Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's address to CEDA's State of the Nation

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's address to CEDA's 2023 State of the Nation

Well, thanks very much Harlene for that very warm introduction and thank you to Curtin Uni for being one of the sponsors of this event, but more importantly on my recent visit to Curtin I saw exactly how much you are at the forefront of the new economy, as it will emerge in future years.

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

And I'm proud to lead a government which will give every Australian the opportunity to vote for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a referendum later this year.

And I thank Paul House for once again giving us a superb Welcome to Country. I've seen Paul do a few now in this room I haven't seen yet the glass Yidaki brought out before. So thank you for sharing what is the ultimate merging of old culture going back all those tens of thousands of years with very new technology.

It is great to be with you this morning to talk about what our government is doing to enhance Australia's economic security in a time of global uncertainty and to discuss the reforms that we're undertaking to drive Australia's future prosperity and our productivity.

This is the essential balance that defines our approach as a Labor government. Dealing with the pressing challenges of the here and now while never losing sight of the future.

I note in the introduction, talking about John Curtin. John Curtin established the Ministry for Post-War Reconstruction in 1942 with Ben Chifley. Think about that. Think about that, that incredible foresight that laid the groundwork for the prosperity in the post-war era.

My government does take a similar approach to the pandemic. What are the lessons that we can learn? How do we provide support in the immediate term in a way that builds for the long term?

And this is a balance that CEDA has long understood. It is a thread that runs through all the conversations at the State of the Nation conferences that I’ve been attending for some time now.

Focusing on the present challenges that Australia has to overcome while looking to the opportunities we must work together to seize.

This approach was central to the Budget that Treasurer Jim Chalmers handed down here just over a month ago.

Helping people through adversity while laying stronger foundations for our future prosperity.

Providing cost of living relief that also delivers an economic dividend.

Tripling the Medicare bulk billing incentive to help 11 million Australians see their local GP for free.

Cutting the costs of medicines for up to 6 million people, energy bill relief for over five million households and one million small businesses

Supporting people who are doing it tough with increases to Job Seeker and rent assistance and improvements to the single parent.

All of these initiatives build on the actions of our first year in government.

In particular, they complement the savings we're delivering for 1.2 million families through cheaper childcare that starts on the 1st of July.

And the first stage of our plan for cheaper medicines, which took effect on the 1st of January this year.

Just as importantly, as we did in our first budget last October, we are returning the vast majority of revenue upgrades to the budget, reducing waste and delivering significant savings, meaning we can forecast a surplus, the first in 15 years, taking these responsible decisions to strengthen the budget position is critical when the International economic outlook remains highly uncertain.

Outside of the GFC and pandemic, the Treasury forecast for global growth is the weakest it's been in two decades, a message that was reinforced by the OECD just last week.

Advanced economies around the world are dealing with the very difficult combination of high inflation and rising interest rates.

Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine continues to impact international Energy markets and supply chains, and tight financial conditions overseas following recent bank collapses are adding to the climate of risk.

Australia is not immune from any of this uncertainty, but perhaps more than any other country in the world, we have what it takes to emerge from these challenging times in a stronger position by not retreating into ourselves, not by falling back on the same failed strategies of the decade just gone, not by papering over the cracks exposed by the pandemic, or, most importantly, refusing to learn its lessons.

There is no security in that, only stagnation. Australia's future security and our future prosperity depend on our economy breaking new ground, attracting new sources of international investment, diversifying our future exports, beating the skills of our workforce, building greater resilience in our supply chains, moving more of our businesses up the international value chain and supporting the full, equal, respectful and overdue participation of women in the economy.

This is the dynamic, competitive and diversified economy that we are already working with business to build and we're seeing encouraging results.

The most jobs created in the first year of any government in Australian history. Record levels of participation, including a record number of women in full-time work. Wages growing at the fastest rate in a decade, and real wages growth forecast for next year.

We're proud of this record, but we're not resting on it, because we know that after a wasted decade, there is not a day to waste.

