The power of public policy to transform lives

First I want to acknowledge we are gathered on the lands of the Wurundjeri-Woi-Wurrung people and acknowledge elders past present and emerging. 

Particularly in this week when it is a Victorian Labor government that has worked with first nations people to take a step towards making history with treaty and coming to terms with the past I want to acknowledge that the Co-Chair of the First People’s Assembly of Victoria Marcus Stewart, and Senator Jana Stewart are here with us. 

I want to thank all the true believers for their magnificent effort and support in the recent federal campaign.

It is terrific to be here in Labor heartland supporting Anthony’s campaign and the re-election of Daniel Andrews’ Labor government and so I thank you for being here with me.

And while securing a third term at the state level can be challenging, we know that Labor is in good shape to tackle the big challenges of the future both federal and state.

Being here tonight supporting  candidates like Anthony and the Labor cause is really to be a part of the history of Australia.

Because at every stage of our history it has always fallen to Labor governments to put in place the building blocks to economic and social reform.

When Australia was faced with invasion during WWII,  Labor didn’t try to spin away the problem. We mobilised the country to fight.

As that war ended it was Labor prime ministers Curtin and Chifley that put in place the employment,  immigration and infrastructure programs that delivered economic development.  Those Labor governments made Australia the most successful multicultural nation on earth and changed our future for the better. 

When the nation needed organising and opening to the world in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s we lead the way with economic reform.

And when the global financial crisis came in 2008 we did what had to be done to head off recession.

Every single time we created progress out of crisis – creating policies like Medicare, National Superannuation, paid parental leave, the NDIS and others.

The role of government is being redefined before our eyes and the coalition cannot see it.

Now more than ever Australians accept the Labor proposition that Government must step in to reduce economic insecurity and inequality.

We live in a world where the Trumpified right, demonise politics and government intervention.

They try to discredit political action, so they can create a society where governments don’t intervene to protect their people.

We’re all in the Labor party because we stand for greater economic equality so the working class don’t miss out.

When people ask where I fit in, I say I am in the labour wing of the Labor party.

For me the two most important drivers of a prosperous economy are decent wages and progressive taxation.

Conservatives are always trying to drive the wage share down and profit share up, that’s trickle down economics.

We all know that Unions working with Labor governments are the most effective check of inequality ever devised.  We know that good jobs deliver a fairer and more prosperous society.

The Albanese Government is now presented with an even bigger economic and environmental challenge then the one bequeathed  to the Rudd and Gillard government during the GFC and the difficult years that followed.

When we were confronted with the GFC we didn’t hesitate to act, we believed in the power of public policy to transform lives, and to let the market rip would have scarred the lives of hundreds of thousands of people dislodged. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Whitlam government elected December 2, 1972.

Whitlam believed passionately in the equality of opportunity of all Australians regardless of gender, race or what post code you came from.

I remember vividly 1975 when Gough was sacked.

It was a reminder to us all of the ruthlessness and obstructionism of conservative politics in Australia.

It was the Whitlam, Hawke/Keating legacy that drove all of us who sat in the Rudd and Gillard governments when the GFC hit. We knew we had to do everything we could to keep our economic engine running and protect our people.

I was Australia’s 36th Treasurer, Labor’s 3rd longest after Chifley and Keating, and its my ambition that Jim Chalmers our 41st will beat that record and successfully steer us through a bigger crisis then we faced in 2007 – 2008.

One of the best things working for the Albanese government is senior ministers already have extensive experience.

Prime Minister Albanese and Minster Chalmers all worked closely with Prime Minister Rudd, Prime Minister Gillard and myself for six years of government.

It was during the early years of the Rudd government when the Americanisation/radicalisation and obstructionism of the Liberal party came to the fore again.

In early 2009 Labor’s second stimulus package, the one that saved Australia from recession,  was opposed on the floor of the Parliament by the then Turnbull opposition,

After the bills were defeated in the Senate the bills were returned to the House for a subsequent debate which culminated in al an all night sitting.

As the debate went throughout the night Abbott, Costello, and Kevin Andrews got on the grog in the Parliamentary dinning room, and Abbott was so drunk he slept through the final vote in his office.

In question time in 2013 in a bitter exchange in Parliament with Opposition Leader Abbott I accused him of being drunk and wanting to see mass unemployment in Australia.  There was a kerfuffle and I narrowly escaped suspension from the Parliament.

