Home > News > New Labor Leadership team

New Labor Leadership team

Kevin Rudd - Leader of the Oppostion
Kevin Rudd
Julia Gillard - Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Health, Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives
Julia Gillard

Press Conference - 4th December 2006

RUDD: So now the new and the real work begins. Today the Australian Labor Party elected a new leadership team with a new leadership style for Australia’s future. A new style of leadership. Kim Beazley has just spoken to you. Kim is a good man. I have known him for a long, long time. He spoke very well today. He is a man who has given to this Party and to this movement and this country a hang of a lot over the last quarter of a century or more. He has also in the last two years of his leadership left me as the new Leader with a solid policy foundation on which to build. And I thank him for that. In that work he has been greatly assisted by Jenny Macklin, his Deputy, and Jenny has been a first class Deputy. And I would like to honour, and Julia with me, the work which Jenny has done as the Deputy Leader these last several years.

Today has also been a day of terrible tragedy for Kim and his family. And our condolences and those of our families go to Kim and his family on this day and I know that everyone in this room will be respecting his privacy at this difficult time.

Kim in his remarks before said that family was the most important thing. He is absolutely right. For me, my family is the most important thing in my life. It is the backbone of my life. If you have been in this bloody business of politics for a while, you know how much of a backbone to your life that your family is. And I would like to thank my wife Therese of 25 years, we have just celebrated our 25th Anniversary and our children Jess, Nicholas and Marcus, for their continued support through what you all know in politics is a difficult life. Family is important and for me it is essential.

I said before that the Labor Party today elected a new leadership team, we have elected a new style of leadership for Australia’s future. Our purpose through that is to deliver a new policy agenda for the nation and in the weeks and months ahead we will be sleeves rolled up doing that. Our belief is that Australia has reached a fork in the road. There is a fork in the road when it comes to our economy. The question has been asked: will Australia in the future be a manufacturing country, will we still make things or is that all gone? We believe that we do have a future as a manufacturing country. We have a new future with knowledge-intensive industries. But it is one where government must be engaged, not just sitting idly by watching from the sidelines. We also see that there is a fork in the road when it comes to the law governing our workplaces. When I travel the length and breadth of this country and talk to working families in this country everywhere as Julia and I did the other day in my electorate in Brisbane, people ask this question: they are concerned about their kids becoming guinea pigs in this new dangerous experiment of John Howard’s, which he calls WorkChoices. Another fork in the road. A fork in the road on climate change. We can either have political rhetoric which doesn’t mean much or we can have a real alternative policy vision on climate change, one which delivers real outcomes. I think that the Australian people are sick and tired of political posturing on these core questions.

A fork in the road also when it comes to education or health. Julia and I were talking the other day about how it was that we managed to get into politics and to be where we are today. A previous Labor Government made it possible for us. I came from a family which I don’t think, looking at the family history, had ever darkened the doors of a university until it came my turn. And then through the reforms of the Labor Government of the 1970s the likes of me were able to get to university. But of course it is broader than that – it is the quality of our schools, it is the quality of TAFE and technical education as well. But it makes me really worried when I see this widening fork in the road today and working families around the country are now asking themselves this question: can we afford to have our kids have the best quality education at university and elsewhere. And the other day I mentioned also another fork in the road – one not often talked about in this country but I think it is critical – and that is the actual fabric of our Federation. Here in Canberra we often think that this consists of a once-yearly or twice-yearly bun-fight or love-fest between Premiers, Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister. Underneath all of that there is actually deep structural shifts underway in how our structure and system of government is working. And it affects the way in which key services to Australian families are delivered – in schools, in hospitals, in law and order and the like. And what I am concerned about is that our Federation doesn’t just need fiddling at the margins, it needs fundamental reform. And you will hear more on that from me in the days ahead.

This fork in the road has emerged because John Howard has taken a bridge too far – a bridge too far on industrial relations, a bridge too far when it comes to Iraq and a bridge too far on climate change by not going far enough. And so the call from the Australian people these days I believe is this: it is time to restore the balance, it is time to reclaim the centre ground. This fork in the road presents us with clear alternatives – and my commitment to you as ladies and gentlemen of the press and through you the people of Australia – is this: by the time that we get to the next election, you will have a clear, comprehensive alternative policy plan for Australia’s future. An alternative, not an echo.

In the days ahead, I will be working on the composition of Labor’s front bench. That will be important. We have a strong group of people who will serve Labor well in this Parliament and in the country as well. That is going to take some time but that will be one of the next tasks that we turn our mind to once we are through Question Time.

To conclude, I have great faith in this country of ours, Australia. My family have been in this place according to our family history since the Second Fleet, and on the wrong side of the law at that – I think things have changed since. But the more that you get to know this country and the more you travel in it and the more you experience the attitudes, the spirit, the commitment of the Australian people, what you do know is this: the Australian people have about them an energy and an enthusiasm for their future. They want a strong economy, they want to look after their families and they want to look after themselves. But they don’t want to throw fairness out the back door. And that is what we have seen too much of with this current government.

