Australia’s best days are ahead, says Albanese
Federal Opposition leader Anthony Albanese presented a speech at the National Press Club on the eve of Australia Day. The following are edited highlights of his speech.
Australia Day is a good moment for us to reflect; to consider our blessings as a nation and to celebrate them.
Perhaps that is more important now than it has been for decades. We have been through a time so challenging, none of us will ever forget it.
I know, as we enter the third year of the pandemic, a lot of Australians are exhausted and we look forward to the day when we can put all this behind us.
Australia can emerge from this once-in-a-century crisis better, stronger, more fair, and more prosperous.
My case for government is that we must learn the lessons of this pandemic in order to build a more resilient Australia for the future.
What stands before us is the opportunity to build on the best qualities that characterise Australians, and to realise our potential as a people and as a nation. The chance is ours to seize but It requires courage, vision and leadership and demands a government that fulfills its fundamental roles.
Just “pushing through” this pandemic is not enough. We need to learn from it and use what the last two years have taught us.
If I’m elected Prime Minister, I see it as my responsibility to repay Australians for their sacrifices and to reward their efforts.
These are six areas we must rectify: one, we need a strong public health system, with Medicare as its backbone; two, the rise of insecure work has undermined too many families’ confidence in their future; three, stripping our TAFE and training sector of investment over the last decade has led to crippling skills gaps and worker shortages; four, the need to manufacture more things in Australia – to be more self-reliant – and to back Australian businesses; five, the need for a high quality NBN because it is fundamental to working from home, building a small business, education for our children, and vital medical consultations and six, affordable childcare because it is an essential part of family and working life.
The greatest crisis we have faced since the Global Financial Crisis is the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It is beyond comprehension that the Morrison Government has refused to learn from this pandemic. This Government has failed repeatedly on testing, tracing, vaccinations and quarantine.
A Prime Minister who is repeatedly warned by experts about what is coming and given the opportunity to plan ahead – but repeatedly fails to listen and fails to act.
And while Mr Morrison shows off the contents of his kitchen, Australians are being confronted by empty supermarket shelves.
And contrary to Barnaby Joyce’s statement this week, Australians are dying from COVID in record numbers – over 900 lives lost in the first 25 days of this year.
For all their talk of less government, this is the biggest government in three quarters of a century – with the largest deficit since World War II, the largest debt and, outside of the Howard era, our highest taxing government in modern Australian history.
As we begin 2022 there is an obvious need to bring the nation back together again. To treat the states with respect, rather than as objects of political opportunity or attack.
We cannot be complacent in our good fortune. Even Australia is not immune to the forces of division, whether it’s ideology, political opportunism or cynical self-interest.
We have seen how this plays out across the world. This is not the path I will take.
I choose the path built on the lessons that the pandemic made so clear: that we are stronger and more resilient together.
That is a truth that guides me as someone who now puts himself forward to be Prime Minister. I will work with all state and territory leaders, to advance Australia’s common interest for the benefit of all.
The past two years have been hard for all Australians, but I think all parents know that our children have done it especially tough. Remote learning, exam chaos, cancelled sport, and now the delays in vaccine supply, have turned their lives into a cascade of stress and uncertainty.
Some children have fallen behind academically, and many are struggling with their mental health.
Parents are stressed from home schooling; anxious about the weight the pandemic has put on their children’s shoulders.
Over the past two years, time-starved parents put aside their own needs to support their children.
They want to keep their children safe and make the best choice and they are looking for guidance from their federal government.
Mr Morrison promised a national approach in which his government would work with the states – instead he has palmed off his share of the work to the states.
The states have done a great job in picking up the slack from the slackest government in living memory but this is not how it is meant to be.
And it’s why today I‘m announcing Labor’s plan to help our schools and students bounce back. Our plan starts with the Student Wellbeing Boost. It will provide funding for school activities that get children back on track.
This could mean more funding for school counsellors and psychologists, and for camps, excursions, sporting and social activities that improve children’s wellbeing.
Our plan will fund a free mental health check tool. Schools could choose to use this to help quickly identify students who may need extra support.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly tells us that Covid will be with us for some time, so we need to act and adapt.
That means making our schools safer and better prepared for what’s ahead. This is what good government does – it plans ahead instead of waiting for a crisis.
Throughout the pandemic, Labor has developed a series of plans that share a common spirit: to avoid repeating the mistakes of the present and allow us to build the best version of Australia possible.
I also see us as a country that uses its abundant natural resources to drive new industries and become a renewable energy superpower, creating jobs as power prices fall.
Our Powering Australia plan will reduce Australia’s emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, putting us on track for net zero by 2050. It’s a plan with economic growth at its heart: creating over 600,000 jobs, attracting $52 billion of private sector investment, spurring new industries and cutting power bills by $275 for the average family.
Our plan has the backing of the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the ACTU, the National Farmers Federation, and a range of non-government organisations.
That is just one practical example of how I will bring Australians together, united by a common vision and a national partnership for progress as we finally put the climate wars behind us.
For our country to advance together we must advance equality for women.
We need to respect women across all elements of our culture – at work, at home, in schools and in our community. Women’s safety must be a national priority.
And on her final day as Australian of the Year, I’d like to thank Grace Tame for her extraordinary courage and fierce advocacy.
The events in parliament that were revealed last year constituted a powerful wake-up call. But we have had so many wake-up calls. We have no excuse to wait for another.
We cannot look to our future without also reflecting on the past, including injustice to First Nations’ people. Until a nation acknowledges the full truth of its history, it will be burdened by its unspoken weight.
We must acknowledge the wrongs, learn from them, and look for ways of healing. Truth-telling can be confronting – but it need not be grounds for conflict.
We should come to this process not armed for battle in culture war, but with an open mind and an open heart.
This crisis has shown us we are stronger together. But that truth is older and runs deeper than this pandemic.
One day, the pandemic will be written about in the past tense. By then, I know that, as Australians, we will have done so much more than got back on our feet.
Beyond the recovery, I see renewal and rejuvenation. An Australia rebuilding on the foundation of its people’s greatest strengths and qualities.
An Australia that is worthy of our people – and their potential. An Australia where no one is held back, and no one is left behind. Our best days are ahead of us.