Living costs, manufacturing, defence high on Labor agenda

Anthony Albanese says a Labor government would return manufacturing to Australia, institute measures to ease rising living costs and ensure the defence force “has the resources it needs to defend Australia and deter potential aggressors”.

In expectation of a 14 May federal election, he says the country has suffered a lost decade and that “collaboration lights our way forward” after division and policy inertia.

Labor’s Powering Australia blueprint involves five ‘pillars’: moving manufacturing back to Australia; a 10-point buy Australia plan where the government will support Australian businesses, including defence force and public transport spending; improving skills training; improving childcare and improving infrastructure.

Voters looking for a point of difference between Labor’s ‘pillars’ and the Coalition’s ‘elements’ might struggle to find striking differences with many appearing to overlap.

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Speaking at an Australian Financial Review business summit, Mr Albanese said he was not proposing a revolution – perhaps a reference to the bold plans announced before the last election that seemed to cost Labor government.

“But I am looking for a renewal – a renewal of the dormant national project to create wealth in a way that produces benefits for all Australians.”

Mr Albanese said the cost of living was a pressing issue for many Australians.

“It’s like a chill up the spine. People keep working hard, playing by the rules, but are going backwards,” he said.

“COVID laid bare the folly of allowing Australian manufacturing to decline to a point where we can’t even produce basic medical equipment and mRNA vaccines.”

In a speech earlier in the week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed his government’s five core ‘elements’ which often intersected with Mr Albanese’s ‘pillars’

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The PM’s five elements are: keeping taxes low and cutting red tape; investing in skills and infrastructure; delivering reliable and affordable energy while reducing emissions; establishing Australia as a top-10 data and digital economy and improving manufacturing. 

“Our model of economic management and business-led economic growth has been world class,” Mr Morrison said.

“Capitalism didn’t break. The world got hit by a global pandemic.

“And that is why we have championed … business-led growth strategies.”

In a question-and-answer session, the PM said there were no plans to go down the ‘austerity path’.

“We still have very strong priorities in areas like aged care, mental health and supporting the National Disability Insurance Scheme. But you can’t do that without a strong economy. That’s what pays for it.”

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Mr Albanese’s speech countered Mr Morrison’s economic claims by saying productivity growth remains weak and went backwards in December.

“This means many businesses, already on their knees because of COVID, are not in any position to deliver pay increases,” he said.

“Australians see the evidence every time they go through the supermarket checkout or watch the bowser.”

If elected, Mr Albanese said he would govern in the mould of Bob Hawke with an aim to “bring together governments, trade unions, businesses and civil society around shared aims of growth and job creation”.

“He brokered reforms that yielded benefits for all parties – not just better wages for workers, but stronger profits for business, along with landmark reforms such as Medicare and universal superannuation.”

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Written by Jan Fisher

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