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Thursday, 13th May 2021

Budget Reply Speech 2021

I stand before you tonight seeking the honour of serving as your Prime Minister.

My fellow Australians:
I grew up in a council house in Camperdown, the only son of a single mum on the disability pension. 
I stand before you tonight seeking the honour of serving as your Prime Minister.
I’m here because of sacrifices my Mum made, to give me chances she was denied by disadvantage - I’ll never forget that.
And I’m here tonight because good government changed my life.
For me – and I know for so many people in similar circumstances – the policies and decisions of good government can make all the difference.
A good government, building a strong economy and a fair society, opens the door to education, to employment, to decent housing, to proper healthcare, to a better life.
I lived that as a young man.
And I saw it firsthand as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure: creating jobs, connecting-up communities, boosting productivity in our cities and our regions.
I understand the value and the power of good government.
And I know our country needs – and deserves – a good government again.
A government that believes in your potential.
A Prime Minister who shares your values.
A Labor Government that’s on your side.
Mr Speaker,
Australians know the last year has been unlike any other in our lifetimes.
And when we look at the devastation and heartbreak still unfolding in parts of the world, it’s only natural to feel that things could have been a lot worse here.
Yet when I look at our country today, I also know we can do so much better.
So much better than real wages declining over the next 4 years after flatlining over the last 8 years.
So much better than 3 more years of scandal and a government treating taxpayers funds as if they are Liberal Party funds.
So much better than 3 more years of announcements that are never delivered.
And so much better than merely coming back, rather than building back stronger.
This Budget offers a low growth, low productivity and low wage future – and a trillion dollars of debt – is that really the best we can aspire to?
I want Australia to emerge from this crisis stronger, smarter and more self-reliant, with an economic recovery that works for all Australians.
Throughout this pandemic, Australians have given up so much.
Labor’s plan is about rewarding and repaying the sacrifices that people have made.
Tonight, I will further outline Labor’s alternative policy agenda.
An agenda with 3 guiding principles that will drive Labor in Government.

  1. An economy that delivers for working families.

  2. Investing in Australia’s future.

  3. No one held back and no one left behind.

These 3 principles will drive our plans and policies to secure a better future, improve living standards and promote fairness.
We have a once in a century opportunity:

  • to reinvent our economy

  • to lift wages and make sure they keep rising.

  • to invest in advanced manufacturing and in skills and training with public TAFE at its heart

  • to provide affordable childcare

  • to fix aged care

  • to address the housing crisis

  • to champion equality for women

  • to emerge as a renewable energy superpower

That’s the better future I want to build for Australia as Prime Minister.
But Tuesday’s Budget didn’t speak for this country’s future - it only told the sorry tale of 8 years of Liberal neglect.

