“If government doesn’t act now, unemployment and underemployment for young people will hit record highs and they could bear the scars for a lifetime.
“The only way to recover from the current crisis and to avoid a lost generation of young people is to decisively break from neoliberalism.”
Mr Bandt’s speech to the party’s national conference, his first as leader since he was elected to replace Richard Di Natale in February, backs dramatic state intervention while attacking Labor and the Liberals for embracing free-market capitalism.
With unemployment tipped to double from its rate of 5.2 per cent in March, the Greens leader will call for a target of 2 per cent unemployment “so that everyone who wants a job, has a job” without forcing people to accept insecure work.
“We will offer every young person a guaranteed job on one of these nation-building, planet-saving projects if they want one, or a free place at uni or TAFE or an income they can actually live on,” he says, in a draft of the speech to be delivered on Saturday.
Mr Bandt wants the government’s JobKeeper payment of $1500 a fortnight extended to all casual workers and wants the JobSeeker unemployment benefit kept at the doubled $1100 a fortnight rather than returning to the regular rate in September, as planned.
Warning that bank mortgage holidays will end in September when the government payments are also halted or reduced, he warns that tenants will be loaded with debt to cover their rent.
“All of this is slated to happen in September. This perfect storm of austerity will supercharge the recession,” he says.
The Greens and Labor want JobKeeker extended to universities but have split on JobSeeker because Labor leader Anthony Albanese says the temporary rate should fall as long as it does not fall as low as the old Newstart rate of $555 a fortnight.
The Greens’ plan for an economic recovery includes a $12 billion fund to modernise manufacturing, a $6 billion upgrade to the electricity grid and a $6 billion Nature Fund to protect habitats.
Other elements include a $1 billion package for live festivals and performance, a $500 program for creative industries and the construction of 500,000 community homes.
The party’s policies also include making TAFE and undergraduate university courses free as well as making free childcare permanent.
The entire recovery plan assumes an increase in net debt of $250 billion to $300 billion over the decade ahead.
“Given that the government’s COVID response has cost $200 billion to be spent over a six month period, we believe it’s genuinely quite reasonable,” a Greens spokesman said of the party policy.
In policies that add to the budget bottom line, the Greens want to repeal some of the $158 billion in Coalition tax cuts to prevent the cuts for wealthier workers.
Mr Bandt estimates the Invest to Recover plan would create 870,000 jobs and would put the country “well on the way” to achieving 2 per cent unemployment.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.