Labor - a tradition of reform

The Dreyfus Files - The Age

This week marks 20 years since the superannuation guarantee was announced in the 1991 budget by then Labor treasurer John Kerin; an announcement that laid the groundwork for the superannuation system as we know it today.

Most Australians under 30 will have no recollection of a time without the safety net of a superannuation system, but before this historic reform, superannuation in Australia was a luxury, not a right.

Labor has a long history in government of implementing major reforms, from the workers' rights and pension reforms at the turn of the 20th century, to the environmental and social reforms of the Whitlam government in the 1970s, and the substantial economic reforms of the Hawke/Keating governments of the 1980s and '90s. We have a proud history as the party of hope, of vision and of substantial reform.

Advertisement: Story continues below Right now we are seeing another Labor Prime Minister embrace reform, for the good of the country, by putting a price on carbon pollution.

Putting a price on carbon pollution is a vital environmental and economic reform that has been likened by Paul Keating to the floating of the dollar in the 1990s.

Undertaking a reform agenda is always going to be tough.

Major reform can easily be undermined by an opportunistic opposition, which prefers fear and hysteria to engaging in constructive and meaningful debate. In the face of an ''anything goes'' approach by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott it would be easy for many to think the Labor government would back away from our agenda.

But this is not the Labor way. Labor pressed on when the Liberals opposed the Snowy Mountains scheme, opposed Medicare and opposed universal superannuation, all now recognised as of long term benefit to our nation.

Backing away from reform would be a disservice to all those who will benefit from our policies of improving the quality of life of all Australians, particularly those people who are most vulnerable. This is the focus of government's carbon price household assistance package, which will deliver help to nine out of 10 households and boost pension rates for all Australians.

The agreement reached by the Council of Australian Governments is another reform worked through by Prime Minister Gillard in conjunction with state governments. The improvements to our state health system will deliver $16.4 billion in additional revenue and will work towards meeting systemic challenges that have burdened health systems around the country.

And the announcement of commencement of work on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), following the Productivity Commission Report on Disability Care and Support, is yet another important milestone in the Gillard government's reform agenda.

It is estimated that one in two people who suffer a catastrophic injury are not covered by relevant state accident legislation. The NDIS will build upon reforms undertaken with $7.6 billion National Disability Agreement and see the federal Labor government work with state governments to secure an insurance scheme. This will give families more certainty that if something was to happen to them, their loved one would be looked after under this scheme.

We should not forget the reforms undertaken in our education system as part of the stimulus measures to ensure the continued strength of the Australian economy. The Labor government confronted major challenges to Australia's economy in 2009, as the world experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, which continues to hamstring countries around the world.

In maintaining our economic prosperity, in the face of massive job losses across the developed world, we were able to implement a substantial educational reform through the Building the Education Revolution program.

Many schools in my electorate have told me that without the injection of expenditure in infrastructure upgrades, projects that greatly improved their schools would not have been possible.The development of a carbon price scheme, the COAG agreement on health reform and establishment of a national disability insurance scheme are all achievements of a Labor Party in minority government.

One year on from the August 2010 election, Labor is providing stable, creative and productive government for Australia. We remain committed to implementing strong policies that benefit Australians and ensure our economy continues to flourish.