SPEECH: WA Labor Conference

04 November 2023











Thank you for that lovely Perth welcome.

Can I begin by recognising that we meet today on the home of the Whadjuk people of the Nyoongar Nation.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respect to elders past and present.

And here, in the state of Western Australia, at this gathering of our Labor family, I want to pay special tribute to a dear friend and colleague: Senator Pat Dodson.

Pat has been through a lot over the past year.

With personal health challenges deepened by public grief.

But Pat, we will always have your back.

The day you walked into our party room was a day we all stood taller.

And in return, we will always stand with you.

Dusting ourselves off, renewing our support for reconciliation.

Using every tool at hand, to listen, to recognise, and to close the gap.

Friends, it’s wonderful to be back in Perth, with the mighty Western Australian Labor Party.

I welcome all the trade unionists, all the true believers, all the members and officials who have made this branch the powerhouse of Australia.

I’ll never forget the moment last year when the results from WA started coming in. 

It was like the cavalry arriving, you could hear it from Sydney.

Zaneta Mascarenhas in Swan.

Tracey Roberts in Pearce.

Tania Lawrence in Hasluck.

Anne Aly winning Cowan by the length of the Belmont straight.

Four great women, four great Labor women, helping us back into government.

And though we didn’t know it yet, another Labor Senator, the brilliant Fatima Payman, joining our extraordinary WA team:

With Sue Lines, Madeleine King, Matt Keogh, Patrick Gorman, Josh Wilson, Louise Pratt and Glenn Sterle.

You might have seen this live, but I happened to be on the ABC election panel that night, and I remember Leigh Sales asking me: Tanya, where did it all go wrong?

I was a bit confused by that question.

All I could answer was: Leigh, we just won the election.

But I could have added: Leigh, Sam Lim is now the Member for Tangney!

No election where Sam Lim enters federal parliament could ever have gone wrong.

That was a great night, a night for history books.

And everyone at this conference, at every level of the movement, played a role in that history.

Just like you did a year earlier.

With the biggest election win in the history of our federation.

The highest two party vote. The highest percentage of seats.

We’ve seen political parties reduced to a Tarago before. 

But we haven’t seen a party that could operate a tandem bike.

A tandem bike, where the two riders disagree on who should take the front seat.

Friends, that was your work.

You have earned the confidence of this state.

You have shown that there is no town or suburb, no demographic or region, where Labor can’t compete for support and win.

And that confidence comes down to one thing above all:

Strong, responsible, steady leadership.

I remember walking the streets of Perth with Mark McGowan and people would come up to us and say:

‘Thank you Premier. Because of you, my family is safe’.

Or ‘thank you Premier, you helped save my business’.

Which is something the east coast media never really understood.

That sense of security and assurance that comes with decisive public leadership.

You had it with Mark McGowan.

And now you have it with Roger Cook.

I’ve known Roger for decades, he’s a good friend, and we’ve worked together closely.

He’s a man of experience – who kept WA safe through the worst of COVID as health minister.

A man of principle – who advanced the cause of Aboriginal Land Councils before entering parliament.

A man of vision – who is making this state a renewable energy superpower.

And he’s a man that delivers – on Metronet, on hospitals, on education, on the policies you need to keep the economy strong.

Congratulations, Roger.

You’re the man for the hour, the man for this job.

I have no doubt the second chapter of this government will be just as consequential as the first.

Friends, our government knows the debt we owe Western Australia.

And if anyone was ever tempted to forget it, the Prime Minister would remind them – at the start of every caucus meeting.  

We understand the trust you put in us.

And we are working across government to repay that trust. 

Drawing inspiration from your example here in WA. 

With responsible economic management, we delivered the first budget surplus in fifteen years.

Not a coffee cup surplus, printed on kitchenware, but a real surplus, printed in the Treasury books.

We’re managing the economy with a steady hand, because that’s how you take pressure off inflation, while keeping unemployment under four percent.

And for every national government, for every country around the world, that is mission number one right now.

But steady economic management has a second benefit. 

Because with a stronger balance sheet, we can make those life changing, nation building investments.  

Those classic Labor investments, giving people more security, extending the fair go, lifting people up.

And that is what we are doing.

Easing the pressure on a million Australian families – with cheaper childcare, led by Anne Aly.

Strengthening the backbone of Medicare – with the biggest investment in bulk billing since Medicare began.

Building homes for people who need them – with the largest investment in social and affordable housing in a decade.

Getting wages moving again.

With a higher minimum wage, backed by our government.

With a pay rise for aged care workers of up to $10,000 a year, looking after the people who look after us.

And with new laws that make it easier for low-income workers and their unions to bargain with employers and fight against wage theft.  

After nine years of neglect, after nine years of stagnation, we have a task ahead of us.

Rebuilding our public institutions, restoring our public services, while helping people who are struggling right now. 

With cheaper medicine. More bulk billing.

Six extra years of support for single parents in the social security system. 

With ten days paid domestic violence leave – so women and children don’t have to choose between their safety and their job.

