Speech to the ACT Labor Campaign Launch


“On October 20 our community – our neighbours, our workmates, the people we stand beside at the shops, the football, at school assemblies – will decide on the government they want to help write the next chapter of this city’s history.”

•       Ms Tanya Plibersek, Federal Minister for Health

•       Mr Elias Hallaj

•       Ms Kristen van Barn-e-veld

•       My caucus colleagues Andrew Barr, Simon Corbell, Joy Burch, Chris Bourke, Mary Porter

•       To our retiring colleague John Hargreaves

•       Former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope

•       To our wonderful candidates – Yvette Berry, Jayson Hinder, Glen McCrea, Angie Drake, Meegan Fitzharris, David Matthews, Mark Kulasingham, Rebecca Cody, Mick Gentleman, Karl Maftoum, Mike Kinniburgh

•       To my family thank you for coming to be with me today

•       Friends, colleagues, comrades all

I acknowledge that we meet today on the land of the Ngunnawal people.

I respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to this city and this community.

On October 20 our community – our neighbours, our workmates, the people we stand beside at the shops, the football, at school assemblies

– will decide on the government they want to help write the next chapter of this city’s history.

On that day we’ll learn whether we’ve kept Canberrans faith, conveyed

Labor’s vision clearly enough, to earn their trust and confidence for the next four years.

I have had the great privilege of being Chief Minister for just over a year now.

On the day I became Chief Minister I said I would work hard, with integrity, and in the best interests of the community.

I also said I would maintain ACT Labor’s proud reputation as a progressive government, serving a passionate, caring and progressive community – the most forward looking in the country.

Friends I know this is an approach you all share as do thousands of Canberrans who want an ACT Government that delivers important services, but also expect their elected representatives to voice their values, their hopes and lead debates on important community issues.

On October 20 I contest my first election as Chief Minister, fully aware of what I am asking of the community.

I’m asking for them to give me their support to continue the work that I’ve started – but not finished.

I have thought long and hard on how I should position our economy and our city for a prosperous future. I have spoken to business leaders, professors, builders, unionists, regional leaders, ministers, premiers and our own prime minister.

Today I will invite you to step into the future: a future, which with your support and a lot of hard work, we can make a reality: a reality for the next generation.

It’s a practical plan, built on our existing strengths: our highly educated population, our world class research institutions and universities, our emerging role as the health service sector for the SE region of NSW, all within the setting of an internationally renowned planned city, the capital of Australia, home to the Federal Government, our cultural institutions and major regional centre of SE NSW.

As with any plan, there are the foundations or building blocks, the essential elements. There is also imagination, belief in a better way and a belief in leadership, which has a responsibility to leave something better behind.

I am not a seat warmer and never will be. I want to get things done, achieve tangible, real progress for our city and for our community.

I want people to be confident and excited about the future, not looking over their shoulder to see if someone is coming to take their job and their prosperity.

Since becoming Chief Minister I have begun putting together the elements of a plan for the future, piece-by-piece, and step-by-step.

I have forged new relationships with surrounding councils and the NSW Government to ensure we have integrated planning of major infrastructure and services;

To underscore the importance of our regional relationships to our future prosperity I have already announced that if re-elected, Labor will create a new portfolio of Regional Development to ensure this vital work gets the close attention it deserves.

I have worked closely with the leadership of both the ANU and the University of Canberra to forge new research possibilities and campus based infrastructure like the new UC public hospital. We have formed exciting partnerships with our tertiary sector to promote and support our city as the destination of choice for domestic and international students, world class researchers and teachers.

Slowly but surely we are striking out in a new direction for our city and for our region. It’s a vision of Canberra as a national centre of excellence in education and research; a regional centre for health services and a prosperous and comfortable home to a highly skilled and motivated workforce.

That’s the future I want for our city and for our children.

I contest this election in the conviction that Labor is the only party with the vision and the plans to take our city forward, not backwards.

To create jobs, not cut them.

To insist on fairness, not favoritism.

