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Kevin Rudd’s Australia Day Speech

This is Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech to an Australia Day reception in Sydney.

Rudd talked of his family’s origins and praised Australian qualities of practicality, the fair go and volunteering.

  • Listen to Rudd’s speech (33m)

Transcript of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech to an Australia Day reception in Sydney.

I begin by acknowledging the first Australians on whose land we meet and whose cultures we celebrate as among the oldest continuing cultures in human history. I thank you very much for that uniquely Sydney welcome to country.

We’ve just been reminded that a couple of hundred years ago a bunch of fellas arrived in eleven ships just across the way there. It is remarkable that we are here to celebrate this occasion today. The reports are that after the eleven ships of the first fleet landed here at Sydney cove, that there was, and they had discharged their human cargo, that the captain, General Arthur Phillip then proceeded to provide an address to the assembled throng.

This was then followed by less than ceremonious events. As I’m told from the historical record that large slabs of the male and female convicts then abandoned to the Rocks behind here and engaged in what could only be described as a Bacchanalian celebration. There is a moral to this story. If you’re going to provide a public lecture, as the Captain Governor of New South Wales, make sure it inspires their attention. Had it been a more policy laden speech by Arthur Phillip, I’m sure that the convicts in question would have sat down for a robust seminar, on Benthamite penal reforms to the British penal system of the late 18th Century.

That was the first week, but those of you who followed your early Australian colonial history will know that the first fleet, Arthur Phillip having delivered his human charge here safely and intact, there was then a Royal Commission convened by the British Admiralty because the first fleet had cost too much. Ever heard that story before? It had cost too much. So the Royal Commission was held and its conclusions were, in fact, that indeed it did cost too much and that as a consequence, if there was to be a second fleet, it should be put out to, wait for it, private tender.

There was a normal conduct of a private tender bid, competitive neutrality was assured by British Admiralty at the time. Submissions were lodged and of course the one which came in, on time and under cost won the contract. It just happened that is was a West African Slaver. The history of the second fleet therefore unfolds because one of the curious elements of the contract, and all New South Wales and Federal public servants here present, pay attention to this, was what I described a perverse price incentive. The price incentive was this, whatever food you’ve got left over at the end you get to keep. Think about the incentive. So as a consequence, one third of the human charge of the second fleet died in passage.

My forebear Thomas Rudd was one of those who scrambled ashore, in 1790, or about there. He was a person of no particular repute and, at that stage at least, no particular ill-repute but I’ll return to that in a minute. He was engaged in career development. He was a London dustman and had been accused by the parlourmaid of nicking the fair lady’s shoes which had been stuck on the back porch for cleaning. The Old Bailey, at the time, that great and impartial system of justice which we all uphold to this day, sent him to transportation for seven years; two years on convict hulks at Portsmouth and then here for the nightlife at Sydney Cove in 1790. Well he served his time, was emancipated in 1795 and made his way back to England by China. This was a formidable voyage at the time, travelling back through Cantong and Southern China in the days of the mid-Ching court. Obviously chose not to take up Chinese. He arrived back in London and in 1799 reoffended. It takes a singular talent to be transported to New South Wales twice.

I challenge all those historians here from New South Wales to find me any convict in New South Wales who has been sentenced here twice, and so he came again.

I always like the transcript in the Old Bailey on his second trial where the constabulary was asked by the ‘beak’ of the old Bailey whether they knew Thomas Rudd and the immortal words then ensued, ‘Ah yes, m’lord we know him well’. I think that may have prejudiced the outcome. Off he came for nicking a bag of sugar this time for another seven years. He was finally emancipated in 1806 and then decided to stay. He was then given an allocation of land out at Campbelltown. If you actually go to the cemeteries in Campbelltown they are literally, planted well with my antecedents. All this leads to, I think, the ultimate transition to respectability because I’m told by the historians and I can’t quite confirm it myself, that in 1824 finally there was a letter to the editor of the Sydney Gazette, co-signed by Thomas Rudd, together with other citizens of Campbelltown asking for more capital works in Campbelltown.

All of which goes to prove that the pathway between criminality and respectability can be achieved within a generation. Therein lies the story of Australia at large and I’m sure, this convict colony as well. I’m from Moreton Bay settlement so, same up there.

