SPEECH - Queensland ALP State Conference

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

SPEECH

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Queensland ALP State Conference

 

SATURDAY, 23 AUGUST 2014

BRISBANE

 

I want to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we gather today, and pay my respect to their elders both past and present.

Thanks Dr Jim Chalmers for that very warm welcome, and for the work you do fighting for Queenslanders on the Federal Labor frontbench.

And to my other Federal colleagues: Shayne Neumann, Jan McLucas, Bernie Ripoll, Claire Moore, Joe Ludwig, Terri Butler, Graham Perrett, Chris Ketter - every single one of them, a terrific contributor down in Canberra.

I want to say how wonderful it is to be here with Annastacia. Annastacia has been doing such a fine job in such difficult times.

There are two blokes I want to make particular mention of today.

My friend Bill Shorten would have loved to have been here today. Bill has had a difficult week, but he has had a wonderful year. Who would have thought, slightly less than a year in from the last Federal election, Tony Abbott would have had the shortest political honeymoon in Australian history.

Because like Annastacia here with Campbell Newman, Bill has been in Canberra holding Tony Abbott to account every single day.

I want to say how wonderful it is to be in my friend, Wayne Swan’s home state too. 40 years ago Wayne Swan came to Canberra and over those 40 years he has served the Labor Party in many different roles. Including as the Treasurer who saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis, and did it to save hundreds of thousands of jobs for ordinary people. And he did it too at a time when we were able to introduce the Gonski school funding reforms, the NDIS and other great Labor reforms.

To those already in the State Parliamentary Labor Party and those of you who I have been campaigning with, who I am confident I will see there after the next election.

Local Government candidates and representatives. My union comrades. Delegates, one and all.

Rebuilding Queensland Labor

In particular I want to say how great it is to be in Brisbane. Even though I come from south of the border, we have at least one thing in common.

We both know that in politics, Opposition is the worst kind of place to be.

The difficulty of moving on from the past, while staying united as a team.

The frustration of seeing what you’ve built up being torn down by the conservatives.

The bitterness of being proven right, on all the dire predictions we made on the campaign trail.

And so it’s nothing short of remarkable, the strength that Queensland Labor has shown in the past year under Annastacia Paluszczuk’s leadership.

I also want to particularly welcome two of newer members of your state parliamentary team.

The first is a friend and old colleague of mine – Yvette D’ath, who took Redcliffe back for the ALP.

Could there be a sharper contrast than between Scott Driscoll, the disgraced former member, and Yvette D’ath?

One having to jump out of politics before he was pushed, the other such an effective campaigner and representative that she was only allowed six months off after a gruelling Federal election campaign before she was called back to public life.

And, of course, the new member for Stafford, Anthony Lynham. What a phenomenal campaign - over 4000 volunteer phone calls, almost 4000 doors knocked on, 350 volunteers on polling day. And on Election Day, a 19.1 per cent swing, carrying every booth in the electorate bar one.

But these by-elections weren't just about the quality of Labor’s candidates or the strength of our campaigns – great as they were.

Anthony Lynham met a Northsider on polling day, George, who was 81 years old. He'd never voted Labor before in his life - until that day.

And there's one more person to thank for that.

Yes, it's time to talk about Campbell Newman.

When Bill Shorten gave his Budget Reply speech this year, I had people stopping me on the street to give their thanks for voicing their anger at the unfairness.

Well - voters in Redcliffe and Stafford were the start of a twelve month "right of reply" that Queenslanders have been waiting to deliver, ever since Campbell Newman’s first budget.

Because who would have voted for the LNP if they had known that nurses and health workers in Redcliffe Hospital would be sacked after the brutal cuts to Metro North health funding, with over 1000 full-time jobs lost in Metro North alone?

Who in Stafford would have voted for them, knowing that community organisations would be gutted by cuts to the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program?

Who would have voted for them if Campbell Newman had come clean about his plans for Queensland?

Campbell Newman said when he was elected, ‘I pledge to you that we will conduct ourselves with humility, grace and dignity’.

