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A party for the future: address to the National Conference of the Australian Labor Party, Sydney.

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27 APRIL 2007


There comes a time in the affairs of nations when they are forced to think afresh about the challenges they face for the future.

Sometimes this happens at a time of crisis - such as when the very existence of the nation itself is under threat.

Other times it happens gradually - when changes evolve into challenges, and when challenges are left unintended they evolve into threats.

One thing we know for certain is that the history of nations is made up of those who understand, anticipate and act on the challenges of the future.

And those who do not.

Those who instead bury their heads in the sand. Those who hope it will all just go away.


And that, friends, is the crossroads we are approaching today, here in this great land of ours, Australia.

This country has been crafted from a continent through the blood, sweat and tears of all those who have gone before us.

We are not here because of good luck.

We are here because we are by instinct a people of nation builders a people whose sleeves are rolled up, determined to carve out a future for ourselves, for our families and to carve out a future for our nation.

We have faced great threats and challenges in the past - through drought, through depression, the threat of invasion.

And we came through because we looked the future squarely in the face, squarely in the eyes and responded to the challenge.

Friends, the Labor Party at its best has always been the navigators of the nation’s future.

The Australian people turned to Labor in the darkest days of the last world war under Curtin, and Curtin, seeing clearly the new reality, turned to America without pang or regret. And so the nation was saved.

They turned again to Labor. Some 23 years of opportunity had been lost and wasted by a coalition in office for too long. A Coalition whose policy produced a crisis of confidence in our universities, our hospitals and our place in the world.

And the nation again turned to Labor in the 80s and 90s to engineer the monumental task of turning around the nation’s economy - from one which in the past looked inwards, to one which in the future looked outwards and looked outwards with confidence.

And that, friends is where we find ourselves again today - a nation facing new challenges for the future, but a nation now led by a government so anchored in the past that it can’t even see the



Challenges to our long term prosperity once this mining boom is over.

Challenges driven by the new technologies that are radically reshaping the economy of tomorrow.

The challenge of militant Islamism and how we respond to the complexity of its threat - in substance rather than in sound bite.

The great moral, economic and environmental challenge of our age in climate change and its impact on water - the very sources of our national life and our international life.

Then there is the deeply flawed federation itself, requiring reform, requiring fundamental reform so that the nation’s system of government can deal effectively with the great array of challenges we now face.

Underpinning all of this is the fair go - and whether in this country the fair go has a future, and not just a past.

Our goal in one sentence is this.

To build Australia’s long-term prosperity without throwing the fair go out the back door. That is the Labor way.

The Labor Party at its best has always been the navigator of the nation’s future.

The conservatives, at their worst, so anchored in the past, so dedicated to the status quo, failing often to even acknowledge the challenges of the future.

And that is what this election in just a few months time is all about: It is about the future versus the past.

And we, friends, we are the party of the future.

And our opponents are the party of the past.

Our opponents won a convincing victory at the last election.


But rather than seize the opportunity that history had given them and lay out the foundations for this country’s long term future, they squandered it.

Even worse than that, they didn’t just squander the opportunity - they abused the opportunity.

They have failed to focus on the investment in the future productive capacity of our nation.

No attempt to prepare the nation for the great challenge of climate change. Not one.

In fact, the entire history of this government is one of opportunities lost rather than opportunities seized.

Instead, having seized control of the Senate at the last election, rather than embrace the challenges of the future, they succumbed instead to the ideologies of the past.

Friends, our core argument to the Australian people is this:

• First, Mr Howard has abused the power he’s been given by the Australian people.

• He’s squandered the opportunity he’s been given to prepare Australia for its future.

• And instead he’s introduced his unfair industrial relations laws - laws which every reasonable Australians now recognise as having gone just too far;

• And our second argument is this, I intend to throw out Mr Howard’s industrial laws lock, stock and barrel -

• And I say this, I would do so without apology because these laws are unfair and because I believe this party and it’s movement can build long term prosperity for Australia without throwing the fair go out the back door - that is the Labor way


• Third, having restored these fundamentals, our intention is to face with confidence, with determination, with fresh ideas the great challenges facing our nation’s future.

Building long term prosperity once the mining boom is over.

