As former US President Harry S Truman once said, it's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit. In politics, when people put aside their own interests and work together to achieve shared aspirations, they can achieve great outcomes.
By contrast, when leaders focus on conflict and blame shifting, they achieve little beyond protecting their own narrow political interests. After nearly a decade of division under the Liberal-National government, it is time for a shift in Australia's political culture.
We must put aside the government's politics-first approach and get the different levels of government working together with business, unions and other interest groups to make our nation stronger and more prosperous.
The economic reforms of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, produced in collaboration with other levels of government, business and trade unions, created three consecutive decades of economic growth. Hawke and Keating understood that while everyone has a different political perspective, we all share common interests. They marshalled people with completely different political views around the shared aims of economy prosperity, job creation, rising living standards and community safety. They looked for outcomes, not arguments.
Unfortunately, Scott Morrison's political approach is based on conflict and blame-shifting, a pattern that has extended from his poor response to bushfires and floods to rolling out vaccines and rapid antigen tests during the COVID pandemic.
During the bushfires, then NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a colleague via text that Mr Morrison was briefing journalists against her. She texted: "Lives are at stake today and he [Morrison] is just obsessed with petty political point-scoring''.
That is not leadership. Australians deserve political leaders who put the community first.
Australians deserve political leaders who put the community first.
If Labor is successful in the May 21 election, we will revive the spirit of national co-operation.
We'll move quickly to convene a Full Employment Summit where industry, unions and all levels of government will meet to identify obstacles to the achievement of full employment and also examine issues including labour shortages, skills training and wage growth.
Skills shortages are acting as a handbrake on economic growth and have made employers over-reliant on overseas labour. At the same time, one-and-a-half million Australians are unemployed or underemployed.
We must listen to the people on the ground to find solutions to these problems and work with other levels of government on solutions.
We'll create Jobs and Skills Australia to work with other governments and interested parties to determine which skills are needed for the workforce today and in the future. And we will create 465,000 fee-free TAFE places as well as 20,000 new university places in areas of skills shortages.
Boosting training will provide hundreds of thousands of Australians with the skills they need to qualify for good, well-paid jobs. It will also make our economy more efficient and more productive, providing benefits for all.
Cutting business costs is another area ripe for inter-governmental collaboration. As transport minister in the previous Labor government, I worked with state and territory governments to reduce the number of transport regulators with a major boost to productivity. All it took was a willingness to work together.
The current government has shown no interest in such collaboration.
Labor would reinvigorate Australia's national reform project. Cutting the cost of doing business drives productivity, boosts profit and allows businesses to create more jobs. There is also much to be gained from working together on health.
The COVID pandemic has reminded us of the need to maintain a strong, well-resourced health system based around Medicare. This requires the co-ordinated commitment of all participants in the health sector, including the federal and state governments as well as private hospitals and the medical profession.
The Morrison-Joyce government has dropped the ball on its key health responsibilities - especially aged care, with a Royal Commission having concluded that the under-resourcing of the sector is a national disgrace.
Labor will fix the broken aged care sector, lifting care standards to ensure our parents and grandparents can live their lives in comfort and dignity. We will also collaborate with states and other parties to lift the standard of health care across the board.
For decades demographers have warned governments that the ageing of our population will impose increasing costs on health. State governments, which run public hospitals, are bearing the brunt of this pressure. But when they asked Mr Morrison for help, he refused to collaborate.
When I was privileged to become the Labor Party's 21st leader in 2019, I observed that Australians were suffering from conflict fatigue. Back then, I said Australians were sick of people shouting at each other and tired of the venom and hatred of social media trolling. This remains my view.
Since then, I have travelled widely and met many Australians. I am now more convinced than ever that Australians crave leadership that is inclusive and collaborative and that puts the public interest first.
That's not to say that passionately arguing your case can't be constructive. It is sometimes essential. The problem is when the argument becomes the end in itself.
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