THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
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TUESDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER 2014
MH17 - RESPONSE TO TABLING OF TREATY BETWEEN AUSTRALIA AND THE NETHERLANDS
Of course the Opposition in this, as with all things related to MH17, supports the Government. The Opposition welcomes the tabling of the Treaty between Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the presence of Australian personnel in the Netherlands for the purpose of responding to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
There are dates that stick with us.
The years of war; the days of loss.
September 11, 2001.
October 12, 2002 and October 1 2005, the Bali bombings.
And now July 17. Each of us can no doubt remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard news of the tragic downing of MH17 on the 17th of July this year.
We know that 298 people on board lost their lives, that 38 of the victims called Australia home.
Beyond the dates and the numbers, we have also come to know some of the personal stories of the people on that plane.
Emma Bell, the teacher working in the Northern Territory community of Maningrida, where Aboriginal elders held a smoking ceremony last month to remember her.
Gary and Mona Lee, who migrated to Australia in the 1970s.
Sister Philomene Tiernan, a nun from Sydney.
Perth resident Nick Norris and his three grandchildren.
Evie, Mo and Otis Maslin.
Researchers travelling to the 2014 AIDS conference in Melbourne, including the former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange.
We know so many of the names, so many of the stories, and of course we know a little of the grief of the families.
Much of the past two months have been about coming to terms with what we saw on that tragic day in July.
We’ve seen the efforts that our investigators, part of an international effort, have made, to bring to justice those responsible for this terrible crime. Unexpected, unjust, and unjustifiable.
Of course the shooting down of an unarmed passenger jet in civilian airspace demands answers, and it also demands a reconnection of those grieving families with something of the people that they have lost.
James and Vanessa Rizk who lost their parents, Albert and Maree. They held a memorial service in early August with more than 1000 mourners, and were later able to hold a private family funeral for their parents.
The family of Mary and Gerry Menke from Mallacoota, who said ‘We look forward to receiving Mary and Gerry again soon in the place and the community they loved so much and which loved them.’
The work of returning the remains of those who lost their lives to Australia is phenomenally important to the families, those last objects that their loved ones touched, the things that they were holding and handling on their flight home.
The efforts of the international team have been helping families around the world both understand the source of the crime, and have their loved ones return to them.
One of the pilots, Captain Eugene Choo Jin Leong, was returned to his family for a funeral service in Malaysia.
His friend, another pilot, Azlan Abu Bakar, described flying home from the Netherlands, saying: "It was horrible bringing my very close friend. We used to fly together, and this time we fly together again but in different situation."
And yet as difficult as that journey was, that pilot’s remains were able to rest in an urn in his family home to allow his family to come and pay their respects.
These stories underscore the human tragedy underlying the efforts of Australian personnel in the Ukraine and the Netherlands.
The need for confidence in the investigation from all the loved ones of those 298 victims.
It is a mission that Australian personnel and their international partners have carried out with distinction in extremely challenging circumstance, including reports of a team spending seven hours – at times avoiding arms fire – to retrieve small pieces of debris and a silver necklace.
It is completely unacceptable that participants in this conflict on Ukrainian soil were not able to afford safe passage and security to the international team of experts working on the MH17 crash site.
Russia must accept its share of responsibility for the ongoing instability in the Ukraine, and must fully cooperate with efforts to understand the chain of events which led to this crash.
Australia has been an international leader in the discussion about the investigation, following the moving of resolution 2166 in the UN Security Council.
This is exactly the sort of use that we envisaged for Australia’s representation on the Security Council when we argued so hard that a country of Australia’s stature deserved its place on the Security Council.
Given the seriousness of the tragedy, and the urgency of the efforts by Australian personnel overseas, the Treaty being tabled today forms an important part of our national response.
The Treaty was signed and entered into force on 1 August this year, and acknowledges the responsibilities of Australian personnel, including to respect the sovereignty and laws of the Netherlands.
The Treaty also affords our personnel rights and protections during their important work, including allowing them to carry weapons and wear field uniform.
The arrangements provide that Australian personnel will remain under Australia’s command, and any necessary administrative or disciplinary action will be taken by Australia.
The Opposition notes that the Government relied on the National Interest Exemption to take binding treaty action before the Treaty was tabled in Parliament. We accept the time sensitivity of the situation at hand, and the primacy of affording proper protection to Australian personnel from the Department of Defence and Australian Federal Police.
I welcome the tabling of this Treaty and commend it to Parliament.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
IRAQ – RESPONSE TO PRIME MINISTERIAL STATEMENT
PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA
WEDNESDAY, 3 SEPTEMBER 2014
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When Australians hear their government talk of involvement in Iraq again they have good reason to be cautious.
The disaster of the 2003 invasion colours every debate. And we should never forget its lessons.
As I said in a letter presented to then US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice back in 2003 - the Bush administration, the Blair administration, and our own Howard administration rushed in.
They went in on the basis of false claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction, and before weapons inspectors had time to complete their work.
They went in without international support, without the support of the majority of the Iraqi population, or neighbouring countries.
Australia went in despite the hundreds of thousands of people who took to our streets in protest.
The result? Nearly a decade of conflict, hundreds of thousands dead, and significant instability in the region. In the context of this history, it is right that people urge caution now.
THE SITUATION IN IRAQ NOW
While history should inform our actions, it should not cloud a sober assessment of the facts of the current situation. Islamic State (IS) is an abhorrent, brutal force.
It is an organisation willing to kill anyone who is opposes it.
There are confirmed instances of IS engaging in widespread ethnic and religious cleansing, targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse, destruction of places of religious and cultural significance, and the besieging of entire communities.
There are reports of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, and thousands injured.
These reports are so serious that on Monday, the United Nations Human Rights Council authorised an investigation into mass atrocity crimes in Iraq.
And journalists like Steven Sotloff and James Foley brutally killed for propaganda purposes.
The UN refugee agency says around 1.2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes. A humanitarian disaster already exists in Iraq.
The scale of the crisis has led to calls for the international community to assist. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon has said: “The international community must ensure solidarity.
Not a single country or organisation can handle this international terrorism.
“This has global concerns so I appreciate some key countries who have been showing very decisive and determined actions…without addressing this issue through certain means, including some military and counter-terrorist actions, we will just end up allowing these terrorist activities to continue.”
The Iraqi Government has asked for help in pushing back IS.
And Iraqi communities here in Australia have called for support too, including Kurds, Yezidhis, Christians, and other minorities.
Labor MPs have met with some of these groups and understand their fears for families and communities left behind in Iraq.
I welcome that the Prime Minister has ruled out sending Australian combat troops to Iraq – as that would be a gravely serious step indeed.
Labor has said clearly that we don’t want Australian regular forces on the ground in Iraq.
But Labor has backed Australia’s involvement in the current humanitarian mission in Iraq.
A RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
Australia should act, because as a decent international citizen we respect the doctrine of ‘responsibility to protect’.
‘Responsibility to protect’ is engaged when national authorities are unwilling or unable to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Former Labor foreign minister, Gareth Evans, championed the idea of ‘responsibility to protect’.
Gareth is the driver of ‘responsibility to protect’ adoption by the UN, and the leading international authority on it.
He uses a set of criteria to judge when ‘responsibility to protect’ should be engaged.
On the current question of Iraq, these principles provide Labor a very useful framework to help guide whether we support Australian involvement – both now and into the future.
1. Just cause – Is the threat a serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings?
• News reports, and briefings provided to the Opposition by Australian security agencies, make clear that communities in northern Iraq face serious threats from Islamic State, and that thousands have already been killed.
• Representatives of Kurdish, Assyrian Christian, and other communities in Australia have argued strongly that their communities in Iraq face genocide from Islamic State, which is highly intolerant of people and communities who do not subscribe to their own extreme version of Sunni Islam, or of Sunnis who oppose their violent jihad.
2. Right intention – Is the main intention of the military action to prevent human suffering or are there other motives?
• Unlike in 2003, there is no intention for regime change of the government of Iraq by US, Australia, or other countries, nor is there any attempt by countries to gain access to Iraq’s natural resources.
3. Final resort – Has every other measure besides military invention been taken into account? (This does not mean that every measure has to have been applied and failed, but that there are reasonable grounds to believe that only military action would work in that situation)
• The Iraqi Security Forces have proven incapable of protecting the communities in northern Iraq. Islamic State has shown it will not negotiate nor follow the rules of war.
• The advice of the security agencies is that the Peshmerga, the armed forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, in the semiautonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, are the major, effective armed force currently in the northern region capable of resisting Islamic State. They are effective, and they are bearing the brunt of the fighting. Because the fighting is worst in the north, that’s where our help should primarily be directed.
4. Legitimate authority • The Abbott Government has advised the Opposition that current proposed actions have been authorised by the Government of Iraq. That was confirmed yesterday by the Iraqi Ambassador to Australia.
• The support of the UN Secretary-General is also very significant. We now see countries like Canada, which didn’t participate in the invasion in 2003, agreeing to be part of this humanitarian mission.
5. Proportional means – Are the minimum necessary means applied to secure human protection?
• This criterion is readily met for humanitarian aid drops including food, water, and medicine – and I congratulate our air force and other personnel who have already completed these vital missions, saving thousands of lives on Mt Sinjar.
• As for rearming the Peshmerga – the alternative is to watch IS, using sophisticated weapons it has captured on its forward march outgun the only force that has effectively been protecting civilians in the north. We are supporting Iraqis to defend themselves against a merciless enemy. The Peshmerga has for many years provided the Kurdish region of Iraq with a degree of security much better than in many other parts of Iraq.
6. Reasonable prospect – Is it likely that action will protect human life, and are the consequences of this action sure not to be worse than no action at all? • This is perhaps the most difficult question of all, because the history of Western influence in the Middle East is fraught with complexity.
• It’s hard to point to too many examples in which intervention has left a country clearly better off, and unfortunately there are too many instances where the opposite could be said.
• We are rightly cautious, especially after Australia’s previous involvement in Iraq, which saw our brave service men and women sent to fight in the wrong place for the wrong reasons.
• But I believe the humanitarian missions we are currently involved in meet this criteria. Allowing IS to slaughter whole communities cannot be allowed, so we must respond to the Iraqi call for assistance.
Of course, ‘responsibility to protect’ really seeks to answer one key question. That is, in the face of mass atrocity crimes: genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity - at what point can the international community no longer stand-by and do nothing?
It is Labor’s belief, based on the assessment of facts I have just provided, that Australia and the world have a ‘responsibility to protect’ and thus an obligation to act.
To borrow a phrase made famous by our chief of army - the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Australia could no longer walk past. We had to do something in response to such unspeakable horror.
But as important, is making sure Iraq’s neighbours do something in response too.
That means countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and others should be encouraged to stand up and say ‘IS are beyond the pale and we will join in international efforts to defeat them’.
