A note to my Bendigo friends

Dear Bendigo friends,

Many of you would be familiar with Mr Alan Howard. Alan is a marriage celebrant operating in the Central Victoria area and by way of background he was also the Family First endorsed candidate for Bendigo at both the 2010 and 2013 federal elections.

Mr Howard has proven himself to be a staunchly conservative, homophobic and misogynistic person. I first encountered Mr Howard on the campaign hustings in Bendigo back in 2010 and again last year when I took issue with him publicly over his crude and sexist commentary regarding former Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce (His remarks:http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/2193364/former-g-g-failed-crucial-test/ and my response: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/2217889/governor-general-should-be-admired/?cs=84).

In recent years I have also attended several wedding ceremonies in Bendigo which Mr Howard has presided over and on each occasion I witnessed him take particular glee in reciting the current wording required by law for a marriage to be considered legal in Australia: ““Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others..”

Mr Howard recently embarked on a campaign against marriage equality in the Bendigo area and has been critical of local businesses who have come out in support of marriage equality following Federal Labor’s move to bring on a fresh vote on this issue. Last month, Mr Howard was the lead protagonist who aggressively confronted my cousin’s partner in his workplace which I know upset him deeply (http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/3141696/cafe-manager-shocked-at-anti-same-sex-marriage-discrimination/).

In my view, Mr Howard has no legitimate role to play in public life, especially on significant occasions in people’s lives such as their weddings. So if you’re planning to get married in Bendigo, I urge you to consider boycotting Mr Howard. if you are attending a wedding ceremony in Bendigo, consider asking your friends/ family getting married to not engage Mr Howard to perform the ceremony.

Bendigo is a thriving, diverse and modern city and Mr Howard’s anachronistic and deeply misguided views have no place in it’s future.

Related post: Former Governor-General exhibited modern Australian values

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I am proud to be supporting Mark Butler for ALP National President.

To my friends and colleagues in the Australian Labor Party who will be receiving ballot papers in the mail this week for the ALP National President election,

I am proud to be supporting Mark Butler MP for ALP National President.

Labor needs leaders like Mark Butler. Mark is a fiercely intelligent, progressive and genuine individual who has a vision for our Party and the nation’s future.

I had the pleasure of working for Mark when he was the Federal Minister for Mental Health, Ageing and the Minister for Social Inclusion in the Gillard Labor Government. There, I saw firsthand Mark’s incredible devotion, energy and passion for everything he did. As Minister, Mark was able to achieve meaningful and lasting reform in both the mental health and aged care sectors, improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. He has since carried this good work over to the climate change portfolio.

Mark is deeply passionate about building a stronger, more democratic Labor Party. He gets it. He gets it because he has devoted 25 years of his life to the Labour movement. Mark knows that the Labor Party’s greatest strength is its membership.  Throughout his career, Mark has been a consistent, strong and effective voice for rank and file participation and democratisation within the Labor Party. Mark has the courage, vision and leadership skills to undertake the further reforms Labor needs if we are to remain the preeminent vehicle of social change in Australia in this Asian century.

Mark is standing for ALP National President to empower rank and file members and drive Party reform. He has the leadership skills, vision and commitment to drive progressive policy reform on the national stage.

I hope he can count on your support.

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Vale Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser AC

Malcolm Fraser was a significant and popular figure in Australian conservative politics over many years and he played a key role in shaping our modern Australian identity.

While many on the Left are rightly critical of Mr Fraser’s role in the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government and the policies of his 8 year Liberal Government, in the latter years of his life he won respect and admiration from all sides of the spectrum for his passionate advocacy for issues he cared deeply about. Mr Fraser’s strong belief in the traditions of small ‘l’ liberalism often put him at odds with the modern Australian Liberal Party and he was deeply uncomfortable with the ideological shifts in Australian conservatism.

In recent times, I deeply admired Mr Fraser’s staunch defence of international human rights, advocacy for improving health and literacy standards for Indigenous Australians, support for an Australian head of state, an independent foreign policy and many other issues.

Australia is a poorer place without Malcolm Fraser.

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The seventh anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations

The National Apology to the Stolen Generations was an opportunity for a new relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia. It was a landmark moment in modern Australian history and the beginning of a new partnership between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians based on mutual respect and mutual responsibility. The Apology transformed the way in which the nation thought about itself. It was a profound re-appraisal of our collective belief system and brought to reality the genuine prospect of true reconciliation.