Investing in an Education Revolution.

Acting on climate change and water.

And ending the blame game between Canberra and the States.

That, friends, is our argument to the Australian people.

And that friends is the argument, I believe in which we will prevail.

Labor Values

In rising to the challenges of the future, as a party, and as a movement, we are shaped so much by the values of our past.

Labor values are good values.

Labor values are Australian values.

They are values which build up rather than tear down.

They are values which unite rather than divide.

They are values which embrace our need to look after ourselves and our families.

Just as they are values which embrace our parallel responsibility to look after one another, to look after our community, to look after our country, to look after our planet.

This is what Ben Chifley meant 57 years ago when he talked of Labor and the “light on the hill”. His vision then, our vision now, our vision for the future.

Labor believes in the values of security, liberty and opportunity - for all not just for some.


Security for the nation and security for the working families that make up the nation, have been the cornerstone of our party and our movement from the start.

We fought for liberty in the great strikes of 1891- the shearers of Western Queensland, the maritime workers of the ports of Melbourne - so that all might be free, not just some.

We are the party of opportunity - again opportunity for all not just for some - a party which believes in its heart, a party which believes in its mind that every child should be given every opportunity in life, irrespective of where they’ve grown up and what income their parents might have. That is the Labor way.

Equally we are a party of equity, a party of solidarity and a party which embraces sustainability.

On equity, we believe that every Australian should have access to a first class health system when they need it, rather than a second class system for those without means.

We believe in solidarity of a social safety net for all Australians.

So that when tragedy strikes, as it almost always does, then we extend the warm heart of compassion rather than the cold dead hand of indifference. Compassion is not a dirty word. It’s time we rehabilitated compassion in the national, political vocabulary of this great nation of ours - Australia. It’s a term not used much in recent discourse by the Government we have in Canberra.

And we the movement believe in the sustainability of this marvellous planet, the Earth itself.

And our responsibility to deliver to our children an environmental inheritance for the future that sustains them rather than imperils them.

We must stop playing fast and loose with the inheritance of our children and our grandchildren.

Underpinning all the above there is, what we in this movement have called for the last century or more, the great Australian “fair go” for all.


This movement, and this party, should be proud of the fact that we have grafted the fair go into the Australian soul. That is our legacy to the nation.

It was not always thus.

The history of 19th century colonial Australia was bleak and barren when it came to the lot of working peoples.

Fairness and a fair go for all had to be fought for.

And fight we did.

And we prevailed.

Labor prevailed.

And so the history of our continent, our country, and our culture was changed forever.

The reason why Lawson and Paterson could celebrate these things in ballad and in verse is because our movement delivered to them the living examples of our people at work.

Labor people at work. Labor people fighting for justice in their time, in their workplaces and in the circumstances in which they found themselves.

These are the values of which we as a movement should be proud.

Because the truth friends is this: they are good values.

We stand for community, we stand for country and we stand for the planet.

By contrast the conservatives stand for their three great ennobling values me, myself and I.

The contrast is as stark as it is deep.

We stand for something bigger than ourselves and our self interest.


They, once the window dressing is removed, do not.

And that is why across this nation, well beyond the ranks of our movement, there is now, after 11 long years, a great and growing disquiet about the government of this country.

The Australian people fear that they are now led by a government without a heart.

They see it with children overboard.

They see it with Vivian Alvarez.

And they see it with the weak and defenceless in workplaces now governed with Mr Howard’s unfair industrial relations laws.

They’ve seen it now for too long, the see it for too long, too long, too long and they want a change.

The Australian people want prosperity.

But they want prosperity with a heart.

Prosperity without throwing the fair go out the back door.

Labor Achievements

These then are Labor’s values.

They are values which have shaped our past.

They are values which will continue to shape our future. They are enduring values.

They represent the continuing thread that unites the Labor narrative - constant values, applied to the changing circumstances confronted by one generation after another.

Just as we should be proud of these values, we should equally be proud of the achievements we have built on the back of these values over more than a century.


Under Fisher we introduced maternity allowances and workers compensation, and implemented the first old age and invalid pensions.

Under Fisher, the Commonwealth took control of the issuing of bank notes, thereby enabling the issuing of our first national currency.

