I’ve been coming to State Conference for 23 years.
23 years of rules changes and urgency resolutions. And 23 years of coffee queues.
The presentation of Lifetime Memberships at conference is the thing I enjoy most.
It’s the half an hour we devote to the men and women who have devoted their lives to us:
Labor’s True Believers.
I had the pleasure of meeting one of those True Believers, late last year: Joan Brown.
If you know the Labor Party in Ballarat, you know that Joan is its heart and soul.
She’s Labor through and through.
So when I had the chance to speak with Joan, I asked her:
Why, in the turmoil of 1975, had she joined our ranks?
Why, in one of the darkest chapters of the Party’s history, had she chosen Labor?
She paused for a moment, and replied with an answer entirely hers: “Love,” she said, “I’m Labor because I believe in something better – and I’m Labor because I like a good fight.”
I think that says a lot about Joan – but it says a lot about our Party too.
Because Labor is the Party of “something better”.
We believe in a better future – for this state, for this nation, for each other.
The Party that puts people first – all people.
Men and women. Gay and straight. Young and old. Born here and Australian by choice.
For us politics isn’t just about defeating our opponents or simply shrieking from the sidelines.
It’s about winning the right and responsibility to govern.
It’s about attaining that greatest of gifts so we can make life better for millions of Victorians.
That’s why we haven’t wasted a day over the last two years.
Not a moment has been lost.
We’re building the Metro Tunnel – the public transport project of the future. No more timetables, just turn up and go.
We’re removing Level Crossings – the dangerous relics of the past – 37 of our 50 are either complete or underway.
We’re building the Western Distributor too – that much needed second river crossing.
Work is underway on the Monash Freeway too – fully funded to get hundreds of thousands home sooner.
We’ve placed Victoria’s biggest ever order of trains.
And we’re doing it the Labor way:
Our transport infrastructure program, the biggest ever, is creating more than 15,000 jobs.
And at least 10 per cent of the workers are apprentices, trainees or cadets.
Those level crossing removals – 100 per cent Australian steel.
Those trains – built right here by Victorians for Victorians.
It’s because we believe in jobs and that governments can help create them.
Our investments don’t stop at the edges of the city.
We’re investing in water – the lifeblood of our regions – with projects from the Macalister to Wedderburn and Bacchus Marsh.
For some it will mean being connected to the water grid for the very first time. Every inch of it is being built by Labor.
Over the last 2 years we’ve stood with regional communities through drought and dairy crisis, fire and flood.
Always working hard to help those most in need.
And always listening too.
We heard the message that in regional Victoria you can’t split the environment from the economy. Our clean, green image is so important for jobs and prosperity.
That’s why we are banning fracking for good – forever.
We’ve spent every day delivering on the things that matter most– hospitals. Schools. Jobs. A fair go.
Labor investments in every part of the State – delivering real benefits.
For instance – in the June quarter, 48,000 patients – mums, dads, children, loved ones – received surgery in our hospitals. That’s the highest number ever.
And our schools – we’re upgrading more than 1000.
We’ve also created an extra 1100 places for three and four-year olds at our kinders, making sure they have the best start in life.
25,000 kids now have full stomachs at the start of each school day, thanks to our Breakfast Clubs.
(And here’s a message for Woolworths – they’re drinking milk from Victorian Dairy farms and eating baked beans from SPC in Shepparton.)
TAFEs across the State have been resurrected. Lilydale – boarded up, set to be sold off – is now open again.
And once students finish their education, they’ll have a real path ahead of them.
Because since this Government came to office, more than 176,000 jobs have been created.
We have the lowest unemployment rate since… well, since Labor was last in government.
What’s more we’re regulating the labour hire industry and putting a stop to the exploitation of vulnerable workers.
But of course, there is more to do.
Just last week, we saw another group of workers who will require our help.
The men and women who’ve found pride and security powering our State at Hazelwood.
It’s going to be tough.
While some shamefully celebrated – Labor laid out a clear plan for the Latrobe Valley that means investing $266 million and establishing an Economic Growth Zone to create local jobs.
We will stand with these communities – Just like we have with auto workers in Broadmeadows, Altona, Dandenong and Geelong.
We’ll support training, reskilling and new opportunities – we’re with these workers, and their families, every step of the way.
Because under this government, no one will be left behind.
That notion guides our equality agenda too.
I’m proud to lead the most progressive government in the most progressive state.
And I’m proud that here in Victoria, we don’t require a plebiscite to know that love is love – and equality is not negotiable.
I’m prouder still that we’re listening to Aboriginal people. They’ve told us they want to talk about this nation’s first ever Treaty – and together we can make history.
We’re also delivering every one of the 227 recommendations from Australia’s first ever Royal Commission into Family Violence.
This year, we’ll extend support and protection to more survivors than ever – in fact nearly five times more – with flexible support including counselling and measures to make sure more women and children are safe in their own homes.
And we’ll keep working alongside Trades Hall and the ASU to achieve family violence leave as part of the national employment standard.