A few days later I received a card from an elderly pensioner from the central coast of NSW and it read:

Dear young Wayne, 

I read that you were forced to withdraw a comment that Tony Abbott missed a vote because he was drunk. 

Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne.

Tony missed the vote because is an a….hole!

Keep up the good work



P.S. Tony Abbott is still an a….hole. 

The gradual Trumpification and radicalisation of Liberals on economic and social issues continued through Morrison and now through the elevation of Dutton to the conservative leadership.

We see it here in Victoria too with extremist, divisive politics and shrieking from the Victorian Liberals and Nationals and their Trumpy clowns like Tim Smith, Bernie Finn, and Matthew Guy.

In winning this election Anthony Albanese learnt from the mistakes of the last election. Last time we had too many policies and too big an agenda, this time we had fewer policies and a concentrated agenda.

We’ve learnt that Labor isn’t a pressure group, it’s not a policy seminar, it’s not a wine and cheese society, it’s a vehicle to win government or its nothing.

Federally, Labor has not been a party of Government for two-thirds of the last 30 years.  We served for only 10 of those 30 years, and have won government from opposition only 4 times since World War 2!!

But we must become the party of Federal Government.

In this year’s election we have bucked the trend as parties like ours around the world have either faded into electoral irrelevancy or are fighting for their political lives.

At the State level, Labor’s record has been consistently better. 

In Queensland we have been in Government for 24 of those last 30 years.

In Victoria we have governed for 28 of the last 40 years.

You’ve done that in Victoria because you deliver.

Removing level crossings, building transport networks with a 90 billion dollar infrastructure pipeline, a plan to fix the crises in mental health and family violence, staring down the pandemic.

So we have become the Party of Government in Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT. 

So federally the prophets of doom have been hand-wringing about Labor’s primary vote eroding to catastrophic levels.

We are not in an inevitable and permanent decline the likes of which the Liberal Party has experienced in this last election, but it is our fate to if we don’t learn some of the stark lessons evident in the last 2 federal election campaigns.

Our principle challenge is continuing to win the battle of ideas and speaking directly with the Australian people in plain language about why the Labor Party is more relevant than ever in the early part of the 20th Century.

Across all of our states there are particular areas and voter groups where Labor under-performed in this Federal election and in the last.

In this year’s Federal election the Liberals would have been shocked to lose their core constituency of higher income suburban voters, and it was pleasing that parties of the left won the majority among voters on lower and middle incomes.

Disturbingly it is true over the last 2 federal elections Labor has gone backwards amongst outer-suburban, lower income communities.

This is a trend seen across the world and is one that Labor has to address more effectively if we want to entrench long-term reformist government at the State and Federal levels.

The Labor Party and the labour movement can only survive through building a strong coalition of low and middle income earners.

So we must also be frank with ourselves and admit that internal party structural issues, the quality of our on-the-ground campaigning, the level of community engagement of our candidates and an excessive concentration on internal party matters can limit our ability to speak directly to voters and win their support.

Because we are all policy wonks in the Labor Party we underestimate the power of narrative and quickly fall into technocratic discussions about what a particular policy is or does or costs.

Such an approach is completely ineffective against the power of disinformation campaigns run by the right wing against social democratic parties.

Albo’s use of the dollar coin in the wage debate was the most effective piece of political communication I have seen since Bob Hawke.  It worked because it spoke to our values, it was uncomplicated, it didn’t involve modelling.

Victory is about establishing this Labor narrative and delivering it in plain language:

  • Face to face
  • In social media
  • On television
  • At the pub
  • Door to door

The way to do this is rather simple. Listen to the community. Choose candidates who represent their communities in every sense of the word. Keep building up the party machine to win the battle on the ground. Stay united. Keep renewing and refreshing yourself in office.

The coming Victorian election gives us a chance to demonstrate that the only parties in chronic decline are the Coalition parties.

And that we know what must be done to stay relevant, stay strong and stay in power to create a better country.

So my appeal to you is to work on that narrative of what works for low and middle income Australians – the people who depend on good Labor governments – and never lose sight of what really makes a difference.

And once we have established the narrative we have to make sure that our members of parliament and campaign workers get out amongst the people and deliver it.

This election is there to be won. It won’t be easy. But win it we must, to keep the days of do-nothing Coalition governments behind us and to get on delivering for Victorians, and for all Australians.

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