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Speeches

Friday, 2nd July 2021

An Economic Recovery for Everyone

The world is changing. We have a chance to position Australia for success. We cannot let the deadweight of Liberal and National Party ideology hold us back.

At moments of crisis, Australians look to our leaders to lead.

And at this moment of crisis, Scott Morrison has failed to lead.

Right now, Sydney is in a 14-day lockdown. Darwin, Alice Springs, South East Queensland, Townsville, Brisbane and Perth are all locked down.

As the world opens up, Australia keeps locking down.

People who thought the worst of the pandemic was behind us are shocked and are asking themselves: how did we end up here?

This Government had two jobs this year - rolling out the vaccine and fixing the national quarantine system.

Mr Morrison’s failure on vaccines has put people’s health and their jobs at risk. When he said it wasn’t a race – he was wrong.

When he said we were at the front of the queue for vaccines – he was wrong.

When he said hotel quarantine was 99.99% effective – he was wrong.

The truth is this – it is a race.

A race to protect people’s lives and their jobs, a race to return to normal life.

Around 6 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated – the absolute worst among developed countries.

Last.

The truth is, there have been 26 outbreaks from hotel quarantine.

Australians are frustrated by many things about this pandemic, but what really gets me is this: it didn’t have to be this way.

Last year, Australians were magnificent – we all made sacrifices to protect one another.

It gave us a big advantage heading into 2021 – in what was meant to be the year of the vaccine.

That advantage has been squandered.

Mr Morrison failed to put in place enough deals to reduce risk and to do them early enough and insufficient quantity.

He bet the house on AstraZeneca and now we have supply issues with other vaccines.

He failed to meet targets for the most vulnerable including aged care residents, aged care workers, those in disability care and frontline workers.

Now he has abandoned targets for horizons – seemingly oblivious to the fact that horizons are never reached.

And now we have utter confusion, with a late night declaration on vaccines without reference to the National Cabinet, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation or the Australian Medical Association.

We are currently short of supply, people unable to make appointments, pharmacists and others sidelined and a Government addicted to marketing which has no proper public information plan in place.

It has no plan for national quarantine and no plan to return Australia to normal life.

For Scott Morrison, failing to plan is a plan to fail.

Labor has a plan to beat COVID by:

  1. Fixing the vaccine rollout;
  2. Building fit-for-purpose national quarantine;
  3. Promoting an effective public information campaign on vaccines;
  4. Manufacturing mRNA vaccines here.

Scott Morrison has no plan – just more confusion and blame shifting.

As the latest outbreak got worse last week what did we see in Parliament House?

As our biggest city slid towards lockdown, this Government’s focus was on themselves.

On stabbing not jabbing.

On rolling a Deputy Prime Minister, not rolling out the vaccine.

Then a reshuffle focussed on internal vengeance not the national interest.

A Cabinet that excludes Australia’s largest export in Resources and excludes the Water portfolio after the National Party decided that South Australians don’t need fresh water.

A Government that reminded Australian women of its attitude to gender issues by appointing Barnaby Joyce to the Status of Women Taskforce.

A Government with a Deputy Prime Minister who declared he couldn’t care less about the impact of COVID on Melbourne – although he used more colourful language.

A Government which during a health pandemic has brought in the most radical changes to Medicare in decades.

From yesterday, we know that essential surgeries such as hip replacements will cost Australians much more.

And no one can tell those on waiting lists how much more this figure will be.

For those who have delayed surgeries due to the pandemic, this will be an even more unfair hit on their hip pocket.

Labor will always defend Medicare.

Let’s be clear – we need to get through this. And we need to look ahead.

It’s not good enough to snap back to 2019.

Labor understands that need today, just as John Curtin and Ben Chifley understood in the middle of World War II that going back to 1939 would be, at best, a hollow triumph.

They looked ahead to a future that was brighter than the past. That was the victory in peace that they were determined would follow the victory in war.

