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We are the future party: speech to the SA Labor Conference: Adelaide:15 October 2006:

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Thank you for your generous welcome. It’s great to be back in South Australia, a state led so ably by your Premier and my friend, Mike Rann.

I’m delighted a man of Mike’s ability will serve as one of our three national presidents; joining John Faulkner and Linda Burney. It says two things about Mike. First, how selfless he is with his time, and second, how determined he is to see Federal Labor elected next year. He’s a true believer in every sense of that wonderful expression.

I think we’d all agree that there’s a lot to like about Mike, what I admire most is his foresight. As one of our mutual friends likes to say: “If the future has a face it is Mike's.” His vision for South Australia as a prosperous, smart, confident state.

Like me, he’s obsessed with our kids’ future. Like me, obsessed with the sort of country we leave the next generation. Neither of us afraid to tackle the big challenges head-on and both of us deeply connected to this great Party.


Friends, to me our great Labor Party is two things. First, we are the Party of middle Australia, the only Party in touch with genuine Australian values.

That’s why we’ll build a fair IR system based on Australian values, so families know they’ll get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

That’s why we’ll reward effort, so that all those Australians who do the heavy lifting in our economy know that when they put in, they’ll get back.

That’s my Pact with Middle Australia. Because when you put in at home you should get back from Canberra.

That’s why we’ll teach and train Australians, so we can go down the high-wage, high-skill road, not Howard’s low-wage, low-skill road to nowhere.

That’s why we’ll build childcare centres on school grounds, so we can find time for families and end the dreaded double drop off.

Second, Labor is the future Party. The only Party with a nation building plan for the future. The only Party that asks that all-important question: How do we build a nation we’re proud to hand to our kids and grandkids?

Labor is the only Party with the answer, because we in the Labor Party have always been nation builders. That’s always been our way.

We built the Snowy. We built Medicare. We built super. We built a standard national rail gauge. We built the modern, open economy. When we saw what needed to be done we rolled up our sleeves and got stuck into it. Nation building is our tradition; it’s our history.

And while I’m here, while I lead this great party - nation building will always be our future.

What Australia needs now - is a new generation of nation building that only a Federal Labor Government can do and will do.

Let me tell you, I’m ready for it. I’m ready for the heavy lifting to build the future for our kids.

Ready to build the infrastructure projects essential for a globally competitive economy - rebuilding our roads, bridges and ports.

Ready to log all Australians on to a super-fast communications network that brings them on-line to the world.

Ready to build an Australian fuels industry - a modern, diversified industry with cheaper, greener fuels to end our dependence on foreign oil.

I am ready to invest in the institutions that strengthen our communities and build our kids’ future - our universities, TAFEs and schools.


Friends, Australia will be a very different place when I lead it. Australia will be a better, fairer place for the mums and dads of middle Australia and our kids, the thousands of kids who’ve only ever known John Howard’s Australia.

Some of them are ten years old now and lived all their lives under the Howard Government. Ten year olds who’ve grown up in a world where John Howard’s extreme IR laws makes it harder for their families to sit down together at dinner, easier for the boss to sack Mum or Dad, and tougher to pay the bills.

Ten year olds who look ahead to a HECS student debt the size of a home mortgage; or a TAFE place denied to them; or being forced to make the choice between signing a wage-cutting AWA or not getting the job.

Ten year olds who are old enough to start wondering why this Government is at war with its people and why Australia is at war in Iraq.

Ten year olds whose futures are at stake and it’s their future I’m fighting for.

I also want them to have a chance to serve our great country.

My plan for A-PACT, an Australian Peace and Community Team, and the Government’s gap year military training plan, both give kids a chance to serve.

Let’s be very clear on this though: the Government’s plan must not be a stalking horse for national service.

I do want Australia to be a different place for our kids.

A high-skill, innovative nation - competing on high skills and ideas not low wages and conditions. Where we invest in our future prosperity by investing in the next generation of Australian workers - our kids.

That’s why I’ll get rid of TAFE fees for apprentices in traditional trades and childcare trainees and give every student the choice of going to a senior trades or science and technology high school.

I want an Australia where workers are protected by a modern, flexible, fair industrial relations system. A system based on Australian values.

