Anthony Albanese wants to get productivity moving along again, saying if it continues to be sluggish Australians will face worse living standards.
The opposition leader will on Friday outline his vision for Labor’s economic management plans in a speech to progressive think tank Per Capita.
He believes a strong economy is what turns into reality the aspirations of Labor’s enduring promise of holding no one back, and leaving no one behind.
But he will say the foundations are beginning to crack under the coalition government, citing the slowest growth rate since the global financial crisis, a flat-lining standard of living, stagnant wages, unemployment higher than US, Britain, New Zealand and Germany, doubled national debt, official interest rates at record lows and productivity sliding backwards.
“The accumulation of these economic indicators should be jolting us out of complacency,” Mr Albanese will say in Brisbane.
Nevertheless, he is optimistic about Australia’s future provided the settings are right.
At the core of his focus is boosting productivity growth.
He points out the rate of growth is half what it was when Labor left office in 2013 and it has in fact gone backwards over the past two quarters, which he terms a “productivity recession”.
“With productivity missing in action, that old anchor chain of class and destiny threatens to make a comeback,” he will say.
“Wages will remain flat and living standards will deteriorate.
“For parents trying to put a bit of money away for the annual beach holiday this Christmas, it is getting too hard after paying electricity and childcare bills.”
He calls for a “productivity renewal project” in partnership with business, unions and civil society.
This would involve further investment in infrastructure, a tax system that gives better incentives for businesses to invest in themselves, and addressing skills shortages by training more people.
The government has spent the week unveiling its plans to bring forward the start dates of some of its planned $100 billion in road and rail projects.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his is a measured and responsible reaction to the economic headwinds the country faces and that he won’t sacrifice Australia’s surplus.
He’s accused Labor of wanting to “rush around with our arms flapping in the air in some sort of panic crisis”.
Meanwhile, the prospect of debt-fuelled infrastructure spending and dampened household and business confidence leading to a lower GST pool has led Moody’s rating agency to downgrade its outlook for state governments in 2020 from stable to negative.