And again under Fisher the Royal Australian Navy (not as a subset of the British Imperial Fleet) was formed.

Under Curtin, the Commonwealth assumed control over taxation powers.

Under Curtin, Australia played a significant role in the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944, shaping the post-war architecture of the international order.

And it was Curtin, critically, who formed our alliance with the United States.

Under Chifley, we established the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Under Chifley, we engineered the post-war migration scheme which literally shaped the face of modern Australia.

Under Chifley, we established the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement.

Under Chifley, we oversaw post-war economic reconstruction.

And it was under Chifley that we played a central diplomatic role in the formation of the United Nations, in the establishment of an independent Indonesian Republic. And on top of that in the UN Commission on Palestine which led to the creation of the modern state of Israel.

This nation building tradition is part of our heart and our soul and our DNA. And it has continued through Whitlam, through Hawke and through Keating.

The establishment of Medibank and later Medicare.


The rapid rise of access to our universities.

The internationalisation of the economy - a difficult, protracted and politically costly process of reform that we all know laid the foundations for the prosperity we now take for granted in contemporary Australia.

We also established superannuation entitlements for all working families - not just for some.

A reform which has now created more than one trillion dollars of funds under management in Australia - and by the way on the way through it’s created the fourth largest funds management industry in the world.

Not bad for a Labor initiative.

And on the world stage, a continuation of an activist foreign policy, with the recognition of China, the negotiation of the Cambodian peace settlement, and the establishment of APEC.

And as we gather, therefore, today, at this the 44th National Conference of the great Australian Labor Party, we should remind ourselves here and in this continent we are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Just as we should reflect for a moment that these giants of Labor’s past are looking to us in this generation to take their vision - to take Labor’s vision forward into the new century.

And that friends, is our calling today, before so great a crowd of witnesses, both witnesses past and witnesses present.

The steady gaze of Watson, of Fisher, and of Curtin and of Chifley - confronting us with the challenge of our time.

Urging us never to give up.

Urging us never to give up. Urging us always to keep the faith.

As others have said before me, it has been Labor’s responsibility to carve out so much of Australia’s diplomatic, economic and social history - our national history, our international history.


And by contrast, the conservatives have seen it as their lot to seek to un-write, re-write and destroy the history once we have written it. That’s what conservatives do.

Labor is proud of its past.

Just as Labor is equally confident of its future.

Future challenges

What then friends does the future hold for this land of ours, Australia?

I am an unabashed optimist about this country’s future. I’m unabashed when it comes to our country’s long term future.

I see opportunities everywhere.

I see opportunities for working families.

I see opportunities for business large and small.

For science, for innovation, for research.

For our schools, our tech colleges, our universities.

And, despite the challenges, for Indigenous Australians, I see opportunities for our Indigenous friends as well. Members of our Indigenous family.

I refuse to sign up to the doom and gloom brigade.

I never have.

And I never will.

Because informed by our past, I am confident of what we can achieve together for our future.

But friends, a sunny optimism by itself will not deliver practical results. It’s a hard business - politics.


We must be clear-sighted and hard-headed about the challenges we face in the future.

A core part of leadership lies in clearly identifying for the nation the future challenges we all face.

Rather than denying that those challenges exist at all.

When I look to the next decade, the future that I see for Australia is one fundamentally shaped by the rise of China and the rise of India.

And I ask myself: is Australia ready for it?

In the future I see for Australia I also see one shaped by the rise of militant Islamism (not just in the Middle East but also in Islamic South East Asia).

And I ask myself again: is Australia ready for it?

The future I see for Australia is one in which our current mining boom does not last forever, and rather than simply being the lucky country, instead of a country which makes its own luck.

And again I ask myself this question: is Australia ready for it?

The future I see for our country is one challenged by long term question of energy security, climate change, and its impacts on water security, food security and national security.

And again I ask myself this question: are we ready for it?

And on the ageing of our population and its impact on immigration policy, social security and health policy as well as workforce participation.

Beyond the two volumes of an Intergenerational Report I ask: have we, as a nation, really done enough to prepare for our date with destiny that demographic change is about to deliver to us all?

