I'd like to thank Julie for that kind introduction, but more importantly for all the great work she does as a Minister, and representing this great State and the people of Franklin. And it's fantastic to be here today with the Premier, Lara Giddings, who is doing a great job flying the flag for Labor issues in this great State, no more so than on the NDIS, and I'll come back to that a bit later. I have sat across from Lara at the negotiating table at Treasurer's meetings and I know first-hand what a tough advocate she is for you all. Let me also acknowledge the great work that is done by the Party here in Tasmania, led by Geoff and John. It is great to be here with colleagues, both state and federal, but most of all it is great to be here with the rank and file members - the very heart and soul of our great movement.
And it is great to have the opportunity to represent the Prime Minister, who would have loved to have been able to make it to talk to you about the big reforms she is delivering for all Australians. Julia has had the courage and conviction to tackle the big reforms like getting rid of Workchoices – that dagger aimed at the heart of the decent working people we were founded to represent. Putting in place the policies to spread the benefits of the boom to all Australians, not just the fortunate few. To tackle climate change and put in place the paid parental leave scheme. And of course the NDIS.
Big reforms that only Julia and our movement would ever have the guts to take on.
I've been a part of the Labor movement since the mid-70s. So it is my great pleasure to be asked to present life memberships today to people who've been around even longer than me. That's part of what's so great about the Labor Party. We endure. We stick. We stay the course. We are a band of believers, united by common values. We are the one party in our nation's history that has stood strong for the rights of working people – the right for every Australian to have a stake in our country, for well over a century now. We are anchored by the proud values and traditions of the Labor rank and file.
Some of you may have seen that I spoke about these values at the John Button lecture during the week. We all come to the Labor Party with our own stories and influences, but the values are essentially the same. I'm sure our life members have their own stories. For John Button it was literature that fired him up. For me it was the music of Bruce Springsteen. The music of Bruce Springsteen back in the 70s - around the time of the Whitlam dismissal –spoke volumes to me about the economic and social dangers of leaving people behind. Like many of my colleagues in the Labor Party, we'd watched our parents miss out on a lot of the opportunities that they deserved, and had grown up in pretty modest households. So those experiences really shaped our values and those values were really encapsulated in the music of Springsteen.
I lot has been said about my speech in the last few days. I must admit, it was a bit of a risk to open up my record collection to the country! But I've been really pleased with the reaction. On a lighthearted note, it has had politicians declaring their favourite musical influences. I think we already knew Tony Abbott's favourite song was Hey Jude by the Beatles – Na na na, na-na na na, na-na na na, hey Jude. And I'm also deeply worried for the future of the NBN, now that I know the relevant Minister, Stephen Conroy's favourite band is ABBA. But most of all I am glad it rekindled the debate about what kind of society we want to live in, because that is the very debate we should be having as a nation.
But it is no surprise that when the big debates are being had all Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey can rustle up is a glib one liner. And you know you've got it right when the conga line of Tea Party wannabes in our print media line up to bash you. I think if there was a bit more music in the lives of Terry McCrann or Judith Sloan or the editorial writers at the Fin and Oz they'd probably be a bit more in touch with people's lives. Well cheap slogans and Tea Party bile – whether from the Liberal Party or their allies – is no substitute for the policies and the values that will make us a stronger fairer society.
My speech went right to the values that underpinned not just the economic policy of the Government, but also our approach to building a stronger community. Those values were behind things like protecting peoples' jobs when the GFC hit, putting in place a mining tax to spread the opportunities of the boom or building the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In the face of the worst global recession in living memory we protected our people, we supported employment and we've kept in place the basics of a fair go. We should be really proud that we've grown our economy by 10 per cent since before the GFC - whereas many countries haven't got back to the starting line. Because we understand that you have to build prosperity before you can spread it.
I am proud the Australian economy has outperformed every major advanced economy and is expected to continue to outperform these economies over the next two years. Since December 2007 when Labor came to power, the Euro area economy has shrunk by 1.7 per cent; the Japanese economy has shrunk by 1.7 per cent, and the United States economy has grown by just 1.2 per cent.
As I said, at the same time, we grew by 10 per cent. And because of that we avoided the social destruction that comes with recession and unemployment around double digit numbers. That growth also represents opportunity that all Australians should have a stake in. But that doesn't happen by accident – if we want to maintain our growth and our prosperity we have to take everyone with us.
For 40 years Springsteen's been warning about what happens when you have big inequalities of wealth and opportunity. He said nobody wins unless everybody wins. And what I take from that is the importance of making sure we're building a broad middle class and society which has a high degree of social and economic mobility. We have to make sure we're looking after everyone in our society, not just the fortunate few.
