PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: Let me make some remarks before I turn to the Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.
In 2007 the Australian people elected me to be their Prime Minister.
That is a task that I resume today with humility, with honour and with an important sense of energy and purpose.
In recent years, politics has failed the Australian people. There has just been too much negativity all round. There’s been an erosion of trust. Negative destructive personal politics has done much to bring dishonour to our parliament but done nothing to address the urgent challenges facing our country, our communities, our families. In fact it’s been holding our country back.
And all this must stop, and with all my heart that is the purpose that I intend to pursue as Prime Minister.
I want to pause to acknowledge the achievements of my predecessor, Julia Gillard. She is a woman of extraordinary intelligence, of great strength and great energy. All of you here in the National Press Gallery and across the nation would recognise those formidable attributes in her and I know them having worked with her closely for some years. Also Julia, as Prime Minister, and prior to that Deputy Prime Minister has achieved much under the difficult circumstances of minority government.
And in doing so she has been helped by a group of dedicated Ministers and Members of Parliament whose contribution I also wish to acknowledge.
In Julia’s case let me say this, if it were not for Julia we would not have the Fair Work Act. If it were not for Julia, we would not have a national scheme which ensures that the literacy and numeracy performance of Australian schools is tested regularly and that interventions occur to lift those students who are doing poorly. She has been a remarkable reformer and I acknowledge those contributions again formally this evening.
I also wish to acknowledge the contribution of the Deputy Prime Minister, as he has been, Wayne Swan, with whom I have also worked intimately, in fact over several years. Working in the trenches, day in, day out, night in, night out. Here in Canberra, working together to prevent this country from rolling into global economic recession and avoiding mass unemployment.
So, Wayne, whatever our differences have been, I acknowledge your contribution here as part of that team which kept us out of a global catastrophe.
The question many of you will be understandably asking is why I am taking on this challenge.
For me it’s pretty basic, it’s pretty clear. I simply do not have it in my nature to stand idly by and to allow an Abbot government to come to power in this country by default.
I have known Mr Abbott for 15 years, since I was elected to this place the first time. I recognise his strengths. I also recognise, however, that Mr Abbott is a man steeped in the power of negative politics, and he’s formidable at negative politics. But I see no evidence of a real positive plan for our country’s future. I also passionately believe that the Australian people want all of us engaged in the national political life to work together, to come together whenever that is possible, and I see my role as Prime Minister in forging consensus wherever I am. Identifying our differences where they do in fact exist and without reverting to personal vitriol. That just diminished and demeans us all. We can do better than that. We can all do better than that.
You know, Australia is a great country. Having seen a few others in the world in my time, this is a fantastic place. We owe much to those who have come before us and we owe much to those who will come after us to ensure that what we have inherited is improved upon and not degraded. But you know something, we have a great future but that future is not guaranteed. As I’ve said once before, here in Australia we’ve got to make our own luck and we can. We’re good at it and if we work at it we can actually bring our future home securely.
In recent times, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the global economy. There are a lot of bad things happening out there. The global economy is still experiencing the slowest of recoveries. The China resources boom is over. China itself, domestically shows signs of recovery and when China represents such a large slice of our own economy, our jobs and our own opportunities for raising our living standards. The time has come for us to adjust to the new challenges. New challenges in productivity. New challenges also in the diversification of our economy. New opportunities for what we do with processed foods and agriculture, in the services sector and also in manufacturing.
I’ve never changed my script or my belief. I never want to be Prime Minister of a country that doesn’t make things anymore. There’s a big future for Australian manufacturing under this Government.
Looking at our global economic circumstances, therefore, we have tough decisions ahead on the future of our economy. This means having a government that looks at growing the size of our economic pie as well as how it is distributed. And let me say this to Australian business: I want to work closely with you. I’ve worked with you closely in the past, particularly during the GFC and there were some white knuckle moments there as some of the heads of the major banks will remember. But we came through because we worked together and I’m saying it loud and clear to businesses large and small across the country, that in partnership we can do great things for the country’s future.
And for the Australians that depend on the success of your businesses to have a job, to have decent living standards and opportunities. Business is a group that this Government will work with very closely. What I want to see here in Canberra is for business and Labor to work together I don’t want to see things that drive business and Labor apart. We’ve been natural partners in the past and we can be again in the future. I intend to lead a Government that brings people together and gets the best out of them.
Before I conclude, let me say a word or two to young Australians. It’s clear that many of you, in fact far too many of you, have looked at our political system and the parliament in recent years and not liked or respected much of what you have seen. In fact as I rock around the place, talking to my own kids, they see it as a huge national turn off. Well I understand why you have switched off. It’s hardly a surprise but I want to ask you to please come back and listen afresh. It’s really important that we get you engaged, in any way we can. We need you. We need your energy. We need your ideas. We need your enthusiasm and we need you to support us in the great challenges that lie ahead for the country. With your energy, we can start cooking with gas.
The challenges are great but if we’re positive and if we come together as a nation we can overcome each and every one of them.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to the Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Deputy Prime Minister Albo and I am delighted that the caucus elected him today and I congratulate him on his new appointment.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ANTHONY ALBANESE: I want to thank Kevin for his support. I do want to thank the party for the great honour of electing me this evening to be the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. It says a great thing about our nation that the son of a parent who grew up in a council house in Sydney could be Deputy Prime Minister.
Labor is about opportunity for all; removing discrimination across the board – race, gender, ethnicity, religion. It’s about creating fairness, supporting the economy but also making sure the benefits of economic growth are spread.
It’s a big job. It’ll do it as I have since 1996 with enthusiasm, passion and commitment. I’ll give my all for Labor. Not because it’s an end in itself but because it is only Labor that can truly serve the long term interests of Australia.
The reason I was attracted to infrastructure portfolio was because I believe Labor is concerned about the long term, compared to the short term of the Opposition. Labor believes government can play a positive role in people’s lives. Abbott believes if government gets out of the way everything will sort itself out. I believe in terms of working with Kevin that together with the team, we can do great things for the nation and I believe we have this evening maximised our chances of going into a third term and beyond of a Labor government.
Because it’s only long term Labor governments that can get the big reforms done. I want to conclude by saying this has been really tough days for the Labor Party. Julia and Wayne have been people I’ve worked with on daily, hourly and weekly basis, and they are also close friends. I pay tribute to both of them and their achievements over the entire period of government and prior to that, that we were able to form government in 2008.
We won’t be found wanting in days, weeks and months ahead up until the federal election. We’ll be out there advocating the cause every day, looking for a new energy, a resurgence of energy in the Labor cause because this a fight worth having to ensure a long term Labor Government compared to the negativity that Abbott represents.
PRIME MINISTER: Just as we go, colleagues, can I just say this: this evening we’ve been briefed by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the immediate challenges which lie ahead. We will begin briefings as appropriate in the next several days on the budget and the economic outlook, and a range of other international matters that lie before us. We will await the Governor-General on that matter but what I would say to you is that we have a formidably busy day tomorrow. There’s a few things on. We will certainly speak with you collectively again very soon. In the meantime, we have got to go and do other work.