STRONGER ECONOMY, SMARTER NATION, FAIRER SOCIETY
Tonight this Labor government makes the choice to keep our economy strong and invest in our future.
To support jobs and growth in an uncertain world.
To chart a pathway to surplus through responsible savings.
And to ensure no Australian is left behind because of the circumstances of their birth or misfortune in their life.
Speaker, no government gets to choose the global economic circumstances in which the budget is framed.
But you do get to choose the priorities for the nation.
Labor chooses a stronger, smarter and fairer Australia.
An Australia where our school children get the opportunity to reach their full potential with $9.8 billion invested in new school funding.
An Australia which gives dignity to people with severe and permanent disability through the historic $14.3 billion investment in DisabilityCare Australia. This is a proud moment for our country.
An Australia with the critical infrastructure we need to drive our economy forward, with $24 billion of new investment in road and rail.
An Australia where our prosperity spreads opportunity to every postcode in our nation.
Speaker, tonight, we put in place the savings to fully fund these priority investments for 10 years and beyond, an achievement unprecedented in our nation's history.
We make these historic investments in the Labor tradition from a position of economic strength.
The facts are, under Labor's economic leadership:
• Our economy is 13 per cent bigger than before the GFC.
• More than 950,000 jobs have been created with more Australians in work than ever before - there is no fact we are more proud of.
• For the first time ever we have a Triple-A credit rating from all three global agencies with a stable outlook - one of only eight countries to do so.
• And all this with contained inflation and new record low interest rates.
That is because we got the big calls right on the economy.
Now we enter a period where new choices must be made.
Australia’s strong economy and Australia’s social safety nets are the envy of the world.
In this Bill, we see Australia at its very best.
In this Bill, we see that we still can be the strong, smart, fair Australia that created the Age Pension and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Medibank, Medicare and universal superannuation.
In this Bill, we see that there is still a place for collective action to solve those great pressures of life that are too big and complex for individuals and families to solve alone.
In this Bill, we see a nation united in a spirit of concern to strengthen and extend the fair go, to ensure no one is left behind; we also see a Parliament ready to put the national interest ahead of ideology.
To those who say Australian politics no longer works, I say simply: read the Medicare Levy Amendment (DisabilityCare Australia) Bill.
This is a united embrace of national responsibility and a great act of mutual care and solidarity.
Every week or fortnight, a sliver of the pay packet will go to DisabilityCare Australia: around a dollar a day for the average earner.
But all that money added together from every corner of the nation will be a mighty force for good.
The topic you are here to discuss, creating secure jobs, has moved to the centre of national debate this week.
For Labor people, that’s a development we welcome.
We want more jobs and more secure jobs for all Australians.
We want more skills, more apprenticeships, more training for young Australians.
We want more Australian workers to fill the skilled jobs our economy creates.
This is exactly what the Australian people expect the Australian Government to stand for. It is exactly what I will fight for.
For this Labor Government, it’s a debate we are ready to have.
Speaker, this Parliament is the gathering place of our nation’s representatives.
But we stand on land that was, from time immemorial, the gathering place of the Ngunnawal people.
So I speak here today, as I always do, in a spirit of friendship and respect for the First Australians, and with honour to Elders past and present.
I’m also conscious that on this special anniversary, we acknowledge the courage that enabled Kevin Rudd to offer the Apology and the generosity of spirit that enabled Indigenous Australians to accept it.
We are only able to consider this Act of Recognition and constitutional change because the Apology came first.
Speaker, the Constitution of our Commonwealth came into force on January 1, 1901.
It was the start of a new century and a new year.
Alfred Deakin wrote that “Never on this side of the world was there a New Year’s Day with such high expectations.”
Those expectations were high because with the Constitution had come Australia’s birth as a nation.
But not all our people shared those expectations.
In the decade of deliberation that created our Constitution, there were conventions and debates across this land.
But there is no record of any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person taking part.
Indigenous people did not ordain our Constitution nor contribute to its drafting.
They had no opportunity to vote for it, and yet all were affected by what it said and what it failed to say.
They were affected by provisions that even by the standards of the time seem questionable and strike us now as harsh and inhumane.
But they were also affected by the “great Australian silence” which fell upon our founding document.
Because among the 128 sections of the Constitution, there is no acknowledgement of Australia’s First Peoples.
No mention of their dispossession.
Their proud and ancient cultures.
Their profound connection to the land.
Or the unhealed wound that even now lies open at the heart of our national story.
The Australian Lawyer’s Association were wrong to suggest (Mercury, February 11) that the Federal Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) legislation will leave some people worse off.
The purpose of the NDIS is to ensure those with severe disabilities have access to vital support services, regardless of how they acquired their disability. It does not absolve any third-parties from being held financially responsible for any disabling injury they may have caused.
It remains the case that the Commonwealth or State act on behalf of individuals and seek private compensation from those at fault, while at the same time providing direct financial support. This is the most effective use of taxpayer dollars.
The NDIS is about improving disability services and providing better access for all Australians. Nobody will be left out or be “forced into the legal system” to reap these benefits. It is a better and fairer system and I know it is strongly supported in the Illawarra.
It’s been an awful week in sport and politics. Yesterday Justice Minister Jason Clare hauled the boss of every major sport to Canberra to tell them and the nation that graft and corruption was rife in sport.
Drugs, physicians, trainers, players, gaming, organised crime gangs - the lot. As we heard of match fixing in multiple sporting codes we shook our heads in disgust. Steve Blocker Roach, who was no on-field-angel in his day, summed it up pretty well on the front page of the Illawarra Mercury “if there’s 100 players, entire teams, whatever, found guilty .... we don’t want them in our game. “ “Throw them out.”
Federal Member for Throsby, Stephen Jones has today criticised the backflip of the NSW Planning Assessment Commission over the Calderwood Development.
“While I don’t normally weigh into matters that are a State responsibility, this one is different,” Mr Jones said.
On behalf of the nation, I present the fifth annual Closing the Gap Statement.
I am here today because the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of this country have decided to walk the path of Reconciliation together.
Because the workers of Wave Hill said no and the voters of 1967 said yes.
Our Values and Achievements
Nationally the task of Labor in government is to build a strong yet fair economy. We are doing this: through record investment in rail, roads, ports and communications infrastructure; by creating the conditions for business to grow and; by instilling fairness in our workplaces.