

But it’s important with such a huge project that we get it right.

Money spent on infrastructure must meet its strategic objectives.

Late last year the NSW Auditor General Grant Hehir noted serious deficiencies in planning and quality assurance processes relating to the project.

Mr Hehir’s report found that:

The preliminary business case submitted for gateway review had many deficiencies and fell well short of the standard required for such a document.

The report said there were not “clearly separate roles and responsibilities for delivery, commissioning and assurance’’ nor “robust processes and procedures to manage the conflicts’’ that arose from this lack of separation.

Another demonstration of lack of process is the government’s willingness to hand over money to states without requirements that they meet construction milestones.

On June 6 last year the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure told the Civil Contractors Federation that he would insist on milestones.

The Minister said:

… that we’re only making payments to states when they actually deliver the milestones, that they’re not getting money in their bank account prior to milestones being delivered …

Nine months later the commonwealth has handed billions of dollars of public money to the Victorian and NSW Governments for the East-West Link and Westconnex.

The money came upfront.

It is now doing exactly what the minister said he would not allow – sitting idle in bank accounts.

No milestone payments.

No cost benefit analysis.

No process.


As your organisation noted today when releasing your research on the 20-minute city, we are no longer living in the 1960s, when Australia rode on the sheep’s back.

In 2015, cities drive our economy.

For four out of five of us, they provide our jobs, our homes and our opportunities for social and sporting interaction.

But above all, our cities hold the key to our continued economic prosperity and that of our children.

They need to be efficient or their inefficiency will hold us back.

That will hold our children back.

We have heard a lot from the current government about intergenerational theft – the idea that it is wrong to expect our children to pay our debts after we are gone.

But another type of intergeneration theft is staring us in the face, caused by our failure to step up to the demands of today.

If we fail to do everything we can to energise our cities and drive their productivity, we’ll bequeath the job to our children.

And the passage of time will mean the problem will be far greater in the future than it would be if we had the courage to tackle it today.

The same argument applies when it comes to public transport.

The commonwealth’s refusal to spend a dollar on public transport on purely ideological grounds means that as long as the current government is in office, the problem will get worse.

It won’t go away.

But it will be more difficult to fund because the economic growth will have been smaller.

Let me end my address where I started – with Abraham Lincoln  – a man whose simple wisdom saved a nation and has inspired generations.

Lincoln was by nature an optimist.

Confronted with difficulties, Lincoln looked forward, not back.

Lincoln once said: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time’’.

It’s not too late for this government to step up to urban policy.



Mar 23, 2015

Social Payoff in Better Cities – Opinion – The Big Smoke

Income by postcode, the notion of equality and the real threat to our identity Shadow Minister for Cities, Anthony Albanese, can imagine a nightmare scenario of an Australia where someone’s income is immediately recognisable by their postcode. But Australia does not need to go down this path. Here’s how …

Equality and a fair go are central to the Australian identity.

Most of us want a country where everyone has equal access to the necessities: education, healthcare and employment. It is part of our social DNA to support the idea that everyone deserves the same opportunities in life.

But equality has to be nurtured. It is under constant attack; sometimes from government decisions, but more usually by change.

In 2015, I’m worried about two related threats to equality: changes in geographic distribution of jobs and a resulting threat to the vitality of our local communities.

Recently there has been a big shift in the locations of jobs growth in Australian cities.

In previous years, industries like manufacturing and retailing ensured there was strong jobs growth in the outer suburbs of our big cities. That was a good thing because housing affordability in the outer suburbs drove very strong population growth.

However, in the past decade, the decline of manufacturing has choked job growth in the outer suburbs, and the rise of the digital age has shifted jobs growth in inner suburbs, particularly in tech-heavy services industries like finance and insurance.

In other words, our population is growing in areas where job opportunities are limited, and job growth is now situated in places where average workers can’t afford to live.

This is forcing an increasing number of Australians to live in drive-in/drive-out suburbs and commute long distances to work on congested roads.

This damages their quality of life. It is a tragedy that many working parents spend more time in their cars than interacting with their children at home.

If this trend continues our nation is at risk of creating a new generation of alienated young people living in the outer suburbs – detached from work opportunities and prone to welfare dependence.

Governments must act to prevent the tyranny of distance compromising equality of access to work, and can tackle these challenges, which, in the process, will build stronger and more vibrant communities.

We need to provide incentives for businesses creating jobs in outer suburbs to begin to make up for the decline in jobs growth in these areas.

We also need to work with business and other levels of government to improve housing affordability closer to the inner city.

To that end, we need to increase housing density in parts of the inner suburbs, particularly along established public transport corridors. And we need to invest in better rail transport in our cities, giving priority to more frequent services, particularly to the outer suburbs, while also investing in effective roads.

The current demographic trend is having a detrimental effect on communities.

Most people like to feel a part of their local community. They crave a sense of connection through their local shops and restaurants, schools, churches and clubs.

It is hard to maintain such a connectedness if you live in a drive-in/drive-out suburb where you sleep in between driving hours each day to and from work.

It’s also hard if your inner-city community is sterile and lifeless, and provides no opportunities for you to engage with the people around you.

Again, governments have it within their means to help – by supporting communities right across our cities – whether they are in the CBD or on the very edge of town.

People need to be at home, not in their cars, to interact with others in their community, to develop and improve their relationships with their family and neighbours, and to be participants in community and social life.

Addressing the mismatch between jobs growth and population growth can help. But beyond this, councils and governments need to become more active in nurturing communities generally.

We should work with the housing and development industries on ways to make our cities more lively places with mixed use developments that allow people to live and work in the same area.

Our town planners need to think not just about the interior design of new buildings, but also about the spaces between those buildings. Properly planned community spaces can enhance communities by providing areas where people can interact.

Better designed communities with more effective public transport options also have a health pay-off, particularly if we focus on the smart design of community hubs around public transport, and greater use of safe and secure walking and cycling tracks.

All of this is possible – if governments choose to accept the view that they have a role to play in the way our cities function.

The current federal government sees no role for itself in either provision of public transport or the development of our cities.

This is a great pity.

My nightmare scenario is one of an Australia where people’s income is immediately recognisable by their postcode. That’s the last thing we need.

Successful cities are not random collections of disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage.

They are diverse, and their diversity can be harnessed to drive great social outcomes as well as the economic productivity that sustains our lifestyles.

This article appeared in The Big Smoke today.

Mar 12, 2015

Speech to Australian Logistics Council – Delivering for Australia: The Importance of Process in Infrastructure – Melbourne Cricket Ground

I’m pleased to once again address the forum of the Australian Logistics Council.

