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  • John McDonnell

Labor’s pitch for government

Anthony Albanese’s budget reply speech adopted the same formula as last year, beginning with a trip down memory lane recounting his upbringing in a housing commission house in Camperdown, the child of a single mother. The speech then segued into an attack on the incompetence of a government that has run up $1 trillion of debt with nothing to show for it and culminated with a single big announcement.

Last year it was universal free childcare. This year it was a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, which will build 20,000 social houses a year, 4,000 of which will go to women fleeing domestic violence.

The opposition leader linked the housing policy back to his own childhood, telling parliament:

"Our home gave us so much more than somewhere to sleep.
"It gave my mum and I pride and dignity and security, and it gave me a future, a future that led me here tonight”.

Labor's plan also includes a promise to build 10,000 affordable homes for frontline workers such as nurses, police, and cleaners, who Mr Albanese said were the "heroes of the pandemic".

Apart from the signature housing policy, Mr Albanese signalled Labor’s support for the green economy as a source of new jobs. Mr Albanese said a Labor government would provide cash payments to 10,000 apprentices working in "new energy" areas such as rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades and green hydrogen.

Apprentices would receive $2,000 when they start, followed by $2,000 a year for up to four years as they train — a total of up to $10,000.

The apprenticeships would be offered over four years from 2022/23 at a total cost of $100 million.

"The rest of the world has figured this out: cutting pollution means creating jobs."

In a sop to the unions, the opposition leader promised to criminalise wage theft. This was dropped from the industrial relations reforms, when Labor refused to pass changes to the industrial relations framework that the employers wanted.

This was not a big vision pitch for government. Labor is obviously leaving that for the election campaign. At the moment shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is having fun talking about the 21 slush funds that the government has in the 2021 budget. These can obviously be repurposed to fund Labor initiatives without doing violence to the deficit.

On the day Mr Albanese was pushed off top billing in the news by the deal done by the government with Moderna to get another vaccine for the under fifties, later this year.


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