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It is with great pleasure and a real sense of history that I rise to speak today.

In 1999, when speaking in support of the superannuation entitlements bill of the member for Grayndler, I described that law as a law which:

“… does not provide for special rights for gay and lesbian couples. It provides universal rights, equal rights, for those people.”

And so it is the case today.

The bill before us is about universal rights, about human rights and about an inclusive and a fair Australia. During the 2004 debate, when the Howard government rushed through laws amending the Marriage Act, I said:

“Some time in the not too distant future, people will look back on this desperate attempt at wedge politics and treat it with the contempt it deserves.

Some time in the not too distant future, there will be formal recognition of same-sex couples, and the sky will not fall in, and we will not be destroyed … and life will continue.

The main difference will be fewer violent or abusive attacks on gay men and lesbians, and fewer teenagers suiciding, because they will not be taught to feel shame about their sexuality as many are now.”

How privileged I am, how proud I am, to be able to stand today and speak in support of this bill.

My regret is that it has taken so many years to get here.

I wish that debate on a bill like this could have happened without an unnecessary, divisive and expensive postal survey.

But Australians proved themselves better, braver and more decent than their government, and worlds away from the hate and the fear that was being pushed by some elements of the 'no' campaign.

I wish that the Prime Minister had assisted in bringing this bill to the parliament without putting Australia through the expense and division of this survey. It required his leadership and the courage of his convictions, but these were sadly missing.

Instead of the debate happening here, as it should've, it was pushed into, shoved into, lounge rooms across Australia, where children were asking their parents for support, for basic acknowledgement, and some parents were saying no. I don't know if any of us can imagine, really, what a hard thing it is to hear that from your own parents—that they wouldn't be voting to recognise you and your relationship. That could've been avoided if the debate had happened in here, as it is now.

I wish this parliament had done its job and legislated earlier. I'm proud of the fact that I was one of those 42 who voted in favour of the Jones bill in 2012. And I'm sorry it has taken until 2017 for this law to be in this place with the likelihood that it will pass this week.

I'm sorry for all the pain that the LBGTIQ community has faced in having themselves and their relationships debated in this way in recent months—in having their relationships put on trial. But love won in the end, and the opponents of marriage equality could not defeat it.

The democratic tradition runs deep in our country. Even though many disagreed, as I did, with this postal survey, the democratic impulses of our people were strong, and about 80 per cent of voters turned out. And they overwhelmingly voted yes.

My electorate of Sydney shared the highest yes response in the country, with 83.7 per cent of my electorate voting yes.

It's not surprising: in many ways, my electorate is the cultural heart of LGBTIQ Australia. It has a long history of activism and political engagement that emerged around Oxford Street, Darlinghurst and Kings Cross.

While there are LGBTIQ Australians in every community, in every city, in every suburb and in every town right across Australia, many have chosen to make their home in my electorate. It is a tolerant, safe, welcoming and diverse community and I'm proud to say that I've got two very special constituents here with me today, Izzy Perko and Collin Lyon, who exemplify for me this sort of activism and relationship. Izzy and Collin have been together for decades and just want to be treated like everybody else in my community—allowed to marry legally and share their commitment with their friends and family.

Earlier this year, after a detailed inquiry, a Senate committee agreed on draft marriage equality legislation. This legislation was backed by Labor, the Liberals, the Nationals, the Nick Xenophon Team and the Greens. This is the consensus bill that is before us today.

It's very simple.

Firstly, it allows same-sex couples to marry. Secondly, it protects religious freedom by allowing clergy and a new category of religious celebrants to choose who they will and will not marry.

It isn't complicated and I'm disappointed that some are seeking to make it complicated. There is talk by the Prime Minister and others of substantive amendments to this bill on the grounds of protecting religious freedoms.

As the Leader of the Opposition has said, Labor is absolutely committed to religious freedoms. We are absolutely supportive of Australians having the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of their religious practice or observance in this country.

But I would say to those people who are concerned that there is no attack on freedom of religion in this bill. Indeed, the bill strengthens religious protections; it does not weaken them. Of course, we have no difficulty with further discussion about religious protections—indeed, about protection of human rights right across the spectrum of human rights, including religious freedom—but that is best done next year, noting that the government's newly established panel, led by the Hon. Philip Ruddock, is yet to report.

I'd also say that, just as there are those who are concerned that religious protections don't go far enough in this bill, there are others who are concerned that they go too far. This shows that this bill hits the right balance. There are some concerned that there shouldn't be a new category of religious celebrants, for example. So there is a time to discuss these issues of religious freedom, but we shouldn't complicate the bill that's before us today, which has already achieved a cross-party consensus.

There are so many people whose work needs to be acknowledged in the long fight for this next step in equality for LGBTIQ Australians.

Of course, most of the big steps forward have occurred over the years under Labor governments, from Bill Hayden leading the charge on decriminalisation of homosexuality to Don Dunstan being the first Premier to legalise homosexuality 42 years ago; from Neville Wran banning discrimination on the grounds of sexuality to Kevin Rudd's government legislating to remove discrimination against same-sex couples from 85 federal laws in areas as diverse as tax, veterans affairs, social security and health.

I want to acknowledge the member for Maribyrnong and our Labor leader, Bill Shorten, who has pursued this issue as a priority and committed Labor to legislating for marriage equality within the first 100 days of a Shorten Labor government.

I thank all of my colleagues who've been long-time advocates for LGBTI Australians and for marriage equality: my friend Senator Penny Wong, of course; my friend Senator Louise Pratt; the shadow Attorney-General, the member for Isaacs; the shadow minister for equality, the member for Griffith; the member for Grayndler, my neighbour in inner-city Sydney and a long-time ally of the LGBTIQ community in this place; my state colleague Penny Sharpe MLC; and of course those opposite. We've worked so cooperatively in recent times.

Senator Dean Smith, I know that this has taken a personal toll on you, and I'm proud to be able to congratulate you today for your leadership. For those opposite who have spoken today and will speak later in this debate, I know that it is a brave thing to do to stand up in the face of not overwhelming support from your own side. It's gutsy, and it's appreciated.

