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Beazley Makes New Pitch For ALP Leadership

September 25, 2003

The former Labor leader, Kim Beazley, has delivered a speech in which he articulates a range of policy directions that put him at odds with Simon Crean.

Presenting the Michael Quinlan Oration in Perth, Beazley called for an increase in the Medicare levy and argued that the ALP should have opposed the $4 tax cuts introduced in this year's Budget.

Beazley's speech comes hard on the heels of headland speeches by Lindsay Tanner, Mark Latham and Stephen Smith.


This is an edited transcript of the Michael Quinlan Oration delivered by Kim Beazley. It was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Kim Beazley, ALP Member for Brand Governing in this war obliges governments to nurture their public reputation. Taint administration of them with political exploitation, and short-term political advantage will come at the cost of long-term national security.

The bitter pill for us in Opposition to swallow is that whatever transparent effort is made by the Government to position us on the unpopular side of the security debate, whether on the issue of devotion to our main ally or simply a "photo op" with departing troops, the war is real, won't go away for years, and must be fought.

The bitter pill for the Government is that the war means that budget strategies based on popular tax cuts, rather than building community confidence in quality, family supporting services, and reserves for security spending, undermine the war effort.

Part of John Curtin's genius as a war leader was to recognise that a central weakness in the community's war psychology were the scars left by the Depression. National unity meant the war had to be fought with postwar plans for growth and social security to the forefront. The central weakness in community confidence during this modern and longer war flows from growing inequality and pressures on middle Australia.

In the past five years, the combined income of the top 5 per cent of income earners has grown dramatically. The total earnings of this group, $62 billion, outstrips what the entire nation spends on all social security benefits and family payments. At the same time, the combined annual taxable income of our millionaires has grown by more than 300 per cent - $1.1 billion to $4.6 billion. The top 5 per cent has enjoyed a 28 per cent increase in their earnings.

Those on the median income of about $27,000 have grown by less than 2 per cent on average a year. Some 2.5 million Australian families live below the poverty line. Sixty per cent of Australian children live in families with a combined income of less than $65,000 per year. The relativities between the poorest and the richest are growing and middle Australia is being squeezed. To have any chance of meeting aspirations to quality education, health care, aged care and retirement, lower and middle-income Australia is now more dependent on the "social wage". The social wage included access to affordable, quality education at all levels and affordable quality health care.

US legislators are deeply engaged in a discussion about how to position US society for a long-term war effort. We may ask whether our last war budget adequately meets our challenges. Here are the figures of some selected new measures in terms of their impact on forward estimates over the next four years: for defence, $1.6 billion; education, $2 billion; health, minus $51 million; Peter Costello's special little tax cuts - about $4 a week for median income earners - $10.7 billion!

That near-valueless tax cut might have been spent in other ways: to restore part or all of the $5 billion the Government has cut out of public outlays on higher education since it came to office. States argue that the shortfall in meeting the needs of the public hospital system runs at about a billion dollars a year.

A coast guard could be created with a minor portion of it. About a third of it would help rebalance the provision for public schools as opposed to private schools to something approaching their relativities at the time the Howard Government took office. The list goes on.

No one could sensibly argue that a combination of these measures would not do more for a sense of national purpose and unity at this time than a $4 a week tax cut.

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