So yes, the last two years, they’ve been busy.
We’ve achieved a lot – and that work will continue.
And sometimes it’s hard.
Because important work is never easy.
I want to talk for a moment about one of the biggest and most important reforms, the NDIS.
It’s a precious opportunity to give dignity and justice to every Australian with a disability.
Many have spent decades fighting for this scheme – people like the HACSU delegation here today.
Let me be clear – as the NDIS rolls out no one should be worse off – not clients not disability workers.
Victoria will remain a service provider in some form and I am very pleased to announce today that together, we will deliver a legislated registration and accreditation scheme for specialist disability services.
We do so because we believe in protecting the employment standards of public sector disability workers.
The NDIS must be first class and it must be sustainable.
I’ll work with the Union, Federal Labor and other States to make sure the Turnbull Government don’t undermine the NDIS.
When we were elected, we promised to put people first.
And that means giving a voice to every Victorian.
Victorians like Rachel in Shepparton.
A mum of two, Rachel fled from her violent ex-partner
She packed her things – not much, a couple of sleeping bags, some clothes – but she had nowhere to go.
While most of us are lucky enough to be able to tuck our kids in at night, and know that they are safe and warm, Rachel would never know what the night time would bring.
Or where they would be tomorrow.
Today I can tell you that because of our Government’s Rapid Housing Assistance Fund, Rachel and her kids will soon move into their very own home.
It’s one of more than 300 homes purchased or leased for victims escaping family violence.
But as we see on our city streets –
And as those dedicated men and women working with them, tell us – the number of people experiencing homelessness is rising.
A recent City of Melbourne survey found 247 people sleeping rough in Melbourne’s CBD.
Two years ago, it was 142.
But those sleeping on the streets – that’s only one small part of the problem – there are thousands more we just don’t see.
Sleeping in their cars.
In temporary accommodation and rooming houses.
In motels, hostels, caravan parks or friends’ couches.
Here in the ‘the world’s most liveable city’, there are thousands of people with no place to live.
Our agencies tell us there is no one reason for homelessness.
There is no predetermined path that means you’ll end up on the streets.
For some people, people like Charles, it just happens.
Sleeping rough for nearly 30 years, Charles won’t accept offers of accommodation. After years on his own, he can’t bear to live close to other people.
It’s a fear that makes getting help for his chronic illness hard too. So instead, Charles drinks to manage his pain.
It provides the relief that means he can bear life on the streets –at the same time, it makes it that much harder for him to escape it.
It’s a similar story for Cody. From an early age, Cody suffered abuse from his mum’s partner.
His mum struggled with addiction, so Cody learnt to take care of her and himself… and he learnt far more about drugs than any child ever should.
He had 3 separate stints in child protection but at 16 he dropped out of school.
He’d fallen too far behind in his studies – and besides, he says, “mum needed me to look after her”.
Following a violent incident with his mum’s new partner, Cody was asked to leave home at 17. He too had nowhere to go.
Now for a kid like Cody, and a man like Charles, there aren’t very many options.
And it’s only been made worse by our counterparts in Canberra.
In 2007, the Federal Labor Government promised to halve homelessness by 2020.
Importantly, the then Labor Prime Minister put his money where his mouth was.
Now, nearly a decade on, we have a Federal Government without a homelessness plan.
True to form, the Prime Minister of Sydney has no real interest in homelessness in Melbourne.
So, today I’m proud to announce that our government will do what the Federal Government won’t.
I can tell you today, that we will provide additional support for thousands of Victorians who don’t have a home, or are on the brink of losing it.
A $109 million package over the next five years that will deliver more housing and more help.
It begins with getting people off the streets, and into a home.
We’ll provide $61 million for rapid rehousing and 120 new units for people facing homelessness.
We’ll also build 30 new homes for vulnerable women and children.
And a new crisis accommodation facility in Melbourne’s west, providing a place for those most in need.
Ensuring they have the things we take for granted – a place to shower or cook a meal, and the quiet sense of confidence that instils.
Because it’s not just about having a roof over your head.
It’s about getting the support, the self-belief and the sense of belonging you need, to turn your life around.
Our package will extend outreach for thousands of rough sleepers across the state.
That means side-by-side support, for whatever is needed, wherever it’s needed.
We’ll also provide $9 million in flexible funding – for people like Charles, who after years of homelessness, require extra, dedicated help.
We’ll also support our veterans – men and women who served our nation bravely, but now shamefully – in an indictment on us all – some have to spend their nights sleeping on the streets.
And we’ll help kids like Cody as they leave out of home care, and until they turn 21.
Things like covering the rent as they finish their studies, or while they focus on finding a job.
I’m so proud to make these announcements today – they’ll change and perhaps save lives.
You should be proud too.
Because all that we have achieved belongs to you – because you are the Party of “something better”.
A Party I’m so proud to lead.
A Party of change and reform.
Of equality, integrity and safety.
Of jobs and skills.
Of better schools, of better hospitals and better public transport.
A Party and a Government that Puts People First.
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