I want to acknowledge Rainbow Labor. Rainbow Labor is a group of ordinary members of the Labor Party who have put their faith and their trust in Labor and have said that they know it will be Labor who can deliver on their aspirations. They have campaigned so hard for this win, and they have been part of changing history.

I also want to acknowledge the many other campaigners who've devoted years of their lives to the pursuit of equality: all of those involved with the AME campaign—Anna Brown, Tom Snow, Brooke Horne, Alex Greenwich, Janine Middleton, Tim Gartrell, Paddy Batchelor and many, many more; the community groups who have been fighting for this equality for years, including the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Twenty10, ACON, Wear it Purple, Community Action Against Homophobia, Inner City Legal Centre, Rainbow Families and so many others; and the union movement, who, once again in our nation's history, swung behind the fight for equality. I can tell you it makes such a difference having the human resources of those unions backing a campaign like this—people out on the streets early in the morning and late at night, phoning, door knocking, standing at train stations and convincing their colleagues, their friends and their family members to vote yes. Individuals like Magda Szubanski, Kerryn Phelps and Jackie Stricker-Phelps, Rodney Croome, Father Frank Brennan—so many have stood up and joined their voices to the chorus of calls for equality.

Every person, every individual, who has had a difficult conversation with a friend or a family member or a complete strange at a train station in the morning, at a bus stop or during a door knock—this really would not have happened without this massive mobilisation of ordinary Australians committed to equality.

I know that many people over the course of this debate have actually changed their minds. They started out thinking that this wasn't an important issue or that marriage equality would somehow change our society in a bad way. Over the years, they've listened to their friends or family members or colleagues, and they've changed their minds. It takes a lot of bravery to change your mind. It takes intellectual openness and emotional openness to change your mind. It's a really big thing to do, and I particularly thank those people today.

There are so many people for whom this change means so much. I know the reason they stood up to speak out was not just for their own personal benefit but to help make the sort of country they want to live in.

This is a victory for my friends in Elizabeth Bay John Challis, 89, and Arthur Cheeseman, 85, who have fought for 50 years to have their relationship recognised and who will marry in January. Arthur said recently of seeing marriage equality become a reality:

“It gives us a new dignity, a new status, a new place in society. We are the same as everyone else.”

People like Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett, from Tathra on the New South Wales South Coast. Eddie is only 14 years old, but he is one of the bravest kids you could ever meet.

It takes real guts for families like his, rainbow families, to have made this case and in the public eye.

I think of the young Indigenous woman in Armidale who quietly took me aside when I was there last year to let me know the struggle she faces every day and to urge me not to give up. I say to her today, 'I didn't, and I'll never give up.'

I think about the teenage boy I met in Bathurst this year who told me how hard it was to come out in the country town if your friends and family aren't supportive. I think about the teenagers I met at headspace in Sunshine, Melbourne, who told me how many young people were suffering because they were being made to feel second rate by their government.

This change would not have been possible without the trailblazers in the community.

This is a victory for the 78ers who marched down Oxford Street into a wall of police brutality in the pursuit of equality. It is their struggle that this parliament honours today by passing this legislation.

I want to send a very special message to those people for whom this has been a decades-long struggle, people who lost relationships, lost connection with family and lost their jobs because they took a stand all those years ago.

Important issues like this capture the public's imagination because they go to something fundamental within us: the kind of society that we want for each other and for our kids—fairer, kinder, less judgemental and more accepting, a society in which we live and let live and in which we recognise that love makes a marriage and love makes a family.









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Speech: Light on the Hill







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Speech: EMILY’S List Oration, Canberra, Wednesday 16 August 2017










Thank you to Catherine for the introduction. One of the reasons I’ll fight so hard to see Labor elected federally is so we can have a fantastic woman like Catherine King as our health minister.

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunawal People, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I’d also like to acknowledge all of my wonderful Labor colleagues here tonight:

-  MLAs: Tara Cheyne, Rachel Stephen-Smith, Suzanne Orr, Bec Cody

-  Federal colleagues: Claire Moore, Sue Lines, Sharon Claydon, Malarndirri McCarthy, Gai Brodtmann

Thank you to the Emily’s List Action Group Members who organised the event tonight: Eleanor, Lisa, Carol, Meredith and Liz.

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SPEECH: Address to the Sydney Institute, Sydney, 8 June 2017









I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I’m a person who is pretty big on new experiences.

I like trying new places to eat, reading new authors, listening to new music.

But I found myself a little surprised - and maybe a little alarmed - by a new experience I had recently.

I agreed with Scott Morrison.

In February, the Treasurer said that the biggest challenge for the Australian economy at the moment is low wages growth.

I agree.

While there are plenty of challenges to choose from, low wages growth is right up there.

Of course it’s bad for individuals, but it’s also bad for our society and our economy.

Low wages growth, and the increasing inequality that comes with it, is creating a society in which too many people feel like outsiders…

…let down by our democracy.

And an economy saddled with sluggish wages will struggle to create demand and to grow.

It’s one thing to identify a problem.

It’s another to fix it in a way that is fair and efficient.

I’d say there are two very different strategies being promoted at the moment.

The government is sticking with trickle-down economics. 

The one card trick of a big business tax cut.

Labor, on the other hand, is working towards inclusive prosperity.

A strong and growing economy where the benefits of growth are more equally distributed – underpinning further growth.

A virtuous circle.

Some commentators like to say Labor believes in redistribution but not growth.

Inevitably, they talk about growing pies and cutting them up.

This misunderstands our position.

For Labor, fairer distribution is part of our growth strategy.

Full employment, decent pay and conditions, money in your pocket and the confidence to spend it – these aren’t nostalgic throw backs…

….they are necessary preconditions for a strong growing economy.

What is happening to wages?

In Australia right now we have lowest wages growth since records began.

Over the last year wages rose by just 1.9 per cent: below the level of the consumer price index.

Real wages are contracting.

