Party Reform and the Importance of Hope

- Essay to the Southern Highlands Newsletter 200th Edition Rodney Cavalier is the force of nature who ensures the publication of this journal to its wide readership. A gifted writer, who weaves together fact, story and image, to engage and entertain the reader from the first sentence to the last. Drawing on a deep knowledge of Australian politics, Labour history and cricket he produces this eclectic journal which is unfortunately unique. Rodney is also one of the Party’s more powerful speakers. His orations are fired with stories of 45 years in Labor’s trenches and, it must be said, a passion for the performance. His writings and orations have much to offer – except hope. It need not be so. In the 199th edition of this journal we read that the Federal Labor Government has just lost office. We were told it was the worst in our history. There was no achievement to celebrate. Not school education reform, not the national broadband network, not re-civilising the laws of our workplace, not national shipping reform, or equal pay for community workers, not the apology to a stolen generation, the apology for forced adoption or the establishment of a Royal Commission into institutional child sex abuse. The introduction of paid maternity leave and our record investment in higher education, skills and infrastructure received no mention. While Nobel Laureate and former World Bank chief economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz recently wrote that Labor had done “a fantastic job of saving your country”  from the global financial crisis, the Newsletter’s editor dismissed actions like insuring our banks to stave off a credit crisis, and targeting stimulus spending towards retail and then infrastructure as unworthy. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (funded in part by an increase in the Medicare Levy) received but a sneering reference.  Continue reading

Thank you to the voters of Throsby

I want to thank the people of Throsby for re-electing me as your representative in the Federal Parliament for the next 3 years.  It is a great honour that I do not take lightly. I congratulate Tony Abbott on his success as Prime Minister, and to all the other candidates who stood in Throsby. It was a tough campaign but I’m proud to say that it was also a clean and friendly campaign, focused strongly on bettering our region. Not on petty politics. Over the next 3 years I have two roles. The first, as your local representative, is to ensure that I advance the interests of the region and the electors to the best of my ability. The second, as a member of the opposition, is to faithfully and constructively hold the new Government to account. Finally, I would like to thank all of the people who staffed the polling booths and worked for the AEC during the campaign.  It is a thankless but important task which keeps our democracy in action.

PM address to the National Press Club

PM: Thank you very much. It's good to be back in the nation's capital, a capital which celebrates its centenary this year, 2013. Much of this election campaign, like many that have preceded it, has, to paraphrase the greatest master of the English language, been full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. But above the noise of gaffes and gotcha moments from both sides of politics, there are some phrases which somehow manage to penetrate. Often these are said in private moments, in the thousands of conversations we have with people who would simply describe themselves as ordinary Australians. Like the high school kids who have said to me right across the country that they wouldn't know where they'd be without laptops in their classrooms, because of our computers in schools plan. The first year apprentice at one of our Trades Training Centres, with delight in his eyes as he tells me how he has used his tools for his trade grant to buy his first set of drills, or the kidney recipient thankful for the work of the new National Transplant Authority, or the middle aged nurse with tears in her eyes, describing the vital work she does in supporting cancer patients at home through our new network of Medicare Locals, but fearful for the future of her job. Continue reading

Medicare Locals Must Stay

Last year Labor expanded health services in the region by establishing the Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local. They employ 37 front line health workers and provide services in the crucial areas of mental health and the management of chronic diseases. Tony Abbott plans to scrap the 61 Medicare Locals around the country, which were set up by Labor to fill critical gaps in primary health care. Our Medicare Local operates the two Headspace locations in the region, which help young people with mental health and alcohol and drug issues. They run the Perinatal Mental Health Team, which supports local parents suffering from anxiety and post-natal depression. Continue reading

In defence of Kevin Rudd's Papua New Guinea solution

For the 12 years that refugee policy has been kicked into the forefront of political contest, the left has said our approach should be driven by compassion. We should open our hearts and our community to those fleeing persecution. And we should not keep those seeking safe haven interned in Australia or anywhere else. We understood that our political posturing would have little impact on boat arrivals as it was not our domestic policy but international conflict that drove people to come to Australia. This remained our position through opposition and into government. The belief in compassion as a cornerstone has not changed – but for some of us, the view about how that can be achieved has. This didn't start with the prime minister’s announcement last week. That announcement – of a regional resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea (PNG) – was dramatic in every respect. No less for the timing. It came 12 months from the date when, in full public gaze, another boat capsized off Christmas Island. Nothing had better highlighted the political impotence of parliament on this issue: as bodies floated in the water, parliament debated policy without resolution. Continue reading