I will now ask Julia to make some remarks. We will then take some questions – and I say some questions because there is Question Time today and we have got that to attend to as well. Over to you Julia.

GILLARD: It’s very proudly that I stand here joining Kevin in offering the Australian Labor Party and the Australian people a new style of leadership. I agree with him that Australians are looking for a new style of leadership and are looking to protect fairness at work and fairness beyond work. They’re looking to protect that traditional Australian fair go. My family aren’t long time Australians, we actually chose to come here as migrants and like hundreds of thousands and indeed millions of other migrants they came here in part because Australia offered them a fair go. It’s a precious thing about our culture, and something we’ve got to make sure is protected and enhanced and I agree with Kevin that the election we will have next year is a fork in the road.

I join with Kevin in offering my condolences to Kim Beazley and his family on what was very unexpected and tragic news. Can I also say about Kim Beazley that he was a Labor legend when I came to this Parliament when I came to this Parliament in 1998 and I think he will always be a Labor legend and always honoured and respected by Labor people for the contribution he has made over a lifetime to the Australian Labor Party.

Can I say in respect of Kim’s Deputy, Jenny Macklin, I first got to know Jenny in Victoria, we are both Victorians, I first got to know her when we were working on health policy and she came to this Parliament with a huge reputation as a policy analyst.

She’s brought those skills to bear for the Labor Party in a series of portfolios, of course in aged care, in health, and most recently in education but she’s brought those skills to bear beyond the immediate portfolios she’s held. She’s made a very significant contribution to Labor’s policy agenda.

We’re enthusiastic. It’s been a big weekend, it’s been a big day, but we’re enthusiastic now about getting on with the task about getting on with the next election. So it’s sleeves rolled up and around the country talking to Australians about that election and about their vision and aspirations for this country.

Can I thank my partner Tim for joining me today. And with those words I guess it’s over to you.

REPORTER: Will you be seeking the Treasury portfolio?

GILLARD: All of the matters about the front bench will become apparent over the next few days. Kevin and I will obviously work on those issues together. For myself, I am happy to serve in any portfolio capacity that adds to Labor’s chances of being elected at the next election.

REPORTER: You have mentioned federalism, what in general terms do you want - to return more power to the states?

RUDD: The key challenge for the Federation is to eliminate cost shift and blame shift. The Australian people are fed up with cost shift and blame shift in health and education. Health, particularly. I think we need to work on that and you will see more of that in the days ahead.

REPORTER: What does your new style of leadership boil down to, apart from your relative youthfulness – both of you compared to Kim. And given a lot of these policies are already in place, can you just elaborate on what this new style really is?

GILLARD: I’m not sure I was happy with the adjective relative actually Lincoln – thanks for that!

RUDD: I’ll take the relative. What we mean by that is when it comes to the big debates for the future we’re not concerned about just the next twelve months, we are concerned with the next twenty years. I think there’s too much short term-ism in Australian politics, and the more I move around the Australian community the more people want to know, ‘What is the long term?’ And when you’re looking at the big ones like climate change they want to know whether you’re real, or whether you’re just coming up with something that sounds good between now and the next election.

Which brings to me to my second point, about what it’s all about. I think people are sick and tired of people just playing political games, I think people want to know what the things are people agree on, what the things we really disagree on are, and why? I also think they also want to know what the that we offer are in terms of real solutions for the future, and they’re sick and tired of just political rhetoric.

That’s a big challenge in politics – sometimes we have yet to develop our final policy positions so we speak in generalities. But if you want to ways in which we’ll make a difference with a new style of leadership, it comes down to those two.

REPORTER: Mr Rudd do you think IR is the central thing in the next election and are you prepared to offer any changes to the existing policy?

RUDD: Taking the second question first then, Denis, we support the current policy. And as for the question of IR being the first priority for Labor, we are committed to a program for the future, which emphasizes this: Fairness in the workplace, and fairness beyond the workplace. You see, when it comes to fairness, it goes to not just your rights at work, they are core, they are central. But also your right to a decent and equitable education, your right to a decent and equitable health opportunities. Fairness in the workplace and fairness beyond the workplace.

REPORTER: Mr Rudd, you mentioned manufacturing and your concerns about the future of it. Can you elaborate on the sorts of ideas you’ve got to try to protect the viability of manufacturing, and does that mean that you will take a more sceptical stance on a China Free Trade Agreement?