But for that first-time Labor voter in Stafford, for George, it was the arrogance of the LNP Government that finally tipped him over the edge – the fact that on top of all of the cuts and broken promises, they just stopped listening to the people who put them there.

Which is starting to sound like a very familiar story.

Yes, it’s time to talk about Tony Abbott.

Newman and Abbott: same political strategy of broken promises and cuts

We said in the Federal election campaign that Campbell Newman was the curtain-raiser for an Abbott Federal Government.

For a playbook that has proven to be such a political train wreck, it's strange how closely Newman and Abbott have stuck to it.

  • Step one: promise from opposition that there's nothing to fear;
  • Step two: set up a commission of audit to get your marching orders from the big end of town;
  • Step three: tear up your election commitments and start cutting health and education.

Let’s take Campbell Newman:

First he tells Queensland’s public servants they have ‘nothing to fear’ and that he will ‘revitalise frontline services’.

Then in his first budget, he cuts $3 billion from the Queensland health system and sacks over 4000 health workers.

Revitalising Campbell Newman-style – ripping the guts out of public services Queenslanders rely on.

Now Tony Abbott:

Right up to Election Day, he says: 'No cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes’.

Then comes the National Commission of Audit, calling for cuts to health, education and essential services.

Here Tony Abbott starts to improvise on the plan – the $5 GP co-payment for concession card holders recommended by the Commission of Audit doesn’t go far enough, so he decides to push for a $7 fee.

Campbell Newman: says he’s “not a right-wing ideologue” and then sacks 14,000 Queenslanders.

Tony Abbott: says before he’s elected “the one thing that the Australian workers will find is that I am their best friend”, goes on to cut 16, 500 jobs from the public service and kills the car industry to boot.

He promised a million new jobs - We just thought some of them would be in Australia.

And for Queenslanders, it isn’t just the insult of having to sit through a re-run of this cynical political play.

Separately, they would be dangerous enough. Together, they’re a disaster for Queensland.

 

Bad separately, together a disaster

Take the impact on our health system.

Over in the United States, they are taking the long and difficult path back from a user pays health system.

But here, Campbell Newman doesn’t mind sacking nurses, closing hospital beds and pushing out waiting times.

And Tony Abbott backs up with more cuts - to hospitals, to GP services, and to prevention - the job of keeping people healthy and out of hospital.

Campbell Newman cuts, then Tony Abbott shows up with a plan for even deeper cuts.

It’s like coming down with the flu and and then getting food poisoning: bad separately, together a disaster.

Or take education.

Campbell Newman called the Gonski school funding reforms a ‘bucket of custard.’[1]

He turned his back on an extra $3.8 billion for Queensland schools, but worse he sabotaged the opportunity to create a new system which addressed the rising gap between well-off and disadvantaged students.

Now Christopher Pyne has unveiled his plans for higher education, with students paying more and getting less.

It’s true that all students are going to be worse off, but the biggest tragedy is the smart kids who’ll never make it through those university gates because of the prospect of decades of rising debt.

What happens to those kids, the bright ones born in the wrong postcode?

The ones the LNP want to keep piling handicaps on, from threats to federal cuts to preschool through the end of their schooling lives?

The cumulative effect of Newman and Abbott’s robbing of those kids is devastating.

It’s like a having a hopeless teacher and then getting stuck next to the school bully: bad separately, but together a disaster.

What they want to do to young people breaks your heart - cut TAFE, cut Youth Connections and other successful employment programs, leave them without any income at all for six months at a time if they're unlucky enough not to find work, then saddle them with a debt sentence if they want to go to uni.

The question of whether to fund university education is something that shows up the difference between us and them: they argue, why should we subsidise people with our tax money just so they can get ahead? It’s every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost. That’s their approach.

And we respond – those future graduates we invest in, they will pay through the tax system when they’re graduates and they’ll help the next generation, and they’ll help the next generation.

Because to us in the Labor movement, health and education aren’t just businesses. They’re the right of every Australian, and reserving them for the privileged diminishes us all.

