SPEECH - 2014 ACTU National Women's Conference

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

SPEECH

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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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

 

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SPEECH - The Good Fight Book Launch

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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.

 

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SPEECH - The Confucius Institute

Confucius Institute Speech

University of New South Wales

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Sydney

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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.[1]  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.”[2]

 

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.[3]  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.”[4]

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.



[2] Clinton, H 2014 Hard Choices, p 82

[3] Jiang, R 2008 Wolf Totem

[4] The Analects of Confucius

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AmCham Business Briefing

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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National Labor Women's Conference

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY


SPEECH

 

*** 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.

Rules matter.

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.

ENDS

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Launch of Mary Delanunty’s book Gravity

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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.

ENDS

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Politics and security in an emerging Asia – Can China grow peacefully?

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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.

Two scenarios

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.

Australia’s response

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’.

ENDS

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Speech at The Welcome Reception for Australian American Leadership Dialogue – Young Leadership Dialogue

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

SPEECH AT THE WELCOME RECEPTION FOR AUSTRALIAN AMERICAN LEADERSHIP DIALOGUE – YOUNG LEADERSHIP DIALOGUE

 14 MAY 2014

CANBERRA

  • I am very pleased to be here tonight to welcome delegates to Parliament House.
  • While there are a lot of similarities between Australians and Americans – there are also differences.
  • Just one of the differences is that it is completely beyond me how anyone would find Two and a Half Men funny.  I just don’t get it.
  • But in deeper and much more meaningful ways, there is much on which we do share an understanding.
  • I have been thinking every day about the plight of 200 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped recently. I was pleased to hear the United States pledge to help find them and return them, and I’ve said so to your marvelous Ambassador.
  • The girls were kidnapped from their school dormitory by a terrorist organization hell bent on preventing girls from getting an education. Boko Haram literally means western education is sinful.

Michelle Obama’s used her address on Mothers’ Day to speak about the girls and their families, and the 65 million girls missing out on an education around the world. Her words reflect a shared set of values between our two nations:

  • We believe in the  right to have a decent education;
  • We believe in extending and protecting human rights;
  • We support the rights of women to participate equally in society, the workforce and economy;
  • We believe people should have religious freedom and be able to practice religion or refuse to, without discrimination;  and
  • We believe that everyone should have the right to work hard to better their circumstances if they can.
  • So while I will never get the appeal of Charlie Sheen…
  • With other Australians I will always see the US as one of the countries most similar to Australia in outlook and values.
  • And we also see the US as one of our closest and most constant friends.
  • Our friendship, our shared values and common outlook – are made all the stronger through initiatives like the Young Leadership Dialogue.
  • I would like to congratulate Australian American leadership Dialogue and the Youth Leadership Dialogue, and formally welcome delegates to Parliament House.
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H. V. Evatt Memorial Lecture

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

H. V. EVATT MEMORIAL LECTURE

 

SATURDAY, 14 APRIL 2014

H. V. Evatt was Prime Minister Curtin’s minister for External Affairs when Curtin made his famous appeal to the United States for help protecting Australia in December 1941, marking the beginning of the move away from sole reliance on Britain as the ‘great power’ which would protect us. After the war, Evatt recognised that, alongside our important new alliance with America, Australia should also be working with other small and medium powers to influence global issues.Evatt took us from a time where we would look first to one great power then another for our security, to being part of a global community which, critically, Australia helped to shape.

Evatt knew that to address truly global challenges, Australia and indeed all countries need to be able to act within a global community. Evatt’s role in the negotiations at San Francisco to draft the charter for the United Nations established him as a world figure and won him many friends among smaller nations. This led to his selection in 1948 as president of the United Nations General Assembly. Evatt’s prodigious energy was noted by one of his staff at the time, Paul Hasluck – a critic who later became a Liberal Minister for External Affairs. Hasluck wrote this about Evatt’s efforts in the San Francisco negotiations:

Day after day for ten weeks from early morning until late at night his concentration on the task and the intensity of his efforts had a ferocity that made me wonder what strange demon had possessed him.

I think the demon was Evatt’s determination that Australia’s voice should be heard as the postwar order was being built. Evatt explained why smaller powers needed a bigger voice:

No power is so great that it can ignore the will of the peoples of the world expressed through the [United Nations] Assembly and no power is so small that it cannot contribute to the making of world opinion through the Assembly.

The overwhelming challenge for Evatt was to put in place the right measures to secure and support global peace. He knew that no country working alone could avert a repeat of the rivalry between major powers and the disastrous global conflict we saw in the first half of the 20th century. Evatt understood that, for Australia, it would be through our major alliances and through multilateral agreements and relationships that we would contribute to a more stable and peaceful world.

