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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9614


Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (14:47): My question is to the Prime Minister. How will the government continue to ensure that Australians have both the benefit and the dignity of work in a changing but strong economy?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:47): I sincerely thank the member for her question. It enables me to advise the House that on 6 October the government will host a future jobs forum. It will follow the tax forum. As the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer has just outlined to the House, the fundamentals of the Australian economy are strong. Indeed, our economy is the envy of the world. We saw a good growth number. We continue to see unemployment at a far lower rate compared with countries like the US and the UK. We need to remind ourselves that we went into the global financial crisis with an unemployment rate around the same as the American unemployment rate. We have come out of the global financial crisis and into these days beyond with an unemployment rate that is pretty close to half the unemployment rate in the United States of America. So we are able to offer people the benefits and dignity of work, we are able to see growth in our economy and we are seeing rapid growth—turbocharged growth—in our resources sector, with more than $400 billion of investment in the pipeline.

We understand that this also means that our currency is very high. Our Australian dollar is high and will be high for some period of time to come. That does put pressure on other sectors of the economy—what we have referred to as patchwork pressures. I therefore believe it is important that we bring together representatives of business, of unions, of representative employer organisations and academics to talk about jobs for the future. Our economic fundamentals are strong today, but there is nothing more important to this government than Australians having jobs, which is why we acted so quickly and effectively to support jobs during the global financial crisis. It is why we continue to work to support jobs today. It is why we have put in place the policies and plans that will enable us to see jobs in the future. This includes our work in skills and apprenticeships; our work in human capital generally; our work in rolling out infrastructure in roads, rail and ports; our work in building the National Broadband Network and bringing that new technology to Australia because it will equal new jobs; our work in pricing carbon and the creation of a clean energy future and clean energy jobs; our work with the manufacturing sector to ensure that we continue to be a country that makes things—and we will continue to resist the opposition's calls to take hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars away from our manufacturing sector. We will resist the opposition's calls to do that because, unlike them, we want to see a country where we continue to make automobiles and engage in high-value-added manufacturing.

We believe it is an appropriate time, particularly following the tax forum, to bring together representatives to talk about jobs for the future. The government will be there and will be vitally interested in jobs. Of course, I expect the opposition to ignore the whole event because they are not interested in ensuring that Australians have the benefits and dignity of work.