Aug 24, 2019

Speech – Address to Queensland ALP Conference – Brisbane – Thursday, 24 August 2019

My name’s Albo, I’m in Queensland, and I’m here to ask for your help.

I want your help to form a federal Labor Government.

Not just because I bleed Labor.

But because Queensland – and Australia – desperately needs a Labor government.

And Queensland is where we need to win – and where we will win.

The Morrison Government has been engaged in a victory lap.

It is one year to the day since he rolled Malcolm Turnbull in a coup despite not being anywhere near the Liberals’ first choice.

We know from Niki Savva and David Crowe’s authoritative accounts the duplicitous role of the small but devious Morrison group in tactical voting to ensure Malcolm Turnbull was brought undone.

We should continue to remind Queenslanders and Australians of the infamous “I’m on his side” joint Media Conference with Prime Minister Turnbull, all the while knowing his supporters were busy assembling the numbers to roll him.

Remember that when he asks “whose side are you on?” But more on that later.

Having run a negative election campaign, they are a third term Government with no sense of purpose other than to continue acting like an opposition in exile.

They claim Queensland is their turf, and in May it was. But we know that is temporary.

Queensland was where the trade union movement formed the Australian Labor Party.

Queensland elected the world’s first Labor Government in 1899.

Queensland has had a state Labor Government for nearly 25 of the past 30 years.

Queensland is one of Labor’s most successful states.

This is my seventh visit to Queensland as Federal Labor Leader.

Today I make this commitment – in addition to Labor’s outstanding Queensland team led by Jim Chalmers, Terri Butler, Murray Watt and Shayne Neumann, my frontbench team will combine to make multiple visits to every corner of Queensland.

And I will personally visit Queensland more than once month. You will be seeing a lot of me.

Let me say it clearly: I love Queensland 365 days a year – and 362 nights!

I look forward to working with branch members and trade unionists to turn our electoral fortunes around.

This was my first stop on my listening tour.

They talk straight at the Narangba Valley Tavern. And they certainly talk straight to a bloke wearing blue in Caxton Street pubs before State of Origin!

Many wanted to vote for us, but felt they couldn’t.

It wasn’t because Labor didn’t have great candidates.

Susan Lamb, Cathy O’Toole and Chris Ketter worked their guts out to represent Queenslanders and I pay tribute to them. So did the many fantastic candidates I was proud to campaign alongside.

But we need to do better. And we will.

We can examine specific policies whilst staying true to our progressive values.

Values like a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Like fighting for the underdog.

Like sticking with your mates, just like Queenslanders do every time there’s a cyclone, flood or drought.

Labor’s State success shows Queenslanders trust us to deliver better schools, hospitals, roads and services.

One of the messages of May 18 is we need to earn their trust on who can best manage the economy.

Labor put in place the reforms that set Australia up for 28 years of consecutive economic growth.

Labor, under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan, saw the country through the Global Financial Crisis.

Labor understands that trickle-down economics means that misery rains down on working people.

Labor understands aspiration. As the son of a single mum on the invalid pension living in public housing I’m not going to be lectured by the LNP about aspiration.

Working people want a better life for themselves. But they aspire to much more.

The trade union movement embodies the struggle for a better life for others and the need to engage in collective action to counterbalance the power relationship between employers and individual employees.

It’s what you do every day. And I respect the trade union movement – not just for the gains of the past, but for what you do on a day-to-day basis, and for your imagining and creating a better future.

The struggle for weekend penalty rates isn’t just about the workers who rely on them. It’s also good for business which needs customers with money to spend.

Australians aspire to a better life for their family, for their neighbours and for their nation.

Nowhere is that more evident than here in Queensland  – a state so huge it stretches all the way from the Cape to Mt Isa to Charleville and Bernard Fanning.

And here we see the stark contrast between visions for government.

The short-lived Newman Government never saw an asset they didn’t want to sell off and privatise, or a job they didn’t want to send overseas.

They decided to build trains overseas for Queensland that weren’t even fit for purpose. This was one of those supposed cost-saving measures that ended up costing jobs and the budget.

The Palaszczuk Government is fixing this mess. The trains to be repaired in Maryborough will usher in a rebirth of this manufacturing industry -– trains that will be built by Queenslanders for Queenslanders.

The Queensland Government also understands that, being the Sunshine State and the Smart State, Queensland is well placed to benefit from jobs in renewable energy.

Renewable energy now accounts for around 18,000 jobs across Australia. It’s a number that’s growing, especially here.

Between the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 financial years alone, the number of full-time jobs in renewable energy in Queensland increased by 1550.

This was the biggest increase of any state, roughly 50 per cent more than in NSW and Victoria.

The Queensland Government is a positive government, but one that is undermined by the lack of national vision.

When we were last in government in Canberra, we transformed infrastructure in Queensland. This means that as I travel the state I can point to what we did as evidence of what a future Labor Government would do.

We more than doubled annual spending from $143 to $314 per Queenslander.

We upgraded the major roads connecting Brisbane to Ipswich in the west –- a $2.5 billion investment in the Ipswich Motorway; Brisbane to the Gold Coast in the south upgrading the Pacific Motorway; and Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast in the north.

We worked with the Queensland Government to fix congested sections of the Gateway Motorway.

