Oct 9, 2020






SUBJECTS: Federal Budget; Budget reply; Labor’s Working Family Child Care Boost; childcare; women; manufacturing; economic reforms; energy prices; Labor’s plan to Rewire the Nation; next Federal election; university fee increases under the Morrison Government; self-funded retirees.


LEON DELANEY, HOST: The Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, last night delivered his Budget in Reply speech. Now, while the Liberal’s Budget earlier this week focused on the typically Party ideology of supporting business to support Australians, Labor’s Budget Reply has focused on further subsidising childcare, preparing the electricity grid for renewables and a focus on manufacturing. Joining me now, the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon.




DELANEY: Thanks very much for joining us today. It was reported yesterday that there were some members of your own Party who were concerned that the Labor Party federally has been somewhat sidelined because of the pandemic. Some have, apparently, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, taken to calling you ‘Uncle Arthur’. And one unnamed backbencher was quoted as saying, ‘We want to see the fight that he promised. Thursday night is the night for him to throw us a bone and let us take up the fight’. Do you think you’ve managed to soothe the nerves on your own backbench?


ALBANESE: The truth is that all Australians have been going through a difficult time during the pandemic. And one of the things that occurred is that we have been constructive. I make no apologies for that. We have put forward ideas in terms of the wage subsidies that eventually were adopted by the Government. We called for increased mental health support. We have tried to be constructive rather than looking for division. I think that’s what the Australian people wanted. But when you have a Budget and a Budget Reply, it is appropriate to outline your different priorities. And we have different priorities. On Tuesday night, we heard about a trillion-dollar debt, but one that would have nothing to show for it, effectively. There was no big reform. Childcare is a major economic reform. It’s about increasing women’s participation in the workforce. It’s about boosting productivity. And, of course, the other of the big three Ps of how you get economic growth, apart from productivity and participation is, of course, population. We have, for the first time in my lifetime, we’ll see more people leave Australia than come here. And therefore, policies that encourage and provide more economic security for Australians to have children is a good thing as well. This is good economic measure. But it’s also a good social policy measure as well. Because we know that the human brain develops 90 per cent of its capacity in the first five years. And it’s important that we give our kids the best start in life.


DELANEY: You’re apparently planning to make the childcare subsidy available to families with incomes well above $300,000 a year. Surely, they could afford to pay for it for themselves?


ALBANESE: Well, this isn’t a welfare measure. This is about an essential service. And it’s a productivity measure. And the fact is that those very same families can send their kids to a public school there in Canberra, the same as anyone else. It is about a universal provision, which is where eventually, we want this policy to lead down the track after a Productivity Commission review in our first term. But we make no apologies for saying this is about driving economic productivity. Overwhelmingly, of course, the benefit is for low-income people and middle-income people as well.


DELANEY: What sort of economic return do you expect for the $6 billion? Is there a number you’ve put on it?


ALBANESE: Well, we say that, essentially, the rule of thumb from all the analysis that’s been done, and our policy was costed by KPMG, they’re looking at, in the first year, looking at essentially $2 returns to the economy every time there’s $1 invested in childcare. And the Grattan Institute have an even higher figure than that. We know that this is a key to participation in the workforce. And that it is a key equity measure. And unlike the Government’s payments, the way that they spend almost $100 billion of new money on Tuesday night, this is a very modest contribution, but one that will actually boost the economy and provide a return.


DELANEY: In your speech last night, you’ve accused the Federal Government of failing to act on a number of fronts and most pointedly on aged care. But you haven’t made any promises in that space either, have you?


ALBANESE: Well, the fact is I gave an aged care vision statement in January of this year. And that was in response, of course, to the interim report of the Royal Commission that was titled ‘Neglect’. What I’ve said is that there needs to be more workforce. I’ve put out a plan, an eight-point plan, for aged care. I did that a month ago at the National Press Club, which went to workforce, which went to proper training, making sure that proper PPE was available, went to transparency of funding, went through all of those measures. And included in that was a policy of giving the Royal Commission the funds that it needs to examine what’s happened during the pandemic. This Government has offered absolutely nothing in terms of aged care residents from a Budget in the middle of a crisis in which too many older Australians have been left behind. We know that it was quite a horrific report of the Royal Commission. And just last week, just last week, they said there’s still not a national plan for aged care dealing with this pandemic.