Evatt helped build a world where the United Nations could provide an institutional framework for co-operation between countries to ensure peace. And the challenge of peace remains – we see the dangerous potential for conflict through unilateral actions today – despite the maturity of multilateral institutions. For the most part however, these institutions serve us well.

Post-Evatt Labor

Labor leaders and foreign ministers since Evatt have built on the tradition he helped create. Key parts of Whitlam’s foreign policy were in the Evatt mould –
• support for the US alliance; alongside
• a belief in the importance of multilateral institutions to maximise Australia’s interests and influence; and
• engagement with countries in the region, starting with the diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating also drew on Evatt’s legacy. The Hawke and Keating governments promoted Australia’s role as a middle power through multilateral forums such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation, and in arms control negotiations. The Hawke government’s role in creating the Cairns Group was critical to boosting Australian exports through the successful Uruguay Round of trade talks. Another of Hawke’s big achievements was driving the creation, in 1989, of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum as a vehicle to boost trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific. Paul Keating went on to strengthen APEC with his successful campaign to elevate the annual APEC meetings to include a leaders’ forum from 1993.

Critics sometimes complain when meetings such as these don’t produce big headlines and momentous decisions. But this misses the point. One benefit of such meetings is to improve personal understanding between leaders and other participants. The APEC leaders’ meeting of 1999 was of great benefit to Prime Minister John Howard as the East Timor crisis was escalating. Howard used the opportunity of the leaders’ meeting in Auckland to lobby for a peacekeeping mission to East Timor. This would have been much more difficult – perhaps impossible – if the countries had not all been gathered together for the leaders’ meeting. And Gareth Evans’ monumental success in Cambodia shows that backed up by the international community Australia can play a leading role in restoring peace.

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard continued to strengthen regional engagement and gave energetic support for multilateral approaches to international issues, while maintaining strong support for the US alliance. Kevin Rudd was instrumental in seizing the opportunity of the G20 meeting to manage the global response to the GFC of 2008. The US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell, said Kevin Rudd ‘was relentless in his making of the case; he persuaded key players, [and] made the case with a number of players who were a bit reluctant’. This gave Australia an influential role in the response to the crisis. Until then, global economic decisions had been dominated by the G8 – a group that excluded not only Australia but critical players such as China and other emerging economies.

Evatt and his Labor successors pursued international partnership to support peace, nuclear disarmament, an end to colonialism in Indonesia, even, more recently, an end to so-called scientific whaling. Whatever frustrations come with the slowness inherent in using international bodies to achieve significant change, it is difficult to see how a country like Australia – number 51 in the world by population size – would have been able to have the influence we’ve had otherwise.

And just as peace in the 20th century was a challenge impossible to address without engagement in international fora, we face modern challenges that cannot be addressed by countries working on their own. One of these challenges is climate change. It is clear that we cannot tackle a problem as complex as climate change unless countries across the globe co-operate. Yet under the Howard Government Australia stood aloof.

When Labor was elected in 2007 we joined the global fight. Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol – the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a great example of using a multilateral institution to tackle global problems. But now the Coalition is back, and to the consternation of many Australians, and indeed governments around the world, retreating from action on climate change. This isn’t just an abstract issue; here in the Blue Mountains you know too well the impact of extraordinary weather events on the lives and livelihoods of your community.

And for some of our neighbours climate change has imminent and potentially devastating consequences. Kiribati’s President has predicted his country is likely to become uninhabitable within decades because of inundation, and contamination of its fresh water supplies. And the recent floods in the Solomon Islands following an extraordinary weather event have tragically claimed 23 lives and left 9000 people homeless. Of course, fires and floods happened before climate change was an issue, but the frequency and severity of these extreme events will continue to increase unless we take substantial action now, and as the world’s largest per capita emitters of carbon pollution we must be involved in the global effort to slow global warming.

Poverty & inequality

Another global challenge which requires concerted action is poverty. Australia is one of 189 countries that signed up to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a shared world vision for reducing poverty. The MDGs aim to reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 a day by 2015 relative to 1990. The MDGs create a collective responsibility of all UN member countries to meet the goals and targets set out in the declaration by 2015.

Australia has played a role in this international multilateral effort by being generous in funding international aid. As opposition leader in 2007, Kevin Rudd committed a Labor government to doubling the Australian aid budget to 0.5 per cent of GNI (Gross National Income), or around $8 billion a year. At that time, the Coalition was spending $2.9 billion a year on aid. Between 2007 and 2013 Labor almost doubled the aid program to $5.7 billion – despite the tough budgetary environment. Why? Because it reflected our values – to support sustainable development, share the benefits of prosperity, and reduce poverty and inequality.

