SPEECH: Labor's Election Campaign Launch, Sunday 19 June





SUNDAY, 19 JUNE 2016


Colleagues, friends, true believers –

How good is it to be here, together, allies, partners and comrades in the fight for the things that matter:

  • Good jobs
  • Medicare
  • Education
  • Climate Change

Such great Labor policies to fight for.

Now to begin, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land.

I pay my respects to Elders past and present and thank Stephen and Lily for their Welcome to Country.

I’m proud to say that at this election Labor offers Australia more Aboriginal candidates and future members of our Parliament than any party, ever before.

When I became deputy leader I set myself two main goals:

First to work with Bill to unite a party that was still pretty bruised and divided because we had lost the privilege to govern.

And secondly, to develop a detailed program that told people exactly what we’d do if we won government and how we’d pay for it.

My colleagues on this stage are testament to our unity and our solidarity – and I would put our people against theirs any day of the week.

Under Bill’s leadership we are as tight a Labor team as there's ever been.

And above me there are 100 people in red shirts, representing more than 100 positive policies and the thousands of hours of work that went into them.

Our vision. Proof we are ready to govern.

It's no secret what we stand for. It’s what we’ve always stood for.

A strong economy generating decent jobs that can support a family.

A fair society, where all Australians benefit from our prosperity and no-one is left behind.

Our 100 Positive Policies tell people just how we would get there.

Not just a political manifesto, but a plan for governing.

It’s a real treat to be introducing Bill today.

Back when Bill was running for leader in 2013, he put three famous Whitlam words front and centre of his leadership:

Party. Policy. People.

From day one Bill began the tough job of uniting our party.

He brought us together but to be frank, he got a little bit of help.

We were galvanised by a sense of urgency, by the Liberal Party’s budget of 2014 - the most unfair and the most regressive Budget in living memory.

And, then, in 2015, while we were fighting this terrible government – Bill and I made sure that we got on with the hard yards of policy development.

Because we knew that at a time when Australia desperately needed compassionate and strong leadership, the Liberals were offering us the exact opposite – they were divided, unfocused, policy-weak – the worst government this country has seen in a long time.

Conservative commentators mocked our ‘year of ideas’.

But they’re not laughing now.

Each of the people in these red T-shirts represent one of our 100 positive policies.

Not negative attacks or scare campaigns, but the building blocks of a stronger, fairer Australia.

Policies that put people first.

Child care. Schools. Apprenticeships. Universities. Our CSIRO.

Renewable energy. Cleaner cars. Roads, rail, ports. Australian steel. An NBN that actually works.

Doctors who can bulk bill.

Affordable medicines. Keeping people healthy and out of hospital, and better hospitals when you need them.  Protecting pensions.

Reconciliation with our first Australians. Equality for women. An end to domestic violence.

Restoring our international reputation.

Marriage equality. 

And as we have advanced our ideas, the Liberals have retreated from theirs. 

Tell me – what do they even stand for?

While we were launching our schools policy – they were talking about a 15 per cent GST.

Or maybe a state based income tax.

While we were announcing our plans to save Medicare – they couldn’t even understand their own superannuation policy.

Malcolm Turnbull’s one big idea is giving multinational companies a $50 billion tax cut – and even that's not his own.

It was Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher that came up with trickledown economics. Didn't work then, won't work now.

We don’t just have a set of talking points to get into government.

We have a plan for government.

We don’t just have a long list of reasons to vote against the Liberals. 

We’ve got a powerful case for Labor.

And in 2016, this is the case we are taking to the Australian people.

Think back almost three years ago.

Imagining this day, you might have thought we'd just be going through the motions.

A first-term opposition, struggling to cut through.

But we have led the policy debate in this country for the last three years.

We defeated one Liberal Prime Minister already.

And then, when Malcolm Turnbull took over, some people thought that was a setback we couldn’t overcome.

But the Liberals changed their leader, without changing their direction.

Has there ever been a leader who promised our country so much and delivered so little?

You can say a lot of things about Tony Abbott – and I know many of us have – but at least he believed in something.

And after a short time in the job – he left his mark. 

Tony Abbott’s policy for a plebiscite to delay marriage equality and divide our country is now Malcolm Turnbull’s idea.

Tony Abbott’s policy to torpedo real action on climate change and pay big polluters to keep polluting – you know – the one Malcolm Turnbull described as a fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing.

Well that’s Malcolm Turnbull’s now, too.

And Mr Abbott’s cuts to schools, to hospitals, to families, to pensions and paid parental leave.

Those cuts are Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts now.

Malcolm Turnbull promised so much.

He promised better economic management – but he’s tripled the deficit and added $100 billion to net debt.

He promised a "style of leadership that respects the people's intelligence", but all he does is patronise.

He promised optimism, but he has reverted to the same old lies and scare campaigns; the same old three-word slogans we had from Tony Abbott.

And in this campaign he has nothing to offer but more fear, and more failure.

The entire Liberal campaign has been stage managed to within an inch of its life – in order to keep the Prime Minister safely away from ordinary Australians.

The contrast with Bill Shorten is profound.

Bill fronted up to the tough questions and the real issues facing everyday Australian families.

We've all seen Bill’s energy, his drive, and his love of people.

I don’t know anyone who listens better or learns more from the people he meets.

He has been everywhere, not afraid to respond to anything that's been thrown at him – including the occasional kiss from a complete stranger.

It's the mark of the man.

I didn’t know Bill especially well when I became deputy leader. 

But I knew I was going to like him when I walked into his new office on the first day and the place was a mess, full of unpacked boxes.

But the one thing he had unpacked were the photos of Chloe and the kids.

His whole noticeboard was already covered with photos of his beautiful family.

Since taking the leadership I have watched him get clobbered from every angle.

The media, our opposition. They've all done their worst. But he endured. He held his nerve.

He doesn’t grandstand. He doesn’t preach or lecture. He has devoted his life to the deep satisfaction of helping others. 

Every minute of his working life has been about that.

Fighting for decent pay and conditions, and safe work places.

Working with disabled Australians and their families to fight for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Getting on with the job, bringing us to this moment.

And every day he has grown stronger.

Two and a half years ago it looked impossible.

But Bill has united us, and led us in developing a real plan for government.

A plan for a strong economy, and a fair society.

One hundred positive policies that put people first.

Please join me in welcoming someone I am proud to call a friend, and our leader, Bill Shorten



SPEECH: The McKell Institute, The Progressive's Case For Labor, Wednesday 15 June








It’s pretty clear in this election what the choices are between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. We’ve actually spent the length of a usual election campaign talking about those differences. Today I want to talk about something else: the progressive case for Labor.

The Australian Labor Party has a great and enduring objective – which Ben Chifley described as ‘the light on the hill’ - which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind, not only here, but anywhere where we may give a helping hand.

The reason the light on the hill is an image we return to so often, is that it reflects the two essential elements of our party.  We are idealists, with a vision for:

  • A strong economy generating decent well-paid jobs that give every Australian the chance to lead a good life; and
  • A fair society, where the benefits of our strong economy are shared and no one is left behind.

But we are also realists – we know that our ambitions for our nation are not easily achieved.

The road of the real reformer often takes the steeper face, the harder climb and the more unforgiving ground.

Idealistic and pragmatic – we can be both. 

The great party I am proud to belong to is proof that we don’t have to reject the real, to serve the ideal.

We accept that incremental progress is part of our great journey.

Labor’s true believers are not wishful thinkers. We are part of a great movement, now generations-old, which sustains us when the path is long, when there are setbacks, or false starts, or impediments.

We also know we may have the noblest objective, the determination and the best plans for reform, but unless we are in Government it’s very difficult to achieve anything at all.

That means convincing more than half of Australians that we represent their values and that we are competent to lead the nation on the right path.

Real political achievement

The big and difficult reforms, the ones that can change people’s lives, are very hard fought.

And they can take generations - that's why we're so proud of the next generation of young activists who combine idealism with grit.

It's so much easier today to be a cynical poseur than a committed democrat; it’s easier to retreat to observer status than convince your friends of the merits of incremental change.

The greatest example of hard fought reform is also one of the most important – and that’s Medicare.

In many ways Medicare began with something we don’t have to think much about anymore in Australia: tuberculosis.

To anyone alive before the 1950s, TB was a major threat. It ruined lives, instilled fear, separated parents from children and killed thousands. When new and better treatments emerged the Curtin and then the Chifley Governments responded with the Tuberculosis Acts of 1945, 1946 and 1948 to fund the states to screen, diagnose, treat and research the epidemic. Through the application of progressive governmental power, TB was beaten.

But it proved to be just the start of a long and great battle between the reformist objectives of Australian Labor and powerful conservative forces.

The quest for a public health system became part of the Chifley Government’s great vision of a better post-war world. At that time, the Labor Party had been around for half a century but had not yet had a chance to govern for an extended period in times of peace and growth. This was its moment.

After it fought and won a referendum to broaden the Commonwealth’s powers for social policy setting, Labor passed legislation to create a national pharmaceutical benefits scheme – we still have it.

But the scheme was sabotaged by the forerunner of the AMA, whose members refused to prescribe subsidised drugs to their patients. Then it was torpedoed by the High Court, in a case sponsored by the Coalition government of Victoria.

Undaunted, the Chifley Government established a National Health Service, modelled on the British NHS, then being created in Britain, which was to have state-owned public hospitals and salaried doctors and be free to all patients. Searching for yet another way forward, Chifley’s cabinet then introduced grants to the states in return for the free treatment of patients in state hospitals.

This too was unwound by the incoming Menzies Government, and by 1953 Australia effectively had no public health system at all, just a collection of highly inequitable and inefficient private health funds.

There things might have stayed but for a young Labor frontbencher named Gough Whitlam.

In 1967 he got together with a group of visionary health policy experts to devise a solution immune to conservative judges and constitutional roadblocks: a compulsory national health insurance scheme that provided free treatment in public hospitals and other benefits. He named it, of course, Medibank.  It was at the very heart of ‘The Program’ that Gough won the 1972 election on.

In 1973 Medibank was blocked by the Senate. It was reintroduced and blocked again. If ever there was a genuine reason for a double dissolution election, this was it.

After Labor won the 1974 election, the legislation was, unbelievably, blocked again. It was finally passed by the historic joint sitting of parliament, and introduced only in the nick of time – 1 October 1975 – less than six weeks before the Whitlam Government was dismissed.

Malcolm Fraser killed it off, and by 1983 we were left once again with an incomplete, inefficient and unfair heath mess.

Our national health system was restored when Bob Hawke went to the 1983 election with the simple pledge to restore Medibank, and he won in a landslide.

Ever since, we have been vigilant in defence of Medicare against conservatives – preventing the unravelling of the scheme. It is no surprise that, yet again, this Federal election is a referendum on Medicare and its protection by Labor or its underhand dismantling by the conservatives.

That’s the long version of the story of Medicare – and that’s the point.

From its starting point to its conclusion, from tackling TB to the entrenching of the principle of free and equal medical treatment in our nation’s social constitution, this took forty years of struggle.

It started with an intense political commitment from reformers who had seen people die young because they didn’t have access to medical treatment, or seen families bankrupted because of medical bills. 

