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Speech to the 2018 ACT Labor Conference

August 18, 2018

Thank you delegates, union affiliates and all members for being here today.

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

I also acknowledge Deputy Chief Minister, Yvette Berry, and all of my hardworking and dedicated Assembly colleagues. I’m proud to lead such a passionate and united team.

To our federal representatives: thank you for all of your work for this city, and good luck as we head towards a Federal election campaign.

I particularly acknowledge Gai Brodtmann for her unstinting efforts on behalf of the Canberra community over many years.

Delegates, since the 2016 election, the labour movement has worked together to build a more inclusive, progressive and connected Canberra.

Our movement is inclusive – reflected in our determination to record the nation’s highest Yes vote for marriage equality.

Our movement is progressive – we are leading the move to a low carbon economy, while making sure the transition doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Our movement is connected – along with our friends and colleagues around Australia, we are fighting against the Liberal’s penalty rate cuts, that are making life harder for thousands of Canberrans.

Our movement reflects what is possible when we stand together and campaign for the things we believe in.

A positive Canberra

Delegates, we’re almost at the halfway point of this Parliamentary term.

Two years ago, Canberrans rejected the path of negativity. They put their faith in us to deliver our positive plan.

Our plan is about making Canberra even better: a better health system, educational opportunity for all kids, better public transport and secure local jobs.

Since then, we’ve been working together to do just that.

We’re building nurse-led Walk in Centres across Canberra, because we know that Canberrans need high-quality healthcare near where they live.

Our Belconnen and Tuggeranong centres help hundreds of people, for free, every week.

Gungahlin’s Walk-in Centre will accept its first patient in September.

ACT Health's Gungahlin Walk-in Centre

And yesterday we announced that Canberra’s fourth Walk-in Centre will be located on Parkinson Street in the Weston Creek Group Centre, delivering free health care for Weston Creek residents.

We will also expand community health services at the same location. Design work is underway, and we look forward to it opening in late 2019.

Canberra’s fifth Walk-in Centre will cater for our Inner North and City, and we will also expand community based health services in these regions in this parliamentary term.  

We are doing our part to keep healthcare – from walk-in centres, to elective surgery and hospital – easily accessible.

We have just abolished chemotherapy drug co-payments that have, in the past, put a cost burden on people fighting a terrible disease.

Our Future of Education Strategy has brought together teachers, families and experts to examine every aspect of our education sector, to make sure we give our kids the best possible opportunities at their local public school.

Yvette’s hard work will help every Canberra child to achieve their full potential.

The Future of Education Strategy.

The successful roll-out of laptops to public high school students, ahead of schedule, shows we are determined to break down financial inequality in our education system.

We are the first place in the country to make a full transition to the NDIS, giving Canberrans with disability more choice and control.

We will fight for proper Commonwealth support for the scheme, as well as stronger rights and safeguards for the people who work within it.

We know how the NDIS can change lives for the better, and we want Bill Shorten’s original plan for the NDIS to become the reality.

We’re making it easier for first home buyers by abolishing stamp duty – one of the biggest financial hurdles that can stand in their way.

From July next year, first home buyers will pay no stamp duty on new and existing homes – helping more Canberrans into their own home.

We’re growing services as our city grows. This includes rolling out green bins to every suburb – a proposal first supported by Conference in 2015, and one that has significant support across the party membership.

Our unemployment rate is now the lowest in the country, which we’ve driven down from the Abbott peak in 2014.

We’re creating thousands of new jobs each year, and we’re training our workers in new industries – from space to renewables to health research – that will help to deliver more secure, well-paid jobs for Canberrans over coming generations. 

It is essential we do our part to arrest the serious decline in investment in training and skills shortages across Australia. That is why CIT must remain in public hands.

We’re investing in our public transport system because connected cities are inclusive cities. From light rail, to a new bigger bus network and better cycling and foot paths, we’re keeping Canberra moving as we grow.

Stage 2 of Light Rail to Woden is going to require extensive negotiations with the Commonwealth Parliament.  We know the Canberra Liberals will oppose better public transport every step of the way. 