We recognise and embrace the benefits of contributing to global social and economic development and as a global community we’ve made significant progress on the MDGs, although of course significant challenges remain. Unfortunately, just a couple of days out from the election the Coalition announced cuts of $4.5 billion from Australia’s aid program over the next four years. The Prime Minister has recently confirmed a further $12 billion will be cut from Labor’s forward commitments on aid funding, over the three years from 2017–18.

The Abbott Government has also dismantled Australia’s specialist aid agency, AusAID, which has been delivering a globally recognised and effective aid program for almost four decades. And the government has narrowed the outcomes for the aid program. It has removed references to poverty reduction and sustainable development in favour of ‘advancing Australia's international strategic, security and economic interests’.

The government is making decisions about funding and priorities for the aid program by asking ‘What’s in it for us?’ This is happening at a crucial time in global efforts on poverty reduction. Right now the UN is developing a new framework to replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015. The OECD is clear that the challenge of addressing global poverty remains – and the post-2015 framework will rely on both an effective global partnership and an adequate volume of aid funding.

There is a very pragmatic answer to ‘What’s in it for us?’ with Australian aid. Countries we used to give aid to have become middle income countries and important trade partners for us; our health aid has reduced the spread of illnesses which potentially threaten Australia. But our aid program is also a reflection of our ability, as the 12th largest economy in the world, to do our share to lift others out of poverty. It is a reflection of our values. It means real progress for real people. The government’s decisions have consequences for our neighbours. What did we achieve with our increased aid funding and our expertise?

In PNG we:

• provided essential medical supplies to more than 2000 hospitals, health centres and aid posts;
• improved support for around 20,000 victims of sexual and family violence;
• reduced, in just one year, the mortality rate for drug-resistant TB in Western Province from 25 per cent to just 5 per cent;
• supported the abolition of school fees for the first three grades of school;
• delivered 1.6 million textbooks to 3500 schools across the country; and
• fixed over 12,800 kilometres of rural roads.

In Afghanistan we have supported:

• increases in school enrolments from around 1 million in 2001 to more than 8 million in 2013, including over 3 million girls;
• training for 3400 teachers;
• immunisation of 428,000 children against polio;
• family planning, antenatal care, postnatal care and vaccination for over 300,000 women;
• improved maternal health care, with at least 74 per cent of pregnant women now receiving at least one antenatal health care visit; and
• an increase in the number of births attended by skilled attendants from 24 per cent in 2007 to 39 per cent in 2012.

In Cambodia:

• In 2011, 5000 square metres of community and leasehold land was cleared of landmines and unexploded ordinance, benefiting more than 40,000 people;
• Since 2007, 2100 classrooms have been built or repaired, allowing more children to go to school and learn in better and safer conditions; and
• We provided training in HIV and human trafficking for at-risk communities.

In Timor-Leste we:

• helped over 30,000 farmers grow improved varieties of crops with yield increases of between 20 per cent and 80 per cent; and
• assisted more than 77,000 people to access safe water and 67,000 people to access basic sanitation facilities.

Labor’s commitments on aid funding reflected Australia as a mature and compassionate country. Equally, the Coalition’s cuts to aid are a reflection of its values. The Coalition Government has narrowed the focus of its aid budget, an approach it calls an ‘aid for trade’. Promoting trade in developing countries through aid is an important goal – but not at the expense of poverty reduction.

When we improved the security in PNG markets for PNG women, that meant a degree of economic independence, as they could safely sell their wares; it meant family income which could be spent on educating children. Of course economic development is important in poverty reduction. But aid should not be a back door way of buying market access. Increased trade with developing economies has to be part of a long game. It starts with reducing disadvantage and poverty and increasing the wellbeing and capacity of the community, promoting good governance and corruption resistance.

Reducing poverty and inequality is morally good, but it’s also economically sensible. There is growing evidence, including from the OECD and the IMF, that shows that inequality reduces economic growth. Reducing disadvantage and poverty is a good in and of itself, and must be a focus – particularly for those countries, like ours, that can easily afford to lend a hand. And it must continue to be the focus of the international efforts that will be marshalled in the post-2015 MDGs.