Where employees don’t go to work with the constant fear of being sacked with no right of appeal. Where there’s a strong safety net of minimum wages and

conditions and an independent umpire to settle disputes. Where Australians have the right to join together and bargain together for decent wages and conditions, the right to choose collective bargaining over individual contracts.

I will rip up John Howard’s wage-cutting AWAs. The right to join a union and be represented by a union.

There’ll be plenty of other changes when I’m in the Lodge.

We’ll care for kids at home and in childcare.

We’ll put childcare centres in schools to ease the time pressures on mums and dads. We’ll set new goals in kids’ health and we’ll achieve them.

We won’t sell Medibank Private but we will reform the health system.

We’ll power the nation with renewables, not reactors; and

We’ll get out of the wrong war in Iraq, so we can fight terror in the region.

The jury is in: the war in Iraq has made Australia a bigger target for terrorists. On this, I believe our AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty and our former Defence Chief General Peter Cosgrove … not our short sighted Prime Minister John Howard.


Friends, we take our responsibility as the future Party very seriously, and when it comes to the big challenges our approach is nation building. That’s the approach that governs my Blueprint on climate change.

A Blueprint developed with the thoughtful advice and strong advocacy of my Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water, Anthony Albanese.

It’s that approach that governs Mike Rann’s plans too. Plans to diversify South Australia’s energy sources so that now, with only seven and a half per cent of the nation’s population, you have 45 per cent of Australia’s grid-connected solar


Look around and you see wind turbines perched on top of Parliament House, the State Library, the Museum, the Art Gallery; and solar panels on 250 public schools.

And across the state, wind farms that will save 1.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. That’s the same as taking 300,000 cars off the road.

Compare my approach and your innovative, forward-looking Labor Premier with that out of touch, short-sighted Liberal Prime Minister.

While Mike Rann acts to protect South Australians from climate change, John Howard dismisses it. When asked for his plan, John Howard says he’s not interested in, and I quote:

… what might happen to Australia and the planet in 50 years time.

Why would he? It doesn’t much matter to him because he won’t be around to see it.

Friends, I want to make one thing very clear here today.

The debate on whether global warming is real, is over. The debate on how to protect Australia and the world, has begun.

Climate change is a real and present threat to our country’s future. The evidence confronts us.

Scorching temperatures, critical water shortages;

The worst drought in a hundred years consuming our small towns and family farms;

Climate change is baking our cities and wreaking despair and desolation in the bush.

Look no further than your own state. This week it was 40 degrees; bushfires raged across the Eyre Peninsula - and it’s only October.

Reflecting the grim prognosis from the CSIRO that South Australia is hotter and drier than it’s ever been and it’s likely to get worse.

Now only the arrogant or the out of touch persist in denying the threat of climate change.

The arrogant Treasurer Peter Costello, always one for a flurry of fine words, who announces he supports carbon trading but does nothing about it.

The out of touch Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane who makes the extraordinary claim that “carbon dioxide levels go up and down and global warming comes and goes.”

Or John Howard, who’s both arrogant and out of touch. The best he can come up with is he’s “sceptical about the gloomy predictions.”

Actually, I'm not surprised John Howard didn't want to go along and see Al Gore’s movie "An Inconvenient Truth". John Howard’s never been one to let the inconvenience of the truth stand in his way.

There's absolutely no truth too inconvenient for John Howard to trash, just as he won’t face up to the reality of climate change.

The environmental reality; sea levels rising, and dam levels dropping.

The economic reality; Australia missing out on the multi billion dollar clean energy global market and the thousands of jobs that come with it.


It’s quite clear. Australia can’t afford delay or denial on climate change. Immediate action on climate change is an environmental and economic imperative.

I will act and act decisively. John Howard won’t and he will be judged harshly by future generations.

He isn’t protecting our country from climate change. He won’t build a modern economy for a carbon constrained world. He is selling the future short. He is failing our children and our grandchildren. I will never fail them.