Many Australians don’t understand the importance of the logistics industry to our nation.

Your work sometimes goes unnoticed.

It’s only when supply chains don’t work – which is the exception in this country – that people notice them.

That of course is a tribute to your industry.

It’s critical to the way our nation works.

Chinese military leader and strategist Sun Tzu once described logistics as “the line between disorder and order’’.

Another military genius, Alexander the Great, once noted that his logistics advisers were a completely humourless bunch.

After all, Alexander said: “They know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.”

Fortunately, things are different in the 21st century.

But logistical failure is still very serious.

In a busy world where time is money, the financial penalties involved in not being able to move goods quickly are no laughing matter.


The theme of this forum is Delivering for Australia.

That’s just what your industry does.

And I am sure the task involves a never-ending quest for improvement.

But delivering for Australia is also the job of the Commonwealth Government.

And delivering reliable infrastructure is central to that responsibility.

Both of us have to get it right.

You might be running a trucking company and through hard work and clever management, you might wring every last drop of productivity out of your operation.

But without efficient, well-maintained roads that are not congested, much of your effort will go to waste.

That’s why it’s so important for your sector that governments get it right.

Us getting it right, is a precondition, for you getting it right.

And if we both get it right, we unlock productivity gains, jobs growth and prosperity.


I have a long-term interest in infrastructure and transport.

It was a central theme of my first speech in Parliament in 1996.

We must deliver the right projects at the right time to maximise the economic impact of our investment.

Public funds are limited.

It is essential that when we invest those scarce funds, we do so in a way that maximises the effect of the investment on national productivity growth.

The former Labor Government had that principle in mind in 2008 when we created Infrastructure Australia – the first attempt in this nation to apply an evidence-based approach to infrastructure.

Infrastructure Australia’s job is to advise the Commonwealth on the relative merits of infrastructure projects competing for public funding.

The challenge is to break the nexus between the political cycle, which is short-term, and the infrastructure investment cycle, which is long term.

Of course, Infrastructure Australia is an adviser.

Elected governments still make decisions, as they should.

But by publishing its evidence, Infrastructure Australia provides the public with information on which to base its judgements about government performance.

There is another important reason for this transparency.

If both sides of politics can rely upon Infrastructure Australia to provide facts to back decisions about competing infrastructure projects, both can embrace its evidence-based findings.

That has the potential to create a pipeline of productivity-driving infrastructure projects with bipartisan support – a pipeline that can exist across multiple electoral terms and multiple governments.

This design is far superior to the old system, under which decision-makers could always be tempted to determine investment priorities with the assistance of the electoral pendulum.

The Infrastructure Australia model provides far greater certainty.

After creating Infrastructure Australia, the former Labor Government used its independent advice to begin to tackle what we saw as a serious infrastructure deficit.

While the mining boom had fattened Commonwealth coffers during the Howard era, the government of the time failed to reinvest the proceeds of the good times in improved infrastructure.

The deficit was particularly serious in the area of freight.

Six years later, when Labor lost office, we had made a genuine impact – reforming the system, creating the nation’s first national freight and port strategies and delivering record investment.

When Labor Government took power, Australia was 20th in the OECD for infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP.

When we left, Australia was 1st.

We lifted annual per capita spending on infrastructure from $132 a year in 2007 to $225 in 2013.

We doubled the roads budget – building or upgrading 7500km of road.

We rebuilt more than a third of the national freight network – more than 4000km of track as part of a $3.4 billion investment in freight rail.

One outcome of our investments is that by 2016, the average trip from Brisbane to Melbourne will have been shortened by seven hours.

The journey from the nation’s east to west coasts will have been reduced by nine hours.

Big companies like Woolworths and Australia Post have moved some of their freight to rail.

That’s highly significant.

There will always be a role for moving freight by road.

But when we move freight on to efficient, properly maintained rail systems, we make the roads safer and we reduce carbon emissions.

This approach highlights the value of having an independent adviser like Infrastructure Australia.

Its existence allows us to stop seeing individual transport modes as separate from each other and to begin to see our transport system for what it is – incredibly complex, multi-layered and interconnected.

When we take a helicopter view of the infrastructure scene – looking not just at individual projects but at how they all fit together – we can invest in projects that supercharge productivity – projects whose combined value exceeds the sum of their individual parts.

When it comes to freight, the role of government must be to eliminate bottlenecks and create seamless links between different modes of transport.

That’s why our freight and ports strategies, developed by Infrastructure Australia, are so important.

All players in the supply chain should now be working to the same objectives.


However, the best evidence-based system in the world is of no use if governments fail to make use of it.

I am deeply concerned that the current government is drifting away from the Infrastructure Australia model.

Despite pre-election promises that it would adhere to, and indeed strengthen, the model, the current government appears to have succumbed to political temptation and is drifting away from transparency and evidence-based policy making.

The worst example is its $3 billon commitment to Melbourne’s East-West Link.

In last year’s Budget, the Commonwealth provided the then Victorian State Government $1.5 billion as an advance payment for the project.

It did this without Infrastructure Australia having seen a cost-benefit analysis, let alone having approved the project.

As those of you who live in Melbourne know, the project was at the very centre of November’s state election campaign.

After the election, documents released by the incoming Andrews Government showed that the project had a benefit-cost ratio of only 0.45.

That’s a paltry return of only 45 cents in the dollar.

Those documents also suggested that the Napthine Government sought to conceal this research, knowing that the decision to proceed with the project would not stand up to Infrastructure Australia scrutiny.

At the same time this was happening, the Commonwealth was withdrawing investment in projects like the M80 upgrade, the Melbourne Metro and the Managed Motorways program – projects that Infrastructure Australia had endorsed.

In this case, proper process went out the window along with common sense and respect for taxpayers.

The last thing this nation needs is political parties fighting election campaigns on the basis of the delivery of major infrastructure projects that have not undergone independent scrutiny.

Only the facts can empower voters to make informed judgements about what politicians say in the heat of electoral battle.

Elected representatives should have enough ambition for this country to put their best foot forward in terms of productivity rather than resorting to the backward step of making decisions without any evidence.

That’s why I was disappointed to hear that when the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure addressed this forum yesterday, he continued to argue that taxpayers should invest billions of dollars in the East West Link, knowing it has a benefit-cost-ratio of 0.45.

Such an approach would not be treated seriously in the private sector.

And it is no way to treat public money.

It’s not just the East-West Link that concerns me.

In Sydney, the state and Commonwealth governments’ approach to the proposed Westconnex project is showing signs of also not going through proper process.

This was identified by the NSW Auditor-General Grant Hehir late last year in a report in which he noted serious deficiencies in planning and quality assurance processes relating to the project.

Mr Hehir’s report found that:

The preliminary business case submitted for gateway review had many deficiencies and fell well short of the standard required for such a document.

The report said there were not “clearly separate roles and responsibilities for delivery, commissioning and assurance’’ nor “robust processes and procedures to manage the conflicts’’ that arose from this lack of separation.

The object of Westconnex is to take people to the Sydney CBD and freight to Port Botany.

Infrastructure NSW acknowledged this fact in a 2012 report identifying its immediate concerns about Sydney’s infrastructure.

In a section under the heading First Things First, the report said:

 In recent years, rapid demand growth at Port Botany and Sydney Airport has impacted on NSW’s transport networks, particularly around these facilities.

With growth forecast to continue, investment is urgently needed in land side infrastructure to allow access to these gateways.

The expert advice was unambiguous.

Yet Westconnex, as it currently proposed, will not take freight to the Port.

It will not take people to the city.

It’s a road to a traffic jam.

I’m all for a project that will reduce traffic congestion in Sydney, particularly western Sydney.

But if we are going to proceed, let’s get it right.

Money spent on infrastructure must meet its strategic objectives.

Another issue that concerns me is the Commonwealth‘s willingness to hand money to states without requiring them to meet construction milestones.

That is certainly the case with both Westconnex and the East-West Link.

Money has been handed over upfront, with no attempt to hold states to agreed milestones.

This is at odds with comments made on June 6 last year by the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, who told the Civil Contractors Federation:

… that we’re only making payments to states when they actually deliver the milestones, that they’re not getting money in their bank account prior to milestones being delivered …

But as those comments were being made – the government was preparing to place $1.5 billion dollars in the Victorian Government’s bank account, well in advance of anything actually happening.


Perhaps part of the problem has been the lack of leadership within Infrastructure Australia.

The former Infrastructure Co-ordinator left his post in February, 2014, and has since taken up a senior infrastructure role in the South Australian Government.

It took until last Thursday – more than a year – for the government to appoint Philip Davies as his replacement.

I wish Mr Davies good luck.

He’s a man with an impressive record in infrastructure and has a particular interest in public transport.

Infrastructure Australia must be central to delivering better infrastructure outcomes.


Another issue on the current Government’s agenda that I know is important to your sector is maritime reform.

There’s an understandable push from business to lower the cost of shipping.

The current Government has made clear that it plans to roll back Labor’s coastal trading regime, which came into effect in 2012 after exhaustive consultation with industry.

Labor’s arrangements allow for foreign-flagged vessels to work Australian domestic trade routes provided no Australian vessels are available.

Conditions include the payment of Australian level wages to ensure local shipping companies can compete.

Rather than resort to the sort of protectionism we see in the US maritime sector, we did not ban foreign vessels.

Indeed, to encourage an Australian international shipping fleet, we created a new register which would see shipping companies and seafarers engaged in international trade have a zero rate of taxation.

It was a balanced package – one designed to allow the local industry to survive and, over time, to prosper.

The current Government calls these arrangements red tape and has sought to undermine the changes since before they even took effect.

Let make Labor’s position on this issue crystal clear.

When a business chooses to move freight around this nation by road, the truck driver is paid Australian level wages in accordance with Australian law.

When a business moves freight around this nation by air, the pilot is paid in accordance with Australian arrangements.

Labor believes the situation should be no different when people move freight by sea.

Allowing one mode of transport to pay third-world wages while others do not will distort the market.


Let me now turn to where I believe infrastructure development should be headed in this country over the next decade or so.

A focus should be continual intermodal integration to lift efficiency.

Let me put it in the words of Infrastructure Australia, which, not long after its creation in 2008, outlined its national themes for better infrastructure.

It noted:

Rail and road freight infrastructure planning and investment can no longer be undertaken in isolation from each other, or worse, in competition with each other.

Traditionally, policy has been segmented by mode; for example, by road, rail, aviation and shipping, and by jurisdiction.

Much of the early work of the former Labor Government was dedicated to creating an integrated approach – one we can now use as a springboard to achieve greater efficiencies.

Our national strategies for ports, freight and aviation were not simply feel-good rhetoric.

They formed a blueprint for co-operation between the Commonwealth and state governments to achieve this integrated vision.

Projects like the Northern Sydney Freight Line and like the Southern Sydney Freight Line are about separating freight and passenger traffic, thereby boosting productivity.

Here’s another example – one that highlights the need for government to work with industry to achieve efficiencies.

In 2013 the former Labor Government partnered with the NSW State Government to fund $364,000 worth of road improvements to improve access to the Chullora Intermodal in Sydney.

We did this because Infrastructure Australia told us that restrictions to heavy vehicle use that existed before the upgrade had cost the economy and freight operators $22 million over the previous five years.

For a relatively small investment, we have significantly boosted productivity.

As a result, Asciano has invested $30 million in two new cranes at Chullora, which it expects will remove up to 100,000 truck movements a year from Sydney roads.

This is best practice.

By 2013, when Labor released its Nation Building II program, we identified four themes for the future of infrastructure delivery, using the better integration we had delivered to achieve better outcomes.

The four themes were: Innovation, Moving Freight, Connecting People and Safety.

The innovation theme focuses on investment in smart infrastructure, planning, research, evaluation and compliance.

As an example, smart infrastructure such as electronic signage on urban highways can improve traffic flows by up to 15 percent, helping to curb congestion.

On safety, the Commonwealth should continue to invest in local roads and the elimination of black spots.

Under the Connecting People theme, we should pursue the productivity of our highways, roads and rail corridors while directly targeting pinch points and alleviating urban congestion.

And on the Moving Freight theme we should further extend and connect our road and freight linkages – particularly at our ports and intermodal facilities.

These themes all stand alone.

But they also fit together.

Their interconnection involves a payoff for everyone.

For example, a focus on safety saves lives.

But it also improves productivity by eliminating black spots.

A focus on better connections for freight improves productivity, but also improves road safety by taking freight off the roads and on to railway lines.

In these times of fiscal restraint, we should also be thinking hard about the use of technology because in many cases it allows for better use of existing assets.

Earlier I mentioned the poor benefit-cost ratio involved in the East-West Link here in Melbourne.

While the current Government still wants to pursue that project, it has cancelled a $137 million investment in the managed motorways program relating to the Monash Freeway here in Melbourne.

Infrastructure Australia analysis suggests that project has a cost-benefit ratio well above five.

This is a reminder that using innovative technologies that allow for better signalling and changing lane flows according to peak hours can yield huge gains at relatively low investment levels.