The conflict in Syria has been an important factor underpinning the rise of IS. The spread of IS from Iraq to Syria and then back again – returning much stronger and more brutal – underscores how critical it is for nations in the region to acknowledge this problem is bigger than any one of them.
More than 191,000 people have been killed in Syria. The scale of the humanitarian disaster in Syria has seen the impacts spill over into the region. More than 9 million displaced Syrians have to go somewhere, and that has seen both Lebanon and Jordan take in millions of refugees.
The legal authority doesn’t currently exist for similar support to Syria, but we should be doing a great deal more to assist Syrians in any case.
The UN has called for $6.5 billion in aid for the Syria crisis, the largest ever appeal for funds. Australia, under the Coalition, has given just pledged just $30 million or so in aid – a pathetic response to an enormous humanitarian need.
And we have agreed to take just 2,200 refugees from Syria and 2,200 from Iraq (as part of our regular intake) when millions are displaced and at risk.
ACTION AGAINST IS, NOT ISLAM
As the Opposition Leader said earlier in the week, every action of IS is a betrayal of the millions of good people, of good conscience who follow Islam. The Islamic State does not represent the Islamic faith. That cannot be repeated often enough.
Likewise, action taken against IS is not action against Islam, and we must not allow any misrepresentation that this is the case.
By working with the international community, including countries with large Islamic populations like Indonesia and Malaysia, we can mobilise the power of mainstream Islam against minority extremism.
In fact, I note a group British Imams and scholars recently issued a Fatwa condemning Islamic State as a ‘tyrannical, extremist, heretical’ organisation committing ‘abhorrent’ massacres and persecution.
The Fatwa calls on muslims to oppose IS and follow the law of their homeland – in this case Britain.
Our own security chief, David Irvine, has stressed again and again that Australian muslims are ASIO’s best partners against violent extremists and I acknowledge the hardwork and personal cost that many Australians have borne in order to speak out against extremism.
What I have laid out today is Labor’s assessment of the situation in Iraq at this point in time.
I have explained why we have offered the Government our support for Australia’s humanitarian involvement thus far.
I have outlined the principles that will guide how Labor responds to any proposed further involvement by Australia. Labor believes there are circumstances where Australia has a responsibility to protect.
But as an opposition we also have the responsibility to question – to carefully scrutinise the approach put forward by the Government.
Labor will work constructively with the Government, but we’re no rubber stamp.
We’ll look at the facts and make sensible judgements.
National security is above politics, but such important decisions are never beyond question, interrogation, or criticism.
The decision to send Australian men and women into harm’s way should never be taken lightly, and Labor never will.
Our responsibility to the people of Iraq is to ensure any action Australia is involved in leaves the place better, not worse.
President Obama’s careful, considered response to this matter shows that maybe the international community has learned lessons from the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
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Queensland ALP State Conference
SATURDAY, 23 AUGUST 2014
I want to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we gather today, and pay my respect to their elders both past and present.
Thanks Dr Jim Chalmers for that very warm welcome, and for the work you do fighting for Queenslanders on the Federal Labor frontbench.
And to my other Federal colleagues: Shayne Neumann, Jan McLucas, Bernie Ripoll, Claire Moore, Joe Ludwig, Terri Butler, Graham Perrett, Chris Ketter - every single one of them, a terrific contributor down in Canberra.
I want to say how wonderful it is to be here with Annastacia. Annastacia has been doing such a fine job in such difficult times.
There are two blokes I want to make particular mention of today.
My friend Bill Shorten would have loved to have been here today. Bill has had a difficult week, but he has had a wonderful year. Who would have thought, slightly less than a year in from the last Federal election, Tony Abbott would have had the shortest political honeymoon in Australian history.
Because like Annastacia here with Campbell Newman, Bill has been in Canberra holding Tony Abbott to account every single day.
I want to say how wonderful it is to be in my friend, Wayne Swan’s home state too. 40 years ago Wayne Swan came to Canberra and over those 40 years he has served the Labor Party in many different roles. Including as the Treasurer who saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis, and did it to save hundreds of thousands of jobs for ordinary people. And he did it too at a time when we were able to introduce the Gonski school funding reforms, the NDIS and other great Labor reforms.
To those already in the State Parliamentary Labor Party and those of you who I have been campaigning with, who I am confident I will see there after the next election.
Local Government candidates and representatives. My union comrades. Delegates, one and all.
Rebuilding Queensland Labor
In particular I want to say how great it is to be in Brisbane. Even though I come from south of the border, we have at least one thing in common.
We both know that in politics, Opposition is the worst kind of place to be.
The difficulty of moving on from the past, while staying united as a team.
The frustration of seeing what you’ve built up being torn down by the conservatives.
The bitterness of being proven right, on all the dire predictions we made on the campaign trail.
And so it’s nothing short of remarkable, the strength that Queensland Labor has shown in the past year under Annastacia Paluszczuk’s leadership.
I also want to particularly welcome two of newer members of your state parliamentary team.
The first is a friend and old colleague of mine – Yvette D’ath, who took Redcliffe back for the ALP.
Could there be a sharper contrast than between Scott Driscoll, the disgraced former member, and Yvette D’ath?
One having to jump out of politics before he was pushed, the other such an effective campaigner and representative that she was only allowed six months off after a gruelling Federal election campaign before she was called back to public life.
And, of course, the new member for Stafford, Anthony Lynham. What a phenomenal campaign - over 4000 volunteer phone calls, almost 4000 doors knocked on, 350 volunteers on polling day. And on Election Day, a 19.1 per cent swing, carrying every booth in the electorate bar one.
But these by-elections weren't just about the quality of Labor’s candidates or the strength of our campaigns – great as they were.
Anthony Lynham met a Northsider on polling day, George, who was 81 years old. He'd never voted Labor before in his life - until that day.
And there's one more person to thank for that.
Yes, it's time to talk about Campbell Newman.
When Bill Shorten gave his Budget Reply speech this year, I had people stopping me on the street to give their thanks for voicing their anger at the unfairness.
Well - voters in Redcliffe and Stafford were the start of a twelve month "right of reply" that Queenslanders have been waiting to deliver, ever since Campbell Newman’s first budget.
Because who would have voted for the LNP if they had known that nurses and health workers in Redcliffe Hospital would be sacked after the brutal cuts to Metro North health funding, with over 1000 full-time jobs lost in Metro North alone?
Who in Stafford would have voted for them, knowing that community organisations would be gutted by cuts to the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program?
Who would have voted for them if Campbell Newman had come clean about his plans for Queensland?
Campbell Newman said when he was elected, ‘I pledge to you that we will conduct ourselves with humility, grace and dignity’.
But for that first-time Labor voter in Stafford, for George, it was the arrogance of the LNP Government that finally tipped him over the edge – the fact that on top of all of the cuts and broken promises, they just stopped listening to the people who put them there.
Which is starting to sound like a very familiar story.
Yes, it’s time to talk about Tony Abbott.
Newman and Abbott: same political strategy of broken promises and cuts
We said in the Federal election campaign that Campbell Newman was the curtain-raiser for an Abbott Federal Government.
For a playbook that has proven to be such a political train wreck, it's strange how closely Newman and Abbott have stuck to it.
- Step one: promise from opposition that there's nothing to fear;
- Step two: set up a commission of audit to get your marching orders from the big end of town;
- Step three: tear up your election commitments and start cutting health and education.
Let’s take Campbell Newman:
First he tells Queensland’s public servants they have ‘nothing to fear’ and that he will ‘revitalise frontline services’.
Then in his first budget, he cuts $3 billion from the Queensland health system and sacks over 4000 health workers.
Revitalising Campbell Newman-style – ripping the guts out of public services Queenslanders rely on.
Now Tony Abbott:
Right up to Election Day, he says: 'No cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes’.
Then comes the National Commission of Audit, calling for cuts to health, education and essential services.
Here Tony Abbott starts to improvise on the plan – the $5 GP co-payment for concession card holders recommended by the Commission of Audit doesn’t go far enough, so he decides to push for a $7 fee.
Campbell Newman: says he’s “not a right-wing ideologue” and then sacks 14,000 Queenslanders.
Tony Abbott: says before he’s elected “the one thing that the Australian workers will find is that I am their best friend”, goes on to cut 16, 500 jobs from the public service and kills the car industry to boot.
He promised a million new jobs - We just thought some of them would be in Australia.
And for Queenslanders, it isn’t just the insult of having to sit through a re-run of this cynical political play.
Separately, they would be dangerous enough. Together, they’re a disaster for Queensland.
Bad separately, together a disaster
Take the impact on our health system.
Over in the United States, they are taking the long and difficult path back from a user pays health system.
But here, Campbell Newman doesn’t mind sacking nurses, closing hospital beds and pushing out waiting times.
And Tony Abbott backs up with more cuts - to hospitals, to GP services, and to prevention - the job of keeping people healthy and out of hospital.
Campbell Newman cuts, then Tony Abbott shows up with a plan for even deeper cuts.
It’s like coming down with the flu and and then getting food poisoning: bad separately, together a disaster.
Or take education.
Campbell Newman called the Gonski school funding reforms a ‘bucket of custard.’
He turned his back on an extra $3.8 billion for Queensland schools, but worse he sabotaged the opportunity to create a new system which addressed the rising gap between well-off and disadvantaged students.
Now Christopher Pyne has unveiled his plans for higher education, with students paying more and getting less.
It’s true that all students are going to be worse off, but the biggest tragedy is the smart kids who’ll never make it through those university gates because of the prospect of decades of rising debt.
What happens to those kids, the bright ones born in the wrong postcode?
The ones the LNP want to keep piling handicaps on, from threats to federal cuts to preschool through the end of their schooling lives?
The cumulative effect of Newman and Abbott’s robbing of those kids is devastating.
It’s like a having a hopeless teacher and then getting stuck next to the school bully: bad separately, but together a disaster.
What they want to do to young people breaks your heart - cut TAFE, cut Youth Connections and other successful employment programs, leave them without any income at all for six months at a time if they're unlucky enough not to find work, then saddle them with a debt sentence if they want to go to uni.
The question of whether to fund university education is something that shows up the difference between us and them: they argue, why should we subsidise people with our tax money just so they can get ahead? It’s every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost. That’s their approach.
And we respond – those future graduates we invest in, they will pay through the tax system when they’re graduates and they’ll help the next generation, and they’ll help the next generation.
Because to us in the Labor movement, health and education aren’t just businesses. They’re the right of every Australian, and reserving them for the privileged diminishes us all.
I want to tell you a story about myself.
When I was about 4 or 5 we went to Slovenia for the first time, which is where my parents are from.
When we arrived we went to my grandfather’s farm where everyone was out in the field, with their neighbours, cutting a wheat crop.
This was 40 years ago and they were cutting the wheat crop with scythes, then bundling the wheat up to dry in the sun.