8 Years of Liberal Neglect

8 years of wasting opportunities – and running from responsibility.
8 years of flat wages and rising costs.
8 years of ignoring problems – and cutting funding from the solutions.  
8 years of cushy jobs for Liberal mates – and insecure work for ordinary Australians.
8 years of holding people back – and leaving people behind.
I measure the strength of the economy by how it works for people.
So for me, there’s a simple test by which we can judge the last 8 years.
Do you feel better off than you did 8 years ago?
Do you feel more secure at work?
When did you last get a wage rise?
Are you finding it easier to pay your bills?
Are you more certain of your future? And importantly, that of your children?
The past 8 years have been very good to this Prime Minister – and his mates.
But has it been good for you?
Because after 8 years in power, this Prime Minister is getting ready to ask you for 3 more.
When Robert Menzies founded the Liberal Party, he spoke about ‘the forgotten people’.
This Liberal Government just wants you to forget.
Forget their failures, forget their broken promises, forget all their jobs for their mates.
Make no mistake – the Budget handed down on Tuesday night is not a plan for the next generation - it is a patch-up job for the next election.
Remember that the centrepiece of last year’s Budget was Jobmaker, that promised to create 450,000 new jobs.
It fell short – by 449,000.
That’s right – not 450,000, just 1,000.
Missed by that much.
Like so much with this Government it was all smirk and mirrors.
This week the chasm between announcement and delivery didn’t even make it to Budget night.
Having told Monday’s papers that the Budget would provide $10 billion of additional infrastructure investment, the actual Budget papers show a $3.3 billion cut to infrastructure over the next 4 years.
A Government that is all announcement, no delivery.
See for this Prime Minister, the announcement is all about him. Always.
The press conference. The photo opp.
But when it comes to the part that affects you, the delivery – he’s lost interest.
His only interest at that point, is blaming someone else.
When the black summer of bushfires raged, he said ‘I don’t hold a hose, mate’.
Now, with our tourism and education industries still locked-away from the world – and with more than 30,000 Australians stranded overseas…
…he says quarantine is a matter for the states and getting the vaccine isn’t a race. 
He puts out a press release threatening to put returning Australians in jail and then blames the media for reporting it.
Locked out or locked up – a message no Australian Government should send to our own citizens.
The Prime Minister’s constant buck-passing and blame shifting has become a handbrake on our economic recovery.
The strength of our economic recovery is dependent on effective quarantine and vaccinations.
With more than a year to prepare the Government has bungled both.
We should have expanded existing quarantine facilities and built new ones across the country which are fit for purpose and located near medical and other needed support.
For example, Bladin Village outside of Darwin has the potential to house up to 1,000 people and is currently being used to quarantine US Defence personnel.
Australian citizens were promised they would be home by Christmas last year.
We were also told we were at the front of the queue for vaccines, when we in fact have one of the slowest rollouts in the world.
Now the Prime Minister and the Treasurer can’t even agree on when Australians will be vaccinated.
Australia should be making mRNA vaccines here.
Our Labor Government will prioritise support for this production through our National Reconstruction Fund.
We believe Australia can be a world- leading pharmaceutical manufacturing hub.
And never again should the health of Australians be put at risk by this government’s refusal to invest in manufacturing. 
It’s not just in his response to vaccinations and quarantine that this Prime Minister has failed the test of leadership.
A once-in-a-generation march by the women of Australia, in pursuit of respect and justice…ignored.
Courageous survivors, shunned and slandered.
A once-in-a-lifetime Statement from the Heart from the first Australians. A clarion call for truth, treaty and a voice.
Delayed – and then dismissed.
A generous statement to advance reconciliation that a Labor Government will embrace and advocate at a referendum.
The government forced into a compensation payout in excess of a billion dollars to the people it hounded through Robodebt.
Yet now preparing for the same program of cuts and harassment for people on the NDIS.
A new spirit of co-operation between unions and business, striving to improve conditions and productivity.
And this government uses it to launch an assault on workers’ pay, sick leave and job security.
A new surge of momentum for global action on climate change.
And Australia with nothing to offer. 
The Prime Minister literally stuck on mute in front of the world – and a government frozen in time while the world warms around it.
The Liberals offer-up nothing but a showbag budget.
Flashy enough to sell on Tuesday night, falling apart the next day when the reality of falling real wages, vaccination confusion, infrastructure cuts and productivity inertia became apparent.
Nothing built to last.
No real reform, just a series of announcements to overcome political problems of the Government’s own making.

An Economy That Works for You

Mr Speaker,
I believe that the economy should work for people, not the other way around.
People have endured 8 long years of stagnant wages, growing job insecurity and pressure on family costs like childcare, rent, petrol and groceries.
We know Australians who are counted as ‘employed’, can’t get enough hours to pay the bills, or can’t count on regular hours.
We know too many Australians are being exploited or underpaid or subjected to an unsafe environment, hostage to their insecure work.
And we know this government will seek to undermine trade unions at every opportunity.
At the first flicker of economic recovery, this government tried to cut wages and conditions.
Instead of standing up for people being paid as little as $2 an hour, they said enforcing the minimum wage, “was complicated”.
Labor’s plan for secure jobs includes:

  • writing job security into the Fair Work Act;

  • properly defining casual work;

  • cracking down on the abuse of cowboy labour hire firms to ensure people who do the same job get the same pay;

  • public reporting on the gender pay gap for large companies; and

  • 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave.

