Last night, Prime Minister The Hon. Julia Gillard MP delivered an agenda-setting address to the Sydney Institute entitled “The Dignity of Work”.
In her speech, the Prime Minister provided an insight into the centrepiece of the upcoming Federal budget, which will be delivered by the Treasurer next month. She focused on the opportunity afforded by Australia’s strong economic position to increase skills and participation in the workforce.
The Prime Minister explained that although some areas of the economy are being strained by growth, others are at risk of being left behind, creating what she termed a “patchwork” economy. In order to manage this growth and improve productivity, the Labor Government is already taking steps to improve infrastructure, connect regional areas to major centres, improve skills through investment in education and reform the skilled migration program.
By making reforms to the welfare system, the Government will ensure that “income support is not a place where people are left and forgotten.” Rather, for the 230,000 Australians who have been unemployed for more than two years, the Government will take a practical and reasonable approach to ensuring that those who can work will receive the support they need to enter the workforce. The current economy, with its unprecedented demand for labour, provides the opportunity to boost skills and reduce welfare dependency. This will ensure that the opportunities created by the boom are felt throughout the country in the coming years.
Ms Gillard noted that her own values are reflected in the government’s focus:
“the boom, the participation challenge and the opportunity to cut long term welfare dependency mean that some of my own firmest political convictions are in fact the most urgent practical necessities of our day.”
A copy of the Prime Minister’s speech can be found here.