When we finished working we got into a wooden cart pulled by bullocks that took us home.
I think about that first time I met my grandfather and what he would think about my life now and the opportunities that I’ve had.
The thing that strikes me most about it is he could never have imagined, 40 years ago, the jobs that exist in Australia today.
The fact that we live in a country where any kid can go to school and we have aspired to any kid being able to do post school education; TAFE, vocational education or university.
And not based on their families wealth, based on their ability and their desire and their dreams.
What will this country be like in 40 years’ time? We cannot imagine the jobs that will exist in 40 years’ time. We can’t even conceive of them today.
So we aren’t just robbing these individual kids of their opportunity, we are robbing the future prosperity of this nation if we don’t invest in education.
Why we care
Each of us has a different story about what makes us Labor.
I think of my dad. He migrated to Australia and worked here in Queensland for a while, cutting cane and helping build big sugar silos.
It was hard work and he worked hard at it. And he felt the effects of that strain and the cement dust on his lungs for years after he’d moved on.
It was important to him that he could provide for his family, and he told me that’s why he was always part of the union.
Instead of going it alone, being part of a union meant he knew he could rely on decent wages and conditions that had some dignity.
I think of my mum. She came to Australia in her early twenties with no English and worked in factories, before raising us.
I think of the choices my mum and dad made, raising me and my brothers.
We didn't have a lot of money, but all I ever had to say was "it's educational" for them to hand over the money they worked so hard to save.
They never resented paying tax so other people could go to university as Christopher Pyne says, because those "other people" were their kids – we were the first generation to have that chance.
I cannot tolerate a vision of Australia where we are the last generation to have that chance.
Each of us has a different story about why we're Labor, but we share the same vision for the kind of Australia we want to live in.
When I was elected, I said that I was proud to live in a country where your birth is not your destiny.
And together, as a movement, we can protect and build on that vision.
We've done it before - we're a party that values our history and the great Labor reforms of the past, like Medicare and superannuation.
And more importantly we'll do it again, because our party is the party of building the future.
And as bad as Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott are individually, and as toxic as they are in combination, by that same degree Labor working together in State and Federal government can change Queensland for the better.
And that's the reason Annastacia and her team have been working every day to hold the Newman Government to account.
And that's why Bill and his Federal team has been working every single day to take on Tony Abbott.
A British Prime Minister, the Earl of Derby, once said: "The duty of an Opposition is very simple... to oppose everything, and propose nothing."
Of course, Lord Derby was a Tory. That was Tony Abbott’s approach.
Labor knows that we are only worthy of regaining government because of our hopes and aspirations – because of what we stand for:
- a decent wage, and strong rights at work – the purpose of a thriving economy, not the barrier to it.
- a health system where patients are treated on need, not triaged on the size of their wallets.
- schools where every kid can get a great education, and where a difficult childhood doesn’t mean you are lost for the rest of your life.
We will face up to the challenge of climate change, because the political costs of today are nothing compared to the real costs we’re leaving to our kids and grandkids.
And we won’t stop until everybody has the same rights – no matter the colour of your skin, or the gender of the person you love.
We stand for an Australia where:
- If you become homeless, you don’t become invisible.
- If your child is born with a disability, you aren’t on your own.
- If you lose your job and can’t make ends meet, you can lean on us while you look for work - and then you in turn help others.
Delegates, we know that prosperity and justice only come together when we work together.
That’s the Labor way, that’s the kind of Australia we stand for, and that’s why we’re taking the fight up to Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott.
And Queensland – it starts with you. I’ll see you on the campaign trail.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
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2014 ACTU NATIONAL WOMEN’S CONFERENCE
THURSDAY, 21 AUGUST 2014
I want to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respect to elders both past and present.
Thank you Aunty Joy Murphy for providing the welcome to country.
I also want to acknowledge all of the activists from the union movement here in the room, including the ACTU Women’s Committee who have organised this conference.
Thank you Ged for your words and your welcome – it’s easy to see that the union movement has a strong future with you at the helm.
It is particularly important that this conference is gathering today, a week after figures emerged from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that the gender pay gap in Australia is actually growing.
The average man now earns 18.2 per cent, or $283.20 per week, more than a woman doing comparable work.
When we hear that the gender pay gap is at a 20-year high, it’s easy to feel angry that women's work isn't valued properly, a fact even harder to stomach when we are then told we live in a post-feminist world.
That's when we need more than ever to spend time in the company of other union women, to celebrate our strength and most importantly to organise for change.
History of trade union women
It’s also worth taking a moment to remember the past.
Muriel Heagney was the daughter of one of the founding members of the ALP and a lifelong campaigner for equal pay for clothing workers.
In the 1930s, rising unemployment in the Great Depression gave rise to a campaign to get women out of the workforce.
Heagney responded by helping found the Council of Action of Equal Pay, saying:
‘a woman’s right to work rests not on the number of her dependents, nor on the fact that she does or does not compete with men, but in the absolute right of a free human being, a taxpayer and a voter, to economic independence.”
Of course Heagney faced stiff resistance: from employers, from wider society, and from within some parts of the trade union movement itself.
But that basic driving principle - that women’s rights at work are human rights worth fighting for - kept her campaigning for change throughout her life.
As Edna Ryan, one of the feminists she inspired, said, ‘Muriel was a real goer, she never missed a trick.’
Muriel first called for a standard minimum wage for men and women in a submission to the Arbitration court in 1923. It would be over 50 years, in 1974, that the National Wage Case decision granted women an adult minimum wage.
Muriel lived to see that great result of her decades of activism – but survived just a week after the decision. She must have been hanging on for it.
For her to see, after half a century, her call for equality at last becoming law, it must have felt bittersweet.
To win the fight for formal pay equity, and yet to see that substantive equality was still a far way off.
Of course, Muriel was a pioneer, but she was never on her own. She was an inspiration and she was part of a movement:
- Kath Williams, who had to quit being a teacher twice each time she got married in the 1930s and 40s, who drove the equal pay campaign within the Victorian trade union movement, leading to the ACTU congress in 1953 agreeing to establish equal pay committees in each State.
- Jenny Acton, the ACTU advocate in the 1985 claim for nurses’ salaries to be increased to put them on par with similar occupations like firefighters and police. Some of you might remember the campaign that accompanied that case, with women boarding Melbourne buses and trams bound for the Commission and paying only 67 cents of the $1 fare, because they were only making 67% of the male wage.
- Anna Booth, who would become ACTU Vice President after pushing for equal pay for clothing workers in the 1980s and 90s. She helped broker deals with clothing brands and retailers who promised to only deal with suppliers who paid their workers properly.
Modern union activism and Labor in government
It’s a line of activism that runs right to the present day.
I remember when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister in 2011, meeting unionists at the forefront of the equal pay case run by the Australian Services Union.
I met Maree, a delegate who had spent her life contributing to the labour movement as an active unionist, and contributing to her community running local neighbourhood services.
Yet her work was still not given equal value because it was caring work – ‘women’s work’.
Maree became an active and passionate equal pay advocate, in a campaign that forged a personal relationship between her and Julia Gillard.
I remember talking with Maree that day, and then walking straight into an auditorium full of delegates and organisers, where Julia announced the federal government would provide $3 billion to fund our share of equal pay for social and community sector workers.
To me, it felt like the labour movement at our best: unions organising working people to achieve real change, and the parliamentary wing living up to its history and its purpose.
And I was grateful to have many moments like that as member of the Labor Government, working towards gender equality:
- The strengthened Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 2012 which allows the Government to set industry-specific minimum standards and requires companies to report on the composition of their governing bodies like boards;
- $22.4 billion to make quality early childhood education and care more affordable and accessible;
- Giving workers the right to request flexible work arrangements from their employer after having a child, if they are experiencing domestic violence, or if they have caring responsibilities.
Tony Abbott and the Federal Budget
Only a few years later, and we live in a very different political moment.
It won’t surprise you to learn that our minister for women, Tony Abbott, hasn't said much about the widening gender pay gap.
Instead his ideology, laid bare in this year's budget, seems designed to make economic inequality worse.
The Labor movement built superannuation and helped build up workers’ retirement savings.
Abbott’s budget cut the Low Income Superannuation Contribution, stopped our increase to superannuation, and gave back tax breaks for wealthy individuals and companies.
When Labor was in government, we committed to funding wage increases for aged care workers and early childhood educators. We knew that the work that these professionals did – caring work – was undervalued.
The Abbott Government tore up these wage increases as soon as they got into office, and in the budget they cut funding to early childhood education even further, including cutting all federal funding for preschool.
The Labor Party and the union movement together fought for and built our first national paid parental leave scheme – which Abbott at one point said would be ‘over my dead body’.
In trying to persuade him we should have been careful what we wished for – now as a late convert, Abbott wants to introduce his own scheme which pays the most money to the richest Australians, and he plans to fund it by cutting pensions and wage increases for underpaid workers.
The agenda for the union movement today
At this moment, with a widening gender pay gap and a conservative government making the challenge of inequality worse, the union movement is needed more than ever.
Over these next two days, you will sharpen the union movement’s strategy to deliver for working women.
You will need to talk about what you want, and as organisers you know that means tapping into what makes you angry:
- The gender pay gap means that in a 38 hour working week, women who start at 9am, by 3.38pm every day are working for free.
- According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the number of people who reported having being sexually harassed in the workplace actually increased between 2008 and 2012 – most of them were women, and most people reported having been harassed in the workplace. Better reporting often means people have the confidence for the first time to complain about behavior that has been common and acceptable in the past, but how are we responding to this increase in the reports?
- The rise of insecure work in Australia and around the world is leaving women with fewer rights and less economic independence. The ACTU’s own inquiry in 2011 revealed stories like the Sydney women working casually in the textiles sector who were paid piece rates that amount to $4 to $5 per hour to produce garments with a retail value of up to $1,000.
As well as setting your agenda for the future, you also need to spend some time reflecting on the wins you have had, and drawing strength from each other:
- Acknowledge the women who have built strong organizing campaigns in their unions, as well as the women who have stepped up as delegates and activists to grow our movement.
- Share ideas about what has worked and what hasn’t; learn from and mentor each other; build on the network of women unionists that spans every industry across the country.
Because chances are you will need those friendships in the years ahead.
Joyce Barry was a tram conductress for 27 years before she finally became the first a qualified female tram driver in 1975.
It wasn’t just the sexist attitudes in the community which stood in her way. The final and biggest hurdle for her to overcome was her union’s ban on women tram drivers, in a high-profile campaign that drew on the solidarity of the broader labour and women’s movements to finally succeed.
Joyce Barry, reflecting on the campaign, said: ‘I’ve stuck rigidly to one thing – that I wanted this done so that girls had equal opportunities in the structures of our union.’
Making sure that our union movement reflects the diversity of its membership, right up to its leadership, is just one of the many challenges that require union women to work together.
