Sep 7, 2013

Grayndler Election Night Speech – Cyprus Club, Stanmore

Fellow members of the Labor Party and supporters of the labour movement here in the Labor heartland of Grayndler.

We entered into this campaign with Grayndler as a marginal seat, with a two party preferred vote at the last election of around about 54 per cent.  Today we achieved primary vote swings in just about every booth in the electorate.

It will result in a two party preferred vote above 70 per cent.

This however is not a great night for Labor.  One of the reasons that we are in the Labor Party is that we understand that you need to be in government to make a real difference.  That is one of the distinctions between us and the indulgence of the Greens Political Party.

Tonight what we have seen is a rejection in booths around Grayndler of the political negativity that the Greens political campaign ran on.

I attended a forum on Tuesday night with the Greens Political Party candidate.  The Liberals showed their contempt for this electorate by not even showing up.  The Greens Political Party candidate managed to give a speech – indeed a number of speeches – without mentioning Tony Abbott or the threat the Liberal Party represents to progressive values in this country.

Can I say this – I have been very proud to be the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.  We have been a good Government under both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

Under Kevin Rudd we ratified the Kyoto Protocol as our first act of Government because we believe in action on Climate Change and we will never walk away from action on Climate Change.

We apologised to the Stolen Generations, even with people who are now likely to be Tory frontbenchers walking out in disgust at that apology.

We saw Australia through the Global Financial Crisis.

We created almost one million new jobs.

Right now, we have low inflation; we have low interest rates; we have higher workforce participation; we have fewer industrial disputes; and we leave Australia with a triple-A credit rating.

We delivered the biggest ever pension increase.

On the environment, we priced carbon; we solved the issue of the Tasmanian forests that have been in dispute for so long; we resolved the issue of the Murray Darling Basin – talked about for decades, delivered by this Labor Government.

And we now have the world’s largest marine parks.

So I say to people who have been supporting the Greens Political Party: if you want real change and a real political party that does something about Climate Change and the environment, join the Australian Labor Party.

We have built more social housing in Australia since 2007 than have ever been built by any government.

As Infrastructure Minister we doubled the roads budget; we increased the rail budget by more than ten times; and we invested more into urban public transport than all our predecessors combined.

Tony Abbott, in less than 100 words in his flimsy pathetic excuse for a costings document, dismissed every single dollar for urban public transport.  What that will do is consign Australians who live in cities to even more urban congestion – and I say to Tony Abbott we will hold you to account for that abrogation of responsibility.

But if there is anything that defined the future versus the past which Tony Abbott represents, it is the National Broadband Network.

During the campaign I met a woman in Kiama who is getting her health issues – I won’t go into the detail – dealt with by uploading and talking to a nurse in real time.  That will be gone for others under the Opposition’s ‘fraudband’ policy.

I visited businesses like the one in Launceston – Autech – who has expanded and is now employing hundreds of people; a business that’s exporting software to Germany – Australia competing with the world through the National Broadband Network.

One of the most brutal cuts contained in their flimsy eight-pager was the cut to NICTA.  NICTA is the National ICT Australia organisation located at Eveleigh.  If you are a tertiary institution you need base funding in order to exist.  The base funding is $42 million a year.  It employs 500 people.  They have 250 Australians doing PhD’s – people who quite frankly I stand in awe of.

One the people I met there was responsible for the Cochlear ear implant. He is now working on using information technology to send signals via an implant in the spine which will potentially allow people who have spinal damage to walk without pain.

But guess what they plan to do?  And I have to tell you this because not one newspaper took it up.  They will reduce their budget to zero; from $42 million to zero.

So Labor has a great responsibility to take up these issues.

Labor is stronger than any single election or individual.

We are a movement that is about the betterment of all Australians.  The big vision, the big pictures; it has always been Labor – whether it be the creation of Medicare or universal superannuation, or whether it be the great reforms of the past six years, which each and every Labor member can be proud of.

Can you imagine the Tories thinking of the National Disability Insurance Scheme?  Can you imagine them coming up with the Better Schools plan?  Can you imagine them coming up with the National Broadband Network?  Can you imagine them coming up with national health reform, or national dental care?  Can you imagine them having the wit to fix the Murray Darling Basin or take on Climate Change?

It is only Labor that ever deals with the big issues.

And if it’s the case Tony Abbott is in a position to form government – which looks likely – he will do so without having a policy on education or even a health policy.

He will form government without having put out a detailed policy on infrastructure.

One of the lessons that the Labor Party needs to learn and needs to show in the coming days and weeks is that when we talk about ourselves, people switch off.  We need to talk about the country and talk about Australians and what is of interest to them.

When we are not united, we will be punished.

But we have been a good Government.  So let no one in Labor be tempted to talk down our achievements.  Just like the Hawke-Keating governments are regarded as great governments that achieved a great legacy and led to 22 years of consecutive economic growth, so too will the Rudd and Gillard governments of which I’ve been proud to serve each and every day.