It needed people of imagination and skill to envisage great national institutions capable of doing the job. It required hard slog to ensure those institutions could survive the heat of adversarial politics. Then it took election campaign after election campaign, tough political negotiation, administrative effort, and the making and breaking of careers and governments to finally make Medicare stick.

The creation of Medicare took more than a hollow principled stand, it took more than just wishful thinking, it took more than slogans, it took more than protests. It took real, tough politics. It took idealists who were prepared to fight to win government.

When in 1972 Gough Whitlam said ‘It’s time’, he wasn’t just referring to the final moment of victory; he was talking about the thirty years of struggle that came before it. It was time, finally. You don’t reach the Promised Land with that final step, but through a long journey. And, of course, that struggle isn’t over yet.

Medicare is a great Labor story and sums up for me something else that is important to understand: my party, the Australian Labor Party, is part of the Australian story itself.

We have roots that are deep in Australian society because we have helped shape Australian society. We are part of the great current of our nation, like no other party is. And of course we want to shape our future – and do it from Government.

The creation of Medicare reminds me why participation in mainstream politics is so important and why, to borrow from Teddy Roosevelt, I’d rather be in the arena, “face marred by dust and sweat and blood”, on that rough path, than retreat to the comfortable distance of commentator or critic. I’d rather spend myself in a worthy cause.

Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the real change in people's lives that good government policy can deliver.

After years of work, getting the legislation through the parliament to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme; the establishment of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; the National Apology to the Stolen Generations – beginning a genuine journey of healing.

And when Labor was last in Government we faced and met the challenge of the Global Financial Crisis. Australia was one of the only developed countries in the world not to go into recession during the GFC. A recession would have thrown hundreds of thousands of people – a generation – into unemployment and we were determined not to let that happen.

Labor’s stimulus package saved Australian jobs in the most difficult global circumstances since the Great Depression of the 1930s – up to 200,000 jobs.  Labor was up to one of the challenges that defines us as a party of working people above all else: protecting hundreds of thousands of Australians from unemployment and the misery it brings.

Despite the GFC, Australia received a Triple-A credit rating from the three major ratings agencies for the first time in Australia’s history. Our Gross Domestic Product (the total value of goods and services produced by a country in a year) per capita rose from a ranking of 17th in the world to eighth in the world. And we went from being the 15th biggest economy in the world to being the 12th largest.

That wasn’t good luck, it was good management by a party of government, in Government.

Labor’s needs-based Gonski school funding reforms laid the foundations for every young Australian to reach their full potential, while also laying the foundation for Australia's economic competitiveness and growth.

We increased the number of young Australians going to university by 190,000 and many of them were the first generation in their families to do so.

These are genuine, sustainable progressive reforms - that would not have happened under a party other than Labor – and would not have happened if Labor was not in Government.

As Housing Minister, I visited the first home built under the national stimulus public housing construction program. The family moving in, here in NSW, had a profoundly disabled son. Until then, they had had to carry their boy up and down the stairs of their apartment block every time they left home, lift him in and out of the bath, and so on, wondering how long they could manage as their 14-year-old grew into a man. Their new house was one level, with smooth tiled floors for his wheelchair, reinforced walls to take the weight of his lifting equipment and a special shower that he could just be wheeled into.

Knowing that 21,000 other families and individuals were being similarly helped was an incomparable feeling.

Meeting a man in Adelaide’s Common Ground who had been homeless for ten years. In fact, we were in his apartment and he took me on to the balcony to show me the abandoned service station where he used to sleep under the portico of the service station - before was able to move into a newly built apartment supported by the work we did on the Homelessness White Paper and the extra funding we put into homelessness. Meeting families whose kids’ teeth were being looked after for the first time because of our kids’ dental program for three million school children; hearing about families where parents were getting jobs – sometimes for the first time – because of our place-based Better Futures Local Solutions program. I actually can’t imagine anything more rewarding professionally.

It was only possible for me to be part of that because I was part of a reforming Labor government. None of my achievements as a Minister were mine alone. I was able to lead because I was a part of a government that prioritised a strong economy and a fair society.

What we need to do better as a party is to convey, especially to young people, the superiority of real achievement in politics over simply shouting from the sidelines. When Gough Whitlam said that he “did not seek and did not want the leadership of Australia’s largest pressure group” he was defending parliamentary democracy as a place for ideals, as well as the practical measures that take us closer to achieving those ideals.

Now that I’ve spent 18 years in parliament, including nearly six as a minister, I agree that even the smallest day of achievement in government is more satisfying than the best day of being an angry onlooker, a commentator or a gadfly. 

Being in a political party that doesn’t seek to govern can relieve you of the sense that you’re forever making compromises. But ragtag groups that aim for a handful of members so they can make some noise, protest strongly and stay 100 per cent pure, have never achieved anything.

As Gough Whitlam said, “only the impotent are pure.”

But today we have a problem that is worse than the wasted opportunities of electing bystanders to our parliament.

The risk as the influence of minor parties’ increases is that they may prevent the election of a reforming government. The fracturing of the progressive vote has consequences.

Up until 1972 the Democratic Labor Party wielded sufficient power, not to win government, but to keep Labor from governing.

While the DLP’s policies on health, education and pensions were very traditional Labor policies, DLP leader Bob Santamaria had a strategy to keep the ALP from winning government until his terms for re-unification of Labor and the DLP were agreed.

The DLP direction to its supporters to preference Liberal candidates kept Labor in opposition for a generation. In 1969, DLP preferences prevented Gough Whitlam from defeating the Coalition, despite an 18-seat swing and a majority of the two-party vote. Had just four seats in Victoria gone the other way, Gough Whitlam would have taken government.

And we risk a similar story in contemporary politics, between Labor and the Greens political party. 

This is because the Greens see Labor, not the Coalition, as their true competitor and enemy. Most simply put: to grow their party they are targeting Labor, not the conservative parties.

The Greens political strategy risks entrenching conservative governments.

And it is a cynical strategy. Green party leader Richard di Natale has characterised his party as the “natural home of progressive mainstream Australian voters”. But he has also said he would "never say never" about forming a coalition government with the Liberal Party.

Jim Casey, the Green party candidate in Grayndler has said he would rather see the re-election of Tony Abbott because it would drive stronger protest movements.

Indeed, the Senate voting reforms that the Greens supported increase the likelihood of a Liberal dominated Senate and prevent the rise of smaller parties like the Greens once were.

The Green Party has an electoral strategy that runs the risk of making it easier for the Liberals to return to government. They pursue a policy agenda which is confusing at best.

What progressives should seek are achievements that stand the test of time, and these take time.

Voters should rightly ask where are the actions, and the sustained effort, the achievements by which Greens have delivered real progressive change?

I saw a tweet on the 9th of June from a Victorian State Green Party member saying the Greens had a “huge week in parliament”. They “led calls for… condemned… pushed for… and questioned something else”.

That’s the problem.

Because that’s all they can do.

But in a way, that’s fortunate, because if they really had any power, what would they do. We actually don’t know.

Inner-city Greens’ candidates are opposed to higher density, and regional Greens are opposed to urban sprawl. Some New South Wales north coast Greens are opposed to fluoridation of drinking water, but their leaders are in favour of it, at least when the north-coasters aren’t listening. Some are for compulsory vaccinations, others are against. Some want a population halt; others want much higher levels of immigration.

And at the centre of their policies lies a disregard for the jobs and futures of people not fortunate enough to be their target voters.

Their muddle-headedness is not harmless idealism.

Recall that’s when the Greens had the opportunity to put a price on carbon pollution, they fell at the first attempt, voting down a scheme that would most likely still be law today.

By making the perfect the enemy of the good, the Greens ensured nothing would be achieved and that almost a decade after Labor first sought to legislate the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Australia still has no price on carbon pollution.

If Curtin and Chifley and Whitlam and Hawke had behaved with such policy rigidity, intellectual shallowness and political naivety, our health system would still most likely today resemble the US system.

In our own city the Green’s policy for Sydney airport would stop the construction of Badgerys Creek, close Kingsford Smith Airport, and build a new airport somewhere outside the Sydney Basin.

That would make Sydney the only major city in the world without its own airport. It would cut off Australia’s largest city from the global and national economy, and throw countless people out of work. Airplanes, tourists, the economy: who needs them?

When we raised this with a local shop keeper who was thinking of voting Green during the state election his response was, “It doesn’t matter what they say, they’ll never be able to deliver it anyway.”

The Greens party actually relies on this electoral maths to save it from ever having to implement any of its really destructive policies.

And it this lack of real achievement, perhaps, that drives the party to claim Labor successes as their own.

The reason the parody website Greens taking credit was so funny is because it is actually so close to their actual political strategy: like the poster put up by Adam Bandt put up, that says ‘Denticare – brought to you by the Greens.’

We made a heap of reforms to dental care when we were in government, most specifically the children’s dental scheme which provided services to 3 million kids, giving them access to $1,000 every two years to have their teeth looked after. Kids’ dental care as part of Medicare wasn’t brought to you by the Greens, it was brought to you by a Labor government when I was health minister, building on the health policy gains made by previous Labor governments, hard won through negotiation with the cross bench in a minority Government. And I had to work out how to structure the system responsibly and how pay for it too. And the Liberals have now killed it off. And that’s what it takes to actually deliver dental care – it’s more than a poster.

Perhaps the most emotionally jarring illustration of this pattern of appropriating Labor’s achievements was the Facebook post on a Green Party website on the day of Gough Whitlam’s death with an image of Gough featuring a Greens’ logo.

The insensitivity and poor taste of appropriating our hero’s legacy on the day of his death was not enough: a Green Party supporter was claiming that if Gough Whitlam were alive today he’d be a member of the Greens.

Gough was a proud member of the ALP until the day he died at age of 98. And in many ways that symbolises the vast gulf that stands between our two parties: posters and slogans versus a life of solid achievements. Commentating versus participation. A fight for imperfect and frustrating progress ahead of the bloodless role of self-righteous critic.

This hasn't really mattered while the Greens were little more than a protest group. The bar has been set low because people never thought they would be in position to implement their policies - their electoral strategy of pursuing a niche vote meant their voters could safely vote for them without worrying that their policies would be implemented.

Progressive voters could vote Green but know they would be saved from the nutty inconsistencies – or worse – by a Labor government.

But the Greens now represent a positive danger to the progressive political cause. The political reality is that, far from making more progressive change possible, the Greens are more likely to prevent real change from happening – because their electoral strategy now relies on preventing the election of a Labor government.

Losing a few seats to the Greens could be the difference between Labor or the Coalition forming government, and while Green Party leaders might like a Liberal government because it drives protest movements, real progressives should care more about the genuine economic and social reforms that make the lives of ordinary Australians better.

We know that the path to the light on the hill can be slow and rocky because we have been walking it for more than a century. That whole time we have had to take a majority of Australians with us but that’s our strength and our success too. And that’s why progressives should vote Labor.



SPEECH: Address to the Lowy Institute, Tuesday 31 May






TUESDAY, 31 MAY 2016



The US Alliance, our region, global engagement.

Most mainstream thinking in this country accepts these as the main tenets of Australian foreign policy.

Parties, experts and great institutions such as this one may differ over emphasis and approach, but there’s broad agreement on the component parts – and their central importance.

Perhaps this is why foreign policy often plays a marginal role in Australian election campaigns.

I'm sorry you feel unloved Anthony, I'll try to show you a bit of love today.

