Speech at NSW Labor State Conference, October 2021

5.59pm | October 11, 2021

Before I speak to its substance, may I briefly seek the indulgence of the Chair to thank you all for your support for me as a Senator over the last 6 years, and your willingness to support me again. It’s the honour of my life to represent you in the Senate. I don’t intend to waste a moment.

The pandemic has been tough. But it could have been so much worse.

We should give the credit where its due. If we  think about the most important elements of our response  – we can quickly see how that they leveraged our collectivist traditions. 

Our universal Medicare system – despite years of Liberal attacks – still provided a bedrock of confidence that our health needs would be met.

The labour movement campaigned together for  a wage subsidy scheme – ultimately JobKeeper -  to actively manage the economic risks to working people in the early phases of the pandemic. 

And state and territory leaders – largely Labor leaders -  refused to ‘let it rip’, an instead advocating public health measures to protect the health of our most vulnerable citizens.

Each of these relied on public sector institutions – built by Labor - that reflect our deep commitment to caring for one another.

Turns out the market can’t manage a pandemic.

Of course, you won’t hear this acknowledged by our Liberal opponents. 

Even now, they are outsourcing billions of dollars of work to consultants – work that should be core business for a professional public service. 

At the same time, 12,000 jobs have been cut from the public sector since the Liberals were elected.

Labor will take a very different approach.

You heard this afternoon from our leader Anthony Albanese  about our determination to use procurement to support good Australian jobs.

Well we’ll also back the public service.

We don’t support the staffing cap. We know the problems it creates – collapsing capability and driving wasteful and expensive contracting practices.

We do support an independent public sector. One with appropriate oversight, and clear norms about accountability.

And we see the APS as a model employer – with secure and fairly remunerated jobs, respect for union representation, and opportunities for advancement for it employees. Its one of the places we’ll act to restore job security – limiting the number of consecutive fixed term contracts an employer can offer for the same role. 

Friends... we know that a strong public sector is essential to a strong society.

We also know – from bitter experience with our opponents – that its only a Labor government that will ever act to strengthen its arm

I commend the chapter to you.