From jobs to a federal ICAC, here are the top priorities for the new Labor government
The new code of conduct requires federal ministers to divest any shares they own directly. Photo: AAP
The new Labor government has made it clear it wants to change Australia’s trajectory on several fronts, and already has an agenda stacked with policies and reforms.
The commitments the party made on the campaign trail range from long-term, bigger-picture issues such as climate action, to more immediate proposals like holding a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Given the makeup of the new Parliament and the time frames needed for various changes, here’s what to expect from Anthony Albanese’s new government in the next few months.
At the top of Labor’s agenda is establishing a federal, independent commission against corruption, or ICAC for short.
Labor promised to legislate such a body by the end of the year, which leaves just seven months.
The former Coalition government’s proposal had been widely panned by integrity experts because it focused on public servants rather than politicians.
In response, Labor pledged to institute a federal ICAC “with teeth”.
That means giving the commission the power to hold public hearings for transparency.
Another difference from the Coalition’s policy is that a Labor ICAC would have retrospective powers to investigate allegations of misconduct from up to 15 years ago.
Labor and the cross bench both have their sights set on a federal anti-corruption body. Photo: AAP
The teal- and Green-stacked cross bench looks set to support Labor’s ambitions in this space.
Dr Sophie Scamps, who won the seat of Mackellar from Liberal Jason Falinski, told The New Daily that the “No.1 thing” on her agenda for Canberra is tackling corruption.
“A federal integrity commission is absolutely crucial, because a lot of our decision making flows from there and we need to be able to trust our political decision makers,” she said on election night.
It’s a position shared by the other eight teal-affiliated independents in Parliament, as well as the Greens.
“I think it’s really clear the people of Sydney want a federal integrity commission put into place as quickly as possible,” North Sydney teal independent Kylea Tink told TND immediately after declaring victory on election night.
First Nations recognition
Labor has made a point of backing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Incoming Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney – the second Aboriginal person to hold the role since it was established in 1968 and the first Aboriginal woman – aims to hold a referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament as soon as May next year.
Mr Albanese made a point of this in his acceptance speech.
“We can answer [the Uluru Statement’s] patient, gracious call for a voice enshrined in our constitution,” he said.
Some observers also noted that Mr Albanese’s first act as Prime Minister was to place the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags behind the podium where he gave his first speech.
Incoming Treasurer Jim Chalmers will have the first Labor budget ready by October.
Hours after being sworn in on Monday, Mr Chalmers said the Labor government would begin reviewing the Coalition’s existing budget “starting today”.
“We want Treasury and Finance to go through the budget line by line,” he added.
“We want to separate the commitments that might be worthwhile and useful from those that might not and we may, like we have with [the Hells Gates Dam], have to push back the timing of some projects.”
Foreign policy was an unavoidable topic for the new government.
A day after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Albanese flew to Japan to join US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as part of the Quad security meeting.
“You got sworn in, got on a plane and if you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s OK – because I don’t know how you’re doing it,” President Biden told the new PM.
Mr Albanese used the opportunity to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to the informal pact. He was joined by new Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
Anthony Albanese met with world leaders on his second day as Prime Minister. Photo: AAP
As tensions brew between Australia and China in the Solomon Islands, the Labor government also committed to various programs designed to boost regional security and support faster climate action in the Pacific.
That includes $525 million in foreign aid in the region, $8 million per year to expand the reach of Australian broadcasting overseas, and $6.5 million over four years to establish a Pacific defence school to train neighbouring countries’ armed forces.
Labor promised “full employment” as part of its election campaign.
The Guardian reports that the new government could hold a jobs summit as soon as September, bringing together businesses, unions, the non-government sector and “all levels of government”.
It also pledged to hear from marginalised groups such as Indigenous people and people with disabilities, although it’s not immediately clear if representative bodies from these communities will be formally invited.
The jobs summit will then inform a new white paper, which the government says will form the basis of its forthcoming jobs policy.
On the campaign trail, Mr Albanese said he would “absolutely” support a minimum wage hike of 5.1 per cent to keep up with inflation.
How much it ultimately rises is a decision for the independent Fair Work Commission.
Finally, Labor wants to address the gender pay gap by supporting higher wages in industries that are dominated by women such as aged care, and by making large companies disclose the difference in pay between female and male employees.