House of Representatives speech- Rudd Government

I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for giving me the opportunity to talk about the benefits the Rudd government has brought to the whole of our country in its first year of office, and particularly to my constituents. It is ironic that we see in this matter of public importance raised by the Leader of the Opposition the term ‘dismal performance’, because the fact is that the only dismal performance in this House, in this parliament, during this year has been that of the opposition.

I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for giving me the opportunity to talk about the benefits the Rudd government has brought to the whole of our country in its first year of office, and particularly to my constituents. It is ironic that we see in this matter of public importance raised by the Leader of the Opposition the term ‘dismal performance’, because the fact is that the only dismal performance in this House, in this parliament, during this year has been that of the opposition.

There are at least two possible measures of performance for a government. One of them would be to compare the first year in office of the Rudd Labor government with the first year in office of the previous government, and another would be to compare the performance of the government with that of the opposition during this very year. On either measure, the Rudd government is looking very, very solid indeed. The Leader of the Nationals—if he is still in the Nationals; it is not altogether clear whether he is Liberal or National—the member for Wide Bay asked who in Australia is better off, and I say resoundingly that we are all better off to have rid this country of the tired old Howard government, which had run out of ideas and had run out of energy.

When I ran for election a year ago, I wanted to be part of a new Rudd Labor government because I understood that the changes that we would bring about would make Australia a better place, would make Australia a safer country, would make Australia a more secure country and would in particular make Australia a fairer country. When millions of Australians voted a year ago to kick out the Howard government, they wanted a government that would deliver a safer, more secure and fairer country, and this government has delivered for all Australians. We have honoured the promises that we made at the last election.

I will now compare our first year in office with the performance of the previous government in its first year of office. The No. 1 thing that you would point to is that we keep our promises. We have kept our commitments; we are serious about keeping our promises—unlike the former government, which introduced the unfortunate phrase to Australian political life of ‘core and non-core promises’. There is a long list of promises that we made at the last election that we have already honoured in our first year in office.

One of the best examples is in the industrial relations legislation, the Fair Work Bill 2008. The previous government said nothing to the Australian people before the 2004 election about its intentions to introduce an extraordinarily harsh industrial relations regime—nothing at all. It did not tell the Australian people that it was planning to introduce the harsh Work Choices laws. We told the Australian people with absolute clarity what we were going to do with the Forward with Fairness policy that we took the last election, and we have seen in the last week the introduction of the Fair Work Bill. That shows how we honour commitments. We honoured our commitment to a return to fairness in Australian workplaces. That is what the Fair Work Bill does.

And we can go down a long list of other promises to the Australian people which we have honoured, including: the apology to Indigenous Australians and starting work on closing the gap, and signing the Kyoto protocol and working on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We are tackling the hard issues which confront this nation: computers in schools, trades training centres, a national curriculum for schools and the Murray-Darling Basin—the list goes on and on. This has been a year of sensible management, of honoured commitments and of honoured promises.

This has been a year of sensible management in public finance. In particular, I refer to the Rudd government’s first budget, which sensibly and cautiously provided for a substantial surplus to be ready for downturn. We were ready and are ready to face the challenges that we are being confronted with through the global financial crisis.