This is, incidentally, the opposite of the prediction made at this very lectern by then Employment Minister Eric Abetz when he addressed you in 2014 and warned of an “imminent wages explosion”.

He stood here, lit the fuse, put his fingers in his ears…and he’s still waiting.

This week the Fair Work Commission announced an increase in the minimum wage of 3.3 per cent.

A full time worker on the minimum wage will earn about $36,134 per year.

This was met with predictable howls of outrage from the business lobby.

Justice Ross acknowledged that the panel’s past assessments of what a “modest” wage increase looked like might have been overly cautious.

I would have to agree - when the minimum wage and the awards that depend on it have grown by just 4.3 per cent in real terms over the last five years – less than half the rate of labour productivity growth.

Why is low wage growth a problem?

Why should we care about low wage growth?

Well obviously if you’re someone watching the bills race ahead of your pay packet – you know and you care.

But I believe this is an issue for all Australians – even the high income earners who are bucking the trend and continuing to see their own incomes grow.

We all want to see Australian businesses succeed, to earn export dollars and generate jobs.

Business needs stable government, they need good governance, simple and fit for purpose regulation, low levels of corruption.

They need a healthy, educated, Asia-literate, multi-lingual, high productivity workforce.

The ‘human capital’ produced by world-class schools, TAFEs and universities.

A workforce that graduates with the knowledge to succeed now – but also the capacity to adapt to a working world defined by rapid change.

Businesses  need quality modern infrastructure: road, rail, ports, airports…

…and digital infrastructure - high speed broadband.

If we get these things right, we are a fair way along the road to creating the environment in which businesses can thrive.

But unless the customers are there - with money in their pockets and the confidence to spend it - businesses will struggle.

Endemic low wage growth, and the low consumer confidence that partners it, is increasingly recognised as a handbrake on growth.

Business profits in Australia are at an all-time high and increased by     40 per cent last year.

That’s good news.

I want Australian businesses to be profitable.

But businesses won’t stay profitable if potential customers hang onto their hard-earned.

Short-term profit that comes off the back of low wages or a shrinking workforce might help the CEO or CFO’s bonus this year…

…but it damages our broader economy in the long run.

Low wages and growing inequality - and the drag on growth that they represent - are on the radar of the OECD and the IMF.

They have found that economies with more equal distributions of income and wealth have stronger and more stable growth than those with greater inequality and that redistributive policies which reduce inequality have a positive impact on growth.

Increasing wages at the bottom supports spending.

People on low incomes tend to spend a larger proportion of their income than those at the top.

An economy where real wages are contracting faces declining living standards for households around the country, higher levels of inequality and insecurity and consequent lower economic growth.

Even Scott Morrison gets that.

Why is this happening?

It’s a fact that wages are stagnant or falling.

But why?

Judith Sloan writing in May spoke for the Treasury and the Reserve Bank as well as most domestic and international economists when she said: “The truth is we really don’t understand why wages are growing so slowly”.

A paper in March of this year by the Reserve Bank entitled “Insights into Low Wage Growth in Australia” attempted to understand the situation better.

In particular the Bank looked at two aspects of low wage growth, its puzzling relationship to the unemployment rate and the possibility of it being affected by structural changes to the labour market.

The Bank looked at unemployment because the orthodox model suggests that wages should be rising with unemployment at current levels.

In Australia unemployment currently sits at 5.7 per cent, around GFC levels.

It has been stable at roughly this level for about 18 months.

However, the headline rate masks the true nature of unemployment particularly hidden unemployment - those who have given up looking for work…

…and under-employment - those who are working but wish for more hours.

The part-time share of employment currently sits at just 31.9 per cent -

0.1 per cent below its historic high set in November last year.

This is one of the highest part-time rates of any developed country.

Around one-third of part time workers say they want more hours.

That is 1.1 million people.

The under-utilisation of labour means that increased demand for labour is first absorbed by those looking for more work or those re-entering the job market instead of increasing the price of labour.

The Reserve Board paper also noted that international literature has argued that “low wage growth may reflect a decline in workers’ bargaining power.”

You don’t say.

I would go further and argue that there is a clear link between the fall in union membership, the lowering of workers’ bargaining power and today’s low wage growth.

This is not a radical position.

The IMF - historically no great supporter of labour unions - has acknowledged the links between low levels of unionisation on the one hand and low wages, inequality and increasing incomes for those at the top on the other.

Australia shows the truth of that.

We’ve moved from centralised wage fixing – to workplace agreements underpinned by a safety net of minimum conditions.

Union membership has fallen from 40 per cent of the workforce to around 15.

And yet inequality is at a 75-year high.

If we’re going to get wages going in the right direction, we need a new look at old assumptions.

Take productivity.

The assumption has always been that increased labour productivity is shared by businesses with their workforce through higher wages.

John Fraser, Secretary to the Treasury, is among those who’ve pointed out recently that there has been a shift from wages to profits.

Productivity is improving – but the dividend isn’t being shared with the employees. 

The link between hard work and reward has been severed.

So with:

-       unemployment around GFC levels,

-       historically high underemployment,

-       low rates of unionisation,

-       big structural shifts in the labour market, such as the decline in mining sector and manufacturing jobs

-       tech disruption…

The result is reduced bargaining power for employees – and smaller pay-packets for workers.

It’s particularly true of wages at the bottom end.

Real wages for the top 10 per cent of income earners have grown by    72 per cent over the last four decades…

….that’s more than three times the rate of increase for incomes for the bottom 10 per cent of income earners.

What is the answer?

If low wages growth is the problemwhat’s the solution?

The Liberals think it’s a tax cut for multinationals, a tax cut for millionaires and a tax hike for working class and middle class people.

It’s a tax and spend plan – but they’re taxing working people and spending it on the top end of town.

We take a different view.

We believe in a strong growing economy creating well-paid secure work:

-       a tax and transfer system that supports growth and fairness,

-       a strong social safety net,

-       growth which is environmentally and socially sustainable.