We’ll always need to build new infrastructure, and if we choose the right projects, the work pays for itself in productivity gains.

But we must never forget the productivity gains we can find by making better use of existing assets.


As I have explained today, I’m concerned about what I see as a drift away from evidence-based decision making.

That drift will make it harder to be certain that we are spending money in a manner that maximises its impact on productivity.

It’s time for all governments, at all levels, to act on the basis of facts when they spend large sums of public money.

For example, the former Labor Government partnered with the ACT Government to build the $288 million Majura Parkway.

This exciting road project will allow tens of thousands of trucks to avoid the city of Canberra and instead travel along the new parkway to the east of the city.

It will reduce a 20-minute journey at peak time to only seven minutes.

We funded for one reason. When it is completed, it will deliver a real boost in productivity.

Then there was the Hunter Expressway in which the commonwealth invested $1.5 billion.

Talked about for 20 years, but because there was no political gain, never delivered.

We did it.

There was only one reason: It returned more than $4 in productivity gains for every dollar invested.

Or there was the allocation of $300 million for the Inland Rail – the first money to advance construction – not added to by the current government.

When we think about infrastructure, we need to forget about politics and focus on outcomes for the entire economy.

To some political practitioners, such an approach seems like a wasted opportunity.

But they are missing the point.

Governments are judged on their ability to achieve national progress – to create jobs and to maintain and enhance and efficient and productive economy.

Any government that can do that will be judged kindly by voters.


Feb 27, 2015

The Battle for Fairness – Speech to the Ballarat Trades hall dinner, Midlands Golf Club, Ballarat

I’m delighted to be here in Ballarat, a city for ever linked with the proud history of organised labour in this country.

It’s a place of great history – a place where, in years gone by, fortunes were made in a day.

Where, in 1854, diggers angry about onerous government licensing requirements rebelled, harnessing the strength that comes from unity in the face of unfairness.

Of course, there were no unions at the time of the Eureka Stockade.

But the spirit of collectivism that flourished on the goldfields was an important point in the history of this nation.

It was a catalyst for subsequent events that gave birth to trade unions and the Australian Labor Party.

In fact, I understand your secretary contends that it is fact Ballarat, not Barcaldine or Balmain, that was the birthplace of the ALP.

More than a century and a half later, Ballarat is still a city where people understand the strength of unity.

It’s a city where people take values seriously.

Where people join together in the collective good, rather than succumbing to the selfish weakness of individualism that forms the ideological basis of the views and actions of our opponents.

That’s a good thing.


Because today, just like those diggers in 1854, we face a battle for fairness – a serious contest about what values underpin our national life.

Our opponents are ideologues with no positive plan for Australia.

They can tell you the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

Most people who stand for office, whatever their political stripe, want to take the nation forward – to make it a better place.

But Tony Abbott is a reactionary.

The problem isn’t that Tony Abbott is stuck in the past – it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company.

That’s why the 2014 Budget was not a plan for the future, but an attack on the gains of the past.

The Prime Minister’s vision for Australia is one seen through a rear-vision mirror.

  • A place where people pay a Medicare levy every week only to be told they have to pay again to visit a doctor;
  • A place where education is not about spreading opportunity, but entrenching privilege;
  • Where climate science is derided;
  • Where a visiting US president’s praise for the splendor of the Great Barrier Reef is attacked as an affront to our national sovereignty.
  • Mr Abbott’s world is a place where our renewable energy target has been so successful that it has to be scrapped.
  • Where we have only two women in the cabinet;
  • Where the government’s political agenda is set by shock jocks and partisan newspaper columnists;
  • Where bigotry is a right;
  • Where people communicate over ageing copper wire rather than 21st century fibre.

No wonder 39 of Mr Abbott’s colleagues voted for an empty chair.

They know Tony Abbott won’t be forgiven for treating his election promises like plates at a Greek wedding.

No cuts to health – smashed.

No cuts to education – smashed.

No cuts to the ABC – smashed.

No cuts to pensions – smashed.

Even worse, when anyone called Mr Abbott out on his deceit, he has made the ridiculous, Monty Pythonesque assertion that he has broken no promises.

When Queensland LNP member Wyatt Roy dared to raise the issue of broken promises at a private dinner, Mr Abbott rounded on him with expletives and scorn.


The verdict is in – Tony Abbott is finished.

His own caucus knows that Australians no longer take him seriously.

Mr Abbott has run out of political capital.

He exhausted it all on the issues that matter the most to him.

  • Like proposing to pay millionaires $50,000 to have babies.
  • Like attacking the ABC and the Human Rights Commission
  • Like reintroducing knights and dames and then granting one to the Queens’s husband.


But regardless of who replaces Mr Abbott – whether it is that modest battler from struggle street, Point Piper, Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop, little will change.

The real problem for the Coalition all along has been its lack of policy ideas.

Most political parties that lose government go into a period of introspection. They return to the policy drawing board and seek ways to re-engage with the electorate.

That’s what the Labor Party is up to right now.

But after losing office in 2007 off the back of the obscene WorkChoices regime, the Coalition devoted six years to shouting three-word slogans.

They did not work on policy.

They had a plan to get into government, but no plan to govern.

So now, whoever is prime minister, the Coalition is bereft when it comes to ideas.

Because of that lack of policy development, the Coalition has retreated to implementing policies that reflect their prejudices.

You can be sure that if the term public is involved, it will come under heavy attack.

Public education.

Public health.

Public broadcasting.

Public transport.

You might recognise a bit of theme here.

They just don’t like the public.

Instead they stand for vested interests.

That’s why they want to change the balance of power in the workplace.

At the front line is their attack on penalty rates, which they characterise as a way to create more jobs.

What they don’t understand is that many working families rely upon penalty rates to meet the basics of life – to pay their mortgage, to feed their families and to fit out their children for school.

They just don’t get it.


We in Labor will be successful if we campaign on our values.

Our values are simple.

We want the next generation to enjoy a better standard of living than we enjoyed.

We want our kids to have greater opportunity for education, whether that be university, or a TAFE qualification.

We want to hand them a natural environment that is in better shape than the one we inherited.

We want to lift people up.

The fundamental difference between us and our opponents is that we care about our entire community, not just about ourselves.

That’s why I admire so much the trade union delegates and community activists who are here tonight.

Your involvement in our great labour movement is a part of a historical tradition of selfless commitment to collectivism.

You fight for others, not just for yourselves.


Whilst our fundamental values are central to our pitch for support, Labor also needs to put forward specific policies that highlight the differences between us and our opponents.