We constructed a new interchange at the intersection between Mains and Kessels Roads.

We worked with the private sector and Brisbane City Council to deliver Legacy Way.

We made an unprecedented $5.7 billion investment in upgrading the Bruce Highway – four times the Howard Government investment in half the time.

Cooroy to Curra, Yeppen Roundabout, Townsville Ring Road, Calliope Crossroads, Cairns southern approaches, Mackay Ring Road, Cape York Roads, Warrego Highway and so much more.

And we gave a helping hand to projects that might have been smaller but still important, such as the refurbishment of Charleville Town Hall, the Cloncurry Community Precinct and the Dalby Sports Centre amongst hundreds of projects across the State.

We invested more in public transport than all previous Governments combined since Federation.

Gold Coast Light Rail – against the hostility of the LNP.

And of course Redcliffe Rail – first promised in 1895, but it took Federal and State Labor working with Moreton Bay Regional Council to get it done.

And Cross River Rail might be opened now if Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman hadn’t cut the funding that was in the Budget more than six years ago.

The actions of the current Federal Government stand in stark contrast to our record.

Gough Whitlam might have once declared “only the impotent are pure”; the current mob have invented a new concept – to be impotent with power.

They have been in power for six years with three prime ministers and three deputy prime ministers and have barely troubled the scorers.

They are black belts in inertia. They are what you might call inaction heroes.

Barnaby Joyce nailed it when during an interview he actually said “Labor Labor Labor Labor”, liked a scratched vinyl record.

I bet you were sorry to see him leave Queensland. Swanny and I agree he has certainly devalued the currency of Former Deputy Prime Ministers!

Where Labor looks to transform Australia and to meet the challenges of the future, the LNP are frightened of the present but absolutely terrified of the future.

Instead they constantly look towards wedge politics.

Where they seek to be defined by what they are against, Labor is determined to be defined by what we are for.

So when faced with a choice on tax cuts with elements for higher income-earners, which we opposed, but tax offsets of up to $1080 for low and middle-income earners, I make no apologies for voting in favour of tax cuts for every council worker, every nurse, every childcare worker, every retail worker, and many more.

Not only did these workers need this income, the economy needed them to get it.

We will fight this rotten Government all the way up to the next election, but we won’t make it easy for them by swinging at sucker balls.

For the LNP it has all been about politics.

They have no policy to deal with the looming economic challenges, at a time when all the economic indicators are negative.

The economic growth forecast for this year has been downgraded to below trend at 2.5 per cent. Consumer demand is weak; wages are stagnating; interest rates are one third of the level of the GFC at just 1 per cent; productivity is going backwards; household debt is at record levels; record numbers of people experiencing mortgage stress.

And for those in work, there is both underemployment and job insecurity.

And Scott Morrison continually has the hide to ask, “Whose side are you on?”

Malcolm Turnbull can tell you how much Scott Morrison’s declaration of support is worth. He learnt that it was as real as a Peter Dutton smile that day in the Prime Minister’s courtyard.

It’s also a question we in the great family of the Labor Party can answer loudly and clearly.

Labor is on the side of unity. They are on the side of dividing others and dividing among themselves.

Labor is on the side of fairness. They are on the side of letting the market rip.

Labor is on the side of greater equality. They support more inequality.

Labor is on the side of the economy working for people, not the other way around.

Labor understands the power of education to create opportunity. They believe education is about entrenching privilege.

Labor is on the side of acting on the science when it comes to addressing climate change. They are unable to act because of climate sceptics in their ranks.

Labor supports equality, respect and non-discrimination regardless of a person’s gender, ethnicity, faith, or sexuality. They tie themselves in knots at the mere thought of progress.

Labor is on the side of doing something about homelessness. They are on the side of putting a “positive spin” on it.

Labor is on the side of raising Newstart. They are on the side of calling it “unfunded empathy”.

Labor is on the side of giving those on the age pension a fair go. They say the pension is generous.

Labor is on the side of building infrastructure. They are on the side of talking about it.

Labor supports 21st century fibre broadband. They support outdated copper.

Labor is on the side of standing up for the rights of workers and their right to organise. They are on the side of stripping away workers’ protections.

Labor is on the side of a National Integrity Commission. They are on the side of the Ensuring Integrity Bill, which represents an ideological attack on unions that we will oppose.

Labor stands for giving Australians the skills they need for future jobs. They are happy to import temporary workers.

Labor wants the Australian flag to fly proudly on the back of Australian made ships with Australian seafarers. They support flags of convenience shipping with foreign workers being paid foreign wages.

Labor is on the side of a free media. They are on the side of politically motivated attacks on journalistic freedom.

Labor is on the side of accountability and transparency. They are on the side of Angus Taylor.

Labor is on the side of true reconciliation and an Indigenous Voice. They imply support at Garma, but dash hopes when they get around their reactionary Caucus room.

They almost made Peter Dutton Prime Minister – the same man who, as none of us should ever forget, boycotted the Apology to the Stolen Generations.

We in Labor are on the side of bringing the nation together and we reject now and forevermore those who would seek to divide us.

The current Prime Minister asked the question. He should consider it answered.

We are the Australian Labor Party and we are on the side of the overwhelming majority of Australians, nowhere more so than here in Queensland.