We support investment in productivity enhancing infrastructure, selected on the basis of sensible business plans – not where the marginal seats are, or where a dart lands when Barnaby Joyce throws it at a map on his wall.

The choice before us is as stark as it has ever been, and the challenge is, in many ways, as large.

The Hawke-Keating Government inherited a stale and sluggish economy, locked in a vicious wage-inflation spiral where the pathway to continuing growth was uncertain.

Wayne Swan, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard fought off a global shock that saw Australia as almost the only developed nation to continue to grow during the global financial crisis.

As the successors of these reforming governments we are ready to rise to the challenge once more.

But I’m not sure the Coalition is.

Let’s talk about the 2017 Budget.

If the deficit levy paid by those on incomes over $180,000 was designed to help address the deficit, now is not the time to get rid of it.

The deficit is ten times greater now than when the levy was first introduced in 2014 and net debt is headed for three quarters of a trillion dollars.

In its last Budget the government also announced an increase in the Medicare levy.

The smokescreen for this is the so-called ‘NDIS emergency’.

Labor fully funded the National Disability Insurance Scheme when we were in government.

In reality, the new Medicare levy increase is to help pay for the Liberals big business tax cut…

…now revealed to cost $65 billion over ten years.

The tax increases – combined with other changes such as the lowering of the repayment threshold for university debt to $42,000 – will impact hardest on those on the lowest incomes.

Analysis quoted by Peter Martin in the Sydney Morning Herald shows that for a couple renting, where one partner has left uni and the other is still studying, the effective marginal tax rate is over 97 per cent once they clear an income of $37,000 a year.

And it stays in the high nineties until $50,000.

Budget analysis from the National Foundation for Australian Women found that women on around $50,000 a year could face an effective marginal tax rate of more than 100 per cent.

A woman graduate, working and relying on child care, earning $51,000 a year and receiving family payments will actually have less disposable income than a man earning $32,000 a year.

Under Malcolm Turnbull’s plan – a millionaire gets a tax cut of $16,400 while someone earning $60,000 a year pays $300 more tax.

If wages growth for low and middle income earners is the issue – it’s hard to see how a tax cut for those earning over $180,000 and a tax increase for everyone else does anything but make the problem worse.

Because the government is not only relying on wage growth for economic growth but also for fiscal consolidation and to meet budget projections.

The 2017 budget depends on a bracket creep led recovery.

The Budget forecast of a return to surplus in 2021 is based on the somewhat heroic assumption that wage growth will nearly double over the next four years from 1.9 per cent per annum to 3.75 per cent, resulting a 16 per cent increase in income tax receipts over two years.

I am yet to read an economic commentator outside Treasury who regards those numbers as credible…

…especially as the government is doing everything it can to depress wages growth with its support for low increases to the minimum wage and cuts to penalty rates.

It’s the same story with the $65 billion company tax cut.

Treasury's own modelling shows an employment increase of just 0.1 per cent by 2026-27.

And the $2 a day wage increase Treasury predicts – again, a decade down the track - depends on that old, frayed link between productivity and wages.

As for the idea that Australia’s current rate puts us out of step with the global pack…

…well few companies in Australia are currently paying the 30 per cent statutory rate.

The average tax rate is 24 per cent for public companies and 19 per cent for private companies.

One in three private companies and one in four public companies pay no tax at all. 

Australian companies also have a history of high dividend payments – in 2015, 81 per cent of earnings were paid in dividends, an historic high.

The outcome of a lower business tax rate will be increased profits and dividend payments, particularly to foreign shareholders.

When I was Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, I spent a lot of time saying the Government should increase the amount of money it spends on Foreign Aid.

But billion-dollar giveaways to international companies and overseas shareholders isn’t what I had in mind.

So the government is giving up $65 billion in corporate tax revenue and $19.4 billion in the deficit levy and partially replacing it with an increase to the Medicare Levy…

…which hits every working Australian earning more than $21,335.

Labor’s Plan

Our alternative focusses on inclusive economic growth.

A modern tax policy - a foundation for strong growth - keeps tax rates as low as possible, but ensures that businesses and individuals pay their fair share.

We took policies to the last election to wind back negative gearing on existing housing and halve capital gains tax discounts.

Since the election, we have promised to cap deductions for managing tax affairs to $3,000 per annum and we’ve made a number of announcements designed to minimise corporate tax avoidance….

….because the tax system shouldn’t redistribute from the bottom and middle to the top.

It should ensure a low rate, fairly spread.

In his Budget reply, Bill announced that we will protect 80 per cent of Australian taxpayers from the government’s Medicare Levy increase.

Our alternative tax policy raises more money more fairly - by retaining the deficit levy and by applying the increased Medicare Levy only on those in the top two tax brackets.

By taking a progressive approach which protects Australians on low and middle incomes we protect the spending power of those most likely to spend.

In three weeks’ time, 700,000 people in retail, hospitality, pharmacy and fast food will begin to have their penalty rates cut.

The Fair Work Commission announced this week that the cuts will be phased in over time however people will be asked to do the same work for less pay, for four years in a row.

The industries affected are already low paid, and have had very slow wage growth in recent years.

Aside from the unfairness of asking workers to do the same work for less money, the effect of taking these wages away from low and middle income earners - who are likely to spend them - comes at just the wrong time in our economic cycle.

The combined effect of higher taxes and lower wages for low and middle income earners is likely to further contract demand.

Especially in regional centres, where more people rely on penalty rates and more small businesses rely on their spending.

A fair go at work begins with being paid fairly for your time.

But it’s broader than that – it always has been. 

The Fair Work Act was introduced into Parliament in 2008.

In 2008 there was no Uber, Airtasker or Airbnb.

Today we see widespread evidence of systematic exploitation of workers in examples like 7-Eleven, Domino’s and Caltex.

The labour market of today is very different to that of 2008 – and that of 2028 will be different again.

We have to ensure that our workplace relations system provides workers and their unions sufficient bargaining power and that they are – at the very least - able to restore what seems to be the broken link between labour productivity and wages.