What’s needed is urgent, decisive national leadership. For the sake of the environment and the sake of the economy. So that Australia gets its share of a global market in clean air technologies - wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal and hydropower - now estimated to be worth a massive $74 billion. And the top technologies tipped to soar 400 per cent to a staggering $223 billion over the next decade. Australia simply can’t afford to miss out.


The Labor Party I lead is different. Labor has a plan to develop Australian technology in Australia, not export jobs and investment to China. Under John Howard, we risk being relegated to the back seat while the rest of the world cashes in on the global clean energy boom.

This week, Environment Minister Ian Campbell big-notes himself in China. He’s opening a $300 million wind farm, built by an Australian company. The same company which three months ago announced it wouldn’t go ahead with wind power projects in Tasmania and South Australia because it couldn’t get Federal

Government support. Hob-nobbing in China while Australians lose out on projects worth $550 million and 200 fulltime jobs.

The incompetence of this minister. While the Howard Government kills off wind farm projects, I have a comprehensive blueprint to combat climate change. While the Howard Government sacrifices hundreds of jobs to save one hypothetical Orange Bellied parrot every 1,000 years, Labor develops the national policies and the practical measures to start turning climate change around.

My Blueprint to think globally … and act nationally; my Blueprint to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol. It is the first crucial step. Without it, Australia can’t be part of the global solution to climate change or the emerging trillion dollar industry in renewable energy technologies.

We do support the Asia Pacific Climate Change Pact - yes, it is a positive step - but it is not an alternative to Kyoto and while the Government has consistently boasted that Kyoto is irrelevant because Australia will meet its emission targets, we find out now there’s a risk the target won’t be met.

My Blueprint for a long-term, national target of 60 per cent cuts in Australia’s greenhouse emissions by 2050.My policy will take leadership. It will take innovation. I’m one hundred per cent committed to doing it because we must stabilise the level of carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere to at least limit average temperature increases to two degrees.

My Blueprint to increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target. My policy will require more clean energy for our electricity grids. It will seize the economic benefits of the global trillion dollar industry in carbon friendly technologies and emissions trading. At the same time encouraging industry to take up new and cleaner technologies.

My Blueprint to establish a national greenhouse emissions trading scheme. My policy will use a price signal as a long-term incentive to cut emissions and provide a mechanism for trading. As well as rewarding the many companies who are already adapting to a carbon constrained world.

My Blueprint to legislate for a climate change trigger so major new projects are examined for their climate change impact as part of the environmental assessment process.

Anthony Albanese has moved a Private Members’ Bill in Federal Parliament which would get this change in place now.


Labor’s plan for a clean smart Australia is ready to go now. It’s a plan that doesn’t just harness the power of the wind and the sun; it harnesses the enthusiasm and commitment of families in middle Australia. The mums and dads and kids eager to do their bit; the dedicated recyclers, water conservers and tree planters who stand ready to do more.

I’m convinced the families of middle Australia can do so much to fight climate change and I’ll be there to give them a hand. When they want to buy an energy efficient home or upgrade their existing home I’ll look at expanding the First Home Owners’ grant scheme to help. I’ll make five star energy efficiency provisions mandatory for new homes.

I’ll turn Australia’s ten thousand public schools into solar schools.

I’ll make existing alternative fuel vehicles such as hybrid and flexi-fuel cars cheaper, cutting up to $2000 off the price of typical hybrid cars.

I’ll help all Australians make the small, day to day changes that can make such a big difference; that can reduce emissions and cut energy bills by more than 30 per cent. Like replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs; selecting appliances with high energy efficiency ratings; switching to clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar and installing water efficient appliances and water tanks.

Nation building at the kitchen table.


Friends, Australia is gripped by a water crisis, in our cities and towns and in the bush. You in South Australia know this only too well.

The toughest water restrictions ever, imposed after the driest winter and lowest inflows into the Murray in the state’s history. Your farmers on the verge of a rural recession.

A grim precursor of what’s to come with climate change now expected to reduce rainfall by 25 per cent in the Murray Darling basin, directly threatening the supply of drinking water to Adelaide.

It’s a story being played out across the country. Country towns and cities are running out of water and looking at massive costs to truck in water. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are using more water than is going into their dams.

