RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thank you, Anthony. Let me start by acknowledging Anthony Albanese and what he has done in what is obviously, as you can see now, is a significant reshuffle. He’s given all of us an opportunity to take on new challenges in the run from here through to the next election. That is a very exciting challenge for me indeed. I want to acknowledge our economics team and the work that is being done by Jim Chalmers, Katy Gallagher and everyone in the economics team and particularly the work that has been done by Brendan O’Connor. And as Anthony has said, Brendan is going to do a fine job as the Shadow Defence Minister of our country.
COVID-19 has rewritten our lives. The last year has been an astonishing year. While we maintain many criticisms of the way in which it has been handled and while we are not yet through it, the truth is that our country has fared much better than most and that is a great blessing. But as we look beyond COVID-19, we are now at a point where we have the opportunity to reimagine Australia, to reimagine an Australia which has an economy in it that builds and generates permanent long-term jobs. To do that requires vision. Vision is something that this Government simply does not do.
COVID-19 has brought out the best of Australians. We have seen neighbours looking after neighbours. We have seen the selfless bravery of our health and aged care work force. But COVID-19 has also exposed a number of areas where this country has been going wrong. What COVID-19 has made completely clear is we simply do not make things in this country today in the way in which we used to. If you want to think about where all the jobs have gone, you can start right there. As modern economies around the world have climbed the technological ladder when it comes to manufacturing, Australia has stood still. If we are going to become a high-tech manufacturing country which generates the kind of jobs that we need, if we’re going to become a country like Korea or like Germany, we are simply going to have to change the way in which we see science. Science is going to have to become front and centre in our national discussion. And that starts here in this building. And it actually starts in the discussions that are held in the media organisations that you represent. It is not too much to say that the most significant piece of micro-economic reform which is facing our country today is to infuse our society and our economy with science and technology. As a nation we have to change our cultural relationship to science. And I really look forward to being able to tell that story in the lead-up to the next election.
Right now, we are amongst the worst commercial ICERs of public research in the OECD. If our Olympic team performed at that level, there would be a Royal Commission. As long as that stat exists, we will not be building a modern manufacturing base in this country which generates the kind of jobs that we need. In recent months we have seen the troubles that have played out, in relation to our relationship with China, costs thousands of jobs around the country. And what that demonstrates is that this is a Government which is unable to manage the most important relationships that we have. There is no plan for how that is going to be fixed. And there is no plan for how we’re about to diversify our trading base.
When we look at the way in which COVID has played out over the last year, despite the establishment of the National Cabinet, our Federation has been put under enormous stress. There has been an abdication by this Prime Minister and by this Government from playing the Federal Government role within our Federation. And everything we have seen, in respect of our borders, every moment when we have watched this Prime Minister duck responsibility for an issue which should have principally been dealt with at a Federal level, gives voice to the fact that this is a Government which has not played the role that it should have in terms of the national presence within our Federation.
When we look at all of these issues, in terms of the reconstruction challenges that they offer us going forward, all of them come back to one place and that is jobs. Jobs in the here and now. Jobs that are generated by our small businesses which are the engine room of our economy. The kind of good, permanent, long-term jobs that come from having a manufacturing base. That is what we are going to be focused on. That is what is going to be central to our message each and every day in the lead-up to the next election. That is what the next election will be contested about. And that is the choice that we are going to give the Australian people when they next go to the ballot box. The vision we offer stands in stark contrast to the wasted, neglectful decade that has been delivered to this country by this Government. There are more than two million Australians today who are looking for work. At the end of the day, that is Scott Morrison’s record and that is what he should be judged upon.