Those differences could not be more clear than in my own policy areas of infrastructure and cities.

Ever since the Whitlam era, Labor has worked with councils and state governments on concrete ways to improve the standard of living of Australians within their own communities.

We’ve focused particularly on outer suburbs and cities.

But when I talk about cities, I’m not just talking about capital cities, which are under siege from urban sprawl, traffic congestion and a lack of job opportunities close to where people live.

I’m also talking about regional cities like Ballarat.

If we can make our regional cities more productive, sustainable and liveable, they can take some of the developmental stress off the capital cities.

Last year, in a major speech at the National Press Club, I released a 10-point action plan for our cities that included a new focus on decentralisation of job creation.

We need to focus on jobs in regional areas – not only for current residents, but so that, over time, they will become more attractive to capital city people looking for a fresh start.

We cannot afford to go backwards.

I understand that there have been a number of recent job losses in your community involving employers like Telstra and Allied Mills.

When the Tories talk about regional development, they are usually referring to pork barrelling in National Party electorates.

But Labor understands that regional development is about jobs, economic development and quality of life.

We will go to the next election not just talking the talk.

We have a genuine record of delivery we can point to that demonstrates that we can also walk the walk.

This afternoon I was proud to inspect progress on the duplication of the Western Highway from here to Stawell.

Despite Warren Truss’s constant attempts to re-announce this project and pretend it was somehow delivered by Tony Abbott, Labor is responsible for this work.

We also upgraded the Western Freeway between Melton and Bacchus Marsh via a new connection through the appropriately named Anthony’s Cutting.

Then there’s the biggest single commonwealth investment in public transport in the history of this nation – the Regional Rail Link.

It was designed, funded and substantially delivered by Labor.

This fantastic project is untangling suburban and regional rail lines and providing faster links between Melbourne and regional centres like Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

In the next election campaign, we’ll be making sure voters understand our commitment to the regions.

At the same time, we can expect more of the old negative politics from the Tories.

They will try to scare people.

They’ll also demonise unions and working people.

For a group that loves to talk about security, I find it more than passing strange that they never want to talk about security in the workplace.

They simply don’t understand that job security is essential for the quality of life of working people and their communities.


Thanks again for your invitation to be here tonight.

Let me leave you with a comment about the nature of political debate in this country.

Tony Abbott is the most-negative politician in living memory.

Throughout his time leading the Liberal party, the quality of political debate has reached alarming lows.

Where previously, politics was a battle of ideas, Tony Abbott has turned it into an ugly shouting match where the facts mean nothing.

He has based his political discourse on negativity and three-word slogans, not on policy and respectful debate.

I am convinced this is why Australians constantly tell pollsters they have no respect for politicians or the political process.

We in the Labor movement must begin to address this problem.

The best way to do that is to base our arguments for power on carefully thought-out policies – policies that pass the test of fairness while also dealing with the genuine economic challenges our nation faces.

We need to talk about ideas, not personalities; policy, not dogma.

Just like those Diggers in 1854, Labor’s cause is justice for all.

It’s a compelling narrative, one that will beat three-word slogans every time.


Feb 4, 2015

Address at Tom Uren’s State Funeral – A Life In Politics

To understand Tom Uren’s political career, which featured 32 years in parliament as the Federal Labor Member for Reid, the best place to start is at the end.

When he retired in 1990, he was asked what he would do now he was no longer in politics.

“I’m out of Parliament,” Tom said, “not out of politics.”

Tom’s political power and influence came directly from his political conviction.

Tom Uren was a man of substance.

Tom was a true believer.

He was a proud man of the Left – “Straight Left” as he named his wonderful autobiography.

Political activism was a way of life.

A responsibility.

Over his long career, he pursued this responsibility with commitment, tenacity and absolute conviction.

He could be a ferocious and fearless opponent.

But just as importantly, he did so with a generosity of spirit and a willingness to work with anyone of good will to achieve practical outcomes.

He was selfless in his struggle for justice, compassion and progress.

If you look at photographs of some of the big peoples’ political movements over six decades, chances are you will see Tom in the front line:

  • The Vietnam War moratoriums
  • The anti-nuclear movement
  • Indigenous land rights
  • Protection of our urban and natural environment
  • Self-determination for the people of East Timor
  • Justice for war veterans
  • Uncompromising defence of civil liberties

If he was convinced he was right, he feared nothing.

Not criticism.

Not even jail.

But then again, I suppose it’s pretty hard to intimidate a bloke with the threat of an Australian jail, when he had worked on the Burma Railway.

Tom lived the vision of change outlined by Barack Obama who once said:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Tom was always seeking change.

On the streets.

At public forums.

In the Labor Party.

In the Parliament.

He was immensely proud of his last major victory, when he convinced Julia Gillard and the former Labor Government to provide compensation for surviving prisoners of war.

The great testimony to Tom’s life as an activist is that he was on the right side of history on all of the major causes he was associated with.

When Tom and his great mate Jim Cairns led opposition to the Vietnam War it was a radical position.

It takes moral courage to campaign and bring people with you.

After he was declared one of the 100 living national treasures in 1997, Tom joked that people applauding his lifetime of achievement would have had him hanged in the 1960s over these very same issues.

There’s a message here that we should never forget.

Today’s unfashionable cause can become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.

Tom argued that if you believe in your heart that your cause is just, you should fight for it.

And fight Tom did.

Tom’s parliamentary career began in 1958, in the seat of Reid after moving to Guildford with his wife Patricia.

In a hard fought preselection he defeated a sitting member, Charlie Morgan, who he saw as being linked with the right-wing industrial groups.

This was the first time a sitting Labor member had been successfully ousted for a long time.

He didn’t do it by stacking branches or calling upon favours from sympathetic trade union blocks.

He simply argued his case and persuaded party members over cups of tea at their kitchen tables.

He was persuasive, passionate, and of course he could be charming.

His conviction shone through and he was a grassroots campaigner without peer.

While he was a strong supporter of collectivism through the union movement, it was the community that was his political support base.

You couldn’t walk down the street alongside him, without feeling the warmth that people had for him.

People truly loved him.

After easily winning his seat, Tom spent his first two or three terms creating firm alliances with likeminded MPs.

He worked hard to absorb knowledge from colleagues and books as he sought to make up for his lack of educational opportunities earlier in life.

He taught himself the principles of economics and the fine detail of the full spectrum of commonwealth legislative activities.

Tom wanted to change the world.

And his tool was persuasion.

His aim was incremental progress.

He would always tell me, “you’ve got to bring people with you.”

It didn’t stop opponents questioning his patriotism.

