SPEECH: Opening of Australian Young Labor Conference, Saturday 4 February 2017






4 FEBRUARY 2017 



I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting and pay respects to the elders of the Ngunnawal Nation both past and present.

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

It is with great pleasure that I stand before you to open the 2017 Australian Young Labor National Conference.

I congratulate all of you on being elected as delegates from your states or territories to this national conference.

Try and have some fun over the next couple of days.

You should enjoy this chance to test yourself:

- to argue

- to debate 

- and even to socialise.

We in Labor are never afraid of a healthy debate.

If you doubt that for a moment I urge you to come along to Sydney Town Hall and watch the NSW annual conference in full flight.

In Labor, we accept that good people can disagree on matters close to their hearts.

It will be a better conference if you:

- engage genuinely, 

- wrestle intellectually,

- listen closely, 

- encourage the shy ones to speak up, and

- behave with honour and kindness to each other.

Come with open minds.

I know that factions are important to the running of this conference but do not dismiss an idea or thought out of hand because it comes out of the mouth of someone from the other side of the room.

I urge you to take the time now, to look around you at your fellow delegates.

The women and men in this room may go on to great things in our Party.

In this room are future union leaders and Ministers, potential Premiers and even Prime Ministers.

And, of course, the ballast of our party – the true believers, who never hold office, but sustain us in easy times and hard ones.

The fate of our Party and our country will one day lie in your hands.

We need Young Labor to work, now more than ever, as the task before us is a great one.

For we are subject to that ancient - and probably apocryphal - Chinese curse, memorably captured by Robert F. Kennedy in a speech given to the National Union of South African Students in 1966…

…we live in interesting times.

Two fundamental events mean the political certainties that have carried us through recent decades no longer hold.

The first was the invasion of Iraq by a US-led and Australian supported military coalition in 2003…

…a move opposed by Labor at the time.

The fallout from this ill-judged act continues.

The second world-changing event, of course, was the Great Recession of 2008.

This event - and its ongoing repercussions –fundamentally shook the blind belief in unfettered markets which had become orthodoxy for so many.

It is probably too early to say what the events of 2003 and 2008 mean in the long term for our Party, our country and our world.

For example, it would not have been believable had I opened your 2015 conference with a prediction that by the time of your 2017 conference Donald Trump would be in the White House.

While it's becoming harder than ever to predict the future, there are a few trends I wanted to examine with you today:

These are:

- first, the decline in the fortunes of social democratic parties, 

- second, an increase in economic uncertainty and inequality, and 

- third, an increasing changeability in the Australian electorate.

The first trend is particular relevant to our Party. 

It has brought many sister parties of the ALP to their knees.

These parties are our fellow members of the International Progressive Alliance – a global network of labour, social democratic and socialist parties.

Their fate is instructive.

I’ll start in Greece.

The Greek political party PASOK ruled Greece from 1981 through to 2012 interrupted by only two short separate terms in opposition.

As recently as 2009 it won an election with around 44 per cent of the vote.

By 2015 its share of the vote had dropped to five per cent with most of its traditional supporters transferring their allegiance to the left wing Syriza Party.

Spain provides another example.

As does the  decline of the French Socialists and the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

In the UK, the British Labour Party saw a backlash that first benefitted the Liberal Democrats…

…and then saw Labour’s wipe out in Scotland by the anti-austerity SNP…

…followed by a hostile take-over of the Party by Jeremy Corbyn.

In the US, of course, we’ve seen a Democrat administration that rebuilt the US after the GFC, and introduced life changing health reforms, defeated by a candidate who no credible commentator initially thought could even win the Republican primary.

What all these parties have in common is that they are social democratic parties who have faced their own mortality in the face of increasing uncertainty and inequality.

Sometimes the threat has been from the left, sometimes from the right…

….sometimes internal, sometimes external.

But the trend is undeniable and sobering.

And it leads to the second development I wish to explore: increasing economic uncertainty and inequality.

Their impact is different in Australia than in the countries I just mentioned.

We suffered less from the GFC – largely due to the actions of the Labor government – and in particular my good friend Wayne Swan.

And while inequality has grown it has not grown to the extent of some other nations.

