OPINION PIECE – FEDERAL BUDGET AND REPLY MONDAY, 5 OCTOBER 2020

Last week in Canberra the Federal Treasurer brought down the 2020 budget. There was some modest roads funding for the NT that we all hope eventuates, and Labor supports the first two stages of income tax cuts. There was also some good support for business, although we believe it’s too early for the Coalition to be cutting the JobKeeper support program.

 

I was, however, disappointed that whilst racking up $1 trillion in debt, the new JobMaker hiring subsidy wasn’t extended to unemployed Territorians aged over 35. I also think that providing no new money for social housing was a huge missed opportunity. This would have been good not just for Territorians needing some affordable housing, but also for the construction industry, and therefore good for our economy as a whole.

But Territorians are right to ask, “well, what is Federal Labor’s plan?”

And fair enough. So let me say that Labor Leader Anthony Albanese this week articulated a forward-thinking vision for Australia in his Budget Reply speech.

With this once-in-a-century pandemic, We believe that we have a real opportunity to fix and replace some of our outdated systems and that we can set Australia up for a brilliant future.

A Federal Labor Government will overhaul childcare, invest in renewable energy, turbocharge the manufacturing sector, boost skills, and create jobs for Australians.

Anthony Albanese unveiled a nation-building vision, outlining a path for the country to find its way out of a pandemic-provoked recession, turning this current crisis into the beginning of a new era of Australian prosperity.

Labor has also unveiled A Future Made In Australia, our plan to boost local manufacturing and jobs, including developing Defence Industry capabilities and a new social housing repair program to keep tradies on the tools, both of which will bring relief to Territory workers. Labor will deliver an Australian Skills Guarantee so that one in 10 jobs on major Commonwealth projects go to cadets, apprentices, and trainees to give them a foot in the door.

We will revamp the energy sector with a major $20 billion investment in renewables to help power Australia’s economic recovery towards our bright, clean energy future. Our country, and especially our Northern Territory, should be a global renewable energy superpower. With more than 300 average days of sunshine a year, the Territory is perfectly placed to capitalise on this investment.

Labor will also revitalise traditional industries like steel and aluminium, and boost new sectors like hydrogen and battery production.

Women, including many in the Territory, have disproportionately copped the brunt of the economic blow of this recession, and Labor knows that prioritising childcare is key to getting women back into jobs. Affordable childcare is a right for all Australians, not just a luxury for the privileged.

We want to break down the barriers keeping women out of the workforce. Since March, 200,000 Australian women have lost their jobs, and 110,000 women left the workforce altogether. Alarmingly, at the peak of coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, more than 1 million women had no work whatsoever. This is a huge handbrake on our economy.

Some mothers who work a fourth or fifth day in the week can be so penalised by the current system that they end up spending their whole salary on childcare. That’s not on, and it’s holding Australia back.

Last year, Aussie families spent almost a fifth of their household incomes on early education and care, and more than half of Australian families every week have to choose between paying for groceries or childcare costs. This isn’t fair, and Labor can fix it by:

Scrapping the $10,560 childcare subsidy cap which often sees women losing money from an extra day’s work;
Lifting the maximum childcare subsidy rate to 90 per cent; and
Increasing childcare subsidy rates and taper them for every family earning less than $530,000.
Some low-income families will pay as little as $10 a day for childcare. 97 per cent of all families in the system will save between $600 to $2,900 a year.

Importantly, no family will be worse off.

The Productivity Commission will review the sector with the aim of implementing a universal 90 per cent subsidy for all families. This will be a huge weight off the shoulders of Aussie families, and will give women more choice about when and how they work.

And we’ll make sure the system can’t be rorted and the full benefit will be passed on to families by childcare centres, with the ACCC regulating to help drive down costs and fees for good.

As the next Federal election draws nearer we will have more to say about the sort of society and economy we will support and encourage for the Territory and for our nation.