They are both good human beings, they both acted in the interests of our nation. In Kevin Rudd, seeing us through the Global Financial Crisis, and in Julia Gillard managing a minority government under incredibly difficult circumstances and delivering win after win.

Tony Abbott since 2010 has wanted to wreck the Parliament.  He’s not a conservative; he’s a reactionary.  He has no respect for institutions.  Labor respects institutions and respects our traditions, and we respect the outcomes of elections because democracy is something that has to be respected without qualification, whether you agree with the outcome or not.

But what also has to be respected is the mandate that I’ve been given here in Grayndler, and the mandate Labor representatives around the country have been given, to take action on Climate Change; to take action on needs based education funding; to take action to look after those who most need support, not those who need it the least, like with their outrageous paid parental leave scheme which will provide benefits to the tune of $75,000 to high income families while ripping away benefits for the lowest paid in our community.

We have a great legacy.  Tonight I honour it, and I honour my colleagues who have worked very hard, including those who have fallen.

However, I do say this: there was a potential that tonight would lead to a debate about whether Labor could continue to be a viable Opposition.  But the results that occurred in NSW and Queensland – in terms of substantial swings and the decimation of our parliamentary representation – have not been repeated at this election.  That has not happened.

I am incredibly honoured to be your representative in the Federal Parliament.  I have served you loyally and to the best of my ability for now six terms, and tonight I have been elected overwhelmingly for a seventh term.

You can’t do anything unless you are a local member first.  I think we have the best, most principled and active Labor Party membership in the country, and I’m very proud of that and so should you.

So I thank all of you collectively for that.

But you will excuse me if I single out a couple of people.

Firstly, to my campaign director Daniel Barbar.  You might have noticed I wasn’t in Grayndler for the whole campaign.  I launched 16 campaigns, I visited more than 70 seats, and I visited every state and territory at least twice – Queensland six times, Melbourne five times.  It was a busy campaign.  One day last week I had breakfast in Launceston and dinner in Darwin, as you do.

And because of that I relied upon, not just on Daniel, but my entire team and all of you.  So to all of you, thank you.

I particularly wanted to single out both my electorate staff and the best ministerial office in the country bar none.

And can I say: I still have a job.  Many of them don’t.  Not once during the campaign – not once – have any of them thought about themselves.  So thank you.  Mind you, they will get jobs that pay twice as much and have to work half as hard.  I have no doubt about that because they are people of extraordinary talent and commitment.

So I’m sure those who have to move on will be successful.

My wonderful family, Carmel and Nathan, they have been fantastic.  Nathan has my sense of optimism about the world; he was convinced Tony Abbott would lose his seat.  But the truth is we’ve been up against it from day one, although some of the predictions have proven not to be true.

Carmel and Nathan, you have been absolutely sensational.  They have been just extraordinary in their support always, but particularly in what have been a very difficult couple of months, so thank you.

It has been a sensational campaign.

When you had seriously at least 200 people handing out for GetUp! today in Grayndler, like, why?  And this is not a criticism of any of those individuals, but progressives need to understand that we are not the enemy and the debate is not between Labor and the Greens.  It is between Labor and Tony Abbott and the Tories.  That’s the divide in Australian politics.

And whilst, no doubt, some of the absurd critiques that occurred of the Government’s actions over the past six years had an impact, the truth is had five Greens senators got up off their butt, walked across and voted with us and the two Libs, we would not now be debating a price on carbon.  It would be entrenched; it would have been in place since December 2009.

And whilst I respect different views and it’s important we are pluralists, some of their approaches have very much been rejected in today’s ballot results because I think people do understand, apart from the insiders, that politics is not about the sort of debate that we saw at Marrickville Town Hall between myself and Hall Greenland who pretended that Tony Abbott didn’t exist.

The debate is about to get very real.  And it’s a debate about competing visions for Australia.  An Australia that believes in equity and a fair go for all; an Australia that believes in removing discrimination wherever we find it; an Australia that believes government has a role in intervening in the economy to achieve better outcomes and living standards for the entire community; an Australia that believes we should be judged by how we care for those least able to defend themselves, not just by how we look after the top end of town.

The miners, they really need a tax break don’t they?  But seriously, that’s their policy – tax cuts for the big miners paid for by ripping $2.5 billion out of the Regional Infrastructure Fund and stopping the increase in the superannuation guarantee from 9 to 12 per cent.

Australians do understand that we don’t stand for the values Tony Abbott stands for.

However, we do need to accept some responsibility, including talking about ourselves rather than them, and I accept as much responsibility as anyone else as a senior member of the Government.

I say this though: there wasn’t a single day in office, under both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, where I didn’t wake up in the morning and go to bed with one objective – and it wasn’t backgrounding journalists, it wasn’t undermining anyone.  It was the cause of Labor.

Thank you.