Tom responded with successful legal action.

Tom built a place in the mountains called Fairfax Retreat, and a house down the South Coast he nicknamed Packer’s Lodge.

By the late 1960s Tom was in a leadership role.

Tom had a difficult relationship with Whitlam, worrying that Gough might be too wedded to American foreign policy.

But when Whitlam declared his intention to bring troops home from Vietnam, that cemented Tom’s support.

And if you had Tom’s support, his loyalty was absolute.

Gough Whitlam turned to Tom to design, and later implement, the nation’s first comprehensive policy for improving living standards in our nation’s cities, the outer suburbs and regions.

In 1969, as man walked on the moon, millions of Australians watched the event on televisions in homes that were not even connected to sewerage.

Roads were inadequate. Public transport was underfunded.

There were few protections for heritage values and the environment.

Gough and Tom realised that if they worked with state and local government to provide political leadership and direct investment in communities, they could deliver real improvements in the day to day life of millions of Australians.

Having spent their political lives aspiring to uplift mainstream Australia, they had hit upon a practical way to do so.

Tom attracted the best and the brightest to the Department of Urban and Regional Development, more than 20 of these creative public servants went on to head Government departments and agencies.

Tom Uren’s achievements in the Whitlam Government stand as testimony to what can happen when national leadership and vision is put into practice:

  • Growth centres such as Albury-Wodonga
  • Provision of parks and environmental protection in suburban Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and other parts of Australia
  • Provision of sewerage in the outer suburbs of our capital cities
  • Direct funding of local government through Financial Assistance Grants
  • The first significant federal funding of public transport
  • The Australian Heritage Commission
  • The Register of the National Estate
  • Rejuvenation of urban precincts, like Glebe and Woolloomooloo
  • Protection of the Sydney Harbour foreshore

As much as Tom put collective action before the role of any individual, the truth is that one man did change the relationship that the national government can have in improving the quality of life, particularly for those living in outer suburbs.

That man is Tom Uren.

Tom became Deputy Leader to Gough Whitlam after the loss of Government, defeating opponents including his later great friend, Paul Keating in the caucus ballot.

He continued to play a role in the executive right up to the 1983 election of the Hawke’s Government in which he joined Bill Hayden, Lionel Bowen and Paul Keating as the only Whitlam Government Ministers to also serve in Bob’s Government.

As a Minister in the Hawke Government, he took up where he left off- supporting public and community housing, cementing his position as the modern father of local government.

As the Minister for Administrative Services, he oversaw the construction of the new Parliament House, which had begun with his motion in the Parliament back in 1975.

Tom started the ball rolling on self government for the ACT, consistent with his support for grassroots democracy.

After he stood down from the Ministry in 1987 he became Australia’s delegate to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, taking his message of peace, nuclear disarmament and social justice on to the international stage.

In 1990 he retired from Parliament as the Father of the House of Representatives in 1990, but continued his political activism across a range of areas including serving as head of the Parramatta Park Trust.

Tom continued to be respected across the political spectrum.

In 2012 then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Greens Party Leader Bob Brown combined to enthusiastically sponsor Tom’s nomination for Australia’s highest homegrown honour, the Companion of the Order of Australia, in recognition of his remarkable contribution to our great nation.

To the very end, Tom Uren was an optimist. He drew his positive outlook from people around him.

Into his 90’s he said:

“I hope that right to the end of my days, I’ll always struggle for progress. Always have faith in tomorrow.

Unless you’ve got faith in people, got faith in the future, then your life is not worth tuppence halfpenny and a beer bottle top.”

Tom lived by this positive creed until the end of his days on this land, which he respected and loved.

Those of us who remain can honour his legacy by living by this creed.

Feb 3, 2015

State Funeral – Hon Tom Uren AC – Introduction

We have gathered to celebrate the life of an extraordinary man.

A big man in stature.

A big man in ideas.

And a man with a big heart.

Those closest to him loved him dearly.

For me, he was not just a political mentor, but the closest I have had to a father figure in my life.

Many people who had never met him loved him also.

In an era in which politics is sometimes reduced to just background noise and shouting, Tom Uren soared above the political landscape.

I thank all of you for joining us here at the Sydney Town Hall- a place where this great man fought great battles over great issues, but who always left with love in his heart.

Today’s celebration has been organised down to the minute detail by Tom himself – he chose the speakers and the music you will hear.

He told me I would be MC at this celebration a decade ago.

Tom hoped that today we would all learn something extra about his life.

Given the circumstances of a life that began with hardship and deprivation, followed by the traumatic experience as a Prisoner of War, it would be perfectly reasonable to become bitter and without hope for the future of mankind.

His life showed a strength of character, almost beyond comprehension. If Tom had a single defining characteristic, it was his positive and optimistic outlook.

He was fond of quoting Martin Luther King, who said, “hate is always tragic.”

“It disturbs the personality and scars the soul. It’s more injurious to the hater than it is to the hated.”

The passing of a man such as Tom Uren has caused us great sadness but Tom would want us to channel his energy into using his life story to inspire a new generation into striving for a more compassionate and just Australia and world.

It’s unusual to hear hard bitten people in the world of politics speak about love. But there will be plenty of that today.

As Tom explained, in an interview on ABC television, “I remember talking at the 100th anniversary of May Day…and I talked about the question of love.

“I said, I know a lot of you blokes find it embarrassing talking about love, but that’s what our struggle is all about.

It’s a struggle about commitment and love for other human beings, to raise their lives up”

It was Tom’s hope that all who are here or watch this celebration are uplifted.

Nov 12, 2014

Effective Rail and the Importance of Integration – Ausrail Conference Speech


It’s great to be back at Ausrail.

You bring together key industry players from Australia and overseas and add value to our national transport policy debate.

I’m impressed that this year’s theme is Making Innovation Work.

In a nation like Australia, with a relatively small but well educated population, innovation is a critical pre-condition for the maintenance of our standard of living.

In today’s world, anyone who stands still will be overtaken.

I congratulate the ARA for encouraging this conversation.

As usual, this organisation is out there leading the community debate about rail.

It’s only a couple of weeks ago that I addressed your High Speed Rail forum in Canberra.

Labor supports this visionary link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

That’s why, in Government, Labor commissioned the most comprehensive study into the project and established the High Speed Rail Advisory Group.

Like the ARA, I believe we should bring it on.

The first step is to establish a High Speed Rail Authority. It would work with affected jurisdictions and councils to secure the corridor before it is built out by urban sprawl.

I’m disappointed that under the current government work towards this project has ground to a halt.

I agree with John F Kennedy who once said: Thing do not happen. They are made to happen.

