Speech - Mick, Julia And Education As The Driver Of Prosperity




"Mick, Julia and Education As The Driver Of Prosperity"




Thanks HG for that introduction. I also want to thank Ricky Gervais for putting every after-dinner speaker at ease, secure in the knowledge that none of us – nobody else – could stuff it up as badly as he did at the Golden Globes!

This is one of those great nights where there are more speeches and performances from entertainers than from politicians. But instead of cracking gags tonight I want to speak from my heart about two Labor heroes – Mick Young and Julia Gillard. I get to pay tribute to one and introduce the other.

Before I do that, I want to thank each and every one of you for coming tonight in support of a wonderful organisation. I want to single out the Young family, in particular Janine and Mary, who put so much time into keeping alive Mick's life-work through the Trust. Part of Mick's family, part of the Labor family.

I want to thank my parliamentary colleagues – half the Cabinet are here tonight – who demonstrate with their presence the amazing respect for Mick that still exists. And within those colleagues let me mention my good mate Mark Butler, who represents Mick's old seat.

Can I also thank the corporate sponsors and donors who have kicked in for a great event and a magnificent cause. And finally, let me acknowledge Margaret Whitlam – an inspiration to so many of us. It's great to see you, Margaret.

Now, Mick liked a laugh and he liked a beer and so this kind of dinner would have been right up his alley. Some people's absence you feel more deeply than others – when they are gone, there's a gap in your own lives. And some people's contribution is so deep, so enduring, that it lives on and on, outlasting their own lives.

I think of Mick every day. I think of him every day for two reasons: the first reason is simple – he was my mentor, and he was my mate. He was more than my boss, he is my inspiration.

I wish he was alive to see our Education Tax Refund help meet the expenses of 1.7 million kids from families on modest incomes. I wish he was alive to see Julia and I invest $1.5 billion in a national partnership for 1,700 schools in low socioeconomic areas. I wish he could have seen us get 220,000 students into vocational education at school, an increase of 26 per cent since 2007. And I wish he was around to see uni applications for poor kids go up 9.4 per cent last year compared to 2009, partly because of the investments we're making as a Labor Government.

The second reason I think of Mick every day is that he reminds me so much of another great mate of mine, our Prime Minister. Not just because they share Adelaide roots, not just because they share the best Labor values and beliefs, not just because of their plain-speaking style, or their sense of fun, and not just because they have the capacity to tear shreds off the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives.

But mostly because they are in on the same secret. And the secret is that education is the principal driver of prosperity and opportunity in our country. Mick knew it. I know it. Julia knows it. Your attendance tonight shows you understand this as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, it speaks volumes about Mick and the Trust that so many – from the PM downward – have made the time to come tonight. We have recipients of the Trust's work – people like Robert Churches – whose lives have been changed by the help they've received. Strong supporters and humanitarians like Charlie Teo. And others, like my friend Saul Same – an honoured mate of Bob Hawke and of so many of you here – who have given so much of themselves to the Trust over the years. That's the sort of loyalty Mick Young inspired.

He was no angel. No one who takes on the world through politics ever is. But to many of us – and I'm talking about his great friend Kim Beazley and others – Mick has been like a conscience that sits on our shoulders and makes us remember what we've been put here to do. Most often he makes us think about the importance of education.

Mick knew honourable occupations like shearing, wharf labouring, manual work of all sorts. It taught him respect for the dignity of all people, no matter how humble their station. But it also taught him that every person had it within them to better themselves and gain fulfilment and security through education and training.

For Mick this wasn't about collecting letters after people's names. It was a moral crusade – because he understood that not every young person starts with an equal chance, and that everyone deserves a second chance.

He knew you can't teach children with cheap slogans. It takes classrooms, libraries, gyms, science labs, trade training centres and a place at university. That's what the Labor Government is giving them, and it's one of the best and proudest things we've achieved since 2007.

I don't want to ruin your night by talking too much about our political opponents, but I will say this: they just don't get something about our country – that we're about people coming together, to do things for each other in cases and in times of need.

We're about building people up. We're about using government to create opportunities in education, in the same way we use government to help people rebuild in the aftermath of natural disasters like we've witnessed in recent weeks.

All of us, like Mick, know that the first instinct of Australians when faced with adversity is to band together and think of people in greater need than ourselves. That's in essence what the Mick Young Scholarship Trust is all about. People not being afraid to lend a helping hand to others in greater need. People who know the true value of education. People who do things, not mouth easy, lazy slogans.

Julia Gillard has shown all the qualities we want in a time of crisis and loss, and she believes in the power of education to transform lives. We're very proud to have her as our leader, our Prime Minister, a friend of the Trust, and someone who carries Mick's torch forward into the future. I'm proud to work with her and I'm proud to introduce her.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you Julia Gillard.