Elections are designed to amplify difference – but foreign policy is most often about continuity and seeking common ground. And I think that is proper.

Campaigns are built on concentrated points of contrast.

Yet – even if foreign policy doesn’t shift a single vote in a single seat at this election – 

  • Australia’s place in the world
  • Our future in our region
  • And our responsibilities as a good international citizen
  • deserve to be part of the national conversation.

Because there are differences between Labor and the Liberals and Labor and the Greens -  and those differences matter.

The key difference between the two major political parties, the progressive and the conservative forces in foreign policy traditions, is foundational.

Labor believes that good international citizenship is a critical driver to achieving a secure and prosperous Australia.

For as Gareth Evans observed, “good international citizenship is no more — and no less — than the pursuit of enlightened self-interest”.

Good international citizenship aligns with enduring Labor values of solidarity, fairness, equality, justice and inclusion.

We believe strongly that our national security and prosperity improve with greater international security and prosperity.

By acting as a good international citizen, by enhancing the rules-based international order and by promoting respect for universal human rights, we are working for long-term peace and prosperity for Australian people.

As we build Australia’s international reputation we also build economic and strategic advantage.

It is in this area of difference that Labor has crafted its proud foreign policy tradition.

A century has passed since the First World War.

Since Australia became – in Banjo Patterson’s words – ‘to know what nations know, and feel what nations feel’.

Yet it took a second, deadlier, more devastating conflict for the world to learn that ‘total war’ could only end in total destruction.

The First World War energised efforts to create a system to regulate inter-state behaviour.

But it took the Second World War, and 60 million dead, to make the need for such a system undeniable.

A century after Australians died in their thousands in the mud of the Western Front, we no longer see war as a grand adventure…nor an inevitable outcome of competing interests.

For all its imperfections, the international system of institutions, rules and norms established since the Second World War, continue to influence the behaviour of states, even powerful ones.

But just as the dawn of the 20th century unleashed massive social, economic and technological change across Europe and North America—that transformation is being repeated at a greater speed and on a greater scale in our own region, the Indo-Pacific.

With this comes unparalleled opportunities for Australia, and significant challenges too.

Not just a checklist, to be worked through one-at-a-time.

As Allan Gyngell has said the challenges we face are more complicated, more interrelated and more internationalised.

Take the impacts of climate change, of conflict, of people movement driven by poverty and inequality, of health crises and of course terrorism – all threats to our security.

The decisions that we make in this decade, and the actions we take as a global community, are writing the history of this era, and defining the years ahead.

We won’t be wealthier or safer if we only seek safety and wealth inside the walls of a fortress we build for ourselves.

Achieving a prosperous and secure future for our nation demands that we look beyond our borders.

This has always been the Labor way.

A foreign policy tradition of Australia as an enthusiastic participant in establishing international frameworks: the laws, norms and international institutions that govern international behaviour.

Of course, the names, places and stories are familiar to many of you.

San Francisco in 1945, Doc Evatt, drafting the Charter of the United Nations.

Advocating for his vision of a UN – a place where every nation had an empowered voice – not just the great powers.

Ben Chifley’s decision to support the birth of an Indonesian Republic, rather than the revival of a Dutch colony.

Whitlam, as Opposition Leader, leaving footsteps in China for the United States to follow.

And as Prime Minister, inspiring a national change of consciousness in the way that Australia looked at the world and our place within it.

Gough helped Australia move from the narrow to the inclusive, from insularity to openness.

Soon after being sworn in he said that:

 “Our thinking is toward… an Australia which will enjoy a growing standard as a distinctive, tolerant, cooperative and well-regarded nation not only in the Asian Pacific Region but in the world at large.”

This sense of national self, and Gough’s staunch belief in the international law, established Australia as an authoritative and independent voice on the world stage.

Whitlam established the Australian Development Assistance Agency and increased Australia’s development assistance — a commitment that was continued by successive Labor governments.

Of course, the Abbott Opposition went into the 2013 election saying that they too were committed to an aid funding target of 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income.

But instead, the aid program has subsequently been gutted — and is now the weakest in Australian history.

Within two months of taking Government, Whitlam ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty, something previous governments had refused to do. In fact, it was part of the flurry of ratification of international treaties and support for conventions.

Labor today remains committed to strengthening non-proliferation regimes and pursuing responsible nuclear disarmament.

Our disarmament efforts have been described by the Coalition as ‘utopian’.

But we believe, as President Obama said in Hiroshima, that we need a moral revolution on nuclear weapons.

We also know that we have been successful in the past.

The Hawke Government established the Australia Group, the Keating Government launched the Canberra Commission, the Rudd Government established, together with Japan, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.

This is part of our proud and progressive tradition.

Australia as an engaged member of the global community of nations.

During Australia’s previous term on the Security Council, in 1985-86, Foreign Minister Bill Hayden and our UN Ambassador Richard Woolcott, who is with us here today, drove Council action on Apartheid - furthering foreign policy priority that Australia pursued over successive governments.

Bob Hawke and Gareth Evans initiated the APEC forum and the economic co-operation across the Pacific Rim that it has delivered.

Gareth spearheaded the Cambodian peace process, returning normality to a people who were devastated by genocide and civil war – and bringing far greater stability to the region.

Prime Minister Paul Keating made APEC a leaders’ forum – and urged Australia to look for its security in Asia, and not from Asia.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith worked to have the United States included in the East Asia Summit, expanding US engagement in our region.

Bob Carr brought to a successful conclusion our campaign for a seat on the Security Council. Hopefully, it is now uncontroversial that Labor’s Security Council bid was in the national interest.

An accepted piece of bipartisan wisdom that Australia can show leadership at a global level.

And we are proud, of course, of the work Prime Minister Julia Gillard in establishing regular and formal leader-level dialogues between China and Australia—a foreign policy achievement which will only grow in importance over time.  

Because there is no more important foreign policy consideration for Australia today than the rise of China as a prosperous, peaceful and stable world power.

The emergence of China as both a regional and global superpower represents tremendous opportunities and benefits for Australia.

We must effectively and independently engage with China.

With our other partners in Asia, too.

But this commitment to the region, and to further developing our relationships with its major actors, does not mean that our commitment to our Alliance with the US is any way diminished.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale rejected Australia’s Alliance with the US on this very stage, describing it as ‘stifling’.

It’s an odd choice of word — seemingly designed to create a headline without really advancing an argument.

And drawn from a sense of impotence that, to my mind, does not exist in the frank, honest friendship at the core of the US Alliance. 

I do, however, value the opportunity it gives me to reiterate the value that Labor places on the US Alliance – and the strategic and economic benefit that it has long delivered, not just for Australia, but for our region too.

Our ability to be positive and assertive in our engagement in the region is bolstered by the confidence and security provided by our Alliance with the United States.

The Greens want Australia to shun the world’s leading democracy, but don’t really know where we should go. 

It’s a pattern common to their foreign policy – the search for righteous indignation and the embrace of false binaries.

The Greens also oppose the current military campaign against Da’esh in the Middle East, without really providing any credible alternative to prevent that organisation murdering, raping, and enslaving men, women, and children, and urging attacks in Australia.

Australia under Labor will continue to be a reliable ally to the United States.

But we will disagree with our ally when it is in our interest to do so. It's also in the global interest that we should be independent within the alliance.

As Kim Beazley said, we want an alliance, not compliance.

We are more valuable as an ally if we act confidently and independently within the Alliance.

We should have disagreed in 2003, as the decision to invade and occupy Iraq was such a terrible mistake with such long-trailing consequences.

Our value as an ally increases when we are prepared to speak up, to question, analyse and act thoughtfully.

While acknowledging the conspicuous flaws in the current system, Labor supports the United Nations and other multilateral institutions as key instruments in our foreign policy too.

Because some of the most pressing and serious challenges facing us can never be solved unilaterally, even bilaterally, perhaps even regionally.

They require truly global action.

The international system provides a platform from which we can project our voice and our national interests well beyond the comparative size of our economy and our armed forces.

Under Labor, we secured a spot in the Security Council for the first time in a generation.

You will remember that the Liberals sneered at us when we embarked on our bid, threatening to cancel it during the 2010 election.

And yet, as John Langmore has pointed out, Australia realised much during its term, on Syria, on MH17, on small arms, on human rights in North Korea.

We should not forget nor minimise the contribution the United Nations and its associated organisations have made to the modern world.

Because of the United Nations, smaller states have an international voice.

And countries like Australia can demonstrate global leadership.

Labor recognises the interdependence of nations — the interdependence of global opportunities and global challenges.

Successful Australian interaction with the countries of the Indo-Pacific — our third pillar — will be achieved by meaningful engagement in the region, grounded in strong bilateral relationships, and real commitment to multilateral processes and rules-based norms.

A Shorten Labor Government would promote cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships with our key regional partners.

At the same time we will pursue closer engagement with key regional institutions — including ASEAN, the East Asia Summit and through the APEC meetings.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd emphasised the need for strong and effective regional institutional arrangements – and indeed Kevin has still been doing a great deal of work in his retirement on this issue – to account for the rebalancing of global economic power currently underway, ensuring these institutions steer the region towards peace, security and prosperity.

Australia must be part of shaping new institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

We should have been a founding member, not a hesitant, last-minute participant.

The London G20 conference lessened the impact of the Global Financial Crisis and a Labor Government played a key role in building up this institution reflecting the changing economic relationships since the Second World War.

The legitimate aspirations that a number of countries had to be at the decision-making table when it came to managing the effects of the Global Financial Crisis.

The Gillard Government launched the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper to ensure that Australia’s engagement with Asia was promoted at every opportunity; methodically, consistently and over the long-term.

We established a whole of government approach, building people-to-people links that would support a genuine place for Australia within Asia.

The electronic book burning that wiped the Asian Century White Paper from departmental history was petty, short-sighted and typical of a small-minded approach in so many of the big questions.

A Labor Government will revive and redouble our efforts to build Australia’s relationship with Asia through exchange and cooperation across every sector of the economy and our community. 

Thriving in the Asian Century—seizing the economic opportunities and managing the security challenges—requires an understanding of the history, cultures, societies and languages of the nations to our north.

The language component of this literacy is currently lagging, with more Australian school students studying Indonesian in 1972 than do so today. 

This needs to change, as the capacity for Australians to build deeper ties with Asia will only be enhanced by an increase in proficiency of Asian languages, and the better cultural understanding that comes with learning a language.

That’s why a Shorten Labor Government will establish an Asian Century Teaching Scholarship Program which will enable 100 qualified Australian language teachers each year to complete language immersion programs in targeted Asian countries, with a priority on cementing Asian language proficiency.

I began this speech by looking back at the development of the international system in which we now work.

Looking forward, the international centre of global economic activity will continue to track towards our region.

The growing economic power of our Asian neighbours is reflected in their expanding diplomatic influence and foreign policy aspirations. 

These nations will test Australia’s economic influence, as well as our diplomatic influence both regionally and globally.

Passing this test demands more of our national energy and imagination.

We cannot hope to play the role of quiet observer in the shifts in power occurring on our doorstep.

We will not prosper in the Asian Century by retreating into the Anglosphere - any more than we will enhance our reputation in the region by seeking to shirk our obligations as a prosperous nation, or opting to pass by on the other side of the road.

