Legislation drafters will have a bit of work on their hands if Australians elect a Labor government, following opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s promise for the Fair Work Act to be amended to make equality of pay an objective of this country’s industrial relations laws.
Albanese told an audience of about 600 Labor supporters during the campaign launch for the Australian Labor Party that the proposed change in law would be one of several initiatives Labor is pledging to implement if it succeeds in winning government later this month.
“I believe that one of Australia’s greatest untapped resources is the full and respectful economic participation of women. Under the Liberals, Australia has fallen to 70th in the world for women’s economic participation and opportunity,” Albanese said.
He said an Albanese government would establish expert panels on pay equity in the care and community sectors in order to help improve working conditions for women in those fields.
“It was care workers who kept us alive through the pandemic. Care workers are the arteries of our nation, our regions, our cities, our suburbs. We must give them the respect and the investment they deserve,” Albanese said.
Health care has become a key policy battleground during the election campaign, with policy crossover taking place between both major political parties.
An area in which this has occurred is the cost of medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme with Labor promising to decrease the cost of prescription medications by $12.50 so a person does not have to pay more than $30 per prescription.
Prime minister Scott Morrison announced a competing plan for the very same scheme the day before Albanese took centre stage in Perth, by promising a $10 reduction on prescriptions that would bump the cost down under the coalition’s plan to $32.50.
The opposition leader further amplified themes that had already been a key feature of the Labor campaign, such as creating a national integrity commission, working towards bringing manufacturing back to Australia, the support for the implementation of the Uluru Statement of the Heart, and the character assessment of the current prime minister as being absent or unprepared to accept responsibility for problems.
That gave the sympathetic audience one of several laughs during the launch that featured shadow foreign affairs minister senator Penny Wong, campaign spokesman Jason Clare, and Western Australian premier, Mark McGowan.
Albanese said his week in isolation with the coronavirus, which saw him confined to his Marrickville home while still doing some interviews with media, was not ideal but that it gave him a moment of “sympathy for Scott Morrison”.
“You see, I know I can count on Penny and Richard [Marles], Katy [Gallagher] and Jim [Chalmers] and so many others to make the arguments for Labor,” Albanese said.
“But who’s he got? Alan Tudge and Peter Dutton. The unspeakable and the unthinkable. And Barnaby Joyce, the inexplicable.”