My speech to the 2017 ACT Labor Conference

29 July 2017

I thank delegates, union affiliates and all members for being here today.

I’d like to particularly thank ACT Labor Party President Jo Chivers and Secretary Matt Byrne and the wider team for all their work during the election year.

I also acknowledge Deputy Chief Minister, Yvette Berry, and all of my hardworking and dedicated Assembly colleagues – it is great that there are so many more of you than last year!

To our federal team: thank you for all of your work representing our city in the Federal Parliament.

And I want to acknowledge the passing of our friend and colleague Jayson Hinder.

2016: a defining election

Delegates, last year when I spoke to you all, we were on the eve of an election. I said the 2016 ACT election would define our city for a generation.

Together we took a proudly Labor platform to the people of Canberra.

The result was decisive. It proved that Canberra is a progressive, forward-looking and confident city.

Canberrans overwhelmingly support our positive plan for the future. Since then, we’ve hit the ground running.


We are renewing our city’s health services by delivering and planning new walk-in centres; upgrading cancer and aged care facilities at the Canberra Hospital; and funding the significant new Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency Centre in Woden.

Across Australia and overseas, demand for innovative health and wellness services is increasing. Canberra already has some obvious success stories in this field, and I am determined to make us a world leader over the next decade.

Education and Training

We are making Canberra’s schools better by delivering classrooms and facility upgrades across the Territory, and providing more opportunities for our teachers.

We working closely with our universities and research centres, and helping them translate their ideas into valuable products – because that strengthens Canberra as a world leader in emerging fields.

We will ensure that vocational and higher education continues to expand in this city, as Canberra’s reputation as a knowledge capital grows in Australia and around the world.


We will deliver Canberra a modern, reliable and convenient transport system.

This means more Rapid Bus routes across our city.

Light rail Stage 1 is rolling out day by day.

And we are expanding the light rail network, with design well underway on the route for Stage 2 to Woden.

Delivering a fairer Canberra

We went to the election promising a fairer Canberra for workers.

At last year’s conference, I said we would establish a return to work and retraining program. We are delivering it.

We committed to improve workers’ compensation for government employees. We are delivering it.

In the next twelve months, we will establish a Local Jobs Code to ensure worker safety, fair pay and conditions on public projects.

A more inclusive Canberra

ACT Labor stands for a more inclusive Canberra.

We are a proud Refugee Welcome Zone, and are actively supporting new migrants and asylum seekers to find a job.

We are making jobs in the ACT public service more accessible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and for workers living with a disability.

We have increased the number public servants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin by 50 per cent, and the number of ACT public servants living with disability by a third, over the past five years.

And I am proud we are delivering the Office of LGBTIQ Affairs, and funding the important Safe Schools program, after Conservatives around the country turned their back on young people who need help.

This is the stark difference between us and our conservative opponents: we fundamentally understand that Government’s core responsibility is to help everyone, no matter what their background, reach their full potential.

Decisive governing

I’m proud to lead a party of progressive ideas and a strong vision for our city.

The election conclusively resolved many of the issues that have dominated Territory politics for decades.

Light rail is unstoppable, and will positively shape our city’s future for generations.

Progressive Tax reform will ensure a fairer distribution of the taxation burden and a smoother ride between economic cycles. This is the right long-term economic reform for our city.

Canberra must keep looking outward; we must keep engaging with the wider world. We can’t continue to thrive by just selling to ourselves.

That’s why the Government stuck its neck out and worked for international flights – and we got them.

Planning for a growing city

And we must keep preparing for our city’s growth.

Over 430,000 people will call Canberra home by 2020. That’s an additional 25,000 on today – another Weston Creek, only three short years away.

So we simply must build the infrastructure our growing city needs.

That means planning for the future: a 10 year health plan, developing the future of education, targeting job creating sectors, and building a transport network for 2050 – all Labor initiatives.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape our city.

We will not let the congestion that is sweeping through other cities, shape us.

Together, we will shape the change, and build the city we want.

This must not be a city of bland and boring "boxes". It has to be about creating buildings that excite interest, and make those living and working in them feel good.

And, at the same time as the new City Renewal Authority delivers the CBD Australia’s capital deserves, we are investing right across the Territory to revitalise our town centres and clean up our suburbs.

That’s why we are rolling out green bins to all Canberra households that want one, by 2020.

It’s why are already delivering improvements to Tuggeranong and Gungahlin town centres, and the Kambah group centre.

And I’m pleased to announce that later this year work will start on improving Belconnen town centre as well, with a major focus on the Emu Bank area.

We will always lead the fight for a fairer and more equitable Australia.

We will fight to restore fair penalty rates for all workers, we will fight for marriage equality and we will fight for an Australian head of state.

The ACT voted strongly for a republic in 1999 and I’m confident we would do so again, in greater numbers, in the near future.

Delegates, to better protect our kids when in the care of others, we have implemented a reportable conduct scheme.

We will expand it to capture all institutions responsible for such care, and I am driving the process for a nationally consistent scheme – built on the recommendations of the Royal Commission, established by Julia Gillard.

In the absence of political leadership by the Federal Government, the city of Canberra will show it means to be a modern, confident, caring and equitable nation.


I have always believed Canberra’s reputation as a sleepy country town did not do justice to the potential and the promise of this place.

We are a positive, progressive city that is making things happen. More and more people are recognising just what’s on offer in our cool little capital.

The election confirmed, once and for all, that Canberrans share Labor’s vision to make our city more engaged, and more inclusive.

We have an ambitious plan for renewing Canberra over this term.

While we aim high to make this city the best it can be, we will not lose sight of the fundamentals Canberrans need, and expect, from Territory Government.

Thank you.