The next federal election is just months away — and according to the man who wants the top job, the outcome could be sealed by just one vital factor.
Speaking at the Australian Financial Review’s business summit this morning, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten outlined his party’s key priorities — and said Aussies across the political spectrum now had a “hunger for stability”.
Mr Shorten said when he took over the Labor leadership in 2013, he “wouldn’t have predicted” stability would end up being “such a plus factor” for his then-embattled party.
But he pointed out since that time, the country had gone through three prime ministers and a string of energy policies and defence ministers, painting a picture of a government in chaos.
And he said voters across the country — even those who usually did not support the ALP — had asked for just one thing — a “promise to be stable”.
“There is a hunger for stability greater than I have ever seen before,” Mr Shorten said.
“No one can fairly say we are not the stable proposition in Australia.”
He also delivered a scathing smackdown, saying the Government’s “desperation” was “measurable in decibels”.
Earlier today the ABC revealed federal Treasury had reprimanded the Coalition for exaggerating the impact of Labor’s negative gearing changes — a move Mr Shorten slammed as “embarrassing” and an example of “toxic, turgid fearmongering”.
During his speech, Mr Shorten also claimed the next election would be a “referendum on wages” but refused to confirm whether he would hike up the minimum wage to a “living wage” in the event of a Labor win.
“More than five years of wage stagnation under this government is proof that ‘just leaving it to the market’ leaves Australians stuck in working poverty,” he said.
“On the one hand, rising living costs are tightening family budgets, and on the other, they’re trapped in a vice of stagnant wage growth.
“For years, everything has been going up except wages, and our fellow Australians are digging deeper into their savings or going into debt to pay their fortnightly bills.”
He said his leadership would concentrate on fixing wages, addressing the rise of “insecure” work, restoring Sunday and public holiday penalty rates that had been “arbitrarily” cut by the Fair Work Commission and pushing for more equality for working women in terms of pay, leadership and superannuation.
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He said Labor Party members were not “class warriors”, and the enterprise bargaining system needed a rework to stop punishing companies who did the right thing by their employees.
“You’re bargaining with your workers, but you’ve got new entrants into the industry who go along and just pay the award,” he said.
“You’ve done the right thing, you’ve done six or seven rounds of bargaining, and the problem is you’re now at a competitive disadvantage.
“Because employers can just opt out of the bargaining system and say to their employees ‘cut your wages or we’ll take you back to the award’.”
Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison fronted the summit and hinted at a looming recession under a Labor government.
“I’m saying the economy will be weaker under Labor — that’s exactly what I’m saying,” he said.
“They’re going to put $200 billion worth of taxes and take Australia’s industrial relations system back to the times when we had recessions in this country.”
According to the latest Newspoll, the Coalition is trailing behind Labor 47 to 53 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
It was the third survey in a row in Labor’s favour, with the election tipped to be held in May.
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