Premier's Speech to the 2012 ALP State Conference Tue 7 August 2012 Lara Giddings Premier Download hi-res version ALP State Conference - Premier's Speech 5/8/12 INTRODUCTION This month will mark the fourteenth anniversary of Labor government in Tasmania. It's a good time to reflect on what Labor has achieved after14 years in office, under the leadership of Premiers Bacon, Lennon and Bartlett, what we're doing now with this Government, and what we aim to achieve in the future. Let's take a moment to go back in time to that historic day - the 29th of August 1998 - when Jim Bacon led the Labor Party victory. John Howard was in his third year as Prime Minister and Kim Beazley was the federal Opposition Leader. Bill Clinton was US President, and Tony Blair was in his second year as British Prime Minister. No one had heard of iPods and iPhones, let alone Twitter or Facebook. The world has come a long way over the last 14 years. A lot has happened in our island state too, some of it was change we led, and some of it was change we had to adapt to. The 1998 election was the catalyst for the transformation of Tasmania, and the changes are continuing today. Labor has always been the party to deliver the big reforms that set the course for future growth. And we continue to govern with a reform agenda that is responding to a rapidly changing global environment. I believe that Labor members and supporters can be rightly proud of what we have achieved and what we are still achieving. LABOR'S ACHIEVEMENTS SINCE 1998 In line with Labor's values of equality and fairness we have consistently implemented reforms that have made Tasmania a more inclusive and modern society. Labor has had the courage to tackle difficult, complex and challenging areas where progressive action was needed to make our community a better and safer place. There's no better example than our determination to end all discrimination as seen yesterday on the issue of marriage equality. Over the last 14 years we have done much: · to give a helping hand to those in our community who are in need through having the most generous and comprehensive concession scheme in the country. · Protecting vulnerable people through Safe at Home legislation and deinstitutionalizing people with a mental illness or disability. · Investing in affordable housing. · Addressing homelessness through programs such as Common Ground. · And building better infrastructure and services for our most disadvantaged communities through facilities such as LINCs Neighbourhood Houses and Child and Family Centres. I've been to these centres. I've sat down with young mums and their children and I understand the real difference they are making to people's lives. We have taken measures to ease the cost of living for those most in need. And we have built new roads, schools and community health facilities, not to mention investing in key economic infrastructure like natural gas, optic fibre, Basslink and the Spirit of Tasmania ferries. We have addressed animal welfare concerns by taking action on caged hens and sow stalls - issues that have been raised at previous state conferences. The list of our achievements goes on, as you have seen on the screen during conference. And it is a list of achievements for which we should all be proud. But the community is entitled to ask, what are you doing for us now and what will you do for us in the future? WHAT LABOR IS DOING NOW We are building new services that will transform the lives of Tasmanians. Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister and I met with some of the one-thousand-or-so Tasmanians who will benefit from the new National Disability Insurance Scheme. I cannot tell you how proud I am - how proud we should all be - to be members of a political party which is transforming the way services are provided to people living with a disability. It is groundbreaking stuff and the biggest reform of healthcare since the introduction of Medicare. The cheap politics played by Liberal Premiers over the NDIS at COAG highlights once again that only Labor is capable of putting politics aside to achieve a visionary and compassionate outcome for people in need. Labor understands that government is about getting the priorities right. But as the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday - we need to grow the economy first before we can talk about how to spread the benefits. To grow a strong economy we need to be strong financial managers. It was the Hawke and Keating Governments that set the benchmark for the strong and responsible financial management that characterises modern Labor Governments. It is because we took hard decisions and continued this legacy that we have been able to share the benefits with all Tasmanians households and protect them from excessive electricity price rises. This allowed for $37 million to be put back into the pockets of all Tasmanians, on top of the $47 million we spend every year on electricity concessions for pensioners, to help with their daily living costs. Responsible financial management also means looking at your income, as well as your expenditure. Consistent with views expressed at State Conference last year we've also taken steps to replace some of the lost