Together, you can build better unions, better workplaces, and a better Australian community.
Today I wanted to pay tribute to some of the women who have been part of the trade union movement’s history, like Muriel Heagney and Joyce Barry.
I want to pay tribute to some other union women.
Ged Kearney, leading the ACTU and the national conversation on insecure work.
Sharan Burrow, re-elected this year as the General Secretary of the 170-million member International Trade Union Confederation.
And our future union women leaders, some of them in this room.
Australia has a proud history of women leading the fight for economic and gender equality, and I know it has a bright future too.
So I wish you all the best for the conference over the next two days: I hope it propels you to make your mark on Australia’s workplaces and our country.
I know you’ll leave them the better for it.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
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THE GOOD FIGHT BOOK LAUNCH – MONDAY, 18 AUGUST 2014
Thank you Ian and others from ANU for having us today. I’d like to start by also acknowledging the traditional owners of the land that we’re meeting on today and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
I want to say how good it is to be with a couple of my colleagues today, Andrew Leigh the Doobie Howzer economics professor. And Jim Charlmers who of course worked very closely with Wayne in order to fight off the Global Financial Crisis.
While Joe Hockey was preparing to deliver his first budget in May, a budget that unravelled Australia’s social fabric, he listened to a song called Best day of my life by American Authors.
The “best day of my life” for Joe Hockey was the day he cut the pension, it was the day he broke the promise “no cuts to health, no cuts to education and no new taxes.”
Wayne listens to music on budget days too. And you could have guessed if you already know Wayne, his music was “Born to Run”, the song Bruce Springsteen says was the “dividing line between the carefree concerns of his youth and the political concerns of his adulthood.”
Wayne wrote about the song, and about his musical hero in his 2012 John Button lecture, which is an appendix to this book. He quoted Bruce Springsteen:
“… the stress and tension of my father’s and mother’s life that came with the difficulties of trying to make ends meet – influenced my writing. I had a reaction to my own good fortune. I asked myself new questions. I felt a sense of accountability to the people I’d grown up alongside of.”
That, in a nutshell, is Wayne Swan too.
When he was framing his six budgets, Wayne never forgot the people he grew up alongside of. And it was those people, his brothers and sister, the men he knew who lost their jobs in the last recession, even Craig Midgley, who he had met at the Penrith Community Cabinet who are the constant characters in this book. Wayne says of Craig Midgley:
“stuck up his hand and spoke of the financial pressures on families like his, on a reasonable income but struggling to make ends meet… I sat there thinking, ‘What do we say and do for people like Craig Midgley if there’s a global economy meltdown that pushes unemployment through the roof?’ ”.
In The Good Fight, Wayne tells the compelling story of how he and the government responded to the greatest economic crisis to befall Australia in 80 years.
But it’s not just about how Australia avoided recession. It’s about why Wayne cared so much about keeping Australians working. The how and the why. This book is as much a reflection of Wayne’s values as it is about the technical aspects of the decisions that he took which gave Australia the stand-out economy during the Global Financial Crisis.
Wayne describes inheriting an Australian economy challenged with growing inflation.
He came to office determined to cut spending to tackle the inflationary challenge he’d been left by the profligacy of the Howard years: the permanent spending paid for by temporary windfalls from the mining boom; the infrastructure bottlenecks; rising interest rates and rising cost of living.
Instead, just months into his new role the whispers started coming from the United States that their economy might be in trouble. He describes the uncertainty, the worry, the difficulties of preparing for the worst while not causing a panic that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The account of the GFC in the Good Fight has more tension than your average thriller – at least for budget tragics like us.
You really get the sense from reading this book how close Australia came to the brink – waiting for the quarterly number which would tell us whether we had gone into recession like the rest of the OECD.
And in reading you recall the querulous opposition to stimulus – Joe Hockey saying we should follow the New Zealand path, into recession presumably. And Tony Abbott sleeping through crucial votes on the stimulus packages.
Of course Wayne was a victim of his own success. He never received, and the Rudd and Gillard governments never received, credit from the public for the economic management that protected Australia from the recession. You don’t feel the bullet you dodged. But there is no word of complaint on that score in this book.
Wayne never complains that while the world was feting him as “finance minister of the year” the Liberals and their media cheer squad were calling for less action to protect jobs and keep the Australian economy from falling into recession.
And in keeping with this, Wayne’s greatest failing, throughout the book he gives credit to others for the internationally lauded success of Australia’s stimulus: he credits Ken Henry with the “go early, go hard, go households” advice; he talks at length about Kevin Rudd’s tireless work to make the G20 the premier decision making body for co-ordinating global efforts to fight the GFC; he speaks warmly about his public servants and personal staff; and he gives credit to any number of business figures in Australia and around the world for the insights that they gave him into the real economy globally. He always talks about what Australians did to avoid the GFC, giving credit to working people, to their employers, to unions and to others but never taking it for himself.
Wayne’s greatest failing may be his modesty. There are times when this book actually made me cringe because Wayne’s criticism of himself and the errors he believes he made are so excoriatingly honest. I know his critics will selectively quote his own insights and use his self-awareness and honesty as ammunition against him.
If only Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott had one tenth of Wayne’s insight and honesty. Instead we’ve got this bombastic defence of a deeply unfair and unpopular budget; all bluster and machismo; none of Wayne’s attention to detail. In fact it struck me at the time the fact that Joe Hockey didn’t know that chronically ill patients would pay the $7 GP co-payment shows how little attention he paid to the detail of his own budget.
You get an incredible sense from the book about how seriously Wayne took each budget.
Each one was prepared for the times: to set up the Australian economy for the challenges ahead.
You can feel the weight of responsibility on his shoulders as he works to “get the big calls right”.
The challenge presented by the GFC is rightly the main concern of this book, as it was the main preoccupation of our first years in government. Wayne talks of Rahm Emmanuel’s advice: “never waste a crisis”. Our stimulus was designed first and foremost to keep people working, to keep confidence up, to keep the economy ticking over. But it also had the benefit of upgrading every school in Australia, building new public transport, building public housing and any number of other good things besides.
Wayne talks also of how important it is was to walk and chew gum at the same time. Our pre-occupation with the GFC didn’t let us off the hook when it came to the other big reforms that had been so neglected during the Howard years: we delivered the biggest increase to pensions ever; the National Disability Insurance Scheme, two reforms that were delivered by Wayne in partnership with his good friend Jenny Macklin. The Health Reforms which Kevin Rudd as PM and Nicola Roxon worked so hard on; and the Gonski School Funding reforms begun by Julia Gillard as Education minister and that were finally delivered by Peter Garrett. All of these most important reforms for Australia’s future.
Wayne’s recalls Keatings advice that fighting for, and achieving, the big, transformative national schemes like superannuation is what politics is all about.
And of course sometimes those big changes are very hard.
In 2010, as he thought about the importance of introducing a Resource Super Profits Tax, he remembered the advice he’d heard many years earlier from his first boss when he came to Canberra almost 40 years as a political adviser.
Bill Hayden had told him that the long-term reforms are almost always fiercely contested, and he said “you rarely get them to stick the first time around. You have to persevere and persevere. Medicare and Medibank are the classic examples.”
In decades to come this book will be studied to understand how, almost uniquely among developed countries, Australia avoided recession during the time of the Global Financial Crisis. You could use it as a text book for Keynsian economics.
But there’s another question answered here too.
Wayne says in his Button Lecture that Springsteen’s songs ask an abiding question: “when are ordinary people – the people who get up in the morning, work hard and look after their families, going to get a fair go?”
Wayne’s six years as Treasurer were about answering that question.
Confucius Institute Speech
University of New South Wales
Tuesday 12 August 2014
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In my last speech on China, which I gave in June to the US Studies Centre Alliance 21 Conference, I argued we all have a responsibility to avert conflict by cooperating to achieve win-win outcomes. I spoke about the importance of our relationships with both China and the US, and said that Australia must not find itself in a position of having to choose between two good friends.
Today want to speak more specifically on the diplomatic relations between Australia and China.
HISTORY OF CHINA’S INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
China’s foreign relations is historically characterised by dedication and patience.
In the 15th century, Zheng He was a pioneer of Chinese diplomacy. As a six and a half foot tall Muslim eunuch, one could say he was a surprising match for a historical leadership role. His close relationship with the Ming Dynasty’s Yongle Emperor, as a trusted adviser and confidant, led to him to ultimately direct the “new Treasure Fleet” of 317 junks crewed by 27,000 men on seven voyages.
During these voyages he visited what are now the modern day states of Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Kenya. He brought with him tea, porcelain, and silk as tributes.
Legends remember him as China’s greatest mariner, who returned from Africa with a giraffe, an ostrich and a zebra. Depictions of his voyages and the legends surrounding them were represented in the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony in 2008.
China was practicing modern diplomacy and projecting soft power long before modern times, and China now holds up Zheng He as the exemplar of its peaceful rise and its model of peaceful engagement with the world.
China continues this tradition and its innovative and forward thinking in its own foreign policy.
China shows leadership in South-south and BRICS forums. Although it does not follow traditional donor-recipient norms, China has a very extensive aid program in Africa. Investments of time and funds that China is making in these relations now are expected to pay off in the future.
45 years ago, in July 1971, then Opposition leader, Gough Whitlam, undertook an historic visit to China. Whitlam’s visit, and his advocacy of recognition of the PRC are the foundation of Australia’s modern diplomatic relations with China.
More recently, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard recognised the need for regular and formalised dialogue with the Chinese leadership on key strategic and economic issues in order to strengthen political trust and understanding. The establishment of a strategic partnership and a new bilateral architecture to guide the future of the relationship was an important accomplishment of our time in government.
Years of building relations and breaking down barriers have demanded unwavering dedication and persistence from world leaders. This year in November, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke will make his 100th trip to China just in time for the 40th anniversary of ASEAN.
There is an unchanging purpose beneath the surface of thousands of years of diplomatic efforts – an investment that has as its return a safer and brighter future for both our nations.
In Hard Choices, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes these returns. She details the years she spent negotiating with and forming a close personal relationship with her Chinese counterpart, Dai Bingguo and she reminisces of the occasion on which he showed her a picture of his granddaughter and said, “This is what we’re in it for.”
MODERN CHINA AND CURRENT CHANGING LANDSCAPE
We have entered a new era of relations with China. We are no longer just working to understand each other, we are interpreting China’s changing place in the world and repositioning Great Powers and Middle Powers within a new world order; we are working out where we stand, where China stands, and what that means.
There are two very contrasting sides to China’s emergence and we have to understand the significance of both sides. China’s external face is one which projects increasing strength in the region and appears to be a rising world power. But parallel to this external appearance, China’s domestic landscape is still facing immense challenges; the scale of these challenges is difficult for us to imagine even when you think that China has four cities with populations equal to that of the whole of Australia’s.
