Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has pledged to build 30,000 homes for people in need and create 21,500 jobs over five years in a new $10 billion social and affordable housing rescue plan.
Mr Albanese launched Labor's Housing Australia Future Fund proposal on Thursday night in a budget reply speech which doubled as election pitch and had significant new policy proposals for women, young entrepreneurs, vulnerable workers and renewable energy.
He made his ambitions clear from the start.
"My fellow Australians. I grew up in a council house in Camperdown, the only son of a single mum on the disability pension," Mr Albanese said.
"I stand before you tonight seeking the honour of serving as your Prime Minister."
The Labor leader acknowledged the past year of COVID-19 as a "year unlike any other in our lifetimes" and pointed to the heartbreak and the devastation of the pandemic ripping around the globe. He said while it could be worse in Australia, "I also know we can do so much better".
Recalling Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's budget catchcry on Tuesday night that "Australia is coming back", Mr Albanese said rather than coming back, Australia should build back stronger.
"This budget offers a low-growth, low-productivity and low-wage future - and a trillion dollars of debt - is that really the best we can aspire to?" he asked.
The opposition leader launched into criticism of the Morrison government's handling of the Black Summer bushfires, national quarantine, women, Indigenous people and the failure of the JobMaker program from the previous budget which created just 1000 jobs rather than the intended 450,000.
"That's right - not 450,000, just 1000. Missed by that much," Mr Albanese jibed.
"Like so much with this government it was all smirk and mirrors."
Housing and homelessness are widely regarded as a neglected public policy area. Experts have decried the absence of a national housing strategy, while welfare groups say there are 200,000 people on social housing waiting lists in Australia.
"I'm proud to say that Labor in government will create a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, with the annual investment return to build social and affordable housing and create thousands of jobs," Mr Albanese said.
"Over the first five years, this will build around 20,000 social housing properties, places like the home I grew up in. Our home gave us so much more than somewhere to sleep. It gave my mum and I pride and dignity and security, and it gave me a future. A future that led me here tonight."
The plan includes 4000 homes earmarked for women and children fleeing domestic violence and older women on low incomes. Overall, $1.7 billion will be allocated to women's housing needs.
Ten-thousand affordable homes would be built for frontline workers such as police officers and nurses, $200 million would be targeted at fixing, maintaining and improving housing in remote Indigenous communities and $30 million would go to homeless veterans.
"This is a Future Fund that will give more Australians a future," he said.
The housing Future Fund is proposed as similar to other public asset funds such as the $178.6 billion Future Fund and the $21.4 billion Medical Research Future Fund and would be managed by the independent, Peter Costello-chaired, Future Fund Board of Guardians.
The $10 billion set-up cost is off-budget and would have to be borrowed to make the fund a reality.
The Labor plan stands in contrast to the Morrison government's housing plan announced in Tuesday night's budget which focused on first home buyers who were being priced out of the market. It included 10,000 places added to the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, changes to the contribution cap on the First Home Super Saver Scheme and there is a new Family Home Guarantee for single parents.
Skills training and renewable energy combined to be a major focus, with the Labor leader announcing a plan to invest $100 million to support 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships.
"Ever since the Liberals drove Holden out of the country, they've run up the white flag on manufacturing and skills and apprentices," he said.
"I'm not going to see us surrender any more jobs and industries - and the communities that depend on them."
Those who choose to train in new energy industries - like rooftop solar installation, green hydrogen and large scale renewable projects - will received up to $10,000 over the four years of the apprenticeship.
Federal Labor is also flagging it would pursue reform of the TAFE and training sector if it wins government.
Anthony Albanese continued the opposition's attack on the Morrison government over wages. Wage growth forecasts in the budget showed workers' wages are not expected to increase in real terms until 2024-25.
He has declared a Labor government would consult with unions, states and territories and employer groups with a view to legislating to criminalise wage theft.
"If elected Prime Minister, I will always stand up for secure jobs and fair wages," he said.
Women were the focus of other legislative promises.
Mr Albanese said he would amend Commonwealth law to make it clear employers that they have a duty to take "reasonable and proportionate" measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace.
As well, in a recycling of Labor policy from 2015, he flagged the Labor's "Start-up Year" initiative to champion innovation and keep ideas onshore; a $20 million plan to offer loans to 2,000 students to cover a year of specialist mentoring at Australian universities and private-sector incubators.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: