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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3255

Economy


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (14:33): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, how is the government managing the economy in the interests of working people? How are we making sure that working people have the skills our economy needs and that we all share in the benefits of the mining boom?

Mr Abbott interjecting


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:33): I thank the member for La Trobe for her question, going as it does to the future of the Australian economy. I understand from the Leader of the Opposition's interjection that he is not at all interested in future jobs, future incomes, future prospects for Australian families. But on this side of the parliament we are. We understand that the Australian economy is in a time of change. The global economy is in a time of change. The region in which we live is growing very strongly, and that means that our economy is in a period of great change. There are huge opportunities during this period of great change, but there are also pressures, particularly pressures on our manufacturing sector because of the high Australian dollar.

The choice of government is, therefore, whether you stand still in the face of all of this change and do nothing or whether you actually take positive steps to make sure that this change works in the interests of working Australians. We have made that decision and we are determined that this change should work in the interests of working people. That is why today I was very pleased and proud to announce a major skills reform package, a new national entitlement for Australian workers for training up to certificate III; 375,000 new completions over the next five years; a new HECS for skills program to assist with the costs of getting upper level vocational qualifications. We are determined that Australians around the nation be able to get the skills they need to benefit in the opportunities that will flow as our economy changes. There is nothing more important to the prospects of Australian working people than having a job, having the best job and having the skills to get the best job that they can. That is why we have announced our skills reform package today. Tonight we anticipate the minerals resource rent tax will go through the parliament. Once again, that is about shaping the economy of the future and making sure Australians around the nation get an opportunity during this time of change.

Behind both of these policies is a fundamental question. It is a question of who you stand for and what you are prepared to get done on their behalf. On this side of the parliament we stand for benefiting the many; on that side of the parliament they stand for a privileged few. On this side of the parliament we stand for jobs; on that side of the parliament they stand in the way of those jobs. On this side of the parliament we stand for a fair share from the resources boom for all Australians; on that side of the parliament they stand for more profiteering by those who are already very, very wealthy indeed—the billionaires in our society. This is the divide in politics today: who you stand for and what you are prepared to get done for them.