Climate change threatens to make our country drier and hotter so let me make this important point: If you don’t have a climate change strategy, you don’t have a water strategy. Unless we beat climate change, we’ll never fix the water crisis.

The challenge for leaders is to turn around climate change and to responsibly and sensibly manage and conserve our water resources. For too long our water supply has been undervalued, over-allocated, misdirected and politicised.

John Howard has played politics with Australia's water future. He has cynically manipulated federal investment in water infrastructure for his own political ends.

He announced a two billion dollar fund more than two years ago. He promised twenty projects would be up and running in a year. He spun a good story. But that was in an election year.

Since then nothing's happened. No real progress on the projects. No extra water at all. And even John Howard himself says there should be a bomb put under the whole thing.

When is the money going to start flowing? I'll tell you when. Next year, in another election year.

John Howard didn't build a water fund … he tricked up a slush fund. It might make him a successful Liberal politician … but it doesn't make him a good Australian leader.

I believe water is too important for John Howard's political games. We need a government with the courage and conviction to stop talking and start acting. A Labor Government that will:

ƒ Set a national target of 30% of wastewater being recycled by 2015. Because greater use of recycled water by industry and agriculture will free up drinking water and help increase environmental water flows.

ƒ Develop consistent, comprehensive national guidelines for water recycling.

ƒ Provide the leadership, support and investment necessary to achieve the 30% recycling target.

We’ll work with State Governments and the private sector to raise capital for important water projects, in particular water recycling projects.

We’ll build the infrastructure we need to reuse water for non-drinking purposes, such as watering parks and gardens, and for industrial and commercial purposes

and we’ll develop consistent and comprehensive national benchmarks and guidelines for water recycling.

Of course, sustainability is at the core of water policy. Water is a precious asset and a valuable commodity, and it needs to be treated as such and an effective national water trading system is critical to meeting the challenges. We need effective economic tools to ensure proper allocation of water resources to appropriate end users.

Let me turn now to the once mighty Murray River, now reduced to a pathetic trickle in some parts of your state. A national icon now a national scandal. A river in crisis; its water levels the lowest they’ve ever been since records began a century ago.

As the Murray gasps for life, it’s just one long gabfest from the Howard Government. And not one extra drop of water for the Murray. Not one single drop.

It’s a pity, you know, that words aren’t water. If they were, half of South Australia would be under water courtesy of Malcolm Turnbull alone.

The fact is, to be “a healthy working river” the Murray River needs 1500 gigalitres more water per year. That’s the view of the Expert Review Panel appointed in 2001 by the Murray Darling Basin Commission. Well if that’s what the Murray needs, then that’s what it should get and we’ll support market based options such as purchasing water from willing sellers or acquiring options to access water entitlements.


Friends, when I spoke here last year I said opposition is a marathon not a sprint. Mike knows that better than most. He has run his own race through life and has prevailed. Well today I can tell you in the race to victory at next year’s polls, Federal Labor’s on the home stretch and the home stretch takes us right through South Australia. Through your cities and suburbs; country towns and out into the bush; through Kingston and Makin and Wakefield, straight to the families of middle Australia. Families who deserve nothing less than a government that’s ready to build the future for their country and their kids.

A Labor Government. My Government. A Government obsessed with nation building because it’s obsessed with the future. This is the great and defining difference between Labor and Liberal. It’s the vast divide between me and John Howard.

My high-skill, innovative nation - his low wage race to the bottom;

My nation building broadband - his Telstra fire sale;

My stake in Medibank Private - his bungled sell off;

My cutting edge Australian fuels industry - his dependence on foreign oil;

My kick-start for innovation - his growing foreign debt;

My investment in productive infrastructure - his plan for public servants’ superannuation;

My plan for renewables - his plan for nuclear reactors;

My practical measures against terrorism - his wrong war in Iraq;

My great Australian collective bargaining - his American style wage-cutting AWAs;

My plan to protect Australia from climate change - his short-sightedness;

My plan for our kids’ future - his plan for his own future.

This is my case for change. To build a different Australia; a new Australia built by the future Party; the nation building Party of middle Australia. It’s what I’ll be talking about for the next year … and it’s what we’ll be doing the year after that: with your help, changing Australia for the better.