ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
Vision, Ambition and a Solid Plan to Power the Nation
Building a better Australia demands vision, ambition and a concrete plan.
Thursday marks the 49th anniversary of the opening of the biggest nation-building project conducted in Australia – construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
This colossal undertaking – including seven power stations, 16 dams, 80km of aqueducts, 145km of tunnels and 1600km of roads and railway tracks – transformed Australia by providing electricity that drove post-war reconstruction and development of modern industry.
It encouraged the rise of multicultural Australia, with migrants from 30 nations making up two-thirds of the workforce.
The Snowy was a visionary project conceived by Ben Chifley’s Labor government.
When Chifley produced legislation in 1949, the conservatives, led by Robert Menzies, voted against it.
Menzies, the father of the Liberal Party, refused to attend the launch. Fortunately, when he became prime minister Menzies accepted the project’s nationbuilding value, put aside politics and got to work. But his initial folly typified a weakness of the Liberal and National parties: their preference for politics over action.
Short-termism explains why the current Coalition government dismantled the former Labor government’s plan for a 21st-century, fibre-based National Broadband Network and replaced it with a second-rate system based on 19th-century copper technology.
It’s why it has spent a decade talking down climate action for political gain, ignoring opportunities for jobs and economic growth that come from investing in cheap, renewable energy.
And it is why, after more than eight years in office, Scott Morrison has failed to articulate a long-term vision for the future of this country.
Australia needs a plan to rebuild our economy.
It’s not enough to return to the pre-Covid situation.
We must build back stronger, addressing weakness exposed by the pandemic.
This is at the core of Labor’s plan for a future made in Australia.
It is extraordinary that Australia lacks the capacity to manufacture mRNA vaccines or to be selfsufficient when it comes to basic medical supplies.
And it speaks to our lack of federal leadership and planning that most of the resources we mine and the food we grow is sent overseas in bulk when we could be adding value to these exports through manufacturing, creating jobs and new businesses.
The Coalition government has made our nation too reliant on imports, leaving us isolated and vulnerable at the end of precarious international supply chains.
A Labor government will change this, taking inspiration from Chifley’s example of long-term thinking in the national interest.
We’ll work with states, businesses and trade unions to revitalise the economy.
We can become more self-reliant and self-sufficient. We can become a renewable energy superpower.
Labor’s ambition is economic transformation that directly benefits working families, driven by the rise of cheap, renewable energy.
This will make all businesses more competitive, create secure jobs, lower household power bills and open up new opportunities.
To help businesses seize those opportunities, we’ll create a $15bn national reconstruction fund, providing loans and other support to new enterprises in areas such as value-adding, renewable energy, defence industries and transport.
Australia has the resources and brainpower to make everything from wind turbines to electric batteries, train carriages to military hardware, medicines to macaroni.
The NRF will help take these industries to the next level. As part of our plan to create secure jobs, Labor will ensure Australians get the skills to work in these new jobs by increasing investment in training.
We’ll also use the commonwealth’s considerable purchasing power to support Australian businesses.
Under our 10-point Buy Australian plan, a Labor government will prioritise, wherever possible, use of local suppliers when purchasing defence materiel, medicines and medical equipment as well as transport goods such as buses, trains and ferries.
We’ll work with state governments to ensure that when they spend federal money they adhere to our Buy Australian policies.
While Menzies initially resisted Chifley’s design of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, it is to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s credit that he committed to expand the Snowy project.
However, Morrison has done nothing to ensure Snowy 2.0 will be efficiently connected to the national electricity grid.
It will be finished in 2025 but won’t be connected until 2027. That’s absurd.
But that’s the thing about vision.
It’s not about your next media conference or ticking off a list of politically convenient concepts.
Vision is about planning for the long term – getting it right for today and setting up a better and more prosperous future.
Anthony Albanese is the leader of the Australian Labor Party.