In his speech, Beazley said: "We don't know when John Howard will call the election, but we are ready for it whenever he blows the whistle: I'm spoiling for the fight. We are absolutely determined to win.
"We've never been more ready for this battle to restore justice to ordinary struggling Australian families.
"You all know that this Government has only ever been about the top end of town - the Liberal Party is always for the few, not the many.
This is the text of the address given by the Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, to the Tasmanian ALP State Conference at Wrest Point in Hobart.
It is great to be with you once again.
I want to talk to you to today about the big choices before Australians, to be made at the election to be held before the end of the year.
We don't know when John Howard will call the election, but we are ready for it whenever he blows the whistle: I'm spoiling for the fight. We are absolutely determined to win.
We've never been more ready for this battle to restore justice to ordinary struggling Australian families.
You all know that this Government has only ever been about the top end of town - the Liberal Party is always for the few, not the many.
- You see it in industrial relations where their vision for the Australian workforce is as political targets for a hate campaign, as a group to be deprived of their entitlements, or as a picture opportunity for balaclavas and dogs on the waterfront. The Howard Government can never see the workers as average fellow Australians, a group on whose behalf they are supposed to govern.
- You see it in health where the public hospitals have been allowed to run down to an appalling degree, the waiting lists have grown longer, and the aged care places have simply dried up all around Australia. It is as though they want the public system to fail as a self-fulfilling prophecy, with a massive increase in the cost of health around Australia.
- You see it in education where millions go to the wealthiest schools while public schools suffer dilapidated classrooms, overworked teachers, and second-rate facilities.
- And you see it in rural and regional Australia where services like banking disappear, and telecommunications run way behind the eight ball of the necessary capacity and standards to encourage economic development.
Well we in the Labor Party think it is high time to stop this appalling erosion of living standards in this country.
It can be done. We must get back to fairness in this country.
The battle lines are now clear for the election.
John Howard knows he has no money for the classic tax cut distraction beloved of the Liberal leadership.
So we get a pretend tax cut -- one that can only be delivered with a rise in the GST.
It is one of the smokescreens to take the focus off people's anger about the GST, and their frustration over the collapse of services.
John Howard likes to portray this election as a choice between the tax cut he can't deliver, and Labor's spending priorities. He has said there is nothing more for the Commonwealth Government to do in restoring services in crucial health and education areas.
We say you can chew gum and walk at the same time. We can start the restoration of justice in services, and roll back the GST to make it simpler and fairer for ordinary struggling Australian families.
All of the details of our plans will be laid out when we get the true state of the Government's Budget.
We have to be responsible with the limited taxpayers funds at our disposal, particularly as the Government Ministers have been spending like drunken sailors in recent times.
The Howard Government has racked up another $20 billion worth of spending in the last 12 months, in the desperation of their efforts to cling to office.
The Government has decreed that they will not show us, or the Australian people, their actual Budget figures until ten days into the election campaign.
We say this is totally unacceptable. We say, let's end the phoney war.
We challenge the Government to bring forward the announcement of the true Budget position as soon as possible.
They could do it with as little as a week's notice, and we demand that they do, then we will have the real battle lines drawn, and Australians could make a real choice.
The Prime Minister has recently said that he cannot come up with his own third term agenda until the true state of the Budget is known.
So what's stopping him getting the figures out into the open now?
In any case, we know John Howard's true third term agenda: it's the lofty city harbour view from Kirribilli, with the tall gates shutting out the real experience and suffering of the Australian people!
With John Howard it's always the same story, what he gives with one hand he takes away with the other.
John Howard is looking to the election for a short lap of honour before handing over to Peter Costello, and he doesn't care about the impact of the GST on ordinary Australians. He has given up trying to come up with solutions to health and education and aged care.
John Howard is out of ideas and out of time. And when that bell rings for the next elections, John Howard's response will be Pavlovian - bash the unions, offer a tax cut to the rich, and turn a blind eye to declining government services.
So, when you see struggling, rundown hospitals, and long waiting lists for operations. John Howard says: Get used to it.
When you see your schools in a sorry state, with an urgent need for better classrooms, better-trained teachers, decent science labs -- Too bad, John Howard says: Just get used to it.
And if your elderly loved ones need a nursing home bed, free of Bronwyn Bishop's kerosene baths, John Howard will just tell you it's not his problem, you'd better get used to it.
And did you notice during the week yet another nursing home allowed to carry on in spite of elderly patients with unchecked gangrene, and old people left uncared for in darkened rooms.
In spite of assurances by Aged Care Minister Bronwyn Bishop that she would crack down on sub-standard facilities, this Templestowe nursing home was left to go its own way, even after critical reports by inspectors.
