The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
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Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

25 November 2012

Treasurer's economic note

It's easy to forget how unique Australia's economic story has been over the past five years. Unlike other nations that were knocked over by the global financial crisis, we stood tall and avoided recession. Unlike other nations that have struggled with anaemic growth, our gross domestic product has expanded by more than 11 per cent and we've climbed three places up the rankings to become the world's 12th largest economy. Unlike other nations suffering from high unemployment, we have created jobs – over 800,000 of them – and more Australians are in paid employment today than ever before in our history. Unlike other nations where private investment has dried up, our companies have spent nearly $983 billion to improve their efficiency and expand production. Unlike other nations that have had their sovereign ratings cut, we've been upgraded, gaining a triple-A status from all three major international agencies for the first time in our history. And unlike other nations burdened with unsustainable budgets, we are headed back to surplus with net debt a fraction of our peers. It's fair to say Australia has been in a league of its own over the past five years.

Total GDP growth since late 2007

Total GDP growth since late 2007

Standing Tall

Of course this doesn't mean all Australians have been on easy street. It's been a difficult slog for many over the past few years, particularly those from communities hit by the worst natural disasters in our nation's history. Some workers and businesses have also faced tougher conditions than others, being more exposed to the impacts of global turbulence, the high dollar and structural changes in our economy. While the challenges have been great, it's important we don't lose sight of the fact that no advanced economy has been as resilient as ours over the past five years.

Some invariably seek to downplay our nation's achievements. They try to pretend it's all been an accident of geology or geography. While this ignores the role played by government, it also – much more disappointingly – discounts the huge contribution millions of Australians make day in and day out. Good fortune has never been an adequate explanation for a sustained increase in prosperity. The fact is Australia's success has been built on the hard work and ingenuity of our workers and business, supported by well-considered policies, responsible budgeting and the determination to make the big economic calls. Our success has and will continue to be one of choice, not chance.

Building a Fairer Society

The focus of this Government over the past five years has not just been on building a stronger economy, but also on creating a fairer society. Our fundamental belief is that providing opportunity to more Australians is the best way to create prosperity over the long term. That spirit guided us through the dark days of the GFC when we acted to protect jobs and keep the doors of business open, just as it has guided us with all the reforms we've put in place over the past five years. These have included:

  • The biggest boost to the pension in Australia's history, which has increased the maximum rate by $172  per fortnight for singles and $182 per fortnight for couples combined over the last three years;
  • The launch of the first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme ;
  • The first national Paid Parental Leave scheme to help families look after their newborn babies at a time when costs go up and family income goes down;
  • Increasing the Childcare Rebate  from 30 per cent to 50 per cent to provide more support for out-of-pocket childcare expenses;
  • The roll-out of a National Broadband Network  to provide super-fast internet speeds to all Australian households and businesses no matter where they are – a critical reform in the Asian Century;
  • A price on carbon pollution to spur the transition to a clean-energy economy  while also supporting families with the flow-on costs, leaving over 4 million household budgets better off;
  • A Minerals Resource Rent Tax to deliver Australians a fairer return on the nation's mineral wealth;
  • More than $47 billion worth of personal income tax cuts;
  • A tripling of the tax-free threshold to provide greater incentives to work and to simplify the tax system;
  • Abolishing WorkChoices and introducing the Fair Work Act to restore fairness and flexibility to the industrial relations system;
  • Introducing the $6,500 instant asset write-off  and loss carry-back initiative to help support Australian businesses;
  • A series of reforms to create a more stable, secure and competitive banking system , including a ban on mortgage exit fees on new home loans;
  • A doubling of investment in roads, rail, ports and other infrastructure over the 6 years from 2008-09 to build our nation's productive capacity;
  • A record $65 billion investment in schools over four years with plans to deliver a new national school funding model;
  • Increased higher education funding, enabling an extra 150,000 Australians to undertake a university course since 2007;
  • A $3 billion Building Australia's Future Workforce  skills package to ensure our growing economy has the workers it needs;
  • National health and hospital reforms to provide more doctors and nurses, more beds, reduced waiting times, better accountability and more community control;
  • A mental health package to provide greater focus on prevention and early intervention;
  • Aged care reform to provide more choice, easier access and better levels of care;
  • An increase in the superannuation guarantee  to 12 per cent to deliver a more secure retirement to Australian workers;
  • The new Schoolkids Bonus  providing 1.3 million Australian families with help to cover the cost of uniforms, books, excursions and all the other myriad of expenses that come with getting the kids through school;
  • And during the week, the Government released the final Murray Darling Basin Plan  to restore our rivers to health, support strong regional communities and ensure sustainable food production.

Today we've taken another step forward with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation  board announcing the appointment of Oliver Yates as its chief executive. Mr Yates will oversee this important independent body, which will work with the private sector to invest in businesses seeking funds to get innovative clean-energy technologies off the ground. The CEFC, combined with the carbon price, the Renewable Energy Target and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, is predicted to help kick-start about $100 billion in investment in the renewables sector over the next 40 years. I welcome Mr Yates and the role he'll play as Australia transitions to a clean-energy future.

Although Australia has outperformed its peers in recent years, there's still plenty more work to do if we're going to grasp the opportunities of the Asian Century . That includes pushing ahead with major reforms to ensure every kid in every classroom has access to a world-class education and ensuring our businesses, schools, universities, hospitals and the broader community have access to super-fast broadband. Keeping the economy resilient amid all the global turbulence also means we can put in place classic Labor reforms like the National Disability Insurance Scheme to make sure we're taking everyone in the community with us in the decades ahead. We'll be introducing important legislation into the parliament this week to progress this reform – another step forward as we build on our nation's achievements.

Wayne Swan
Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australia