Labor Unveils Social Equality Policy

16/03/2016 4:39 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Fairfax Media

Labor has unveiled its social policy to tackle inequality in Australia, a major announcement ahead of the looming election which outlines ideas to review welfare payments, urgent action on domestic violence, childcare for every child and launching Australia into the top five education nations in the world.

The 'Growing Together' report -- obtained by The Huffington Post Australia ahead of its official release on Wednesday nightly by Shadow Minister for Families Jenny Macklin and Labor leader Bill Shorten -- lays out some stark statistics.

"Inequality is at a 75-year high, 2.5 million Australians live in poverty, and hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed. More than one million Australians are underemployed, and many more are in insecure work," Macklin said in a statement.

"Perhaps for the first time in our history, we cannot be confident that the next generation of Australians will be better off than we are."

The report outlines a range of policies a Labor government should seek to enact, if elected, including greater protections for workers and a crackdown on employers who underpay, a commitment to a strong minimum wage, rejection of any cuts to penalty rates, a review of Newstart welfare payments to alleviate poverty and greater support for people with a disability to find work.

It also outlines plans for better links between the National Disability Insurance Scheme and employment services, the setting up of targets in the public sector for employment of people with disabilities, and working with business to increase employment of people with disability in the private sector.

In arguably the most detailed and fleshed-out section of the report, Labor called for "urgent action on family and domestic violence crisis," including holding a national crisis summit within 100 days of taking office.

Labor also committed $43 million to frontline legal services, an initial $15 million for grants to community agencies in the family violence sector, and $8.4 million in "research on mapping perpetrator interactions across family violence, law enforcement, justice, child protection and related systems."

In early childhood policy, the report flags the possibility of setting up child and maternal health services in "alternative settings" like shopping centres or schools to promote ease of access for families, as well as committing to improving perinatal mental health services, affordable child care for every child, and pre-school for three-year-olds.

In education, by 2020 Labor would look to have a 95 percent Year 12 completion rate, all students studying maths or science to Year 12, and computer science and coding being taught in every Australian school. By 2025, Labor said it would hope to bring Australia to the top five countries in reading, maths and science, as well as linking Australian schools with "at least one school in Asia," and encouraging students to study an Asian language or culture.

Labor also committed to "reversing the Liberal Government’s cuts to higher education, and ruling out the Liberals’ deregulation of undergraduate fees."

In launching the document on Wednesday night, Macklin will tell a gathering that the policy is more than an election sweetener.

"This is not an election manifesto. Its purpose is larger and its vision is longer. Ideas pay no heed to news cycles or election dates, and they outlive governments," she will say.

"We want this report to spark a new, positive discussion about the shape of social policy in Australia, and its role in creating a stronger and fairer economy."

"We can be an Australia where more people are contributing to our growth, and more people are sharing in our success. An Australia where we are growing together. "

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