27 November 2019

 I'd like to reflect today on some of the people who have made this parliament what it is today, those whose contributions have set the gold standard for all who aspire to sit in this parliament and represent their country and constituents across the nation.

When I was a new member in this place in 2016, along with many others, I was very grateful for the presence in the parliament of those who had served here for some time as Labor members of parliament, both in opposition and serving in Labor governments. They offered newcomers like me advice and allowed us to gain from their vast experience and wisdom. I'd like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a couple of former members who retired at the last election and whose experience and contributions have left an immensely positive and lasting impression on me, on the parliament and, indeed, on the nation.

I acknowledge the current national president of the ALP and former member for Lilley, the Hon. Wayne Swan, a great Queenslander and a great Australian. Wayne Swan—or Swanny, as he's often referred to by so many—has left an indelible mark on this place, and it's very important that his contribution to this country be acknowledged. He left a legacy that is well known throughout this place and a legacy that is still felt by so many people around Australia long after he left the office of Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer of this country. His time as Treasurer and the policies he implemented have been reflected on by so many in this place—particularly, the economic stimulus package, in the wake of the global financial crisis—and recognised internationally, and rightly so.

One, in particular, that stands out is when the Treasurer was awarded Finance Minister of the Year, in 2011, by Euromoney magazine. He is only the second Australian to have won that award, with Paul Keating receiving the Finance Minister of the Year award in 1984, after the introduction of critical economic reforms, including the deregulation of the banking system, the floating of the dollar and the opening up of our Australian economy, in moves that set this nation up for long-term economic success. It's something that no-one else was able to do. Both are representatives in this place of the best of Labor traditions.

Sadly, some of Wayne Swan's good policies were unable to be well established before they were overturned, in this place, by a vindictive and negative Liberal-National government led by then Prime Minister Abbott. When the ALP introduced its carbon emissions policy, during its last government, it was met with outrage from many of the major players in industry and was helped along by an extraordinarily misleading scare campaign that portrayed such things as exorbitant roast dinners. Everyone will remember the $100 leg of lamb that never eventuated or the wipe-out of Whyalla—and we certainly know that hasn't happened—and there were many other falsehoods. It's something that the public now knows, and probably always did know, wasn't true, but they were led along.

That was 10 years ago, and if you look now at the massive power price increases you can see the cost of having no energy or emissions policy at all. As it turns out, it wasn't the carbon emissions policy of the Labor government but six years of the Liberal-National coalition government that has caused power prices to soar, crippling industry growth, driving everyday Australians into a kind of energy poverty. Many of those companies that campaigned against Labor's policies are now, ironically, calling for decisive political action on carbon emissions. Many large corporations have seen the light, so to speak, and are openly advocating for action on climate change. As the CEO of Woodside, Peter Collins, said last year, 'The consequences of inaction are too great.' It's quite an about-face, and you can only imagine where we would be if the nation had been permitted to be a world leader in taking action on climate change through a market based approach. This was a policy jointly led by Wayne Swan and Prime Minister Gillard.

Another one of Wayne's attributes is his sustained commitment to Labor causes and values, including the view that everyone in this country should contribute fairly and appropriately to the community through taxation. He warned against ignoring this issue, of extraordinary tax evasion that sought to undermine the interests of the Australian community, repeatedly during his tenure, particularly against the rise of some very powerful vested interests. In his 2012 TheMonthly essay, Wayne Swan stated:

Politicians have a choice: between exploiting divisions by promoting fear and appealing to the sense of fairness and decency that is the foundation of our middle-class society; between standing up for workers and kneeling down at the feet of the Gina Rineharts and the Clive Palmers.

That was about eight years ago. But these words ring truer now than ever before, particularly when you look at the contributions made by Mr Palmer during the last election—distorting, scaremongering, creating a political environment dominated by fear.

Clive Palmer was highly complicit in preventing this country from having an earnest and honest debate about its direction during the election. Simply put, Clive Palmer told lies to sow fears in the community. He is manifestly anti-Western Australian, going so far as to attack the state government and—bizarrely—misnaming the WA Premier as Mike instead of Mark in a newspaper ad, calling him a communist and accusing him of siding with foreign powers. It was weird and incompetent, and sure came as a surprise to Mark McGowan's brother, Mike! You really couldn't make this stuff up, yet it happened in this country not that long ago.

The Premier of Western Australia was right to single out Mr Palmer as a greedy hypocrite running a disgraceful attack on our biggest trading partner. Look at Clive Palmer now. He's involved in a dodgy process that is now again before the courts. He is an individual who thinks only about himself and he is harming Western Australian trading interests. This is an issue that must be looked at. Wayne Swan was prescient: he saw the likes of the 2019 Palmer campaign coming long ago. Wayne might not be in this place any longer, but I can assure you his ideals and his fight for a fair go remain and they are strong, especially in the new member for Lilley, who gave such a wonderful first speech in this place only a couple of months ago. I look forward to hearing more from her.

