John Robertson’s 2012 NSW Labor Conference speech #ALP #Ausunions #NSWpol

John Robertson’s 2012 NSW Labor Conference speech

via NSW Labor – Blog.

John Robertson’s 2012 NSW Labor Conference speech

Posted: Saturday, 14 July 2012 | By: John Robertson

I want to begin by acknowledging the first Australians, on whose lands we meet, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation whose culture we celebrate as one of the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

I’d also like to acknowledge President Michael Lee

Deputy Leader Linda Burney

And my parliamentary colleagues

There is someone on stage today that deserves a special mention.

Whilst he’s not yet officially a member of the caucus, we hope he soon will be.

Of course I’m talking about the Mayor of Botany and now Labor candidate for the upcoming Heffron By-election, Ron Hoenig.

I’d also like to acknowledge the former Member for Heffron and NSW first female Premier, Kristina Keneally.

Kristina leaves politics having made an outstanding contribution to her local community, to our party and to this state.

We thank you for your hard work and dedication and wish you and your family all the best for the future.

Can we also have a big round of applause for the more than 100 new ALP members here in the room today?

On behalf of everyone here in this Great Hall, I welcome you to the Labor family.

New members

Life members


Twelve months ago I stood before you as the new Leader of the oldest and greatest political party in Australia.

I spoke to you about the heartache of losing the last election and the importance of learning from our mistakes.

I said for the sake of our party we need to regain the trust of the people of NSW.

After 16 months of Barry O’Farrell I’m convinced we need to do these things – not for the sake of our party, but for the sake of this state.


The Liberals and Nationals collected the greatest mandate in NSW history because they promised to be all things to all people.

But the message of the last twelve months is clear.

You cannot trust this Premier and you cannot trust this Government.

The size of their Parliamentary majority means we have a Premier who believes the public doesn’t know, or doesn’t care what he’s doing.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The public are watching, and like a tide that slowly rises, the people are beginning to realise how deceptive Barry O’Farrell really is.

On February 24, 2011, he told the people of NSW:

“We will need more public servants not less.”

16 months later, just look at what the Premier has delivered.

15,000 job cuts!

That’s 15,000 men and women delivering frontline services.

•    Fire-fighters
•    Paramedics
•    TAFE teachers
•    Hospital cleaners
•    Train drivers
•    Child protection workers

The heart and soul of our State ripped away.

Liberal Governments just don’t get it.

They don’t understand what services mean to everyday people.

The difference it makes in the classroom, when there is a teachers’ aide on hand to help when your child is falling behind.

The peace of mind that comes from being able to drop into your local hospital or police station in the middle of the night when something goes wrong.

Public services are what everyday people turn to when faced with the unexpected.

But under Barry O’Farrell, these services are being dismantled piece by piece.

Across NSW right now– ambulance paramedics are tending to patients in car parks because emergency departments are clogged.

Earlier this month, a suspected stroke victim was forced to wait 24 hours to be admitted to Hospital.

An 83-year-old man with a brain haemorrhage was sent home undiagnosed after a 10 hour wait.
All because the emergency ward was too busy.


If this is happening now, how will Barry O’Farrell’s 3600 job cuts in our hospitals make quality of care better?

How will his 2400 job cuts in schools and TAFE colleges help our students?

How will his 1000 cuts to child protection case workers and disability support staff protect our community’s most vulnerable?

And how will closing down Grafton gaol and cutting 108 jobs help that regional economy grow?


This week, night after night, the people of Grafton sat on the picket lines to stop Barry O’Farrell from closing their gaol.

Nine months ago Barry O’Farrell looked these people in the eye and gave them an iron clad guarantee that Grafton Gaol would remain open.

At midnight on Tuesday I sat with workers, families, and lifelong Grafton residents worried about what would become of their town.

At 4am on Thursday – the picket line was broken….. and with the assistance of the riot police, the last of the prison trucks left Grafton Gaol.

Premier, you have ripped the heart out of Grafton, you have broken your word, and you have devastated the families and businesses in that town.


The people of Grafton who stood up for their community were heroes this week.

They gave it everything they had and they deserve a round of applause.

Labor will fight every job cut across this State with all our might.

We will fight for your local school.

We will fight for your local hospital.

We will fight for your local fire station.

And Labor in Government will reopen Grafton Gaol.


The broken promises don’t end with the betrayal of Grafton and 15,000 job cuts.