Curtin and Chifley’s bright vision for Australia was formed at a time when the world was immersed in darkness.

Indeed, the end of the war was nowhere in sight when Chifley was appointed our first Postwar Reconstruction Minister in late 1942.

They knew national leadership in times of crisis was about more than mere preservation, it was a question of vision, of courage.

The courage to imagine greater opportunity for all in peace, the leadership to begin that work even in the midst of war.

As part of his quest for a true victory, Curtin asked the great Nugget Coombs to write a White Paper on Full Employment.

This helped to transform the post-war environment, setting up a boom that spanned two decades during which Australia’s previously double-digit unemployment rate sat at around 2 per cent.

The White Paper was progressive. It welcomed technological changes that would boost productivity, rejected the idea of make-work jobs, and talked about the importance of work for dignity.

It is an energy that I am proud to say drives me.

At the heart of the agenda of the Labor Government I am determined to lead will be the Australian Jobs Plan.

Good, secure jobs are the starting point from which all else follows.

Today I’m announcing that a Labor Government I lead will commission a Full Employment White Paper.

It will draw together experts from across government, industry and the union movement to set out a plan for how we will reduce unemployment and underemployment.

We will bring together a broad range of participants in an Australian Jobs summit as one of the first actions of an incoming Labor Government.

Of course, the meaning of full employment is different today from the post-war period where careers lasted longer and full time employment was the norm.

Today the headline figures mask the tough reality that 1.7 million Australians are looking for work or more hours to support themselves and their families.

And 4 million Australians are in insecure work.

There is no consensus on what full employment is.

The point I’m making today is that we need to think of the labour market more broadly than just the monthly figures.

It will take in the changing nature of the workforce, not least the rapid expansion of the care economy, including aged care, child care and disability care.

It needs to consider how employment opportunities can be taken up by those currently on the Disability Support Pension.

And it will seize on the growing importance of jobs being driven by renewable energy.

Full employment is about secure work which will assist those currently in work through driving up wages.

It will cut the gender pay gap and narrow the chasms that divide Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

We cannot afford to aim low.

The Government itself has just spelt out why.

This week we saw the cost of this Coalition Government – not just in the billions of lost revenue from these rolling lockdowns, but in the Intergenerational Report released on Monday.

This report paints a pretty bleak picture.

It predicts a future of weaker economic growth.

A future of budget deficits and high debt.

A future of sinking standards of living.

A future of declining investment in education.

A future of generational debt without a generational dividend.

This is the Government’s own trajectory for the economy. It is an admission of failure.

We did not just drift into this by accident; the Government threw away the rudder with its steadfast refusal to invest in Australian education, skills, workers and businesses.

What makes this report even more unsettling is that its forecasts depend on our productivity growth rate returning to its 30-year average of 1.5 per cent over the next decade. One word for this assumption is “heroic”.

The Coalition has no plan for boosting productivity.

As Paul Krugman famously put it, productivity isn’t everything – but in the long run it is almost everything. What the Intergenerational Report is telling us is that productivity is now everything.

Scott Morrison will blame any weakness on COVID, of course, but that is disingenuous at best.

Before the pandemic, our economic growth was at its lowest since the GFC. Our standard of living was flat-lining. Wages were stagnant.

Indeed, a new report by the McKell Institute found that wages growth is at its slowest in a generation. The average Australian worker is $13,000 a year worse off. When wages stay too low for too long, everyone gets hurt.

Before COVID ever reached our shores, household debt was at record levels. Housing affordability was in crisis.

Productivity was sliding backwards. Our unemployment rate was higher than the US, Britain, New Zealand and Germany. Our national debt had doubled.

Australia was paying the price for deliberate policy decisions made by this government: the hollowing-out of our manufacturing sector with the loss of 90,000 manufacturing jobs, the neglect of our skills and training system, the undermining of our universities, the spread of insecure work and the narrowness of our export base.