We know Australia can't afford to just wait and watch and react to the clean energy transformation, the growth of the care and support economy or breakthroughs in technology.

We have to seize these opportunities, acting with purpose and urgency, to turn our natural advantages into national economic strengths.

That starts with clean energy.

It's now crystal clear that the certainty provided by our legislated emissions reduction target has delivered a step change in investment.

In the last year investment in large-scale solar and wind projects increased by nearly 50 per cent, with 4.3 gigawatts of large-scale renewables to be added to the energy pipeline and up to power three million homes.

And it's not confined to large-scale investors, it's households and businesses too.

Last year, investment in rooftop solar was 22 per cent higher than forecast, with the majority of that growth, not surprisingly, coming in the second half of the year.

And of course, getting renewables up means getting emissions down. These record levels of rooftop solar saw emissions from electricity fall by 3.5 per cent. That's five and a half million tonnes of carbon dioxide taken out of the system.

Renewable energy helps the environment. It means lower bills for households and lower input costs for business.

It also presents the defining opportunity for economic growth. The chance for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower.

Guaranteeing our energy security reinforces our economic sovereignty.

It gives us the opportunity to supply the economies of our region with green energy, strengthening our trade partnerships.

For our suburbs and regional towns it means creating a new generation of advanced manufacturing in renewable technology.

Our National Reconstruction Fund will back the creation of these new jobs and industries.

Our investments in 480,000 fee-free TAFE places, 20,000 additional university places and renewable energy apprenticeships will make sure that Australians are trained up to seize these opportunities.

The new initiatives in last month's budget, especially our Hydrogen Headstart programme are about ensuring that places like Gladstone, the Hunter, Whyalla can sustain and grow large-scale energy-intensive industry and transport while reducing our emissions.

Exporting green hydrogen as an energy source, but also producing green steel, green aluminum, green ammonia. Products and resources that will only become more valuable and more sought after as markets around the world make that transition to net zero.

The clean energy transformation underpins our government's economic growth plan. Growing the care and support economy and adopting breakthroughs in technology are both critical to boosting our productivity.

And that's an urgent priority because the last decade has seen Australia's worst productivity performance on record, including the last three years, where it essentially has not grown at all.

Productivity growth is more than just a box to tick, it's essential for sustaining and sharing economic growth, building long-run prosperity and improving living standards.

And it's the big workforces that can deliver the big wins. The care and support economy already represents 10 per cent of our workforce. But that's set to double before 2050

This means we need to recruit an additional 285,000 care workers, a point always worth making in this context is a growing demand for care, and support is overwhelmingly a good news story.

It reflects the fact that Australians are living longer. More parents, women in particular, are participating in the economy, and more children are gaining the benefits of early education.

And people with disability are getting access to the life-changing support at the National Disability Insurance Scheme,

These services are Australian values in action: fairness, equal opportunity, compassion for others, and aspiration.

Because reliable, affordable and universal services arm people with the confidence to pursue their aspirations. To fulfil their potential, to strive for the best.

Better care makes us a stronger country because it means that Australians live better lives.

Better care can, and it must drive greater productivity as well.

For all the growth in the size of the workforce delivering this care and the growth in demand for it, over the past 20 years, productivity growth with the care and support economy has been virtually zero.

In the decade ahead, we cannot settle for a situation where the fastest-growing sector of our economy is delivering zero productivity growth.

That would only put pressure on other industries to somehow offset the deficit as well as undermine our future living standards.

Equally, we will not unlock meaningful productivity gains simply by demanding an already stretched workforce do more with less.

That's particularly true in labour-intensive jobs. Productivity gains have to work alongside improvements in wages and conditions and standards. Not against them.

This is where productivity isn't just about getting more work out of people. It's about people getting more out of their work.

For the benefit of both employers and workers, I've said it many times as Labor leader and I've held to it as Prime Minister, essential workers deserve more than just our thanks.

They should be respected, valued and properly paid for their contribution.

