VISION AND VALUES
1. What are your plans for a fairer Australia?
I am fundamentally committed to the fair go. I know we have to fight for it. Labor Governments take on discrimination, in whatever form.
Whether that be gender, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, or who you happen to love – everyone should be part of the fair go in Australia.
I see an Australia where everyone gets a chance to get ahead. That means Labor will be clear about supporting opportunity through education, whether it be early childhood, school, vocational or tertiary.
We should be a nation where you know that the school your child goes to is the best, no matter what suburb or town you live in, no matter what system you choose for your child. Where if you want a trade, you can get a training place and where you know that your work is rewarded and that you will get a fair go in your workplace.
Labor governments gave me that kind of opportunity in my life and I want everyone to have the same.
I fought for these values since I was elected the member for Grayndler in 1996. I fought for fairness and economic opportunity as a senior minister in the Government for six years, and as Deputy Prime Minister – and I will fight for them if I am elected Leader of the Opposition.
I believe that Australians are fair and fair minded. The notion of a fair go is a key tenet of Australian society, through our communities, our schools and workplaces. Fighting for a fair go is the Labor way.
I’ve spoken a lot about building what I call the Good Society in Australia. To be honest I believe a Good Society should be a goal and legacy of the Australian Labor Party. My vision of the Australian Good Society starts and ends with the fair go.
It is about simple and honest goals for our each of us, our families, workplaces and communities.?To me, the key elements of the Good Society, and a fairer Australia, are:
A prosperous, productive and diverse economy, where men and women are working good jobs, are treated decently, and are paid generously, so that they can look after their kids and lead productive, fulfilling lives where well-being and resilience are central. This is the real fair go.
Affordable housing, not just a roof over our heads, whether people are buying their own homes or renting.
The best health system in the world, accessible to all, regardless of the size of one’s wallet.
Looking out for those most in need – the unemployed, disabled and pensioners.
Generous parental leave and widely available, affordable childcare.
Providing lifelong learning - starting from kindergarten, building through primary and secondary schooling and leading to wide access to university education and vocational training. A Good Society believes that just before our people begin their first job but throughout their working lives.
Communities that are diverse, tolerant and safe places to live and well served by transport and infrastructure.
A clean environment so that our kids can one day dream of creating their own good society and not have to remedy problems their parents neglected to address.
The Good Society is about making sure Australians can lead a good life, a meaningful life, a fulfilling life and a long life.
These are just some the things I want for every Australian and for every community across Australia – to make sure the fair go that underpins our identity isn’t corrupted or diluted or eroded into the future.
That’s why we need to be a strong and effective Labor Party to fight whatever Tony Abbott has planned for Australia that might diminish the fair go or undermine the reforms we achieved in Government.
2. It’s sometimes hard to differentiate between the two major parties. What do you consider to be Labor’s key values and how do they fit with a decision like the one to cut the single parent benefit which further disadvantages vulnerable families?
I believe the decision on the single parent benefit in the previous Government was a mistake.
The best way I can describe my view of Labor’s key values is this: we believe in an Australia which has a strong economy that benefits everyone and where everyone has opportunity, with a sustainable environment and a fair go for everyone. I support a strong safety net, so that those on low-wages have security and can get ahead.
Those Labor values were strong in the Rudd and Gillard Governments and I want to keep it that way.
We did an enormous amount for vulnerable people and I’m very proud of our record, from mental health and homelessness, to wages for low-paid workers and fair pay for women– and above all we saved jobs during the GFC and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the years since.
I simply don’t agree with those that say there is no difference between Labor and the Conservatives.
Labor is the party of building – building a Good Society, our economy, our communities, schools, hospitals and giving the chance for all Australians to build a strong and positive sense of self.