China’s “economic miracle” has brought new challenges to China’s population and leadership. China has lifted millions of its citizens out of poverty giving way to a middle class with rising expectations to match their already rising standards of living.
The middle class wants better education, better healthcare, cleaner cities, jobs for their children, and of course a better future for their grandchildren. And in the face of these rising expectations, China faces a set of development challenges – the pollution that comes with rapid growth and industrialisation, growing need for fiscal and structural reforms, and of course the challenges that come with a rapidly aging population.
President XI Jinping has articulated a response to this through his “China Dream” narrative which is essentially a call for greater equality in development and greater delivery for all citizens out of the miracles of China’s economy.
There have also been unintended consequences of China’s progress.
Jiang Rong, winner of the 2007 Man Asian literary award, gives a fictionalised account of the time he spent living with the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia in the 1970s. In Wolf Totem Jiang uses the destruction of a population of wolves as a powerful symbol of China’s traditional nomadic lifestyle giving way to development and urbanisation in the grasslands.
He likens the nomadic herdsmen’s suffering to that of China’s Last Emperor as their way of life ends and the ten thousand year old grassland is destroyed.
He writes of the Party cadres who come from Beijing and kill the wolves using modern weapons and motorised vehicles. The key is that they’ve done this with good intentions – the cadres see the wolves as a danger to herdsman and sheep. They also see the benefits of meat and pelts to the population. Unintentionally, it is the cadres’ action that causes imbalance in the ecosystem of the grassland and the book ends with a Beijing dust storm caused by increased desertification following the destruction of the grasslands.
Personally, I was heartened earlier this year to see for myself the new trees which have been widely planted throughout the outskirts of Beijing. These trees, along with other groundcover have been responsible for greatly reducing the size and scale of dust storms, and serve as prevention against further desertification.
The story of development everywhere in the world includes unintended consequences, and China has been no exception. China’s capacity to respond to challenges on a scale we find difficult to imagine is remarkable.
What does this mean for our relations with China? Australia can find common ground in challenges confronting both of us.
We too need a better response to the pollution that causes climate change.
We too need to continue making structural reforms to our economy, while simultaneously keeping unemployment low.
We too need to find new ways to ensure socially democratic values protect us against growing inequality.
We have more in common than meets the eye – and often it is our shared challenges which offer us the best opportunity to unite.
Inequality threatens us all. Development without inclusive growth is false progress. As our modern governments grapple with inequality, and Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century flies off bookshelves worldwide, we can look at what Confucius said on inequality:
“I have always heard that what worries the head of a state or the chief of a clan is not poverty but inequality, not the lack of population, but the lack of peace. For if there is equality, there will be no poverty, and where there is peace, there is no lack of population.”
Confucius said that 2500 years ago and it still resonates today when you consider our common timeless and borderless challenges.
RESPONSIBILITY OF BOTH SIDES
With China's heightened power comes heightened responsibility.
China will have to be a greater participant in the global economy and the systems of global governance. It will have to be a constructive participant. It will have to be a leader.
The rest of the world also has a responsibility. We have a responsibility to make room for China as it rises, acknowledging its long proud history and growing economic importance to the world economy. We have a responsibility to do this in a way that is true to our values. We have the responsibility to see through the presentation of a false “choice” between the US and China. We have a responsibility to see China’s rise with an open mind, and see that China’s economic growth is good for all of us.
We both have a responsibility as Australians and citizens of China to make a greater effort to understand each other.
We are all a part of this – and our relations have greater depth with each additional layer of society which engages in cross cultural Australia-China interests. Good relations require the participation of students, business, and civil society. They require businesses to invest over the long period, and the exchange of students and tourists in both directions.
No layer will find it easy or natural – language students from Australia will continue to struggle with their tones, Chinese tourists will continue to think sweet Australian breakfast items are disgusting, and business people will continue to be confused by the foreign norms guiding their counterparts.
Pierre Ryckmans, who passed away in Canberra this week, is an example of someone whose close engagement with China was a lifelong pursuit. A sinologist and translator, he published under the pseudonym Simon Leys, and dedicated his life to the study of Chinese language and culture from a very young age. It is that sort of lifetime dedication that leads us to better understand each other.
Fortunately, we can be driven by the adventure as well as the challenges ahead – as long as there are Beijing hutong alleyways unexplored by Australian visitors and pristine Australian beaches which Chinese tourists have not laid eyes on, our work is not over.
This work doesn’t start and end with governments and leaders, but as leaders we think at all times about the world our grandchildren will inherit and how working towards peace and prosperity today will benefit them in the future.
 Clinton, H 2014 Hard Choices, p 82
 Jiang, R 2008 Wolf Totem
 The Analects of Confucius
AmCham Business Briefing – Tuesday 5 August 2014
Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
In large ways and small, the history and future of Australia and the United States are knitted together.
From General Douglas MacArthur’s decision in 1942 to make his base as Supreme Commander South‑West Pacific in Brisbane, to the individual ties between our people and our troops.
MacArthur told Curtin:
“… we two, you and I, will see this thing through together . . . You take care of the rear and I will handle the front.”
That’s an example of a very large connection.
Ambassador John Berry captured beautifully a smaller, more personal bond between the US and Australia in his recent speech to the National Press Club.
John explained that his father fought during World War Two as part of the 1st Marine Division in the battle of Guadalcanal.
After the hardship of six months’ fighting, they were sent to Australia to rest and recuperate, and were reminded, he said, that there was good left in the world.
Ambassador Berry said:
“When the ships carrying the Marines arrived in Australia, they were met by a band playing Waltzing Matilda. It was the sweetest sound any of them had ever heard. So profound was this event that to this day, whenever and wherever the 1st Division Marines ship out, they do so to the sound of Waltzing Matilda.”
Our shared history goes back before the Australian Federation in 1901. The 1854 Eureka Stockade was a character forming moment for Australia. Among the rebels there were two hundred Americans, the Independent Californian Rangers.
Years later, the strategic links that developed in World War Two continued and deepened with the ANZUS treaty in 1951 and have remained tight ever since.
In recent years, Australian leaders have worked closely with their US counterparts.
Prime Minister Paul Keating persuaded President Bill Clinton of the importance of creating a leaders’ summit for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was key in President Obama’s thinking on forming the G20 leaders’ summit in 2009.
You might remember the news footage of Prime Minister Julia Gillard throwing a football around the Oval Office with President Obama – to the consternation of their staff, but without breaking anything.
Our business links are also close. The US is our third largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, totalling $55 billion a year. The US is the largest investor in Australia.
Our links are long, they are deep and they are sincere.
As well as our enduring history of shared values, our commitment to democracy, our good understanding of one another, we share some challenges.
In the United States, hyperpartisanship is preventing America from fulfilling its role as the “indispensible nation” that plays such a big part helping build peace and helping solve problems globally.
In Australia, there are times when we’re taking a short-sighted, short-term approach to similar problems, problems such as climate change and inclusive economic growth, instead of working internationally to address them.
Working together to tackle global challenges
Australia has historically played a larger role on the world stage than would be expected from our population of 23 million people. We’ve helped shape global institutions of cooperation such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
As a small nation in terms of population, we have always understood that some problems are too large for us to tackle on its own. So we have been keen to enlist support from others.
Australia played a key role persuading the United States and others to elevate the status of the G20 group of major economies to tackle the Global Financial Crisis, because Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan understood that co‑ordinated global action would be required to deal with the threat of the worst economic down turn in three quarters of a century.
I’m worried that in both the United States and Australia at the moment there are some who put short-term domestic political gain above these coordinated efforts to meet the large challenges that face us as a globe.
The challenge of hyperpartisanship in the United States
Partisan politics in the US Congress is as acute as any of us have ever seen.
The refusal of the Congress to support the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and reforms to the voting rules for the International Monetary Fund are a couple of examples of hyperpartisanship. Neither is particularly controversial on its own. Yet for what seem to be political reasons they’re stuck in the Congress.
There’s also the more complex question of the Congress’s response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP is the key economic element of President Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’. It could be a catalyst for binding countries together more tightly – reducing trade barriers among most of Asia’s major economies and reinforcing rules on free and open trade.
But support for the TPP among both Democrats and Republicans is weak, and China is seeking its own trade agreement with its neighbours in the region.
Congress’s failure to agree on changing the rules of the International Monetary Fund to give a greater say to Asian countries weakens the argument that as Asian countries grow, their responsibility to take part in global institutions also grows. Critics in China, Indonesia and Singapore see this as a sign that the West will never let them share real power in global institutions.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the US Senate has refused to sign, defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in using the world’s oceans. The US already abides by these very rules. There’s nothing controversial about them and the US is prepared to do the right thing, but the refusal to sign up sends a signal that the US doesn’t want to be bound by the rules it says we should all live by.
When we’re asking other nations to abide by a rules-based international framework, it is important that we show that we value and support that framework ourselves.
A multilateral rules-based system is our best hope of reducing conflict. But countries have to feel they have a say, that they have buy-in to those systems. They have to feel that they’ve had some say in how the rules have been developed and how they are applied.
The US has been at times the leader and proudest advocate of establishing and following those rules and norms, and it would be a shame for short sighted domestic politics to undermine that proud history.
Short-sighted, short-term politics in Australia
In Australia, we’re making some similar very short-term and ill-advised decisions.
The G20 meeting in Brisbane in November provides two examples.
In its efforts to shape the agenda for the G20, our government refuses to put climate change and inequality on the agenda.
This government is arguing that climate change is not a critical issue for the economy. It’s not a credible argument.
During the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in December 2013, Prime Minister Abbott said that adding climate change to the agenda of the G20 was “clutter”.
Nobody expects the G20 to be the meeting where people make binding commitments or talk about exactly how each country is going to reduce its climate emissions, but what the G20 can achieve is a statement that the G20 members understand that this is a pressing economic issue.
By contrast, the US is setting a very good example on this issue. The Americans want climate change to be on the agenda. Every European ambassador I’ve spoken to is keen for it to be on the agenda.
More than a billion people now live in a country or region that has a price on carbon pollution.
President Obama's plan actively encourages cap-and-trade programs to be developed and implemented by American states and industries.
California, the world’s 8th largest economy, has had a cap and trade program since the start of 2013. More states are moving in that direction.
Two highly respected former Secretaries of the Treasury – Robert Rubin in the Clinton Administration and Henry Paulsen, who served President George W Bush – have both endorsed a price on carbon pollution in recent weeks.
To have world leaders talking about equality, inequality, the brake on economic development that comes with growing inequality, wouldn’t suit the domestic political agenda.
The G20 should also address inclusive growth – which means tackling inequality.
It’s predictable perhaps that I would argue the moral case against growing inequality, but there is also an ever increasing weight of evidence for the economic case that inequality retards growth.
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz points out how inequality weakens economic performance.
