Aug 25, 2019

Speech – Address to WA State Conference, WA State of Opportunity – Perth – Sunday, 25 August 2019

It is a great honour to be back in Western Australia for the eighth time this year, a Labor state that reminds us all clearly and powerfully just what our party is capable of.

Once upon a time, the Federal Coalition made the flimsiest of promises: “Good government starts today”.

Maybe one day they’ll finally get to keep that optimistic promise, but I’m not holding my breath.

It is one year this weekend since Scott Morrison 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 West Australians 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.
As for their promise of good government, I’m not entirely convinced they know what good government actually is.

However, in the spirit of helpfulness, I encourage them to look here to Western Australia.

Here you can see what good government looks like — good government that hasn’t just started, but is well and truly underway.

And what it looks like is the McGowan Labor Government.

One hundred and twenty years after WA Labor was founded in the goldfields at Coolgardie, the McGowan Government keeps its flame burning brightly.

Since its election in 2017, the McGowan Government is staying true to the promises it made to the people of WA. It is building the infrastructure that ensures this mighty state is equipped for the future.

The future never stops coming, of course, so there is always more to be done. But this is a Government with the energy, the momentum, the will and, crucially, the people to ensure that what needs to be done will get done.

Thanks to you, WA continues to stand tall as a great Labor state. WA’s contribution to the movement is beyond question.

You delivered John Curtin to Canberra. We may never be able to measure the immensity of our fortune that he was our leader during our darkest hour.

You nurtured Bob Hawke, first at Perth Modern School, then at the University of Western Australia. It was here that Bob met Hazel Masterson, his first great love.

And it was here at the age of just 17 that Bob had the motorbike accident that brought him close enough to death to make him vow that from that moment on, his would be a life well spent. It was a vow he kept emphatically.

Bob may have been born elsewhere, but it was WA — the state of which his own uncle Bert Hawke had been premier — that made him.

When Australians think of all Bob achieved, all that he made possible, and all the good we have reaped as a nation in the decades since because of him, our eyes should always turn west.

Not content with giving us one Kim Beazley, you gave us two: Kim senior, Curtin’s successor in the seat of Fremantle, and a true reformer when he was Gough Whitlam’s education minister.

And of course you gave us Kim Junior.

Kim has served his country with dedication, devotion and apparently tireless good cheer.

As one of the galaxy of stars that made up the Hawke-Keating ministry, he shone in a great sweep of portfolios and as Deputy Prime Minister — admittedly he held that position for a little longer than I did.

Kim went on to make a considerable mark as our man in Washington. And now you are lucky enough to have him back home in WA as your Governor.

You gave us Australia’s first female Premier. It was deeply overdue, but the silver lining of this tardiness was that the premier in question was Carmen Lawrence.

You gave us Dorothy Tangney, the first Labor woman in Federal Parliament and Australia’s first female senator.

And you have given us Anne Aly, Australia’s first female Muslim MP.

The more I think about it, the more I suspect there is something special in the water here.

Even the local Tories are seeing the light and working hard to improve their own show. I’m thinking specifically about Mathias Cormann and all he did to stop Peter Dutton moving into the Lodge.

Rarely has it been so important that a Finance Minister’s relationship with numbers be such a bad one. Mathias, not everyone in your party appreciates your incompetence, but rest assured that we do.

And I can’t come here and not acknowledge the state’s silent non-achievers: Michaelia Cash, Melissa Price and Ian Goodenough, the human equivalent of stealth technology.

That said, nothing lifts the heart so much as turning your eyes away from the rabble without a clue that is the Federal Government, to the habitual achiever that is the Labor Government in Western Australia.

This is a state with a strong grip on the present and a clear eye on the future.
Especially when it has a Labor Government.

Take for example the gas reservation policy introduced by the Carpenter Labor Government in 2006. Its outcome is that the supply of gas for industry is not only abundant and affordable; it can provide the energy required for new manufacturing projects in WA.

The WA gas reservation policy was visionary. It was also a hard fight for the WA Labor Government to introduce it against an array of opponents that included industry and the Liberal Opposition.

While it enjoys widespread support now – especially in light of the energy and gas crisis on the eastern seaboard – critics still remain.

What we see in WA is a forward-looking Labor Government policy at the state level that can lead to federal support for other sectors, such as innovative new manufacturing industries.

And your vision extends well beyond the economy.

You have achieved bipartisan recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution.
Put together all of what you do and what it adds up to is nation-building.

It is a spirit perfectly embodied by the McGowan Government. In Premier Mark McGowan you have one of Australia’s true leaders. And that true leader has a true team.

I do want to single out my friend Alannah MacTiernan, who has been having a tough time, and bring her the best wishes of all her former Federal colleagues.

And we have a great Federal team ready to combine with the McGowan Government to take WA forward.

Madeleine King, Matt Keogh, Louise Pratt, Glenn Sterle, Pat Dodson and Josh Wilson make a formidable frontbench team.