RUDD: Oh look, the whole question of the future of manufacturing is much wider than any possible future FTA with China. You see what I’m concerned about in the long term is whether in fact Australian manufacturing ends up so shelved out and hollowed out that there’s nothing left. I’m actually a long term believer in industry policy that may be heretical in certain quarters, but I come from a long background in State Government that I know what it takes to get key industrial projects going. And let me tell you, it doesn’t happen just by government standing over there with arms folded waiting for some magic to occur. The government has to have its sleeves rolled up. And that goes to getting underway major infrastructure and industrial projects across the country. Therefore we are believers in industry policy, and let me tell you, from us you will be seeing a defined concrete industry policy in the future.

REPORTER: Mr Rudd, you’ve said a couple of times that what we don’t need is anymore rhetoric, but I’ve counted nine times that you’ve said “fork in the road”. Does that work better than the ladder of opportunity, do you think?

RUDD: Nice piece of scepticism on day one. Thank you for that, I’m sure that’s what you’re paid to provide. When I talk about, and you’re very good at it on Sunday, I watched you, but when I talk about a fork in the road I mean it. It is. There are choices. What’s a fork in the road? You can go this way or that way. And if you can think of a better visual metaphor, I’m in the marketplace, come and see me afterwards.

REPORTER: The relationship with China, the alliance with the Americans and Iraq.

RUDD: Yes, and the question is?

REPORTER: Do you have a policy there?

RUDD: Look, I think we will have an opportunity in subsequent press conferences to talk more widely on foreign policy. Most of you are sick to death of me talking about foreign policy. Price, stop laughing! But can I just say this: Everyone who knows my position on the US alliance knows that I am rock solid on the alliance with the United States. I have never seen that as being mutually exclusive of a strong relationship with the People’s Republic of China. I’ve been in and out of both countries for more years than I care to remember. And let me tell you, you will see strong emphasis from us on both those relationships. The ANZUS relationship remains fundamental for Australia’s long term security.

REPORTER: The original motion for today was for an open spill of the frontbench. I was just wondering whether you could say if you are still proceeding along those lines or if you would like to have some influence (inaudible) and also what your economic credentials would be as a leadership team?

RUDD: That’s two questions. On the first one, which is the future composition of the front bench, what we want to do in the days ahead, myself, Julia and the members of the team, is work out the best team we can put forward person for person against the Howard government. Now, it’s unrealistic to expect that that could be done in a few minutes following a Caucus meeting this morning, which determined the future leadership of the party. We need a few days to sort that out. We’re doing that, and I think that’s entirely reasonable. But let me tell you, we will be shaping significantly the composition of our future frontbench.

On the economic credentials front, well I suppose, you know, I ran my own business for a while, that actually took a bit. I worked for KPMG, although I was contracting to them. But can I just say what has been most important in shaping my credentials and experience in this area is if you are the Director General of the Cabinet Office in a State Government and you’re part is of an adviser to the budget review committee of a State Government for up to four or five years, which is what I was in the early nineties, let me tell you, and you work cheek by jar with State Treasuries which as you know come on periodic rating missions to Canberra you become acutely familiar with the construction of public finance. I’ve done that for many years.

Also as Queensland Senior State Representative on the Senior Officials Committee of the Council of Australian Governments for 5 years dealing with the micro-economic reform agenda of the 1995, I’ve actually been involved in the whole spread of reforms over that period, including national competition policy.

REPORTER: Question for both of you if I could, I think you’ve appeared on every occasion where the leadership challenge has been announced as a duo, are we to take it that Julia Gillard will be a far more prominent Deputy than past Labor or for that matter Government deputies and in that sense, is your campaign

RUDD: Look I am proud of the fact that Julia agreed with me to run as a team. If I wasn’t you wouldn’t have seen us together for the last several days. I think it’s good. We bring different talents and abilities to this show, different experiences, different parts of the country that we come from and we are going to be happy to work together. We were elected together eight years ago. It’s not as if we have just met each other a few months ago. We actually know each other really well. We are happy to work together in the future.

REPORTER: Would you agree one of the biggest problems Labor has faced is personal enmities and disunity within the Caucus and how do you propose to address those problems?

RUDD: Let’s put a bit of balance into this. Six months ago in this building the only talk of the town was Howard and Costello and that raged around the place for a couple of weeks. No one is talking about it now.

I think the commitment and the mood of our Caucus meeting today was one that there is one task ahead for Labor: to win the next election, for us, the most important election in a generation because the stakes are so high for working families across the country. Therefore, what I sensed this morning, and it’s a reality, is a determination to pull together and to work as an effective team.

What we will be constructing in the days ahead, and what I will be shaping in terms of the Shadow Ministry, is the best team Labor can put forward to win this election. Captain is important; Vice Captain is important; the team is really important.

REPORTER: Does your belief in industry policy extend to a belief in the usefulness of tariffs and quotas?

RUDD: No, it doesn’t. When I talk about industry policy I talk about other things. But you will see a clear statement from us in the future. My credentials and terms of support for free trade have been on the public record for more than a decade and you don’t change your spots on those sorts of questions.