My wife, of course, is of impeccable free-settlement stock. She brings balance to this union and she is of Scottish heritage and, not only can celebrate being of free-settler stock, but then having been born in the only free-settler colony or State of Australia, namely that of South Australia. So Therese brings respectability to what would otherwise have been entirely criminal enterprise.

There’s one footnote to all of the above which is that I was told today, and again I stand to be corrected, that on the convict lists for the second fleet two names are listed in 1790 – one Thomas Rudd and one William Abbott. Now, I know not, if there is any connection between that said Abbott and this said Abbott. If there is I wonder how those two gentlemen got on onboard; eight months together on ship with not a lot to eat.

You know the great thing about Australia is the spirit of the country. Our times change, our challenges change but if you look across the continued history of this country of ours I see a spirit which unites us all; a spirit which has these characteristics – firstly the spirit of ‘can do’; a spirit which says here’s a bunch of challenges, here’s a bunch of difficulties, here’s a bunch of problems, what can we do about it to make better?

We are by instinct a very practical people; we are by instinct a mob who see a challenge and says well how can we get past it? We’re not given by temperament or predisposition to sit around and moan about things. We much prefer to get on and see what can be done about things. That is a great spirit. We see it alive in our entrepreneurialism; we see it alive in the great individual achievements of our nation, the very practical things that are done and out there in business; in commerce; in science and innovation and in the rest of human and individual endeavour.

The other great spirit alive in our country is the spirit of the ‘fair go’; this is written into our Australian DNA; it’s part and parcel of what has been grafted into our soul and spirit of Australians, and that is a habit, or view of life, which says I cannot be indifferent to the condition of others. I must do something to help out my fellow Australians. I must do something to help out my neighbours when they’re going through tough times. I must also do something to help out those elsewhere in the world who may now be the victim of unspeakable natural disasters. That spirit of the ‘fair go’ is there informing our history as well. That spirit of the ‘fair go’ and that spirit of the ‘can do’ I see alive in all those people whom Kristina and myself and Therese and Ben have shaken hands with this evening. Each of you representing great achievements in business; in science; in innovation and through our community and church and charitable sectors also those who have been out there extending the hand of human friendship to those in need.

So as Prime Minister of Australia could I say one simple thing to you all – those of you who have given of your own to make the lives of others better, thank you.

Without your contribution, Australia would be a radically different country.

The spirit of volunteering is what makes this country different. I said, in my own community yesterday in Brisbane, that if you were to think about what Australia would be like tomorrow if everyone ceased as of midnight tonight to volunteer, this country, literally I believe, would fall apart.

We rest on the shoulders of so many thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of volunteers who actually keep the fabric of our society and our community going. As the elected leader of this country, and when I travel abroad, it is the thing that gives me greatest pride in reflecting on the achievements of this nation, Australia.

In the last 12 months since I spoke in the lead up to Australia day last year we had been through an enormous set of challenges. It goes by many names. The global financial crisis; the global economic recession; the global meltdown, but across the world we have seen the greatest financial crisis, an economic crisis, metered out to the global economy since the Great Depression of ’29 and ’32.

If you look across the world you will see one economy after another falling like nine pins; unemployment going through the roof; economic growth collapsing and with tens of millions of people being added to the unemployment queues around the world, and each of those, not just a statistic, but a human being whose family’s affected, whose life is affected, whose community is affected, whose company is affected, whose nation is affected.

The great story of 2009 is that as Australians we chose to make a difference. We chose to do it differently. We chose to come together as one in the face of this huge national and international challenge.

On the Government’s part, we put our step forward with something called the National Economic Stimulus Strategy and we applied particular measures. We invested $77 billion into the economy; 70 per cent of which went into infrastructure; 29,000 infrastructure projects now underway across the country.

Jobs for today but building the infrastructure we need for tomorrow.

Here in New South Wales $21 billion invested through the National Stimulus Strategy; $16.2 billion in our school modernisation program across the country; here in New South Wales, thousands of school projects rolling out. In social housing, $1.9 billion in New South Wales to build 6,300 new units of public housing; 31,000 repairs and maintenance to social housing; in energy efficiency investing in 333,000 homes for ceiling insulation, and 55,000 solar hot water.

But what’s it all mean? These are the practical things that we did, practical things which are of use today in providing jobs and employment and engagement for small business and providing still for apprenticeships today, but critically building the economic and educational and social infrastructure we need for tomorrow.

