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National Press Club: Anthony Albanese pledges full employment white paper for post-Covid future

Anthony Albanese channelled the man who led Australia through the Second World War as he laid out a bold target for the post-Covid future.

Anthony Albanese has channelled Australia’s World War II leader as he outlined his vision of the post-Covid economy, pledging to beat a path to full employment.

As he delivered a major pre-election speech to the National Press Club on Friday, Mr Albanese cited former prime minister John Curtin as a leader who turned a crisis into an opportunity for long-term reform.

The Labor leader accused the federal government of failing to lay the groundwork for a post-Covid economy, vowing to prioritise full employment as Australia emerges from the pandemic.

“It’s not good enough to snap back to 2019,” he said.

“Labor understands that now, just as John Curtin and Ben Chifley understood in the middle of WWII that going back to 1939 would be, at best, a hollow triumph.”

Australia’s economic recovery from Covid-19 has gathered pace, with unemployment falling to 5.1 per cent in June and 115,000 more people employed between April and May.

But Mr Albanese argued the data belied a soft underbelly of underemployment and casualisation.

The Labor leader said his government would commit to a white paper on full employment, the terms of which would be outlined before the next election and delivered in his first term.

“Full employment is about secure work which will assist those currently in work through driving up wages. It will cut the gender pay gap and narrow the chasms that divide Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia,” he said.

“We cannot afford to aim low. The government itself has just spelt out why.”

Part of Labor’s plan would be “seize on the growing importance” of jobs in the renewable sector, and a focus on employment for people on the disability pension.

Mr Curtin produced a similar white paper during WWII, and appointed a minister for post-war reconstruction three years before the guns fell silent.

Mr Albanese said his foresight “set up a boom that spanned two decades” and saw unemployment drop from double-digits to around two per cent.

“They knew national leadership in times of crisis was about more than mere preservation, it was a question of vision, of courage. The courage to imagine greater opportunity for all in peace, the leadership to begin that work even in the midst of war,” Mr Albanese said.

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