Labor’s budget reply: Albanese promises loans for young entrepreneurs, green apprenticeships and IR reform

Labor-skills-gap jobs summit

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese in the House of Representatives. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese delivered his budget reply speech on Thursday in Parliament, promising an alternative economic recovery that works “for all Australians”.

For small businesses, a Labor government promises to invest in entrepreneurship, training for future industries, industrial relations reform and more.

“I want Australia to emerge from this crisis stronger, smarter and more self-reliant, with an economic recovery that works for all Australians,” Albanese said.

“If you increase wages, workers will have more to spend in their local small businesses.”

‘Start Up Year’ program

Albanese revealed Labor would establish a Start Up Year program to encourage entrepreneurship among young Australians.

The program would see 2,000 students and new graduates receive HECS-style loans to commercialise their startup ideas while participating in university-based or private accelerator programs.

Despite the program being rehashed from an earlier proposal made by the then opposition leader Bill Shorten in 2015, the small business ombudsman said the program is a positive initiative to encourage entrepreneurship.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Bruce Billson believes the program could contribute to Australia’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“The Startup Year program is a useful and constructive proposal about how we might ensure Australia has a world-leading ecosystem to support entrepreneurship,” Billson says.

New energy apprenticeships

As part of its green recovery, Labor would create a new energy program to train 10,000 people for the “energy jobs of the future”.

The program would give apprentices up to $10,000 to cover the cost of their training.

The funding would be restricted to training in select areas of study, including in renewable energy generation, and storage and distribution, including emerging technologies such as green hydrogen.

Jobs for the future

Labor’s plan for creating jobs emphasises looking ahead to future industries, including green manufacturing.

The plan includes the establishment of a new department called Jobs and Skills Australia, which would research and advise government on future work opportunities.

Labor also put forward a policy to build a National Reconstruction Fund, which would help encourage manufacturing in industries expected to grow in the longer term such as pharmaceuticals.

Changes to industrial relations

Labor’s plan for secure jobs includes six reforms to industrial relations law, including making wage theft a crime – a reform that the Morrison government removed from its industrial relations bill before it passed this year.

“This should have been done. It could have been done. But the Morrison government voted to remove it from their own legislation,” Albanese said.

Mark McKenzie, chair of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), welcomed Labor’s plan to reintroduce criminal penalties for employers who engage in systemic wage underpayment.

“Businesses engaging in deliberate wage underpayment behaviours are gaining an unfair advantage over the majority of businesses who are doing the right thing,” McKenzie said.

Labor also plans to write job security into the Fair Work Act, redefine casual work and crack down on the abuse of “cowboy” labour hire firms.

To address gender inequality, Albanese said Labor would establish a new system for large companies to publicly report on the gender pay gap, and offer 10 days of paid domestic and family violence leave to workers.

Cheaper childcare

Labor’s cheaper childcare plan, announced last year, would abolish the cap and increase the subsidy to lower childcare costs for families earning up to $530,000.

Albanese said the policy would not only deliver support to four times the number of families compared to the Morrison government’s current plan, but would boost workforce participation.

Safe workplaces

Finally, Labor pledged to adopt all the recommendations in the Respect@Work Report, saying every woman should feel safe in the workplace.


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