He argues that high inequality is causing huge waste of human talent, because the poor and increasingly the middle class lack access to good education. Inequality leads to lost productivity.
He argues that inequality fosters financial crisis.
He argues that inequality lowers consumption and demand – because the very rich save more than they spend.
He argues that high inequality reduces tax revenue – as the very rich are pretty good at reducing their tax.
Thomas Piketty’s exhaustive research shows that this inequality gap is getting much larger.
The International Monetary Fund published a paper which showed that lower inequality drives faster and more durable growth, and redistribution is generally benign in its impact on growth, except when taken to extremes.
The OECD is not noted for its radical approach to economics. Yet its research shows income inequality in OECD, rich world, countries is at its highest level for the past half century. The average income of the richest 10 per cent of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10 per cent across the OECD, a seven-fold increase from 25 years ago. There are some very unequal countries in that group, whose inequality is disguised by those average figures.
The communique from last year’s G20 meeting stressed the importance of balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth. But after the G20 finance ministers’ meeting here in Sydney, in February, the word ‘inclusive’ was dropped.
So we see that there is a retreat from this idea of inclusive growth.
Inclusive growth is not a partisan agenda, when you have the IMF and the OECD talking about the benefits of reducing inequality, it’s not a fringe issue, it’s mainstream.
The reason it’s not on the agenda for the G20 is because the reception of this year’s Budget has been very poor, and the reason why it’s been poor is there’s a general perception in the community that it’s not a fair budget.
Australia and the United States are great friends and partners. Part of having a great partnership is our ability to tell each other the truth. We have more latitude to be frank when we support each other on nearly every issue.
We will continue to be involved in each other’s present and future in big ways and small.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
NATIONAL LABOR WOMEN’S CONFERENCE – SATURDAY, 2 AUGUST 2014
I want to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respect to elders past and present. Thank you to Aunty Agnes Shea for the welcome to country.
I also want to acknowledge:
- Katy Gallagher, Chief Minister of the ACT, for her address this morning.
- ALP National President, Jenny McAllister
- ACTU President Ged Kearney
- National Co-Convenors of Emily’s List Tanja Kovac and Senator Anne McEwen
- President of the ACT ALP Branch Louise Crossman
- National Secretary CPSU Nadine Flood
- My Federal and State Parliamentary Labor Colleagues
The next two days will be a chance for you to spend time with old and new friends, develop fresh ideas and shape Labor’s direction over the next three years. It’s an opportunity to better get to know women you know in passing, and some of my best Labor memories are conference memories.
For me, it is also a return to the people within the party that inspired me to be involved in politics and then supported me to stand for preselection – Labor women.
The last time this conference met was in May 2011. Four days earlier Julia Gillard had delivered her first Budget as Prime Minister. Not only were we celebrating our first female Prime Minister, but a budget which showed true Labor values: investment in schools, historic mental health reform and much-needed pension increases.
Paul Keating famously said ‘When the government changes, the country changes,’ and unfortunately this year we have seen just how true that is.
Months after it was first handed down by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, we are still seeing the slow burn of the most unpopular budget in Australia’s memory. More than the broken promises, Australians are most concerned about the budget’s values, where the heaviest burden is placed on those people least able to shoulder it.
So as this conference gathers again in a very different political moment we need to ask: what does Australian political life need from the women’s movement today?
The women’s movement
Our movement has always drawn its purpose from the basic principle of equality.
Jessie Street was a great Australian, and, as the song says “she’ll always be a heroine of mine”. Born in the 19th century, Jessie was a suffragette, an activist in many progressive causes, and a Labor Party member. She said in 1944:
‘I believe that in a democratic, free society women should be at liberty to choose whether they will take up home life or work outside the home; that men and women should receive equal pay and equal opportunity; that home life should be made less of a tie and the burden of raising a family be lightened.’
Jessie spoke these words seventy years ago, and yet the aspirations and challenges she laid out have a timeless ring.
They give meaning to some of the wins in the decades in between:
- The landmark 1969 and 1972 decisions affirming ‘equal pay for equal work’;
- The passage of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984.
For six years after Labor took government in 2007, I was proud to be part of a team carrying forward Jessie’s vision of a more equal society for women:
- Taking equal pay that one step further – equal pay for work of equal value;
- introducing our first national paid parental leave scheme;
- increasing the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, and introducing the National Quality Framework;
- listing abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol (RU486) on the PBS to give women more choices and more options;
- passing the Workplace Gender Equality Act, with new reporting requirements around women’s participation for employers;
- drafting and implementing the first National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
And of course this vision is still very much unfinished business in a country where the gender pay gap is over 17%, and now only one woman sits at the federal Cabinet table.
The challenge of rising inequality
Gender inequality has been a driver of the women’s movement for many years; and economic inequality is inextricable linked with gender inequality. The equity principle at the heart of the women’s movement has a particular relevance today, in a world characterised by rising economic inequality.
Earlier this year, as the World Economic Forum met in Davos, Oxfam released a report showing that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest.
In our own country, the richest 1% are as rich as the poorest 60 per cent of Australians.
In 2014, Thomas Piketty’s book of economic research hit the top of the bestseller lists, Joseph Stiglitz toured Australia to sell-out crowds, and ACT Labor’s own rockstar economist Andrew Leigh addressed the National Press Club on rising inequality in Australia.
Importantly for all of us here today, we know that economic inequality hits women even harder.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, has argued that addressing inequality matters not just for women themselves – who are often more excluded from employment and financial access – but that lifting women’s participation in the economy is crucial to building strong and sustainable economic growth.
I wonder whether Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott will be putting that on the agenda at the G20?
Women and economic inequality
Economic inequality is not abstract numbers, graphs and pie-charts.
Around ten years ago I met a single mum with two boys living in public housing in my electorate, in Woolloomooloo. She didn’t have much money, but that didn’t stop her from enrolling at university, going on to receive the university medal and working as a judge’s associate.
Imagine how this budget would affect her life.
More pressure on our public housing system from the lack of long-term commitment to National Partnership agreements would make it less likely she would ever get that safe roof over her head. University would be placed further out of reach with higher fees, climbing debt levels and punitive interest rates. Supporting her two boys would be that much harder thanks to cuts to Family Tax Benefit and the Schoolkids Bonus.
With a little help and a lot of determination, this woman changed both her own life story and those of her boys.
Why on earth would we want to turn that uphill battle into a brick wall?
When I was Housing Minister, I met a woman in the electorate of Bennelong who baked a cake for Maxine McKew to say ‘thank you’ for the new public housing unit she had just moved into. She hadn’t expected to need public housing. She had always lived comfortably on the north shore with her husband – a wealthy banker. When their relationship ended she found out that he had structured their finances to leave her with nothing, and so she went from a life of privilege to being homeless and penniless.
We helped house her through our Social Housing Stimulus package – just one of the 20 000 new units we built around the country. Imagine this budget from her perspective: her pension cuts are permanent, losing her $4000 each year from an already-stretched household budget; her husband’s ‘deficit levy’ is temporary. She loses her low income super contribution; he keeps his high-income super tax breaks.
I used to work across the road from the Oasis homelessness service, where I met a teenage mother to a little girl with a beautiful singing voice, trying to break out of the cycle of temporary accommodation and joblessness.
Imagine how this budget would have made every path out of unemployment more challenging for her: homelessness services stretched from $44 million in cuts, possibly catering to more young people who faced being cut off from Newstart for six months of the year. Cuts to the Youth Connections program, designed to help young people transition to education, training or employment.
The great privilege of our work as Labor representatives is the people like these we meet every day. And that great privilege brings great responsibility too – to build a society and an economy where these women have a place.
The Abbott Government’s values
This was a budget that not only ignored the global discussion on inequality – it seemed designed to make things worse.
I am reminded of Joe Biden’s well-used quote: ‘Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value’.
The biggest single spending cut in the Budget was foreign aid: $7.6 billion, in addition to the further $8.4 billion the Prime Minister will cut in comings years by breaking the promise made by John Howard to lift aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI. By Joe Biden’s standard, what the Abbott Government values least is helping those facing the most disadvantage.
Our foreign aid program doesn’t just save women’s lives, although it certainly does that. The funding cut by the Abbott Government could have trained 3 million midwives, for example.
Our aid program helps unlock the capacity of women just like us – who have ingenuity, pride and determination but who have been born into difficult circumstances.
I am not a religious person, but that old saying captures it best: ‘there but for the grace of god go I.’
There is nothing that separates us from these women but the fate of birth.
When I visited Vanuatu, for example, I met a woman at the Vanuatu Women’s Centre, a recipient of Australian aid which helps survivors of family violence with counselling, legal assistance and accommodation. This woman had been cleaning tourist huts for a living, but with the help of Australian aid was able to start her own business and by the time I met her she was employing her own staff and running a collection of accommodation huts. The Vanuatu Women’s Centre has helped more than 10 000 women just like her since 2007, using Australian aid dollars.
In Papua New Guinea, small-scale women farmers travelling to a local marketplace were being raped and beaten as they tried to support themselves. Australian aid money built toilets so they didn’t have to use unsafe bushes, enabled mobile banking so they didn’t have to carry their money home, and helped train police to take seriously the unsafe conditions the women were facing. Not only were the women safer and better to earn a living, but their income meant their daughters could go to school.
The funding cuts from Australia’s aid represents the loss of programs just like this – lost support for vulnerable nations in our region, and lost opportunities for women just like us to fully use their skills and intellect to contribute to the economic development of their communities.
Forming Labor’s response
In the face of rising global inequality and the Abbott Government’s extreme agenda, Australian Labor’s purpose is more relevant than ever.
We believe that you can have both a strong economy and a fair society.
We understand that government’s job is to spread the opportunities of a growing economy to every Australian, no matter their sex or their postcode.
These values guided our actions when we were in government, and now from Opposition they must be the starting point in renewing our agenda.
I know that party reform is a key focus of your conference this weekend, and I am glad you could hear from Jenny this morning to start that conversation.
Jessie Street might have been a Labor MP, but in 1943 she failed to be pre-selected for the winnable seat of Eden-Monaro and was instead endorsed for the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Wentworth.
That experience may have shaped her in campaigning for the specific recognition of women in the Charter of the United Nations, saying: ‘Where the rules are silent, women are not usually considered.’
But Jessie is a hero of mine because the unfair rules which characterised the political world she inhabited were fuel and not a constraint for her activism.
She spent her life campaigning for equality for women, for fair treatment for our First Peoples, for peace and nuclear disarmament.
That kind of values-driven activism is the natural complement to rules reform in renewing our party.
Our connection to the principle of equality, at the heart of the women’s movement, is what gives meaning to our party structures in the first place.
Finding new ways to translate those values into activism in a world of growing inequality is no small feat, but I’m confident the women in this room are up to the task.
Launch of Mary Delanunty’s book Gravity
Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition
2 July 2014
Sophie Deane’s photo of Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the cover of this book is my favourite photo of her – it shows her open-faced and smiling.