Jobs for today, helping small business today while building the infrastructure we need for tomorrow.

Again, my message to you is what Government does is one thing – doing it in partnership with the entire national community is something else; bringing together the innate sense of togetherness we have as a nation is what made the difference.

We could not have done what we did were we not in active partnership with every State Government, Labor and Liberal across the country; with every one of the 565 local authorities in Australia; Labor, Liberal, independent, Calathumpian all working together. We could not have achieved this if we were not working together with businesses who chose, often courageously, to keep people in work rather than to put them onto the unemployment queue. We couldn’t have done this had the unions not adopted a policy of restraint during a year of great difficulty for everybody and we couldn’t have done it were it not for the community sector, out there, aided by the churches, supporting those who still felt the rough end of unemployment and the impact on the family home and on the family budget.

So my simple message about where we’ve been this last year is this. By working together and coming together as a nation we made a radical difference.

The report card for Australia is outstanding.

One. One country unique among the major advanced economies worldwide did not go into recession; that country is Australia.

Two. Unique among the 33 countries who are the advanced economies of the world, only one country grew its economy in 2008-2009; that country is Australia.

Australia; the second lowest unemployment of the major advanced economies and with the lowest debt and lowest deficit.

None of the above achievable unless the country and the governments of the country worked together.

So much for the year past.

My second point to you today is about the challenges we face for the future. There is no point looking back on 2009 and being in any sense complacent – no point whatsoever.

The core challenge I’ve been speaking of around Australia this week as I’ve sought to host receptions such as this in every state capital and territory capital of the country is to point to our core economic problem for the future – not just this second decade of the 21st Century but for the 21st Century at large – and in a nutshell it is this; it is the ageing of our population

Consider this simple statistic.

The share of our population over the age of 65 will increase from 12 or 13 percent of our total population today to nearly 25 percent of our population in 2050 – from 1 in 7 of our number to 1 in 4 of our number. Our overall population will rise but the aging of the population will rise even faster.

The second statistic I want you to think about is this – we will have a smaller proportion of working Australians supporting those who are over the age of 65 who will need, of course, increasing support for health care, for aged care and for various forms of retirement income. 40 years ago, in 1970, there were 7.5 people in the workforce for every one person over the age of 65 – today that number is about 5.5 people in the workforce for every one person over the age of 65.

By 2050, that number will drop to 2.7 people in the workforce for every person over the age of 65. Here my fellow Australians is the core challenge

Two things flow from this – the first is that because we are going to have a much larger number of older Australians, it follows that those older Australians are going to command more services in health and hospitals and aged care and also in retirement income. On average, hospital expenditure on people aged 65 to 74 is currently double that of anyone aged 55 to 64. For our oldest Australians, those aged 85 and over, spending increases to almost five times that spent on people aged 55 to 65.

Treasury analysis which will be contained in the Government’s upcoming Australia 2050 report points to the fact that over the next 40 years real health spending on those aged 65 and older is expected to increase around seven-fold. Real health spending on those aged 85 and over is expected to increase 12 fold.

This is a product of the increasing age of Australians overall and secondly the fact that within innovations in pharmaceuticals and medical technologies and the rest the cost of treating each individual aged Australian will rise as well. That is our first problem.

The second problem is, of course, the proportion of Australians in the workforce generating the tax revenue to support those services will become less.

So what does Australia, in response to this 2050 report that we will release soon, do about the challenges for the future when it comes to this aging of our population.

One further thought we should bear in mind is the impact on our budgets.

Forty years ago, Australian Government spending on health equated to 1.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

In 2010, Australian Government health spending equates to 4 per cent of GDP, and the Intergenerational Report projects that it will rise to 7.1 per cent in 2050

In dollar terms, that’s an increase of over $200 billion by 2050 – and equates to an increase in average Australian Government health spending per person in real terms from $2,290 today to $7,210 in 2050.

These are figures we should all reflect on.

Rising health and hospitals spending is already having an impact on state budgets.

States and territories have experienced growth in health spending of around 11 per cent per year over the past five years.

This contrasts with growth in state revenues of around 3 to 4 per cent a year.

Rapidly rising health costs create a real risk, absent major policy change, as state governments will be overwhelmed by their rising health spending obligations.