Delegates, we’ve achieved a lot in the last two years. We’ve stayed focused on what matters to our community, and we’ve put Canberrans first.

Our movement is strongest when we work together, and Canberrans are relying on that unity as we implement the workplace, health, education and transport improvements this city needs.

 

A fairer Canberra for workers

Delegates, ACT Labor has a long and proud history of standing up for workers. This year, we have been continuing that work.

A clear union encouragement policy is now in effect across the ACT public service.

We have established an insecure work and outsourcing joint government and union taskforce.

At the 2016 election, we committed to develop a Secure Local Jobs Code that would establish clear, fundamental principles for worker safety, fair pay and conditions on public projects.

Earlier this month, we introduced legislation to establish the Code – the strongest protections for workers’ pay and conditions on public projects anywhere in the country.

The Code will work; it will be effective; and it will drive a real change in culture.

We know some companies are willing to cut costs – including workers’ pay and safety – to secure big tenders. So we’re changing the ACT Government’s procurement rules to stop this from happening.

Any bid for government contracts must also outline how that company will strengthen job security and how they will ensure workers are safe.

Canberrans deserve to come home from work every day, and government procurement should never allow employers to cut corners.

We also understand that where labour hire is engaged, people working side-by-side often don’t receive the same pay or rights for the same work.

That is why the ACT Government will move to licence labour hire companies who engage in work in the ACT.

We need to ensure companies engaging in labour hire are fit and proper to do it.

 

An inclusive and proudly progressive Canberra

Delegates, our city is a positive, exciting and inclusive place to live.

It was the people in this room who led the charge for marriage equality, just like you have fought for women’s rights, and to introduce Australia’s first Reconciliation Day public holiday.

Our next challenge is to fight for the Canberra community’s right to be able to talk about end-of-life choices, respectfully and openly.

This is an intensely personal issue and there are a wide variety of views, in this room, and in the community.  I understand and respect the position of people who do not support voluntary assisted dying.

But what I hope we can all agree on is that our community, and our parliament, is mature enough to legislate on the issue. 

Euthanasia is rightfully a matter of conscience within our party. Territory rights should not be.  Our National Conference in December should make this clear.

The Senate vote this week was bitterly disappointing – but we will not give up.

One thing Canberrans definitely don't need is assisted thinking.

A national voice

Delegates, ACT Labor has consistently led Australia in putting our progressive and inclusive beliefs into practice.

From marriage equality to a Republic, we will continue to lead this nation.

We have not shirked from the fundamental responsibility to protect children.

We have picked up Julia Gillard’s baton, by agreeing to all of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The confessional is not beyond the rule of law. We will not put anything above protecting children from harm.

We are establishing an integrity commission to maintain the highest standards in government, and it does include ACT Policing – because no public official should be above the law.

Delegates, in just two years’ time, the ACT will be the first Australian jurisdiction to be powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity.

And we’re not stopping there.

Canberra companies are teaming with world’s best to be leaders in battery storage. We’re exploring the creation of virtual power plants and neighbourhood level battery networks to reduce public housing resident electricity bills, while handling energy demand peaks.

We’ve stood up for a better National Energy Guarantee.  Our leadership on renewables cannot allow other parts of Australia to do less.

As an inclusive society, we will always do what we can to support vulnerable Canberrans.  

In the Budget speech this year, I called for a rise in the level of income support available through Newstart.

$273 a week is not enough. It simply traps people in disadvantage.

We will continue to advocate for a national change.

 

Conclusion

Delegates, Canberra is an inclusive and progressive city. We have built this city together, as a united movement fighting for a better society.

Our work here leads to real change. Just this week the Assembly passed a motion on improving the availability of women’s health information at pharmacies, a key plank of our party platform.

While the debates in this room are often vigorous and passionate, we should never forget what we have achieved together, or shift our focus away from the future we want.

Thank you for giving your time and energy to make the Canberra we love even better. Let’s continue this work, together.

Thank you.

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