On January 28, 2011, Barry O’Farrell made his famous Lithgow declaration.

And I quote:

”We have absolutely no plans to privatise either the generators or the poles and wires”

12 months later the generators are gone.

And the poles and wires are next on the chopping block.

Barry O’Farrell promised to work around the clock to reduce the cost of living.

Yet, under this Government electricity bills, water bills, public housing rents, public transport fares and preschool fees have all gone up.

Barry O’Farrell promised to create 100, 000 jobs, but today there are 7000 less jobs in New South Wales than when Barry O’Farrell came to office.

And he has offered nothing but empty words as jobs have been lost at Norsk Hydro, Hastie Group and Kell and Rigby.


There’s no clearer example of a Premier committed to deception than Barry O’Farrell’s decision to allow shooting in our National Parks.

From the snow-capped peaks of Kosciuzsko to the world renowned rainforests of Barrington Tops, our National Parks are the jewel in the crown of NSW.

All their beauty and terror on full display. A natural paradise on our doorstep.

Delegates we don’t own these National Parks.

All we do is hold them in trust for future generations.

The lands protected by these National Parks have been studied by Charles Darwin, they inspired Banjo Patterson, famous landscape painters like Tom Roberts have created beautiful works using them as inspiration.

It’s because they are so precious, they have been protected by successive Premiers.

Government after Government, these parks were above politics. Until now.

In a single grubby deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party, Barry O’Farrell has broken his promise and opened up our pristine National Parks to amateur hunters.

Shooters with high powered weapons can now traipse through the parks we once camped in and bushwalked through with our kids.

I have a message for Barry O’Farrell today.

Labor will not stand for it.

We will not let you trash our National Parks.

We will not let you shoot up our natural heritage.

We will not stand by while you put people’s lives and our environment at risk.

When Labor is elected, we will overturn this decision and ban hunting in National Parks immediately.
Candidate Review Committee


Barry O’Farrell has broken promise after promise.

He’s rubbished his reputation and he has shown he can’t be trusted.

At last year’s state election, the Labor Party learnt the hard way what happens when you lose the trust of the people.

Sadly for us, even today, the ghosts of Labor’s past still occasionally emerge to embarrass us.

You know who they are.

I don’t need to name them.

To trade on the oldest and greatest of political parties for personal gain – there is no greater stain on the party.

As custodians of Labor – we must demand better.

Because we have a greater responsibility.

We are the party that stands for social justice.

That stands for world class health care.

That stands for equality of opportunity.

We are a movement of grit, of heart and of compassion.

And the behaviour of a corrupted few does not represent the qualities of all.


This conference is a great example of the Labor Party I’ve known and loved since I was 10.

Men and women paying their own way – donating their own time to contribute to a movement they believe in and care about deeply.

I want to do everything in my power to show the public that people join this party because they believe in a better Australia.

That’s why today I announce that I will set a new standard for candidates of the NSW Labor Party.

For the first time, all potential candidates at the next State election will have to disclose their financial, personal and political history to ensure they don’t bring our great party into disrepute.

They will have to demonstrate that they are of good fame and character and submit a Statement of Intent – about what they want to achieve, should they be elected to the Parliament of NSW.

A Committee of Party Elders, chaired by former Deputy Premier, John Watkins will interview and vet candidates, to ensure that the person who represents your community, is worthy of your vote.

I can’t change the past – but I can change who stands for office, as part of my team.

This new process will mean each and every one of you can be proud of our Labor candidates in 2015.

Let me be clear,

I’m not interested in simply hanging around and waiting for the other side to fail.

I’m a practical person.

I got into politics because I want to help people.

As Opposition Leader, it is my responsibility to expose every Government failure and broken promise.

But negativity is never enough.

It might be enough if you’re Tony Abbott.

It might be enough if you’re the Greens.

Prepared to grimly stake out a position that appeals to 10 percent of the electorate.

But we are Labor.

The party of McKell, of Wran and of Carr.

More is expected of us.

We expect more from ourselves.

NSW has been shaped by visionaries and leaders whose ideas reverberated long after they had gone.

•    Whether it was Lachlan Macquarie’s plan to turn NSW from a penal colony into a free state;

•    Bill McKell’s electrification of rural NSW;

•    Cahill’s vision for the Sydney Opera House, so beautifully realised in Utzon’s daring design; or

•    Bob Carr’s courageous leadership on the environment – more than doubling the size of NSW National Parks.

