For those wanting government action, there can be little doubt that the Albanese government promises to be a great improvement on the previous one.
Morrison will likely be remembered for spending his time in office shouting at the tide but refusing to act – on corruption, climate, COVID, or any of the burning issues that came across his desk – no matter how many portfolios he secretly took on.
By contrast, Albanese has hit the ground running, appearing determined to build trust and deliver on his commitments. Before the election, he outlined the focus of his first 100 days to be tackling the economy, unemployment, climate change and corruption. There can be no doubt his government has inherited an economy in a precarious state, but he and treasurer Jim Chalmers delivered the promised statement on the budget and economic outlook in June, announcing a determination to ease rising cost of living pressures.
On 1 September, Labor began its much-vaunted Jobs and Skills Summit – a “Bob Hawke-style” meeting with employers, unions and the wider community – to address ecomomic challenges; build a stronger workforce; boost real wages and living standards; and create more opportunities for Australians.
The focus was on collaboration, rather than conflict. “We owe it to the Australian people to try and find that common ground so that we can solve these challenges and reach our common objectives together,” said Chalmers.
On the question of corruption in Canberra, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus moved quickly to set up a task force to help establish Labor’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), but we are unlikely to see any firm details until the end of the year.
After almost 10 years of neglect under a federal Coalition government, Albanese must deliver for public education.
On 4 August, a few weeks away from its 100th day of government, the Albanese government gave the clearest signal yet that it wasn’t doing business as usual.
Environment minister Tanya Plibersek stated her intention to refuse approval of Clive Palmer’s Central Queensland Coal Project on the grounds it would likely damage the Great Barrier Reef. This was the first time a federal environmental minister has acted to reject a new coal mine – and stands in stark contrast to the previous environment minister, Sussan Ley, who battled teenagers in court for the right to evade any duty of care for their futures.
Plibersek’s announcement arrived in the same week that the new Labor government passed its signature climate change bill, enshrining an emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030. In delivering on this promise so early in his term, Albanese praised the Greens and independents, and stuck the boot into Peter Dutton’s Liberal opposition.
“The parliament functioned effectively to support the mandate we received at the election, with the exception of the Coalition, who continue to be stuck in time while the world warms around it,” Albanese said.
While Dutton might hope to roll back the bill should he win the next election, Albanese said it would be “untenable” for any major political party to challenge a bill that has such extraordinary support from Australian businesses and the wider community. He said the bill should be the first step in working together on plans to reduce emissions.
But this is only the start. There is much more that needs doing, not least for our public education system. We are yet to see Albanese’s government act on its policy commitments for preschools, schools and TAFE, but the AEU is determined to hold him to account.
In June, the NSW and Victorian state governments joined the AEU’s voice in pushing Albanese to close the public school funding gap and ensure that all public schools received 100% of the schooling resource standard.
The union will also be calling on Albanese to follow through on his promise to protect and promote TAFE through guaranteed funding, and will continue its campaign for universal access to two years of preschool for all Australian children. After almost 10 years of neglect under a federal Coalition government, Albanese must deliver for public education – throughout the next 100 days and beyond.