revenue through increases in areas where Tasmania's rates of taxation were below those in other states. JOBS FOR THE FUTURE Now more than ever we need strong leadership as we confront the realities of the high Australian dollar and struggling overseas markets, which are making it hard for export based economies like Tasmania's. There is no hiding from the fact that unemployment is too high. We need more jobs and we will deliver. Labor always fights to protect jobs at risk and to help create new ones and that is what my Government is doing. We fought to help protect 500 jobs at Pacific Aluminium at Bell Bay and, thanks to a new deal with Hydro, those jobs are now secure for the long term. We fought to protect 300 jobs at BHP Temco and I'm pleased to see the plant back up and running. And we fought to create 800 new jobs through the roll-out of the National Broadband Network and I congratulate the Federal Government for delivering this for Tasmania. Along with the Labor Members for Bass, Michelle O'Byrne and Brian Wightman, I was able to meet with workers from Pac Al and Temco and it was great to see them walking tall, with smiles on their faces, when they heard the good news that their jobs were safe. Only Labor understands the importance of jobs, and the dignity and independence that job security brings. It is jobs that stand at the centre of what we are doing now, and it is jobs that determine what we will do in the future. By working with industries to restructure and respond to change, Tasmania is poised to become one of the most dynamic small economies in the world, producing high quality niche products and services that are recognised and valued across the globe. We need to do all we can do encourage and support more of the wonderful private investments we have seen at places like MONA, Barnbougle and Saffire. That's why we are reforming our planning system, and that's why we are opening up the waterfront for development. Importantly, we are not just leaving it up to the private sector - Labor is also building the infrastructure needed to create new jobs into the future. Our $320 million irrigation program, in partnership with the Australian Government, is supporting primary producers to create new jobs and realise the vision of Tasmania as the nation's food bowl. Off the back of this investment we are already seeing: · The doubling of our dairy industry · The doubling of our aquaculture industry · And the quadrupling of Tasmanian wine production We are also seeing - · record levels of mineral exploration and mining exports, · and a massive boost for the North East region with the $400 million Musselroe Wind Farm now underway. We are also preparing for the jobs of the future off the back of the NBN in the emerging digital and creative economy. LABOR HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE PARTY OF REFORM AND PROGRESS Labor has always been the party of reform and progress. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, Labor is not here to keep seats warm…we get the big things done. When we see that changes are needed, we don't bury our heads in the sand like the Liberals. We look people in the eye and tell them what the problem is. And we look them in the eye and tell them what we plan to do about it. That is what Labor has done at both national and State levels with health, water and sewerage, and who could forget just last week Bryan Green fronting the community in Bridgewater on the hardest issue of the moment - forestry. Forest workers have been the innocent victims as the high Australian dollar, changing market demand and environmental campaigns have undermined the industry. That is why we have a responsibility to do all we can to assist forest workers and their families who have lost their livelihoods. We also have a responsibility to ensure a sustainable forest industry for the future and heal the divisions of the past, and diversify our economy to try to avoid even more painful restructuring down the track. That is what we are doing. Respecting communities, working with communities - unlike the Liberals who believe that if they close their eyes and pretend nothing is happening the industry will one day magically go back to what it was. But we don't just respond to change, we also lead the way on the big reforms - like energy reform. Together with our Federal colleagues we recognise the great potential to build on Tasmania's renewable energy industry, complemented by the strong and historic decision to put a price on carbon. Because we pursued Basslink, Tasmania will benefit for years to come from the carbon economy in the form of growing profits and dividends from Hydro Tasmania which will enable us to invest back into the core services that Labor holds dear - health, education and community safety. The Government will also reform our electricity market to give customers more choice and to put downward pressure on prices. Importantly, we will achieve this without privatising or breaking up the Hydro, and we will retain ownership of our network of poles and wires. WHY A LABOR GOVERNMENT? Being in Government is difficult at the best of times. In times like these it's tough, it's challenging and it's complex. Being in a minority