ADDRESS TO NSW ALP ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2017

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ADDRESS TO NSW ALP ANNUAL CONFERENCE 

29 JULY 2017

Delegates

When Conference met last year, the then Premier was, we were told, far and away the most popular political leader in the nation.

Remember him?

What ever happened to that bloke?

I saw him off.

He was no greyhound, that fella – he pulled up half way through the race!

One down.

One to go.

I acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and my respects to their Elders both past and present.

Delegates

The founders of our Party were clear about whose interests Labor represented… and what our movement stood for.

On 10 December 1891, nineteen years before he was sworn in as the first Labor Premier of New South Wales…Jim Mc Gowen stood on the floor of the Colonial Parliament…and proudly, defiantly declared:

‘We are the representatives of the workers.’

Our first Platform, presented to the people as Labor’s 1891 election policy, committed to:

‘Any measure that will secure for the wage-earner a fair and equitable return for his or her labour.’

Now, our Party’s essential purpose is the same in this 21st century… as it was in the 19th.

Labor exists to advance the interests of those who work for a living.

It’s that purpose that led our first government…Jim McGowen’s… to deliver the Industrial Arbitration Act in 1912.

It’s that purpose that led Jack Lang’s government… to deliver the Workers Compensation Act in 1926.

It’s that purpose that led Bill McKell’s government…to deliver the Annual Holidays Act in 1944.

It’s that purpose that led Joe Cahill’s government… to deliver long service leave in 1955.

It’s that purpose that led Bob Carr’s government to deliver justice for the victims of James Hardie, in 2004.

Labor governs for working people.

We’ve achieved so much.

But delegates, our work is not yet done.

Not when systematic exploitation of some workers still exists today.

7-Eleven.

Domino’s.

Pizza Hut.

United Petroleum.

A roll call of disgrace.

Vulnerable workers cheated.

Entire chains… built on black market wages.

The rorting’s…staggering.

At 7-Eleven, over $110 million stolen from workers has been repaid.

In Wollongong, a student, Ashleigh Mounser…led a Facebook campaign that exposed the exploitation…of young workers in cafes, restaurants and retail outlets.

The cases are many and they’re shocking:

•     Workers paid barely half the legal minimum wage

•     Young workers on fictitious unpaid work trials

•     People working forty hours and being paid for twenty

•     Young people being paid in pizza and soft drink

•     And migrant workers handing back their pay when threatened with visa cancellation.

Even the Fair Work Ombudsman says some employers are adopting this deliberate and systematic unlawfulness as their business model.

The penalties are so low …they think exploiting workers is worth the risk.

They see being caught as just the cost of doing business.

It is shocking and it has to stop.

Enough is enough.

We know the Liberals will never act - but we will.

Because we’re Labor.

Every member of this Party pledges to work to eliminate exploitation.

So today I come before you to announce a comprehensive agenda for the next Labor Government of New South Wales - a 5 Point Plan…to eliminate the exploitation of vulnerable workers.

First: a new wage theft law - to criminalise the deliberate failure to pay wages and other entitlements.

There’ll be punishing fines for companies and jail terms for individuals guilty of systematic wage theft.

Theft is theft.

We will not allow a rogue minority to get away with ripping off their workers.

Second: the scandals at numerous franchise networks demand an overhaul of existing laws.

We’ll make head franchisors legally liable… for what goes on in their networks when it comes to wages and employment conditions. 

Third: we’ll protect young workers from exploitation. We’ll have workplace inspectors undertake audits and recover unpaid wages and entitlements.

We’ll widen the powers of workplace inspectors so that workers’ compensation audits look at unpaid wages and superannuation.

Our new laws won’t apply to genuine mistakes.

Employers who do the right thing… will benefit as they won’t be competing with under-cutting cheats.

But we’ll go after that minority whose business model… is based on exploitation.

Fourth: we will establish a licensing scheme… for labour hire companies.

Labour hire companies are now a feature of many industries.

They can have a legitimate purpose – helping businesses sensibly manage peaks and troughs.

But too often they are involved in breaches of industrial and safety laws.

Too many cowboys…too many rogues.

This should be an area of national regulation.

