Anthony Albanese has given his strongest signal yet he plans to dump –or grandfather – Labor’s so-called retiree tax, admitting it’s a ‘tough sell’ to argue for franking credit reforms from the opposition benches.
For the first time, the Labor leader also conceded longstanding promises to outspend the Liberal Party on schools by $14 billion and reinstate Gonski funding may also have to be trimmed back if the party no longer has the increased tax revenue.
“We got it wrong,” he said.
“Not everything was wrong, of course, but enough was. We lost an election, which given the utter chaos that was there on the other side, we should have won. Some our agenda must change. If you do the same thing, you should expect the same result.”
Mr Albanese’s signal on franking credits follows former Labor frontbencher Kim Carr arguing it was the ‘messaging’ on franking credits that was the problem, not the policy.
“Well, look, we’ll make an announcement at an appropriate time. But can I say this?,” he said.
“During the election campaign one day, I had a woman come up to me and she said, ‘I’m very worried about this franking stuff’.”
And I said: “Oh, yeah. What are your circumstances?”
“She said, ‘Well, I’m a pensioner. I can’t afford to pay any more.’ I said, ‘Well, pensioners are exempt from the policy. How many shares do you have?’ I’ve never had a share, love’.
“That was the problem. When you’ve gotta explain dividend imputation and franking credits from opposition, tough ask. And it was a tough ask. We’ll make announcements at appropriate times.
Asked about Labor’s public and private school spending, Mr Albanese said there was no doubt consequences flowed from any decision to reform Labor’s revenue expectations.
“We obviously will work on in terms of the funding envelope that will be available,” he said.
“If you don’t have the same level of revenue, you can’t have the same level of expenditure. That’s just a fact.
“So we will work through all of these issues, one of the things I said, we’ll be orderly, we’ll have proper processes, but the Labor Party is committed to education, whether it be early childhood, school, TAFE in particular, which has been abandoned, universities, and of course, we, healthcare is one of the reasons why I’m involved in politics.”
Mr Albanese also offered some personal reflections on growing up in public housing telling new migrants that he knew what it was like to be called “a wog”.
“I stand before you as an embodiment of Labor’s belief in aspiration. The son of a single mum, who wanted more for the boy she raised in public housing,” he said.
“I judge people by their character, not their background.”
Mr Albanese said coming from that background, he understood why many voters did not appreciate Labor’s rhetoric about “the top end of town.”
“They resented being called the top end of town, when they came from backgrounds much like my own,” he said.
“I heard them say that Labor needed to be more in touch with the realities of the modern economy and the difficulties of running a small business. I say to those people, I hear you. We hear you.”
Mr Albanese said his policies would be built around five themes of jobs and a strong economy, a fair Australia focused on health and education and infrastructure.
This would include high speed rail to tackle congestion, climate change action, that recognises this is an opportunity as well as a threat and national security through foreign policy that “stands up for our national interests in the globalised world, while recognising our three policy pillars of support for multilateralism, regional engagement, as well as the US alliance.”
Mr Albanese also pledged to clean up a toxic culture in NSW Labor.
“The moral shadows cast over the Labor Party by the (CFMMEU leader John) Setkas and some of – some in the New South Wales party office are being removed by a strong and self-administered dose of sunlight. We need to win back the Australian people’s trust and respect.” he said.
But Mr Albanese offered a curt response when asked by a journalist if his pledge to lead Labor to the next election, even if he was unpopular, was in conflict with the ALP review that warned unpopular leaders can cost elections.
He offered a one word answer, “No.”