Contrast this with the Conservatives who are about cutting key services, entitlements and protections and reducing Australians to items on a balance sheet.?Just look at some of Labor’s record in Government:
- We put Work Choices into the wheely bin of history and put in place Fair Work;
- We created nearly 1 million new jobs and saved hundreds of thousands more during the GFC;
- We put in place Australia’s first paid parental leave and Dad and Partner Pay Schemes;
- We lifted superannuation for Australian workers from 9 not 12%;
- We put a price on carbon pollution;
- We created the National Disability Insurance Scheme;
- We introduced the most far-reaching education funding reforms – known as Better Schools – in four decades; and
- We started building the National Broadband Network.
I can’t say that every action Labor took in Government was, in hindsight, the right one.
But whether or not I am elected Leader of the Australian Labor Party I will be guided by Labor values, which are my values – fairness, equity, community, inclusiveness and economic responsibility.
3. A lot of working people don’t feel that the Labor party represents them. How would you address this if elected party leader?
In government we delivered nearly a million jobs in Australia while millions were being lost overseas. Labor will always be the party that listens to working people and that speaks for working people.
We must not let vested interests or powerful conservative voices distract us from that job.
Unions like United Voice have led the way in giving members of the union a voice on not just their workplaces, but what Australia’s future looks like. Labor, as a party, has always done the same.
I’d also point out that my story is a Labor story. I grew up in Council housing, with a single mum who was on a disability support pension. I was the first person in my family to complete high school, let alone university.
Labor made a difference to my life.
That is what Labor governments can do. We seek to govern not as an end in itself, but because we understand that government can provide opportunity and improve people’s lives.
This is what working people need and deserve from Labor.
If you come across someone who says the Labor Party doesn’t represent them, consider the following:
Labor represents you if you care about your child’s education, your family’s health, you want to see a disabled relative or friend get appropriate care - because it is Labor that supports investment in each of these policy areas.
Labor represents you if you are paying your mortgage, have superannuation, want to work flexibly, rely on fair wages and conditions to make ends meet each week or just want a fair go at work - because Labor is the party of Fair Work.
Labor represents you if you care about your environment, drive or commute to work, want fast and reliable broadband, care about your community and those who are vulnerable - because Labor is the party with a vision about what the future of Australia should be and the drive to take us there.
Labor is the party of working people. I am proud of our Party’s great history.
The challenge for us now is to transform the Labor Party into a community that people want to join and have represent them. I have devoted to my life to working for the labour movement.
The greatest lesson I learnt in those three decades is the need to listen to others. If I am elected as Leader of our great Party I will spend my time listening to the concerns and needs of working people, of engaging with our community and our membership.
I want more Australians to join our Party so that more Australians can have their voice heard and reflected in our policies and campaigns.
That’s why I will spend my time making sure that working Australians understand that it is the Labor Party that represents them, their families and their futures
4. What role do you believe the federal government has to play to address the spiralling cost of housing in Australia in the medium to long term?
The Federal Government can play an active role in the growth and planning of our cities. That’s what I did as Infrastructure Minister.
As Labor Leader I would have a Shadow Minister for Cities to develop new ideas in this area. I would also have a Shadow Minister for Regional Development – we know that smart plans to develop regional centres can take pressure off quality of life in our suburbs.
The Federal Government should also look at measures to address housing supply, both public and private.
Safe and secure accommodation is a right that all Australians should enjoy.
Affordable housing must be delivered for those of us who are buying homes and paying off mortgages, but also for those who are renting, in temporary accommodation or social housing.
To me this is part and parcel of providing a Good Society and a fair go to all Australians and their families. I’m proud of Labor’s achievements in helping to deliver affordable housing.
This includes keeping the Australian construction industry strong during the global financial crisis and delivering consistently low interest rates to help Australian families paying off their mortgages.
We also provided over 21,000 new homes across Australia through our $6 billion investment in social housing and delivered the $4.5 billion National Rental Affordability Scheme to assist in the private sector construction of 50,000 affordable rental homes.
Through the National Rental Affordability Scheme companies build new homes and agree to rent them to tenants on low or moderate incomes at 20 per cent below the market rate.
In Opposition I will also continue to champion Labor’s commitment to halve the rate of homelessness and provide supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020.