Today is an important anniversary in our nation’s history and one which should encourage both reflection and renewal among contemporary policy-makers and activists.

Building on the Apology was the Closing the Gap initiative. Closing the Gap is an ambitious but absolutely vital framework agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) at a meeting in 2008 to address indigenous disadvantage. Unfortunately, the latest Closing the Gap report shows that little or no progress has been made on reaching many of the closing the gap targets agreed to at COAG. Sadly, indigenous Australians are still dying younger, going to jail more often, earning less, experiencing disability more frequently and attending school less regularly than their non-indigenous counterparts.

It’s 2015 and this is not okay.

On this, the seventh anniversary of the Apology, it’s time we as a nation, re-committed ourselves to the big challenge of reconciliation that lies ahead. Closing the Gap requires an intensive, long term sustained commitment from all of us and we cannot afford to waiver. To quote former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s famous Apology speech: “There comes a time in the history of nation when their peoples must become fully reconciled to their past if they are to go forward with confidence to embrace their future. Our nation, Australia, has reached such a time”. Good work has and continues to be done, but we must to do more to close the gap on life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities for indigenous Australians.

In addition, we must undertake the next step toward national reconciliation by changing the Australian Constitution to fully recognise our First Australians. Like the Apology, this is more than just an important symbolic step, it is about equity, it is about justice.

As Bill Shorten recently said, Closing the Gap is our national responsibility, it is a shared journey. The job will not be done, the reconciliation journey will not be over, until our two Australia’s are one.

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Only Labor will deliver Melbourne Metro Rail

There is a misleading report on the front page of today’s Age newspaper alleging that Victorian Labor is not committed to the Melbourne Metro Rail Project (read here).

This is nonsense.

An Andrews Labor Government is committed to delivering Melbourne Metro Rail. This is Victoria and Australia’s number one public transport infrastructure priority.

$300 million has been allocated to kick start the project in this term of Government. A further $3 billion will follow (together with investment from federal government and private enterprise) in the next term, as the project moves to the construction phase.

The Former Federal Labor Government set aside $3 billion for this project in 2012. The current Abbott Government is now playing hard ball with the new Victorian Government about releasing the funding for this project.

Clumsy attempts by the Liberal and Greens Party to paint a different picture about Labor’s commitment to delivering this vital transport project are false and misleading.

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Read my previous blog on Labor’s Melbourne Metro Rail commitment here.

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One year on.

One year ago today, Australia lost a good reforming Labor Government.

Locally, we also failed in our bid to win back the seat of Melbourne from the Greens party.

Over the past 12 months Tony Abbott and his government has set out to undo much of the good work done during Labor’s six short years in office. They have embarked on their own cruel, narrow ideological agenda, perhaps best characterised by the savage cuts unleashed on unsuspecting Australian families and some of our most vulnerable people in this year’s federal budget.

All the while, Adam Bandt and the Greens party, elected on a mantra that they would “stand up for what matters” have stood idly by, impotent and powerless as they have always been.

I firmly believe Labor can win the next federal election. I also believe we can return a Labor MP to Melbourne. A Member of Parliament who can take their place on the government benches, ensuring the people of Melbourne can have a strong local voice in Canberra who doesn’t just talk a good game, but can actually deliver tangible results.

The hard work of winning the next federal election and winning Melbourne has already begun and the next critical step to achieving this goal is fast approaching.

We must ensure Tony Abbott’s man in Victoria, Denis Napthine gets the boot in November and to do that we absolutely must retain our inner city seats.

We must do all we can to ensure our hard working inner-city Labor MP’s occupy the government benches in State Parliament and that are part of a strong Labor State Government led by Daniel Andrews who will stand up against this Abbott Government.

There has never been a better time to get involved.

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Labor’s vision of Melbourne’s transport future: putting people first

The following is a speech I wrote but was not ultimately required to deliver at the Victorian Labor State Conference at Moonee Valley Racecourse, Melbourne on Saturday May 17 2014.

Delegates, Victorian Labor understands that Melbourne’s growing population is putting huge strain on our metropolitan transport infrastructure. Congestion on our roads and longer than necessary public transport commutes effectively rob us of precious time we could otherwise spend with friends and family and drive down our collective productivity.

