Albanese's bold child care, energy plans

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese arrives to make his Budget reply speech in parliament.
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese arrives to make his Budget reply speech in parliament.

Anthony Albanese has promised more than $6 billion to slash childcare costs and a $20 billion plan to link Australia's poles and wires with renewable energy.

The opposition leader's budget reply speech on Thursday night fired the starting gun on policy debate between Labor and the coalition ahead of the next federal election.

An elected Labor government would spend $6.2 billion over four years overhauling child care including scrapping the annual childcare subsidy cap.

The maximum childcare subsidy would be increased to 90 per cent, cutting costs for 97 per cent of families.

"For millions of working women, it's simply not worth working more than three days a week," Mr Albanese told parliament.

The Productivity Commission would review the sector with the aim of implementing a universal 90 per cent subsidy for all families.

Mr Albanese said the current arrangements derailed careers and cost workplaces years of valuable experience.

"If I'm prime minister, I will make quality, affordable child care universal," he said.

Labor would direct the consumer watchdog to design a price regulation mechanism and examine the ties between funding, fees, profits and staff salaries.

An Albanese government would upgrade Australia's electricity system to better connect the grid to renewables.

The move is designed to create thousands of construction jobs linked to action on climate change and driving down power prices.

"Fixing transmission is technology neutral and will allow the market to drive least cost, new energy production," Mr Albanese said.

The bold plans signal the end of the opposition's policy retreat following last year's shock election defeat.

It is widely tipped Scott Morrison will send voters to the polls in the second half of 2021.

Countering the coalition's $1.5 billion manufacturing strategy, Labor wants a national rail plan to capitalise on public transport projects around the nation.

The plan would undertake a national audit of passenger train capacity and condition, develop a procurement and manufacturing strategy and reinstate a rail supplier advocate.

The existing $270 billion of defence spending on the books would face strict rules to maximise local content and create jobs.

On all federally funded infrastructure projects, 10 per cent of workers would be apprentices, trainees or cadets.

Mr Albanese reiterated his commitment to spend $500 million to repair 100,000 public housing dwellings.

In his speech, the opposition leader described the Morrison government's federal budget as an incoherent grab bag fixated on photo opportunities.

"Remember the 'back in black' mugs they were selling last budget, ahead of delivering the biggest deficit in Australian history?" he said.

"Perhaps the mugs should have said 'dirty deeds, done dirt cheap'."

Australian Associated Press