If current spending and revenue trends continue, Treasury projects that the total health spending of all states will exceed 100 per cent of their tax revenues, excluding the GST, by around 2045-46 – and possibly earlier in some states.

The NSW treasury has estimated that spending on health will almost double as a share of the NSW total Budget – from 30 per cent today to around 55 per cent in 2032-33.

These are challenging statistics, but it is important the nation becomes familiar with them, because we must do something about them.

Without reform – States ability to provide the services they currently provide will be significantly strained.

That is why 2010 must be and will be a year of major health reform.

What are the options which we are now therefore confronted with as a result of rising health costs on the one hand, and proportionally the number of Australians working declining on the other, in turn generating less economic activity and less taxation revenue.

Well, there are three strategic options for Australia.

One is to cut health costs; cut health spending; reduce aged care and reduce payments for people entering retirement income.

Those in favour of doing that, raise your right hand.

You’ll be surprised to know that in Melbourne, in Hobart, in Adelaide, and Perth and Darwin and even in Bris-vegas yesterday, no one raised their hand at that particular option, so why don’t we just park that one for the time being.

Option number two; long-term unsustainable budget deficits. In other words allow our health expenditure to increase; do nothing in terms of the economy; see the proportional delivery of tax revenue to the Commonwealth and State coffers remain constant and simply budget finance, budget-deficit finance it into the long-term future.

That’s not sustainable either for the simple reason that ultimately you cannot sustain budget deficits indefinitely. You cannot do it. It doesn’t add up.

Thirdly what you can do is this – you can increase health expenditure but on the condition you do something else to increase economic growth by increasing economic growth by two things which are available to us; increasing the workforce participation of our continuing workforce through things like improved childcare, paid parental leave and other such measures and helping those outside the workforce under the age of 65 enter the work force but secondly and most critically, by boosting the productivity of our workforce.

It is not to make people work longer that we speak of, it is to enable people to work smarter by drawing upon the most up-to-date technology and the most up-to-date skills – that’s what makes the difference, in boosting our productivity growth.

Which brings me to my final point, what can we do about lifting productivity growth for the future?

Well there’s no magic to this, but here again are a stat to think about from the Government’s upcoming 2050 report.

It warns us about what happens if we don’t lift our productivity growth from where it is at the moment, which is 1.4 per cent per year. Back in the 90’s following the big economic reforms of the 80’s and 90’s we began to lift productivity growth to 2 per cent a year – in the noughties, that is the decade that’s just unfolded, it has actually slipped back to 1.4.

You might think that’s a small difference, but when you work it out across the entire scale of the economy, it is not. It makes a huge difference.

If we in the future can raise it back to 2 per cent, where it was, by 2050 our economy will be more than one half a trillion dollars bigger than it would otherwise be, in current dollar terms, on average every Australian man, woman and child, would be $16,000 better off, in current dollar terms, but most critically, our taxation revenues would also grow to fund the health outlays that we need to fund for the aging population.

So that’s our practical challenge.

And therefore why all of our energies of the nation, when you strip away all the political song and dance show, has to be focussed on this core productivity agenda.

So what are the things that make that work?

Three measures – one is investing radically in the infrastructure of the 21st century, so our workforce can be more productive in how it works.

Secondly by investing in the education, skills and training of our workforce radically, what we call an education revolution, so that people can bring better and sharper skills to bear across the work force to be more productive at the things that they do. And thirdly to pull the arms of excessive regulatory intervention out of the road of small business and business to allow business to get on with the job of generating growth.

These ladies and gentlemen are the measures we’re currently embracing through infrastructure investment we are working hard through organisations like Infrastructure Australia: the Building Australia Fund, for the first time providing national leadership in developing a national infrastructure plan, $36 billion of national investment.

In NSW, a 123 per cent increase in transport infrastructure; $1.5 billion for the Hunter Expressway; $600 million for the Kempsey Bypass; $1.8 billion upgrading the rail networks in the freight system of this state. Now on top of that when we roll out the National Broadband Network, an investment of up to $43 billion, this state representing a third of the Federation will receive the bulk of that investment – altogether with one objective, to increase the state-of-the -art of our infrastructure here and across the country to enable our workers to work more efficiently in the future.

Secondly on skills, what are we doing on that front?

Nationally we’ve doubled Australian Government investment in education; $33 billion we were investing in the four years prior to 2008, and we’re now investing $62 billion; in NSW the 126 percent increase in education investment in this state; all necessary for the future right across the spectrum of early childhood education, through school education, through TAFES and training, all the way through to what we do with our universities and research.