While Wayne Swan's ideals may represent the soul of the Australian Labor Party, it could easily be said that Jenny Macklin is at its heart. The former member more Jagajaga is widely respected by politicians, industry groups and communities of every stripe and creed. Humble, hardworking and with a depth of compassion that would engulf this entire building, Jenny is recognised for her phenomenal contributions to Australian social policy and her unwavering commitment to social justice. Jenny's achievements are many and wide-ranging, whether she was in government or opposition. There are too many to mention here but I would single out two that resonate around the nation to this day: the Apology to the Stolen Generations, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Jenny Macklin played an integral part in both. The national apology represented an important and necessary step in our relationship with our First Australians. It is a crucial tenet of reconciliation itself, as we acknowledge what was done in our past, in order to be able to move forward.

Jenny's warm and genuine nature during a period of great difficulty was welcomed and praised nationally. It is said of her, and her efforts in the portfolio of Indigenous affairs, that, 'One of her most important achievements was to take the left- and right-wing politics out of Indigenous affairs and destroy the toxic division between symbols and practical change that had dominated the debate under John Howard's leadership.' Many people here will have seen the photo in my office that was taken on the day of the apology. It is of four Indigenous women standing in the front court of Parliament House. Two of them have T-shirts that each say 'Sorry' and the two next to them have shirts that each say 'Thanks'. They are arm in arm. I think it's one of those remarkable photos of our time that sum up how important it was to say 'sorry', and, equally, how important the generosity is of our Indigenous sisters and brothers, who can so easily say 'thanks' for what shouldn't have been as hard as it was. We thank Jenny for all her efforts, and also former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the whole Labor caucus of the time, and those who supported it.

Jenny's and Prime Minister Gillard's determination under great pressure to get the NDIS off the ground is also a testament to their fortitude and to Jenny's skill in policy development. It's a credit to them both that the NDIS has become a bipartisan institution—supposedly. This is greatly needed, as all sides of politics must work together to solve some of the issues with the NDIS rollout across Australia, which, to say the very least—and it is an understatement—has been problematic. I urge members of the government, and particularly the minister responsible, to please give the NDIS the attention and funding it deserves and that people need. So many individuals and families rely on it for the quality of life that would be beyond reach without the scheme. Only recently, I welcomed the shadow minister for the NDIS, the member for Maribyrnong, to my electorate for a forum, where constituents spoke about their experiences with the scheme. Over 60 people came along and told us of their frustrations and of the delays and the emotional toll the process has taken on family and friends. It was truly awful.

In her valedictory speech, Jenny mentioned being able to share in the life of the community, enjoying a certain level of security and safety, and about what it means to belong. Every Australian deserves that; it doesn't matter whether you're Wayne Swan or Jenny Macklin or anyone else. Those participating in the NDIS especially deserve that level of security and belonging. The politics of fear, division and misinformation have no place in modern Australia and indeed the world. It's up to us to do our part in lifting up that standard and visibly pursuing a return to integrity in politics in order for the trust deficit in Australian politics to drop significantly.

Again, I thank Jenny and Wayne for their amazing contribution to this place and to the Australian community. I wish them a great time in their retirement. I know the former member for Jagajaga, Jenny, loves a gin and tonic, and I look forward to meeting up with her again at some point so we might share one. She dances spectacularly once she's had one of those, apparently!

I'd now like to speak for a few moments about the recent election in this country. Obviously it was a difficult and disappointing time for the Labor Party. It was clearly gut-wrenching after all the hard work of my parliamentary colleagues, our party officers and all our members and supporters—all the work that went into the campaign that was ultimately unsuccessful. Our mission was to deliver a federal Labor government and to support fairness and decency in Australian public life. We didn't deliver on that.

I would like to commend our party elders Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill for the comprehensive review they conducted into the Labor campaign and to all the others who were on that committee that did such a lot of work and a lot of soul searching on behalf of so many of us. I was grateful to have been able to speak with members of the committee during that process. It was a thorough and honest analysis of how we lost the election, and, if we don't pay attention to it, we risk repeating our mistakes. I commend Labor's national executive for its decision to release the report publicly. While it won't be easy reading for everyone, it's something we should all do, and we should think a lot about what it says. As we begin the task of thinking about how to form government after the next election, this document should serve as a blueprint.

It's critical to the best interests of all Australians that Labor does form government in this country, because when we look at this coalition government, which has been on the treasury benches for more than six years, all I can see is a government without a plan. It's a government unprepared to govern—of course, it's a little surprised that it is continuing to do so. It's a government with no agenda and no idea about how to deal with a stagnant economy. Unemployment is rising, wage growth is frozen and almost two million Australians are looking for work or for more work.

The Emerson-Weatherill report found that we were so ambitious in our policy agenda that we ended up with too many policies. We had a strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership from Malcolm Turnbull to the current Prime Minister, and, of course, we left the door open for the government and Clive Palmer to run scare campaigns, which fuelled anxieties among lower-income voters in the outer suburbs and regional Australia that Labor would put their jobs at risk. We had a leader who did a superb job of uniting the Labor Party and seeing off two Liberal prime ministers, but, as the report acknowledged, he was unpopular among some in the electorate.