Labor’s Shadow Minister Brendan O’Connor has started the process of making sure our industrial relations environment is modern and fit for purpose, with policy announcements on:

-       the regulation of labour hire companies,

-       cracking down on dodgy directors who engage in ‘phoenix activity’, where they deliberately burn companies in an attempt to avoid their obligations to employees,

-       preventing the exploitation of vulnerable workers and modern slavery,

-       examining the use of casual and insecure work, and

-       preventing companies forcing employees back on substandard Awards during enterprise bargaining negotiations.

But the big changes in the labour market have only just begun.

And fairness in the workplace also depends on creating jobs in the future.

Right now, manufacturing and mining are shedding jobs.

Policy uncertainty around climate change and the talking-down of renewable energy is creating a missed opportunity for investment that will create jobs and reduce energy prices.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is another great reform for our society.

The NDIS is good social policy.

It’s also good economic policy.

Of course the NDIS is critical in achieving what Australians with a disability have been demanding – helping them fully participate in the workforce and our community life.

It helps family members who are carers return to paid work too.

But the NDIS is also one of the biggest source of new jobs in this country right now.

It will create more than 70,000 new jobs in every part of Australia by 2019.

We have a choice as to what kind of jobs these new jobs will be.

The default position – typical for feminised caring work – is that they will be marginal, insecure, low paid jobs.

We cannot let this happen.

We must ensure that these are good, well paid jobs with a career path and job security.

There should be a pathway into the sector for the long term unemployed while skilled, experienced carers have the opportunity to progress their careers through more complex work.

The creation of good jobs ensures that these workers are part of our growth story.


Whilst we’re all proud that our economy has been growing for such a long time we would all like to see that current rate of growth higher.

We cannot fall into the trap of just patting ourselves on the back every time we get a positive quarterly number and assuming everything is ticking along nicely.

If we duck the hard questions or gloss over the real story…then we’ll be handing on bigger problems and harder challenges to those who come next.

The choices we make today will shape the lives and living standards of the next generation.

So we need to be able to answer these questions:

Do we have the policy settings right for our rapidly changing labour market?

Are we ensuring that our tax policies encourage growth where it’s needed?

Is our workplace relations system fit for purpose?

And do we have a plan to reward people for their time – to re-build the link between hard work and fair pay?

These aren’t diversions from the economic story – they are the economic story.

These aren’t the dividends of economic growth – they are the preconditions for it.

I started tonight by talking about new experiences.

After four years of the Liberals, I think Australians need some new experiences:

-       a decent pay rise,

-       a fairer tax system,

-       real action on climate change, and

-       proper investment in schools, skills and universities.

New experiences – built on the oldest Australian idea of them all.

A fair go all round.

Thank you very much.



SPEECH: Address to the Australian Council of State School Organisations, 5 June 2017




ADDRESS TO THE Australian Council of State School Organisations

MONDAY, 5 JUNE 2017 



Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your board meeting.

Labor’s key objective in our schools reform has always been to ensure that Australia’s public schools are properly and fairly funded.

We understand that this is where the funding is needed most. The public sector educates most of Australia’s disadvantaged kids. We also know that the Commonwealth hadn’t pulled its weight in funding public schools in the past.

Labor’s policy was about getting the most money to the neediest kids.

It’s not just about the dollars, but what the dollars represent in those kids lives.

That funding means extra help in the early years, speech pathology and occupational therapy so kids are ready to learn, and more support for teaching literacy and numeracy.

Labor values the role of public education in ensuring every child in Australia can grow up with the skills they need to access a lifetime of opportunity.

That’s why when we introduced the Australian Education Act, Labor enshrined our values upfront, setting clear objectives and targets. That:

-       All students in all schools are entitled to an excellent education.

-       That the quality of a student’s education should not be limited by where they live, the income of their family, or the school they attend.

-       The first object of our Act was to ‘ensure that the Australian schooling system provides a high quality and highly equitable education for all students’.

You won’t be able to find those objects in the Government’s Bill.

Because they’re not there.


Recommendations from the Gonski review

The original Review of Funding for Schooling found:

-       “Australia needs effective arrangements for funding schools across all levels of government – arrangements that ensure resources are being provided where they are needed… and where the Australian Government and state and territory governments work in partnership to meet the schooling needs of all Australian children.”

The Review also acknowledged that “not all states and systems have the same capacity to fund their school systems adequately”.

The Commonwealth needed to work together with states to make sure that all students received the Schooling Resource Standard – the amount, based on evidence, needed for a student to get a high quality education.

That’s what we did.

Our fundamental principle was that every student, no matter where they lived in Australia, got the resources they needed for a high quality education – a fair proportion of the Schooling Resource Standard.

That’s why Labor’s school funding package ensured that all underfunded schools would receive 95 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard by 2019 (by 2022 for Victorian schools).

What matters most for kids in public schools is their total public resourcing.

Parents aren’t concerned about how much of their school’s funding comes from the state government and how much comes from the Commonwealth, because they know that what really matters, is how much their school gets and what they can deliver with those dollars.

The Turnbull Government’s plan is a fundamental departure from the principles driving the original Gonski review.

Labor’s plan guaranteed that all schools would be funded to their fair share of the SRS. The Liberals’ plan does not.

At the Senate Inquiry on Friday, ACSSO said we need to lock in states and territories to increase their funding and choose a level of total SRS funding that states and territories can afford and make sure we can get there.

That’s what Labor’s plan did.

We locked in states and territories to increase their funding.

We set a target level of funding at 95 per cent of the SRS and ensured all states and territories were on track to get there.

It is the Government that has scrapped those requirements.

And the schools that are most likely to miss out are public schools.

The end point of the Labor model was that all underfunded schools would receive their fair SRS share from total public funding by 2019.

The new end point is for underfunded public schools to receive just 20 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard in Commonwealth funding, with no guarantee of their state or territory government making up the difference.

Public schools won’t even reach this 20 per cent until 2027.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth will provide 80 per cent of the SRS to private schools.