Both major parties often say that the first responsibility of a government is to ensure the security and prosperity of its citizens.

In the same breath we should state clearly that Asia’s peaceful and prosperous rise is critical to us meeting this responsibility.

And that demands that Australia be a consequential and confident actor in our region, and in the international system more broadly.

A country that can influence global and regional institutions and can shape the Asian strategic environment — pursuing creative diplomacy that will ensure that our values and interests are protected for the long-term.

The rules-based international order has brought so much benefit to our country, and we should act to maintain and support that system.

We cannot expect other nations to adhere to a system we do not ourselves uphold.

On whaling, on the settlement of international trade and maritime disputes, on French nuclear testing in the Pacific, we insisted others play by the rules.

On the overlapping maritime claims in the South China Sea, we urge all parties to abide by both the terms and the spirit of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Australia has a good record of acting in defence of this system, but not a flawless one.

Australia’s key role in securing independence for East Timor was a proud moment for our nation.

But we have allowed the maritime boundary dispute to poison relations, and Labor will change this.

I announced earlier this year that a Shorten Labor Government will intensify efforts to conclude good faith negotiations with Timor-Leste to settle the maritime boundaries between our two countries.

If I am Foreign Minister after July 2 I intend to travel to Timor-Leste before the end of August to launch negotiations.

If we are not successful in negotiating a settlement with our neighbour, we are prepared to submit ourselves to international adjudication or arbitration.

It is in the national interest of both countries that we do so— and other nations collectively support the institutional arrangements that will assist us. 

It is also in our national interest to proactively combat climate change, both domestically and internationally.

Domestically, Labor would adopt ambitious and achievable targets and measures that set a common sense pathway to a low pollution economy.

Far from the world of global summitry, climate change is an existential threat to some of our neighbours in the Pacific.

I saw this first hand when Bill Shorten, Richard Marles and I visited PNG, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati last year.

We should be amplifying the voice of our Pacific island neighbours — as several leaders of their leaders have asked us to — ensuring that the world understands the plight facing these low-lying, small, island nation states.

Both our Immigration Minister and our Foreign Minister have publicly joked about the existential threat posed to some Pacific countries.

We are currently under-doing engagement with our Pacific island neighbours on climate change, but also on broader questions of security and economic development.

And when we withdraw from our near region, others may take our place.

Australia has a proud history of engaging with our Pacific island neighbours — through the Pacific Patrol Boats, through institution strengthening, education exchange, technical assistance, and through RAMSI.

But I fear that this is being lost through aid cuts and through indifference, and indeed, through our own bureaucracy which undervalues the strategic importance of our Pacific neighbourhood.

We should be looking at the next steps in co-operation, particularly regarding climate change adaptation.

We should also be exploring with our friends in the Pacific, ways to prepare for a future where some parts of their countries become uninhabitable.

Some of these countries are making their own contingency plans — and we should be supporting them.

More than six decades ago, a great Labor Prime Minister, Ben Chifley defined the Labor mission in a phrase that no-one has been able to better.

He spoke, of course, of the “light on the hill”. 

The moral duty to work for “the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand”.

This duty was expressed in our recent aid announcement.

Labor supports a strong aid program because as a good global citizen Australia has a duty to help reduce poverty and inequality, and respond effectively to humanitarian crises.

Labor supports a strong aid program because it helps keep Australia safe, by working to tackle serious diseases and violence in our region, and across the world.

Labor supports a strong aid program because it benefits Australia’s economy when countries go from being aid recipients to trading partners.

I believe that there is much more that Australian ideas and values can offer in shaping a better world.

Australia can have a more creative and more confident presence on the world stage.

The Labor Party stands apart from any other party, Left or Right, with its coherent articulation of the conceptual framework behind our foreign policy.

The Labor Party stands apart from any other party, with a clear vision at the core of our foreign policy.

We believe in being good international citizens, because it’s our moral duty, but also because it serves our long term national interest better.

Good international citizenship is a principle worth emphasising.

It’s a priority that we are proud to advocate.

It is the idea at the heart of our plans for the future of Australia and our place in the world.

Here – and anywhere – where we may give a helping hand.


SPEECH: Introducing a Bill for Marriage Equality






MONDAY, 2 MAY 2016


Yesterday in Sydney, I joined my colleague, the Member for Grayndler, and a state colleague Jo Haylen, the member for Summer Hill, and many others, families, individuals at a picnic hosted by Rainbow Families –

…a wonderful organisation that supports and empowers LGBTI families.

At that picnic we met many wonderful parents.

Some with tiny babies, young children and some with children much older.

And we talked about the usual struggles and joys of being a mum or a dad – the young baby that won’t sleep through the night, the toddler taking their first steps, the teenager who gives you grief, or the pride of the son or daughter graduating from university.

The way people at that picnic put it yesterday is that “Love Makes a Family.”

And as we watched the kids running around the park, kicking the ball with their two mums, or their two dads – love is, indeed, all that you saw.

I am deeply, deeply concerned about what the debate leading up to a plebiscite on marriage equality would mean for these beautiful children and their families.

For kids who’ve got two mums or two dads, to hear for months, or possibly even years, that there is something not right about their families, I just think is unforgiveable and unacceptable.

We don’t need a plebiscite. The Parliament can, and should, get marriage equality done.

Seven in ten Australians support marriage equality.[1]

They recognise that the relationships – the love of their sisters or brothers, sons or daughters, colleagues, team-mates, friends

…is not lessened if that love is between two people of the same sex.

For all the campaigns, the efforts of those of us in this place and the tireless work of community activists, the groundswell of support for equality owes most to the courage of the men and women who have lived and loved openly – despite prejudice, discrimination and even danger.

I want to thank them for their bravery and their determination. It has made Australia more inclusive, fairer and closer to the sort of Australia I want my kids to grow up in, where we are all equal.

I did think that we would be there by now.

At the beginning of this Parliament, recognising that equality ought to be a bipartisan issue, I sought a seconder from the Coalition parties for a private members bill removing discrimination from the Marriage Act.

For more than a year, I waited for someone on the other side of the House to feel that they could put their name to ending legal discrimination.

When, last year, it became apparent that waiting was in vain – Labor’s leader, Bill Shorten, introduced a private member’s bill to the same effect and I seconded it.

The introduction of that bill finally did produce some action from the other side. When we heard that Coalition MPs didn’t feel that they could support a bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, we withdrew our bill to allow another to be put forward sponsored by backbenchers from all parties.

Because neither the Leader of the Opposition nor I cared whose name was on the bill: only that it would pass.

And for a while, with support from all sides of politics, it looked like it just might.

But everybody knows what happened next. Everybody knows that former Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, ambushed the supporters of equality in his own party and stacked the party room meeting to make sure that there’d be no free vote on marriage equality, and no marriage equality.

Instead he proposed a national plebiscite – expensive, divisive, and meaningless –

But a way of delaying equality for a bit longer.

Members of his own party spoke publically against this “captain’s call.”

Including the Member for Wentworth.

So when the Member for Wentworth became the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister, it seemed that the moment had come when things might change. That we might be able to get this done, once and for all. That we might be able to finally leave behind discrimination against people because of who they love.

But this Prime Minister has been an enormous disappointment.

He sold out LGBTI Australians – traded away their right to equality – to become Prime Minister. He signed up to the plebiscite delaying tactic to secure the support of the Liberal Party’s right wing.

We know it’s nothing but a delaying tactic because there’s no sign of movement from this Government.

In fact the Attorney-General was told to shelve work on the enabling legislation in March this year.

Because of the Prime Minister’s tricky move to get a double dissolution election – that saw the whole Parliament recalled for just two days at a cost of more than a million dollars[2] – the cross-party bill has lapsed.

That’s why, today, we will try to put right some of that by re-introducing a bill for marriage equality.

Australians who have waited decades to marry their life-long partners and who fear they may not live to see marriage equality a reality –

…have waited too long.

Young people who want their grandparents to be able to come to their wedding have waited for too long.

Australians of all ages who’ve been told that their love isn’t equal, that their family isn’t real, that their relationship is bad for their children or somehow bad for society, have waited for too long.

The Prime Minister says he supports marriage equality.

And we know that he supports a free vote, not a plebiscite because he said so.

It’s time he did the right thing.

This week, of course, is budget week.

And quite rightly, our focus will be on the economy, on jobs, on health, on education, and the environment.

And as we all know, it is almost certain that by the end of the week, the Prime Minister will be going to the Governor-General asking him to dissolve this Parliament and to call an election.

So, sadly, it is unlikely that this bill will pass this week.

But our push for equality is not going away.

Think of this bill as a marker –

More than that, think of it as a promise. 

A promise that Labor will introduce legislation for marriage equality in the first 100 days of a Shorten Labor Government.

That’s the clear choice. The Liberals’ divisive and expensive plebiscite, a delaying tactic designed to stop marriage equality –

Or a Labor Government which will make marriage equality law.

Let’s get this done – it’s time.

[1] http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/who-supports-equality/a-majority-of-australians-support-marriage-equality/


SPEECH: Notice of Motion, Federation Chamber, Monday, 2 May 2016






MONDAY, 2 MAY 2016 


That this House:



  1. The importance of effective political and diplomatic relationships and economic exchange between Australia and our region;

  2. A responsible and internationally engaged Australian government is required to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of a changing world.


Through much of our history Australia has grappled with the ‘tyranny of distance’ – the fact that we were very far away from the centres of global power.

But now, of course, the world’s centres of economic, political and strategic gravity are shifting towards Asia, creating unparalleled opportunities and unprecedented challenges for Australian policy makers.

China’s GDP approaches, and is likely to overtake, the US. Indeed, on some measures, it already has.[1]

India is the world’s third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity, and is forecast to be the fastest growing major economy in the world from 2016.[2]

Indonesia is now the eighth largest economy in the world on purchasing power measurements, having risen from fourteenth place in 1990.

And all three are seeking a position in the world commensurate with their economic power.

Japan remains the fourth largest economy according to PPP, and its importance to regional strategic consideration continues to grow.

Our economic relationships with our neighbours are becoming ever more important to our national prosperity. At the same time, of course, rising tensions, particularly in the South China Sea, present a challenge for regional economic and strategic stability, with significant ramifications for Australia.

Labor continues to argue that disagreements in the South China Sea should be peacefully resolved in accordance with international laws and norms.

But if we want to insist that other nations play by the rules, we also need to adhere to them.

That’s why Labor has, for example, announced that through bilateral negotiations, or if necessary, with the assistance of the International Court of Justice or a binding international arbitration, we want to fairly and finally settle a maritime border between Australia and Timor-Leste.

Support for a rules based order is also an expression of our values – a sign of our willingness to act as a good global citizen. Just today, we saw a real example of the cost to Australia of not doing so.

The former President of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmao, says the Liberal Government’s approach to the maritime border issue is jeopardising Australia’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Labor welcomes the conclusion of a number of free trade agreements in recent years, agreements that were progressed by successive previous governments.

But to seize the opportunities and mitigate any challenges of the Asian century, our engagement with our regional partners has to be deeper and richer than just bilateral trade agreements.

The Hawke and Keating Labor Governments enhanced regional multilateral structures, leaving us with APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum. The Rudd Government worked to have the United States included in the East Asia Summit, a key regional institution with an open political, security and economic agenda. The Gillard Government secured a strategic partnership with China— the establishment of a new bilateral architecture to guide the future of our relationship.

