The Choice For Australia (20/08/2010)

Julia Gillard addresses the National Press Club, Canberra.gillard-NPC-small_300w.jpg

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THANK YOU ALL very much. I’m delighted to be here to explain my positive economic plan and my vision for Australia.

Today gives the good members of the travelling press gallery a hot press club meal – you can enjoy some relief from the bus, some relief from the plane, some relief from the minties and snakes, the coffee, the diet coke, the takeaway food, but no relief from me and no relief from each other either.

I thank you for your good will and good humour during the campaign thus far and for allowing me to both give my own press conferences and occasionally wander through yours too.

Election day is almost upon us. It’s always a great celebration of our democracy and our right to vote.

With only two days to go it’s abundantly clear that the election is a cliff hanger. An absolute cliff hanger.

In three days time Australia could wake up with Mr Abbott as the Prime Minister of Australia. It is a very very real possibility and so a very very real risk for Australian families.

That’s why I’m fighting right up until the closing of the polls in as many communities as I can get to. I’m fighting for my positive plan for Australia.

To this end today I want to do two things.

First, to focus on the stark choice before the Australian people.

And second to submit that because of our economic judgements and our economic plan the better choice for working people to meet their cost of living challenge is to re-elect the Government.

In making this case allow me to briefly recall my first words as Prime Minister;

On the 24th of June I said this:

‘I believe in a Government that rewards those who work the hardest, not those who complain the loudest.

I believe in a Government that rewards those who, day in and day out, work in our factories and on our farms, in our mines and in our mills, in our classrooms and in our hospitals.....I believe in a Government that rewards hard work, decency and effort.’

As I’ve travelled around Australia in the hurly burly of this campaign, with the daily ebb and flow of challenges, hard work and excitement there is one constant reminder and it is that day in and day out, our people work for their families, their communities and their country and they work so very hard.

Your average Australian plays by the rules, sets their alarms early, get their kids off to school, stands by their neighbours and loves their country.

What a wonderful people we truly are and what a magnificent country we live in!!

We are a people and a country deserving of a Government that honours them in deeds. A Government that helps them be all they can be. A Government with a plan for our economy and a vision for our country.

This election is about these people. It is not about insider politics nor is it about the alleged political strategies that receive so much commentary. I mean who’d have thought we’d spend time on my alleged political strategy to refer to Mr Abbott as in fact ‘Mr Rabbit’. Oh to be so clever. What an act of evil genius that would have been.

None of this can be allowed to distract from what our people deserve – political leadership offering the right judgement, the better plan and real vision.

That is what I have strived to offer, a real choice founded in the values I bring to the job and the values I see in our people every day.

And the choice is real. I utterly reject this proposition that seems to have become fashionable during the campaign that there is nothing at stake here.

Those slaves to this fashion must not have met me and they most certainly have not met Mr Abbott.

In this campaign, Mr Abbott and I have taken different approaches.

I have sought to lay before the Australian people a positive set of policies that are the building blocks of my vision for this nation – of a nation that offers all of its citizens the opportunity and the responsibility to get work, the opportunity and the responsibility to get a great education, the opportunity and the responsibility to address the challenges of the future together.

By contrast, Mr Abbott seeks your confidence through relentless negativity. At the end of the day, he asks you to protest but presents no plan.

And so before I add to my economic plan, let’s consider the choice – simply and directly - because the time for choosing is upon us!

The Choice

I made a judgement to put my name on stimulus investments for our country. It’s a judgement I’m proud of it. It’s a judgement I’d make once more if ever a challenge of the same dimension reared its ugly head.

By contrast Mr Abbott’s judgement led him to sign on for an Australian recession.

Could there be a more profound difference?

I know what broadband will mean for our economy, our health system and our way of life. I’m excited and enthused by it – the jobs it will create, the growth it will deliver, the new opportunities for education and health care. What about Peggy in Hobart who has her GP now available and on line. She said broadband was her security blanket. G’day Peggy if you’re listening or watching today.

By contrast with this vision, Mr Abbott only seems enamoured with the discovery of the suite of possibilities offered by Face book. Imagine the thrill when he discovers the magic of You Tube.

I will build the National Broadband Network, Mr Abbott will not.

I will also cut tax for all companies, and deliver tax breaks for all small businesses.

Mr Abbott will increase tax on thousands of companies that employ half of the Australian workforce.

