21 May 2023

We know these are difficult times for many Australians.

Opinion piece: We’re laying stronger foundations for a better future

Published in The Daily Telegraph

We know these are difficult times for many Australians.

Grocery prices and mortgage repayments are going up, and household budgets are feeling the squeeze.

But despite the challenges, Australians have every right to be proud of what we have achieved together over the past 12 months.

Unemployment remains near a 50‑year low, with more than 330,000 jobs created in the past year.

Wages have started moving again after nearly a decade of stagnation.

And our economy is forecast to grow faster this year than the US, UK or Japan – in fact faster than all of the major advanced economies.

In its first year in office, the Albanese Government has been absolutely focused on helping Australians doing it tough, while beginning the hard yards of getting the nation's finances back on track.

Last week we announced the biggest budget turnaround in history. Treasury is now forecasting a small surplus this year, which would be the first in 15 years. This is a dramatic turnaround from the forecasted $78 billion deficit we inherited from the former government.

We wouldn’t be in this position without the restraint we’ve shown in two budgets, or if we’d copied the approach of our predecessors who spent the majority of revenue upgrades.

Our Government’s actions have not only meant national debt is expected to be hundreds of billions of dollars lower over the coming years, but we are on track to save tens of billions of dollars in interest costs.

But a stronger budget is not an end in itself. It's a foundation on which we build everything that we want to do for our people and our society.

The Albanese Government’s responsible economic and budget management in its first 12 months has meant we’ve been able to extend and broaden opportunities right throughout our country and invest in the future of our economy and our people.

We’re repairing the broken energy market and investing in cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy. We’re supporting more high‑skill, high‑wage manufacturing jobs. We are laying the foundations for future growth by seizing the opportunities of the net zero transformation, including by investing in the industries of the future like hydrogen production. And we’re working closely with state governments, investors and the building industry to build more houses that our nation desperately needs.

When we came to office in May last year inflation had begun to sprint, interest rates were already on the rise, and the war in Ukraine was impacting international energy markets.

That’s why a focus of our Government has been providing responsible cost‑of‑living relief to help take the pressure off Australian households.

Our policies have been carefully designed to provide targeted support to Australians and deliver an economic dividend while not adding to the price pressures in the economy.

We have cut the cost of prescription medicines, we are making early childhood education and care cheaper for millions of families, and we’re helping hundreds of thousands more Australians get the skills they need for better jobs through fee‑free TAFE and vocational training. 

Our intervention in the energy market has already taken some of the sting out of rising power prices. And, in the months ahead, we’re providing direct electricity bill relief to more than five million households and one million small businesses to help with power bills.

A centrepiece of last week’s Budget was the largest investment in bulk billing incentives ever, making it easier and cheaper for Australians to see their doctor.

This $3.5 billion boost will support 11.6 million eligible Australians, including children, pensioners and other concession cared holders, to access a GP with no out‑of‑pocket costs.

The Budget also included funding to build eight more Medicare Urgent Care Clinics so people in regional communities and growing suburbs can see a GP.

These initiatives will take some of the pressure off our public hospitals and emergency departments, while helping ensure the quality of healthcare in this country is guaranteed not by your credit card, but by your Medicare card.

While many challenges remain, what we have managed to accomplish in these past 12 months only makes me more optimistic and ambitious for our economy, our country and our people.

We know there is more to do to make our economy more inclusive, resilient and less vulnerable to the shocks that can come at us from abroad.

Over the coming months and years, the Albanese Government will continue its work to strengthen the foundations for a better future.