And we will make wage theft a crime.
This should have been done. It could have been done.
But the Morrison Government voted to remove it from their own legislation.
An 8 year old government behaved like an 8 year old child and threw a tantrum.
And why were they cranky? Because Labor and the crossbench refused to support the parts of the legislation that would cut pay.
Our approach stands in stark contrast to those opposite who cut penalty rates and who boasted that low wages was “a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture”.  
I know there is a better way. Boosting wages and lifting productivity is essential for economic growth.
If you increase wages, workers will have more to spend in their local small businesses.
If elected Prime Minister, I will always stand up for secure jobs and fair wages.
Mr Speaker,
Last year I outlined Labor’s cheaper childcare plan.
Abolishing the cap and increasing the subsidy to lower childcare costs for virtually every family.
The Government dismissed our policy, declared they had already fixed affordability and ridiculed the economic gain from investing in childcare.
Now the Government have rushed out a half-baked policy announcement that they say will lower the structural disincentive to work that they used to tell us didn’t exist.
What the Treasurer hasn’t worked out is that if you perform half a backflip, you fall flat on your face.
That’s why the Liberal’s new policy will only help one in 4 of the families who will benefit from our plan and the Budget Papers show the workforce participation rate will fall.
Labor’s policy will not only deliver support to 4 times the number of families, it will boost the economy substantially and move towards the universal affordable childcare for every family.
This is economic reform that’s good for working families, good for our economy and good for children.

Investing in Australia’s Future

A Labor Government will invest in Australian industry and our workforce, setting them up for success today, and into the future.
We’ll create Jobs and Skills Australia to advise on the future work opportunities and to ensure Australians can benefit from them.
And we will establish a National Reconstruction Fund to transform existing industries and the industries of tomorrow.
We will partner with the private sector, including the superannuation industry to revive our ability to make products and be more self-reliant.
Australia has always produced scientific innovations, but we always haven’t been good at commercialising them.
Think wifi, the black box, google maps, the cochlear implant.
Or solar technology.
Not long ago, solar power was seen as a useful novelty.
Good enough to run a pocket calculator but too expensive, too inefficient, too unreliable to power a home or a workplace.
Australians changed that.
Australian researchers and engineers.
Australian scientists and universities.
Australian breakthroughs in solar power reshaped the global energy grid.
Overwhelmingly this led to manufacturing and job creation overseas, not here.
And if we don’t get smart, if we don’t get serious, if we don’t get moving – the same thing is going to happen again.
We mine and produce every element needed to build a lithium battery – the power storage technology of the future.
I don’t want us to miss out on jobs and investment by sending those materials overseas for another country to manufacture and then importing them back once value has been added.
I want Australia making our own future.
To do that we can’t be afraid of the future, we have to shape it.
The problem with this government isn’t so much that they are stuck in the past, it’s that they want the rest of Australia to go back there and keep them company.
The Liberals abandoned a fibre based National Broadband Network claiming it would cost $29.5 billion.
Then it became $41 billion.
Then 49, then 51, then $57 billion.
Now of course they are having to retrofit back to fibre.
Their love for copper, has cost taxpayers a lot of brass.
Their insistence on looking backward on energy, communications, transport and so much more has driven our capability downward and our costs upward.
Ever since the Liberals drove Holden out of the country, they’ve run up the white flag on manufacturing and skills and apprentices.
I’m not going to see us surrender any more jobs and industries - and the communities that depend on them.
My Labor Government will establish the “Start Up Year” program to help drive innovation and increase links between universities and entrepreneurs.
Start up loans will be offered to students and new graduates with ventures attached to a tertiary institution or designated private accelerator.
This will assist in the identification of opportunities for commercialisation of university research.
The government has proven incapable of developing an energy policy or dealing with climate change.
Positive action on climate change and moving to net zero emissions by 2050 will create jobs, lower energy prices and lower emissions.
And Labor has a plan to help families and communities play their part in achieving this critical target. A plan that will make electric cars more affordable and support the rollout of community batteries.
A Labor Government will create a New Energy apprenticeships program to train 10,000 young people for the energy jobs of the future.
This will support them with up to $10,000 over the course of their apprenticeship.
These 10,000 new apprenticeships will be available in:

  • renewable energy generation;

  • storage and distribution including in emerging technologies such as green hydrogen;

  • energy efficiency upgrades;

  • renewables manufacturing like batteries; and

  • relevant agricultural activities.

The rest of the world has figured this out: cutting pollution means creating jobs.

No One Held Back, No One Left behind

Mr Speaker,
Every one of us hope to grow old.
More and more of us will live long enough to need extra care in our later years.
But right now that thought fills a lot of Australians with dread.
Our aged pensioners and retirees should have confidence that support will be there for them.
None of us can say we weren’t told how to fix the system, with the Royal Commission delivering a comprehensive set of recommendations for change.
The Prime Minister must now explain why he has rejected so many of those important recommendations.
Like the recommendation to require a nurse on duty in nursing homes at all times.
Or support for increasing the appallingly low wages of hard-working aged care staff.
Or why he’s opted for fewer hours of care than the Royal Commission recommended, and delivered them much later.
Or why the Government is congratulating itself for funding new homecare places, when it isn’t even enough to clear the current waiting list.
A Labor Government will not allow older Australians to grow old alone, deprived of proper care and dignity.
We will not forget the dedicated, mostly female staff who care for our elderly, almost uniformly understaffed and underpaid.
The Morrison Government has not even managed to rollout the vaccine to these workers.
Older Australians were there for us, they have paid their taxes, held communities together, raised their families, served their country in war and in peace.
Older Australians deserve to be respected, to feel safe, to be comforted and treated with the utmost dignity. 
This cannot be beyond us.
We can achieve this, we must achieve this.  A Labor Government will deliver this.
And a Labor Government will deliver that care by ensuring that every dollar spent in aged care goes to employing a guaranteed minimum level of nurses, assistants and carers and to daily needs like decent food – rather than into the pockets of the more unscrupulous providers.
We also support the Fair Work Commission moving quickly to meaningfully lift the wages of aged care workers.
And we will ensure that dementia care management is core business given that up to 2 in every 3 aged care residents is affected.
Mr Speaker,
The security of a roof over one’s head should be available to all Australians.
Young people despair about whether they will ever afford a first home.
Families struggle to meet rent payments and older women are the fastest growing group subject to homelessness.
I’m proud to say that Labor in government will create a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, with the annual investment return to build social and affordable housing and create thousands of jobs.
Over the first 5 years this will build around 20,000 social housing properties, places like the home I grew up in.
Our home gave us so much more than somewhere to sleep. It gave my mum and I pride and dignity and security, and it gave me a future… a future that led me here tonight.
Our housing plan is good for jobs too.  This initiative will create over 21,500 jobs each year.
And one in 10 construction jobs created will be for apprentices.
Last year 10,000 mums and their children fleeing family violence were turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed.
Tonight, women’s crisis services across Australia will have to tell women fleeing violence they literally have nowhere to house them.
They will sleep in their car.
Or go back to dangerous situations.
Imagine the impact that has on children, on how they feel at school the next day.
Imagine the emotional toll on a mother, desperate to keep her children safe, but unable to offer them more.
This happens each and every day.
We can and we must do better.
That’s why 4,000 of the 20,000 social housing properties that we create from this funding will be allocated to women and children experiencing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes.
We will also provide $100 million for crisis and transitional housing, for these women at risk.
We will build 10,000 affordable housing properties for frontline workers – the heroes of the pandemic, those nurses, police, emergency service workers and cleaners that are keeping us safe.
Some of the worst housing standards in the world are endured by our First Nations people.  As part of our commitment to Closing the Gap the Fund will provide $200 million for the repair, maintenance and improvements of housing in remote Indigenous communities.
Two weeks after our country stood together on ANZAC Day to declare “Lest we Forget”, 1 in 10 of the people who sleep rough on the streets in Sydney tonight, is a veteran.
Australia must do more to care for the brave men and women who have worn our uniform.
This fund will provide $30 million over the first five years to build more supportive housing and fund specialist services for veterans who are either living or at risk of homelessness.
This is a Future Fund that will give more Australians a future.
Mr Speaker,
More than a year ago, the Government received the Respect@Work Report.
Every woman should feel safe in every workplace, including this one.
The report recognised employers responsibility to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation from their businesses.
Labor in government will work with experts, employers and unions to make sure this responsibility is clear in our law, as was recommended by the report.

