Sep 27, 2013

Leaders debate closing statement, Melbourne

I believe very clearly that Labor is at our strongest when we identify and are talking about the same issues that families are talking about over dinner or watching tele or in their local community.

We need to identify with them.

And what is that about?

What people want is pretty common, pretty simple.

They want a secure job for their kids with better working conditions and living standards than they themselves enjoyed.

They want to make sure their kids get a better education and opportunity in life than they had.

They want to make sure their kids will be able to afford a home.

They want to make sure their kids will be able to access the world through the National Broadband Network.

Labor must stop talking about ourselves – and power struggles within – and start talk about them.  That’s where we went wrong during the last two terms; good governments, but distracted by internal issues.

This ballot is an opportunity for us to draw a line in the sand and for us to unite as a team going forward; unite around common principles.

The truth is that during this campaign, just as some people have asked why there isn’t an argument, Bill and I have very similar values and we both have similar values to all of you.

That’s what unites Labor.

We must always remember that it is Labor that unites; that people join the Labor Party for the best of motives, not to get something for themselves, but to give something to the nation.

It is the national interest that drives the cause of Labor.  It is the national interest that drives Caucus members, local branch officials, down to the person who volunteers to hand out on polling day.

They don’t ask anything of themselves.  What they do ask – and what we in the Parliamentary Party have a responsibility to deliver – is that we’re concerned with them, their local communities and the national interest each and every day.

What sort of Opposition Leader would I be?

Well people have seen me in the Parliament and in the community.  I agree with Bill that it’s not just about the Parliament.

When a bunch of people – the Climate Change sceptics – demonstrated outside my office with a coffin, with signs, very brave signs to have in Marrickville saying ‘tolerance is our demise’ – it’s a bit like having such a sign in Richmond, being opposed to tolerance – I went out and fronted them.  I put the case.

I’ve always been prepared to be someone who has put the case.

Bill says he loves the Victorian branch where he has won and lost.  I love the NSW branch where I have never won!

But it hasn’t stopped me getting the respect of people who may well disagree with me, but who respect me because I’ve been prepared to argue my case without fear or favour my entire political life from the age of 15, for the last 35 years.

And I’ll continue to do that if I’m the Opposition Leader on behalf of our great Party.

That will mean being prepared to defend our legacy.  That will mean being prepared to advance the next big ideas that will come up.

What’s the next National Broadband Network?  What’s the next Disability Care Australia?  What’s the next Better Schools plan?  Where is the vision?

Labor must always be looking forward.  We can’t, like our opponents, be defined just by what we’re against.

That’s why I call them the ‘Noalition’.  That’s why we can defeat them in one term – because on so many issues they have no idea what they are going to do.

We’ve seen Christopher Pyne on education come up with an idea and get smacked down the next day.  On health policy, Peter Dutton, who would know?  He hasn’t opened his mouth for six years!

They have a series of people who are defined by what they are against, led by the most negative leader in Australian political history; Tony Abbott.

The Australian people are better than that.  They want an alternative.  They want a vision for the future. 

And one the thing that defines Labor is that we’re concerned with the immediacy of issues, the urgent necessities of today, dealing with issues – people who need health care, people who need a hand up, people who need welfare.  We’re concerned with that.

But we’re always looking forward too.  Looking forward generations with long term reforms like the National Broadband Network, like Disability Care Australia.

It is only Labor that changes Australia for the better. It is only Labor that has ever had the big ideas.

And it’s a party that I would be honoured, if I was given the task, of leading it to the next election – where we can win in one term.