I really want to thank the member for Maribyrnong for his contribution as Labor leader. He has accepted responsibility for his role in that election, as we all collectively have for our role. I thank him for his ongoing service to the nation and his community in the seat of Maribyrnong. I cannot fault the member for Maribyrnong's commitment to Western Australia. He travelled to WA regularly and has always shown a genuine commitment to our state. We can't forget that it was Bill Shorten's leadership in announcing the WA GST fund that forced the coalition to follow suit, delivering greater fairness for my home state. Notwithstanding how many Western Australians were in the cabinet, they failed to deliver on the WA GST fund until Bill Shorten forced them to do so.

There was, of course, another important factor that contributed to a poor result across the board and a result we had not hoped for in Western Australia. The review concluded that Clive Palmer's huge anti-Labor advertising campaign had a significant effect both on the leader's popularity and on Labor's primary vote. Palmer's advertising was centred on Western Australia, where he has business interests. He was able to get away with fraudulent advertising that in many cases was virulently anti-Chinese, for which he should be condemned by everyone in this House. He ran full-page ads, which were outright lies, that sought to sow fear in the minds of everyday Australians that we would somehow be subject to an invasion.

There is more that we must do if we are to win the next election as the Labor Party. One of my chief concerns about the election campaign was its wholesale central operations run out of Parramatta and the west of Sydney. As a Western Australian it was obvious to me that our campaign workers in Parramatta could never have been expected to fully understand issues that were of concern to voters across the vast state of WA. But I do want to thank all those campaign workers who did their work from the Parramatta headquarters. They were diligent and faithful, they worked hard and they were always on call, but it is very difficult for people based there to understand what's happening on the ground in parts of the country that are vastly different and so far away.

I believe that the next election campaign, Labor's campaign in WA, must be focused on WA issues and must have the direct input and participation of Western Australian people. In this case an election is perhaps time for the party to think about decentralising its efforts. Although we held on to all five of our seats in WA, we have to face up to the fact that our primary vote fell below 30 per cent. I commit myself to working with my fellow Western Australian parliamentarians to turn that around in 2022.

Under Anthony Albanese, Labor has begun the process of spelling out a vision for the Australian people. Our leader has been talking about the importance of jobs and the importance of acknowledging that work is changing and that we, as the Labor Party, must help that transition to make sure nobody is left behind. It is through this approach that we can start the process of reconnecting with the people that we lost. Working people experiencing economic dislocation will never return to Labor unless we respond to their needs. Many people on lower incomes feel they are not listened to. Many are struggling with the cost of living, job insecurity and sluggish wages growth. Many are traditional Labor voters who turned away from Labor on 18 May.

We will develop policies that are in the interests of these people and those of all Australians. We won't become preoccupied with divisive issues that don't concern average Australians, issues that are often driven by vocal special interest groups. Of course, we can continue to be the party of reform and continue the legacy of the Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard governments. Our policies can continue to be bold but they must be easily explainable. They must also fit to an overarching narrative that establishes Labor as the party of economic growth and job creation. It's in the national interests that we do better next time, and I believe that we will. I'm looking forward to the future and I'm looking forward to forming and fostering many more warm and productive relationships with colleagues on all sides in this place over the next 2½ years and hopefully, of course, beyond.

Before I end, I will use these last few minutes to wish all members of the House of Representatives and the other place a very happy Christmas. I hope they enjoy a restful, peaceful break over the summer-New Year period. I also want to thank the people who I work with every day back in Rockingham where my electorate office is based. I thank my staff: Kate Gurbiel, Ryan Pavlinovich, Georgia Tree, Jacinta Pember, Jenny O'Reilly, Matej Stasak and my new staff member Andrew Burrell. They are a great team of people. Many have been with me basically since I got elected in 2016. Their commitment to the cause is unwavering. They work long hours, do many other duties as directed and have patience with me, which can be a trial, so I do appreciate them and I thank them for their patience. They always display a respectful attitude to all of my colleagues in this place. They help facilitate me being slightly better organised than I have been in the past, with my picking up the Trade portfolio as the spokesperson for the Labor opposition in trade. They have been able to do a quick turnaround of work and they have been able to get across many complex issues very quickly without the resources that one would have in government. They make best use of the limited resources they have to make sure that I get the best advice so that we can work in that portfolio in the interests of the whole constituency of this country but especially those who seek to support Labor—who have supported us in the past and will into the future. Thank you to my team. You're a delight, and I hope you all get a very good rest over Christmas and New Year's. It has been a very hard year with the election campaign and with a shadow cabinet portfolio. I'm enormously grateful for all your help. I look forward to what the new year will bring. With that, a very merry Christmas to you. I know it's a little way off, but it always comes around quickly. Thanks to all my colleagues for all their support over the year.