Labor, in contrast, understands that the report’s clear and urgent message is that we must actually invest in people so that we can get more opportunities, for more people, in more parts of the country.

Unlike the Government, though, Labor understands that one area that will make that possible is renewable energy and tackling climate change.

It is one of the most promising paths we have out of the quagmire. That a report making predictions 40 years into the future barely mentions it is a telling omission.

Not a word about the opportunities that tackling climate change represents.

Labor sees the climate crisis as Australia’s job’s opportunity.

We see how it can boost existing industries.

We see opportunities for technology creation that will put Australia at the front of the pack.

The world is changing. We have a chance to position Australia for success. We cannot let the deadweight of Liberal and National Party ideology hold us back.

The world is changing. We have a chance to position Australia for success. We cannot let the deadweight of Liberal and National Party ideology hold us back.

The Intergenerational Report shows that we are on the wrong track because of this Government’s litany of wrong decisions and its lack of a plan.

Labor will get this country back on track and it starts with jobs.

What I have talked about today builds on the initiatives I have already announced as part of the Australian Jobs Plan.

Initiatives such as our $20 billion Rewiring the Nation project to build us a power grid fit for the 21st century. And it will be delivered using Australian expertise, Australian materials, Australian businesses and Australian workers.

It will make an enormous contribution to lowering energy prices for families and businesses alike.

We will create a National Rail Manufacturing Plan to build more trains here.

Our Defence Industry Development Strategy will maximise local content in defence projects, leveraging the $270 billion investment pipeline to put Australian industry, workers and national security first.

When cheap, reliable power is coupled with Australian expertise, materials, business and workers, we will be a force to be reckoned with. And it will help deliver a Future Made in Australia, which will let us stand on our own feet.

Our Major Project Skills Guarantee will require at least one in 10 jobs on major Federally-funded infrastructure projects be allocated to apprentices, trainees, or cadets – creating thousands of new opportunities for young Australians seeking a job and skills.

The annual investment return from our $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund will build social and affordable housing and create thousands of jobs in the process.

I have set out our plan to establish a National Reconstruction Fund to transform existing industries and jump-start investment in the industries of tomorrow.

Working in partnership with the private sector, including the superannuation industry, this Fund will revive our ability to make world class products.

It will commercialise science, innovation and technology. It will diversify our industrial base and develop our sovereign capability. And in the process, drive regional economic development and create secure, well-paid jobs.

We must be ambitious.

For example, we produce 56 per cent of the world’s lithium but nearly all of that value is shipped offshore. We must harness our vital resources to make things here in Australia – become a key player in multi-billion dollar value chains that create good, secure, high wage jobs for Australians.

Labor will bet big on Australians because we know they will deliver.

I’ve spoken before of my experience in setting up Infrastructure Australia and how it informs my plan to create Jobs and Skills Australia, which will advise on the future work opportunities and ensure Australians can benefit from them.

This is vital if we are to ensure that Australians can fill future employment opportunities, given the IGR predicts the temporary migration population will almost double over the next 40 years.

Migration policy done right can lift wages and job opportunities and contribute to economic growth, but as Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe has pointed out, the reliance on temporary workers by Australian business has “not made wages responsive to the economic conditions”.

We must heed the Governors advice and do better.

I will launch a “Start Up Year” program to drive innovation and increase links between our universities and entrepreneurs.

I will facilitate 2000 new small business enterprises, at a time when small business has done it tough during the pandemic.

New firms. New jobs. New growth.

We will create a New Energy apprenticeships program to train young people for the energy jobs of the future.

To contribute to the rebuilding of sovereign capability, we will use the purchasing power of government to buy Australian products and services, supporting Australian jobs and skills.

We need a government that has faith in the power and smarts of Australian industry and our people.

Our plan to reform child care is the most effective and obvious step to ensure working parents have good choices and our children have the quality care that can set them up for success in the future.