Even Minister Birmingham gave evidence at Senate Estimates on Thursday that the Government’s plan to provide 80 per cent of the SRS to private schools and 20 per cent to public schools is in no way a recommendation of the original Gonski review.

The 80:20 shares are arbitrary figures decided on by the Government, which reflect the Commonwealth’s historic high funding of non-government schools and significantly lower funding share for public schools.

This contradicts the Gonski review recommendation that the Commonwealth Government assume a greater role in funding government schools and states in relation to non-government schools.

The Government’s proposal will firmly lock into legislation that the Commonwealth will provide 80 per cent of the SRS to private schools.

And just 20 per cent to public schools.

Some people in your organisation have welcomed the Government’s move to cut funding from 24 over-funded private schools.

Labor will support that move and support any measures that improve transparency.

But what this really means is that there are only 24 private schools in the country who will get negative funding growth. Other private schools will maintain their funding level or get even more because of the Government’s commitment that all private schools will receive 80 per cent of the SRS from Commonwealth funding alone.

There are a number of elite private schools who already receive well above the Schooling Resource Standard – they’re over-funded – who will receive windfalls under the government’s package.

Christ Church Grammar School, an elite private school in WA, currently gets total public funded equal to 141 per cent of the SRS, but only 75 per cent comes from the Commonwealth. So to meet the Government’s plan to provide 80 per cent Commonwealth funding to private schools, they’ll receive a funding increase of $6.8 million.

To make matters worse, the Government’s policy enshrines a $22 billion cut to the current legislation and arrangements in place.

This is not political spin.

This is what the Government’s own briefings said.

And I quote, in a confidential document mistakenly given to journalists by the Prime Minister’s office – this is what they don’t want to admit to you – “compared to Labor’s arrangements, this represents a savings of…$22.3 billion…”

Public school providers around the country agree.

-       New South Wales confirmed their public schools will lose $846 million in 2018 and 2019.

-       Victorian public schools $630 million

-       $265 million from South Australian schools

-       $730 million from Queensland public schools

-       $20 million from the ACT

The 2014 Budget papers show the Government’s $30 billion cut to schools funding.

Now they want a pat on the back for not cutting quite as much.

The money they cut?  80 per cent of it was going to public schools.

The smaller amount of money that they’re now putting back in – less than half goes to the public sector.

The means public school students lose.

Public school students are the losers in this equation.

ACSSO’s media release from 2 May said ‘Government funding of education must go where there is true need.’

The elite Lauriston Girls School charges fees of more than $25,000 a year. They’ll get a funding increase of $4,085 per student over ten years.

Tennant Creek High School, which has three quarters of its students in the bottom SES quartile will get an increase of just $1,300 per student over ten years.

That’s not funding true need.

Wanguri Primary School, with around one quarter Indigenous kids, gets an increase of just $565 per student, yet Geelong Grammar with 70 per cent of its kids in the upper quartile, gets an increase of $2,309 per student.

That’s not funding true need.

The two school systems that have the highest concentration of educational disadvantage, the Northern Territory Government sector and Tasmanian Government sector – will receive the lowest level of funding growth under the government’s plan.

That’s not funding true need.

Evidence provided by the Grattan Institute to the Senate Inquiry into the proposed Bill showed that by 2027, public schools in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory will all still be underfunded.

85 per cent of public schools will still be funded below the SRS in ten years’ time.

Whereas pretty much all private schools will be at or above their SRS.

The Government has abdicated responsibility for making sure all students get the SRS and instead, we’ll see a return to the blame game between the Commonwealth and the states. Meanwhile, students – particularly students in public schools – will miss out.

When Labor negotiated our schools funding package, we had to deal with 24 different school systems across Australia which all had different levels of educational achievement and disadvantage, different starting points, and different capacity to fund their schools.

We consulted and worked with stakeholders to build a needs-based, sector blind funding model that placed student need at its centre.

It was a hard-fought, hard-won consensus.

But this doesn’t detract from the fact that the highest priority, the fundamental principle of our model, was that every student, in every school, no matter which state or sector, should receive their fair level of SRS funding so they could have an education that opened up a life of opportunity.

Instead of fairness, the Government has chosen consistency. Consistently funding public schools at just a fifth of the level needed for a child to get a high quality education.

Not only does the Government’s package strip $22 billion from schools…

… it distributes that money in a way that entrenches inequality between the public and private systems.

Some claim the Government’s model is ‘sector blind’.

How is it sector blind when you fund the non-government sector to 80 per cent of the SRS and public schools to just 20 per cent?

How is it sector blind when your model means that after 10 years, 85 per cent of public schools will still be underfunded and virtually every non-government school will have reached the SRS or be over funded?

It is beyond me how anyone can think that this is a fair and good deal for public school students.

Some might be pleased on ideological grounds that 24 elite private schools will lose some funding. But under the Government’s model there are other elite private schools that get millions of dollars in extra funding.

And none of that changes the fact that public schools students will lose much, much more.

I know public school parents and students around the country care about that.

All Australian students have the right to a quality education. We must do everything we can to defend it.



SPEECH: Address to the Universities Australia Conference, Canberra, 2 March 2017






I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal people who are the traditional custodians of this land on which we are meeting and pay respect to the Elders of the Ngunnawal Nation both past and present.

I extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in attendance today.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate UA and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC) on the release of your Indigenous Strategy last night.

Thank you Professor Peter Buckskin, Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Professor Steve Larkin and Dr Leanne Holt for your work on this strategy.

Giving more Indigenous Australians the opportunity to go to university and get a decent, well-paid job is fundamental to breaking the cycle of Indigenous disadvantage and closing the gap.

Thank you to all of you for doing your part.

I would like to acknowledge:

  • Professor Barney Glover, Chair of Universities Australia
  • Professor Margaret Gardner AO, Chair-elect of Universities Australia
  • Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia
  • Vice-Chancellors
  • University staff
  • Students from across Australia.

I want to congratulate Belinda and the UA team for all their hard work in putting together this significant event.




I have had a warm welcome from you all as Shadow Minister

Starting with my first discussion with Vice-Chancellors back in August last year.

