SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese on Sunday promised the country a “better future” in a campaign launch that was light on controversial reforms but drenched in unity and hope.
The Labor party leader promised to “end the climate wars” by creating thousands of jobs in a green-energy transition centred on electric vehicles, revitalise big infrastructure projects and help low-income people buy homes.
Labor is favoured by most polls to win the May 21 general election and topple Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition after years of devastating bushfires, floods and COVID-19.
Hoping to return to government after nine years, Albanese’s centre-left party is using a low-risk strategy. The former infrastructure minister said Labor has learned from past losses that came amid protracted leadership tension and policies seen by some as overly divisive.
“I know we have been through tough times, I know the sacrifices that so many of you have made,” Albanese told a stadium of supporters, including two former Labor prime ministers, in Perth.
“You have earned a better future, and … I am asking you to vote for that better future,” he said, two days after ending a week in isolation due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. “Vote for hope and optimism, not fear and division.”
The former infrastructure minister said “nation-building” projects had been replaced by “pork-barrelling”, or politically motivated allocations of money.
Albanese promised electric vehicle charging stations across the country. “Imagine a future where you do not have to worry about petrol prices. We need government to build the foundation for it.”
He said he would change industrial laws to make gender pay equity a formal objective, and took aim at the ruling conservatives who have faced criticism – and shrinking support from female voters – after several gender-based scandals in the government.
“If you want to represent the whole country, best not to leave more than half of the country out of it,” he said.
Amid concerns about affordable housing and inflation running at double the pace of wage growth, Albanese said Labor would contribute up to 40% of the purchase price for 10,000 low income people buying their first homes.
He said it was a “failure” by Canberra that China had recently signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands. The agreement has raised concerns of a Chinese military base less than 2,000 km (1,200) miles away and made national security an election issue.
“Morrison just keeps on scrambling from one photo opportunity to another, noting that the Australian people know who he is,” Albanese said.
“They don’t think, they know,” he added, in a reference to French President Emmanuel Macron saying “I don’t think, I know” that Morrison lied about cancelling contract for France to build submarines for Australia.