They all imagined 50 years ahead.

And made NSW into what it is today – the gateway to a great nation.


The people of NSW didn’t come this far to be lumbered with a decade of visionless leadership under Barry O’Farrell.

Thinking small never benefitted this state, or anyone in it.

And I could spend the rest of my time with you, or indeed the rest of my time as Leader of the Opposition, telling you how terrible this Government is and they would deserve it.

But I want to tell you how good this state could be.


There are few Labor causes dearer to us than education.

Education is the great equaliser.

It raises incomes, it reduces crime.

It lifts communities and is the foundation of a strong economy.

It allows every child in this State to dream big and achieve.

Our state is placed strategically in the Pacific in what many are calling the dawn of the Asian century.

While we can be proud that our schools and teachers are doing a great job – we must understand that competition for educational excellence is not just with children in neighbouring states.

It is with students in China, Singapore, India and Korea.

For our nation to prosper we can’t just rely on coal and other natural resources.

We need a skilled workforce that is technologically savvy.

We need engineers and scientists – experts in health, energy and infrastructure.

And we must invest in the only truly renewable resource we have… our children.

The latest International Assessment shows that our students rank significantly lower than children in China, Canada, Singapore, Korea and Japan in both science and maths.

Delegates we will be competing against these countries over the coming 50 years for trade, investment and ingenuity.

Without a thriving science and mathematics education system, our state will be left behind.

That is why today I announce that Labor in Government will fund 800 new university scholarships to train the science and maths teachers of the future.

Each and every one of these graduates will be offered a permanent position in a public school and this is just the beginning.

My priority as Premier will be to create inspiring science and maths programs and attract the best and brightest to teach the next generation of inventors, engineers and scientists.

We will invest in our children and teachers and educate a generation of skilled workers to secure our future prosperity.

But delegates, I don’t just want a smart workforce in this State – I want a safe and secure one.

I want to lead a state where if someone is injured at work, they are treated with dignity and respect.

A State where injured workers are given every chance to return to meaningful work – and if they can’t, they are properly looked after.

Today I want to tell you about someone I met two weeks ago named Denise Seal.

Denise has worked for many years as a carer for people with disabilities – helping them at home, buying the weekly groceries, cooking, cleaning and of course, providing great company.

She worked 60 hours a week, until mid last year, when she injured her knee while doing the shopping for someone in her care.

For a long time she couldn’t walk and of course, she couldn’t work.

At first Denise received support through the workers’ compensation scheme but in February this year her insurer wrote saying they would no longer pay.

They refused to accept her injury was work related and withdrew all support.

Under Barry O’Farrell’s changes, when an insurer disputes a claim, the onus of paying for the court case has now shifted to the person who is injured and that means – Denise can’t afford to fight.

Since she was removed from WorkCover she’s had to cash in her super to help pay her mortgage and she is worried she may lose her house.

Talking to me in her home two weeks ago Denise cried as she told me her story.

No one should have to face what Denise is going through.

Not in NSW and certainly not in 2012.

In the name of Denise, who is here with us in the room today, and on behalf of every working person in NSW, I announce that the first act of Labor in Government will be to scrap Barry O’Farrell’s workers’ compensation laws.

Just as we fought the passage of these laws on the floor of the Parliament until three o’clock in the morning, we will fight these changes until the day Barry O’Farrell is thrown out of office.


It is becoming clear voters do not like this government.

They haven’t governed with inspiration, new ideas or a bold vision.

They are cynical, dishonest and have no regard for the human impacts of the decisions they take.

The O’Farrell years will be dark ones for our State.

For 52 of the last 70 years, the people of NSW have turned to Labor.

It’s because we are the visionaries.

We know there is a brighter day ahead.

But my job is to lead us through.

To chart that vision.

To develop the policies.

To recruit the best candidates.

And, delegates – it’s our job to spread the word to friends and neighbours.

To convince people that we’ve changed.

That Labor can be trusted to govern for everyone once more.

That we have the policies and the vision to make NSW the greatest State in the Commonwealth.

Let’s all ensure that in 2015… a revitalised Labor is ready to build this State again.

About Darin Sullivan (1980 Articles)
Former President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (2009-2018) and a professional firefighter with more than 30 years experience. I live and work on the NSW South Coast, Australia. I am a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around me. I am a former Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and work with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist I have long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. I am a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and have 30 years experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. I am passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. I am also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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