And, of course, we produced the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. We made sure that the changing dynamics and emerging opportunities of the region were included in every aspect of government decision making.

One of the first things this Government did was to erase that White Paper – an act of electronic book-burning without explanation.

No long-term strategic approach replaced it.

Instead a reflexive, transactional attitude has characterised this Government’s approach to our region.

Its approach to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was a prime example.

The Government’s resistance made Australia’s eventual participation seem grudging and half-hearted to our neighbours. It undermined our ability to influence the direction of the Bank from the ground up. We should have gotten in early—we could have had much more influence about setting the rules if we’d done so.

The changes to our region should be considered in all our policy decisions – domestic as well as international.

The Government cites the ‘New Colombo Plan’ as its signature foreign policy. Of course we support students gaining experience in Asia. But a student study program as foreign policy falls well short of the mark.

Under this Government, Australia is missing economic and political opportunities in our region, and is being left behind as our neighbours shape the Indo-Pacific, and the world, of the 21st century.

[1] Previous speech

[2] DFAT Country brief


SPEECH: Address to the National Press Club of Australia, Wednesday, 10 February 2016








I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal People, traditional owners of the land where we meet today, and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.


  • Bill Shorten and other parliamentary colleagues, past and present,

  • Members of the diplomatic corps,

  • Dick Woolcott and current and former members of the foreign service,

On my first day in this job, in the press gallery’s tradition of respectful enquiry, I was asked what could have possibly led me to choose the Shadow Foreign Affairs portfolio.

I have been back to look at that answer—to see how I feel about it, two and half years on.

In October 2013, I said my choice was partly inspired by my love of history.

I don’t think you’ll be shocked to hear that I’ve never been a fan of the ‘great man’ theory of history.

The story of the world written as a tribute to an immortal few, deserving to command, taking their citizens by the scruff of the neck and driving them on to glory.

The history that interests me is the more complex story.

The ebb and flow of events, the spark and slow burn of resurgence and decline.

The shifts in power and influence that see nations rise and fall.

Reading about this is one thing, living through it is another.

In this job, loving history helps you know when you are witnessing it firsthand.

And right now, the economic and social transformation we are seeing in our region is remarkable.

And the challenges we face are significant—from terrorism, poverty and inequality, health crises to climate change.

The decisions we make in this decade, and the actions we take as a global community, are writing the history of our era, and defining the future for generations to come.

I want to serve as Foreign Minister in a Shorten Labor Government because I believe there is more, much more, that Australian ideas and values can offer the world.

I believe we can take a broader view.

Australia can be a better international citizen, a more active player in our region and a more creative, more confident presence on the world stage.

We should choose this path of energy and activism, knowing that it serves our national interest.

We see ourselves as a good international citizen and we measure our actions against that.

Above all, the national security and prosperity we are so grateful for can only come from greater international security and prosperity.

There is no more important duty of a government than to keep its people safe and ensure their prosperity.

Ensuring safety at home, by helping secure peace abroad.

Enhancing prosperity in Australia, by extending opportunity in the wider world.

It sounds basic, and in a portfolio that attracts more theories, ‘isms’ and doctrines than many others, simplicity is not always seen as a virtue.

Nor can you spend a life in the Labor movement without encountering a few foreign policy purists along the way.

Idealism will always inform Labor’s ongoing goal of building a better world.

But in foreign affairs, as in economic and social policy, we learned long ago that there is nothing to fear or to lose from pragmatism in the name of progress.

There is no value in pitting the perfect against the good, standing in the way of advances because they are incremental.

As former Congressman Barney Frank recently put it:

‘The opposite of pragmatism is not idealism.’ The opposite of pragmatism is ‘wishful thinking.’

The wishful thinking that whispers Australia is a small country, far away, removed from the problems of the world.  That we don’t need to engage.

And the wishful thinking that, amidst rapid change and the shock of the new, urges a retreat into the comfort of the familiar.

Be it terrorism, war, poverty or climate change, Australia cannot afford to imagine ourselves immune from global threats to security and prosperity.

We cannot rely exclusively on ‘great and powerful friends’ in a world that has fundamentally changed.

We cannot consider ourselves outside the standards and expectations of the rules-based order we exhort others to follow.

And we cannot afford to play spoiler or isolationist in the global response to these threats.

Climate change is already impacting on the island homes of our friends in the Pacific. As Bill, Richard Marles and I saw firsthand on our recent trip to PNG, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, climate change isn’t a ‘political’ argument or an ‘economic’ dilemma. It is an existential threat – a matter of survival for our neighbours.

As the largest per capita emitter of carbon pollution in the OECD, we also have a regional responsibility to our friends in the Pacific.

Yet we went to Paris as a country that has gone backwards on climate change, both domestically and internationally, placing short-term domestic concerns ahead of our long-term national interest and our international reputation.

In this very building a generation ago, Paul Keating urged us to seek security in Asia, not from Asia.

We return to that core principle, the best guarantee of a secure and prosperous Australia is a region and a world of greater security and prosperity.

In seeking this goal Labor looks to the three longstanding pillars of our foreign policy:

  • Our alliance with the United States

  • Our relationships in the Indo-Pacific region

  • And our multilateral engagement with the world

In the Labor Party, we are proud of our history as the architects and authors of Australia’s alliance with the United States.

We value the leadership the United States has offered in our region and around the world. This is why Stephen Smith, while foreign minister, worked to have the United States included in the East Asia Summit, expanding US engagement in our region.

But we have never sought for Australia the tinny badge of ‘deputy sheriff’.

We believe that we are a more valuable ally if we have the maturity and confidence to speak frankly and act independently within the alliance.

Australia will disagree with the United States on occasion.

We should have disagreed in 2003.

The decision to invade and occupy Iraq was a terrible mistake.

The cost in lives, money and the reputational damage to America and other members of the Coalition of the Willing was not matched in gains for Iraq, for the United States, or the world.

Labor opposed the decision to join in the invasion of Iraq.

I spoke against it, I marched against it.

When George W Bush visited our Parliament in 2003, I presented Condoleezza Rice with a letter, signed by 41 MPs, explaining why Labor opposed the invasion of Iraq without United Nations approval.

When presented with the same set of circumstances, I would do so again.

None of this diminished Labor’s commitment to the alliance.

And as two nations with shared histories, mutual interests and common values, as believers in, and defenders of, open economies, free societies and individual liberties, there is so much Australia and the United States can achieve together.

Which is why the US-Australia alliance will always be an important element of Labor’s foreign policy.

In our region, we believe in building institutions and enmeshing ourselves in the Indo-Pacific.

Our economic connections are important, but we believe our connections should be much deeper than the merely transactional.

This was the dominant theme of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper: a whole of government approach, building the people-to-people links that are far stronger and more enduring than anything conjured by summitry.

In an act of pettiness all too typical of this Government, the White Paper has been written out of departmental history; an act of electronic book burning.

This is to the detriment of us all.

In our region in particular, Labor recognises the responsibility we have to promote peace, reduce poverty and tackle inequality among our neighbours.

Being a constructive and considerate member of the Indo-Pacific community is not just the right thing to do.

It is also one of the most sure-fire ways of enhancing Australia’s own long-term safety and prosperity.

When we help our neighbours to succeed, we share in the reward.

The stunning economic growth of countries like Japan, Korea and China has underpinned our own prosperity.

A quarter of a century ago, Malaysia and Thailand were among the largest recipients of Australian aid.

Today, Malaysia is Australia’s eighth largest trading partner, Thailand is ninth.

But it’s not just about trade—strong institutions and good governance in our neighbourhood benefit us too.

Just one example: the strength of the health system in Papua New Guinea is critical to the strength of ours.

If we assist with TB prevention and treatment in PNG, we reduce the very real threat of drug-resistant TB to our citizens in Far North Queensland.

In the 1980s, the US and EU controlled more than 60% of the world economy in nominal terms.

In 2014 that was 46%, and the trend is only heading one way.

The world’s economic centre of gravity is moving to our region.

And with that economic heft comes political and strategic influence.

Measured by purchasing power, India has grown from the ninth largest economy in 1990 to the third largest today.

And as the world’s largest democracy, India is seeking a strategic voice on par with its economic weight.

That’s why Labor in government shifted our focus from the Asia Pacific to the Indo Pacific and deepened our engagement with India.

On the same economic measure, Indonesia has climbed from fourteenth to sixth.

Indonesia too is seeking a greater say in global decision-making.

China’s growth is not the whole story of the rise of Asia, but it is nonetheless a remarkable story.

500 million people lifted out of poverty.

An economic transformation unparalleled in human history.

And Labor is proud of the part we have shared in the China story.

We are proud that Gough Whitlam reached out to China when people said it was folly.

Proud that Bob Hawke and Paul Keating fostered inclusive cooperation in our region, through APEC, when their critics mocked it as vanity and an elitist obsession.

And proud of the work Julia Gillard did to establish regular and formal leader-level meetings between China and Australia—a foreign policy achievement which will only be enlarged by time.

Our history with China means a Labor government would have acted differently on the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank. This was a way to positively work with China to reduce the infrastructure deficit in our region.

Instead, division around the Coalition Cabinet table and botched public diplomacy led it to being seen as a great US-China power struggle, with Australia caught in the middle and China coming out on top.

And it now seems Australia will miss out on a position as one of the vice-presidents of the AIIB, due to our perceived reluctance and late sign-up. We should have gotten in early—we could have had more influence in setting the rules.

Our close economic and diplomatic relationship with China binds us, but it does not blind us.

On the question of relations between China and the United States, and between China and the rest of the region, we are clear sighted.

On the South China Sea, we are not disinterested observers.

We have a national interest in defending freedom of navigation—and in upholding the international system of laws and accepted behaviours.

One-third of the world’s shipping, and 60% of our own exports, transit through the South China Sea.

We’re talking about nearly US$5.3 trillion in total trade passing through the area each year.

It is in no-one’s national interest for heightened tensions to continue.

The most important message Australia can send is to urge all parties, to abide by both the terms and the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It’s in our interests to support the international system.

I would encourage all nations to become parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, including the United States.

The claimants in the South China Sea ought to reconcile their disputes in accordance with the rules-based international order.

Now that there is a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an impartial institution within that system, all claimants should respect the outcome.

It would be disingenuous to ignore that tensions in the South China Sea are dividing our greatest strategic partner and our largest trading partner.

Of course the South China Sea is not the only point of tension in the US-China relationship.

But that does not mean that cooperation is impossible.

After all, in November 2014, China and United States combined their energy and imagination to make an historic joint pledge to cut pollution.

The world’s two biggest polluters and its two largest economies rewrote the dynamics of the Beijing APEC and the Brisbane G20 with that agreement.

Just as, at the recent Paris climate conference, it was largely American and Chinese pragmatism, combined with exceptional French diplomacy, that got the global deal over the line.

Co-operation between the United States and China is as essential to tackling climate change as it is to securing peace in our region.

And the fact that they can work so closely on one issue ought to give us all hope for the others.

For all the good we can do as a player in our region, or in partnership with the United States, our membership of the United Nations carries special responsibilities and unique opportunities.

The United Nations has its flaws—and Labor is not oblivious to them.

