Member for Isaacs

Isaacs Campaign Launch Speech - Mark Dreyfus QC MP

Speech at the launch of my 2013 campaign for the great electorate of Isaacs.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

Thank you for joining me tonight to officially launch the Isaacs 2013 Campaign. Of course, as many of you will know, the work is already well and truly underway to retain the seat of Isaacs - a seat that has been held by Labor since 1996. I am confident that with your support, Isaacs will remain Labor following this election, and will continue to be represented by Labor for many elections to come.

I am proud, and we should all be proud, of the achievements of our Labor Government. It has not been an easy term, in part due to the challenges of being the first federal minority government in seventy years, and in part due to the persistent negativity and spoiling tactics of the Opposition. While we have worked to implement reforms in the best interests of all Australians, the Opposition Leader has continued to engage in the most destructive, dishonest and negative kind of politics. A kind of politics that has undermined our system of government and that has consistently placed the political interests of the Liberal Party ahead of the best interests of our nation.

Despite the challenges we have faced this last term of government, Labor has passed 595 Bills through the Australian Parliament - exceeding the number of Bills passed during the entire Howard era. Every one of those Bills had to be negotiated with the cross-benchers and the Liberal Party, in both Houses.

Of course we in Labor understand that implementing reform will always be more difficult than simply managing the status quo. But we do not accept the conservative view that catastrophe is the only legitimate impetus to reform. On the contrary, we in Labor hold that those who serve the Australian people in public office should always look at how we can better realise the values we hold dear. This is the essence of the progressive ethos. We do not rest on our laurels, content to manage the status quo and to toady to vested interests until intolerable public pressure - or disaster - demands a reaction.

I am proud to be a member of a Government that has had the initiative, the courage and the capacity to change our nation, and to change it for the better.

One of the most significant pieces of legislation that our Labor Government passed, and one that is particularly important to me as the vital beginning of long journey, is the Clean Energy Future package. After nearly two decades of debate on climate change and no less than 35 parliamentary inquiries spanning 17 years, Australia is finally moving towards a clean energy future. Since July 2012, we have had a price on carbon, and we are already beginning to see the results.
Greenhouse gas emissions from power generation have fallen 7 per cent. That's a reduction of over 12 million tonnes of pollution, equivalent of taking around 3.5 million cars off the road for one year. The amount of renewable energy generated is up 25 per cent, and a record number of renewable power projects are underway.
Under Labor, we will have an emissions trading scheme by July 2014, ensuring that Australia is not left behind as the rest of the world moves towards greener, more sustainable economies.

In contrast, Mr Abbott's so-called Direct Action' policy is little more than a hollow slogan, concocted on the back of a proverbial envelope. In essence, Mr Abbott's plan proposes a system for enormously expensive taxpayer subsidies to be handed to polluting companies in the hope they will reduce their carbon emissions. It is a policy has been widely condemned by economists, scientists and policymakers as one of the poorest examples of public policy formulation in this country. It is a high cost, economically irresponsible, fundamentally inequitable and utterly ineffective response to the challenge of climate change.
It is vitally important that the Australian Government continue to support meaningful action on climate change. And very sadly for our nation, it is only Labor that is committed to doing so.

Which brings me to the undeniable strength of the Australian economy, something else we should all be proud of. Under Labor, Australia has achieved the gold-plated AAA rating from all three global ratings agencies for the first time in our history - something the Liberals couldn't achieve during 11 years of office, despite the long economic boom that they inherited from the sweeping reforms of the Hawke and Keating era.

While the net debt of other major advanced economies peaks at over 90 per cent, Australia's net debt will peak at just 13 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in 2014-15.

We have kept interest rates at record lows, which means that a family with a $300,000 mortgage is now saving more than $100 a week on their mortgage compared to when the Liberals were last in Government.

At the same time as 28 million jobs around the world have been lost due to the worst financial crisis in 80 years, Labor has overseen the creation of over 960,000 jobs since we took office in 2007.

So when Liberal candidates declare that if elected they are are going to turn the economy around', I am fearful that they are telling the truth. They will turn the economy around with their fetish for austerity for all but the wealthy - and send our nation backwards.