But people feel insecure. 

They are worried about their jobs, and what kind of jobs their kids will do. 

The global economy remains in a state of high volatility and technology is disrupting our labour market and the way we work.

Were another economic shock to occur we no longer have the weapons in the arsenal we used in 2008 – either in Australia or abroad - with interest rates in most countries either near zero or negative and public debt significantly higher.

The Turnbull Government has no credible economic plan to deal with any of these issues.

Indeed under their stewardship:

- the economy contracted by half a per cent in the September quarter, 

- there are 35,000 fewer full time jobs, 

- wages growth is at historic lows, 

- underemployment is at historic highs, 

- the deficit has triple, and 

- $100 billion has been added to net debt. 

Inflation is well below a healthy rate and the RBA’s target range.

The AAA rating that Labor won from the three major credit agencies for the first time in history is now at risk….

…threatening to push up borrowing costs, including mortgage repayments.

And inequality is at 75 year highs.

Labor has supported increases to the minimum wage, while the Coalition has argued against those increases and right now many of its members are on record supporting a cut to the penalty rates that low paid workers rely on.

We also delivered the biggest pension increases in Australian history while the Liberals cut income support.

Inequality may not yet be as acute as in the US, for example, but it's growing. 

And that's bad for us all.

The third trend regards the Australian electorate.

We are witnessing a detachment of voters from traditional political allegiances.

Analysis of voting intention and behaviour carried out by the Whitlam Institute in 2013 found that the modern electorate was not so much swinging as fluid. 

By this they meant that Party loyalties have broken down and that votes of large groups may switch rapidly from one party to another based on major incidents or political moments.

This was particularly true of younger voters who form about a third of the electorate and - in the Whitlam Institute’s view – had determined the outcomes of most recent elections.

So what does all this mean for our Party?

I believe a few lessons can be drawn.

First, while we have to be alive to the risk of right wing populism we should not overstate its appeal in this country and we should not for a moment cosy up to this ideology.

We will not win support by going quiet on the things we disagree with.

We must resolutely confront the racism, sexism and religious intolerance of the right.

Pauline Hanson and One Nation do not yet enjoy the same level of support in Australia as say Brexit in the UK or Trump in the US.

We should not conflate her with those phenomena as it affords her a legitimacy that she does not deserve.

Over 95 per cent of Australians did not vote for One Nation at the last election, while about half of all American and British voters selected Donald Trump and Brexit respectively.

Of course, for us to win in the upcoming WA and Queensland state elections, fighting One Nation as well as the Coalition parties will be vital. 

Malcolm Turnbull has gone weak on One Nation preferences. 

We never will.

This leads me to my second point which is that, for the Labor Party, the threat from the extreme left is as real as the threat from the extreme right.

Recent weeks have shown us the Greens political Party are a rabble…

…riven by a factionalism which they refuse to acknowledge and are incapable of resolving.

The threat from the Greens is not that they will form government, but that they fracture the progressive vote and prevent Labor forming government.

Their real threat is to just a few inner city seats and maybe one or two regional seats….

…just enough to keep us out of government in close parliaments like the one we have at the moment.

So my third observation is that we must be prepared to meet the challenge from the left by embracing a sensible progressive agenda.

Again, not by being dragged here or there by others…

… but by defending our progressive record and values.

The fourth lesson is that we have to be up for the tough stuff, but we have to be able to demonstrate the benefits for all.

Labor has always been up for the tough economic reforms. 

We want a strong economy, because a strong economy drives the creation of good jobs. 

And it means we can afford the great social reforms like the NDIS.

But economic reform has to have at its heart the intention to provide a better standard of living for all, not just higher profits for a few.

That means, for example, an approach to privatisation based on merit, efficiency and public benefit - not on ideology.

That means standing up for organised labour.

That means maintaining and enhancing a social safety net and investing in health and education as essentials.

Understanding that these investments are not just for the benefit of individuals, but critical investments in the productivity and future wealth of our nation.

It means taking action on climate change.

These are all steps Labor has taken under the leadership of Bill Shorten.

