Workers would gain permanent employment after two years under a Labor plan to cap the length of insecure fixed-term contracts.
Labor will announce the policy on Thursday as Bill Shorten prepares to deliver his final setpiece speech in Blacktown in the same venue as Gough Whitlam’s landmark “It’s Time” speech in 1972.
With most public polls showing the opposition ahead 51% to 49% in two-party preferred terms, Labor believes it is on the cusp of a change of government and is keen to link its proposed social spending, industrial relations changes and action on climate change to the legacy of the reformist Whitlam government.
The Coalition is focused on Labor’s proposed changes to housing taxes in the final stretch before polling day on Saturday, while Labor claims only it has a plan to reverse wage stagnation.
On Wednesday the Australian Bureau of Statistics released new data showing private sector wages grew 0.5 % in the quarter and annual wage growth is at 2.3%.
On Thursday, the shadow employment minister, Brendan O’Connor, will announce that Labor will limit use of fixed-term contracts to four consecutive contracts with a 24-month cap, after which an employer would be required to offer an employee a permanent part-time or full-time position.
The announcement follows promises to to withdraw and rewrite the Australian government’s submission in the minimum wage case and set up a specialist tribunal to compensate workers who have suffered wage theft.
O’Connor said in a statement that “too many Australians, particularly teachers, nurses and public-sector workers, face years of rolling fixed-term contacts and endless job insecurity, with no prospect of a permanent position”.
“Giving workers and their families some certainty to be able to plan ahead – to pay the rent or even plan to buy a house or a car,” he said. “Labor will consult with all stakeholders to implement this policy and avoid any unintended consequences, but our aim is to stem the ongoing rollover of fixed term contracts.”
On Thursday the leaders will make their final pitches for election, with Scott Morrison to speak at the National Press Club and Shorten at Bowman hall in Blacktown, a place he said “means something to Labor and Australia”.
Shorten’s key theme for the speech will be a “vote for change”, arguing that, like in 1972, this election is a generational decision for voters.
He will argue that “a new generation, in a new decade, has a new decision, and the door stands ajar”.
Climate change will be a major feature of the speech, which will be attended by his leadership group, western Sydney MPs and hundreds of grassroots supporters.
But the Labor leader will also use the speech to warn of the risks posed by a “coalition of chaos”, warning of the risk of a potential Morrison-Palmer-Hanson minority government, and urging Australians to vote for “a united and stable alternative, with a vision for the future”.
On Thursday, Labor will commit to spend $20m on a rail technology campus at the Chullora rail precinct in western Sydney to train up to 3,000 tradespeople and 400 rail workers each year.
However, the proposed investment is predicated on “co-investment from the NSW government … including a commitment to put public Tafe at the centre of rail training”, the shadow minister for skills, Doug Cameron, said in a statement. “Ongoing commitment from industry will also be required.”