site advertisement

Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Australian Economic and Social Outreach Conference

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

It’s great to be here in Melbourne again and to be back at a conference that has always grappled with the big challenges and this year looks ahead to a ‘defining decade’.

More and more, this means looking beyond Australia’s borders.

Because in a global economy that has never been more inter-connected, the decisions and conditions in Washington and Beijing, Brussels, New Delhi and Jakarta affect Australian farmers and producers, our miners and manufacturers, our industries and institutions and as our hosts from the University of Melbourne appreciate, our higher education sector as well.

Our Government’s approach is shaped by the inescapable fact that the global outlook is more uncertain now than when we came to office 18 months ago.

We can’t avoid that reality, nor can we frame a strategy only for best-case scenarios.

We have to deal with the global economy as it is.

This means meeting the uncertainty in the world, by investing in our economic security and strengthening our resilience here at home.

For our Labor Government, the starting point for this will always be job creation.

In our first 16 months, over 560,000 jobs were created.

This set a new record for any first term government in Australian history – and before we hit the halfway mark.

And of course, it’s not just the chance of a job that matters – safety, security and fair pay are all fundamental to the dignity of work.

That’s why we’re closing loopholes around insecure work, delivering reforms to revitalise bargaining and taking action on gender pay equity.

We have backed increases in the minimum wage – and funded an historic pay rise for aged care workers.

We’ve narrowed the gender pay gap to its lowest point on record– and we’re not done yet.

And instead of deploying low wages as a deliberate design feature, we’ve got wages growing at their fastest rate in more than a decade – with real wages growth on the horizon at last.

Just as importantly, we’ve put the Budget back onto a sustainable footing.

Our responsible approach to both revenue and spending has turned the $78 billion deficit we inherited into a $22 billion surplus.

The Treasurer, the Finance Minister and all of us are proud of that unprecedented turnaround and pleased to have delivered the first budget surplus in 15 years.

But we did not pursue a surplus for the sake of it. 

We know a stronger Budget position serves as an important buffer against international shocks and it helps put downward pressure on inflation.

Our Government understands the cost-of-living is the number one pressure on Australian families, which is why help with the cost-of-living is our number one priority.

Getting the Budget onto a stronger foundation and getting wages moving again are essential elements of this.

So too is the targeted support we have been rolling-out over the past year.

When I spoke to this Conference exactly a year ago, the week after our October Budget I explained the two key reasons behind our decision to return over 90 percent of revenue upgrades to the bottom line, rather than funnel them into one-off measures.

First, because we understood that a stronger budget would better protect us against uncertainty in the future.

Second, because spraying money around in search of a headline, as our predecessors so often did, would make the problem of inflation worse not better.

That’s why through the past year, we have focused on providing responsible cost-of-living relief that delivers an economic dividend.

Taking pressure off families, without putting pressure on inflation.

Helping people through adversity, in a way that builds for our future productivity and prosperity.

This is what ties together the $23 billion in cost-of-living relief our government is delivering.

A targeted and comprehensive plan that has actually taken half a point off inflation through the year.

Starting with cheaper child care.

Making child care more accessible and affordable is an economic reform that boosts productivity and participation for working women in particular.

It has also delivered real and immediate help for around 1.2 million family budgets, since July.

Child care costs decreased by 13 per cent in the September quarter.

Without our reforms, it is estimated they would have increased by 6.7 per cent.

It’s the same story for Energy Bill Relief.

We brought together State and Territory Governments to agree on $3 billion in direct help for over 5 million households and 1 million small businesses.

And we coupled this with action to shield industry and households from the worst of global price spikes.

As a result, the Australian Energy Regulator has found that average wholesale electricity prices for the September quarter were less than half those seen at the same time last year.

But if our opponents had succeeded in blocking energy bill relief – as they sought to do, all the way along – then households would be paying hundreds of dollars more than they are today.

That’s the difference between taking action – and saying no.

Between making a positive difference – and relentless negativity.

We see it in housing too.

We know there are pressure points across the housing market at the moment – for renters, mortgage holders and aspiring home-owners.

That’s why we brought together the States and Territories to agree on the most comprehensive set of housing reforms in a generation – to boost supply, deliver a better deal for renters, unlock new land and accelerate approvals.

Alongside which, we have delivered the biggest increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance in 30 years.

And the biggest investment in affordable and social housing for more than a decade, with our $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund which I’m pleased to say commenced yesterday.

This is all about helping with the cost of living now – and building more affordable, well-located homes for the future.

In health care, our two waves of reform on Cheaper Medicine have seen Australians save over $180 million on 16 million cheaper scripts.

The Medicare Urgent Care Clinics we have opened in suburbs and regions around Australia have already seen over 59,000 presentations.

Importantly, those are 59,000 visits not made to hospital emergency departments under pressure.