Conclusion

There are plenty of opportunities for bi-partisanship in foreign affairs. But there are important differences. Labor is not starry-eyed, but we do take a forward-looking, optimistic view of the benefits of multilateral co-operation. We take a broader view of the ways we can protect and advance Australia’s interests. And we take a more generous view of the role we should play to help those who need a hand up. Successful foreign policy mixes pragmatism and idealism, realism and liberalism. Of course states will act to maximise their own interests, and material power matters. But that’s not the end of our responsibilities, nor the end of our possibilities. States can and do co-operate. Institutions to promote co-operation and international law help that process.

The world has changed a great deal in the six decades since Bert Evatt was Minister for External Affairs. But the principles behind the foreign policy tradition he helped create remain a powerful example today. Labor values our strong relationship with the United States – and it is not surprising that we agree on most issues. But we also believe that a key test of friendship is being frank when you disagree, as Labor disagreed about the US-led war in Iraq in 2003.

Labor believes that our alliances and our strong relationships with our nearest neighbours and economic partners are critical to our security and prosperity. We are in the Asian century and Australia is ideally placed to reap the advantages of that.

Labor believes many of the big challenges of the world are best handled multilaterally, and that Australia can have a role and at times can lead those efforts. That’s why we pursued Security Council membership. That’s why we helped make the G20, rather than the G8, the pre-eminent body for tackling the global financial crisis. Bert Evatt exemplified these beliefs, and showed how Australia can maximise its influence by being a constructive neighbour and a generous and collaborative global citizen.

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Speech: Nelson Mandela Condolence Motion

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT 

NELSON MANDELA CONDOLENCE MOTION 

SPEECH TO THE PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

There's a story from Robben Island which speaks to the power of words, and art, to inspire and to sustain the human spirit.

The story goes the political prisoners used to secretly pass around a copy of Shakespeare's collected works. On one occasion, the men marked their favourite passages.

Mandela chose one from Julius Caesar.

Cowards die many times before their deaths,

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.

Well, it has now come for Nelson Mandela.

We should be thankful that he lived, fought and led his country.

But we mourn the fact he's now passed from this world.

There was a news report a few nights ago, where the presenter remarked dawn was breaking in South Africa for the first time in 95 years without Nelson Mandela.

There is something in that. Such an iconic figure can sometimes take on the stature of being permanent.

But the nature of human history is that everything is fleeting – a “mere brief passing moment in time and space,” as Mandela put it.

No longer do freedom fighters have the living and breathing Mandela to look to.

He belongs to history now, the man who spent more than a quarter of his life, his “long, lonely, wasted years” imprisoned by a regime which he was prepared to give his life to bring down, only to preach reconciliation on his release.

The man who brought down apartheid without, in the end, a shot being fired, now belongs to an echelon reserved for leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King – who first said those words Mandela repeated on his release – “free at last”.

Indomitable fighters for the expression and realisation of human dignity.

Names which will always inspire millions to think and to act and to fight.

We are all bound by the times we live in. There's been some commentary over the past few days pointing out Mandela was no saint, as if it's a criticism.

Well of course he wasn't.

He was a political leader engaged in a bitter struggle; a political leader reacting to the unpredictability of human events, and the grotesque nature of apartheid.

Or, in his own words, he was a “product of the mire that (his) society was.”

It's one of those ironies of history which reveals the complexity of the human condition: men and women created something as repressive as apartheid

But men and women in Africa and around the world, led by Mandela, were part of the movement of millions which brought it down.

The contradiction of all this is that while Mandela's struggle reveals complexity, it also provides a moral clarity.

Dividing a country based on race and class is wrong.

Denying a person his or her inherent rights based on the colour of their skin is wrong.

Fighting racism is right.

Uniting a troubled country through reconciliation and forgiveness is right.

We should not forget those millions who fought alongside Mandela. While they were lucky to have a leader of his stature, their struggle should never be forgotten.

Mandela, and his people’s struggle, was a touchstone for generations of progressive people around the globe. There would be people in this Parliament today who could trace their political awakening to the anti-apartheid movement. It was formative for many of us.

I'm proud to be a member of a party which supported Mandela's struggle for the decades in which he was in prison.

I’m proud to be part of a labour movement, of party activists and trade unionists, which long supported sanctions as one of the fundamental ways the international community united to help to bring down apartheid.

There can hardly be a person who was of age in February 1990 who can't recall the jolt of excitement as Mandela walked free.

Likewise, the triumph of his 1994 election.

We were lucky to share Mandela's times.

He said that to “overthrow oppression has been sanctioned by humanity and is the highest aspiration of every man.”

The world is better because he lived, and fought.

But, like the valiant in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, he has now come to the necessary end we all shall taste.

Mandela once remarked that the “names of only very few people are remembered beyond their lives.”

He will be one of these people.

Australia mourns his end, but gives thanks for his life.

MONDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2013 

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