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Keeping the common good after COVID

  • 23 February 2021
  At a press conference once, I revealed that my Mum raised me in three great faiths: the Catholic Church, the Australian Labor Party, and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. They all played roles in my childhood, each one of them in separate ways. Each brought a different strength that I was able to call on as I was growing up. And in different ways, I needed them all.

I grew up in public housing, raised by a single mother on the disability pension. Mum was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, and I still think about how hard things must have been for her. And yet she shone so brightly in my life. She was a strong woman with a sharp mind and the biggest heart. I saw in her the most profound inner strength. Through her own example, she taught me love and compassion. As we made our way together in life, I learnt about community and the power of pulling together.

Mum had the good sense to send me to school at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, which reinforced for me the values of social justice and equal opportunity. As I said to the Year 12 boys there a few months ago as they were gearing up to do the HSC, they will always carry a bit of that school in their hearts.

If anything, all these values have taken on an added importance during this time of trial and challenge that the world is enduring. As we’ve often said, we’re all in this together. But it can’t just be an empty mantra. It must be a guiding philosophy. I turn to what Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical last year:

'… a worldwide tragedy like the Covid-19 pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realised that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together.'

Just as there is a powerful overlap between those values and Labor values as work on how to get through this pandemic, there is a powerful overlap as we contemplate life after COVID-19.

What we have is a rare opportunity — in all likelihood a once-in-a-lifetime chance — to shape the future and emerge from the pandemic as a better, fairer nation. To find a way to better share Australia’s greatness. My enduring belief is that we need