Labor leader Anthony Albanese has made a pitch to reunify a country split apart by COVID-19 as part of a National Press Club address laying out his intentions for the coming election.
Mr Albanese used his speech to outline his vision for a different and revitalised nation post-pandemic with the starting guns firing on the election year.
Politics during the health crisis has been dominated by the prime minister and state and territory leaders with Mr Albanese still trying to cement his presence on the national stage.
The opposition leader's pitch called for reform to the federation to reduce the overlay of responsibility between states and the Commonwealth.
Mr Albanese said this had complicated the pandemic response.
“We need a clearer delineation of who is responsible for what,” he told the National Press Club.
“The duplication that’s there is a problem for our economy, but more importantly, during this pandemic, it’s been a source of enormous frustration from people as they look at buck-passing.
“We need to do better.”
This included Mr Albanese revealing that he’d already had quiet talks about the future with state leaders about the prospect.
“I’ve spoken to premiers, not just Labor premiers, about this on an off the record basis,” he said.
Mr Albanese's speech laid out a campaign vision, which he said will be focused on funding the medicare system, addressing concerns around insecure work and improving investment in TAFE and training.
His other priorities would be to revitalise manufacturing in Australia, improve the quality of the NBN and establish more affordable childcare.
“If given the opportunity, I want to make a real difference for the people of our nation and to strengthen the nation itself,” he said. “I want a better future.”
He also believes Labor can end Australia’s long-running climate policy wars after attracting widespread support from business, industry and farming groups for their policy.
“We can finally put the climate wars behind us,” Mr Albanese said.
Labor has committed to legislate 43 per cent emissions cut by 2030 on the pathway to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
Mr Albanese was also further pressed about his policy to make rapid antigen tests (RATs) free for the public, conceding they would not be unlimited.
The opposition leader has called for the tests to be made free for all through Medicare, in contrast to a government scheme providing this access only to concession card holders.
Asked whether there would be a requirement to ration RAT supplies under Labor’s plan, he replied the response would be “appropriately based upon the health advice.”
“It's not beyond the wit of the government,” he said.
“Well, a government, that was competent, to work this out.”
His speech also levelled direct criticism at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s handling of the pandemic in a preview of his attacks lines for the coming election.
“He doesn't hold a hose and he doesn't give a rats,” he said.
Mr Albanese also repeated a promise to legislate a federal anti-corruption commission within the first term of government.
“I do want more people to have greater faith in the integrity of its parliament and it’s representatives," he said.
“Our system is no more immune to the threat of extremism and polarisation, corrosive influence of corruption and cynicism, that threaten other democracies around the world."
He said he was determined to win over those who may still be unconvinced by the prospect of him becoming a future prime minister.
“If people think I'll go and you know, into a corner during the upcoming fight, they're very wrong. They're very wrong,” he said.
The election is due to be held by May this year.