But beyond the imperfections inherent in what Kevin Rudd called a ‘necessary democracy among states’, we should never forget or minimise the contribution the United Nations has made to the modern world.

Not just in helping to prevent global war—in the aftermath of two all-consuming conflicts inside thirty years.

But in the setting of agreed human rights standards: as both aspirations and goals for individuals and benchmarks to hold the international community to account.

Global action can and does work.

Small pox, which killed hundreds of millions in the 20th century alone, is gone.

We are on the cusp of eliminating polio.

Remarkably, an AIDS free generation is within our grasp.

We should also acknowledge the Millennium Development Goals.

While not universally successful, under the MDGs the rate of children dying before their fifth birthday has more than halved and maternal mortality has almost halved.

Over 6 million people were saved from dying from malaria, and about 37 million people were saved from dying from tuberculosis.

And the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals built on these successes and set an even more ambitious agenda for development.

The international system, with the UN at its core, has driven these successes.

Because of the United Nations, disarmament agreements and peace negotiations, sometimes driven by Australia, have made the world safer. We recognise the work Bob Carr did on the Arms Trade Treaty, Gareth Evans on the Canberra Commission.

We hope that further reform of the Security Council, including of the veto power of Permanent Members, would increase the effectiveness of the Council in responding to future conflicts.

Because of the United Nations, small states have an international voice.

And middle powers like Australia can demonstrate global leadership.

Shamefully, the Liberal Opposition ridiculed the Labor Government’s bid for a place on the UN Security Council and threatened to abandon it.

Hopefully, it is now an accepted piece of bipartisan wisdom that Australia can show leadership at a global level.

And that our interests are well served when Australia has a seat at the top table.

Few on the Australian political spectrum would dispute the centrality of our relationship with the United States, the importance of our region and the value of the multilateral system in the framing of our foreign policy.

Governments and oppositions may differ over emphasis and approach, but there would be broad agreement on the component parts.

To my mind, the biggest difference between the conservative and progressive worldview centres on the question of being a good international citizen. 

For Labor, being a good international citizen is much more than window-dressing or noblesse oblige.

It is a duty at the heart of Ben Chifley’s timeless definition of the Labor mission:

‘working for the betterment of mankind not only here, but anywhere we may give a helping hand’.

This sentiment resulted in Australian waterside workers banning Dutch vessels and ships taking munitions to the Dutch East Indies in 1947 during the Indonesian struggle for independence.

And the Australian labour movement boycotts against apartheid-era South Africa.

It was present in Bill Hayden and Gareth Evans’ work on the Cambodian peace process.

Every Labor generation has faced, and fulfilled, though sometimes imperfectly, its international responsibilities.

Being a good international citizen is also, unquestionably, in our national interest.

We live in a world of ‘problems without passports’.

Climate change, pandemics and terrorism won’t be combated by digging trenches or by throwing up nationalist barricades.

Solutions depend on working proactively within the international system, as we have done through the G20 and OECD, on combating multinational tax avoidance, as just one example.

All countries experience problems with their tax base. But poorer countries find it harder to raise the revenue they need, to invest, to raise their people out of poverty.

Through the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting work we have supported we strengthen our own tax base, but also help poorer nations gather the revenue they need to invest to raise the living standards of their people.

Gareth Evans has argued consistently that there are other, less tangible national interest arguments behind good international citizenship.

For one, it builds a nation’s international reputation, which, over time, works to our economic and strategic advantage.

It helps in Security Council elections, for example.

It helps in dispute settlement to be seen as an honest broker.

There is also the reciprocal benefit—if we act to support the rules-based international order, others are more likely to do the same.

If we stand in solidarity with others during a crisis, they are more likely to help us out when we need them.

This makes the Government’s shambolic response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa all the more difficult to understand.

Despite calls from the Australian Medical Association and the leaders of Australia’s humanitarian agencies, and on numerous occasions the United States, Britain and the United Nations, Australia initially refused to send capable and willing Australian medical professionals into the fight.

When it finally acted, the Government chose an approach that cost eight times more to treat each patient than it cost MSF.

Australia is strongest and safest when we act morally, in support of the international laws and norms that have brought so much benefit to our country.

This is why we must protect and enhance the multilateral rules-based international order, a system that has worked distinctly towards Australia’s peace and prosperity.

Consider the issue of whaling.

In 2010 the Labor Government commenced legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice, seeking to bring an end to their whaling program in the Southern Ocean.

Because both Australia and Japan are paid-up and engaged members of the international system, we were able to settle this dispute peacefully, without damaging our close bilateral relations.

And we were able to secure a win for our environmental and ethical values, in our national interest.

Of course we are disappointed that Japan has resumed whaling and will ignore the ruling of the International Court of Justice.

Australia regularly calls on other countries to abide by international norms and to settle disputes in line with the rules-based system.

If we want to insist that other nations play by the rules, we also need to adhere to them. 

We have a good record in doing so, but not a flawless one. 

Timor-Leste suffered decades of war and starvation before gaining independence. Australia played a key role in securing that independence – a proud moment for many Australians.

The maritime boundary dispute has poisoned relations with our newest neighbour.

This must change, for their sake, and for ours.

A Shorten Labor government will redouble efforts to enter good-faith negotiations with Timor-Leste to settle the maritime boundaries between our two countries.

If we are not successful in negotiating a settlement with our neighbour we are prepared to submit ourselves to international adjudication or arbitration.

It is in the national interest of both Australia and Timor-Leste that we do so, but just as importantly it is in the interest of the system itself that we are willing to freely participate in it.

On 27 June 1945, the day after the Charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco, the New York Times said of Australia’s Foreign Minister:

“When Dr Evatt came here he was a virtually unknown second-string delegate ... He leaves, recognized as the most brilliant and effective voice of the Small Powers, a leading statesman for the world’s conscience…”

It is true—we are only one voice among many in the international community.

But from time to time that voice is called upon to advocate for our smaller neighbours and to stand up for principles we value.

We should not doubt our capacity, we should not question our station.

We should not minimise our contribution nor downplay our influence.

With energy and activism, our history is still ours to write.


With confidence and purpose, our future is still ours to shape.


A prosperous and secure Australia, in a secure and prosperous world.



SPEECH: Statement on Indulgence: Recent Terrorist Attacks Around The World, Wednesday, 25 November 2015








I rise to speak on indulgence in response to the Prime Minister’s statement on the recent terrorist attacks around the world.

Overnight, we have heard again of yet more attacks – in Tunisia and in Egypt.

This year we have grieved, again and again, for the innocent victims of terrorist attacks.

People going to a concert in Paris. People marching for peace in Ankara. People attending a funeral in Bagdad, or buying bread in Beirut.


  • eating breakfast at a hotel in Mali,
  • or attending university in Kenya,
  • or playing volleyball in Pakistan,
  • or walking down the street in Jerusalem,
  • or leaving work in Parramatta. 

We mourn with those who saw their loved ones go out, on an ordinary day – to catch a bus. To pray, in church or synagogue or mosque. To go to school or work. To catch up with friends at a café or to see a show.

And who will never see them again.

Our deepest sympathies are with the wounded, and our greatest hope is for their recovery from injuries to body and mind.

It breaks our hearts that there are so many families shattered, so many lives lost, so many bodies broken.

It breaks our hearts but does not weaken our resolve.

We are resolved to do everything we can to protect our citizens and our values. The government and the opposition stand together in our commitment to the safety and security of the Australian people, and our commitment to combat terrorists at home, and abroad.

This resolve is a key reason for Australia’s military engagement in Iraq and Syria, our participation in the international mission against Daesh.

We have a responsibility, as good global citizens, to respond to the Iraqi Government’s request for assistance in the fight against Daesh. This year, Australia extended our mission to include air-strikes against targets located in Syria, also under the international legal principle of collective self-defence.

We thank the brave men and women of the Australian Defence Force for the professionalism with which they are carrying out their duties. They are a credit to their country.

Labor’s support for the campaign in Syria and Iraq is based on humanitarian considerations. 

The greatest number of victims of Daesh are those forced to live beneath their brutal rule.

The civil war in Syria has resulted in the gravest humanitarian crisis of our time. Well over 200,000 Syrians have been killed, half the population has been displaced, and the conflict has become a beacon and a breeding ground for extremists.

Syria is of course an exceedingly complex theatre, with a wide range of internal and external actors who have equally wide ranging agendas.

Over-night, with the downing of a Russian plane by Turkish forces, we have seen how this complexity can have tragic and unanticipated consequences.

It is our hope that Turkey and Russia exercise restraint, and that this incident is not allowed to jeopardise the goal of a lasting and durable peace in Syria. We must all redouble our efforts to make that the case.

For as the Prime Minister said yesterday and Labor has consistently argued, “ultimately a political solution is needed in Syria. Only this would allow attention to turn more fully to eliminating ISIL as a military force.”

We have consistently called for a clear strategy for Syria and Iraq—a plan to defeat Daesh and a plan for the day after.

This strategy needs to include a strong and coordinated military response to prevent Daesh from perpetrating its crimes. It also needs to include a political solution in both Syria and Iraq that guarantees the rights of all religious and ethnic communities, and we also require a humanitarian response to prevent a generation of children growing up without an education, without adequate health care, without even a country to call their own.

And while there are a range of views on the correct plan to defeat Daesh on the battlefield, we agree with most in the international coalition that large scale deployment of Western troops is not the correct strategy.

As Hilary Clinton said recently, “If we’ve learned anything from 15 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that local people and nations have to secure their own communities. We can help them, and we should, but we cannot substitute for them. But we can and should support local and regional ground forces in carrying out this mission.”

I would add that we have to have a clear objective for this assistance – a plan for now, and a plan for when we leave.

As the terrorist attacks this week, this month, this year, have so painfully shown, we must also combat the threat of terrorist attacks within our borders.

French authorities have acted swiftly and strongly against those involved in carrying out the recent attack in Paris, and who were quite possibly planning further attacks.

In Australia, our intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies are at the front-line in foiling and disrupting threats to Australians. We have some of the best security and intelligence agencies in the world, and we will continue to give them all our support as they carry out this difficult and necessary task.

We know for certain that our people have stopped attacks on Australians in Australia that would have killed our citizens.

We all know – how can we not know – that it’s possible an attack will not be prevented. It has happened in Australia, at the Lindt Café siege, in attacks on police officers and police employees in Melbourne and Sydney. None of us can be complacent.

But we can all be certain that while terrorist acts may exact a terrible toll, terrorism will not prevail.

Because we have seen that every act of terror prompts a thousand acts of courage.

We saw Adel Termos in Beirut, letting go of the hand of his six year old daughter to throw his arms around a suicide bomber, saving dozens of lives as he lost his own.

We saw Michel Catalano, telling his young employee to hide as the fugitive Charlie Hebdo gunmen came into his business. He faced the danger alone.

And Stephane Sarrade, whose 23 year old son Hugo was killed in the Bataclan Theatre, saying that “I would like to give hope to the next generation. The rest of my life, that will be my work".

Antoine Leiris, whose wife and the mother of his infant son was also murdered in that theatre, wrote an open letter to the terrorists. He said:

“I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. … You would like me to be scared, for me to look at my fellow citizens with a suspicious eye, for me to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You have lost.  Us two, my son and I, we will be stronger than every army in the world.  …all his life this little boy will be happy and free.  Because you will never have his hatred either."

