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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 7624

Economy


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:16): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Evans. Can the minister advise the Senate on how the Gillard government's management of the Australian economy is delivering for working people?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): I thank Senator Bilyk for the question. The Australian economy is the envy of much of the developed world. We have an enviable combination of solid growth, low unemployment, contained inflation, sound public finances and a large investment pipeline. All this has been achieved despite the challenge of the global economy.

This morning the latest update from the IMF shows the ongoing challenges facing the global economy. IMF forecasts for global growth from 2012 and 2013 have been downgraded to 3.3 per cent and 3.6 per cent respectively, with recession in Europe and slow growth in the US impacting on global growth. But despite these challenges, the IMF is forecasting that the Australian economy will continue to outperform every single major advanced economy over the next two years—that is right, Mr President, every single major advanced economy. Based on the IMF's report on gross domestic product and market exchange rates, Australia is now the world's 12th largest economy. It has moved up from the 15th largest economy when this government came to office.

This growth in the Australian economy, this tremendous economic performance, is delivering for working people in Australia. An economy that is 11 per cent larger than when this government came to office means that there are more people in work. More than 800,000 jobs have been created in that period. Inflation is at a 13-year low, which gives the RBA room to cut official rates, and lower mortgage rates mean relief for Australian families on their mortgages. These results are delivering more jobs, more job security and a brighter future for working Australians, and it is a very good news story for the future of the Australian economy and Australian people.


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:19): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Following on from that, can the minister advise the Senate on how the government is ensuring that social and community sector workers get their fair share from Australia's strong economy?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:19): This government recognises that it is not just about creating jobs and economic growth. It is also about the quality of those jobs and about ensuring people are properly rewarded for the work they do. That is particularly important for the professionals in the social and community services sector. They are some of the lowest paid in Australia as a result of their work being dominated by women employees, and they have not been traditionally valued. The historic equal pay case from Fair Work Australia for those 150,000 workers provided a recommendation for increased rates of pay. These people are working in refuges, running support centres and programs for people with disabilities et cetera. They work hard and they deserve to be recognised. That is why the government will introduce legislation to ensure that our $2.8 billion contribution to their pay increases can only be used to fund these wage increases.


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:20): I have a second supplementary question, Mr President. Can the minister advise the Senate on how the Gillard government will work with the community sector and the states to ensure that these SACS workers get the wage rises that they deserve?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:20): This announcement by the Prime Minister today to introduce legislation to enable that $2.8 billion contribution will ensure that funding goes to wage increases for the SACS workers. We are looking to work with the states to make sure that we can deliver that historic Fair Work Australia decision. We have held consultations around Australia. We have set up a dedicated website on the implementation process and we are finding education campaigns. We have set aside our contribution in an attempt to support this wage increase. We are legislating that so that money is secure to fund these wage increases and we are looking for the states to contribute to make sure that these workers after such a long period get some wage justice and recognition for the work they do in our community.