I also admit to contesting this election believing that Canberrans will see through the desperate Liberal lies.

That they will recoil from the Liberals’ mean, narrow and unambitious agenda.

I think Canberrans are smart enough to be suspicious, when they hear the Liberals bad-mouthing the health system for four years, only to turn around now, a month out, and endorse every single element of Labor’s health policy.

The Liberals have had four years to think of an alternative health policy.

And what do they do? Add up the tables from the recent Budget papers and call it a plan.

It’s not a plan. It’s not even a one-point plan. It’s a no-point plan. No plan and no point.

Labor knows that the foundations of a good society are the simple things: education, health, and jobs.

But getting these foundation elements to interact, making the connections and the investments that will drive our collective capacity and prosperity isn’t simple.

It takes ideas. It takes vision. It takes partnerships, like the ones Labor has forged across the community.

Today I want to talk primarily about one of these three foundations of a good society.

It’s a foundation without which there can be no progress, no opportunity, no future.

I’m talking about education.

Labor is, and always has been, the party of educational opportunity.

Labor men and women know that education is the great enabler, the great equaliser.

It is no coincidence that it is a Labor Prime Minister that is now fighting for every Australian school student to be funded on the basis of need.

It is no coincidence that it is our Branch and your ACT Labor Government, that have been the first to stand up and say that we want to be a part of this historic work.

Labor doesn’t support some schools, some students. We support all schools and every student.

We do so as the state Liberal government just across the border is sucking $1.7 billion from schools and TAFE.

We do it whilst Tony Abbott calmly plans to slash university places by 130,000 and raise fees by 25%.

Is it any wonder the Canberra Liberals have told Tony Abbott to stay away from their campaign?

Only last week it slipped the Liberals’ mind that they need to fund the CIT as part of their education policy.

ACT Labor and your ACT Labor Government believe education is the game-changer in many lives.

Today, we, the party of education will ‘change the game’ for future generations of young Canberrans, with a new quarter of a billion dollar package of investments in our education system over the coming term.

A quarter of a billion dollar package – that’s right.

We do so because we have a vision for education in our city that benefits the high-achiever that benefits the student who struggles, and that benefits every child in between.

A vision born out of Labor’s passion for fairness, and our belief in making a better city for our children and their children.

It’s a vision for success.

We want every child to successfully reach their educational potential.

We want every child to be successfully armed for the world of modern work. For the new, clean industries that will power Canberra’s future economy.

We want our tertiary institutions to compete  successfully for the best students and scholars, so that we can build research intensity in this town like no other.

That’ s success, and only Labor has the vision, the will and the commitment to make it happen.

Labor won’t just throw a purse full of coins, and hope it’s enough to keep everyone quiet until after election day. We think beyond October 20.

We plan for the schools we’ll build next.

We think about teachers. How best to reward and respect them for their important work.

We think about students – every single one of them, wherever they go to school.

And we think about the connections between education and jobs, between education and the economy, between education and our shared prosperity.

We think about how to prepare our children for tomorrow’s high-skilled, high-paying jobs.

About a seamless connection between the preschool playground and the research institutes where new knowledge is produced and new products commercialised.

So let’s go now to where it always starts: the bricks and mortar of our schools.

It is absolutely essential, for the sake of the jobs that will drive our future prosperity, that Canberra schools match it with the best in the world when it comes to education in the areas of maths, science, engineering and technology.

That means getting more students studying these subjects, and at a higher level.

I’ve already announced some of the investments Labor will make in this space.

We’ll help non-government schools get connected to high-speed broadband, so that they can share in the benefits already being enjoyed by every government school.

We’ll make $5 million available to government high schools and colleges for projects that make use of new technologies in math’s and science courses, or that forge partnerships with business, so students understand the real-world applications of what they learn.

We’re investing another million dollars in primary school libraries, to drive digital literacy.

We’re expanding the Secondary Bursary Scheme to help parents equip their children with handheld electronic devices like tablets.

We’re also investing in connections and partnerships. Making investments that can switch a child’s thinking and a city’s economic future.