When it comes to High Speed Rail, all of the preliminary analytical work has been done.

It is time to make it happen.


Labor believes rail – passenger and freight – is a critical component of Australia’s economic future.

 That’s easy to say.

 But I believe that our commitment can be judged by what we did.

 Labor came to office seeking to correct an infrastructure deficit left by our predecessors.

 At that time, Australia was 20th among OECD nations in terms of infrastructure investment as a proportion of gross domestic product.

 By the time we left, Australia was 1st.

 On freight rail, we invested $3.4 billion, including building or rebuilding 4,000km of track.

 Because of this, by 2016, the average trip from Brisbane to Melbourne will have been shortened by seven hours.

 The journey from the nation’s east to west coasts will have been reduced by nine hours.

 Big companies like Woolworths and Australia Post have moved some of their freight to rail.

 This is a welcome shift in the right direction.

 It shows that if we get the infrastructure right, freight rail can compete with road haulage.

 That’s good for all Australians, because it will take trucks off the road and reduce carbon emissions.

 On urban passenger rail, the former Labor Government invested more than all other previous Commonwealth governments combined since Federation up until 2007.

 We funded the recently opened Gold Coast light rail, as well as the Moreton Bay Rail project being constructed to the north of Brisbane, a project first promised in the nineteenth century but finally funded by the Labor Government.

 In Victoria we injected $3.225 billion into the Regional Rail Link, which will provide an extra 54,000 passenger trips a day when services are rolled out from next April.

 Regional Rail is the biggest single commonwealth investment in public transport in our nation’s history.

 It is untangling Melbourne’s suburban passenger lines from those serving regional centres of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

 This will improve efficiency for both.

 We built the Noarlunga to Seaford line south of Adelaide and began the electrification of the Gawler line.

 Here in Perth we constructed the Perth City Link project to reconnect the CBD with Northbridge for the first time in 100 years.

 Labor also allocated funding Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project, Adelaide’s Tonsley Park project and light rail and an airport rail link here in Perth.

 Regrettably, the new Government has withdrawn that funding.

 That’s a mistake.

 But I’m proud of Labor’s performance. It sits firmly within Labor’s tradition of Nation Building.

 That’s a tradition that goes back to the transcontinental rail line, the Snowy Mountains Scheme and the late Gough Whitlam’s extraordinary rejuvenation of our nation’s cities.

 The former Labor Government also sought to do more with existing infrastructure.

 For example, ARTC’s Advanced Train Management System uses broadband technology to improve rail network capacity, enabling more intense time-tabling, cutting congestion and increasing reliability.

 We should never forget the importance of harnessing innovation to improve the performance on existing resources.


 Result always matter more than talk.

 Yesterday the Minister for Infrastructure released the collaboration between the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics and the ARA updating statistics for your industry.

 Many of the findings vindicate investment decisions made by the previous Government.

 It’s pleasing to see the report shows Australian railways carried more than one billion tonnes of freight in 2012-13 – up 57 percent since 2007-08.

 Rail freight now accounts for nearly half of all freight moved in this country. That’s up 36 per cent from the turn of the century.

 Rail and road now compete strongly on the freight rail journey between the east and west coasts, although rail is not competing as strongly between Brisbane and Melbourne.

 This difference will be addressed by the Inland Rail project.

 On public transport, Perth has experienced the strongest growth in the country, more than doubling patronage with the addition of the Mandurah line.

 But there’s also bad news in the BITRE report.

 It notes that compared with Labor’s $1.6 billion in investment in rail in 2013-14, the Abbott Government will reduce rail spending by 80 per cent by 2017-18.

 What is a greater indictment is that investment in urban passenger rail falls to zero in that and future years.

 Just think about that.


 The ARA summary of the report says, and I quote:

 The position of the Australian Government is in contrast with other governments around the world who are investing in their public transport systems to solve the challenges they face in cities and regional areas.

 Australia’s Federal Government has a key role to play in both setting polices and providing funding for public transport and rail infrastructure.

 Relying on state governments to pick up the pieces will not stand the test of time.

 There is a clear message here.

 You don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to work it out.

 If our nation wants an effective, properly integrated transport system that delivers productivity gains for our entire economy, the Commonwealth must invest in rail.

 The Commonwealth must invest in freight rail.

 The Commonwealth must invest in passenger rail.

 The Commonwealth must invest in High Speed Rail.

 If we want to reduce carbon emissions while still optimising business activity and lifting productivity, the commonwealth must invest in rail.

 If we want improved road safety by taking more freight off the roads, the commonwealth must invest in rail.

 And if we want to reduce traffic congestion to lift productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities, the commonwealth must invest in rail.

 Anyone who thinks he is delivering the infrastructure of the 21st century simply by building new toll roads is kidding himself.


 That brings me to the issue I’ve been concentrating on in recent months – our cities.

 While Labor has historically seen itself as having a role in investing in the productivity, sustainability and liveability of cities, the conservative parties have always held the contrary view.

 Today I want to argue that changing circumstances in our cities mean our nation can no longer afford this arbitrary designation of governmental responsibilities.

 A buck-passing, roads-only approach might reduce a government’s exposure to community concern about public transport.

 But, on its own, it will not resolve the gridlock in our cities.

 Indeed, some of the pressures facing our cities in 2014 will never be solved as long as the Commonwealth refuses to engage in either investment or policy leadership.

 An immediate challenge is the mismatch between areas of population growth and jobs growth in our cities.

 Traditionally, population growth in Australian cities has been concentrated in the outer suburbs, where people have been able to access affordable housing.

 Until recently, there was also jobs growth in the outer suburbs in industries like manufacturing and retailing.

 But in the past decade or so, jobs growth has moved to the inner suburbs, driven by the growth of knowledge intense sectors like financial services and information technology.

 Because of this mismatch, more Australians find themselves living in drive-in, drive-out suburbs where they live but where there are no jobs.

 To work, they need to travel long distances to the inner suburbs.

 It is a tragedy that too many working parents spend more time commuting in their cars, than they do at home with their kids.

 But I believe the greatest risk of this trend is the threat it poses to equality of opportunity in this country.

 I worry that the lack of access to jobs in the outer suburbs will deny generations of Australians the opportunity to access well paid jobs that are a ticket to social mobility.

 I don’t want to see equity in this nation fall victim to the tyranny of distance.

 There are many policy responses that can reduce congestion and deliver productivity, sustainability and liveability in our cities.

 They include:

  • Reigniting jobs growth in our outer suburbs, through direct investment and incentives for businesses;
  • Increasing urban density around public transport corridors;
  • Increasing affordable accommodation options in the inner-suburbs, particularly for families.
  • Improving liveability in inner suburbs.

