Speech to the Queensland Labor Party Conference

As the National President of the ALP I couldn’t be happier to be here.  Not just because I love Mackay.

But because we find ourselves electorally at our high tide as a Party.

With Government federally … and in every mainland state and territory.  And in Queensland we are looking forward to a fourth term Labor Government under Anastacia Palaszczuk.

It seldom gets better than this.

Anthony Albanese has struck a chord with the Australian people.

And our own Acting PM Jim Chalmers is leading the way in the economic debate for a fairer more prosperous Australia.

This history matters.

Our history is full of examples that show it’s possible to reverse trends and redefine agendas.

Last year we celebrated the transformative impact of the Whitlam Labor Government 50 years ago, and tonight we revisit the audacity of Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech through a spectacular performance from Karen Jacobsen.

A powerful message of equality that reverberated around the world and spurred political participation  by a whole new generation of activists.  No doubt there are plenty in this room.

It tells us to never underestimate the power or importance of the tide of ideas.

But it also tells us that unless the activists inspired by the message get involved in grass roots politics the ideas can be crushed and buried by our political opponents.

Ten years of conservative government extinguished the hopes of a more equal and environmentally friendly Australia as they smashed carbon pricing and progressive taxation, and withheld or abolished critical funding in education, childcare, aged care, and for the NDIS .

Now one year on from our last Conference the Albanese Government is rebuilding our social and economic framework in the face of belligerent opposition from the Greens and an even more conservative Liberal Party under Peter Dutton.

In some cases, hard right and hard left threatening critical reforms in climate, housing and tax.

We face enormous challenges in the next two years.

At the last Federal election we received the lowest primary vote  vote nationally since Whitlam, and the second-lowest on record in Queensland after 2019.

Friends, the return of the Albanese Government nationally and in Queensland requires a lift in the Labor primary vote.

Our primary vote is our pulse.

In the years ahead the imperative for us is to strengthen our primary vote across the country in every electorate.  Not just in our traditional safe seats or indeed marginal seats.

A healthy Labor primary vote is vital to the overall health of the Party.

The Party must strive to be more representative of the nations geographical, educational, and income diversity.

As a Party we are not in an inevitable and permanent decline, the likes of which the US Democrats or the Liberal Party here experienced in their last elections, but we should not be complacent about the power of the radical right and the institutional support they receive from significant sections of corporate Australia and the Murdoch press.

To win the battle of ideas we need more foot soldiers on the ground working in local communities at schools and workplaces, more keyboards active and involved, right across the country.

Our membership is aging and a Party that does not renew itself cannot hope to exist in the longer term. 

We cannot always rely on good leaders and good luck to pull us through.

For Labor there is no sturdier scaffold than a strong and vibrant union movement working with and within a thriving Labor Party to drive greater equality of opportunity in our society.

Labor can only survive through building a strong coalition of low and middle income earners backed by a wave of growing unions and growing Party membership.

Labor can only survive through building a strong coalition of low and middle income earners backed by a wave of growing unions and growing Party membership.

That’s the task we must work harder on at our conferences and through our activism on the ground.

And it’s a task that calls for inspiration.

I reckon many of you can remember where you were sitting the first time you heard those famous words you are about to hear through Karen Jacobsen.

I certainly do.

I think I had the best seat in the House.  As I recall, Tony Abbott had a better view, but he didn’t enjoy it nearly as much.

They’re words which still inspire me and still inspire so many of you here.

From memory, I think she is about to rise to oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition! Take it away Karen!


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