But we know this Federal Government won’t act.

There’ll be a fit and proper person test on labour hire operators, owners and directors.

To stay in business they’ll have to comply with the laws covering wages, superannuation and workers’ compensation.

And we’ll place them within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Relations Commission.

And fifth: we’ll act to protect penalty rates.

You all know what’s happening under a Federal Liberal-National Government.

Savage cuts…to the take home pay of retail, fast food and hospitality workers who work on Sundays.

There is a very real risk of these cuts… flowing through to other groups of weekend workers.

Don’t think that New South Wales government employees are safe.

In question time, we asked minister after minister for an assurance that they won’t seek to cut Sunday penalties.

For workers in our corrections system.

For workers in our national parks.

For family and community services workers.

For bus drivers.

Not one Berejiklian government minister will commit to maintaining Sunday rates.

You know what they’re planning.

It is just a matter of time.

A Labor government will legislate to protect Sunday penalty rates in State Awards and Agreements.

So, there you have it delegates.

A 5 Point Plan for a 2019 State Labor government…to eliminate the exploitation of workers.

A detailed plan.

A plan…in keeping with what Freudenberg referred to in our Official History…as “Labor’s characteristic style and approach: precise means towards well understood ends.”

I’ve given you the precise means:

-      a new wage theft law

-      protections for franchise workers

-      resources to protect young workers

-      licensing of labour hire, and

-      protecting Sunday penalty rates.

Precise means…well understood ends.

Let everyone understand the end we work toward…

the fair and proper treatment of every person who goes to work.

Of course we want more economic activity…and growth.

We celebrate the three decades of continuous economic growth made possible by the reforms of Labor governments.

Economic growth that has delivered prosperity for many.

But we will never forget the vulnerable.

We will protect them.

Because we’re Labor.

I come before you today as Leader of Australia’s oldest and most storied political party, New South Wales Labor…not simply to announce these new policies…but to restate our moral purpose.

Labor stands for the working people of this state and nation.

Labor stands for fairness and opportunity for all.

Where exploitation occurs, Labor exists…to eliminate it.

Delegates

I can report to you today that since this Conference last met, our Liberal and National opponents have copped a hiding at four by-elections…and hidden from the voters at two others.

They lost one of their safest seats.

They lost a Deputy Premier.

They lost a Premier.

This government’s now on to its

third Premier,

third Deputy Premier,

and fourth Treasurer, in a term and a half.

And since Conference last met, the people of Wollongong, Canterbury and Gosford have returned Labor candidates with massive majorities at by-elections in each seat.

Your work made that possible.

I thank you, and all the members of our Party and our unions… for your campaigning efforts.

And I recognise the outstanding work of our campaign director Kaila Murnain and her colleagues in the Party Office.

Delegates

We all know the record…of this state government.

They’ve privatised fifty billion dollars’ worth of public assets.

Fifty billion dollars.

Selling off the family silver… for a one-off sugar hit.

And then wasting it - with extraordinary mismanagement.

Billions of dollars in cost blowouts…on the WestConnex, the CBD light rail and the Newcastle light rail projects.

Their promise at the last election was to build infrastructure …with the proceeds of electricity privatisation.

What they didn’t say…was that they would also impose massive tolls.

In a couple of weeks the toll on the M4 will be back.

A regular commuter will pay $45 a week…for a road that is currently free.

For one extra lane between Parramatta and Homebush.

Two thousand…dollars…a year, for an improved journey time of one minute.

Inflation’s at 2 per cent.

The toll will rise by 4 per cent…every year, for the next 43 years.

And that’s just the beginning.

They plan a $100 a week toll for Heathcote and Illawarra motorists.

And an $80 a week toll from the northern beaches.

The Liberals also promised that…after privatisation…power prices would not go up.

This month, price increases of 15 to 20 per cent.

That means a $320 increase for the average household.

For six years the Government’s had…only one energy policy.

Privatisation.

You know what privatisation and deregulation have delivered.

Record power bills.

Electricity prices were deregulated in July 2014.

A year later, St Vincent De Paul reported that prices were up… by $160 to $180 a year.