And with more than 180,000 fee free TAFE spots in our first year, heading towards half a million in the next couple of years.

Because better qualifications mean better pay and more choice for Australian workers.

These policies will always be the heart and soul of a Labor government.

Mending the holes in our safety net, helping those who’ve fallen behind, sharing the opportunities of life with every Australian.

It’s what separates us from the conservatives, who exist to rip holes in that safety net. 

We are different to our opponents.

We recognise the duty we owe each other.

And because of that, we also recognise our duty to the future.

As delegates at this conference, we know the decisions we make today will echo through the lives of our kids and our grandkids.

Which is why Labor has done more in our first eighteen months to protect the environment than any Commonwealth government in history.

Ending the climate wars, with our legislation for net zero.

Doubling the number of renewable projects being approved.

Supporting the critical minerals industry here in WA, to make those projects possible. 

Rewriting our broken environmental laws, setting us on a path to stop new extinctions and protect thirty percent of our land and ocean.

And soon, we will be establishing Australia’s first national environment protection agency and the world’s first Nature Repair Market.

Friends, this takes leadership.

Leadership means dealing with the problems of today, helping people right now, while always thinking ahead, to the next set of opportunities.

Grasping the potential of renewable energy, of the next generation of manufacturing, of the caring economy of the future.

That is what Anthony Albanese is offering as Prime Minister.

Real leadership, forward thinking leadership.

But when we look across the chamber, we see something very different.

We see Peter Dutton.

A man whose life mission is to block progress, to stoke division, to kick the underdog when they’re down.

A man who stands in front of all our opportunities and says no.

When we released our policy to build social housing for people who need a roof over their head – he said no.

When we announced our policy to tackle energy prices and protect Australian families and businesses – he said no.

When we supported a higher minimum wage for the lowest paid Australian workers – he said no.

And when we introduced our policy to end the climate wars and supercharge renewable energy – he said no.

With Peter Dutton, it’s never a constructive opposition.

It’s never a search for collaboration or compromise in the national interest.

It’s always the poisonous politics of no.

A politics that can only destroy and corrode, that can only tear things down, but can never build things up.

And that is the thread that runs through Peter Dutton’s entire career in public life.

This is a man who boycotted Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations.

Boycotting, in the process, basic standards of human decency.

This is a man who joked about sea levels rising in the Pacific. 

A punchline made at the expense of our closest neighbours and friends. 

A man who whipped up social division in Victoria, targeting African kids for the cheapest political gain.

These are the positions of a certain kind of politician.

One who sees weakness in empathy, power in negativity, political advantage in division.

A man who seeks to reach the highest position in Australian government, by killing people’s faith in government.

Australians want our leaders to act constructively.

Working together where possible, and where not, putting forward better proposals for the future – a contest of ideas.

The poison politics of no can never achieve that.

It can only produce dysfunction.

And it should be no surprise that Peter Dutton’s career in government has been a trail of dysfunction.

He wanted to play the tough guy in Home Affairs.

But when he starved the immigration department of resources, he let organised crime gangs run rampant through the system.

When he was health minister, he was voted by doctors as the worst in forty years.

He cut billions of dollars from hospitals, while trying to introduce a co-payment into the Medicare system.

Western Australians saw through the empty suit of Scott Morrison.

And they will see through the destructive force that is Peter Dutton.

Peter Dutton is not a man who can deliver, he can only sabotage.

We can’t let this style of politics take over. We can’t let that poison clog the arteries of government. 

And that applies across the board, to all parties.

The Greens Party housing spokesman admitted, in print, that he was holding up our housing bill so he could recruit volunteers and doorknock anxious renters.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but don’t make vulnerable people wait longer for social housing because it helps you run a marginal seat campaign.

Their lives are precarious enough, don’t make them any harder.

Don’t follow Peter Dutton’s lead.

Don’t team up with him in parliament, don’t choose politics over people.

Whatever you do, don’t relive the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme disaster – because we know how that story ended.

When you teamed up with Tony Abbott to kill Labor’s climate policy, because it “wasn’t enough”.

When you put the cause of climate change back a decade, meaning emissions were higher for longer. 

It doesn’t matter how you justify your obstruction.

The Liberals say no because we're going too far; the Greens say no because we aren’t going far enough – but the result is still the same.

We’re locked in the same place, the same dead-end street, with no progress to speak of.

Because without negotiation, without good faith and compromise, there can be no progress for the people who need it.

Australians deserve better than that.

Australians deserve a government that works for them.

That seizes the opportunities of renewable energy.

That gets wages moving.

That strengthens Medicare.

That pays down debt.

That restores TAFE to its rightful place.

That opens up university to more young people.

That places women and men on equal footing.  

That embraces multiculturalism.

That reinforces social cohesion.

That rebuilds our relationships around the world and in our region.

Friends, that is what Labor is delivering.

And it’s what only Labor Governments can deliver.

So thank you, Western Australia, for all the support and trust you’ve placed in our party.  

And thank you, to every member of this branch, for leading the way in the cause of Labor. 

It’s a privilege to be here today.

I’ll see you all again soon.