5. What are your plans to ensure all Australians have access to quality public services?
Quality public services like education and health are essential to giving every Australian the opportunity to get ahead in life. Adequate public funding is essential to having quality public services.
We should not just outsource and privatise government services blindly like the Liberals do – we’ve seen where that often takes us.
I’d also point out that while we defend public service from cuts, we need to be looking at how we resource the challenges of the future. Aged care and childcare are priority areas, with an aging population and increasing fragmentation of work.
Labor has a strong record of delivering public services and I will both defend our legacy in Opposition and build on those achievements if I am elected Leader of the Labor Party.??Labor believes in fairness and equity for all Australians.
Our investments in childcare, the NBN and health care show that we are committed to delivering public services to all Australians no matter what their income or where they live.
As the former Minister for Education I want to mention in particular Labor’s Better Schools Plan. I believe that every Australian child deserves to be given every opportunity to reach their full potential – and a big part of that is what happens at school.
That’s why I was proud to be the Minister for Education and drive so many States and Territories, Catholic and Independent Schools to sign up to the Better Schools Plan.
The BSP will deliver over $15 billion for our schools over the next six years to 2019. This means, on average around $1.6 million per school or an extra $4,000 per student. What this will mean is more specialised services like numeracy and literacy specialists to support our kids, programs to benefit kids with particular needs including those with disability or extension activities for kids with special talents, more teacher aids, librarians and science lab technicians and the like.
The Better Schools Plan builds on the Labor Government’s investment in school infrastructure through the $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution program.
When I was Minister I visited many schools where one of the 23,000 BER projects was completed and was struck by the fact that so many of the school halls built through BER weren’t just being used by the school to support their activities, but were being used to support all manner of activities to support the local community – from sport to social gatherings and community club meetings.
6. What ideas do you have to increase permanent employment to give working people more security?
Millions of Australians go to work every day with no certainty over their family income and family budgets.
I know that many members of United Voice find themselves in this position. Addressing insecure work is a fundamental challenge for the next Labor government. Starting with the work done by the ACTU on this issue, I will work with unions, business and other stakeholders to develop Labor’s next policy in this area.
I want all Australians to have a good job.
It’s where we earn our income, shape our lifestyles and build savings for our retirement. Labor created almost 1 million jobs during our time in office, including protecting Australian jobs through the GFC when many millions of people around the world lost their own.
We implemented the Fair Work laws to protect workers wages and entitlements, but also to protect their job security through unfair dismissal protections, protections against discrimination and adverse action, protections through strong support for trade unions, consultation and representation at work.
In a time when our economy is changing we need to think about where the good jobs of the future will come from and how do we prepare Australians for that time. At the moment we talk about the mining boom, but it is the boom in professional services that will drive our jobs and economy into the future.
We need to make sure our workforce is protected in their current jobs and is well skilled and well equipped to meet the challenges of a changing economy.
This means supporting life long learning and skills development, ensuring our workplaces are productive, innovative and competitive. If we do these things then the good jobs of the future will be build in Australia and Australian workers will be skilled and ready to embrace them.
But we also need to make sure our workplaces support our workers. You shouldn’t be forced to leave a job because you have to care for an elderly relative or sick child or because you can’t find affordable chid care that fits with your shifts.
As Minister for Workplace Relations I implemented better arrangements for workers who need flexible work, for parents who need to take time out from work to care for children, and for workers with other responsibilities or concerns to request flexible working arrangements.
I also put in place requirements for employers to consult with employees about the impact of roster changes on their family responsibilities.
7. What are you going to do to unite the Labor party?
We need a Leader with the vision, unity and strength to take our party, and our nation forward.
I am a team player. For our political future, nothing matters more than this. I know how angry and frustrated our members and supporters have been in the past about our internal issues. They have distracted us from talking about our strong reforms for working people and their families.
I think this process of electing Labor’s leader is the first step in putting that behind us. Whoever is successful in this ballot will have more legitimacy than any Labor leader ever – with the support of tens of thousands of people. And I am genuinely confident that my colleagues know how important it is that they do the right thing and unite behind whoever is the Leader.