I have very much enjoyed the many campus visits I’ve made, and I’m looking forward to many more.

It’s inspiring to see the transformative power of universities at work – transforming the lives of individual students, our communities and regions, and our economy as a whole.

For individual students, we know a university education usually means a lifetime of higher earnings [OECD Education at a Glance Report]. It usually also means exposure to the other things which make life rich – friendship, mobility, creative thinking, and lifelong learning.

And society is richer because you challenge us with new ideas, you shape debates, and you foster creativity.

It’s a tribute to so many of you in this room that we have an international education sector which is the envy of the world. The export value of the sector is a testament to the quality of the education Australian universities offer.

Regional cities are seeing a new generation of urban renewal through the economic benefits of higher education delivery and the infrastructure investment this supports.

Take for example the city of Launceston, one of my favourite cities in Australia - which will be transformed with a $260 million development of their Inveresk campus.

To Launceston, this project means:

  • $965 million in direct and indirect economic impact during construction;
  • 2,760 new jobs; and
  • $362 million in additional ongoing annual economic benefit.

In addition to the economic impact, the campus will also see 16,000 staff and students bringing energy and creativity to an already fantastic city.

Universities are transforming many more of our cities.

Regional cities like Newcastle and Wollongong which were once reliant on heavy industries are being revitalized through the presence of university campuses.

I know you will have Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker, authors of The Smartest Place on Earth - Why Rustbelts are Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation, presenting this morning. 

Their research on the revival of cities and regions once in decline is fascinating.

The message is very clear – the future doesn’t lie in the rearview mirror. 

If we want to be a leading edge competitive economy, we need to have a vision for that future and drive the creation of new high-tech manufacturing and the decent, well paid jobs that go with it.

And it can’t just be wishful thinking.  We must have new and practical approaches that forge connections and collaboration between universities, governments, companies and industry.

Not the least because the important breakthroughs in technology and innovation will almost certainly “occur at the intersection of various disciplines”.




This is why the theme of this year’s conference, Gen Next is so important.

I remember when it was my generation – Generation X – that was perplexing policy makers with our poor job prospects and the likelihood of a future of insecure work.

And we continue to live in interesting and uncertain times.

Gen Next will have the task of steering us through a new industrial revolution – a technology revolution that many fear will cost jobs – and will make sure that instead we use new technologies to create new industries and new jobs.

It’s fair to say that many people are anxious about the future.

Parents and grandparents wonder what type of work their kids and grandkids will do, and how they will succeed.

Universities are at the frontier of our future success: to ensure that our nation has the skills and knowledge it needs to be competitive and resilient.

As Professor Glover said yesterday:

As institutions for the public good, we exist to pursue the frontiers of knowledge.

Knowledge is ballast against the insecurity many people feel. Knowledge is also essential for policy makers and for governments to govern well.

If we’re very clever, we have the opportunity to deal well with some of the great problems of our time.

Climate change, for example.

Australian universities are facing the challenge head on.

Research at UNSW is just one example. The University’s Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics recently set a new world-record in solar energy efficiency.

Breakthroughs like this can underpin our future prosperity – if we work out how to harness them.

But unless we look more broadly to reform it’s not all bright for Australia’s economic mix.

We have to face the facts.

The construction phase of the mining boom is over and our economy is in transition. Growth is slow. Wages are low. Underemployment is high.

Parts of Australia are suffering more than others and policy makers have a responsibility to include all Australians in our plans for future prosperity.

So, after 25 years of record growth – are we up for this challenge?

Can we transition from the resources boom to a knowledge-based, services economy?

Will we leverage our knowledge, creativity and innovation into new ideas for new products, new services and growing industries?

To do this successfully, we will need:

  • Continuous upgrading of skills for the changing nature of work, and
  • And to boost our nation’s research outcomes to capture greater value of our creativity and innovation.




The Australian Labor Party supports full employment.

But we know that’s easier said than done.

Australia lost 56,000 full time jobs last year.

Wages are stagnant or falling: down 0.5% in the last quarter of 2016.

Underemployment is at record highs and the gap between rich and poor is the worst it’s been in 75 years.

Over the coming decades, many jobs will go, new ones will emerge and existing occupations will require new skills.

In 2015, CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – reported that up to 40% of Australian jobs – more than five million – could be gone in 10 to 15 years.

Most of this will be because of technological change.

It is also said that each year more than a million workers – about a tenth of the workforce – change jobs [CEDA – the Future of Work].

Of these million workers, 600,000 change industry and around 450,000 change occupation.

And it’s not just individual workers – more than half a million businesses will enter or exit the market.

In the decade to 2013-14, Australian manufacturing jobs decreased by around 92,000 while employment in health care and social services increased by 462,000. [CEDA – the Future of Work].

Our economy’s skills-base has and will continue to change significantly.

Unless we have a plan to make it otherwise there is a genuine risk that these new jobs will be of a lower quality than the ones they have replaced.

In a potentially more volatile labour market, will our post-secondary system – both universities and TAFE - adapt to this change?

Governments can’t come up with the answers to these issues alone.

Universities also need to wrestle with these questions.




When the previous Labor Government introduced the demand-driven funding system for undergraduate places, we gave universities a new level of freedom.

This has seen the sector innovate – delivering to more Australians – many of whom are first in family to attend university or from an indigenous or disadvantaged background.

Labor’s demand-driven funding allowed unmet demand from the Howard years to be filled, but the initial spike in demand is now levelling out.

Data from the Department of Education suggests that the demand for university places from school leavers has begun to plateau. [2016 Undergraduate Applications Offers and Acceptance Publication, Department of Education].

But the reform of the demand-driven system is probably at best, only half done.

I envisage a more mature demand-driven system able to increase participation by people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

You know we have more work to do.

That’s why I welcome UA’s commitment to accelerating indigenous student enrolments by 50 per cent above overall growth as part of your Indigenous Strategy.

And that’s why I have been so critical of the Turnbull Government’s decision to slash the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) by 40 per cent with the remainder of the funding ‘under consideration’.