Inspectors had found a lack of pain relief, dehydration, poor nutrition, poor access to health care, and a quarter of residents with wounds not properly treated. But nothing was done.
You've got to ask yourselves what has Bronwyn Bishop got to do to get the sack?
When asked what policies he had to deal with the ageing of the population recently, John Howard just said once again: that's what the GST is for. John Howard was trying to portray himself as knowledgeable on the ageing of the population.
This was the first stab at a population policy from a man determined not to have one. The GST goes to the States but the States have not been responsible in the past for pensions and nursing homes.
Access Economics has estimated that if you handed the States responsibility for pensions and nursing homes, a GST of the current 10 percent would never be enough. To really pay for the ageing of the population you would need to treble the GST revenue.
Well, in contrast to the Government's total lack of plans for its third term, Labor already has 80 policies publicly announced and available on our website or through our members' offices - that's 80 more than the Liberal and National Parties!
It is rare for an Opposition to have as complete a program as we have offered Australians.
You know that you will go to the polls knowing exactly what we will do, unlike the fraudulent behavior of our opponents when they first ran for office.
We will draw up our plans responsibly, but we will pledge our selves to delivering for the Australian people.
Not only can we use some of any planned Government surpluses for our plans, we can also use better priorities for the spending plans of this wasteful Government.
I have already said in my Budget speech how we could re-arrange priorities to give Australians a better deal. Let me remind you.
- Labor plans to cut wasteful spending on advertising and consultancies by $195 million over three years in order to fund a national fight against cancer, and to ensure all Australians can get medical help outside working hours.
- This Howard Government has given the richest Category 1 private schools an extra 105 million dollars over the next three years. Labor plans to re-direct these funds away from these wealthy schools to improve the quality of our government schools, as well as the quality of teaching in the nation's classrooms.
- This Government wants to give a tax deduction to wealthy donors - to people who can afford to give big donations to political parties. Labor plans to use this money - $45 million over three years - to start rolling the GST back from charities that care for the most disadvantaged in our community.
Nothing shows up the Howard Government's callous disregard for the rights of ordinary people so much as the industrial relations climate in this country.
First we were confronted with Peter Reith with his attack dogs and men in balaclavas on the waterfront.
Now it's Tony Abbott who calls the unemployed 'job snobs' and attacks St Vincent de Paul - one of the agencies trying to cope with the huge rise in poverty - as 'ignorant'. Well, we know who is ignorant on this subject - the man they call 'The Mad Monk'.
This is the man who John Howard has put in charge of industrial relations in this country - one of the most important policy areas of all because it looks after people's income, their workplace relations, their happiness or unhappiness in their place of work.
And make no mistake about what we saw from Tony Abbott and John Howard this last week.
The role of Tony Abbott in trying to provoke, extend and inflame the Tristar car component dispute in Sydney renders him unfit to hold high public office in any government.
The Federal Minister for Workplace Relations should have a positive role to try to resolve industrial dispute, to try to increase productivity, to better living standards for all wage and salary earners in this time of deep and growing job insecurity.
It should not be the Minister's role to pour petrol on the flames. But that is exactly what Tony Abbott did, simply to try to whip up an air of industrial strife which he thinks will benefit the Liberal Party's political chances at the election.
But you know something? I think the Australian people are onto him, just as they were onto Peter Reith when he tried the same thing.
People would have noticed that when the Tristar dispute was settled through a proper process of industrial negotiation and compromise, totally within the Government's own negotiating framework, the only glum faces were those of John Howard and Tony Abbott.
And what makes their cheap politicking all the more offensive is the fact that just this week they set another of their economic records, the biggest fall in monthly employment since records have been kept.
On Thursday the unemployment statistics showed that nearly 80,000 full-time jobs disappeared in this country over the month, and that is 160,000 since the GST was introduced.
Is it any wonder in that balaclava'd buffoons that run industrial relations in the Government are searching for industrial mayhem, as a smokescreen to cover their appalling performance on jobs.
They are only ever on about protecting companies that re-arrange corporate affairs to strip companies of their assets and make sure there is none left over for the workers.
Well, we in the Labor Party do care about workers' entitlements. We care about people like Marty Peek at Tristar, who worked for the company for 30 years, but under John Howard would be lucky to get one sixth of his just entitlements if the company collapsed.
John Howard has been in Parliament for nearly 30 years and he is looking at a pay-out in the millions when he leaves office, let's hope it's soon!
It is to protect workers like Marty that Labor has come up with a fully-funded plan for a national scheme to protect workers' entitlements all around the country - one that has been praised by all the editorials in the newspapers, but one steadfastly ignored by the Howard Government.