That’s why Labor’s Cheaper Child Care Plan was one of the first policies I announced as Leader. Labor will value early learning as the first step in creating a smarter Australia. One where we invest in early learning, schools, TAFE and universities because it benefits not just individuals, but is the key to our future economic success.

And then there’s infrastructure. We have watched as this Government pulled off the magic trick of racking up a trillion dollars of debt, yet actually cut infrastructure investment by $3.3 billion over the forward estimates in the Budget.

Under the Coalition, infrastructure investment is not for boosting productivity, it’s for boosting votes.

The damning Audit Office Report on the commuter carpark program says it all.

47 projects worth $660 million, selected on pure politics, leading to massive waste, a delivery of just 2 projects completed.

A blatant abuse of taxpayers money, which should have been called the “pork and ride” program.

10 of the “commuter” car parks are not even attached to a train station.
This was sportsrorts on steroids.

And the recent Budget created 21 separate slush funds to further expand the practice in the leadup to the next election, without a National Integrity Commission to cause even a pause for thought.

I remind the Coalition that they will get a National Integrity Commission under a Labor Government.

These rorted programs from a Government that ripped away funding from genuine nation building projects that had been through the Infrastructure Australia process including Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and the Managed Motorways Program.

If the Australian people give me the privilege of forming a government after the next election, you will have a Prime Minister who was, proudly, Australia’s first Infrastructure Minister.

I am at heart a builder – and I want to help us build back stronger.

I am at heart a builder – and I want to help us build back stronger.

And the way to do that is to ensure that infrastructure investment is nation building and goes to where it boosts productivity.

As announced earlier this year our Australian Jobs Plan is also a plan to increase wages and provide more secure work for more Australians. This includes:

  • Writing job security into the Fair Work Act;
  • Extending the Fair Work Act to cover gig workers;
  • Properly defining casual work;
  • Cracking down on the abuse of cowboy labour hire firms to ensure people who do the same job get the same pay;
  • Exposing and closing the gender pay gap for large companies;
  • 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave; and
  • Making wage theft a crime, because stealing from vulnerable workers should be met with the full force of the law.

Australia has had experience coming out of crises before.

When we emerged from the Global Financial Crisis relatively unscathed, it wasn’t good luck. It was the result of a Labor Government that planned urgently but meticulously.

It was a Labor government that responded to a moment of crisis and reshaped it into a moment to build opportunity and security for our people, and a better future for our country.

As a result, unlike the rest of the world, most Australians kept their jobs. And we invested in our nation – in schools, in infrastructure, in Paid Parental Leave, in the National Broadband Network and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

These investments paid dividends.

And we continue to reap the benefits today – wherever I meet families who are getting the help they need – in speech therapy or educational support for their children – because the NDIS is there for them.

Neither our GFC escape nor our post-war boom were accidents.

Each happened because of a forward looking Labor government with plans to make working people better off and take the nation confidently into the future.

And that is the energy that drives me.

No one owes Australia a future. We have to make it ourselves.

As Prime Minister, I want our country to seize this once-in-a-century moment to do just that.

It is a future we can shape with a focus on productivity, on growth, on participation, and above all, on secure jobs.

That is the recovery I want for Australia. A recovery for all Australians.

A recovery that is backed by a Government that has a plan.

A Government that is on your side.

The current Government has no plan for the future, and is badly out of its depth in the present.

Scott Morrison had two jobs this year, rolling out the vaccine and fixing the national quarantine system.

He has botched them both.

My Labor team wants to give Australia a Government that gets those two jobs done.

And then is determined to build back stronger and create a better future.

An Australia in which that central aspiration – that our children have a better quality of life than ours, is a reality.

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Rd
Marrickville NSW 2204

Phone: 02 9564 3588

Parliament House Office

Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: 02 6277 7700

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which our offices stand and we pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the sorrow of the Stolen Generations and the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We also recognise the resilience, strength and pride of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Authorised by Anthony Albanese. 334a Marrickville Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204.

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