At the core of the demand-driven system has been flexibility.

I want you to have it.

I want our universities to have the funding and regulatory settings that allow you to deliver education which meets people’s life goals and enhances their life experience.

But we have to look at how a mature demand-driven system adapts to the change we’re seeing in the economy and the labour market.

With a tenth of the workforce changing jobs each year, and 40 per cent of current jobs predicted to be gone within 10 to 15 years.

It’s no good educating young Australians for yesterday’s labour market, for jobs which won’t exist.

What new programs of university and vocational education will we need?

Consider a mid-career worker, trying to renew their skills for a new or emerging industry.

What kind of higher education options do they need and will they be on offer?

Will universities recognise previous work experience or TAFE qualifications?

Universities and VET providers will have to increase collaboration with each other and with industry so that there are the right opportunities for high quality work-integrated learning and job placements.

I am also interested in the changing way that people engage with higher education throughout their working lives.

The debate we’ve seen about attainment rates often fails to recognise the way our lives have changed.

Labor absolutely wants to see more students graduating.

We don’t want people dropping out because the course they are studying turns out to be irrelevant, or is not what they want or need.

But we also don’t want to penalise students who are taking a non-traditional approach to acquiring the skills they need.

The evidence tells us that there is value in having successfully completed some higher education – even where students don’t graduate.

A recent study on employment trends in the EU published in the Higher Education Quarterly showed that even a small amount of higher education may improve a learner’s life chances and increase their opportunity for employment.

We should look at how we all – government, industry and universities – are better able to respond to students, who, for a variety of reasons, choose to step in and out of higher education throughout their working lives.

Our system should become more flexible in order to allow students to build their knowledge and skills-base through a greater mix of educational offerings that fit the needs of their careers.

But this doesn’t mean a system where every child gets a prize.

Labor expects accountability in our system:

  • To students.
  • To your local communities
  • And to the Australian tax payer.

A more flexible system must continue to be a high quality one.




Last month, Bill Shorten outlined that jobs and skills will be a major focus for Labor this year and beyond.

He also announced that Labor will be hosting a Skills Summit on 17th March here in Canberra.

I’m very much looking forward to working closely with business representatives, unions and educators – including Universities Australia – at this important Summit.

It’s also right that Bill acknowledged that our colleagues in the TAFE sector are going through a period of sustained stress and anxiety about their future.

The Turnbull Government has ripped away $2.5 billion from skills and training.

An astonishing 128,000 apprenticeships have now disappeared.

Funding for vocational education has gone backwards by 4% in real terms over ten years [Mitchell Institute Expenditure on Education Report 2016].

At the same ten year period, universities have had relative stability – supported by Labor’s policy settings – with funding increases of around 45 per cent.

Universities can’t be aloof from this crisis facing TAFE.

It’s a national issue.

We all know that our economy needs decent, high-quality skills delivered at vocational and higher education levels.

I am determined, as is Bill and the rest of the Labor team, to ensure that universities continue to grow and be strong with predictable and sustainable funding.

But we want to work with the states and territories to ensure that similar stability is afforded to the TAFE and vocational sector.

We also want to ensure that business and unions work collaboratively with educators, and play their part.




As the Shadow Minister responsible for university research, I’m keenly focused on ensuring that policy settings – both current and future – facilitate a robust and growing research portfolio in our universities.

In a mature and strong democracy, we need researchers, thought leaders and ideas generators.

We should not be afraid of agitators or those who challenge the status quo.

The late, great Gough Whitlam said that:

Academic freedom is the first requirement, the essential property of a free society. More than trade, more than strategic interests, more even than common systems of law or social or political structures, free and flourishing universities provide the true foundation of our western kinship, and define the true commonality of the democratic order. [Gough Whitlam at the Harvard Club of Australia, 1973]

It is with the same spirit that I applaud the work of our researchers.

It wasn’t until I had the Medical Research portfolio that I fully appreciated the power of research to improve lives and underpin economic growth.

There is a tendency to see research value in dollar terms of Intellectual Property or patents lodged. That’s important, but the value of research is much greater than that.

Research that develops a less intrusive, less costly way to deliver a medical intervention won’t make money for a drug company, but it can be better for patients and better for the health budget.

Like the work of SPACE project (Single Pill to Avert Cardiovascular Events) led by researchers at the George Institute for Global Health.

These researchers developed a polypill – a fixed dose combining commonly-used blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medication, along with aspirin – which is transforming approaches to treating cardiovascular disease.

Of course we should be doing research like this, for the public benefit alone.

But we also should be doing much better at using our research investment to create new jobs and opportunities.

It is not good enough that Australia’s research collaboration with business is almost at the bottom of the OECD average [Universities Australia]

It is the case that collaboration between industry and universities on research and development is too low for an advanced economy.

Globally, Australia is missing out because of a lack of government-backed research collaboration funds.

If we are to truly take part in developing the global products of the future, Australia must be at the table with the US, the UK and the EU.

It’s important, if not the key, that industry plays a greater role in our overall research effort.

But I know that university research cannot continue to flourish if funding continues to be cut.

That is why Labor strongly opposes the short-sighted decision to abolish the Education Investment Fund - EIF.

EIF was set up to ensure that we have the necessary capital to renew, refurbish and update our university, vocational and research institutions.

But it’s now been abandoned.

I’m sure all of you will have examples of the transformative impact that EIF has had on your campuses and communities.

As part of Labor’s policy development on enhancing our research in universities, I will continue my discussions with the sector, including meeting with the Deputy Vice-Chancellors’ (Research) forum tomorrow.




I am optimistic about our capacity to meet Australia’s future skills and research challenges.

I am determined to work with you to prepare our people for the secure jobs of the future.

Developing skills for a changing workforce through to encouraging new scientific breakthroughs.

Universities are going to be a central part of that, but we need to continue a healthy process of connecting the elements of our education system better, feeding our economy with new discoveries and innovation.

Thank you again for your time today.  I wish you all the very best for the rest of your conference.