Economic push on PM agenda

AUSTRALIA must seize its opportunity to build a new economy and include every Australian in its growth, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will say today as she outlines a broad government agenda for 2012.

AUSTRALIA must seize its opportunity to build a new economy and include every Australian in its growth, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will say today as she outlines a broad government agenda for 2012.

In her first major address for the year, Ms Gillard, who declared 2011 a year of "decision and delivery", will implicitly concede the government must sell its economic message better when she says its job is to help Australians understand how the economy's fundamental strengths are driving transformations.

"We can build a new economy, one which is even stronger, one which is full of opportunity . . . where mining and manufacturing flourish and services grow, where the government manages the economy for working people, for the future," she will tell the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne.

Australians do not want to be forced to choose between "mining and the rest", nor between "a strong future for manufacturing and a strong economy as a whole".

There should be an economy where vehicle manufacture anchors employment in the whole chain of supply. This includes component makers, the toolers, the metal manufacturers, the suppliers of plastics, chemicals and glass.

Ms Gillard will say that smart and sustainable co-operation between government and industry is the model that has been pursued by reformist Labor governments in Australia for decades and point to the Button car plan of the 1980s.

She will argue there is "no case" for the Coalition's proposed $500 million cut to automotive industry assistance in this economic environment.

"Nothing could better illustrate the real stakes at play in Australian politics than this debate between the parties over government support for jobs. My government is putting jobs first."

Ms Gillard will say Labor governments promise "not just to manage the economy or to build its strength but to manage the economy in the interests of working people, to build its strength for the future.

"So we see not just an opportunity, but an obligation: to spread the opportunities of the new economy to everyone."

The government's 2012 agenda includes continuing to roll out broadband, a higher university intake, achieving a surplus in the May budget, introducing carbon pricing and the mining tax from July 1, funding tax cuts for small businesses and, over time, funding cuts for all businesses, higher superannuation, and new infrastructure in the regions.

The government will work on new business tax arrangements to reward innovation: a new approach to collaborating with industry will take shape through the new portfolio of Industry and Innovation. She will stress that the new economy will need workers every bit as innovative as its firms, whose skills grow as quickly as the sophistication of the technology they use.

"To keep up, everyone needs strong basic skills and the ability to learn throughout life", for new jobs not done now and existing jobs done in new ways.

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