ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
A BETTER RECOVERY
SATURDAY, 2 JANUARY 2021
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
In the Christmas message I released a week ago, I noted that we should throw 2020 in the bin.
Between the summer bushfire disaster and the Coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was, as we all know, the year from hell.
A year of pain. Of loss. Of frustration and heartache.
But it was also a year in which every day Australians shone as we helped each other though the toughest of times.
Think about the brave firefighters battling flames to protect their fellow-Australians and their property.
… or the frontline health workers in gowns and masks fighting the invisible enemy of Coronavirus in hospitals and aged care facilities;
… the truck drivers and retail workers putting in extra hours to keep supermarkets stocked as, millions of their fellow Australians endured the lockdowns.
… the cleaners doing double shifts to keep us safe;
… neighbours checking in on elderly neighbours.
Australians don’t just talk about egalitarianism and the Fair Go.
We live these values. They sit at the very core of our national identity.
We look after each other.
The Australian Labor Party understands these values. They sit at the core of our movement.
Collectivism. Helping each other. Looking after the vulnerable.
No-one held back. No-one left behind.
The big lesson from 2020 is that now more than ever, Australians embrace these values.
And just as those values got us through the Year from Hell, they are the values to help us rebuild our nation and our economy in 2021 and beyond.
Scott Morrison holds different values.
For the past year the necessity of a crisis has forced him to accept that there is a role for government intervention in the economy in the national interest.
However, this concept is not part of the Liberals’ core beliefs.
Scott Morrison exposed a lot about his character when he rang into 2GB from Hawaii to declare, “I don’t hold a hose”.
By March at the same time as announcing restrictions on public gatherings, he was declaring he was going to the footy, “because I had previously planned to, and these are measures we are putting in from next week”.
By August he was campaigning against Labor Premiers saying, “We’ve gotta live with the virus. The idea that you just shut everything down and put all the borders up, that is no way to live with this”.
And of course, as you in Victoria know all too well, he was sending his Victorian-based Ministers out to attack the Andrews Government, culminating in Josh Frydenberg’s angry rant in the Federal Parliament.
The Liberals’ essential belief is that government should just get out of the way of markets.
But we know that markets have no conscience.
Today I want to argue that just as conservative political values were useless during the pandemic, they also offer us little in the rebuilding phase.
We should use the recovery to address some of the deficiencies in our society, so our nation is built back stronger, fairer and more resilient.
We must enhance security of work and lift investment in skills training.
But that is not the plan of our political opponents.
They are already reverting to type and giving Australians reminders of what they really stand for.
Scott Morrison has proposed legislation that uses the pandemic as cover to allow employers to cut people’s wages.
This means that a person who worked yesterday on the New Year’s Day public holiday could earn $220 less next year than they earned yesterday.
Scott Morrison also plans to abruptly end wage subsidies at the end of March.
He wants the unemployed to live on $40 a day.
He is creating hiring subsidies, but nearly a million people aged over 35 are ineligible.
Just like a million casuals and entire industries like the arts have been denied wage subsidies for the past year.
There’s a reason that I chose to deliver today’s speech to the True Believers of the Australian Labor Party.
It’s because in 2021 we face a critical battle.
Our task is to get rid of Scott Morrison by standing up for Australian values as the permanent basis for governing this great nation.
A nation where people aspire to personal success, but also have aspirations for their family, their community and their nation.
A nation where the common good is recognised as important for the health of society.
The battle ahead will be one of values – whether people are held back and left behind.
Whether under Labor we build an economy that works for people, or under the Liberals the other way around.
I stated a clear strategy at the National Press Club on 8 November 2019 in response to the Emerson/Weatherill Election Review, which concluded that we failed to present a clear and concise narrative which explained an optimistic sense of what our country could become.
I outlined a four-stage strategy – review, vision, platform and policy.
We have completed the first two and you will have all received the vision statements compiled into a book this week. Our more consolidated Draft Platform will be considered at the online Special National Conference on 30-31 March. Our policy rollout stepped up as promised with my first Budget Reply in October and we used 2020 to prepare a suite of policies that are ready for finalisation and announcement.
In addition, we have adopted reforms of both the NSW and Victorian Branches following the most substantial National Executive interventions since 1971.
We have established the National Campaign Committee which will meet this month.
The Review identified the need for focussing on our future positive agenda, but also that voters were distracted from that by issues including franking credits.
