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Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Page: 11394


Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (14:11): My question is to the Prime Minister. How is the government undertaking reforms to create a clean energy future and make sure that, despite the patchwork economy, no Australian is left behind?

Opposition members interjecting

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:12): I thank the member for Corangamite for his question because the thing that is at the centre of his question is jobs—jobs for the Australian people, jobs for working Australians. I can understand why the opposition greeted it with scoffing, because they do not care about jobs.

In the days since this parliament last met the government has announced its intention to have an Asian century white paper. Almost every Australian would be able to give you chapter and verse about the resources boom—about the boom in mining. Many Australians participate in it themselves, live in a community that is affected by the growth in mining or have a family member who is affected by the growth in mining. People understand that there is a resources boom and that it is a good thing. It is a great thing for our country because it means jobs, opportunity and prosperity—with more than $400 billion of investment in the pipeline. At the same time many Australians say to themselves, 'It's fantastic that there's such record pricing for the things that we have to sell, but what happens in the days beyond the resources boom when we have fully exploited our mineral wealth, when we have extracted it and exported it? What happens in those days? What will those Australians do for jobs then, what will their children do?' These are questions on the minds of Australians as they contemplate the future.

The Asian century white paper will be about speaking to Australians about the opportunities that come from growth in our region. And those opportunities are more than the opportunities from the resources boom; they are about the spectacular development of the middle classes in Asia, with growth of 1.2 billion people in the Asian middle class by 2020—people who will want to buy our food and our wine, want to come here on holidays, want legal services, accounting services and international education, providing opportunities right across the Australian economy. But we face a challenge and the challenge in these days of the resources boom, as the Australian dollar is high and sustained, is how to make sure industries feeling the pressure of that high, sustained Australian dollar also maintain their competitiveness. That is why we focused in the Future Jobs Forum on working with those industries during the days of the patchwork economy—because I want to see us sustain economic diversity during these days and in the days beyond the resources boom. I want to see us come out with a more diversified economy rather than a less diversified economy. That is what the Future Jobs Forum was about. Interestingly, the tax forum was also about those questions of the patchwork economy. They were centrally before the tax forum in the reform propositions that people worked through.

We are determined to seize this future. It is about the mineral resource rent tax—so we can take tax from the turbocharged section of the economy and use it to support businesses elsewhere. It is about the NBN and the benefits of a high-technology future. It is about responding to the demands of a patchwork economy and making sure we are doing what we can to support Australian industry. It is, too, about seizing a clean energy future. We cannot be left behind as the world seizes clean energy jobs. We do not intend to have Australia left behind. We will fully seize the opportunities that come from this future.