It is a photo taken by a 12-year-old girl with Down Syndrome who took a shine to the Prime Minister. It’s a great photo because it shows the Prime Minister happy doing what she loved: in the middle of the tough policy battle of convincing Australia of the need for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Sophie showed us something in Julia that was too often missed.
It’s the photo that reminds me of the many, many people who met Julia and asked, “Why isn’t she always like this?”
“Actually, she is,” I would say.
She is good‑natured, humorous and fun, as well as fiercely intelligent and disciplined.
Why didn’t some see this side of Julia? Why was the public perception often so hostile? Was it her personality, or was it something deeper?
Those are the questions that Mary Delahunty explores in this book.
I’m sure you will all remember the moving and restrained speech Julia gave on the night she lost the prime ministership, just over a year ago, on 26 June 2013.
Here’s what she said:
…the reaction to being the first female prime minister does not explain everything about my prime ministership, nor does it explain nothing about my prime ministership … it explains some things.
And it is for the nation to think in a sophisticated way about those shades of grey.
Mary’s book is about those shades of grey, those things that gender does explain. Mary explores them with sophistication – and also with sympathy, clarity and passion. Her own experiences in politics give her insights into the privileges and stresses of public life.
The issues of women in leadership roles should have been pretty thoroughly examined by now.
There are now so many successful women who have become role models. Our own Prime Minister Gillard joins vastly impressive political leaders such as Hillary Clinton, who may well be the next American president, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and Helen Clark. Margaret Thatcher, Mary Robinson, Corazon Aquino, Benazir Bhutto – you don’t have to agree with them to recognise they were trail blazers.
Mary asks: Was Australia less ready to accept a woman in the top job than we imagined, or was it the individual failings of a particular woman that saw our public debate descend into something pornographic?
Reading Gravity reopened a room in my mind which I had firmly closed. I’d closed that room and buried the key.
Re-reading some of the language that was used against our Prime Minister made me nauseous all over again.
No-one is saying that women in public life can’t be criticised. And no-one is saying that men are fair game. The socialist newspaper front cover of Tony Abbott having his throat cut is completely inappropriate. But there was a gendered, pornographic, violent edge to much of the criticism of Julia that was beyond anything we’ve seen in public life in this country.
How did the Prime Minister get out of bed day after day and face that?
The grief I felt on the night that Julia Gillard was defeated was partly for our nation. She achieved great things in three years, in extraordinarily difficult times: almost 600 pieces of legislation were passed by a hung parliament; big reforms such as the Gonski education changes and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
There was more to the grief: partly, the grief was personal. After such hard work for so many years Julia didn’t deserve the treatment she got. On a human level I felt deep sympathy.
But a large part of the grief was for Australian women and girls, for whom the treatment meted out to Julia Gillard sent exactly the wrong message. All those girls who were so excited about the first female prime minister heard grown men in positions of responsibility say that talking about the prime minister’s body parts obscenely was all in good fun; talking about her looks, her relationship, her family.
It worried me deeply that those idealistic young women – and young men too – would look at the viciousness and ask, “why would I subject myself to that?” and choose not to engage with politics. I was very worried about the message it sent to women thinking about pursuing a calling to representative politics.
Surely they would be thinking: “sometimes, it feels like you can never get it right”.
If you are childless you lack normal female instincts.
If you have children the assumption is that you’re either neglecting the job or your kids.
If you show emotion you are irrational and can’t be trusted.
If you don’t show enough emotion when under the most depraved attack, obviously you are hard and unnatural: like Lindy Chamberlain, your lack of tears is proof of your guilt.
This is the paradox of women’s leadership – it seems that to be seen as legitimate you have to show you are tough enough to do the job; but if you’re too tough you’re unnatural, you’re not a real woman and consequently you’re untrustworthy.
And if you call any of this for what it is – you’re playing the gender card.
Bizarrely, hypocritically, it’s not the people who use the gendered insults – bitch, witch, fishwife, harridan and worse – who are accused of playing the gender card, it’s the woman or women who call them on it who are attacked.
But you take a deep breath. And you say none of this, because really, how can someone with so much power be hurt by mere words?
Another question that reading this book brought back was, how could conservatives be so prepared to smash up the place? To benefit from the nutters and the cranks inhabiting the dark corners of the twitterverse? How did their mannered supporters turn a blind eye at the obscenities that were hurled at Julia Gillard?
They’re not really conservatives.
Mary’s book sets out the systematic leeching of legitimacy from our Prime Minister. One disturbing thing that emerges more from its absence, is how rarely people defended Julia against the sexist attacks. Mary quotes Geoff Kitney, who wrote after a nasty exchange with a shock jock: ‘She is the victim of the nastiest, dirtiest, ugliest, most obscene and sustained personal attacks on an Australian prime minister any of us have witnessed'.
But why were defences like that so rare? I discussed this at times with parliamentary colleagues. Would we, by responding, just be giving power to the trolls? Would we be publicising the ravings of fringe dwellers? Would we be distracting from our message as a government on the important work on education, health, disabilities, climate change and our other reforms?
We thought that we would be seen as self-indulgent, that we would be seen as defending our own personal positions. Indeed, a few of us earned the title “hand bag hit squad” from Kelly O’Dwyer – ironically for calling out sexism!
But as I think about it now, maybe that was a mistake; maybe if we’d been more methodical in calling out this crude behaviour more firmly from the start, perhaps we could have reined it in.
There’s a bigger issue at stake than the attacks on one individual. To respond to these attacks is not only to defend one individual’s position, it is to fight for an idea of the kinds of roles women can play in society, it is to rebut the massive gendered abuse and its message to young women that it’s not worth the risk of putting your head up and getting involved in politics.
I was asked after it was all over, “do you think the feminist cheer squad helped or hindered Julia?”
Sadly, for the most part, the feminist cheer squad arrived on the field after the game was over.
There have been notable exceptions, like Anne Summers’ necessary but phenomenally disturbing catalogue of vileness. But during the pitched battle I expect the Prime Minister sometimes felt very alone.
Having lived through all this and seen the toll it took, reading about it now and reliving it seems kind of masochistic.
But I’m glad someone has written this history because there were precious few people calling it at the time for what it was. Including me. Mostly I thought it was best to ignore the nasty trolls. Maybe I was wrong.
Mary Delahunty has not only called the outrageous behaviour. For all that she has reopened a sore I’d have rather have left alone, she has done it gently; and with warmth and affection.
Sometimes in public life, when you admire someone from afar and then get to know them, you realise your idol has feet of clay. Julia Gillard and I didn’t start out as close friends, but by the time she left the leadership there was no one I admired more: because of what she achieved for Australia, but also because of the way she kept her humour and treated people with decency, in an environment that was harsh in the extreme.
I hope that in telling this story Mary doesn’t turn idealistic, talented young women and men off a career in politics.
For all the conflict and harshness, the sense of achievement that comes from driving great reform is incomparable.
When I drive past Common Ground in Melbourne or the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, I think, “that wouldn’t have happened but for a Labor government”, and I can’t imagine greater professional satisfaction.
In case this book makes these idealistic young people wonder, the answer to “is it worth it?” is an emphatic “yes”.
But I do hope instead that this account reminds us never to tolerate again the descent into obscenity that coloured the term of our first woman prime minister.
Politics and security in an emerging Asia – Can China grow peacefully?
Address by The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the Alliance21 conference, Canberra, Wednesday 18 June 2014
I was given a lot of latitude with my topic: ‘Politics and security in an emerging Asia’.
It is a region that is vast and it is undergoing profound changes. I could talk about the recent election in India, a significant turning point for the world’s largest democracy. I could talk about the election that’s coming up in Indonesia, one of our most important and nearest neighbours.
But having just returned from China, I want to concentrate instead on what’s probably the single biggest issue affecting the region: the rise of China.
I made my first visit to China last week. Although China is now our biggest trading partner, and it is forty years since we gave diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China, there are still some large gaps in our understanding of each other.
One gap is the question of what China’s rise means for Australia and for our region.
There’s universal agreement that the rise of China is a key feature of the strategic environment of Asia, and of the world.
But there continues to be a lot of handwringing about what China’s rise means.
Some pundits and scholars predict conflict is inevitable.
Others say China’s integration into the global economy prevents that.
Others still say that the US needs to agree now to share power with China – deliberately conceding some power to China to avoid conflict.
Of course I’m not going to settle all these complex questions today.
But they are questions that need to think about, to consider and to work on, because they’re crucial to Australia’s security and prosperity.
Put in its simplest and starkest way, the question being asked is, can China grow peacefully?
China’s economic miracle
There are many signs of China’s increasing economic importance for Australia and the world.
China’s economy has grown rapidly since Den Xiaoping’s reforms began in 1978. Since that time, more people have been lifted out of poverty than at any other place or any other time in history. That is an extraordinary achievement.
The value of one day’s trade between China and Australia today is greater than the value of one year’s trade between China and Australia forty years ago.
China is Australia's largest trading partner, with total trade in goods and services of $151 billion in 2013. It is our largest export destination; it is our largest source of imports.
Viewed globally, China has already grown from under one 20th of the global economy at the start of this century to an eighth now – measuring its economy at market exchange rates. Over the same period, the US economy has fallen from just under a third of the global economy to a fifth. That still makes the American economy twice as large as China’s, but it gives you an indication of how quickly the economic lines are converging.
On another measure of economic size, Purchasing Power Parity, China has already overtaken the US.
So there’s no arguing that China is a rising economic power – although there is some argument about the extent to which the size of the economy is a useful guide to power in its broadest sense.
China’s economic growth brings the challenge of rising expectations: rising expectations from the people of China for a social safety net, for better health and education, for jobs, and for a better quality of life more generally, including a cleaner environment.
China has a new generation of young people who are well-travelled and who have studied overseas. They are more engaged with the world; they are less suspicious of it. Last year there were 235,000 international students from China in the United States, and 90,000 in Australia. I hope that most of them return home with a good impression of our nations. I’m sure that many of them return home with lifelong friendships and business partnerships. They certainly return home with broader expectations of their lives in China.
The question that goes along with these increased expectations is, does China’s economic growth create expectations among its leaders that they will have a greater say in regional and global affairs, what form does that greater influence take, and how far can it be accommodated?
Welcome China’s rise?
The benefits of a growing Chinese economy are unquestionable for Australia. Our economies are complementary rather than competitive. China’s demand for our resources has been a strong underpinning of our economic growth in recent decades.
And there are new opportunities for trade in services and agricultural products, particularly with a growing Chinese middle class.
Yet in spite of the undoubted economic benefits of China’s rise, some historians and scholars warn that we should be wary. They point out that when a rising power challenges a dominant power, conflict may result.
The crucial point of course is that this doesn’t have to happen, and it doesn’t always happen. Conflict is not inevitable. We all have a responsibility to avert conflict.
