Ambitious climate change targets, ten days domestic and family violence leave and the creation of Jobs and Skills Australia will be the Albanese government’s first three pieces of business when the new parliament sits in the last week of July.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age after a month in office, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also revealed Labor’s national employment summit will be held in late September or early October, the national cabinet will meet again and parliament will sit for four weeks in total before the October 25 budget.
Albanese also confirmed the legislation to establish a federal integrity commission will be introduced after his government’s first budget but before the end of the year, in line with his election promise.
The prime minister has travelled overseas twice in the first month since being elected. First he went to Tokyo for the Quadrilateral dialogue with Japan, the United States and India and then separately to Jakarta, where he heavily emphasised the economic and strategic opportunities for closer co-operation.
He has two more trips to come in the next month. The first is to a NATO security summit in Madrid, which will possibly also include a trip to Paris to see French President Emmanuel Macron and begin repairing relations, after the scrapping of the submarine deal, with one of the EU’s most consequential members.
It’s understood he may not be able to take up an invitation to visit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky because of the tight timeframe involved in the five-day trip. Then there will be a trip to the Pacific Islands Forum in mid-July which will take place against a backdrop of China’s growing ambition – and influence – in the region.
“Our commitment there is to introduce legislation before the end of the year.”
– Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
But four weeks after the election of the Labor government and amid soaring inflation, an interest rate rise and blackout warnings on the east coast because of power shortages, Albanese outlined how his domestic political agenda is now taking shape.
“It’s four weeks since we were elected today; it has been a pretty busy four weeks. Normally governments would still be moving offices now,” he said.
“We’ve asked people to bring forward the legislation to create Jobs and Skills Australia; to create the Nationally Determined Contribution [to emissions reductions] and the target – 43 per cent by 2030 and then [zero by] 2050. That legislation will come forward and there may be some appropriation legislation required.
“There will be the 10 days’ pay domestic and family violence leave legislation; there will be legislation required for the cancelling of the cashless welfare card. There will be a fair bit basically, it’s a matter of when it’s prepared for the first fortnight of sitting.
“Then we will have another two weeks sitting before we have the budget on the last Tuesday in October.”
Last week, soaring coal prices and multiple plant failures meant 25 per cent of Australia’s coal-fired power capacity were offline, forcing the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to suspend the National Electricity Market. Blackout warnings were lifted by Friday.
Recommendations by the Energy Security Board are expected to be handed this week to government on how to provide more stable, reliable baseload to the market.
Albanese stressed the government wanted to consult widely on the proposed federal anti-corruption commission legislation – consultations have already begun with the crossbench – and that “it takes time to get things right”.
“Our commitment there is to introduce legislation before the end of the year. It will be after the budget: it takes time to get those things right, it’s a complex piece of legislation and we want to consult properly.”
The national employment summit will bring together the federal government, big business groups and unions, and shapes as an early test for Albanese’s reform agenda and his desire to reset relations between employers and employees.
Major business groups the BCA, ACCI and the AIG have signalled they will pursue changes to the better-off-overall test [BOOT] that would simplify it – a move unions are likely to fight.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions, which was mostly ignored by the Morrison government, has identified legislating 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave into the national employment standards as a priority.
It also wants the employment summit to examine wage growth and enterprise bargaining.
“We are looking at the summit happening before the budget, in September or early October. We are working through options there,” Albanese said.
“We are consulting the business community, unions and others, and we are hoping to finalise that in the coming weeks.”