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Speech to the Tourism, Aviation and Transport Infrastructure Summit, Canberra

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Speech to the Tourism, Aviation and Transport Infrastructure Summit, Canberra WED 21 SEPTEMBER 2011

Prime Minister

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to the nation’s capital to share in this important gathering.

TTF is a serious organisation with a serious agenda.

Through your advocacy and research over 21 years, you’ve earned a front seat in the reform conversation.

I’m proud to share and extend that conversation here with you this morning.

With our historic Clean Energy Future Bills currently in the Parliament, there couldn’t be a better time to emphasise the timeliness and urgency of reform.

Reform is what we do to ensure the future is better than today.

Reform means taking care of the nation’s business.

The hard tasks that never become easier with deferral and delay.

As advocates for infrastructure, you understand what I mean.

You watched through the 2000s as the project list grew longer and the political will grew shorter.

An infrastructure deficit compounded by a skills deficit.

By repeated, failed plans to roll out nation-wide broadband and deal with Telstra’s market domination.

By a tax and welfare system that penalised effort and kept too many working-age people out of a job.

And a succession of false starts on dealing with the scientific and economic reality of climate change.

Labor came to government to do the nation’s work.

It hasn’t always been perfect.

But that decade worth of backlog is now being broken away, piece by piece.

Our reforms have always been the right thing for the nation.

But they take on an even deeper significance as the Asian century unfolds before us.

Yes, we are in period of uncertainty due in part to events in Europe and the US, and I don’t underestimate their seriousness for a moment.

But it is precisely our location in the Asia Pacific, at the right time in history, that positions us very differently than before.

Thanks to the work of reform since 1983, and really since Whitlam cemented ties with China in 1972, our fortunes have increasingly been connected to the dynamism of the region in which we live.

Well and truly within our lifetimes, the economies of China and then India will surpass the United States economy in size.

By just 2030, two-thirds of word’s middle class consumers are expected to be located in the Asia Pacific region.

Like us, they will enjoy access to international travel, purchase consumer goods and services, and seek excellent levels of education.

To put it simply, Asia will not only be the world’s biggest production zone but also the biggest consumption zone.

As a result, the Australian economy of the future will look different to the economy of today.

The demand for minerals that results from Asia’s growth is not a short-term mining boom like the late 60s or the early 80s.

Our terms of trade are high and may remain high for decades.

We need to be honest about the change that this is bringing to our economy.

This long-term transformation is creating pressure on sectors that export or compete with imports, and that pressure is unlikely to recede.

Industries like manufacturing and tourism will have a place in the future Australian economy, but only if they continue to become smarter.

With investments in quality, technology and innovation, we know that they can be.

Indeed, we should be confident that with Asia’s transformation comes Australia’s opportunity.

It means rising demand for minerals and petroleum products.

But it means so much more.

Asia’s rise means growing markets for our services and quality manufactured goods.

In fact, it’s worth keeping mining in some perspective.

Despite the big increase in mineral prices, Australia earned more from providing services to China last year than it did from selling coal.

Since 2003, the mining sector has grown at an annual average rate of 1.8 percent, while the services sector has grown by 3.1 percent.

Services exports to China have grown at an annual rate of about 20 per cent over the past decade.

Jobs in mining itself don’t even begin to exhaust the opportunities that are emerging from Asia’s expansion.

There is a rich cluster of associated industries such as engineering, logistics and transport, chemical products such as explosives, and information technology.

Add to it finance, accounting and legal services.

Tourism and education.

Fine food and wine.

Creative industries and media.

Things Australia is good at.

Things Asia will want to buy.

Our priority, as it has always been, is to create jobs and seize opportunities for Australia:

To achieve sustained prosperity for the whole nation, brought about through balanced economic growth.

But only the reform road takes us there.

Reform for our needs and reform for our times.

I am frequently disappointed, but never surprised, when I hear pundits say that all we need to do is raise the GST and bring back WorkChoices and all will be well.

It is a narrow analysis that completely misreads the circumstances in which Australia is placed.

An illusion that misrepresents the past and endangers the future.

It misrepresents the past because the prosperity of the 2000s, though real, was in many ways lazy prosperity.

Productivity fell behind.

We didn’t invest in the capabilities that could make the Asian century work for us.

If we are to build a modern, strong, resilient economy, it will take more effort on the things that have not been a big part of our economy in the past.

Like clean energy, innovation, infrastructure, skills.

That is how we create jobs and opportunity in the 21st century.

The things we didn’t do in the 2000s.

The things that will modernise our economy to make it more productive.

That’s why our Government from day one in 2007 has put in place the building blocks to gear our economy to unlock competitiveness and enhance growth.