When we talk about prosperity, growth and wealth creation – we need to be clear about why those things are important to us. We grow wealth for one over-riding reason: to create a better society. We build prosperity to spread opportunities. And we believe in a fair go. And this is at the heart of everything that the Labor Party under Julia Gillard is on about. Now I know these are not the values that drive our political opponents. You only have to listen carefully to Tassie's own Eric Abetz to know that he does not share the values of a fair go or build prosperity to spread opportunities. Because every time he and Abbott say that just want to make 'sensible' and 'measured' changes to the Fair Work Act, you know they are really screaming to their base "we are going to bring back WorkChoices". That is because there is nothing sensible and measured about cutting peoples pay and conditions. The Australian people know that Abetz and Abbott are just trying to hide behind these weasels words, but you only have to look at their values to know that they stand with the billionaires not working Australians.
It was because of our values we acted where the Liberals would not. It is why we acted to save Australia from recession, it is why we are building the NBN, why we are pricing carbon pollution, spreading the benefits of the mining boom, investing in health and education. It is why we are spreading the benefits of a strong economy, right around the country, especially to Tassie. So that everyone has a stake in the prosperity they help create. We understand that not everyone is felling the benefits of the boom and many feel that the boom is happening to someone else. That is probably no more the case than in Tassie. And it why the Gillard Labor Government is spreading the benefits of the boom to Tassie households and businesses.
We are providing a boost to Family Tax Benefit Part A for 43,000 Tasmanian families of up to $600 from 1 July next year. We are delivering a new Supplementary Allowance for more than 42,000 Tasmanian jobseekers, students and parents on income support of $210 for singles and $350 for couples a year from 20 March next year. The new Schoolkids Bonus is providing support to 34,800 Tasmanian families. We are tripling the tax free threshold will provide tax cuts worth $55 million to over 170,000 thousand Tasmanians. And because we understand that parts of the Tassie economy are doing it tough right now, we are making big investments down here to help drive prosperity. We're building vital infrastructure to lift the productive capacity of the state through improving the movement of goods around Tasmania and to the mainland. This will mean significant economic benefits to state.
In addition to funding road and rail upgrades, the Government recently provided $50 million funding for the remediation of the Macquarie Point rail yards, just around the river's edge from Constitution Dock. This project will free up some of the most magnificent waterfront land in the country and allow Macquarie Point to reach its true potential. It will unlock at least $1 billion worth of economic activity across the 8.4 hectare site. This project will provide Hobart with a significant economic boost through the generation of income and jobs, particularly in the construction sector.
Our Government is also investing a total of $193.63 million from the Nation Building Program throughout Tasmania. This includes rail projects currently underway, such as:
And the Tasmanian Government has committed an additional $15 million annually for maintenance on the rail network. Those are just some of the ways we're investing in the Tasmanian economy alongside our friends in the state government.
But as we understand in this room, uniquely in Australian politics, it's not just about building growth and wealth but also about spreading opportunity. And that brings me to one reform that possibly speaks loudest about our values – the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is the very same set of values I spoke about in my John Button Lecture that sees our side of politics now moving to deliver the NDIS. We were the driving force behind the age pension, we put in place Medicare, national superannuation, and paid parental leave.
And just last week we announced the National Disability Insurance Scheme launch right here in Tasmania. A landmark moment for Tasmanians with a disability, their families and carers, and the organisations that work so tirelessly to support them. And at this point I want to acknowledge the leadership of Premier Giddings in partnering with the Commonwealth to ensure that Tasmania plays a key role in this national reform. This launch will see support provided to nearly 1000 Tasmanians living with a disability aged between 15 and 24 from the middle of next year. The first stage will cover about 20,000 people across the country with significant and permanent profound disability. I know that many of you in this room have been advocates in our community for an NDIS. I want to thank you for your efforts. Give yourself a round of applause. We wouldn't have made it this far without your tireless work, and the work of thousands like you all over the country.
I am very proud to be part of a Government that will launch the first stage of the NDIS a full year ahead of the timetable set out by the Productivity Commission. Because we know that people with a disability have waited long enough. Like Aidan from southern Tasmania, a 19 year old young man with Down Syndrome, who misses out on a lot of support at the moment. His mum Debra can't work full time and the family's caring commitments places a lot of strain on their budget and on their time. So for Aidan's mum and dad and two siblings the NDIS will be a great help. It will take some pressure off Aidan's mum and dad and boost his care and confidence as well. So getting this work done quickly is an essential step towards delivering the care and support that is needed, by Aidan and so many others.
Friends it takes a Labor Government to ensure people have the opportunity to get ahead, while making sure no one gets left behind. I can't recall hearing much from the Liberal Party about a National Disability Insurance Scheme in their 12 years in government. Ours has always been a party with deep rooted values that that go to the very heart of our policy agenda. No doubt they are the values that draw to our party the life members we acknowledge here today. Just as they are the values that have brought those attending their very first State Labor Conference.
Members new and old understand the dividing line in Australian politics. Its Labor that will always look after working Australians, while our opponents will always bow down at the feet of the fortunate few. We're different, and our ambition is simple: for a nation where more people have a say in our debates and a stake in our success. With your help, this message will ring out right around Tasmania, and then right around the country. And if our voices are louder, our arguments stronger, and if we remember who we're here for, there's no reason we can't prevail.
Thank you for inviting me here and for your passion and commitment.