DELANEY: And also, this week, self-funded retirees have expressed concern that they’ve been left behind by this Budget. They seem to be getting very little sympathy from anybody at the moment.


ALBANESE: Well, they have been left behind by this Budget as so many people have been. When you add up women, self-funded retirees, those people aged over 35, people who’ve had their JobKeeper cut, people who are unemployed over a million Australian, the 160,000 who the Government itself says will join the unemployment queue between now and Christmas. There’s not too many people who don’t fall into one of those categories. And that’s our concern is that this Government is leaving too many people behind. And it’s not providing that support that’s required for the economy at this time. It’s saying that if we just sit back, somehow, the market and things will just fix themselves up.


DELANEY: Is there something you can do for self-funded retirees beyond promising not to take away their franking credits?


ALBANESE: Well, one of the things, of course, as well, is superannuation. That’s what we’re talking about. What we want to see, the vision of superannuation is that overwhelmingly people will be retiring with higher incomes and higher standards of living. It again was not a welfare measure. That’s what happened during the last time there was a recession. Paul Keating make sure that compulsory superannuation, at the time, was a measure that would provide a ballast for the economy as well as helping older people in their retirement. Now, what we’re seeing from this Government is ongoing attacks on superannuation and undermining of it. We have seen 600,000 Australians get their super balances reduced to zero. And we see a flagging that in the next Budget, there’ll be an attempt to reduce further the provision which is there, meaning that super will rise to 12 per cent. The fact is that this Government hasn’t supported self-funded retirees. They don’t support superannuation in a universal sense. And they seek to undermine it at every opportunity.


DELANEY: A big focus of your speech was manufacturing, made in Australia. And you referred specifically to the demise of the car industry. But doesn’t manufacturing face the same challenges that the car industry did in terms of competitive labour costs, the high cost of manufacturing goods in Australia as compared to manufacturing them elsewhere? Aren’t those challenges still there?


ALBANESE: Well, that’s why we’ve provided for a plan, which has come from the Australian Energy Market Operator, integrated system plans about making sure we have the electricity grid made up for the 21st century, not last century. And they’ve identified the infrastructure projects that would do that, that would allow for a lowering of energy costs. Now, that would boost manufacturing. And that was a part of the vision which we put forward last night.


DELANEY: The Senate yesterday voted to support the Government’s universities fee reforms. Is that something you would seek to reverse if you were in Government?


ALBANESE: Well, we, of course, will examine all of our future policies down the track. And we’ll make them in an ordered way looking at costs. But the other thing is, we opposed these changes. We think they’re very short-sighted. Education, whether it be university or TAFE, helps not just the individual, but it helps our society. We need to compete in the 21st century on the basis of how smart we are, how innovative we are, our skills of our workforce. We don’t seek to compete with developing nations on the basis of having the same wages and pensions as they do. We need to compete on the basis of how smart we are. And the idea of doubling of fees that has occurred under this legislation, a part of a cutting of funds as well for the universities, is very short-sighted by this Government. A Government that has no vision. A Government has racked up a trillion dollars of debt, with no real long-term plan for reformable or for the future.


DELANEY: And I’ve heard a lot of chatter in the last few days about a possible early election in the second half of next year. Are you ready?


ALBANESE: I’m ready, whenever it’s called. They can call it next week if they like. I’ll be ready. And we have a range of policies that we’ve worked on, that we’ve had costed. You saw some of them last night. And it is now time, of course, to start rolling them out. I said, when I became the Labor Leader, that we want to kick with the wind in the fourth quarter, that you don’t you don’t run out of puff early. We will have less policies than we had at the last election. They’ll be clearer. They will make a difference. And they’re about reform and benefiting Australia’s future. I’m very optimistic about our future if we get it right. But if the best we can do arising out of this pandemic is have strategies to try and get back to where we were before, I don’t think that’s good enough. I think that we should be aiming to be as good a country as we can be and making sure that we emerge stronger and fairer at the same time.


DELANEY: Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for your time today.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Leon.