We took 100 positive policies to the last election, including some that the commentators thought were suicidal:

- a reduction in the capital gains discount on housing and restricting negative gearing to new homes,

- a full commitment to needs based funding in education and implementation of the Gonski model,

- marriage equality for LGBTI Australians, and 

- support for penalty rates.

And we argued – and continued to argue – for a 50 per cent renewable energy target and the introduction of an Emissions Trading Scheme.

We do so because we recognise that action on climate change is urgent and necessary.

In contrast, the Coalition think a $50 billion tax giveaway to multinational companies is reform.

They must be the last adherents of trickle-down economics. 

Like those soldiers lost in the jungle 50 years after the war has ended – no one told them the battle is lost.

So we have already set out a progressive agenda which we took to the last election….

….but we won't rest. 

We will continue to refine our thinking and our arguments over coming years and at our next Party conference.

By 2019 - at the latest - Bill Shorten will be our Prime Minister and Labor will be the Party of government.

We have a Labor platform we can be proud of:

- ambitious and financially sustainable, and

- deliverable through our parliamentary system.

The final thought I want to leave you with today, is that we must examine our structures and processes to ensure that they are truly reflective of the spirt of the times in which we live.

We have to embrace democracy. 

We have to continue to offer a place to people who are frustrated by politics. 

The left wing challengers to social democratic parties I talked about earlier had their genesis in grassroots organising and networked individuals.

We have to reach out to those people and learn from their ability to mobilise - just look at the recent Women’s Marches that shook the globe on Donald Trump’s inauguration.

We must convince the fluid or disaffected voter – the activist angry at the injustice and inequality of their world - that their place is in the Labor Party where they can drive real change, rather than just shout into the void.

This push will need to come from a younger generation of Labor members and supporters - including you in this room.

So – with that – I urge you to embrace the spirit of debate and discussion that is core to our culture.

Be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

Be prepared to push yourselves and others – to challenge conventions and hierarchies.

In one final plug can I remind you that we’re continuing our campaign to put pressure on the government with our “100% Against $100,000 Degrees” campaign on campus.

As new students arrive on campus it’s a chance to remind them that the Liberals want to saddle students with $100,000 of debt and Labor will fight to stop them. 

It is with great pleasure that I now invite you to commence the 2017 Australian Young Labor national conference. 



SPEECH: Australian Financial Review Higher Education Conference, Wednesday 16 November 2016







16 NOVEMBER 2016



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SPEECH: Plebiscite (Same Sex Marriage) Bill 2016 Debate, Tuesday 11 October 1016









In 2004, I received a letter from a man called John Challis.

The letter was about superannuation.

It called on the then Howard Government to give same-sex couples the same legal rights to inherit superannuation as married and de-facto heterosexual couples.

John was concerned that if he died his partner Arthur wouldn’t be able to inherit his superannuation.

John and I lobbied the Howard Government for years for a change. Of course, our calls fell largely on deaf ears.

It wasn’t until 2007 when Labor was elected that changes around superannuation, taxation, family law, Medicare, pharmaceuticals, immigration, a whole range of other – more than 80 pieces of discriminatory legislation were changed for same-sex couples and their children.

A couple of weeks ago in Sydney, I caught up with John for a coffee.

John is now 88 years old.

His partner, Arthur, is 84.

They have been together for 49 years.

More than a decade after John first wrote to me about equal rights for him and for his partner Arthur, we talked about this campaign for one last, great change. One piece of unfinished business: marriage equality.

But while John and Arthur have already waited nearly half a century to have their relationship properly recognised by the community they’ve given so much to, they said that they could not support a plebiscite.

They are so concerned about the harm that a divisive debate would do to the gay and lesbian community, to same-sex couples, to same-sex parents and their children that they were prepared to wait.

They were also deeply concerned about how a plebiscite subverts our usual democratic processes.

Frankly, it tells you all you need to know about how serious the damage a plebiscite on marriage equality would be that a same-sex couple in their 80s, that have waited almost half a century, are saying that they would rather wait than take this path.

For John, for Arthur, I will not, and Labor will not support a plebiscite.

For the same-sex couples who would hear their relationships are second-rate, I will not, and Labor will not support a plebiscite.

For the children of same-sex couples who hear there’s something wrong with their family, I will not, and Labor will not support this plebiscite.

