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Address to the ALP Victorian branch state conference, Melbourne

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Address to the ALP Victorian Branch State Conference, Melbourne SAT 21 MAY 2011

Prime Minister

I see many state and Federal colleagues here today, far too many to name.

And I see so many familiar faces too. Old friends, old colleagues ... old mates.

So many good Labor people I’ve worked with over the years ... so many good Labor people who I know so well.

As Prime Minister I go to many rooms where I feel welcome.

But it is very special to come back to a room where I feel so much at home.

I know Victorian Labor gathers in this room in 2011 with renewed determination and great resolve.

Yes in Government, there were mistakes and there are regrets - no party is perfect and ultimately the people’s verdict is always right.

Yet we all know that your reflection can begin with modest satisfaction - a sincere self-esteem - in a job well done.

500 new or rebuilt schools. Trade schools. Regional Rail. Casey Hospital, the Austin, the new Royal Children’s and the Women’s.

A sound budget, a strong economy, opportunity in the regions, growth in jobs.

After three terms in office, you can be proud.

The record is clear and the legacy is strong.

Steve Bracks and John Brumby led Victorian Labor well.

And under their leadership, Labor governed Victoria well.

For eleven years, this was Labor as it should always be: always a party of Government and a party of ideas.

I am proud of Labor’s record in Victoria and you should be too.

And as you look forward, you can be confident as well.

Daniel Andrews will lead Victorian Labor with determination and fight.

And Victorian Labor will be ready to govern in 2014.

In Canberra, Labor is in a different phase.

This is our year of decision and delivery.

Yet in your renewed determination and in our decisions and delivery we are each driven by the same progressive principles of Labor - these great things we share, these things which brought us all to rooms like this in the first place:

The people we are, the people we represent, the things we believe in.

Australian Labor: a party with history and a party of the future.

All Australians: speaking for the “great mass of the people” still.

A strong economy and opportunity for all: sharing and sticking together so the fair go is always fully paid for.

Friends, I saw my predecessor John Howard say a strange thing a few days ago.

He said that I should not have called our Budget a “Labor Budget”, because I should have been speaking to “all Australians”.

I thought this was very telling, because it betrayed the conservative failure to understand Labor’s governing purpose:

A Labor Budget is a Budget for all Australians.

In our plans to spread the opportunities of the mining boom, in our plans to get more Australians into jobs, in our decisions to get the Budget back in the black, we have been driven by this great goal:

Opportunity for all.

Not entrenched privilege for the few.

Australia’s economy needs more Australian workers and many Australians need work.

Our Labor values and our belief in spreading opportunity impel us to put the two together.

When I think about this Labor Budget I think about a community venture I visited a fortnight ago.

On the Thursday before the Budget I went to a Communities for Children service run by the Benevolent Society and UnitingCare Burnside in Ambarvale in Sydney.

Co-located on site is the Yummy Cafe run by the YWCA. The Cafe is an innovative, award-winning hub in the community which provides a safe, child-friendly space and nutritious food.

Young mums meet there to join in study groups with free accredited courses and access to child care while they are studying through the Happy Young Parents Program.

I met teen mums who are studying their certificate three in child care services and some of the girls I spoke to are already planning to go on to get their diploma in early childhood education and care.

These girls are seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, doing one of the hardest things in the world and too often doing it on their own.

But they’re not on their own at Ambarvale.

It’s a program which is breaking what could be generational cycles of disadvantage passed on from mother to child.

It’s a place where economic participation is creating social inclusion, where new skills and new work are creating a new life.

Most important, the young women I met are helping themselves.

Setting the alarm clock early, doing the hard thing, getting up and going every day, when the morning’s cold, when they’re tired, when bub is grizzling.

And through that effort finding a life of purpose and friendship and warmth and fun as well.

These young women will be joining footy tipping comps and going to work Christmas parties, their children are having baby-cinos and making little childcare buddies.

It’s the kind of life we expect for ourselves and I can assure you, these young women have the same expectations as every Australian.

They won’t be patronised or told they’re not up to it - and if they have their way, they certainly won’t be left behind.

At Ambarvale, I saw hope, I saw opportunity, I saw young women learning and working and supporting each other, setting goals for themselves and for their kids.

This is where Labor thinking has to be today.

The old way saw these young women as victims, the old way offered an excuse.

Some today see these young women as problems, they offer blame.

At Ambarvale, I just saw people - people who can work, people who can seize opportunity.

I left there really proud of those young women and really proud that our Labor Budget will help more young women like them.

The conservatives can never truly comprehend this about us.

But the response from people who work with disadvantaged Australians shows me that many good people understand our plans, do know that we are acting from our highest principles.

I thought the words of Tony Nicholson of the Brotherhood of St Laurence following the Budget were powerful:

The Budget has taken the initial steps of establishing a new welfare morality for our nation which is long overdue ... ... the most disadvantaged in our community have modest mainstream aspirations and ... they won’t shy from increased obligations in welfare if they are matched with more and better assistance. This is the test of the new welfare morality ... It’s a test that the welfare initiatives in the Budget pass ... most will relish the additional support.

Tony wasn’t alone.

A new welfare morality, a Budget for all Australians - a Labor Budget.

A Budget in which I wanted to deliver, based on the values that drove me to politics, on my passion to create opportunity for all Australians.

It is a passion I learned from my parents and our family’s experience - and a passion that was fuelled by my experience of the Labor tradition - those around me and those who have gone before me who have fought for fairness and opportunity in our country’s future.

Belief in the benefits and dignity of work is the universal Labor conviction.

Andrew Fisher said it in 1910:

Isn’t the typical labourer the typical Australian? I think he is. The future of Australia depends upon him. Whom else can you choose as typical? Not the idler.

