Anthony Albanese will bemoan a lost decade of division and policy inertia under the Coalition, declaring he will take his lead from Bob Hawke, lifting productivity, boosting growth and using “cheap, renewable energy to transform our economy” if Labor wins the coming election.
The Labor leader will use a speech to a business summit on Wednesday to present himself as a consensus figure with a “renewal” agenda. Albanese will say if Labor wins office in May, he will revive “the dormant national project to create wealth in a way that produces benefits for all Australians”.
Albanese will tell Wednesday’s summit Australia needs to end the climate and culture wars and look for collaborative opportunities between governments, trade unions, businesses and civil society around “shared aims of growth and job creation”.
The Labor leader will note Hawke managed to deliver growing wages and stronger business profits while safeguarding important social dividends – like Medicare and universal superannuation – and that reform program delivered “three decades of continuous economic growth”.
Appealing to a sense of frustration in business circles that the prime minister lacks a significant policy agenda, Albanese will declare Morrison’s objective as prime minister has been “to sustain a sense of division” that the government has stoked to advance a partisan agenda.
The Labor leader will argue Morrison does not see a legitimate role for government in driving economic growth and distributing the benefits. He will declare as a consequence, the Coalition has delivered “a decade of inertia”.
“Australia has failed to move forward at the very time when global shifts, including the rise of renewable energy, have offered us great opportunities to transform our economy, boost growth and create new jobs,” Albanese will say.
“If Labor is successful in May, Australia will stop standing still,” Albanese will say. “We’ll bound forward, determined to shape the changes sweeping the global economy in ways that serve the Australian people.”
Albanese will say Labor’s policy agenda to boost productivity, economic growth and jobs includes the provision of cheaper childcare to encourage greater labour market participation, investments in the transformation of Australia’s energy grid, revitalising local manufacturing, and investing in skills, faster broadband, and other productivity-enhancing infrastructure.
While styling himself in the consensus tradition of Hawke, Albanese will also borrow a maxim from John Howard, noting you never reach the finish line in the race for economic reform because there is always more to do to make the economy stronger and more productive.
He will declare Morrison is not even in the race. “The team leader has left the track,” the Labor leader will say. “He is over in the grandstand looking for photo opportunities.”
With only weeks until the budget on 29 March – which is the staging post for the federal election – Albanese is looking for opportunities to present himself and Labor as safe change.
Polls show a significant chunk of voters have not yet reached a settled view about Albanese. Morrison, who is seeking a fourth term for the Coalition at the coming election, ha intensified efforts in recent weeks to define his opponent as a risk both on national security and economic management.
Morrison told the same business summit on Tuesday the world lived in an era of “radical uncertainty”. He argued Australians would be safer sticking with the incumbents.
“The overlay of an uneven global recovery from the pandemic, unprovoked military aggression in Europe, in Ukraine, an energy and commodity price shock, and continued geostrategic risks in our own region – this all creates a highly complex and risky external environment,” Morrison said.
“It’s no place for amateurs.”
The prime minister told the summit the Coalition was “best-placed to continue to navigate Australia’s way through these incredibly difficult and uncertain times”.
“We have demonstrated this time and again, as we have brought the Australian economy through some of the most difficult challenges in generations,” the prime minister said.
“The record is there. Now is not the time to turn back. It is a time to stick with the economic plan and leadership that has been working for Australia and getting Australians into work.”
Pressed during a question and answer session about criticism the government has faced over its lack of a reform agenda, Morrison said the government had reduced taxes, built infrastructure and adopted a target of net zero emissions di 2050.
“I know there are some who attend the summit and may even sponsor it who think that economic reform in this country is about putting up the GST and … putting on a carbon tax,” Morrison said.
“Let me be very clear again – I have no interest in putting up the GST or putting on a carbon tax.”