Sue Lines is a terrific Senate Deputy President. Anne Aly is making a mark on the national stage and Patrick Gorman is so good he’s won two elections in his first year!

I want to pay tribute to the hard-working candidates here who proudly advocated the cause of Labor, and to the rank and file members and unionists who campaigned so strongly in the May election.

As much as we were disappointed, I am gaining energy from the determination to lift Federal Labor’s vote in WA.

We are a progressive Party and always will be. Our policies may be under review but our values are not.

These values will guide us as we develop and articulate our vision for Australia’s future. In the coming months and into next year I’ll be making major speeches that will demonstrate how our enduring Labor values will translate into a platform for change.

For example, one of my first major speeches will address the future of work and how we can ensure decent work, decent jobs and job security so our economy delivers for our society.

The first of those will be “On Jobs and the Future of Work”, as the creation of jobs and a strong economic foundation must be a first priority for any Labor Government.

This will focus on the challenges but also the opportunities presented by changes in technology.

Focus needs to ensure appropriate skills development and that Australia maximises the competitive advantages we have in a globalised economy.

It must be focused on outcomes for people and a lift in living standards.

Here in WA the presence of strategic resources and rare earths of high value such as Lithium are an opportunity not just for the resources sector, but high value manufacturing.

We produce the things that go into a solar panel or a battery, we should be value adding here to boost our economy, create quality jobs and strengthen our international position.

Some of this is happening. Australian companies have begun exporting electric vehicle charging stations to Europe.

We are located in the fastest growing region of the world in human history.
With the right vision that is an extraordinary opportunity.

We want to build on our past achievements, with a plan for a better future.

We want to get on with combining to create more jobs, build infrastructure and develop services throughout this State.

As Infrastructure Minister I lifted investment in WA from $154 to $261 per West Australian.

Contrast that to the Coalition. They take a project that we started like the Swan Valley Bypass, bung a new name on it and pretend it’s their project. Luckily for the Coalition, Labor gave them a wide choice of infrastructure projects to pick from.

On our watch, construction began on the great Perth road project that is Gateway WA.

The widening of the Great Eastern Highway was funded, constructed and opened.

We got the ball rolling on upgrades to the Leach Highway, the Great Northern Highway and North West Coastal Highway.

There’s the transformative Perth City Link, which saw the sinking of the railway line in the CBD – a major engineering feat – and the reuniting of the CBD’s retail district with the Northbridge entertainment precinct.

This has created new public spaces at Yagan Square and Manatj Park, a massive improvement to liveability in Perth.

We allocated $500 million for public transport access to the Airport. The 2014 Abbott Budget took it out.

Then, under Malcolm Turnbull they put $480 million back in and called it new money! That’s the Liberals idea of innovative policy!

We fixed rail and road access to Esperance Port, the transcontinental railway between Koolyanobbing and Kalgoorlie, and the Grain Rail Network and much more.

These are real projects with real funding that made a real difference.

The same cannot be said for the Perth Freight Link, which is just one more unhappy love child from the romance between conservatives and toll roads.

For this hoax they have invented a new term, “contingent liability”, which is short for ”we haven’t actually allocated any funds in any year because that would show up on the balance sheet”.

It’s like they aspire to do the project, but with phantom funding.

The Liberals talk about aspiration like they invented it.

It is true that our understanding of aspiration differs from theirs. Their version is solely about higher personal wealth, and individualism.

But we understand that while aspiration is something you have for yourself, it extends beyond you to your family, your friends, your community and, ultimately, your nation.

I grew up in public housing, raised by a single mother. What I saw in her was aspiration in its most essential form.

We want our kids to enjoy a better quality of life than us.

It’s not easy for everyone, especially now as the state of the economy adds challenges to people’s lives.

But if you mention to the current Treasurer that people are worse off than they were during the GFC, he’ll ignore the hard numbers and assert we’re better off.

And if you explain to the current Prime Minister that your sense of aspiration means you want to extend a helping hand to those who are doing it tough, such as those on Newstart, he’ll accuse you of “unfunded empathy”.

For Scott Morrison, “aspiration” is just a word up near the front of the dictionary.

But Labor aspires for the great community that is Australia.

We want better for our fellow Australians. We want to build a society where our children enjoy more opportunities than we enjoyed ourselves.

We want them to have the most solid basics: a decent job, a proper education, a healthy environment, and good health.

This is how we lift all Australia. This is how we improve all Australia. And ultimately, this is how we continue the mission that was so close to Bob Hawke’s heart and that was bringing Australians closer together.

Bob understood it. Labor understands it. WA understands it.

And yet 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 Australians.

That is why I want to do all I can to help the McGowan Government get re-elected in 2020 – because this great state deserves nothing less than a great government.

So you’ll be seeing a lot of me in the meantime.

But it’s not all altruistic. I’m also hoping for WA’s vote at the next federal election.
We are on the side of all Australians.

And if we can persuade Western Australia to send more Labor members to Canberra at the next election, we can govern for all Australians.