Indeed the great irony of this campaign is that Mr Abbott has raised the cost of living as an ‘issue’ with a plan to raise the cost of living ‘itself.’

And it’s even worse since yesterday:

Mr Abbott isn’t content with pushing up the price of groceries – he has his sights set on medicines as well.

His ‘costings’ documents revealed he’ll be pushing up the price of medicines through cuts to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. I’ve already spoken about this today.

Now, that’s not what I’m about. But that’s Tony Abbott – avoiding scrutiny to the bitter end to cover up the brutal truth.

And brutal it is because what was also confirmed yesterday is that the Coalition will be ripping out $4.7 billion from education and training, and replacing this with less than $1.7 billion in new commitments.

They confirmed yesterday that they will cut an additional $1.5 billion from education and training that they have hidden from the Australian people over the first four weeks of the campaign.

These new education and training cuts revealed by the Coalition will cut almost $1 billion dollars from skills and training. This means a loss of 461,000 training places for apprentices, trainees and other workers. 80,000 people who are in training right now, like apprentices and trainees, will have their careers thrown into jeopardy as public funding for their training will be cut.

$330 million in funding will be ripped out of more than 1,600 disadvantaged schools.

$227 million cut from university funding, denying support for 200,000 students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

All up education and training in Australia will be ripped off to the tune of $3 billion dollars. This will impact on the lives of our young people – many will be denied the chance to get the skills they need for the jobs of the future.

This is exactly what I mean when I talk about Tony Abbott taking us backwards.

But the stark choice does not end there.

Could you imagine that I would ever pen a book like, or put my name to a book like ‘Battlelines?’

I submit it’s about as likely as Mr Abbott ever putting his name to the Australian Fair Work Act.

I will keep the fair work laws I created because I believe people should be treated with dignity and respect.

Mr Abbott will fall back in love with Work Choices because we all know it’s an endless love.

I believe our country and our planet are getting warmer and warmer and warmer and I believe we need to act – politicians and their fellow Australians working for change side by side.

I will continue our record investments in solar and renewable energy, bring that energy through new transmission lines to homes and businesses, make sure we never again build a dirty coal fired power station and that we green our cars and our workplaces.

Mr Abbott will pay your money to the biggest polluters, the very polluters responsible for carbon pollution making his judgement that the sceptics are right and the scientists are wrong.

I have great confidence and respect in border protection and naval commanders to exercise their operational discretion when faced with danger. My judgement will always be to back them.

By contrast Mr Abbott will bark orders from HMAS Parliament House – forcing our highly skilled defence men and women to rely on the ‘Canberra Boatphone’ when they are most under pressure.......I ask you, is interfering in operation decision making like this really appropriate for a Prime Minister?

I will boost the superannuation guarantee and reduce superannuation fees, giving an average young Aussie worker about $150,000 more in retirement – dignity in old age just like our pension increase was about dignity for older Australians.

Mr Abbott will do nothing on national savings, instead drawing on his own beliefs and his own words that superannuation is “one of the biggest con jobs ever.” Again, true to form as part of a government that failed to increase the base pension during 12 years in office.

I will bring the budget to surplus in 2013, 3 years ahead of schedule. And I offer this with certainty because as committed to you on this very stage 5 weeks ago, not a single cent has been added to the budget bottom line in this campaign.

I gave that commitment behind this podium. Today I report this commitment has been honoured.

After turbo charging the ‘spendometer’ with a billion dollars a day in un-costed election spending we really don’t know ‘when’ or even ‘if’, Mr Abbott will bring the budget back to surplus despite the ‘bad comedy’ offered up yesterday by Andrew Robb and Joe Hockey.

I will accept on behalf of the taxpayers of Australia the ten and a half billion dollars in additional revenue the mining industry has already agreed to pay. By saying ‘no’ to this Mr Abbott says ‘no’ to Australians having a greater share of their own national inheritance and no to new infrastructure for mining communities.

What kind of strange folly is this? Rejecting ten billion dollars of ‘agreed to’ revenue for our country.

On all of these issues, each and every single one of them, I confidently stand before the electorate.

I confidently stand by my judgement and by my policies and our plans, plans which make my Government best able to help Australians manage their cost of living.

Consider what we have put on the table to date:

The Government and the Cost of Living

Three years in a row the Government has reduced the tax burden on working Australians so that now a person on 50,000 dollars a year is paying $1,750 less tax than they did in 2007.

