In his address, which touched on everything from the invention of Australian bank notes and sheep-shearing to artificial intelligence and climate change, Mr Albanese sought to outline his party’s vision for a path forward for Australia in a post-COVID environment.
At the heart of Labor’s Sixth Vision Statement was an Australian future “powered by science” to address the nation’s future challenges.
Mr Albanese highlighted Australia’s now obvious reliance on services and the export of raw materials.
“We’re making ourselves vulnerable to a decline in living standards,” Mr Albanese said.
“But this is our chance to start turning things around. The future belongs to those countries that innovate, adapt and adjust. When it comes to repairing and building that economy, technology and innovation will be key to boosting productivity, growing local manufacturing and achieving self-reliance.”
Although Mr Albanese’s title is the Leader of the Opposition, his approach outlined throughout his vision speeches reflects back to a statement he made in the first few months of his leadership.
“I want to be the Labor Leader not the Opposition Leader,” he said. This approach has permeated through to each of his vision statements, where he has advocated for a collaborative approach with the Morrison Government.
Mr Albanese did, however, carve out a difference of position to the Morrison Government in his call for greater R&D funding.
Criticising the former Abbott Government for “hollowing out the CSIRO”, the Labor Leader blamed the Morrison Government for low levels of R&D funding, noting that “R&D investment has fallen between 2 per cent of GDP” meaning it was now below countries like South Korea, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, and Singapore.
Australia needs a comprehensive plan to create a supply of STEM workers, which is undermined by contracting out at the CSIRO and cuts to R&D tax incentives.
Mr Albanese bellies the best-practice countries are the ones that drive innovation more directly, focusing their national research efforts into areas of comparative advantage or ‘national missions’.
Despite this criticism, Mr Albanese has joined the Prime Minister in calling for the innovative policy solutions to be guided by scientific facts rather than ideologies.
In his closing remarks, Mr Albanese said “Labor understands intrinsically the core role of science in improving lives, strengthening the economy and, ultimately, lifting us up as a nation and making us bigger as people.
“To brighten the future, we need only look to the core ingredients we’ve relied on before.”