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

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

23 June 2013

Treasurer's economic note

As we head into the final week of Parliament before the election, it's an excellent opportunity to take stock of how much has been achieved over the course of the last three years. When Labor formed government in 2010, the view from many was that our legislation and reform agenda would be hamstrung by minority government. They claimed that the Parliament would be gripped with law-making gridlock. How wrong they were. The 43rd Parliament has been one of the most successful parliaments in a generation. In this Parliament, more than 582 pieces of legislation have gone through the House of Representatives with a week to go. To give perspective, in the last 20 years only one other government has passed more legislation through the House.

Reforms for the future

Serious policy-makers know there's no such thing as a ‘quick win' when it comes to long-term reform. It takes courage and vision to land a reform that might not pay immediate dividends, but instead sets Australia up and secures our future prosperity. It's not just about the number of bills passed that shows the success of this Parliament, it's the scale and size of the reforms that the Gillard Government has successfully implemented. Huge reforms that are setting Australia up for generations to come like pricing carbon, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, Paid Parental Leave, DisabilityCare Australia, record investments in infrastructure, and tripling the tax-free threshold. The National Plan for School Improvement can be added to that list as well, if the remaining States and Northern Territory sign on. These come on top of the record increases in the pension and huge increases in the superannuation savings of millions of Australian workers.

While we've pursued this bold reform and legislative agenda, we've put in place the policies to ensure Australia's economy remains one of the strongest in the developed world. The Gillard Government will always put jobs and growth first, and the success of our approach is there for all to see. At 5.5 per cent, Australia's unemployment rate is the lowest in the developed world bar one, and we have an economy that has grown 14 per cent since 2007, despite the onset of the worst global economic conditions in 80 years. We have solid growth, contained inflation, record low interest rates, low debt and a near record investment pipeline – a remarkable economic scorecard, by any measure.

The reforms we've pursued are about making Australia stronger, smarter and fairer and they've been forged, then enshrined in the democratic centre of public life: the Parliament. For all the commentary, chatter and political gossiping that happens in the halls of Parliament House, it's what is achieved inside the Chamber that actually matters to the future of our country. It's in the Parliament that we nail our colours to the mast; where we use our voices and values to help make the laws for a better Australia.

The work of reform is never done. The same commitment and vision that have driven the Gillard Government's legislative and reform agendas for the 43rd Parliament will continue to drive us through the 44th Parliament, as we work to build an even stronger economy, a smarter nation and a fairer society.

Making the smart investments

The final sitting week of Parliament will be significant for the legislation that's being considered. New laws to ensure Australians are at the front of the queue when businesses are looking to hire skilled labour from overseas will be debated, and the Senate will consider legislation to enshrine the Gillard Government's education reforms.

Thinking about the sort of Australia that I want to see over the next 10, 20 and 30 years, I can't think of many more important pieces of legislation than the Australian Education Bill . The National Plan for School Improvement isn't just about our kids and grandkids, it's about our economy and setting our country up for the future. It's not good enough for only some of Australia's school students to have the opportunity to be among the world's top achievers – every child deserves this opportunity whether they go to school in South Australia or South Melbourne. The best education possible shouldn't be a privilege reserved for those fortunate enough to attend an outstanding school, it should be a right for all. Our reforms are a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver the biggest investment in schools in generations.

Our plan isn't just about the extra money. It's about making sure all money spent on schools is allocated according to need, and meets the extra costs of disadvantaged schools and students. Already, New South Wales, South Australia and the ACT have signed on – time is running out for the remaining States, and the NT, to sign up. If they don't have the courage to see this reform through, they will be doing our children and our country a huge disservice.

On Friday, the Prime Minister, Minister Garrett and I released new figures that confirmed increases in the overall funding allocations for every school, in every schooling sector, in Queensland over the next six years. The figures show that, under the Gillard Government's National Plan for School Improvement, Queensland government schools will receive a boost of around $3.3 billion, while non-government schools will benefit from more than $500 million over the next six years. In a State the size of Queensland, there are many schools in remote and regional areas that require extra support and extra resources. That is precisely what our plan delivers.

Growing Australians' superannuation savings

Another monumental milestone that will occur in the coming days is the start of the gradual increase in the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) rate from 9 to 12 per cent. There are few things more steeped in Labor values than our superannuation system – we invented it, we've nurtured it and we're growing it. From 1 July, 8.4 million workers will have the contributions paid into their superannuation accounts increased from 9 to 9.25 per cent. The SG rate will continue to increase each year until it reaches 12 per cent on 1 July 2019. The increase in the SG rate will deliver a substantial boost to the retirement savings of working Australians. New analysis released today by Superannuation Minister Bill Shorten and I shows the significance of these gains across various sectors. For example, the increase in super savings for a 30 year old employee who retires at age 67 and earns average full-time wages for their occupation is around $75,000 for child care employees, around $124,000 for electricians, and around $82,000 for hospitality workers.

In addition, the Gillard Government has also removed tax paid on superannuation contributions for people earning up to $37,000 from 1 July 2012, through our Low Income Superannuation Contribution. This is providing 3.6 million workers, including 2.1 million women, with a tax cut on their superannuation of up to $500 a year. The new analysis released today shows the tax cut for employees working part-time and earning average wages across various sectors. For example, the tax cut for a person's compulsory contributions in 2012-13 is around $457 for child care employees working four days per week, and around $338 for checkout operators and office cashiers working three days per week.

There's no doubt the superannuation system we have put in place is the envy of the world, and a unique economic advantage for Australia. Our national pool of superannuation savings was a critical factor in helping Australia avoid the worst of the global financial crisis, by ensuring that business had access to capital to keep our economy going, while others faltered. Our superannuation reforms will boost our national pool of superannuation savings by more than $500 billion by 2037. Australians can find out how much they will benefit from our super reforms by entering some basic details into the online Super Calculator at the MoreSuper  website.

But these investments, whether they be in superannuation, education or our nation's infrastructure, don't happen overnight and they don't come easily. They require a steadfast commitment to reform and the willingness to make the tough decisions for our kids and our nation's future. That is exactly what we have seen from the Gillard Labor Government and it is exactly what we will continue to see.

Check out my new Lilley smartphone app

As Federal Treasurer, I have never lost sight of what is important to people in their busy day to day lives. That's one of the reasons why this week I launched my new interactive Lilley smartphone app . A first of its kind in Australian politics, the innovative app is all about using the power of new technology and social media to provide even better representation to the 100,000 people I represent in the Federal Parliament. While I have extra responsibilities as the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, I pride myself on being a hard-working representative for Brisbane's Northside, always available to help no matter how big or small the issue may be. The great thing about this new app is that accessing assistance from my office will now be in the pockets of local constituents 24/7. I think it's a real game changer for how we do our jobs as MPs, and I'm looking forward to it becoming part and parcel of how I represent the Lilley community.

Wayne Swan
Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australia

www.treasurer.gov.au
twitter.com/SwannyDPM