That also goes not just to the quantity of what we invest in education but to the quality of what we do as well. This is a matter of some controversy, but our view is that fundamental to delivering the improvements in education is making our schools the best they can possibly be – that’s the aim behind the MySchool website, which is being launched later this week by the Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Our view is that parents are hungry for more information about their kids’ schools. Our view is that the parents deserve more information about their kids’ schools, and we intend to give it to them, in partnership with the Government of NSW and partnership with governments elsewhere in the country.

And by giving parents information that they deserve, we can build a better education system and build a stronger economy for the future with greater productivity. Giving parents this information gives them the ability also to demand improvements in the quality of their kids’ schools and indeed make decisions about which school will best meet their child’s needs. For the first time this information will be consistent and robust across all schools and readily available to all parents – this will ultimately drive improvements across the whole system, or to put it differently, the rising tide of high performing schools will lift all boats as parents demand the best for their kids. And one thing we know for sure, school performance is critical to the development of our nation’s human capital which is in turn the driver of productivity growth.

This then is what we’re thinking to do on lifting productivity; investing radically in infrastructure; investing radically also in what we’re doing in schools.

But can I say also to our friends here in NSW – we also recognise that improvements now need to be made in health as well. That’s why it is critical that we partner with our friends in the states and territories to assist in shouldering that burden. We in Canberra have increased by 50 per cent health funding nationally over the first five years, including $20.5 billion in a new healthcare agreement here in NSW. And for the very first time can I say to each and every one of you, the Australian Government is now investing directly into the building of hospital infrastructure around the country. Beginning here also in NSW with nearly a $100 million investment in the Nepean Hospital redevelopment in Western Sydney; as well as investments in cancer research at the RPA Chris O’Brien Centre and at the Garvan St Vincent’s Campus, a $70 million investment.

So there’s nothing magical about this; it’s doing what you can now to increase productivity growth with a long-term view about how you boost what we can generate by way of growth and tax revenue from the economy by investing in infrastructure, investing in skills, but certainly, not ignoring the needs of the health care system now but investing in those as well.

To conclude, each and every one of you here represent achievement in your respective fields; what we do on Australia Day in just two days time is also recognise the Australian of the Year, through the Australian of the Year Awards, which have been now running for 50 years.

Environmental campaigner Jon Dee has inspired millions of Australians to make positive environmental and social change.

He’s this year’s NSW finalist in the Australian of the Year Awards.

As co-founder of Planet Ark, Jon has successfully shown people and business how they can reduce their impact on the environment.

He’s also been a driving force behind such initiatives as National Recycling Week, National Tree Day and campaigns to phase out plastic bags and incandescent light bulbs.

We wish Jon and all the finalists from around the nation the very best ahead of Monday night’s announcement.

Ladies and gentlemen as we approach Australia Day let us reflect with pride upon what we have achieved here in this great nation Australia, and what those of you who have done to make a difference in your organisation. And as I said again in remarks in the last several days, think of your sporting organisation, think of those of you who are running the local Girl Guides Hut, think if tomorrow or next Saturday no one shows up to make sure the hut is open; think if no one is out there to roll out the cricket wicket, or nets; think if no one’s there to make sure the basketball court is attended; think if you’re from St Vincent de Paul if no one is there to serve meals at the Matthew Talbot centre; think if tomorrow there was no one there to assist in providing the support for a family with no meal to put on the table the next day; and each of your organisations, so many represented in this room today reflect that Australian spirit of the ‘fair go’, and the Australian spirit of the ‘can do’.

Thank you for coming to this reception here this evening, you are welcome guests here on Australia Day. We decided to do something different now – in the past when Australia Day came we expected the nation to come to Canberra. I’ve taken the view that the nation of Australia is wider than the immediate perimeter of Lake Burley Griffin, as a consequence we are now taking Australia Day to each and every state and territory capital. It has been a wonderful privilege for myself and Therese to be able to spend time with each of our community leaders from across this great land of ours, Australia.

I thank you and I wish you all the best for Australia Day 2010.

I don’t know about you but I’m pining for a drink. I have one further, formal, solemn task to perform and that is to ask you to raise your glasses in a simple toast to our great land, Australia.

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