Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has pledged a $2.5 billion upgrade of Australia’s creaking aged care system during a Budget reply that offered little in fresh policies or economic reform but gave a strong glimpse of Labor’s election strategy.
With the election to be called within weeks, Mr Albanese renewed his pledge to transform Australia into a renewable energy powerhouse and revive domestic manufacturing, describing his alternative vision as a “real plan for a better future”.
He sought to tap into voter concerns over a rundown of government services during the pandemic, promising to be a more caring Prime Minister who will not run from a crisis.
Speaking to a packed House of Representatives, Mr Albanese launched a series of highly personal attacks against Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
In contrast to the Government, he did not mention the growing threat posed by China to the region, instead focusing on Labor’s prescription to create a more caring society.
In his Budget reply, the Labor leader sought to differentiate himself from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, arguing his policy agenda was for the long term and would make Australia more self-sufficient.
Mr Albanese offered voters an alternative policy vision with a focus on building new manufacturing facilities, stronger childcare support for families and clean energy reforms.
He also promised to revive Australia’s shipping industry – which has been slashed to just 13 Australian-flagged vessels – in order to take the pressure off teetering global supply chains.
But it was Aged Care reform which he put at the heart of Labor’s election pitch, seeking to leverage community concerns following numerous scandals revealed during the recent Royal Commission.
The promised overhaul of Aged Care includes a commitment to improve the quality of food in residential facilities while ensuring every centre includes at least one qualified nurse. A future Labor Government will also argue for a major pay rise for Aged Care workers while Mr Albanese also pledged to focus on improving the quality of care.
Labor’s plan, he said, would put “security, dignity, quality and humanity back into aged care. Put simply: to put the care back into aged care”.
While business groups were hoping Mr Albanese would announce new economic reforms, the Labor leader spent much of his speech attacking his rival, in a foretaste of the election contest.
He denounced Tuesday’s Budget as one that “spoke for a wasted decade” offering “no help or hope for young Australians. No vision for the future. Just one-off handouts to get through an election, with all the sincerity of a fake tan”.
Paraphrasing French President’s Emmanuel Macron’s famous putdown of Mr Morrison, the Labor leader said: I think Australians will see this for what it is. Actually, I don’t think, I know.”
With Parliament rising today for the final time before the election, both leaders will now focus on consolidating their respective election budget pitches over the next week or so, before the campaign is officially announced.
Steve Lewis, Senior Advisor, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]
Claire Bremner, Partner, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]
Sara Hourigan, Partner, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]
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