government only magnifies these complexities. But that's life. That's what Tasmanians voted for. I know there are some Labor supporters - and even some delegates in this room - who believe it would have been better to have gone into Opposition in 2010 and left the Liberals to deal with the challenges Tasmania faced in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. It might have been easier, but it would not have been better. Nor would it have been the right thing to do for Tasmania. You only need to look at look at the havoc being wreaked by Liberal Governments in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to understand that a Labor Government - even in a minority Government - will always serve our community better than the Liberals. We are not the first minority government we've seen in Australia - nor will we be the last. Some people forget that even the governments led by Bob Carr, Steve Bracks and Mike Rann all had periods in minority. It didn't stop those governments doing the things that people expect from Labor Governments - and it hasn't stopped mine. Earlier today I visited the home of Gillian Green and her daughter Paige to hand over the first of our Winter Housewarming boxes. The Winter Housewarming Boxes contain dust and draught tape, door sausages, a throw rug and even a hot water bottle. Labor recognises that finding and establishing a new home can be difficult and expensive, particularly when you are on a limited income. These boxes add to the additional funding we have provided through the No Interest Loan Scheme to help lower income Tasmanians purchase more energy efficient heating appliances. Good Labor policy from a good Labor Government. LABOR'S CONTINUING SOCIAL REFORM In the coming months we will be continuing the Labor tradition of progressive law reform, not just on the issue of marriage equality. We will further progress reforms to allow for same sex adoptions. We will continue to reform our surrogacy laws to allow Tasmanians who have no other options to realize their dream of starting a family. We will look at ways to bring our sex industry legislation into the 21st Century. We will deliver on our commitment to further Aboriginal reconciliation by handing back land at Larapuna and Rebecca Creek and implementing a dual naming policy. And as a private member of Parliament I will deliver on my promise to progress with dying with dignity legislation, while Michelle O'Byrne will bring forward reform of our abortion laws. But today I want to also confirm that in the upcoming session of Parliament we will take another symbolic but important step and acknowledge the hurt caused by the past practice of forced adoptions. I cannot begin to imagine the trauma and sense of loss those women and their children feel after having had the parental bond torn apart at birth. While nothing can make up for the pain of a mother losing a child or a child losing their mother, a formal apology may help with the healing process. It is a difficult and complex issue and the details will need to be worked through with those whose lives have been impacted by the practice but I want to be very clear: an apology is required and an apology will be given. Economic Progress in the Asian Century While social reform is important, we will not lose sight of the need to build a strong economy now and for the future. I have spoken before about how I believe Tasmania needs to do more to take advantage of the Asian Century. Over the next 20 years the Asian middle class is predicted to grow from around 500 million people today to more than three billion. Those three billion people are the future consumers for Tasmania's wines and dairy, for our vegetables and meat, and for our wool and fruit - not to mention tourism, education and Tasmania's other high quality services and products. It is vital that we make the most of the opportunity that Asia offers. That's why I will lead a Tasmanian trade delegation to Asia in September. And that's why we are the only Australian State working to develop its own Asian White Paper to complement the work being done at a national level by Dr Ken Henry. It's important to remember it's not just a white paper, it is a plan to link Tasmania directly into the biggest jobs engine in the world. This is Labor's vision. Jobs. Fairness. Equity. THE OPPOSITION Which brings me to our political opponents and their lack of vision. When I look across the House of Assembly towards Will Hodgman and the other leadership aspirants on the Liberal Party benches, I think Will Hodgman makes a very good Leader of the Opposition. He opposed the sale of TOTE Tasmania - which allowed Labor to reinvest funds in cost of living initiatives. He opposes our electricity reforms - which will give Tasmanians choice and reduce power bill increases by about $200 a year. He opposes the establishment of a body to oversee the redevelopment of the Hobart rail yards, as required to secure Commonwealth funds. He opposes the Tasmanian Forests Agreement, which has provided more than $100 million assistance to forest workers, contractors and affected communities while working to secure the long term future of the forest industry. He opposes putting a price on carbon - a price