The Grattan Institute says that excessive profits are being made in the retail electricity market.

Labor will not stand by and let family budgets be crushed…by soaring power prices.

We will step in.

Labor will re-regulate the electricity companies to ensure consumers are treated fairly.

Privatisation.

Deregulation.

Record power bills.

Tolls, tolls and tolls.

The policies of this government are hurting millions of people …already under financial pressure.

Delegates

Two days ago the Premier flew the white flag on forced council mergers.

A victory for all of us who’ve campaigned against this undemocratic policy.

More importantly a victory for local communities.

We’ve won a big battle, but the war is not over.

Hundreds of thousands of people live in council areas forced into mergers.

There is a better way.

Labor will allow local votes, plebiscites, on demerging these councils.

We’ll bring in caps on electoral donations and spending.

And we’ll ban developers from being elected to councils.

Delegates, let me turn to education.

We are facing unprecedented growth in the school age population.

We need more schools across all sectors – government, Catholic, independent.

When Labor was last in Government we built on average over five new schools each year.

In six years of Coalition Government, the average has been two.

A Labor government will launch an unprecedented schools building program.

Last week I was in the Hunter announcing that Labor will build a new, government school at Medowie.

We’ll give the Greater Sydney Commission the power to seize surplus Government land from other departments for schools.

Every new school will be required to have childcare, or before and after hours care facilities.

We won’t stop there.

We’ll also engage with Catholic and independent schools authorities to plan the delivery of their new schools.

Not for profit schools shouldn’t be competing with the likes of Meriton, Stockland and Woolworths.

We will ensure the planning of new schools occurs up front, before rezoning for residential and commercial development.

Schools are being treated as developers…when the development they’re undertaking is to educate our children.

So we will exempt all schools - public, Catholic and independent – from section 94 local infrastructure charges.

That means schools won’t have to pay exorbitant infrastructure levies…when they are providing infrastructure for the community.

And when it comes to pre-school, I restate the commitment I made at this Conference last year.

Under Labor, every child will have access to at least 15 hours of affordable pre-school education per week… in the year before school.

We’ll rebuild the training system, by rescuing one of our great institutions – the TAFE Commission of New South Wales.

A guaranteed minimum of 70 per cent of vocational education funding will go to the public provider – TAFE.

And a new Private Providers Investigations Unit will throw the book at dodgy operators.

A Labor Government will require 15 percent of jobs on Government construction projects over $500,000 to be allocated to apprentices, trainees, indigenous Australians and the long term unemployed.

In health, we’ll establish Nurse Walk-In Centres to relieve the pressure on our hospital emergency departments.

Waiting times have blown out… at emergency departments and for elective surgery.

We’ll deliver a one-off Elective Surgery Acceleration Plan… to slash waiting lists for non-urgent surgery like cataract removal and hip and knee replacements.

We’ve fought the Liberals and Nationals plans to privatise regional hospitals, winning battles in Wyong, Goulburn and Bowral.

But we know they haven’t abandoned their hospital privatisation plans.

So let me make this commitment concerning hospital privatisation. We will immediately examine all contracts entered into by the current Coalition Government with private operators, in order to restore public provision and ownership.

We believe that our schools, our pre-schools, our TAFEs and our hospitals… are the foundation of a good life for all our citizens.

Labor will rebuild the education and health services that the people rely on.

And we’ll ensure that regional communities get their fair share.

Under Labor all the proceeds from the transfer of Snowy Hydro to the Commonwealth will be spent in rural and regional New South Wales.

We’ll also introduce mandatory affordable housing targets to deliver thousands of new homes every year, for those on low to middle incomes.

We’ll work with a Federal Labor Government to reform negative gearing.

Delegates

My predecessor in Auburn, Jack Lang, advised a young Paul Keating:

 People will tell you that you have plenty of time but the truth is you haven’t got a second to waste.”

Lang was right.

We haven’t a second to waste.

Because we have homes to build.

Children to educate.

Health care to provide.

And, as ever, workers to protect.

We will do all of that.

And so much more.

But we must earn a mandate from the people.

Delegates

I know that all of you will work with us…as we campaign to win that mandate.

Thank you.