Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's address to CEDA's 2024 State of the Nation

The Hon. Anthony Albanese gave a keynote address to CEDA's State of the Nation conference on 27 June 2024.

Thank you very much Kirsty and thank you to Paul House for the Welcome to Country. I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet this morning and I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. 

To my parliamentary colleagues who are here, thank you for coming along and to everyone involved with CEDA this is an important conference. CEDA plays an absolutely critical role in the intellectual life of this nation. 

You need to have forums like this which can propagate ideas going forward so congratulations on once again having me here, and everyone here, decision-makers, people from the business community at this ‘State of the Nation’ Conference.

It is one of the many ways that CEDA helps drive the big ideas and shape the important debates about our nation’s future. 

In the big economic conversations of the past six decades, CEDA has always been a participant and a contributor, not just an observer. 

Bringing together a wealth of perspectives and experiences and engaging in broad-ranging research. 

Ahead of this morning, I was thinking back to when CEDA hosted what was my first major speech as Labor Leader, in Perth back in October 2019.

The first of a series of vision statements that I gave when opposition leaders had policies that were costed.

That’s when I first spoke about my vision for an economy that works for people, not the other way around. 

A growing economy with good, secure jobs that strengthen families and communities. 

Fair wages that reward hard work and nourish aspiration. 

And the new skills, clean energy, innovation, infrastructure, competition and technology to boost our productivity and lift our living standards. 

An economy where we do not hide from change, or run from it – but strive to shape it and make it work for our people and our nation. 

This is the vision that shaped our policy agenda in Opposition and has driven our approach in Government, even as Australia has grappled with global uncertainty. 

The economic aftershocks of the pandemic and its impact on supply chains and inflation. 

The biggest international energy crisis in half a century. 

The devastating toll of natural disasters around our nation. 
 And the harrowing consequences of conflict in Europe and, of course, the Middle East. 

It is a powerful tribute to the resilience of our people of Australia that, in spite of these challenges:

Australia has a faster rate of economic growth than most of the G7. 

With a lower unemployment rate. 

Stronger jobs growth – 880,000 since we were elected.

A higher participation rate. 

Smaller gross debt. 

And, of course, unlike every single nation in the G7, we are delivering budget surpluses, not just one but two.

Since we came to office, just over two years ago those 880,000 jobs have been important and most of them, more than half a million of them, indeed, have been full time. 

Inflation is down from what we inherited substantially. 

Annual real wages growth is back. 

Unemployment remains at near 50 year lows. 

And the gender pay gap is at a record low. 

My colleagues and I are very proud of this record. 

But we know there is more to do, especially when it comes to helping Australians with their cost of living. 

There are three vital ways we do this: 

Getting wages up for workers. 

Getting costs down for families. 

And getting the Budget onto a stronger foundation, putting downward pressure on inflation. 

Making the responsible revenue and savings decisions that have put us in position to deliver back-to-back budget surpluses. 

And calibrating the cost-of-living relief we have provided through the past two years, so that it takes pressure off people, without putting pressure on to inflation. 

For example, at the start of this year, our Government made the decision, not an easy one, to reform the tax cuts we inherited, so they would benefit every single taxpayer. 

All 13.6 million of them, not just some.   

And in making these tax cuts better for low- and middle-income earners, better for young people, better for women and better for part-time workers, we made them better for workforce participation too, safeguarding against inflationary pressures.

It’s the same approach we’ve taken to strengthening Medicare, making child care cheaper, expanding Paid Parental Leave and investing in fee-free TAFE. 

These measures deliver immediate and meaningful help for people – but they are also productivity measures that are good for our economy as a whole. 

And our energy bill relief and increase in rent assistance – last year and this year – are designed to cut inflation, as well as cutting costs for households and small businesses. 

This is what building an economy that works for people looks like. 

Stronger wages, lower taxes and fairer prices.

And investing in the productivity and participation that will power and secure our prosperity for the future. 

These are the two priorities that have driven us for the past two years. 

Helping people under pressure. 

And making our future here in Australia. 

Both were key to the Budget that the treasurer Jim Chalmers handed down just a month ago. 

