Australians have made a lot of sacrifices these past two years.
It’s been tough.
Essential workers in services we all depend on have done it tough.
Our health workers have done it tough.
Small business has done it tough. School students and their parents have done it tough.
The hardship Australians have endured has been unnecessarily prolonged by Federal Government failures.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was too slow to secure COVID vaccines or create the quarantine system required to make Australians safe and allow for a speedy return to normal life.
That is why life is returning to normal for the people of Europe and the United States while a majority of Australians remain locked down in their homes.
This hits Australia’s migrant communities hard.
So many Australian families are missing the opportunity to have visits from relatives from their countries of origin. Children are missing out on seeing parents and grandparents.
It has also been disappointing to see the Federal Government waste $13 billion of taxpayers’ money paying JobKeeper to companies that actually increased their profits during the pandemic.
Recipients included companies like Louis Vuitton, which sent that money offshore to enrich its foreign owners.
That $13 billion could have been used for so many things to make our country better. It’s more than the Federal Government spends every year on public schools or affordable childcare.
We can’t change mistakes of the past. But we can do better in the future.
Labor has a plan to use the post-COVID rebuilding phase to make a real difference to Australians’ everyday lives.
The pandemic has reminded us that the foundation of peoples’ living standards is a secure job.
About 3.4 million Australians do not have secure work – casuals, gig workers, freelancers, short-term contract workers – and underemployment is at 8.3 per cent.
Too many Australians don’t know what they will earn from one week to the next. That makes it hard to plan or qualify for a home loan.
Labor will return secure work to the centre of our employment system, explicitly inserting the concept into the Fair Work Act.
We will end the exploitation of casual workers, deliver a better deal for gig workers and end wage theft by introducing criminal penalties for employers who rip off their workers.
We will legislate a right to ten days of paid family and domestic violence leave – because women experiencing family violence should not have to choose between leaving a violent relationship and keeping their job.
When work is more secure, Australian workers can have the confidence to spend money to stimulate the Australian economy, boost growth and create more jobs.
Every Australian who is willing to work should be able to find work.
A Government that I lead will commission a Full Employment White Paper and hold an Australian Jobs Summit.
It will draw together experts from across government, industry and the union movement to create a blueprint for a better workplace system, removing barriers to people working as many hours as they want, at a wage they can live on, and helping them to achieve their full potential.
Australians just want to get ahead. The employment system should help them get ahead, not stand in their way.
One of the big barriers to greater workforce participation for young families is the cost of childcare.
Labor would make childcare cheaper for 97% of Australian families – lifting the maximum childcare subsidy to 90% and scrapping the unfair system which sees many women losing money if they want to work an extra day.
We also accelerate progress towards closing the gender pay gap that sees many women paid less than men for similar work, including by strengthening the ability and capacity of the Fair Work Commission to order pay increases for workers in low paid, female dominated industries.
Getting more people into work, making that work more secure, and boosting pay are all important objectives that will help our nation to build back stronger.
But it means nothing if people are unable to access decent housing or if the housing they have access to is unaffordable.
That’s why Labor would create the Housing Australia Future Fund, a $10 billion investment in social and affordable housing.
Over the first five years, it will build 20,000 new social housing properties and 10,000 new affordable homes for frontline workers like police, nurses and cleaners.
Australia is a great nation. But as we move away from the hardship of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to use the rebuilding phase to make it even greater.
The Morrison Government has no agenda for building a better Australia.
Mr Morrison’s agenda extends no further than his next photo opportunity.
Labor has a plan for a better future – a plan for more jobs, greater job security and more opportunities for Australians to get ahead and build a better future for themselves and their families.
Anthony Albanese is the Leader of the Australian Labor Party
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