Great acts of courage – and many smaller ones, no less important.

The students and teachers in Kenya who go to school and to university, every day, despite the threats, despite attacks, despite the fear they must surely feel.

Voices raised in the Marseilles as people were evacuated from the Stade de France.

Hundreds of people stranded in Paris after the attacks, given shelter in the homes of strangers who opened their doors, cooked meals, prepared beds.

As people around the world said, Je Suis Paris, the people in Paris said Je suis en terrasse – I am on the café terrace – as they refused to surrender the everyday pleasures of life.

Those who wanted the world to think of fear when they heard the name of Paris have failed. We will remember instead solidarity and defiance.

Those who wanted the world to think of grief when they heard the name of Beirut have failed. We remember instead courage.

When we remember Ankara, we remember that those who were killed were marching for peace.

When we remember Garissa, we remember that those killed were striving for an education, for learning. The thing that the terrorists fear most.

And every day, in Paris or Sydney, Beirut or Mumbai, we will be in the cafes and the restaurants, at the markets, in our places of worship, at work, at our train-stations, our schools and our offices.

And that is why terrorism will never win.

Because the human spirit is unconquerable.

Violence in the service of ideology can never defeat courage in the name of our common humanity.




SPEECH: Address to the Australian Institute of International Affairs National Conference, Monday 19 October 2015











I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal People, traditional owners of the land where we meet today, and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.  

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • Jakub Kulhánek, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Security and Multilateral Issues, Czech Republic
  • The current and former ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps
  • John McCarthy FAIIA, National President, Australian Institute of International Affairs

I thank the Australian Institute of International Affairs for organising this important conference, and giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.



Kofi Annan talked about “problems without passports” – problems which are transnational, even global.  They are the problems which threaten our peace, our prosperity, the health of our people and our plant.

And they are problems which require the co-operation of nations to solve.

Indeed, we can only solve them if we work domestically, regionally and globally.

In facing our problems without passports, we have a threefold task:

Each nation must take necessary action within its borders.

The intensifying effect on global extremism of Iraq and Syria’s inability to deal with Da’esh is an example of failure in one state having an effect on all.

Regional partners must act effectively together.

There was a time when Solomon Islands appeared to be in danger of becoming a failed state. The countries of the Pacific Island Forum responded with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). With participation from every Pacific Island Forum country, and led by Australia, over 12 years RAMSI has seen law and order restored, national institutions rebuilt and Solomon Islands economy reformed.

The global community must work together.

Smallpox, which killed hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century alone, was completely eradicated by the World Health Organization’s Smallpox Eradication Programme, in a patient and determined 14 year international campaign.


Climate change as an example

There are many examples of problems without passports – health epidemics, the current displacement of a record 60 million people world-wide by war and conflict, natural disasters, and economic crises like the Global Financial Crisis.

Today, I’m going to talk about one in particular – climate change. Climate change presents undeniable risks to our own country, our neighbours and to the world.

In Australia, both extreme fire weather and extreme sea-level events have increased.

The $5 billion Great Barrier Reef tourism industry has already felt the impacts of coral bleaching and increased frequency and severity of storms and cyclones. 

From 2020 onwards, the predicted increase in drought frequency is estimated to cost $7.3 billion annually, reducing GDP by 1% per year.

In the Pacific, all of the land area of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, and 97% of the land area of Kiribati, is less than five metres above sea level.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said last year that climate change was “like a weapon of mass destruction”. In the broader Asian region, countries are experiencing declining food security, water shortages, increased prevalence and geographical reach of disease, and more extreme weather events including floods and cyclones.

The UN estimates that without action, worldwide economic losses from natural disasters will double by 2030 – to $200 billion each year.

Estimates for the number of potential ‘climate refugees’ worldwide range upward from 75 million. That is potentially twice as many as the record high number of people displaced today.

If we are seeing the world struggle with mass movements of people now, imagine what the world will look like when that movement is doubled.


Good foreign policy starts at home

Just as the consequences of these complex challenges cross countries, regions, and the global community, so do the solutions.

We can’t ask others to do what we’re not prepared to do ourselves.

As Dr Michael Fullilove argued in one of his recent Boyer Lectures, talking specifically about climate change, good foreign policy begins at home.

We can’t expect our relationships with other countries to thrive if we are complacent about a threat that affects us all.

This is as true of climate change as it is of something like Ebola.

A foreign policy approach which looks beyond the next budget or the next election and plans for the next decade and the next century must see credible action on climate change in Australia as important to our global relationships and future security.

We need to do better domestically.

Our government has repealed the carbon price. It has tried to shut down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and this year tried to ban it from investing in solar and wind.

It has tried to axe the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and did abolish the Climate Commission. And it has tried to abandon the renewable energy target.

Australia's largest energy and emissions market analyst, Reputex, has confirmed under the Australian Government’s current policy carbon pollution levels from Australia's biggest polluters will increase by 20 per cent by 2030.

And for the hard-nosed realists in the room, the cost of shirking our national responsibility can be measured in Australian dollars and jobs.

Last year investment in large-scale renewables dropped by 88 per cent in Australia – while it grew by 16 per cent around the world.

Since the last election, the ABS has found that about 15 per cent of jobs in the renewables sector have vanished.

Labor’s recent announcement of that 50% of our electricity will be generated by renewable energy target by 2030 is proof of our determination to seize back that opportunity, and meet our national responsibility along the way.

Dr Fullilove also points to the missed opportunities for Australia by failing to act as a leader on climate change, both regionally and globally:

“A generation ago – perhaps even a decade ago – Australia might have led the world in finding a market solution to the problem of reducing emissions. It was the kind of thing we did well.” he said.

Just as Australia must act on climate change at home to credibly call for action abroad, we must act in our region to credibly call for action globally.


The cost of our current failure to act credibly domestically

In the Pacific, Australia’s responsibility could not be more pronounced.

We are the greatest per capita emitter in the world, and Pacific Island countries are, as the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this month, on the front line of climate change.

Just as our responsibilities at the regional scale are great, so are our opportunities: over $2.5 trillion is expected to be invested in renewables in the Asia Pacific region up to 2030.

Australia has a strong record of engaging with our region, including with institutions like ASEAN.

We have the patience and the capacity to drive complex policy solutions like the Cambodian peace process.

We have the clear avenue to be part of a constructive dialogue through the Pacific Islands Forum. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is engaged in  multi-stakeholder efforts to harness available climate change financial aid in effective and informed ways. Aid effectiveness and capacity building is an area where Australia excels. We should make more of this opportunity for leadership, rather than cracking jokes about the desperate plight of our neighbours.

After Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton was caught on microphone laughing about homes in the Pacific Islands threatened with inundation, Kiribati President Anote Tong said "It shows a sense of moral irresponsibility quite unbecoming of leadership in any capacity…I find that extremely sad, extremely disappointing that we are making jokes about a very serious issue."

He said of Australia and New Zealand:  "We expect them as bigger brothers, not bad brothers, to support us on this one because our future depends on it."

The reputational damage Australia suffers from being viewed as a ‘moral[ly] irresponsible’ ‘bad brother’ hurts more than simply our ability to effectively advocate for and shape a response to climate change. 

It limits our influence in regional and multilateral institutions where we have previously been able to play a strong role advancing our national interest of regional peace and stability.

And the more recalcitrant we are and we’re seen to be, the more difficulty we’ll have in the future negotiating regional and global changes as economic, political and military centres of gravity shift.

Of course, a problem like climate change demands even more than regional cooperation. It’s a global problem that will only be met effectively by global action.


The global response

We know already that thoughtful, patient global responses to complex problems can succeed beyond our most optimistic imaginings.

World Health Organisation campaigns have eliminated smallpox and are on the brink of eliminating polio.

Just think about that for a minute. Smallpox, that killed hundreds of millions of people in the twentieth century alone, is gone.

Polio, which stalked Australia so recently that our current Ambassador to the United States, and your next President, Kim Beazley, still has a vivid memory of waking up one morning unable to move, has been eradicated from the western world and is on the brink of being eradicated world-wide.

The number of cases world-wide has dropped from 350,000 cases in 125 counties in 1988 to just 359 cases in 2014.

An AIDS free generation is in sight.

The Millennium Development goals have lifted more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty since 1990.

We have already seen the global community come together on the question of climate change.

In 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established. 

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, the world’s first greenhouse gas emissions reduction treaty.

The first official act of the Rudd Government in 2007 was to ratify Kyoto.

Today, partly driven by global negotiations, emissions trading policies are in place for around 1 billion people and more than 40% of the world’s economy.

When China’s recently announced national emissions trading scheme starts in 2017, around 2 billion people and 40% of the world’s carbon emissions will be covered.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference is next month.

Australia has a proud history of shaping international agreements, from the founding of the UN onwards.

In Paris, Australia has the opportunity to push for strong and credible action on climate change.

And we should.

But sadly, our influence may be limited.

Right now, we’re seen as a global laggard on climate change.

In fact, a report by the Africa Progress Panel described Australia as a “free-rider” on global efforts on climate change.

The world is perplexed that as the international community moves forwards, Australia is going backwards.

The ETS, which the data shows was working, was dismantled by this government.

Emissions from our electricity sector have subsequently gone up.


The larger lessons learnt from the climate change case study

‘Problems without passports’ continue to challenge us and climate change is just one of them.

Yet it underscores two points which apply to Australian foreign policy more broadly.

Firstly, being part of regional and global communities involves both opportunities and responsibilities.

But if you don’t meet the responsibilities, you miss the opportunities.

Because every community is a network of long-term relationships, whose foundation is reciprocity and respect.

Although the questions change, we return to the same relationships, the same regional communities, and the same multilateral institutions time and again.

Our early diplomatic approach with China in the 1970s opened the door to a relationship which has developed and strengthened.

The strategic partnership between Australia and China negotiated by the Gillard Government is one example. CHAFTA is another.

We’ve seen South Korea go from being a recipient of Australian aid to our 4th largest trading partner.

When Labor was last in government, we launched the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper which made sure our changing regional dynamics were considered in every aspect of government decision-making and allowed us to seize those regional opportunities.

Labor matched that strategic thinking with concrete investment in our relationships with the global community, by doubling our aid program and expanding our diplomatic footprint.

And we were grateful to be supported by many of our neighbours in our bid to join the UN Security Council.

The second lesson is that, increasingly, policy-making at the national, regional and global levels cannot be separated from one another.

To take just one example: Labor’s ambition for a growing Australian economy has been expressed in recent years both by our strong support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the elevation of the G20 during the Global Financial Crisis.

We understand these engagements are complementary, not contradictory.



I began by quoting Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations on “problems without passports”.

Just last month I was in New York when the world came together to set a new agenda for addressing some of the most persistent of these problems. 193 nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals.

The current Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said these Global Goals compel nations to “look beyond national boundaries and short-term interests and act in solidarity for the long-term.”

Meeting these Global Goals will take action at home.

First we should be prepared to measure our success against these global targets.

And Australia must meet our aid obligations.

In our region, Australia has a responsibility by capacity and proximity to take a leadership role. 

And, working with the international community in multilateral partnerships, our role is also global.

We can’t step up the scale of our ambition, if we start from shaky domestic or regional foundations.  

The Global Goals, like any other international challenge, can only be met through coordinated efforts on all these levels – domestic, regional and global.