which will actually result in more money for Tasmania to spend on core services. It seems that Will Hodgman has decided to take the Tony Abbott approach of opposing everything and standing for nothing. What's more, he is petrified of making a tough decision. As a consequence, his only response to difficult issues is a chorus of hollow slogans, feigned anger and a deeply furrowed brow. The Liberals are incapable of providing the vision and direction that Tasmania needs. The Liberals will tell you "it's time for a change" but they never change. They try to be all things to all people. They promise more money for health. They promise more money for schools. They promise more money for police. But they can't say where the money would come from. They've rejected every savings measure the Government has announced. But they say they'd keep the Budget under control. The Liberal Party think we should trust them with running our public services. Well let me tell you, earlier this week I met with my Labor colleagues in states where Liberal politicians have lied themselves into office with the same empty promises that they wouldn't slash services, and then did exactly the opposite after the election. In Queensland Campbell Newman has already sacked 5000 public servants and is only just warming up. 15,000 more jobs to go! The New South Wales Liberal Government announced similar cuts of 15 000 public sector jobs, and more than 4000 public sector jobs are being cut by the Victorian Liberals. It's true that my Government has made reductions to sustain our public services, but make no mistake - the Liberal Party is not interested in sustaining public services, their approach to public services has always been to slash and burn, leaving vulnerable members of our community to fend for themselves. Now we have Tony Abbott agreeing with Liberal Premiers in the big four states on a plan to strip more than half a billion dollars of GST revenue out of our state. That's $100 ripped out of the pocket of every Tasmanian man, woman and child. And what's Will Hodgman doing about it? The fact is that the Tasmanian Liberals are too weak, too populist, and too inexperienced to run Tasmania. LABOR WORKS WITH UNIONS In contrast we stand for something much greater than this - equality, fairness and opportunity. And it is only the Labor Party and Labor Governments that can work together with our union movement to improve the lives of working people and their families. Who could forget Bill Kelty's inspirational speech to the ACTU Congress earlier this year where he talked about how today's economic challenges mirrored the challenges of the 1980s. This is what he said - "Hard decisions were made in the '80s. Real pressures on living standards, high unemployment, but we never, ever lost a sense of hope and trust that government and unions would see it out and there would be a better future. "Today we have better economic conditions but that hope and that trust has retreated." We won't always agree on the best approach, but I am sure everybody in this room understands, we have taken some tough but necessary financial decisions to get our Budget back on track. I acknowledge the union movement was concerned about the impact that these decisions might have on their members and that many did not agree with us. But in a genuine spirit of goodwill for the welfare of Tasmania I want to commend our public sector workforce and their unions - the CPSU, the AEU, HACSU and United Voice for the wage sacrifices they are making to help ensure we can provide community services for the future. I am sure everyone in this room passionately shares the belief that the very best people to take the steps needed to keep these services going in the future is a Labor Party and unions doing it the Labor way. CONCLUSION Since August 1998, four Labor Premiers have each put their stamp on the social and economic fabric of Tasmania. While each of us as Leaders has had a different emphasis, we have all been proud to govern in the best traditions of our party. Growing up, first in Papua New Guinea and then in Tasmania, I was blessed with an upbringing that was culturally rich and economically comfortable. But I was taught the importance of fairness, opportunity and equality. These are the values that have sustained my political career, and they are the values that I hope will been seen as the hallmark of the government I lead. I am proud of the work we are doing - the whole Parliamentary Labor Team - shoulders to the wheel, working to build a sustainable future for our community. And I'm proud to stand before this conference as your leader. Sure we've had our challenges, but we've met them head-on . That's part of our strength. We are a party that responds to change. We are a party that is determined to build a strong foundation for the future. We are a party that is prepared to look the community in the eye and tell them what needs to be done to deliver fairness, opportunity and equality. We are a party that will not rest on its laurels, but will continue to strive for the very best outcomes for our community. These are the things that distinguish us from our political opponents. These are the things that make us proud we are Labor.