Through the Education Tax Refund we are helping working families meet the cost of education.

Around 1 million families and 1.7 million students have already benefited. A refund we will now extend to meet the costs of school uniforms as well.

For a family with two kids at school this can mean up to an extra $1550 a year.

Our Child Care Rebate is helping families with the cost of child care. We increased the Child Care Rebate from July 2008 from 30% to 50% providing families with up to $7,500 per child per year. Every family who uses child care is better off under our new Child Care Rebate than they were when Mr Abbott was a Cabinet Minister.

When we came to office the Childcare Rebate was paid yearly – we changed it so the payments came in quarterly – from 1 July 2011, we’ll pay it fortnightly.

In 2012-13, we will move this country towards tick and flick tax returns for many taxpayers with the benefits of a guaranteed $500 tax deduction. The guaranteed deduction will increase to $1,000 in 2013-14, when 6.4 million taxpayers will get a bigger tax refund by just ticking the box.

And we will give this country a better way of encouraging personal savings by delivering a 50% tax discount on the interest you earn on bank accounts, bonds and annuities from 2011-12.

From January 1, our Paid Parental Leave Scheme will commence with around $10,260 paid over 18 weeks before tax to up to 148,000 new parents.

We will also pay up to 4000 dollars a year extra for families of 16-18 year olds on FTB-A who stay in school or training. Families will benefit if their teenagers are in school or training which is so important since the more education and skills you have the better job you can get and the more income you can earn.

Now friends these are real benefits. Take them together and consider a single income family anywhere in Australia with income of $60,000 and a couple of teenagers in high school aged 14 and 16.

They will benefit from a $1,350 reduction in their annual tax compared to three years ago. They can receive up to $778 per child to contribute to the costs of things like books, computers and now uniforms.

They could also get up to $4,000 extra Family Tax Benefit per year for their 16 year old, up to $355 extra in their tax refund due to a $1,000 deduction guarantee, and also up to an extra $200 in Family Tax Benefit due to a lower taxable income with the guarantee.

Or take a family with one child aged 3 and one more on the way. They can receive the increased child care rebate. For a family on $80,000 with one child in full time care, our changes amount to an increase of $2,239 per year. When their new baby arrives, they will also receive 18 weeks of paid parental leave, at $570 per week.

And today I’m delighted to announce the next instalment of our plan to ease the pressure on the family budget and to give parents more time with their children.

This announcement is fully funded and affordable. It builds on these important improvements.

I announce today my Government will provide further paid parental leave support for fathers and other partners to spend time at home with their new baby.

The first few weeks settling in a new baby at home is exciting but also challenging for new parents with long days, not much sleep and the relentless extra bills.

Most working fathers take some time off work around the birth of a child to be with their family, but this is usually for a short period and can be at some cost.

From 1 July 2012, we will provide eligible working fathers and partners with two weeks Paid Paternity Leave at the national minimum wage – currently $570 a week.

The payment will provide financial support to fathers and other partners who normally have to take unpaid leave to be at home with their child.

Around 220,000 fathers and other partners who are providing full time care or sharing the child’s care, and who meet the work and income tests will be able to access the payment.

Funding for this commitment will be fully offset over the forward estimates ensuring once again that under my Government we return the budget to surplus in three years time, three years early.

Fully funded, affordable and distinguished from the Opposition’s plan – our plan does not increase the grocery bill because we are reducing company tax not increasing it.

And so for all those ‘Dads to be’ right across Australia, wherever you are, we’ll make sure you can spend quality time with Mum and with the new baby with money still coming in.

This is good news for families right across Australia and another part of my positive plan.

Conclusion

Friends, in conclusion, I am campaigning as hard as I can in every part of Australia because I love my country and because I deeply believe my plan and my judgement are right for Australia.

We are in one of the closest election contests in Australian history with the starkest of choices to be made.

I present to the Australian people the better plan for a strong economy and for the benefits and dignity of work.

I present with a better plan to help you manage your cost of living.

I present with my passion and determination to give every child a great education and invest in the skills and capacity of the Australian people.

I present with a comprehensive plan to deliver health care including more doctors, more nurses and harnessing the power of the National Broadband Network.

I present with my vision for Australia. And on Saturday in the tightest of contests, I ask you to reject the risk to your family’s future posed by Mr Abbott and to endorse my positive plan for our wonderful country.

I thank you.

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CANBERRA

19 August 2010

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