SPEECH: In support of the following motion, Monday 19 October 2015






That this House calls on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to support a parliamentary debate during the current sitting on the Australian Government’s strategy in response to the crisis in Syria and Iraq.






For over a year, Labor has offered bipartisan support for Australia’s involvement in the defence of Iraq. From the beginning, along with that support we have called for greater involvement and scrutiny by the Parliament.

On the 9th of September, Labor again called for this Government to outline to Parliament its long term strategy in Iraq and Syria and allow for a proper parliamentary debate.

In 1991, Parliament was specifically recalled for two days to debate the first Iraq War. All 150 members of the House of Representatives spoke.

In 2003, Australia’s commitment to Iraq was again subject to a significant debate in Parliament. In that debate, the Member for Curtin said:

“it behoves this parliament to consider the likelihood that the military action will be over quickly and the Iraqi regime that has so traumatised its own citizenry will be abandoned and in flight. What next? What does the future hold for a liberated Iraq?”

We could very well ask a very similar question about Syria today. If Daesh is degraded and defeated, as we all hope, and if Assad is gone, again as we all hope, what next for the future of Syria?

In 2015, as we have military forces once again deployed in Iraq – and now also in Syrian airspace – the Foreign Minister should once again support that same parliamentary consideration she praised in 2003.

Of course today we see geopolitical complexity even more finely balanced, and a long term strategic outcome even less predictable.

  • Russia has dramatically escalated its involvement, yet its strikes to date appear more targeted at anti-Assad rebel forces than Daesh.
  • The Russian air force’s use of cluster munitions and its rules of engagements risk civilian casualties in great number.
  • Despite an increasing number of countries entering the conflict to attack Daesh, Daesh continues to control large areas of territory in both Iraq and Syria. 
  • The Syrian rebel forces themselves are proliferating and radicalising, leaving fewer “moderate” partners for a future inclusive Syrian national government.
  • The Iraqi Government is increasingly reliant on Iran’s active support, a concerning trend for Australia’s long standing objective to support a non-sectarian, inclusive government in Iraq.

Without a clear and realistic strategy we are talking about the potential for the consolidation of redrawn national borders, the intensification of sectarian violence, the escalation of geopolitical tension, and increasing numbers of displaced people in the region and beyond.

Against this backdrop of heightened uncertainty, the Australian public deserve a clear outline of the strategy for our personnel who are being placed in harm’s way.

Yet the messages that we receive are often mixed.

The Government has said that the objective – and indeed legal basis – for Australian air strikes in Syria is the collective self-defence of Iraq.

And yet the Foreign Minister has also said that Australia’s involvement in Syria would be complete: 

“When the terrorist organisation is prevented from carrying out attacks on the civilian populations in Syria and Iraq”.

The Government has talked about in the past the illegitimacy of the Assad regime – which has killed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens.

And yet on the 25th of September, the Australian newspaper reported that the Foreign Minister’s position had changed, and that Assad is now ‘part of the solution’.

Labor remains prepared to support a strategic plan which will address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria.

But we need to know, and more particularly the Australian public deserve to know, they are entitled to hear the debate it in the parliament that would answer these long term questions, to know how this increasingly complex scenario will be resolved in the Government’s view.




Speech: Address to the Australian Council for International Development National Conference, Sydney, Friday 16 October 2015









Introduction – 50 years of ACFID

It is a great pleasure to be here for another ACFID National Conference.

2015 is an auspicious year, marking 50 years of advocacy by [the organisation now known as] ACFID.

And it’s terrific that this year Patrick Kilby has written a book charting the last 50 years – reminding us about the important role ACFID has played over time as a commentator, advocate, lobbyist, and networker.

In the early days of ACFID, in 1974, Gough Whitlam said:

In aid matters ….. my Government is keen to have the benefit of  [the] advice of interested members of the community ….so as to enable …… advice and objective criticism on aid operations.

And Labor continues to stands by this commitment.

You are a critical voice for aid.

Over the last 50 years you have lifted Australia’s ambition to play a meaningful role in reducing poverty and delivering the benefits of development to millions of people around the world.

Just consider for a moment how much effort, how many hours, and the number of volunteers, committee members and dedicated individuals that have worked within the sector over the last 50 years.

And think also of how many people in developing countries have had their lives transformed because of your efforts.

Not just through health, education and agricultural programs. 

The aid sector has also contributed to building civil movements that have achieved important outcomes for democracy, equality and justice.

For example, the campaign against apartheid.

You have raised funds and you have raised community consciousness.

Congratulations ACFID on 50 years – we look forward to the next 50.

Sustainable Development Goals

In July I was at the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development, and not too long ago I returned from the special session of the United Nations in New York, where the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the 193 member states of the United Nations.

In the lead up to the adoption of the goals, I have to confess I experienced some nervousness.

The beauty of the Millennium Development Goals, was that they were a shorter list, easier to explain and remember, with a tighter focus.

And that tight focus has seen substantial success:

-      The target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half of 1990 rates was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline.

-      More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990.

-      The number of out-of-school children of primary school age worldwide fell by almost half, to an estimated 57 million in 2015, down from 100 million in 2000.

-      Between 1990 and 2015, the number of deaths in children under five worldwide declined from 12.7 million to almost 6 million.

I suppose it’s natural when a set of eight familiar, tightly focussed and successfully prosecuted goals is replaced by goals which are unfamiliar, broader and perhaps more diffuse, that people like me who like goals and targets become nervous.

But I’m a convert, and I’ll tell you why.

First of all, goals and targets work, especially when they are ambitious.

  • They focus your effort.
  • You know what you are aiming for and you can measure your progress.
  • You are accountable to yourself and others.
  • Most importantly, when you meet your targets you can set new, more ambitious targets.

And after 15 years, the time has come for those more ambitious targets.

Second, while many of the development challenges we face have stayed the same, much has changed since 2000.

The SDGs recognise that answering the great challenges of our time, such as climate change, is critical to a fairer and more prosperous future for us all.

The Global Goals recognise the interdependent nature of the global development task.

They recognise that countries start from different places and come with different needs and priorities.

But they do have one very simple aim, the one aim to unite them all, “ending poverty in all its forms everywhere”.

The Global Goals are broader than the MDGs because they reflect a wider consultation process involved in developing them.

But they are also broader because we now have a deeper understanding of the importance that both social justice and environmental protection play in economic growth and development.

It is now relatively uncontroversial to say that inequality hampers growth.

The IMF, OECD, Reserve Bank of England, and various Nobel economists are all saying that more equal growth is good for the rich as well as the poor, and that more equal growth equals longer, stronger, and higher growth.

It is now undeniable that climate change will have, and in places is already having, a particularly savage effect on developing nations.

This of course includes nations in the Pacific which have contributed little carbon pollution to the atmosphere, but are feeling climate change in their everyday lives already.

At the same time we face acute development challenges as millions of people are displaced by conflict across the world.

There is a real potential for the current refugee crisis to become more catastrophic if many more people are also displaced by the affects of climate change.

There have never been more displaced people in the world as there are today: 60 million people have fled their homes because of dispossession, violence and persecution.

It is simply not possible for us to achieve our development objectives without addressing the causes and consequences of displacement.

As we know, conflict and displacement in the Middle East has robbed a generation of children living in camps and temporary accommodation of a proper basic education.

It has put ranks of children into dangerous and unpaid or underpaid employment, and created incentives for child marriage.

Basic services are beyond the reach of millions of displaced people.

As conflict drives those millions from their homes, it is inexplicable that we would not act to prevent a further wave of migrants, displaced by conflict and climate change.

It’s clear that with new global challenges like this, our aid program needs to change too.

In 1974 Gough Whitlam said:

improvements in aid must be affected …. in … formulating policy, in ensuring greater attention to the … effects of our aid, in evaluating the effectiveness of our various schemes, in bringing greater expertise into our staffing ..and in more directly associating the community with the program.”

And Gough’s observations remain true today, as we transition from the MDGs, to the more ambitious and more comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals.

There is no lack of will to work hard and do well in this sector.

But challenges change; the available solutions change; the countries and regions of focus change; and there is always more for us to learn and do.

And our lessons have to be shared locally, regionally and globally to achieve the very best development outcomes.

So, today I am pleased to announce that a future Labor Government will provide greater certainty and more support to Australian NGOs to make sure you are well placed to meet global development challenges.

A Shorten Labor Government will provide an additional $30 million a year to the Australian NGO Cooperation Program from 2017-18.

Our commitment is for new and additional funding to the aid program. And we commit to enhancing – not eroding – the ANCP.

Many of you will recall that in 2011 Labor’s Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced a doubling of ANCP funding - from $69 million in 2010‑11 to at least $150 million by 2014-15.

Since the 2013 election, the current government has cut funding from Labor’s forward estimates and created a great deal of uncertainty for NGOs.

My announcement today will restore the cuts and bring funding in line with Labor’s 2011 commitment.

Australian NGOs are among the best in the world. You do outstanding work; what you do works on the ground. 

We will support you to operate with certainty in delivering an effective Australian aid program.

The SDGs call on partners to work together on policy development and implementation, to share knowledge and expertise and to measure and to report on progress on sustainable development.

Today I am announcing that a Shorten Labor Government will provide $10 million each year from our first Budget in 2017-18 to build our partnerships, increase the effectiveness of our programs, and ensure we are getting the most from every single dollar spent on aid.

As part of this new program we will support planning, research, evaluation and greater collaboration across the sector – with funding available to NGOs, academia, government, and the philanthropic and private sector. This will mean that we will continue developing our aid evidence base, our measurement and reporting on aid effectiveness, and we will know just how well we are shaping up against our targets.

This funding will help us to share with the world the remarkable Australian expertise in areas like anti-corruption and good governance; disability inclusive aid; treating preventable blindness; WASH; and of course, efforts toward improving gender equality.

Today I am also pleased to announce that Labor will restore accountability to the Australian aid program by reintroducing the annual Ministerial Budget statement or “Blue Book” on overseas aid.

As you know this was axed in 2014. 

Under Labor, the “Blue Book” will again be released each year with the Federal Budget and will show how overseas aid is being allocated by sector, country, region, and against our SDG targets. 

Finally, today I am announcing that a Shorten Labor Government will legislate for transparency and accountability to improve aid effectiveness.

In consultation with our partners we’ll develop legislation that will set out our objectives for the aid program, and our requirements for the measurement and reporting of outcomes - including the production of the “Blue Book”.

And among other things, we will set out our commitment to poverty eradication and reduction, gender equality, responsible environmental outcomes, institutional strengthening and anti-corruption.

Legislation will also set out our arrangements for the independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the aid program.

The announcements I have made today begin a process that will repair the aid program.

The overseas aid program is the weakest it has ever been in Australian history.

By 2016 Australia will spend just 22 cents in every $100 of our national income on overseas aid – our lowest spend ever. Over the next decade, that is set to fall further to 17 cents in every $100.

At the Australian Labor Party National Conference this year, Labor made clear our support for the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as our commitment to Australia once again leading in international development.

We have committed to supporting the aid program, not gutting it.

The task that we face in moving ahead from the Government’s damaging cuts will be very hard and it will not happen quickly.

But Labor will always do better.

Because we believe in the aid program and respect the work that you do.

Once again, thank you for inviting me here today.