Curtin’s creed as the Battle of the Coral Sea raged was simple:

Men are fighting for Australia today. Those who are not fighting have no excuse for not working.

In 1948 Ben Chifley’s creed was simple too:

Self-respect is born in people who have the opportunity to work ... and that benefits the community of which they are members.

Your party, our party, the party I lead, is - politically, spiritually, even literally - the party of work.

Our Budget includes many sound Labor measures.

$2.2 billion for mental health. 130 000 new training places and apprenticeships.

The parents of hundreds of thousands of teenagers with over $4000 a year extra in family tax benefit.

Millions of low-income workers with more in their regular pay packet through the reforms to the Low-Income Tax Offset.

But if the Budget has a face, the young women and the babies who I saw at Ambarvale are it.

Friends, we are the party of work, and we are the party of political courage.

This Labor Party, this labour movement, was created by people who were prepared to face up to the challenges of the future and they haven't been easy.

When this Party was formed the challenges of fighting two world wars were still to come.

When this Party was formed the challenge of the Great Depression was still to come.

When this Party was formed what we needed to do to modernize our economy and be competitive in the world was still to come.

And people from the Labor Party and people in the labour movement looked inside themselves and found the courage to face those challenges.

Now we must summon that courage again and tackle climate change.

We must summon that courage again and win the fight to price carbon.

We know climate change is real.

We know we must cut carbon pollution.

We know the cheapest, most efficient way to do that is to make big polluters pay.

And we know that when big polluters pay that every cent of that money can be used to help families, protect jobs and fund programs to tackle climate change.

Friends, it’s been said before now but it’s never been truer than of the fight to price carbon:

This isn't a fight between right and left.

It's a fight between right and wrong.

Conservative Governments around the world are acting responsibly.

The United Kingdom is not only committed to retaining a domestic carbon price and remaining in the European emissions trading scheme, it has this week announced deeper cuts in carbon emissions.

New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme began in July 2008 and last year its Government further expanded the scheme.

Like me, Prime Ministers Cameron and Key understand that we must act to protect our environment and secure a strong clean energy future for our economy.

Our opponents’ campaign sets the future of our great country against the ambitions of one political elite.

There is a reason they are begging for an election in 2011.

And it is not because they think they can win in 2013.

It is because they know that in 2012, this mindlessly negative campaign will be exposed before every Australian.

When Australia has a carbon price, when households are generously assisted, when jobs continue to grow.

When the sun rises in the east, cows keep giving milk, chickens still lay eggs.

Our opponents know their campaign of fear will be exposed as a sham and then they will face the judgement of the Australian people in 2013.

Friends, we are fighting to price carbon, to tackle climate change and to build a clean energy economy which is prepared and strong.

But we are fighting for something else as well.

We are fighting to show that our nation hasn’t lost the ability to reform, to take the decisions reason compels us to take today to build a better future.

Friends, many of us follow American politics with interest and think of the United States as a friend for Australia and a force for good in the world.

Yet we are still often struck by the differences between us.

We are confused by their health care debates - why can’t they follow our Labor example with Medicare we say.

We share their trauma when a congresswoman is shot and we are grateful that here,

politicians do not live in fear.

We are amazed that more than two years into his term, President Obama is still being challenged on his place of birth and we say to each other - “only in America”.

But friends, while I am confident we will continue to be a safe nation proud of the health care system Labor designed for our country, I believe a more Americanised political style of debate has come to this country.

Tony Abbott has said of himself that he is John Howard and Browyn Bishop’s political love child.

Heaven knows that’s bad enough but the truth is he is acting more like the love child of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

So let me reply to his increasingly hysterical fear campaign with President Obama's words to his nation when answering the hysteria about his birth certificate.

We do not have time for this kind of silliness.

We don’t have time for the politicians and shock jocks who deny the scientific conclusions of NASA and the CSIRO.

We don’t have time for made-up figures and shameless fear-mongering.

We don’t have time to waste on a debate that lacks facts and reason.

Our national efforts and energies need to be focussed.

We are a nation determined to keep our economy strong while spreading the opportunities our strong economy gives us.

We are a nation at war and determined to prevail in Afghanistan.

We are a nation determined to do our bit to tackle climate change and urgently needing to make a start to build the clean energy economy of the future.

We are a nation that emits more carbon pollution per person than any other developed nation on earth.

We live on a planet that's warming dangerously.

We don't have time for fear mongering.

Our national ethos is to have a go.

And together we will tackle climate change, price carbon, provide assistance to families and protect jobs.

Friends, we have brought down a responsible Budget to create jobs and spread Opportunity.

A Labor Budget for all Australians.

We have embarked on a policy program to deliver a carbon price and a clean energy economy.

A Labor reform for all Australians.

And now every Australian progressive - everyone who wants Government to make brave decisions for the future of the country and persist in the face of populist opposition - has a campaign to be part of and a policy to support.

We didn’t sign up to these things because they are easy.

But it is not in the DNA of this political party, it is not in the DNA of this labour movement, it is not in the DNA of this country we love, to be afraid of the future.

We are called on today to face difficult challenges again.

They require us to be simultaneously a party of government and a party of ideas.

A party committed to methodical, disciplined progress and a party which reaches out to the wider community, seeking new ways to represent and to serve the interests of every Australian.

Friends, as our world keeps changing, so we have a responsibility to renew ourselves and our organisation, constantly focusing on the needs of the Australians who we are here to serve.

But what mustn’t change - what doesn’t change - is our courage.

We will be as bold in our future as we have been in our past.

We will serve the cause of bringing opportunity to every Australian.

We will pursue the historic mission of fairness that has created the Labor Party and for which we have endured all of these long years.

We will meet the challenges of the future.