For young gay and lesbian people, who might be struggling with their sexuality, or are just thinking about coming out, I will not, and Labor will not support a plebiscite.

And that is why I am proud to have seconded the Leader of the Opposition’s amendment today that this Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to legislate now, today, in this Parliament for marriage equality. That would see a free vote. That would see this Parliament do its job.

For 14 months (August 2015), since Tony Abbott and the right wing of the Liberal party first proposed the plebiscite as a way of indefinitely delaying marriage equality – we have been debating this proposal.

To be fair, we haven’t been debating the legislation – we’ve only just seen that.

But the more closely we have examined the proposal, the worse it has looked.

I have received literally thousands of emails and letters about marriage equality, and I have spoken to many, many people who are deeply concerned about the plebiscite.

  • Leighton, who was deeply affected by homophobic hate speech as a young person, and who turned to substance abuse and self-harm.
    • He says that “children struggling with their identity…need to be protected and spared the hateful debate that this plebiscite will incite”.
  • Roberta, who fears for her 19 year old gay granddaughter and the impact that a publicly financed “No” campaign will have on her.
  • Damien who asks why the LGBTIQ community needs to have this unprecedented approach: it’s “as if we must reach a certain quota of suffering as a community before we are granted this fundamental right ….one last humiliating hurdle.”
  • Shauna, who is heterosexual but who finds the “concept of my ‘giving permission’ for equal access to the law to be disgusting”.


Last week the Leader of the Opposition and I met with marriage equality advocates in Sydney. The Leader of the Opposition has been doing a terrific job of consulting on this, as has the Shadow Attorney General, as has the Member for Griffith, as has the Member for Franklin who has been working very hard with mental health organisations, as have all of the Members on this side. And we have heard again and again from advocates saying “not this way”.

Geoff Thomas from PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) told the Leader of the Opposition and I, as a Vietnam veteran, who fought for democracy because his country asked him to, he could not understand why his son should not expect the same legal rights and obligations as any other Australian.

“That’s not the democracy and freedom I fought for”  he said.

That’s the question at the heart of this debate:   Why should some Australians face discrimination, or even vilification, because of who they are and who they love?

Every day it becomes more apparent that this plebiscite is a delaying tactic – a tactic designed by the opponents of marriage equality, in the hope they can take the majority support for marriage equality which unquestionably exists in the Australian community - as the previous speaker said - and twist and obfuscate this issue in the same way they did when it came to the Republic debate, and frighten people off voting for it.

There is a simple way to settle this:  The Marriage Act could be changed by the Parliament this week.

The Liberals are advancing this simplistic argument that somehow it is more democratic to have a plebiscite than for the Parliament to vote.

And yet Michael Kirby, a very distinguished jurist, has pointed out that three Prime Ministers – Menzies, Whitlam and Howard - who loved and respected this parliament and its processes, they didn’t choose to settle difficult social questions by using plebiscites.

Kirby recalls that Gough Whitlam always upheld the idea that Parliament itself should be the great institution of equality. 

Whitlam said “Parliament has been our great liberating force.  There is no freedom without equality.  To redistribute and equalise liberty has been one of the principal functions of Parliament”. 

John Howard didn’t have a plebiscite when he last changed the Marriage Act last time, nor, incidentally, when he overturned the NT Voluntary Euthanasia legislation, to my mind a more controversial proposition than the one that is before us. It is our day job – it is what we do in this Parliament – it’s what we’re paid to do.

Unless it is constitutionally required, these matters should be resolved through the usual channels of responsible parliamentary democracy. Particularly when the High Court has already said it’s the job of this Parliament to legislate

Now the member for Goldstein was in here earlier and as a former Human Rights Commissioner, he provided exactly this evidence to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee in 2015.

In his advice he said that a plebiscite is not an appropriate method of addressing matters related to marriage, and will do nothing to resolve in a substantive way this issue.

And in fact, Solicitor General Justin Gleeson probably could have told the Government that for free if they has bothered to ask him.

No doubt he would have some very instructive views about the novelty of such an approach.