I can confirm that Labor has heard that message clearly and that we will not be taking any changes to franking credits to the next election.
I want the focus to be on Labor’s positive agenda for Australia’s future, with a better recovery from the first recession in 30 years presided over by the Morrison Government.
Their record gives us plenty to work with.
Before anyone had even heard of Coronavirus, national debt had doubled.
Productivity was going backwards. Manufacturing was dying with 68,000 jobs lost.
One hundred and forty thousand fewer Australians were in training than when this government took office.
One in four Australians was working as a casual with no access to sick leave or holiday pay and no security of work.
And there was political chaos.
Three prime ministers in six years.
Hawke and Keating reformed the economy and gave us 30 years of uninterrupted economic growth.
Rudd and Gillard gave us the Apology, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis with strategic investment which left a legacy in public transport, roads and the National Broadband Network.
In eight years this mob have given us a trillion dollars in debt with nothing to show for it.
Higher power prices.
Inaction on climate change.
40,000 Australians stranded overseas.
An NBN model that was out of date before it was built.
They are led by a man who stands for nothing except advertising campaigns, selfies and favours for Liberal mates.
Scott Morrison is a showman who loves grand announcements but never delivers.
Remember the $4 billion Emergency Relief Fund he established, saying it would yield $200 million a year to address natural disaster and improve resilience.
Nothing happened until a few weeks ago – eighteen months after the fund was established.
Or the Water Infrastructure Loans Facility designed to improve water infrastructure.
Not a dollar was spent. But the marketing man issued no fewer than 50 media releases about it.
He is always there for the photo op, but never there for the follow up.
The Prime Minister made much of his stewardship of the so-called National Cabinet during the pandemic.
Whenever state premiers had success in the fight against the pandemic, Mr Morrison claimed it a product of his own.
But if anything went wrong, he just blamed the states.
Border wars. Selectively attacking Premiers. Australians wanted co-operation but got political posturing.
The Prime Minister even refused to take responsibility for the aged care system even as Coronavirus was sweeping through nursing homes.
685 aged care residents died.
That is a tragedy. Yet he still refuses to accept responsibility. He insists he always had a plan, in spite of the Royal Commissioners clearly stating that none existed.
For Scott Morrison, everything is about politics.
In the months leading up to last year’s bushfire season, he ignored expert warnings and calls for more aerial fire-fighting resources.
And as the nation burned and our cities were choked by smoke, Mr Morrison’s only focus was photo opportunities where, understandably, many people saw straight through him and refused to shake his hand.
Then there is the waste and mismanagement for which no-one is ever held responsible.
Scott Morrison paid $30 million to a Liberal Party donor for a piece of land near the new Sydney Airport that was worth $3 million.
No-one has been held to account for this waste.
Yet when the head of Australia Post wasted $20,000 on Cartier Watches for executives, he savaged her in Parliament and spent more than that on a report into the scandal which he refuses to make public.
The Prime Minister is only interested in accountability if involves a chance to get on the six o’clock news.
That’s why no-one has paid any real price for the shameful Sports Rorts episode, where he spent $250 million in marginal and target seats before the last election instead of distributing sporting infrastructure grants on the basis of need.
Scott Morrison uses taxpayers’ money as though it is the money of the Liberal Party. And he doesn’t even understand why that it wrong.
It is little wonder that the National Integrity Commission promised in 2018 has become yet another announcement without delivery.
As I said, the coming election is about values.
I am very proud of the Labor team’s performance over the past year.
Throughout the pandemic it was my judgement that Australians had no interest in partisan politics. They wanted outcomes.
We were constructive. We put the national interest first.
We supported the Government’s economic stimulus packages even where they included elements that we opposed.
And we continued to promote ideas.
Mr Morrison makes much of the success of wage subsidies. They have kept 700,000 people in work.
It was Labor that suggested them.
At the time Prime Minister denounced the idea as “very dangerous’’.
Then he adopted it.
We proposed support for renters and an eviction moratorium.
Paid pandemic leave.
Medicare rebates for Telehealth.
All of them initially ignored or rejected, all of them eventually embraced.
But now, as we move into recovery mode, he’s heading back to political conservatism and away from the values held by mainstream Australia.
Our nation’s best hope for a strong economic recovery that builds a better Australia is a Labor Government that understands the values and aspirations of the Australian people.
To win the next election, we need to do more than highlight the current Government’s deficiencies.