And this sitting fortnight is a big two weeks for action on both of these fronts. 

Next Monday, the 1st of July – we are delivering more help with the cost of living for every Australian. 

Starting Monday:

We are freezing the cost of medicines on the PBS. 

We are adding another two weeks to Paid Parental Leave. 

We are cutting $300 from the power bill of every household and more for small business. 

2.6 million Australians on award wages are getting another pay rise. 

And every Australian taxpayer is getting a tax cut.

There will be more help with cost of living to follow throughout the year. 

Including the increase in the Commonwealth Rent Assistance. 

New reforms to strengthen the Grocery Code of Conduct, making it mandated, ensuring Australian shoppers and farmers both get a better deal. 

And wiping $3 billion from student debt, while changing the system to make it fairer and simpler for everyone in the future. 

Next week, is also when we will bring in our Future Made in Australia Act, into the Parliament. 

This Act builds on the work we have being doing for two years to put Australia at the economic centre of the global shift to net zero. 

Delivering the clear, detailed, costed energy plan we took to the last election and secured a mandate to deliver. 

A plan to end the uncertainty of the climate wars and seize the opportunities of the move to renewables.  

That started with legislating our 43 per cent 2030 emissions target and our commitment to net zero by 2050. 

A move supported by so many of the organisations represented in this room and the full cross-section of the business community, the trade union movement and civil society.

We’ve legislated the Safeguard Mechanism, providing the certainty and incentive for business to invest in cutting their emissions. 

Our Rewiring the Nation policy - repairing and modernising the National Energy Grid after a decade of neglect. 

Our Hydrogen Headstart, Solar Sunshot and New Vehicle Emissions Standards. 

We’ve legislated our Capacity Investment Scheme and the first national auction is underway. 

Six gigawatts of capacity were up for auction – and the government has received 40 gigawatts worth of bids.

That speaks for the strength of demand.

And it represents a pipeline of new projects that will generate clean energy and create new jobs. 

From now on, our Government will be holding these auctions every 6 months.

And overall the Capacity Investment Scheme will deliver 32 gigawatts of dispatchable and variable energy capacity by 2030. 

The equivalent of half the current National Electricity Market. 

This is what happens when we provide the clarity and the certainty for investors to act.

This is why we have already seen a 25 per cent increase in renewables in the national grid in just two years. 

Backed by record new investment in batteries and storage. 

Meaning we are already half way to meeting our 2030 renewables target. 

We’ve approved over 50 new renewable projects since coming to Government, enough to power 3 million homes. 

And alongside this, households and small businesses are forging ahead with renewables. 

For two years running, more than 300,000 homes and businesses have installed rooftop solar. 

Australians are investing in solar because it saves them money - it works, it is safe, it is reliable and it is ready to go. 

Our Government is backing clean energy for these same reasons.

Because getting investment in renewables up brings wholesale prices down. 

And it builds our energy sovereignty, protecting us from future global shocks. 

Solar and wind and green hydrogen are energy sources where Australia has a powerful competitive advantage. 

And in a world where 92 per cent of the global economy is signed up to net zero, we can turn clean energy into a source of enduring comparative advantage, powering a new generation of advanced manufacturing. 

That’s what our Future Made in Australia Act is all about. 

Setting out a clear and comprehensive framework to drive new investment in making things right here. 

Working alongside the Production Tax Credits for green hydrogen production and critical minerals that we announced in our May Budget.

As well as our National Reconstruction Fund and its established mandate to invest in value-adding and manufacturing in priority areas including agriculture, defence capability, medical science and transport. 

And our new act will ensure that Government investment attracts and enables the flow of private capital into lasting partnership and long-term projects. 

The generation, storage and transmission infrastructure that will make Australia a renewable energy superpower. 

And the refining, processing and manufacturing centres that will create a new generation of good, secure jobs.

Bringing a new wave of industry and opportunity to our regions and suburbs alike.

Investing in our energy sovereignty, to strengthen our economic security and our national security.

This is about learning a fundamental lesson of the global pandemic – and identifying a lasting shift in the global economy. 

And in doing so, creating an economy that is more diversified, more resilient and more decentralised. 