National Integrity Commission

Mr Speaker,
The Budget spending was very much focussed on political management of problems the government itself has created over the last 8 years.
Aged care cuts, childcare fee increases, ignoring of women’s safety and economic security issues.
Over these 8 long years the Government has focussed on itself, too often treating taxpayers money as if it were the Liberal and National Parties money.
Sports rorts, community safety rorts, abuse of infrastructure and regional funding has grown with each year.
Even bushfire disaster funding was allocated with political bias.
And then $1 billion spent on government advertising promoting themselves.
In Tuesday’s Budget they announced or topped up no less than 21 separate slush funds worth $4 billion of taxpayers money to splash around in the leadup to the next election.
In addition there is an extraordinary $9 billion where the only information is “decisions taken but not announced”.
This is red hot abuse.
They can’t change.
They won’t change.
And they don’t want to change.
It’s this simple:
If you want to clean-up politics, you need a National Integrity Commission.
And if you want a fair dinkum National Integrity Commission – it will take a Federal Labor Government.

Conclusion – On Your Side

My fellow Australians,
None of us will forget this crisis we have lived through.
All of us are grateful that because of the sacrifices and unselfishness of so many, we have avoided the scale of death and trauma we see in other countries.
To the Australian people I say, you have been magnificent, you have been brave, you have been resolute.
Now you deserve a government worthy of your efforts.
Because it would be a disaster if we emerge from this crisis having learned nothing – and changed not at all.
What a missed opportunity if our economy comes out the other side with nothing to show for this transformational moment but the biggest debt and deficit of all time.
If you see this pandemic as a chance to build back stronger, Labor is on your side.
If you believe economic policy should deliver higher wages, Labor is on your side.
If you want more security at work, Labor is on your side.
If you support equality for women, Labor is on your side.
If you support cheaper childcare, Labor is your side.
If you believe older Australians deserve dignity and care in their later years, Labor is on your side.
If you believe a roof over your head is up to more than market forces, Labor is on your side.
If you get that action on climate change is an opportunity for us to emerge as a renewable energy superpower and create jobs, Labor is on your side.
If you share our ambition for advanced manufacturing, high value industries, a world class services sector in a prosperous, outward looking, ambitious Australia, Labor is on your side.
And if you think sharing our continent with the oldest continuous civilization on earth is a source of national pride and First Nations people should be recognized in our constitution, Labor is on your side.
Mr Speaker,
I’ve never forgotten where I came from.
I’ve never lost sight of the power of government to help people realise their potential.
I’ve never lost faith in our country’s ability to compete and win in the world.
I truly believe this is a moment for Australia to make our own.
What we need now is a government with the plans to seize this chance.
A government driven by optimism about the future.
A government powered by determination to create opportunity.
A government that holds no-one back, that leaves no-one behind.
A Labor government – a government on your side.

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Rd
Marrickville NSW 2204

Phone: 02 9564 3588

Parliament House Office

Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: 02 6277 7700

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734

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