And what of the challenge of Indigenous Australia in this the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum? How can we continue to tolerate as a prosperous nation Indigenous children under the age


of five being five times more likely to die than non-Indigenous children?

And again I ask, what have all of us done as a nation to remove this blight on the nation’s soul.

When I look into the future, therefore, I see this great array of challenges within the public policy of this country - challenges which will form centre stage for the rest of my working life, in

whatever capacity may be my privilege to serve in this country in the future.

These are the challenges which occupy my mind.

They are also the challenges which must occupy the nation’s mind.

And their urgency demands that they no longer sit at the margins of our national debate - but rather at the very centre, the epicentre of our national political life.

Because for Australia, the stakes are high.

Different approaches

How then should we approach these great challenges of our generation?

What attitude should we bring to bear?

And what attitude do our opponents bring to bear?

The contrast friends, is stark indeed.

After 11 long years in office, Mr Howard is increasingly arrogant and out of touch.

Mr Howard told Parliament recently that Australian working families had never been better off. Australian working families he said have never been better off. Never been better off.

Does he mean that when working families are shouldering record levels of personal debt that these working families have “never been better off”?


Does he mean that when housing for working families is now less affordable than any time in our history, that working families have “never been better off”?

Does he mean that when families are trying to put their children through universities and those children are facing record HECS debts, that these working families “have never been better off”?

If ever there was a single statement from Mr Howard that says that he has now become arrogant and out of touch, it is his statement to the Parliament that working families “have never been better off”.

It’s the sort of statement that political leaders make when they have been in office far too long.

It shows Mr Howard turning his back on those whom he once described as the Howard battlers.

But it is not just that Mr Howard has become arrogant and out of touch (because I think the John Howard of yesterday would never have allowed himself to say something like that).

It is also that Mr Howard is simply stuck in the past.

He has run out of ideas. Mr Howard doesn’t really believe in a single idea which didn’t appear on black and white television. No one is a bigger fan of Ward Cleaver than me, but I’ve got news for Mr Howard, the world has changed since Leave it to Beaver. The world has changed since Leave it to Beaver.

And to conceal his absence of ideas, he now is increasingly driven by short term politics in order to cling onto long term political office.

And all this is driven by the fact that Mr Howard is the most clever politician this country has seen in a generation.

Prepared to do anything, to say anything in the months before an election, in order to cling on to naked, political power because that is what fires his soul.

Remember it’s this arrogance that has delivered us the sad litany of Children Overboard when our Prime Minister told the nation that


asylum seekers had thrown their children into the water, when he had already been told that this was not true.

The illegal deportation of Vivian Alvarez.

The failure to act on the reports of Iraqi prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

The $300 million dollar Wheat for Weapons Scandal, when despite 33 separate warnings over a five year period, Mr Howard’s Government blithely signed off on $300 million worth of bribes to an Iraqi dictator, to enable Saddam Hussein to buy guns, bombs and bullets, for what purpose, to be later used against Australian troops? Arrogance in office.

And then the spectacular debacle of the Iraq war itself - the single greatest foreign policy disaster and national security policy disaster that this country has seen since Vietnam. And they call themselves the national party of national security.

So much for their past record.

But what of their ability to deal with the challenges of the future - this is the core argument I put before this Conference and to this country.

A government so trapped in the past, so dismissive of the challenges we now face, that a government that has become instead a risk to our future.

Australia can no longer afford to have a government which is so stuck in the past, decisively stuck in the past.

It needs a government which understands the future and is not fearful of the future.

Australia can no longer afford a government which has run out of ideas. It needs a Government with fresh ideas.

Australia no longer can afford a Government driven exclusively by short term politics. Instead Australia deserves and needs a government which is driven by the need for long term solutions.


And Australia needs a Prime Minister who is more - much, much more - than just being a clever politician.

And the time for change, friends, is fast approaching.

Different policies

When I became leader of the Federal Labor Party, I said in my first press conference that Australia faced a fork in the road.

In fact I said Australia faced quite a number of forks in the road.

More forks than your average cutlery service - causing some considerable merriment on the part of my friends in the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery.

I said Australia would face big decisions on our nation’s future, on our prosperity; on balancing fairness and flexibility in the workplace; on climate change, on water; on national security; and

on the need to end the blame game.