By legislating clear Community Benefit Principles to support secure, well-paid jobs, invest in local skills and supply chains and support greater economic development, including in remote communities. 

This is something I know that CEDA has always championed.

The understanding that for Australia to realise our full potential, we must draw on the talents of our whole population and extend opportunity to every part of our country. 

Whether that’s green iron and steel in the Spencer Gulf or the Pilbara; hydrogen-drive supply chains in the Hunter or Gladstone; or clean energy start-ups and manufacturers in our suburbs, turning Australian innovation and ingenuity into high-quality products. 

This is about lifting Australia up the international value chain, by lifting up our national ambition.

Australia is the best in the world at extracting and exporting our natural resources. 

We set global standards in safety and sustainability and skill. 

And this will always be a vital part of our economic success. 

We also have the best clean energy resources in the world – the critical minerals and rare earths under the ground, the sunlight overhead. 

Some of the best universities and researchers and innovators in the world. 

Some of the most skilled workers in the world. 

One of the best social safety nets in the world.  

We also have as our greatest human asset, one of the most diverse and harmonious societies in the world, with diaspora communities that give us a family connection to every nation and culture, particularly in a growing sense, in our region.

And we are located on the doorstep of the fastest growing region of the world, in human history. 

Our vision for a future made in Australia says that all these national strengths and advantages can be brought together to build something greater than the sum of the parts. 

Striving for more than watching other nations create jobs and add value to our resources, before we buy the finished product back at a higher price. 

Aspiring for more than Australian scientists and researchers having to go overseas to commercialise their breakthroughs. 

And delivering more for our growing suburbs and regional communities. 

Opening the doors of opportunity by creating new university hubs and TAFE places in our regions. 

Building more homes and infrastructure – the ports and roads and rail that create local jobs in construction and connect farmers and producers and manufacturers to national and global markets. 

And ensuring that the transformative economic opportunities of clean energy are shared with the communities and workers who will deliver it.   

Our vision for a future made in Australia, is powered by our clean energy plan.  

Both are driven by a determination to seizing this moment – and seeing Australians share in its benefits. 

This progress, these jobs and this transformative opportunity all depend on the foundation of certainty. 

A detailed plan. Clear targets. Dare I say it, costings.

Legislation informed by consultation and engagement across industry and agriculture, business and civil society. 

And Government working to incentivise and enable the flow of private capital. 

To anticipate change – and shape it – in Australia’s interests. 

That’s why we see investors queuing up to back solar and wind – and the opportunities in green hydrogen. 

Equally, we know that for too long, through a decade of chopping and changing and 22 different energy policies without any of them being landed, the business community were in the hard place of moving ahead of government. 

Or acting in spite of Government. 

In the past two years, you know how far we have come, the progress we have made. 

And you know the grave risk and great cost of falling back.

That’s the true cost of nuclear power in Australia.

Not just the hundreds of billions of dollars in the cost of constructing the reactors more than a decade away. 

Not just the price households and businesses would pay for energy that is eight times more expensive than renewables.  

But the danger that another decade of denial prevents the action on climate and investment in energy we need right now. 

We cannot go back to the politics of conflict undermining business certainty and driving up power bills. 

We cannot afford nuclear power to be deployed as just another weapon in the culture wars. 

Australia has every resource imaginable to succeed in this decisive decade.

Critical minerals, rare earths, skills and space and sunlight, the trade ties to our region. 

The only thing our nation does not have, is time to waste.

In the two years I’ve had the extraordinary honour of serving as the 31st Prime Minister of Australia, I’ve visited communities in every part of our nation that have been devastated by natural disasters. 

People battling floods, bushfires, drought – and the long, hard work of rebuilding. 

These are reminders of the risk that extreme weather and climate change present to our country. 

But in these, the worst of times, I’ve been witness to the best of Australians: resilience, courage and compassion.  

And those same qualities are what will shape our future. 

The resilience to face adversity and overcome it. 

The courage to compete and succeed in the world.

The compassion that ensures every Australian is lifted up by opportunity. 

That’s how we continue to build an economy that works for people, not the other way around. 

A nation where no-one is held back, and no-one is left behind. 

A better future, made right here in Australia.