Addressing patchwork pressures, and keeping our whole economy strong.

We will continue to invest in people through better training so they can get new jobs and better jobs.

That’s why in the last budget we outlined a $3 billion skills package and measures to promote workforce participation.

With the NBN, we will make Australia the most connected continent on the planet.

The NBN is expected to generate some $37 billion of economic activity over the life of the project.

Remember that innovation from ICT is the single biggest driver of business productivity.

It drives 78% of productivity gains in service businesses and 85% in manufacturing businesses.

Not cutting wages and conditions.

We will continue building the infrastructure that gets our goods to market and our people to work.

We’re making long term infrastructure investments

Like urban rail projects to unclog our cities.

Port facilities to free-up our exports.

Tackling the big legacy projects like completing the Pacific Highway upgrade by 2016.

And improving the quality of infrastructure through reforms to taxation and the way we plan for the future.

We will protect our ‘soft infrastructure’ - our people - with health, disability and aged care reforms that shield them from the misfortune that can touch us all.

Reforms driven by transparency, quality and choice.

We will create a seamless national economy, where federalism works for our nation’s interests not against them.

A national school curriculum to help families who move interstate.

National regulation of the medical and legal professions.

National workplace and OH&S laws.

Single national regulators for the transport sector.

A one-stop shop to register business names instead of separate systems in every State and Territory.

We will keep reforming the tax system to reward effort and foster innovation.

We’ve cut taxes most for the lowest paid and to attract those outside the workforce.

We will help maximise the benefits from the mining boom to increase competitiveness across the entire economy through a cut to the corporate tax rate and tax breaks for small business.

At next month’s Tax Forum, we will discuss options for a business tax system that supports, rather than inhibits change.

A business tax system that adds to the flexibility of the Australian economy will help us make the most of challenges and opportunities that we face.

And friends, we will create a future where economic growth is decoupled from emissions growth, and carbon finally has a price.

Not just because it’s right thing for the environment and for future generations.

But because our economic prospects demand it.

Global investment will flow to countries that have made the switch to a low carbon future and have efficient and modern industries.

Australia’s businesses will find increasing international demand for their research and technologies that generate less pollution and reduce energy consumption.

Don’t let anyone tell you our carbon price legislation won’t lead to change.

It will put change on steroids.

By 2050, the share of Australia’s electricity coming from renewable sources will increase from 10 to 40 per cent.

We’ll see $100 billion invested in renewable energy.

We will see sweeping changes in our energy supply, in our industrial production and consumer behaviour.

The nations that succeed in the 21stcentury will be those that decouple economic growth from carbon pollution growth.

The rust bucket, smokestack economies will be those that get left behind.

I don’t want Australia to be one of them.

That’s why pricing carbon truly is a “generation-defining policy decision”.

Friends, the legislation to achieve these things is before the House of Representatives, literally today.

The fourth time this issue has come before the Parliament.

Two decades since the need for action was signalled at the Rio Earth Summit.

After all those years of discussion and debate, the time for words is over.

The time for deeds has arrived.

Business always claims that it seeks certainty and fears its absence.

I offer these two certainties today:

• The carbon price will be law by Christmas. • The carbon price will commence on July 1 and today’s claims that the sky will fall in, will be shown to be silly, reckless and wrong.

That is the certainty I bring to the table.

The uncertainty comes from the other side of politics who are not just content with denying the science and denying the economics.

They are prepared to surrender our nation to the chaos and confusion of ripping this carbon price out of the Australian economy:

Rescinding tax cuts.

Rescinding pension increases.

Destroying private property rights.

Unravelling commercial loans.

Creating another decade of uncertainty.

And only ensuring that we have to go through it all over again.

Just like Fraser junked Medibank and we had to go through it all again under the Hawke Government to reinstate Medicare.

Because the science won’t go away.

The economics won’t go away.

Therefore this is our best and last chance to get this right.

To get it right.

And keep it right.

Friends, this conference is about leadership.

My Government’s task is to lead our country through this period of transformation.

To help navigate us towards a better future.

We are a young nation with an incredible capacity for self-renewal.

We did it in the postwar era with the immigration program.

We did it in the 60s and 70s through progressive social change under Dunstan, Whitlam and Wran.

We did it in the 80s and 90s with the Hawke-Keating reforms to our economy.

This is a nation capable of thinking big and looking far ahead.

It is not the fearful nation that others are appealing to.

I don’t recognise Australia in that version of our nation.

It is not the Australia I know and believe in.

My Australia is a nation that has done great things and will do them again.

We will manage change.

We will face the world.

And together we will succeed.

Thank you very much.