Kevin Rudd has pitched to the “battler” vote and small business at a campaign launch in which he declared Labor was “now engaged in the fight of our lives” but could prevail next Saturday.
Rudd told an enthusiastic crowd of the Labor faithful in Brisbane “I have been in tougher spots before and come back from behind.”
Going into the campaign’s last week with Labor significantly behind in the polls and facing a potential rout in western Sydney, the Prime Minister said a “young kid” had told him the other day “Kevin, we want you to be the comeback kid for Australia.”
The $268.5 million in promises, focused on jobs, includes a $200 million tax break for small business, $34.1 million to boost apprentiships’ tool allowance and $34.4 million for new local jobs and training boards.
The small business tax boost would start from next Sunday and provide an upfront tax deduction when these businesses bought new equipment worth up to $10,000.
Under the boost for apprenticeship tools, the amount available would be increased from $5,500 to $6,000 over the life of an apprenticeship.
In a move reminiscent of his threat on hospitals in 2007, Rudd has warned a Labor government would bypass states which did not maintain and grow TAFE funding, and set up its own TAFE network.
“I will simply not stand idly by and continue to hand over Commonwealth funds to state governments to run TAFE colleges, while those state governments cut their own TAFE funding,” he said.
A reelected Labor government would require states to “maintain and grow” their funding.
“If those conditions are not met by July 1, 2014 we will move to provide Commonwealth funding direct to TAFE colleges.
"If state government’s frustrate this ambition, then from 2015 the Australian government will begin directing its own TAFE funding into a new TAFE Australia Network, directly funded by the Commonwealth.”
He has also said that if reelected Labor would legislate to require all projects worth $300 million dollars or more to adopt Australian Industry Participation Plans, to ensure they provide every opportunity to Australian industry to supply into projects. This would be expected to generate up to $624 million in extra work for Australian industry and jobs every year.
Rudd said the core of Labor’s vision for 21st century Australia was everyone having the right to a good job, with fair wages and conditions.
“We also want an Australia where you do not live in daily fear of losing your job,” he said. “But where a job is lost, we need an Australia that helps you find a new job in one of the industries of the future.”
Under a “jobs, training and apprenticeships guarantee”, a new body, Jobs and Training Australia would bring together employment services and training systems.
Rudd said that the guarantee would have three parts.
First, if a person lost their job, within two days of registering with an employment services provider, they would get a return-to-work plan relevant to the jobs in their local area.
Second, job seekers would then be guaranteed access to either a publicly funded apprenticeship or traineeship relevant to local employer demand: if the person already had a qualification, they could access a VET loan: or they could access a university place.
Third, through local Jobs and Training Boards, Jobs and Training Australia would best be able to offer a real job relevant to a person’s skills, locally, regionally or nationally, drawing on the Jobs Australia Network.
Jobs and Training Boards would be rolled out in 42 “natural” labour markets from July 1, 2015.
Rudd said that “as Prime Minister of Australia I see my job as protecting your jobs, your pay and your basic conditions.”
Rudd repeated his attacks on Abbott’s alleged $70 billion funding hole and his generous paid parental leave plan, which the Prime Minister described as a “profligate scheme which provides $75,000 handouts to millionaires.
In an appeal to voters who are uncertain about a change, he said: "If you don’t understand how Mr Abbott’s $70 billion of cuts will affect your job, your school, your hospital - then don’t vote for him.
"And if you’re still feeling uneasy about voting for Mr Abbott, there is a good reason for that - because he’s asking for you to buy something sight unseen.”
The Prime Minister was introduced by his wife Therese Rein after Abbott’s daughters introduced their father last week.