I’m here today as Secretary of the Melbourne Labor FEA. The Melbourne electorate is perhaps the biggest consumer of public transport in the whole country. People in Melbourne rely on sustainable and efficient public transport to go about their busy daily lives. However, our inner city neighborhoods withstand the worst of traffic bottlenecks while our urban train network suffers from overcrowding and routine delays.

Delegates, my own experience catching a train into the city every day at Newmarket Station is an example of this. Newmarket Station is located in the state seat of Melbourne in the heart of the Flemington/ Kensington area.

All too often, morning commuters at Newmarket face lengthy, often unexplained delays. And often when trains do finally arrive, they are overcrowded and while some of us may be lucky to squeeze in the door, the less able bodied are forced to wait for the next service.. and wait and wait they do.

For too long, transport infrastructure under this Liberal-National Government has been treated as a second class priority and public transport users as second class citizens. Public transport has been a political football for the conservatives, impeding the development of long term, strategic infrastructure policy.  

We in the Labor Party understand the need for a train system that is more reliable and can carry more passengers. Delegates, our Melbourne Metro plan is designed to do just that.  

The former Federal Labor Government established Infrastructure Australia to provide independent and transparent advice about the economic, social and environmental costs and benefit of particular projects and to consider the best way to get value for taxpayer investments.Infrastructure Australia identified Melbourne Metro as a priority to meet Melbourne’s future transport needs.

Labor’s Melbourne Metro is a nine kilometer rail tunnel that will link the Sunbury and Pakenham/ Cranbourne rail lines. Under our plan, there will be five new underground stations at Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain. The rail tunnel will join the Dandenong corridor to the east of South Yarra Station and the Sunbury line west of South Kensington Station.

Stations where people need them, not where gambling interests want them. Our transport priority is to put people first.


Artists impression of Melbourne Metro CBD North station


The vision behind Melbourne Metro is relatively simple: simple timetables – modern signaling to maximise the number of trains that can operate on each line – higher capacity trains – better integration with connecting buses and trams.

The project would “untangle” our current rail system and create four independent rail corridors. Services operating along these corridors will be able to run at higher frequencies without interfering with other routes.

Labor’s Melbourne Metro would provide 19 extra services on our passenger rail networks across Melbourne. This translates to up to 20,000 more passengers on our trains each hour. 

It is also a necessary first step in other critical transport projects such as a train line to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.

I am immensely proud of the fact that I am a member of a political party that has been a long-term supporter of the Melbourne Metro project.

Our previous Federal Labor Government in its first term allocated $40m to the Melbourne Metro project. In May last year, Federal Labor allocated a further $3 billion towards the cost of building the link. We did this because Labor understands the important of public transport to nation building and nation-building is what Labor Government’s do best.

By contrast, the stale, visionless conservatives on our right do not understand the need to invest in our future.

Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National Government will never fund any urban rail projects. Further, Dennis Napthine’s State Liberal Government has walked away from its earlier position supporting Melbourne Metro.

Instead, they want to build an $8B East-West tunnel to nowhere that will do nothing to ease Melbourne’s congestion problems.

Shame delegates, shame!

The Liberals East-West tunnel was not even on the radar when Infrastructure Australia identified Melbourne’s transport priorities.

They have plucked it out of thin air, presumably due to some neo-liberal ideological disdain for public transport infrastructure, to the detriment of all Victorians.

On all available evidence, the economic, environmental and social costs of the Liberals East-West project significantly outweigh any benefits. By committing to this project, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his mate, Premier Napthine have failed to listen to the expert advice of Infrastructure Australia and turned their back on the hundreds of thousands of Melburnians who rely on public transport to go about their daily lives. 

Despite frequent requests, they have also refused to release their figures for public scrutiny. The little we do know about their dud tunnel suggests that taxpayers will be left to carry all the risks in building and operating the road. Surely, there are better uses of $8 billion of taxpayers’ money? 

Delegates, Labor is categorically opposed to the Liberals East-West project. 

Our vision of Melbourne’s transport future is backed by the experts.

We understand that Melbourne Metro is essential to Melbourne’s transport future and we know only an Andrews Labor Government will build it.

The fight for a better transport future for all Victorians begins now.

Thank you. Brenton Baldwin

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