Of course, the most-effective response is to improve public transport.

 That’s why the former Government focused so heavily on investment in urban rail.

 It’s why we invested directly in cities and sought to provide policy leadership to other levels of government to implement a comprehensive approach to urban policy.

 The current government argues that its decision to confine its investment to roads will leave state governments the room to invest in rail.

 That is a nonsense.

 The decision by the Commonwealth to withdraw from any rail funding will encourage cash strapped State Governments to choose road over rail projects.

 At best, it is seeing rail projects scaled back.

 After the new government withdrew all commonwealth support for the Melbourne Metro, the Napthine Government redesigned the project.

 The inadequate replacement Melbourne Metro will not even pass through the city’s CBD.

 In Brisbane the Cross River Rail project, which Infrastructure Australia had judged was ready to proceed, has given way to an inferior bus and train tunnel for which we have not yet seen cost-benefit analysis.

 The problems facing cities that I am talking about require all hands on deck.

 They are the business of all levels of government.

 We can’t afford to have the commonwealth government go missing on these critical challenges.


 I mentioned earlier that the Inland Rail project linking Brisbane and Melbourne via Parkes is important.

 As the BITRE report released yesterday shows, we need to improve the competitiveness of freight rail down the eastern seaboard to achieve the same gains that had been achieved on the east-west line.

 If we do that, we’ll take thousands of trucks off the Pacific, New England and Newell Highways, improving road safety while also providing a clean and efficient rail option for people wanting to move freight.

 I note that in opposition, the current government promised to fast-track Inland Rail and claimed the previous Government was dragging its feet on the project.

 We now know they have slowed the project.

 Late last month Senate Budget estimates committee hearings revealed that in the current financial year of 2013-14, the Government expects to spend $11.3 million on Inland rail this year.

 The previous Labor Government had budgeted to spend $30 million this year.

 The Government seems to be falling behind schedule on this important project.

 Labor did all the work to plan for the Inland Rail.

 We had already invested $600 million to upgrade parts of the existing track that will be part of this project.

 This work has been completed and was to be followed by the $300 million we allocated from the current financial year.

 This project should be completed, not delayed.

 It is remarkable that, unlike every single Labor Government Budget, this Budget included not one new dollar for freight rail.

 Not one new project.

 Not one new dollar.


 I did want to make some comments on Ports policy.

 Here in Perth, which we launched the National Ports Strategy developed by Infrastructure Australia in January 2011.

 Infrastructure Australia highlighted the issues when it identified its key national themes for more efficient infrastructure:

 Rail and road freight infrastructure planning and investment can no longer be undertaken in isolation from each other, or worse, in competition with each other.

Traditionally, policy has been segmented by mode; for example, by road, rail, aviation and shipping, and by jurisdiction.

 This was followed by the National Land Freight Strategy.

 The challenge is to ensure that road and rail transport systems are as efficient as they can be and that, together, they transport goods to and from our ports as efficiently as possible.

 The aim must be a properly integrated system, one that delivers efficiencies that make our nation more competitive.

 That means taking action to separate rail freight lines from passenger lines.

 That’s why projects such as the Northern Sydney Freight Strategy and the Southern Sydney Freight Line are so vital.

 The Southern Sydney project eliminated a major bottleneck that existed because freight and passenger traffic shared the same lines.

 This meant there was a curfew on freight movements at passenger traffic peak periods.

 Rail freight to and from the port literally stopped in the morning and the afternoon.

 Sydney, an international city that had staged the Olympics, could not even guarantee a constant freight link to its port.

 If you want an example of why you need an integrated system for moving passengers and freight, this is it.

 Now this bottleneck has been eliminated.

 We also need to improve intermodal connections through such projects as the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal.

 I’m pleased to see that the work is continuing under the current government.

 I’ve talked a lot in the past about Nation Building and pointed to projects like High-Speed Rail and the Snowy Mountains scheme.

 But make no mistake: While these mega projects tend to gain most attention, the complex task of delivering greater efficiency for existing infrastructure, including in linkages to our nation’s ports, is a critical part of the Nation Building agenda.

 It requires real effort to wring out efficiencies in a system including multiple jurisdictions, governments with differing priorities and competing business interests.

 Here’s an example of the challenges that illustrates the effort required.

 In NSW the Baird Government is currently planning the Westconnex project, a key aim of which has been to provide a better road link for freight from the Sydney’s suburbs to the Port of Botany.

 But from the designs we have seen so far, the Westconnex proposal dumps traffic to the already congested area to the west of the Sydney airport at St Peters.

 Instead of a road to the port, it has become a road to a traffic jam.

 This makes no sense.

 In 2012, Infrastructure NSW released a report in which it identified its immediate concerns about Sydney’s infrastructure.

 In a section of that report under the heading First Things First, the report said:

 In recent years, rapid demand growth at Port Botany and Sydney Airport has impacted on NSW’s transport networks, particularly around these facilities.

With growth forecast to continue, investment is urgently needed in land side infrastructure to allow access to these gateways.

 The expert advice was very clear.

 Improving access to the port was a first order priority.

 It must be made a priority if the objectives of the project are to be realised.


 Proper integration of road and rail services when it comes to freight is simple common sense.

 There’s nothing like the prospect of better economic outcomes to focus the mind of people in business as to the desirability of reform.

 Before I finish today I’d just like to link that common sense observation back to the issue of the way people move around cities.

 Just as it makes sense to seek efficiency in the way we move goods to and from ports by integrating different modes of transport, so it also makes sense to properly integrate road and rail when it comes to the movement of people.

 The commonwealth must engage in public transport, not just roads.

 We need a properly integrated system of people movement around our cities – one that involves roads and rail and ferries where possible.

 We won’t get that if governments work in silos.

 We must work together.

 Just the other day I had the opportunity to attend the memorial service for the former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

 As much as it was a sad occasion, it was also a timely reminder of the need for vision in politics.

 Gough had his faults.

 But as we saw from the wonderful speeches made at that memorial service, his faults were completely overshadowed by his ability to exercise vision.

 Gough imagined a better Australia.

 He did not allow his imagination to be muted by arbitrary distinctions about intergovernmental responsibilities or by a timidity in the face of entrenched interests.

 Above all, he was not afraid to fail.

 Gough realised the outcomes he was seeking were more important than his concern about his own long-term political prospects.

 Gough had his eyes on the prize.

 We should follow his example.

 We need to imagine a better future.

 We must have courage and determination to turn that vision into a reality for this and future generations to come.