But Australia's outstanding economic performance does not mean that it is time to sit back and lazily coast on our successes, indulging in profligate and inequitable middle-class welfare like the Howard Government did when it was in office. To the contrary, our economic strength should be a spur to further action, and in particular, to grasp the opportunities that we now have to invest in our nation's future prosperity.

With the rollout of the National Broadband Network, which began last year, we have continued to create jobs, to support business, and to build the critical infrastructure required for the long term prosperity of our nation.

Several suburbs in our electorate are included in the initial three year rollout of the NBN and by 2021, every Australian household and business will have access to high-speed broadband with no connection fee to the premises.

These are just a few of the many important reforms this Labor Government has delivered. Despite these significant achievements, this election will be a very tough fight - but it is a fight that I believe we can win.

No one could who reads the papers can have missed the fact that we are contesting this election in a very hostile media environment. But so often when I talk to people about politics and the coming election I am inspired by the fact that they are guided by values that I share. And I know that so many Australians are open to hearing about what's really going on, to go beyond the propaganda of Mr Murdoch's hopelessly biased newspapers. And a great many of these people will vote for Labor.

We have a strong national message and strong national leadership. On the ground here in Isaacs, we have a field campaign that is knocking on thousands of doors, making thousands of phone calls and reaching every area in the electorate.

We have many volunteers, who have dedicated hours to sharing with the community Labor's plan for a better, stronger Australia. I have no doubt that all the Labor volunteers in Isaacs, and across the country, are making a substantial difference to the outcome of this election.

I have held back from acknowledging individual volunteers for their contribution, because every single one of you, through your efforts - no matter how big or how small - have become an integral part of our team, led with tireless enthusiasm by Tim Richardson from my electorate office.

But I do want to share with you one small vignette, an email from a volunteer to Tim just yesterday. I won't identify her, but I will read a part of her email:

Hi Tim,

I've always been interested in social justice and equality for all and Labor's values match my own. I work in community health and witness the situation for disadvantaged people on a daily basis and it concerns me how it will impact people from all walks of life if the Liberals win the election. I am very involved in the local community & have 3 teenage children so my time is limited but I decided that it was important to get involved in the election.

When I received a phone call from a Labor party campaigner inviting me to the campaign launch at the Edithvale offices a few weeks ago I came along to listen.
I was struck with how approachable & positive the campaigners were and how willing they were to embrace us as local community members.

Since then I have been able to spend about 2 sessions a week making phone calls for the campaign. I have learned a great deal through this process. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, but been fascinating to listen to the variety of issues that are important to the local population and to be in a position to help them make an informed choice regarding the election.

It has been incredibly rewarding to be part of a very positive campaign & I feel as if there is great value in what we're doing.

I would encourage everyone here tonight to contribute to the Labor campaign - I know many of you are already doing so and for that I thank you. I would ask you to stand proud as a Labor supporter, because we have much to be proud of.

It is Federal Labor that brought Australians the first national paid parental leave scheme - a scheme that is fair and affordable.

It is Federal Labor that made the single largest investment in the health workforce - guaranteeing that every Australian has access to quality healthcare, no matter where they live.

It is Federal Labor that is building a world class education system for our children through the Better Schools Plan.

It is Federal Labor that is establishing Disability Care Australia.

It is Federal Labor that stands to protect our unique and fragile natural environment, and to take the difficult but necessary action that our nation must take if we are to confront the challenge of climate change.

And it is Federal Labor, and only Federal Labor, that has a positive plan for a secure and prosperous Australia.

I want to conclude by saying that I remain truly honoured to represent the people of Isaacs and will continue to do my best to represent our community in the Federal Parliament. In my maiden speech I spoke of Isaac Isaacs, a great Australian who was not only the Federal Attorney-General, but also the first Australian born Governor-General of our nation.

I am honoured to have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps as the Federal Attorney-General.

And I hope that after the election I will be able to continue the vital work of building a more just, equitable and secure nation, under the rule of law, as our nation's Attorney-General in a returned Labor Government.

Thank you.