PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 15874

Remarks to the 'Touch Life 2008' Launch, Edward Eager Lodge, Sydney

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/04/2008

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 15874

Thanks very much. Sir Nicholas Shehadie, Tanya Plibersek the Minister for Housing, Keith Garner, Superintendent of the Wesley Mission, Nick Farr-Jones of the organising committee of Touch Life 2008, residents, and staff here at Edward Eagar Lodge, ladies and gentlemen.

I am still struggling with the challenge of donning the rugby shorts, and to the potential challenge of being someone fast, on the wing, in the presence of Sir Nicolas Shehadie and of Nick Farr-Jones, respectfully, on behalf of Keith Garner and myself, and without consulting with Keith Garner, we decline.

There are certain things from which the Australian public should be protected. And me in rugby shorts is one of them.

I did have two very successful seasons in the second row for the Under 14 “Es” at my college in Brisbane. And after those two seasons, Brother Alexis suggested my career could be better spent as a linesman.

It is the only place you could go after the 14 “Es” actually. There weren't any “Fs”. So thank you for the invitation, but no thanks.

You know this is a wonderful place to be this morning. The work that is going on here is a very good work. To all people who support this work, through the Uniting Church, through the Wesley Mission, through those who work here, as part of their commitment to the community, supported by companies such as Tony Crawford's DLA Phillips Fox, and people who just roll in the door and offer their help, it is a really good thing that you're doing.

It says everything about your sense of humanity and your sense of compassion. And I say this to Keith here, because the tradition he comes from, I think this place and what it has been used for today would make John Wesley be proud, the father of English Methodism.

The fact that this was once a Wesleyan chapel, a Methodist place of worship, and now is being used as a part of the church's mission to help the homeless, that's what Wesley was on about. Wesley shocked people in the middle of the 18th Century religious awakening in the United Kingdom, the great English revival, by saying that one of the first things they wanted to do was establish an infirmary for the poor in downtown London. The shocking and heretical proposition that the poor should be given free “physic” to use that great 18th Century term, and then schools for the poor, housing for the poor.

So I think Wesley would be very proud of you mate, well done.

Homelessness. Nick is right, it is a deep passion of mine and of Tanya's and of the Government. And in part, it is because of a very simple belief, that the beginning of human dignity is to be able to call some place home. That is the beginning of human dignity, wherever that place might be, to be able to call some place home.

And that is our starting point. And secondly, the fact that according to the cold hard statistics, we have more than 100,000 Australians who today have no place to call home.

Statistics we have more than 100,000 Australians who today have no place to call home. As Keith said before after 17 years of economic growth I think, as a country and a community, we can do better than that. We can't fix it all, but we can do a lot better than that.

It is not just 100,000 who, statisticians tell us are homeless. 14,000 of them are children. 14,000. Think of that next time you go to a football match. Just look at the crowd. When they announce that it is 20,000 in the crowd, take off a few, that's how many kids are homeless.

10,000 sleeping rough. It's a lot of people sleeping rough. And like Nick, I've faced this crisis of conscience as I've walked past those sleeping rough, and said, ‘what do I do? How can I help? What should I be doing?' And we are all often rendered speechless at those moments, and I certainly have been.

There's another reason for causing this to be a matter of core business for this Government, and that is that homelessness can happen to anybody. Homelessness can happen to anyone who's here. If you have a catastrophic accident, if your partner develops a gambling addiction, if for whatever reason, you run into one of life's great brick walls which are unable to be anticipated, and bang, all of those great assumptions about your future and how robust and how secure it is come falling down like a house of cards. It can happen to anybody.

And as I have travelled around homeless centres around the country and spoken to folk, the stories are extraordinary. I remember sitting down with Tanya some months ago now just spending an hour and a half just chatting to blokes in that particular place, about how they'd all got there. The life journeys are just extraordinary and from the most extraordinary origins as well. So it can happen to anybody and regrettably today, it is happening to everybody, that is, people from all walks of life.

As Keith again mentioned the challenges of housing affordability and the flow on effect of people wrestling with the mortgage, wresting with rents, to temporary accommodation, to staying with friends or as a young do and say “couch surfing”, and then you end up not knowing where. And if we don't think that is a problem, then I think our eyes are closed.

I am deeply concerned about the emergence of two Australias, deeply concerned about it. Last night with Tanya and others I was in Western Sydney. And we were talking to the community out there about the challenges in Western Sydney and those of housing affordability. And in private conversations afterwards about what social workers there dealing with their sleeves rolled up in putting band aids across people who cannot afford the mortgage and had to go elsewhere. It is all unfolding before us.

I think we can be better as a nation by saying that we don't want two Australias. I think we can be better as a nation saying there's something about us which says someone in need deserves a hand outstretched of human compassion and a hand up. Rather than a finger of condemnation, or even worse, the cold glance of indifference.

I think we can do that, I think it's within our wit and wisdom to do it. We're a pretty bright bunch of people. And it is reflected by the bunch of corporates here with us today. There are people with a heart as well. I think that speaks so well of who we are.

Our job as a Government is to provide leadership. We've said homelessness is a priority for the nation. We've said that by years end we'll produce this Government's first white paper on homelessness, we intend to do that, the works is now underway. We've said we're not interested in piecemeal solutions. We've said we understand and get it when all factors contributing to homelessness whether it's substance abuse or whether it's employment, or whether it's disability or mental illness, need to be embraced in a total strategy to deal with this endemic problem. That work is underway.

Our job is to provide that leadership. But secondly, the job of leadership is to say that we don't have all the answers. That's why Keith and others will be with us this coming weekend at the 2020 Summit where we're looking at housing and homelessness bringing together people from the philanthropic community, people from the public housing community, people from the private investment community and people from right across the show to say lets just shake the tree and see what good ideas come out of it. Innovative new programs, affordable rental accommodation - how do we do it better? How do we do it in a sustainable way? How do we do it so it's not just a piece of press release sort of waiting in the breeze which we forget about three weeks later?

I'm interested in being in Government in order to change things sustainably. I'm not interested in being in Government for the sake of being here and I'm not interested in being in Government for the sake of saying nice things. I think we can make a difference, but in making a difference, we need to be able to take in the best ideas available in the community beyond Government as well. And then, as Keith rightly said in his concluding remarks, partner with people in the private sector to make it work.

The good thing about Australia is we are a very practical mob. That is, we're interested in what delivers the outcome, what works. And if we end up partnering with investment houses and private firms and other forms of creative delivery of services for homeless, we bring to this table no sense of ideology whatsoever. Other than this - a sense of deep commitment that we want to change this problem and make it something of which this nation can be proud and a world leader in how to deal with the great challenge of homelessness.

Which brings us to the launch of Touch Life 2008. It's a good practical program. We need money to make these sorts of services work, and for those of you who are corporates here, and who have dug deep either in money or time, or in allowing your staff to contribute money or time, on behalf of the Government, and the people of Australia, I thank you. And we're going to ask you for a lot more.

This is a great program. It's good and practical, it's very Australian. How do you take something that we like doing, and some of us can do well - others less well, a reference to Keith not me, remember I had two successful seasons. How do we then harness all those things we like doing into raising money for a great cause?

So I thank all of those associated with Touch Life. It's a good practical initiative. I recognise the contribution of various of my parliamentary colleagues in making sure that this has got of the ground as well.

And therefore it is with great pleasure that I officially launch Touch Life 2008, and I wish this program every success as part of our national mission to deal with the challenge of national homelessness.

Transcript 15874