I want to tell you a story about myself.

When I was about 4 or 5 we went to Slovenia for the first time, which is where my parents are from.

When we arrived we went to my grandfather’s farm where everyone was out in the field, with their neighbours, cutting a wheat crop.

This was 40 years ago and they were cutting the wheat crop with scythes, then bundling the wheat up to dry in the sun.

When we finished working we got into a wooden cart pulled by bullocks that took us home.

I think about that first time I met my grandfather and what he would think about my life now and the opportunities that I’ve had.

The thing that strikes me most about it is he could never have imagined, 40 years ago, the jobs that exist in Australia today.

The fact that we live in a country where any kid can go to school and we have aspired to any kid being able to do post school education; TAFE, vocational education or university.

And not based on their families wealth, based on their ability and their desire and their dreams.

What will this country be like in 40 years’ time? We cannot imagine the jobs that will exist in 40 years’ time. We can’t even conceive of them today.

So we aren’t just robbing these individual kids of their opportunity, we are robbing the future prosperity of this nation if we don’t invest in education.

 

Why we care

Each of us has a different story about what makes us Labor.

I think of my dad. He migrated to Australia and worked here in Queensland for a while, cutting cane and helping build big sugar silos.

It was hard work and he worked hard at it. And he felt the effects of that strain and the cement dust on his lungs for years after he’d moved on.

It was important to him that he could provide for his family, and he told me that’s why he was always part of the union.

Instead of going it alone, being part of a union meant he knew he could rely on decent wages and conditions that had some dignity.

I think of my mum. She came to Australia in her early twenties with no English and worked in factories, before raising us.

I think of the choices my mum and dad made, raising me and my brothers.

We didn't have a lot of money, but all I ever had to say was "it's educational" for them to hand over the money they worked so hard to save.

They never resented paying tax so other people could go to university as Christopher Pyne says, because those "other people" were their kids – we were the first generation to have that chance.

I cannot tolerate a vision of Australia where we are the last generation to have that chance.

Each of us has a different story about why we're Labor, but we share the same vision for the kind of Australia we want to live in.

When I was elected, I said that I was proud to live in a country where your birth is not your destiny.

And together, as a movement, we can protect and build on that vision.

We've done it before - we're a party that values our history and the great Labor reforms of the past, like Medicare and superannuation.

And more importantly we'll do it again, because our party is the party of building the future.

And as bad as Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott are individually, and as toxic as they are in combination, by that same degree Labor working together in State and Federal government can change Queensland for the better.

And that's the reason Annastacia and her team have been working every day to hold the Newman Government to account.

And that's why Bill and his Federal team has been working every single day to take on Tony Abbott.

 

Conclusion

A British Prime Minister, the Earl of Derby, once said: "The duty of an Opposition is very simple... to oppose everything, and propose nothing."

Of course, Lord Derby was a Tory. That was Tony Abbott’s approach.

Labor knows that we are only worthy of regaining government because of our hopes and aspirations – because of what we stand for:

  • a decent wage, and strong rights at work – the purpose of a thriving economy, not the barrier to it.
  • a health system where patients are treated on need, not triaged on the size of their wallets.
  • schools where every kid can get a great education, and where a difficult childhood doesn’t mean you are lost for the rest of your life.

We will face up to the challenge of climate change, because the political costs of today are nothing compared to the real costs we’re leaving to our kids and grandkids.

And we won’t stop until everybody has the same rights – no matter the colour of your skin, or the gender of the person you love.

We stand for an Australia where:

  • If you become homeless, you don’t become invisible.
  • If your child is born with a disability, you aren’t on your own.
  • If you lose your job and can’t make ends meet, you can lean on us while you look for work - and then you in turn help others.

Delegates, we know that prosperity and justice only come together when we work together.

That’s the Labor way, that’s the kind of Australia we stand for, and that’s why we’re taking the fight up to Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott.

And Queensland – it starts with you. I’ll see you on the campaign trail.

ENDS


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