Our plan is affordable and equitable and it guarantees 100 percent of workers' entitlements if the company fails. It is paid for by a very small 0.1 percent increase in the Superannuation Guarantee Charge on employers. And it makes sure that those who should be responsible for workers' rights, are made responsible.
Our scheme is much cheaper for workers than the Government's unpopular and deeply flawed scheme. The Government's scheme is a slug on taxpayers, our is a very reasonable cost to companies themselves who should bear the burden of providing for their workers' long service leave, redundancy and holiday pay.
If you take the case of Tristar, the insurance scheme they ended up negotiating with their workers will cost them $700,000 a year. If Labor's national scheme had been up and running the company would only have been up for $11,600 a year.
It makes you wonder why the party that thinks it's the bosses' friend will not get on board with our scheme.
It is of a piece with their know-nothing approach to superannuation where they have totally dropped the ball on trying to get more workers to contribute to their retirement.
They have no plans, no ideas, and no third term agenda beyond a desperate desire to cling to power at all costs, to keep their own cushy entitlements safe.
Now I want, in the time left to me today, to talk to you about one of our most important plans for the future of this country, what we are calling Knowledge Nation.
I know you in Tasmania have been thinking along the same lines.
You may remember that I established the Knowledge Nation Taskforce last year, under the Chairmanship of Barry Jones. I instructed the Taskforce to produce a roadmap for the Federal Government to make Australia a Knowledge Nation.
The recommendations are highly ambitious, and deliberately so. They will require a decade's commitment by Government, but nothing less than the future of this country is at stake, and I am determined to carry forward these plans.
We all know that in the future it will not be the exploitation of our minerals and our agricultural output that will make this nation prosper, it is going to be the minds and the creativity of our people. Where once we mined the landscape we will now be mining the brains of Australians to guarantee the future of this country.
This means much better education for all, it means more government efforts to improve research and development in our industries, and it means a better climate for innovative companies to create the wealth and jobs of the future.
Our Knowledge Nation plans will ensure that Australia has more high quality basic research, a skilled workforce and incentives to commercialise potential growth industries.
Doubling R&D will enable us not only to create new industries but also to revitalise our existing industries, like mining and manufacturing.
The Taskforce has outlined a further set of ambitious goals for Australia:
- to lead the world in biotechnology;
- to become one of the first countries to provide universal access to affordable high-bandwidth communications;
- to foster a large-scale environmental management industry to create thousands of future jobs, tackle Australia's and the world's environmental crisis, and provide a future for our regions; and
- to gain a head start over the world in emerging services industries, including medical services and online education, creating thousands of jobs for our talented young academics, teachers, doctors, nurses and IT specialists.
Tasmania is one of the places in Australia that has most to gain from the Knowledge Nation.
I heard an interesting statistic the other day: Tasmania has the highest concentration of scientists per head of population of any State in Australia, because of the University of Tasmania and the CSIRO divisions of Marine Science and the Antarctic.
And Tasmania has other qualities that could potentially make it a laboratory for the rest of the world, particularly in areas like environmental management, which as Barry Jones reminds us is the biggest growth industry of the future.
Tasmania generates one hundred percent of its energy from renewable sources, and has the potential to be a world leader in the development of wind generation technology. There is exciting potential for further work in this and related areas.
These resources gives Tasmania a great platform from which to launch into the knowledge economy, and we are looking forward to working closely with your State Government, industry leaders and scientists to increase opportunities for all Tasmanians.
We know that you in Tasmania have special concerns with the ageing of the population, and the lack of Federal Government attention to regional issues.
That is why Labor will be paying special attention to Tasmanian issues in the lead up to the next election. We pledge to work with you to improve your schools and universities, and help reduce the serious brain drain that you face.
We know that the Bacon Government has been doing a great job in forging a better partnership between the people and communities in this State, and we are very supportive of initiatives such as Tasmania Together, where widespread consultation with communities is going on.
We plan to increase the dialogue between the Federal and State Governments if we are elected to power. We want to revitalise the Council of Australian Governments, COAG, so that better cooperation can lead to better employment opportunities and better health and education services for Tasmanians.
We know that Tasmanians are against any further privatisation of Telstra, and let me make this pledge before you today: no government I lead will ever sell the remaining government stake in Telstra. That is an absolute guarantee.
You know that you will never hear these pledges, these positive plans, from John Howard and his tired henchmen.
Make no mistake he will say anything, do anything, spend any sum, tell any lies, exploit any wedge, to save his political skin.
But we know it won't work: the Australian people are too smart to be fooled by the "Never, Ever" man ever again.
I look to Tasmania as one of the great jewels in Labor's crown as we head for the polls.
I know I will have your help and support in the great plans before us, and I look forward to the fight ahead.