The precedents of the past that are used to support the argument of the risk of conflict occurred in different times, in different places. Western history may not be the best guide to what’s happening in Asia today. In so many ways, what we are facing is unprecedented.
One reason is our understanding of the sheer horror of full scale war in the nuclear age.
Another reason is the high degree of economic interdependence that I mentioned earlier. China’s and America’s prosperity, indeed the prosperity of the globe, rests on the relationship between China and the United States.
But even if the chance of full-scale conflict in our region is low, we can never assume it to be zero. The Australian government’s first responsibility is to protect its citizens and that means being ready for worst case scenarios, even as we work to avoid them.
And there’s always the possibility of something less than full-scale conflict. There have been far fewer wars in recent decades, but they have not stopped altogether. Of course we should also strive to avoid more limited conflict. Nobody ever knows where more limited conflicts will lead. We should invest in preventing a regional arms race – it’s an expense that no one needs.
In a speech last month, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined two scenarios for the future strategic landscape in Asia.
One scenario was a peaceful and integrated Asia, with a more powerful China acting as a status quo power that adheres to international law and norms. While China and the US would compete for influence, they would accommodate each other on many issues.
Prime Minister Lee’s other scenario was not as optimistic. His other scenario was a riven and fractious Asia: US‑China relations fraught with tensions, pushed by a zero-sum view of the world and a lack of mutual trust.
Which scenario comes to pass would depend on US-China relations, and the path of nationalism in both countries, he contended.
Prime Minister Lee said: ‘On both sides, there are those who doubt and distrust the other’s intentions. It will require great restraint and wisdom to overcome this distrust and reach a workable and peaceful accommodation.’
How to avoid conflict
So what can we do to avoid Prime Minister Lee’s pessimistic scenario?
Paul Keating argued in a speech in Beijing last November that great powers need to work together to create a new Asian order – an order that reflects and accommodates the new distribution of power, while at the same time preserving the features that have underwritten stability in recent decades.
Mr Keating said: ‘China’s most important responsibility now is to explain more clearly and in more detail how it sees the new Asian order working, what role it sees itself taking, what roles it envisages for others, and how core norms and principles will be upheld’.
American sentiment and behaviour will be just as important as China’s, and there are times when the US could make more of its opportunities to promote engagement with China.
In the Financial Times last month, commentator Edward Luce argued that, ‘America’s ability to address these vast challenges is stymied by domestic paralysis’. He said the US holds more cards than any other country in shaping the new world order, but the new order needs to accommodate a relatively stronger China, and it’s not clear that America recognises this challenge.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated between the US and many other countries in the region may be an opportunity that is missed. The TPP is the key economic element of President Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’. It could be a catalyst for binding countries together more tightly – reducing trade barriers among most of Asia’s major economies and reinforcing rules on free and open trade.
But support for the TPP among both Democrats and Republicans is weak, and China is seeking its own trade agreement with its neighbours in the region. It is excluded from the TPP and it thinks it can make its own deal as a better deal.
Congress has also failed to agree on changing the rules of the International Monetary Fund to give more say to Asian countries. Scholar Fareed Zakaria says China, Indonesia and Singapore see this as a sign that the West will never let them share real power in global institutions.
The US Senate has refused to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans. Opponents of ratification argue that it cedes sovereign power. The administration says that it’s abiding by the rules anyway, so ratification is not important.
But when we’re asking other nations to abide by a rules-based international framework, it is important that we show that we value and support that framework ourselves.
A multilateral rules-based system in which all countries observe international law gives us the best hope of reducing conflict. But countries have to feel they have buy-in to those systems. They have to feel that they’ve had some say in how the rules have been developed and how they are applied. And existing powers need to reach an accommodation with rising powers about those rules-based frameworks.
China and the US acting together
Professor Hugh White has argued the US and China need to rethink their relationship.
He says the US needs to share power with China to avoid conflict between them.
I’m not sure whether there needs to be an explicit agreement. But I do agree that both countries need to be very clear about their own interests and they have to be clear in looking for ways of accommodating each other’s interests. The best outcome would be for them to work together, over time, to find common ground on how to meet each other’s interests in the region.
Former American diplomat Nicholas Burns suggested to this forum two years ago that political and military leaders from both countries spend too little time with each other. He argued that they need to keep making efforts at achieving greater contact, which will lead to better understanding.
He said America and China need to work harder to find ways to cooperate in regional initiatives.
He suggested that dialogue be expanded to include other countries in the region, including Australia.
He said the US, Australia and others should identify concrete projects that would build cooperation and trust. And they should create pan-Asian institutions and make better use of existing ones to bind governments together in common purpose.
You can see from those comments two years ago that there are many positive steps that can be taken.
Conflict is certainly not inevitable. The actions of key players will determine the outcomes – especially leaders in China and the United States, but also the people of China and the United States.
Will they act and behave in ways that contribute to win-win solutions to the challenges, or to a zero-sum approach? That is, will they take a view that a gain for one country must be at the cost of the other country, or will they see that the strength of one country can be to the benefit of both?
There are voices in the US and China who focus on state power, especially its military dimension, and who consider that one nation’s gain must be another’s loss.
But there are also many more optimistic voices, who argue that states can make choices that create a better world, that through cooperation, we can overcome the constraints of the zero-sum approach and achieve better outcomes all round.
That has always been the guiding principle of Labor’s foreign policy, and it should be the guiding principle in our relations with China.
There are encouraging signs that China is beginning to see merit in cooperation and engagement. There has been progress.
It was terrific during my trip to China that the issue of climate change was raised by our Chinese counterparts, including by the Chinese climate change negotiator Xie Zhenhua of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Our Chinese interlocutors told us that the trial emissions trading schemes running in several large cities will be extended in coming years to a national emissions trading scheme.
They talked about reducing the carbon intensity of their economy; they said they would reach ‘peak carbon’ soon, and they talked about about increasing the share of renewable energy in China’s energy mix.
They acknowledged their responsibilities as a global citizen, contributing almost a third of the world’s carbon emissions.
One reason China is taking air pollution so seriously is the effect it is having on the quality of life of ordinary Chinese people. The air in their cities is unbreathable on some days.
That is an example of where the domestic demands of a population with growing expectations are affecting the country’s leadership.
It was interesting to speak to Xie Zhenhua because he’s been the climate change negotiator for nine years, and this is a very, very different position to the Chinese position at the time of the Copenhagen agreement. There are people who say that if this was the Chinese position at that time there would have been a very different outcome from that conference.
But it’s not just in this area where we are seeing increased cooperation.
China’s cooperation on disaster relief is another opportunity to improve communication and understanding, particularly between our armed forces.
China’s participation in the search for Malaysian Airlines MH 370 was impressive and welcome.
And it’s noteworthy that China has been invited to participate in this year’s RIMPAC, a large naval exercise. It’s quite a step forward to see our navies cooperating in this way.
Although we are not one of the principal actors in this tussle between a great power and an emerging power, our close relations with both the US and China means we can and should contribute. We can and should help shape a positive outcome in North Asia.
We have a unique relationship with China. We are a western country, a democracy and an ally of the United States, but we don’t have colonial baggage, and we have independent interests.
China takes Australia seriously, in part because of our importance as a supplier of vital resources such as coal and iron ore, and also for our potential as a supplier of agricultural products and services.
We’re also well regarded by other nations in North Asia and South East Asia.
From opposition, the Australian Labor Party controversially adopted the policy of recognising the PRC in 1955. And Gough Whitlam moved to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC within three weeks of a Labor government being elected in December 1972.
In my visit to China last week this was remembered with great affection.
Australian prime ministers have worked hard since then to build on that good relationship.
Prime Minister Bob Hawke presided over the start of the resources export boom to China, established mechanisms to facilitate trade, and his government drove the creation of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Prime Minister Paul Keating expanded APEC to a leaders’ forum.
Prime Minister John Howard hosted the first official visit to Australia by a Chinese head of state, President Hu Jintao.
Close engagement continued under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who made three visits to China and hosted two senior visits to Australia – including one from the current president, Xi Jinping.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard struck a strategic partnership with China that established annual talks between the two countries’ prime ministers, treasurers, foreign ministers and trade ministers that are shared with few other countries.
We have worked hard under both Labor and Liberal governments to build a close relationship with China to complement our historic and continuing relationship with our closest ally, the United States. Although the United States and China don’t need Australia as an intermediary, we might sometimes be of assistance in filling the awkward silences.
Last week, Chinese officials urged us to promote people-to-people exchanges at senior levels, to increase exchanges by young political leaders, and to make more use of side meetings when we meet at multilateral fora.
We need to find ways of using our creative middle power diplomacy. We’ve always excelled at that.
Gareth Evans is in the audience today, and his role in resolving the Cambodia conflict in the 1980s is a marvellous example.
At the establishment of the United Nations, Doc Evatt argued for small and middle sized countries to be given one vote: for a democratic approach to the United Nations that gave fair representation to small and middle sized countries.
Recall John Howard’s role leading international peacekeepers in East Timor in 1999, and Kevin Rudd’s role in making the G20 the pre-eminent body for tackling the global financial crisis.
These are examples of a small country, with a relatively small population, having a big impact in our world.
And as we have in the past, we can play a large role in future. In different ways, we have close relationships with the greatest existing and emerging powers of the 21st century, and we should use our closeness with each of them to encourage better understanding between them.
Conclusion – constructive win-win approaches
Whatever we do, we need to apply maximum effort to thinking about and finding ways of achieving win-win solutions to the opportunities and the challenges that are posed by the rise of China.
It’s unlikely that there’ll be a point – for many decades at least – where we can say for sure that we asked the right questions and we made the right answers.
But the future is not-predetermined. We help create the future through our actions and decisions – and through our assumptions.
To have people behave as friends, it is important that we treat them as friends.
If we keep working to find constructive, win-win answers, we maximise the prospects for Australia’s and for the region’s prosperity and security.
China can of course grow peacefully and Australia and our region will benefit if it does.
I’d like to end with a quote from Confucius, who was asked by one of his disciples, Zizhang, for advice about proper conduct. Confucius replied:
‘Speak with loyalty and good faith, act with dedication and deference, and even among the barbarians your conduct will be irreproachable. If you speak without loyalty and good faith, if you act without dedication or deference, your conduct will be unacceptable, even in your own village.
‘Wherever you stand, you should have this precept always in front of your eyes; have it carved upon the yoke of your chariot, and only then will you be able to move ahead.’
Zizhang did write down the precept – although not on the yoke of his chariot, but on a sash. And I’d like to think that each of us could consider and remember that precept as well – to speak with loyalty and good faith – and that our leaders in Asia, in Australia and the United States will bear in mind this advice and will act, as Prime Minister Lee suggested, with ‘restraint and wisdom to [build] … a workable and peaceful accommodation’.