For the last several months, together with my colleagues, we have been busy putting flesh on the bones.

And I said to my colleagues on many occasions: we will not win this election on the basis of a protest vote against Mr Howard alone.

We will win this election on the basis of our alternative plans for this nation’s future. And friends, I’ve got news, we’ve been hard at work.

So what have we done?

On long term prosperity, Mr Howard’s script is blank.

He hopes the mining boom will last forever.

A mining boom which masks the disturbing fact that since the end of the 90’s, Australia has been suffering declining productivity growth.


This is the soft underbelly of this Government’s economic performance, and they know it.

The Reserve Bank knows it.

The Treasury knows it.

The Productivity Commission knows it.

But the government still does nothing about it.

So what is our alternative plan?

It is to boost long term economic growth by boosting productivity growth by investing in an Education Revolution.

For us friends, in this movement, the Labor movement, education is the engine room of the economy just as education is the engine room of equity.

But Mr Howard’s record on investment in education, skills and training has been abysmal when contrasted with other major western economies.

What do we mean by an Education Revolution? Let me take you through it.

Chapter 1 - a half billion dollar investment in Early Childhood Education to enable all four year olds across the nation for 15 hours a week for 40 weeks a year to be exposed to pre-literacy and pre numeracy education before they hit the school system.

A great Labor initiative.

Chapter 2 - in Labor’s Education Revolution to encourage the teaching of maths and science in our schools and in our universities by halving HECS for those studying maths and science at universities and then by halving HECS again if they choose to pursue a career teaching or working in maths and science these core enabling disciplines for our long term economic future.

Again, a Labor initiative.


Chapter 3 of Labor’s Education Revolution a new national curriculum in the core subjects of Maths, Science, in English and History to be done collaboratively with the States and Territories through a new National Curriculum Board.

Again a great Labor national initiative.

Chapter 4 - A plan for schools to share state of the art facilities such as science laboratories and sporting fields.

Another great initiative.

Chapter 5 - A new national action plan on literacy and numeracy whereby we test the little ones when they arrive in their first year of primary school. Work out what needs they have and provide our friends in the States and Territories with the resources necessary to intervene when it makes a difference. The earlier you intervene, the greater the difference is made to a child’s later development.

All these are great Labor initiatives.

The heart and the soul and the substance of Labor’s Education Revolution.

To the Education Revolution we’ve added a massive investment of up to $4.7 billion in a new National Broadband Network to be made available to 98 per cent of Australians.

This will be fibre optic to the node.

12 megabits per second - and capable of up-scaling.

And it will be laid out over 5 years in partnership with the private sector.

In the 19th century we build railroads. In the 21st century, nation builders are laying out new high-speed railways of the future and it’s called broadband.

We have that vision and we have that plan and we have acted on it while the Government has sat there in stony silence.


Because this Government rather than laying out a broadband network, has not been laying out anything at all.

A High-speed National Broadband Network helps turbo charge businesses, small businesses in particular. It assists E-Education, E-Health.

And it helps overcome the tyranny of distance for those in regional and remote Australia.

But once again Australia has fallen badly behind our competitors while this government has fiddled, and fiddled and fiddled some more.

They ridiculed our proposal when we first put it out only a few weeks ago. Guess what? They’ve shut up. Why did they shut up? Because everyone around the country says this is a very good idea.

This is a big Labor nation building initiative of which we as a party and a movement should be proud.

It’s Labor to its bootstraps.

Tackling business regulation is also critical if we are to boost the productivity of Australian companies.

Mr Howard has not generated an Education Revolution. Mr Howard has created a red tape revolution. A red tape revolution which is out there creating a compliance nightmare for the Australian business community.

The creativity of businesses is being strangled by the compliance burden which Mr Howard has imposed on them.

And we intend to put a stop to it.

Some say this is not the normal sort of thing that Labor Government’s are supposed to get up to.

I disagree.

And I intend in Government to do it.


Our Education policies, our high-speed broadband infrastructure policy, our business regulatory reform policy and our focus on research and innovation, are all designed to unleash the creativity and enterprise of business.

Small business is the backbone of the Australian economy.

And we want to get as much of the compliance muck off the back of small business as humanely possible.