A solid grounding in science is vital to many of the jobs and industries of the future.

Nationally, the proportion of students studying science in the final years of school has dropped from 94% in the 1980s to just over 50% now.

Labor wants to re-ignite the love of science, the passion for discovery. We’ll do it by reaching for the stars.

Today I announce that in our next term an ACT Labor Government will invest $1.7 million and partner with the ANU to build a Science Centre and Student Planetarium at Mt Stromlo.

In the heart of the iconic Mt Stromlo Observatory precinct, the centre and planetarium will be integrated into the ANU’s own facilities, but will be managed and run by the ACT Government.

These facilities will be open to every government and non-government student in Canberra, as well as to national school groups. Here, we will immerse the scientists of tomorrow in the world of space science, and the career opportunities that science, mathematics, engineering and technology hold out.

Bricks and mortar – like Stromlo, like the new CIT campus in Tuggeranong we announced late last week – are critical foundations.

There are bricks and mortar investments on our new frontiers as well.

Labor will build a new, $45 million primary school in Coombs and begin planning for a new school in Moncreiff.

We will continue our investment in existing schools with a school infrastructure package of $70 million ensuring that older schools get the upgrades they need, and students and teachers the facilities they deserve.

Infrastructure projects like these are crucial. Labor knows that. But it’s what goes on in our school buildings that truly matters.

Labor knows that investing in education is inseparable from investing in teachers.

One crucial area of investment is professional development.

Teachers have historically had fewer opportunities than other government employees to pursue higher educational opportunities.

Today, Labor, the party of education, announces that over the next four years we will invest $4 million in scholarships and other supports, to help school teachers pursue higher post graduate qualifications, in areas such as science, maths and ICT.

We are also investing in students, so that every single child is given the opportunity that comes with a good education.

However you slice it, that means we must, as a community, hold out hope, and a hand.

That means students with disabilities.

Boys and girls born into homes without books, or without a parent in work.

The School Literacy and Numeracy Field Officer program which has targeted public schools with students at risk of poor literacy and numeracy performance, has proved highly successful in improving the performance of students from lower socio economic areas and indigenous students.

This program has proved to be extremely popular with both teachers and parents alike.

A re-elected Labor Government will commit up to $12m to maintain and expand this important program.

That’s an investment of over $12 million in children at risk of slipping through the literacy and numeracy net.

We will also invest an additional $10 million in new funding for programs to help students with complex learning needs – particularly those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Between us, by delivering these commitments I know that we can make a difference.

But there is another vital issue we must address: we must build a city and an economy that is less vulnerable to the Tony Abbotts and Joe Hockeys of the world.

Education is the key to creating the kind of jobs we want for this city. High-skilled, high-paid jobs in new, clean industries.

But education is linked to jobs growth in another way too. Education itself is an industry sector with limitless potential for growth of our city.

I want Canberra to be the destination of first choice for every university student, every early-career researcher, and every professor.

Labor’s decision to build a new public hospital on the grounds of the University of Canberra is an important element of our vision for a growing education sector.

Yes, it will increase the capacity of our hospital system. We need that.

But it will also attract bright students to Canberra, train new health professionals, conduct important research and position UC as the most sought-after health university in the region.

Similarly, our commitment to a Chair of Cancer Research at the ANU will dramatically elevate the capacity of our city to conduct globally significant research into the causes and treatment of cancers.

It will let us attract the best scholars and clinicians, the best students, surgeons and researchers, to live and work in Canberra.

These investments are backed in by a comprehensive blueprint for expanding our tertiary sector.

StudyCanberra is a $2m strategy targeted to increasing student numbers, increasing our research capacity and boosting education’s role in our economy. It’s an ambitious plan to make Canberra the study city of choice for local, national and international students.

Labor recognises the need to support our tertiary and research institutions and the work that they do and to promote this city as one of (if not the) top educational destinations in Australia.

StudyCanberra, like all Labor’s policies, is aligned to our economic and jobs vision.

And… If we are successful, if we achieve this ambitious agenda, we will chart a bright new future for our city.