And when it comes to Scott Morrison, I think Australians have started to work him out anyway.
They see him as fake. As someone who is always political and always looking for shift blame to others.
A man who agrees to a commonsense change of one word in the National Anthem, but hopes no one notices there has been no progress on recognising First Nations people with a Voice to Parliament enshrined in our Constitution.
Labor’s path to victory is a set of policies that can deliver an economic recovery while adhering to the egalitarian impulse that so characterised 2020.
It’s about boosting productivity, investing in people, reviving manufacturing and utilising the power of government purchasing to build new industries.
Above all it is about jobs.
That’s why we have adopted “A Future Made in Australia”, as one of the central themes of our plan for recovery.
Australia must maximise our potential for high value manufacturing here, to support jobs and create resilience.
South East Melbourne already produces everything from rail, buses, caravans and solar panels but has the potential for much more.
Local jobs in our suburbs and regions will also take pressure off our capital city CBD’s.
A Labor Government will use the power of government purchasing to revive our manufacturing sector.
The Andrews Government has demonstrated the benefit of rail manufacturing here.
We have train manufacturers in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia as well as Victoria.
If we build the new trains required for the new public transport networks in this country, we’ll create thousands of jobs and enrich our people’s skills in heavy manufacturing.
While Labor has already developed our Rail Manufacturing Plan, Mr Morrison and conservative state premiers are happy to source trains overseas.
When they arrive here, they consistently are not fit for purpose and require refitting to meet our needs at substantial cost.
In the same way, we need to help our manufacturers get a greater piece of defence procurement contracts.
We could also be investing in social housing right now, creating immediate jobs and improving lives.
Mr Morrison’s rigid faith in hard-right economic theory prohibits such approaches.
But such approaches are desperately needed if we are to rebuild from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since taking office the Coalition has presided over a collapse in productivity.
The ability to do more with less will be critical to our economic recovery in the next decade.
But again, Mr Morrison has no plan. I suppose he imagines the market will sort everything out.
Labor has a plan to considerably boost productivity by increasing workforce participation.
Under current tax and childcare arrangements, many parents are discouraged from taking full time work.
Our plan for cheaper childcare will benefit 97 per cent of working families in the system, while benefitting the economy by around $2 for every dollar invested.
We will move towards universal provision of affordable childcare, with a first step of removing the cap, lifting the subsidy to 90 per cent and improving the taper rate.
It makes no sense that parents struggle so much more before their children reach primary school age and that for some working mothers it costs them money to work a 4th or 5th day in the week.
And we know that 90 per cent of human brain development occurs in the first 5 years of life, making quality early learning absolutely critical to a child’s future prospects.
Good for children, good for families, good for the economy.
That’s Labor’s childcare plan.
Climate change is real. We all know that. We received a dramatic demonstration of the catastrophic consequences for lives, for our economy and our environment just last year.
We must deal with this challenge.
Just as we are getting through the pandemic by listening to the science, we need to show the same respect to science when it comes to climate change.
If we are smart, we will use the challenge as an opportunity to create new jobs and new industries.
With appropriate support for research and development and the right policies, we can become a renewable energy superpower.
We can create jobs here in new technologies but also reduce power prices, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs right across the economy, but especially in manufacturing.
That’s Labor’s plan.
Scott Morrison has no plan.
In the past few months, Australia has become increasingly isolated in the global community on climate.
All of the major industrial nations in our region are acting.
Europe, the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea and very soon the United States under President Elect Joe Biden have accepted the need for net zero emissions by 2050. China has also adopted this target, by 2060.
This Government is frozen in time while the world warms around it.
I said in receiving the Election Review that Labor would be back as the party of growth, the party of aspiration, the party of social justice, the party of nation building, the party of our natural environment, the party of science and the party of the future.
The experience of the pandemic has confirmed the importance of government, but more importantly that Australians do want to look after our common interest.
Contrast that with Josh Frydenberg’s declaration that Margaret Thatcher is a role model for future action – the leader who said, “there is no such thing as society”.
In the WorkChoices Mark II legislation introduced last month, we can see the direction the conservatives would like to go.
Our task is to ensure that whether the election is late 2021 or early 2022, Labor is able to form Government and take Australia in a direction which is as caring, courageous, optimistic and determined as the Australian people have shown themselves to be in 2020.
And as I said back in 2019, we will be kicking with the wind in the 4th quarter.