That's why our government has consistently advocated for workers on the minimum wage, making sure that they don't go backwards and it's no accident that these tend to be feminised industries that bear the brunt of those low wages.

It's why our budget funded a historic 15 per cent wage increase for the remarkable aged care workers of Australia, with $11.3 billion allocated.

That's why we've worked with small businesses, big employers and unions to revitalise Australia's broken workplace bargaining system.

For too long, the workforces with the most women, childcare, aged care, disability support have had the least bargaining power and the least pay.

Better bargaining will help us close the gender pay gap to drive stronger wage growth but also boost productivity. And technology has a key role to play. In this as well.

Technology can empower workers and the people they care for, supporting greater independence for older Australians who want to stay at home.

Telehealth consults breaking down the barriers of distance and the hassle of travel for people in remote and regional Australia and freeing our aged care workers and early educators and health professionals and disability support workers from the routine, mundane, unrewarding part of their job – the hours of data entry and record keeping and cross-checking.

Giving them that time back so they can use it for the human interactions and conversations and experiences that means so much and it makes such a real difference because that's what inspires Australians to work in these fields, it's what calls people to what are vocations.

It's what these workers are best at, and it's what we should empower them to do.

This is a productivity gain, but it's also a recruitment plan and a retention strategy.

This interaction between technology, productivity and the care economy will be a key feature of both the care and support economy consultation paper and our forthcoming Employment White Paper, and I hope that many of you in this room will contribute your expertise and insights to one or both of those documents and the national conversation around them.

The final point I want to make on technology is this.

The government, with Ed Husic taking the lead, is engaged in a lot of work to get Australia on the front foot when it comes to technology such as artificial intelligence, we recognise there is huge potential to seize, but we also appreciate there are potential risks that need to be appropriately managed.

But that's only one element. We're also investing in the fundamentals, upgrading the NBN, so more Australians have access to high-speed, full fibre connections, particularly in the regions.

Digital apprenticeships to train the tech workers we need and meet our target of 1.2 million technology-related jobs by 2030.

Improving cybersecurity with an emphasis on helping small business and corporate Australia to protect their data and their client’s privacy.

And a new push to help small businesses adopt digital technology with confidence.

As a rule, very few companies come up with an innovative idea that is completely new to the world. But many, many firms achieve remarkable success by recognising the value and potential of an idea when it emerges and then applying it.

That's where we can put more focus in Australia, embracing new ideas, grasping the scale and application of new technologies, and changing the way we do business to maximise the benefits of those technologies.

Because if we can lift our game here. If we can give more businesses the confidence to take on new technologies more quickly and more workers to use technologies more strategically, then not only will we achieve stronger growth, it will also be more widely shared across the economy.

To conclude on the State of the Nation after our first year in office. When my colleagues and I were campaigning during the election just over a year ago, we knew that Australia was facing a period of economic uncertainty.

We knew there was a shocking legacy of waste and neglect that we would have to deal with and we knew that events beyond our borders and outside our control would bring significant and complex and unpredictable challenges.

But we sought the privilege and the opportunity of government to take up these challenges, to take them on.

To look after Australians doing it tough. To help people under pressure here and now. But all while never taking our eye off the future agenda.

That's why people turn to Labor governments. They trust us to make the right decisions for the present, but importantly as well to shape the future.

While my colleagues and I always understood the world would present us with challenges, we also held to the belief that it would offer us great opportunities.

And those opportunities are before us right now: the opportunity to be our renewable energy superpower and to use that to drive becoming a manufacturing powerhouse, to lead the world, in the standard of care and support that we offer for our citizens, to drive a new wave of productivity in our big firms and our small businesses and our startups.

We have the resources, the people that get up and go to seize this moment. Our government is determined to make sure that we do just that.

We are a government with a sense of purpose. Grasping those opportunities and sharing them is at the very heart of that purpose.

In our first year, I believe that we've laid a very strong foundation. That was the theme of our budget. In the year ahead we'll continue to build the better future that the Australian people voted for. To shape that future rather than be stagnant and allow that future to shape us, thanks very much.