And just yesterday, the biggest investment in Medicare in its 40 year history took effect.

A tripling of the bulk-billing incentive that will help over 11 million Australians see a doctor for free.

This is vital help for individuals and important peace of mind for families.

But strengthening Medicare also strengthens our health system as a whole, supporting our GPs, backing preventative care and taking pressure off our hospitals.

Keeping our people healthy, keeps our economy strong.

And ensuring access to reliable, affordable and quality healthcare is fundamental to my vision for an Australia where no-one is held back and no-one is left behind.

So too is the support we are providing to the most vulnerable in our society.

Including an increase in Jobseeker across the board, with extra help for the long-term unemployed and older Australians looking for work.

And a long overdue expansion of the single parent payment for around 60,000 families, including 52,000 single mums.

No-one left behind means helping those most in need.

No-one held back is about ensuring every Australian has the opportunity to pursue their aspirations.

That’s what expanding Paid Parental Leave is about – greater flexibility and fairness for parents seeking to balance family and career. 

And that’s what fee-free TAFE represents.

Yes, it’s valuable help with the cost-of-living, a saving in the thousands of dollars.

It’s also about removing a barrier to aspiration, helping people gain new skills, or re-train for new opportunities.

It’s a chance Australians have grabbed with both hands.

So much so that the 180,000 fee-free places allocated for this year were all filled before September.

Enrolment in these priority courses has now passed 215,000.

Importantly, there are another 300,000 fee-free places being rolled out next year.

This is alongside the new National Skills Agreement we struck with the states and territories last month, the first agreement of its kind since 2012.

A fact that speaks for a decade of neglect in vocational education – and a milestone that shows the priority our government puts on every stage of education.

This brings me to the final element of the work we are doing to make Australia’s economy more resilient and more secure in these uncertain times.

The investments we are making in our future growth and resilience.

Job creation, wages growth and a stronger budget bottom line are vital here and now.

So too is the help we are delivering in health, child care, housing, energy bill relief and direct support.

But our Government never takes its eyes off the future.

That’s why we have made equality for women a central economic priority – because it is central to our future economic success and essential to boosting productivity.

It’s why one of the key outcomes of my visit to the United States last week was building greater collaboration in innovation, cyber security, AI and cloud computing.

Including securing an additional $5 billion investment by Microsoft in Australia and a commitment to train more Australians in new technologies.

It’s why I’m travelling to China this weekend, the next step in the patient, calibrated and deliberate approach we have taken to stabilising our relationship.

It’s why our Government is seeking to build on the tremendous competitive advantage Australia has in resources and critical minerals and convert that to a world-leading position in renewable energy, technology and advanced manufacturing.

That’s the focus of our National Reconstruction Fund – making more things here. A future made in Australia.

Even in the past couple of days, I’ve seen what this looks like for different industries in different parts of the country at the revamped Bundaberg brewery, the re-opening of the Darrell Lea factory in Ingleburn and new Sundrive solar cells coming off the line in Sydney. 

Australian businesses backing themselves to sell high quality products and technology to the world.

Moving our nation up the international value chain, boosting our self-reliance and safeguarding us against future instability.

This also requires us to ensure that Australian discoveries and innovations can be taken through the process of commercialisation, here.

So breakthroughs made in Australia, become products made in Australia.

And so we can build greater depth and diversity in our trade partnerships.

Exporting a broader range of products, to a wider spread of markets.

Strengthening our people-to-people connections in our region, including a greater presence for Australian universities especially in nations where the economic relationship has been underdone for too long, whether that’s India or the rapidly-growing economies of ASEAN.

Our nation is no longer at the mercy of the tyranny of distance, we now hold the opportunity of proximity.

And our government wants to make this count.

In areas such as battery manufacturing and using green hydrogen to produce green steel and other products, we are determined to do just that. 

I said at the outset that what happens in the world, affects us here in Australia.

We cannot isolate ourselves from the challenges and uncertainties we see around us.

What we can do, what we must do – is invest in our nation’s capacity to meet them.

Because being engaged in the global economy doesn’t mean outsourcing our destiny.

It means backing our people, by helping with the cost-of-living and investing in the skills, knowledge and technology that our workers and businesses need to compete and succeed.

It means strengthening our resilience and self-reliance, so we are better protected from future shocks and better positioned for future opportunities.

There are profound challenges ahead of us, no-one doubts that.

But equally no-one should doubt Australia’s capacity to meet them.

Our Government will continue to do everything we can to help people under pressure, here and now.

While doing everything we must to build our economic security into the future.

That’s been our focus every day of our first 18 months in Government, working for Australia.

And it will remain our focus every day we have the privilege of serving the people of Australia.

View Original | Disclaimer

Have Your Say

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia

Disclaimer | Contact Us | AusPol Forum
All rights are owned by their respective owners
Terms & Conditions of Use