It’s also why Aboriginal leaders are advising Malcolm Turnbull to abandon the plebiscite, convinced that an ugly campaign will actually set back the real referendum before us at the moment: the proper updating of our constitution to recognise our First Australians.

Marcia Langton has said that a divisive campaign against marriage equality could "unleash the dogs" on Aboriginal Australia.

We will have a referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition because the constitution requires us to update it in this proper way, not because Cory Bernardi tells Malcolm Turnbull, “your job depends on it”.

We know that this pointless plebiscite will be fantastically expensive.  $200 million by the Government’s own estimate. You would really think that the people who said we had a debt and deficit disaster would worry about that.

When we had a projected deficit of $4.7 billion for the 2015-16 year, that was a “debt and deficit disaster”. That has blown out under this mob eight-fold; it’s almost $40 billion, but they can’t think of something better to do with $200 million. Maybe pay down debt? Maybe properly fund our schools? Maybe properly fund our hospitals? Maybe build some transport infrastructure?

Do the Liberals really think that running this plebiscite is more important, and more valuable, than properly funding aged care? Or properly funding childcare? Yes, apparently they do.

But the most compelling argument is the harm the debate will do to the LGBTI community, their families and supporters.

Mental health experts including Professor Patrick McGorry, Frank Quinlan, suicide prevention expert Dr Jo Robinson, they’ve all said that the potential for harm here is real - we know that it will happen.

Two weeks ago I visited Twenty 10, a gay and lesbian youth counselling service in my electorate – they have already noticed an increase in demand on their counselling line.

Gay and Lesbian rights advocates have told me about physical confrontations that they have already experienced, even death threats, because they have been speaking out in favour of marriage equality.

Rainbow Families – again visiting our Parliament today talking about how difficult it is to tell their children that there are people they have never met who think there is something wrong with their family.

These families will not be “created” by marriage equality, despite what some of the most pernicious propaganda is already suggesting. These families exist now. They always have existed. And they have a right to the same protections and responsibilities that other families enjoy.

Why should the children of these families be told by complete strangers that their parents’ relationship is second rate and that is does not deserve the recognition that we accord other relationships?

The Liberals have said that our concerns are unwarranted – that we are somehow suggesting that Australians can’t have a civilized debate. There is nothing further from the truth.

I absolutely know that the vast majority of Australians first of all support marriage equality, and secondly that the vast majority of Australians can and will engage in this debate in a civilized way – if they engage at all.

But such a debate will undoubtedly hand the megaphone to the extremists in any discussion. And in this instance the government proposes to subsidies this to the tune of $15 million.

Of course, I’ve also met with constituents who oppose marriage equality, including representatives of the Greek Orthodox community and Catholic churches and a range of people across the community.

I truly want to reassure them once again that there is nothing in what Labor proposes that would require their churches to solemnize any relationship between a same-sex couple. There is nothing in this proposition that suggests that.  

They are completely entitled to live their lives and worship as they choose.  

But the simple fact is that we live in a society that separates church and state.

For many people marriage is a religious sacrament. But not for everyone. For others, however, it is still an important legal and social recognition of deep love and commitment – and that is something that really, most of us want in our lives.

I’d like to say to my colleagues in this place: none of us should assume that because someone has deeply held religious views that they are automatically opposed to marriage equality.

Indeed, there are many people of deep faith who make a strong Christian case in favour of marriage equality. Great leaders and compassionate leaders like the Reverend Dr Keith Mascord, who I have known for decades now.

I am surely not the only person in this place who comes from a devout family whose motto may as well be, “judge not lest ye be judged”, or my personal favourite, “take the splinter out of your own eye before you reach for the speck in your brother’s eye”

When I asked my Mum about this years ago, she said to me – just so simple - “there’s not enough love in the world – why would we want to deny it to anyone who has found it?”.

I want to finish with this –

One of my favourite poems is a love poem by W H Auden from 1937 – it’s called Lullaby.

A poem written by a gay man in a time, and from a country where being gay was illegal. It speaks of “universal love and hope”.

Marriage equality is a fundamental recognition of the universal character of love - that the way each of us love is not so very different. Our hopes and dreams for ourselves, for our families, and for our children are not so very different.

And our laws should not discriminate.



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.