Building skills and reviving manufacturing have emerged as critical themes for Labor as part of its plan to rebuild Australia’s economy after COVID.
Delivering his budget reply speech on Thursday, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has outlined several initiatives which he says would grow Australia’s economy and get Australian’s back to work.
Central to the plan is Labor’s A Future Made in Australis strategy, which it says will form a blueprint for developing skills and bringing manufacturing back into Australia.
Elements of this include:
- A National Rail Manufacturing Planto see more trains built in Australia by local workers
- A Defence Industry Development Strategyto leverage a $270 billion investment pipeline, develop sovereign industrial and research capabilities and build skills and expertise within the Australian workforce
- An Australian Skills Guaranteeto provide opportunities for apprentices, trainees and cadets to work on major Commonwealth projects
Under the rail plan, Labour will undertake a national audit of passenger train capacity and condition.
From there, it would develop a rail procurement and manufacturing strategy and assess how opportunities for employment, research and development and collaboration can be exploited.
To help small and medium enterprises to identify export opportunities and get a foot in the door with government purchasing bodies, the role of the Rail Supplier Advocate will be reinstated.
The defence strategy, meanwhile, will seek to build skills and research capabilities and would involve a framework which would maximise and publicly disclose local content for all major defence material procurement and local defence contracts.
Finally, the skills guarantee would ensure that at least one in ten jobs on all major federally funded infrastructure projects goes to Australian apprentices.
This work will be supported by Jobs and Skills Australia, an independent body which was announced last year by Labor and will bring together the business community, states and territories, unions, education providers and regional organisations to match skills training with the evolving demands of industry.
In other announcements, Albanese promised that Labor would:
- Establish a new body known as Rewiring the Nation Corporation to rebuild and modernise the national energy grid to account for the growth in renewable energy generation based on projects which have been identified in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan.
- Invest $500 million in repairs and maintenance in social housing.
- Establish an Australian Centre for Disease Control
- Remove the annual cap on childcare subsidies, increase the maximum childcare subsidy to 90 percent and instruct the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to design a price mechanism in respect of childcare.
Albanese said the government had delivered record levels of debt but had failed to deliver a plan for economic recovery and had left behind women, Australians in insecure work or older Australians in aged care.
He said Australia faced challenges yet could turn this into opportunity.
“Tonight, I’ve talked about how we can make this once-in-a-century crisis the beginning of a new era of Australian prosperity and Australian fairness,” Albanese said.
“With the right plans, the right policies – and the right leadership – I truly believe our country can make this moment our own.
“We can beat this recession, we can launch a recovery and we can build a future where no-one is held back and no-one is left behind.”
Property Council of Australia chief executive officer Ken Morrison welcomed Labor’s support for the government’s measures on personal income tax cuts and incentives for business investment along with its commitment to social housing investment.
But he warned that the speech had failed to clarify the party’s policy on negative gearing.
“Labor went into the last two elections promising to abolish negative gearing on residential investment and the capital gains tax discount – policies which are supported by some economists but opposed by property industry lobby groups on the basis that they would deter investment in residential property,” Morrison said.
“If Labor is serious about supporting jobs in housing construction, it would finally put its negative gearing and capital gains tax policies to rest.
“The most comprehensive analysis of the policies by Deloitte Access Economics showed these would have been a jobs and economy killer.
“Far from encouraging new construction, it would have delivered a $766 million drop to construction activity, cost 7,800 construction jobs and shaved $1.5 billion off GDP. Deloitte Access Economics said these outcomes would be worse in an economic downturn.
“It was the wrong policy in 2019, and it would be disastrous coming out of this recession.”
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