Media statement to welcome Prime Minister's move on domestic gas policy

"I welcome the fact that in his Press Club speech today, the Prime Minister has identified access to competitively priced gas for Australian businesses and households as part of the national competitiveness agenda.  "I raised this issue in the Australian Parliament last month http://www.stephenjones.org.au/australia_needs_to_focus_on_domestic_gas_policy. "Until now, this has been a 'sleeper' issue but given the serious implications for households and the manufacturing sector in particular, it warrants national policy attention - and debate. "I therefore strongly welcome the focus now being directed to this issue by Prime Minister Rudd." 

PM Rudd announces changes to ALP leadership rules

PM: Today on behalf of the leadership team of the Australian Government, we would like to announce a proposal for a major change in the rules for the election of the leader of the parliamentary Labor Party for the future. I said last week it’s time to throw open the windows of the Labor Party structure to the wider community through our membership. Today, as never before, Australians demand to be included in the Labor Party’s decision making, and proposals for reform that I will outline to you now are represent an important change to this effect. Following extensive discussion with the leadership team and extensive discussion with the full ministry team today, the changes to the structure of the Labor Party I will take to a special meeting of the caucus of the Labor Party recognise that the Labor Party must change to reflect our changing nation. Today more than ever, Australians demand to know that the Prime Minister they elect is the Prime Minister they get. The Australian public requires that certainty, these changes will give them that certainty. The reforms I announce today will give more power to the everyday members of the Labor Party. They will ensure that power will never again rest in the hands of a factional few. Today I can announce that following a meeting today of the full ministry, I’ve written a letter to the chair of the federal parliamentary Labor Party asking him to convene a special meeting of the caucus for Monday 22 July 2013 to discuss the 2013 election campaign, but in addition our forward policy agenda and our change to these rules. These rules changes are as follows, if caucus embraces them, they include the following. The federal parliamentary leader of the Labor Party will be elected jointly by the party membership across the nation and the members of the federal parliamentary Labor Party on the following proportional basis. Votes by the party membership across the entire nation being weighted at 50 per cent and votes by the federal parliamentary Labor Party weighted at 50 per cent. Make no mistake, this is the most significant reform for the Australian Labor Party in recent history. It is one that should be welcomed by all members of the Australian Labor Party across the nation, whether you’re a long serving member of parliament, a loyal hard working volunteer, a union activist active in our local branches, or a student who has just joined Young Labor, or someone who is thinking about it as they watch the news this evening. I believe this change is essential to grow a vibrant, modern Australian Labor Party for a modern and diverse Australia of the future. I believe it will encourage people to reengage in the political process and to bring back those supports, supporters who have become disillusioned. It will ensure that all those who for so long have given their time and energy to the fight, for what we believe in, that those people will now have a direct voice in the election of the national leader of our party. In fact, they will now have a vote, one that matters and one that our branch members from across the nation deserve.   The changes it passed will mean the following. Continue reading

Statement by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard

As you would probably be aware by now, Kevin Rudd has been elected as leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. I congratulate Mr Rudd on his election. In view of his election I have written to the Governor-General asking her to commission Rudd as Prime Minister of Australia. I will shortly leave from this Parliament to see the Governor-General on this matter. In accordance with the pledge I gave earlier today, I announce that I will not recontest the federal electorate of Lalor at the forthcoming Federal Election. I will have time in the coming weeks to be back home in my electorate and to say hello and goodbye to the community that I've had the absolute privilege of representing in this parliament since 1998. So I will keep comments about my electorate until that time. Three years ago I had the very great honour of being elected as Labor leader. It followed having the honour of being elected as Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister following the 2007 election. This privilege was truly humbling, I thank the Australian Labor Party ofr that privilege and I thank the Australian people for their support. Continue reading

Treasurer Wayne Swan's 2013 Budget speech

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. Continue reading

Prime Minister Medicare Levy Announcement on DisabilityCare (Second Reading)

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. Continue reading