I believe passionately in rewarding hard work, achievement and success.

And that means getting in and backing the business community wherever and whenever we can.

It is part of modern Labor’s message.

On industrial relations, Mr Howard is driven by ideology - an ideology which in time creates the conditions for a race to the bottom in wages and conditions for working families.

Mr Howard knows that our current economic circumstances are propped up by the mining boom - which this year alone will bring in some $55 billion into the national economy.

But working families legitimately fear this: what happens Mr Howard when the mining boom is over? What happens to my kids? What happens to me when I go into the workplace and negotiate without the protection of a fair industrial relations system?

These are the questions being asked around kitchens tables and in workplaces right across this country as we gather here in this great conference of our party today in Sydney.

Today we see example after example of overtime payments, penalty rates, shift allowances and public holiday pay being cut.

I say to this conference: I will not be party to any Government which places vulnerable working families in such a position.


I will not be party to a Government which proclaims to be the party of family values when it has enacted a piece of legislation which is the most hostile to working families of any piece of legislation

enacted by any Parliament in the Commonwealth in its history.

And that is why my commitment to this Conference is clear-cut.

If we are elected to form the next Government of Australia, we will remove, get rid of Mr Howard’s unfair industrial relations laws - once and for all.

And we will do so without apology because working families across the length and breadth of our country - Australia - are depending on us to do it.

In its place we will construct a new industrial relations system for the 21st century which creates a new balance between fairness and flexibility - and with a new independent umpire: Fair Work Australia.

We can build long term prosperity for this country.

We can build productivity growth through an Education Revolution, the application of new technologies, by freeing up our businesses from unnecessary regulation and by encouraging a new age of innovation - including in our critical manufacturing industries.

I don’t want to be Prime Minister of a country which doesn’t make things any more.

I don’t want to be Prime Minister of a country that doesn’t manufacture things anymore.

I want there to be a long term manufacturing industry for this nation.

And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - I believe passionately in an activist industry policy for this country.

We are capable of building this prosperity on the back of these reforms I’ve referred to without throwing the fair go out the back door.


On climate change, we confront the great moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation.

Mr Howard is a climate change sceptic. He’s not just a climate change sceptic.

Mr Howard is a climate change denier.

This is the modern equivalent of arguing that the earth is flat, that NASA faked the moon landing. And that Elvis is out there somewhere still flipping burgers in Florida.

That’s how in touch with reality Mr Howard is on this one.

Worse than that, Mr Howard says that if you act on climate change you destroy the economy.

Unfortunately Mr Howard’s argument is one of short term politics - it’s not one of long term economics.

Why hasn’t Mr Howard had the courage to commission the Commonwealth Treasury to investigate the impact on, and cost to, our economy of inaction on climate change?

I’ll tell you why - because Mr Howard is frightened about what the answers would be.

Because this would point yet again to how he has squandered opportunities of the last 11 long years.

An opportunity where we could have been leaders - not followers on the great global challenge of climate change.

We in Labor take a different approach.

We accept that the science is in.

We understand, based both on UN reports and Australian Government and CSIRO reports, what the economic impact of climate change is likely to be for our nation.


Coral bleaching of our Great Barrier Reef - effectively destroying a core part of Queensland and Australia’s tourism industry. That’s an economic cost.

Declining rain fall patterns in South Eastern and South Western Australia with significant impacts on agricultural and pastoral production. That’s an economic cost.

The same for the once great Murray-Darling system. And there we read of the ongoing economic cost.

And that all leaves to one side the potential economic cost arising from coastal inundation.

That is why Labor has put forward key elements of a practical long term plan to deal with climate change, including its impact on water.

The Australian people are tired of excuses on water.

The Australian people want their national Government to act on water.

And that is the challenge which we as a nation face today.

We are committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent against 2000 levels by 2050.

Mr Howard, once again is playing first-class politics when he says that this would be irresponsible when it comes to the economy.

On this measure, so too must the British Government be irresponsible.

On this measure, so too must a whole bunch of governments be irresponsible.

And what of Mr Howard’s own CSIRO advisers who have indicated that such a target would be compatible with strong economic growth and improvements in living standards.


Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, demands that Australia plays its part in bringing about global action - action which will maximise the benefits.

Indeed, Sir Nicholas Stern has concluded that the cost of inaction would be much greater .

We are committed to a national emissions trading scheme.

Mr Howard continues to oppose one.

We are committed to boosting the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target.

Mr Howard opposes that as well.

We are committed to a national demand side management strategy capable of bringing early and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Howard expresses little interest.

Labor has announced a half billion dollar National Clean Coal initiative to secure the future of Australia’s coal mining industry and jobs. Mr Howard has not. If fact, he’s offered less than half that money.

Labor proposes a half billion dollar National Green Car initiative to encourage the design, the manufacture and production of an Australian hybrid car.

Mr Howard proposes nothing.

It is remarkable that it fell to Labor, in Opposition, last month to convene a National Summit on Climate Change, to help forge a new consensus between business and the scientific community

and the politicians of our day on how best to respond to this great environmental and economic challenge which is climate change.

Once again Labor acted.

And once again the Government remained silent.


On climate change, as with the other great challenges facing this nation’s future, it becomes clearer by the day that Mr Howard just doesn’t get it.

Friends, these then are the challenges that lie before us as a party.

These then are the challenges which lie before us as a movement. These then are the challenges which lie before us as a nation.

And the challenge for the Australian people at the next election is which party is best equipped to deal with these challenges of the future.

You know the Australian people are a sensible lot.

They don’t expect us to produce miracles.

They have a keen sense of the possible.

Equally they have a keen sense of when they are being sold a dud.

When Mr Howard says you have to choose between the economy and the environment, guess what? The Australian people don’t believe him.

When Mr Howard says you have to choose between prosperity and a fair go, guess what? The Australian people don’t believe that either.

When Mr Howard says that to fight Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and terrorism, we’ve got to go and invade Iraq, guess what? Australian people don’t believe that either.

Just like when Mr Howard says the only way forward for the nation is Canberra versus the States, rather than Canberra working in cooperation with the States, you know something? The Australian people don’t believe him on that either.

And the core reason the Australian people don’t believe him is they’ve heard him say these things time and time and time again - over 11 long years. And guess what? Time’s up.


The time’s up for Mr Howard. The time’s up for Mr Howard and his Government.

The time’s up for all his excuses about why he couldn’t act when he had 11 years in which to act.

Instead what are the Australian people are asking of us? They’re asking us why don’t we just work together for a change?

Why don’t we pull in the one direction, rather than continue to pull one another apart?

Why don’t we bring this nation of ours together and work as one to confront the great challenges of our future?

Because the Australian people know this thing: that we are at our best as a people when we are united and fighting as one against a common challenge or common foe.

And we are at our worst when we are fighting in the trenches against one another.

Friends, it is an immense privilege to lead this great, Australian political party, as we confront the great political challenge of the next election.

It is my privilege to lead a great team of my Parliamentary colleagues.

And it’s my privilege - my great privilege - to have Julia as our Deputy Leader. A what a great Deputy she is.

We have a long, hard race before us.

It is a marathon.

And we have barely passed half-way.

You know something, we can expect our opponents to throw everything at us including the kitchen sink.


Because you know something friends? They have everything to lose - political power in itself. The thing Mr Howard cares about most of all.

But we, as ever, will rely on the resources, dedication and determination of the Australian Labor movement.

United as never before, determined to restore the fair go and the fair deal to its honoured place in the heart of this nation. But above all we rely above all on the Australian people themselves.

Friends, there is a deep mood for change in our nation today - we can feel it - we can sense it. Across the cities, across the towns and across the communities. Across every part of this great continent of ours.

Our task at this conference is to express and embody the hopes for change now rising as a rising tide in the hearts and minds of the Australian people across our nation.

By the policies we define and refine here at this Conference.

By an enthusiasm, commitment and determination in the days, weeks and months to come.

By the goals we set for the nation.

And by the enduring Labor values we bring to this great national task.

Let us, as one, embrace the future.

Let us, as one, reform the nation.

And let us go from this National Conference of the great Australian Labor Party - ready to lead Australia to a secure future, a prosperous future, and a fairer future for all.

For that is the mission with which we are solemnly charged.