I have worked hard to position us as the economic heart of the region. That’s why Labor’s policies are ones that pull investment and drive productivity and foster economic growth.

The Liberal focus is narrow and unambitious.

The Liberals say they are ready.

Maybe, ready to cut jobs and conditions.

Ready to abandon the vulnerable, ready to actively discriminate against some of our citizens and ready to roll over to Tony Abbott.

Without a clear vision for health, jobs or education they are clearly not ready to govern.

Their sights are never raised beyond the level of a local council. Canberrans know that the key to our city’s continued success is about more than just that.

Now don’t misunderstand me. Council services are crucial. I know.

I’m the Minister with whom the buck stops, and I took on responsibility for them because I believe they belong in my in-tray.

But let’s not sell ourselves short.

We can do more than one thing at a time.

We can deliver world-class local services, and have a clear vision for our economic and jobs future.

In fact, we have to.

It’s our job to.

Men and women of Labor, our party’s contribution to this city, particularly over recent years, has been profound. It is something of which every woman and every man here today can be proud.

We have made Canberra a fairer, stronger and more liveable city for all.

Labor has steered this city through the worst global economic downturn since the great depression. We did it by keeping our nerve.

In fact, right through the midst of the GFC we were delivering the most ambitious infrastructure program in this city’s history – a billion-dollar-plus investment in public health.

A new women’s and children’s hospital.

A new regional cancer centre of excellence.

A new mental health facility.

New operating theatres, extra beds, more nurses and doctors.

The GFC was a test for our community, and we came through it, together.

And we will continue to invest in this city and our community, and in the services Canberrans want and need.

Over the next four years we’ll grow our health workforce by another 500 doctors, nurses and allied professionals – employed across the health system and to staff the 170 beds that will be built over the next four years.

We will inject another $19 million into our emergency departments, to reduce waiting times there.

Labor has capacity. We have maturity and a track record of delivery unequalled at any time in this Territory’s history.

We don’t shy away from the politically hard decisions – like the important, long-term tax reforms upon which we’ve embarked, which will make the system fairer for every Canberran.

Yes – ACT Labor has changed the rates system – to make it fairer and we’ve cut stamp duty to make housing more affordable.

Under Labor a quarter of Canberra households are paying lower rates. For the remainder, rates will increase by an average of $2.35 a week.

This is while wages continue to rise and other taxes are cut.

These changes were made based on core Labor values:

The dignity of work; the right to equality of opportunity; the compassion that prompts us to extend a hand to our neighbours in their moment of need.

Friends, if there’s one thing that unites Canberrans, it is that they love their city – from our oldest citizens to the youngest

Labor has been a big part of making this city and this community what they are today.

Through lean times and good times, from infancy to maturity.

Now, as we head on into our second century, we have it within our collective power as a community to decide what we will become next.

Our election promises are ones of vision and confidence in our city’s future.

They are above all practical but grounded in a bright plan for our city that rises above the mundane and the ordinary.

A plan that stretches forward to create brilliant opportunities for our children.

This election will be tough make no mistake about it – but we face our opponents front on.

We will not allow the election to be determined by a desperate lie buried in a visionless negative campaign.

In contrast to our opponents – we, members of the Labor Party must fight this campaign on a platform of honesty, hope and vision for the future.

We will all work tirelessly over the next 5 weeks to spread our message.

We will work hard, we will front up and answer every question, and we will explain our policies with honesty and conviction.

So, talk to your friends, your workmates and your neighbours.

– tell them that the choice they make in October is about better schools, better hospitals and jobs.

It’s about the future, about a vision for our children, their hopes and aspirations – about how great Canberra can be.

It’s about a choice between looking to the horizon and striving for the best or just looking to the end of the driveway.

Labor plans will protect jobs and create new jobs.

Labor plans will build the schools and an education economy that will mean success for our children and theirs.

Labor plans will create the best regional hospital system in the country.

Together we can create a brilliant future.

Friends, join with me and help us create today’s vision – tomorrow’s reality.