If I am elected as the leader of the Australian Labor party I will lead a team of equals.
One of my political heroes is Bob Hawke and I am inspired by the collegiate and collaborative Labor team he led.
Members of caucus and the rank-and-file membership will be encouraged to speak their minds and debate issuers with passion and courtesy. At the same time I will be encouraging all members of the Labor Party to refrain from personal attacks.
If Laborites have an issue with another member, parliamentary or otherwise, my advice is go into an empty room and say it to no-one. I want our party to rule a line under the divisions of the Rudd/Gillard era.
I want the Labor Party to be a movement of ideas and not of personalities.
That’s the best path towards unity and the only way we can win the next election.
8. What plans do you have for the new direction of the Labor party and how do you plan to involve union and ALP members in developing this vision and having a greater say in the party?
I am running as the candidate who will change Labor. This ballot is only the beginning.
It won’t be the last ballot for Leader in our Party and it should not be the limit of new democracy in our party either.
I am certain that we have to change. We have to do better. We need a bigger Labor Party, where members get more of a say on the important issues.
We have to rebuild Labor so that it is a party deeply connected to the communities and everyday lives of working people.
I see union members as critical to this. There are millions of union members, and millions of union families around Australia. I want to see people in the union movement enthusiastic about the Labor Party and participating as equals.
I joined Labor 29 years ago because I wanted to make a difference.
Labor is the party of ideas and action – ideas that empower the powerless, actions that build a better Australia. Our track-record in Government shows that we turn ideas into action. But make no mistake: this is a tough time for our movement.
The Australian people spoke definitively on September 7.
We cannot ignore that only 34 in every 100 Australians gave us their first vote. Today, there is great task before our movement. Labor must do better.
The job for all members of the ALP if I am elected as leader is plain:
We must bring the party together and bring more people – from diverse backgrounds - into our movement.
We must carefully and thoughtfully develop the big ideas and policies which will make Australia a better place.
And we must work tirelessly to rebuild the people’s trust in our movement. Above all we must listen. Voting in this leadership ballot is the first step in our journey. This vote begins a new relationship between the membership and the Parliamentary Party.
With your help I want to rebuild our party from the bottom up. I can think of no Australians more qualified to help with this task than union members.
I will be strongly encouraging them to join as a rank and file members and contribute to our rebuilding and our big policy debates.
You can read more about my Plan at: http://billforlabor.nationbuilder.com
9. Unions started the Labor Party as a voice for working people. How do you see the relationship between unions and the party in the future and what changes, if any, would you make to this relationship?
The Australian labour movement has been a driver of progress and fairness in our political and economic history.
I support the continued affiliation between unions and the Australian Labor Party and I support union members getting more involved in a more open and participatory Labor Party.
Strong, active unions that fight for working people are absolutely in the Labor interest – it is only under Labor governments that working people and unions make great progress for fairness and decency in the workplace.
This means we must work together to ensure that we have a strong Labor Party, in touch with the community and progressive values ready to challenge conservatives and take government.
As Transport Minister, I worked with the TWU to deliver SafeRates for truck drivers and I worked with the MUA to deliver shipping reform for Australian seafarers.
As Leader of the House, I worked with United Voice to deliver equal pay legislation for community workers and historic improvements in pay and conditions for aged care workers and early childhood educators through a minority Parliament.
Delivering with union members is what I have done and I’ll fight to keep those achievements in the next three years.
The Labor Party is called a Labor party for a very good reason.
Just as I am a life long member of the Labor Party, I am a life long trade unionist.
We are a part of a wider labour movement. Always have been and always will be. Unions keep Labor grounded and in touch with workers. The relationship between unions and Labor is fundamental not just to our past but also to our future.
It is a relationship which must never be broken.??But I do believe that Labor must modernise its relationship with the union movement if it is to remain a viable force. Modernising the relationship between unions and Labor means strengthening the role individual union members play in the Labor Party.
I’d like to see individual union members play a vastly expanded role in setting party policy, campaigning and rebuilding our party from the bottom up.