THE GILLARD GOVERNMENT: 10 KEY ISSUES
1 Mining tax: Julia Gillard's first move as PM was to defuse the mining tax row, essentially by giving in to the miners' demands. As critics warned, however, the tax has raised little or no net revenue so far, while the government has spent the money it assumed the tax would raise.
2 Asylum seekers: Ms Gillard's second move was to announce that asylum seekers would be sent to East Timor. That was quickly quashed by East Timor's leaders; a subsequent deal with Malaysia also collapsed. But when boat arrivals increased inexorably, as Tamils fled Sri Lanka and minority groups fled Afghanistan, Labor performed a U-turn to embrace most of John Howard's Pacific Solution, moving refugees to Papua New Guinea (and, in future, Nauru). But the boat arrivals continued to rise.
3 Carbon tax: Ms Gillard pledged during the election campaign that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led, but quickly dumped that promise to win the support of the independents and Greens. Parliament eventually voted to establish a carbon tax of $23 a tonne for 350 large emitters, just from 2012 to 2015, when it would be replaced by an emissions trading scheme. But a relentless campaign against the tax by Tony Abbott has made it a political negative, and Mr Abbott has pledged to scrap the tax if the Liberals win government.
4 The economy: Since late 2010, Australia has undergone its biggest mining boom since the Gold Rush. Mining investment has grown 150 per cent, accounting for more than half the growth in GDP, but much of the rest of the economy has gone backwards under the impact of the high dollar. The economy has grown by 3 per cent a year since mid-2010, its trend pace, and added 432,500 jobs. But growth in jobs and output slowed in 2012, unemployment edged up, and the Reserve Bank has been forced to take back all its interest rate rises.
5 The budget: Ms Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan pledged to have the budget back in surplus in 2012-13, but with little growth in most of the economy, and mining companies able to claim big deductions, taxes have fallen well short of target, and economists now forecast a deficit of up to $20 billion.
6 The NBN: Labor's ambitious infrastructure project remains popular with voters but has delivered only a fraction of its original target, with only 150,000 of Australia's 9 million homes now expected to be connected by June 30.
7 Afghanistan: Australia's distant war has enjoyed bipartisan support in Parliament, but with 39 Australians killed in the conflict, and the troops to come home in 2014, there is growing scepticism about what it has achieved.
8 Skills: The government has announced several reform packages to increase skills training. A record 185,000 apprentices and trainees graduated in 2012-13, but industry is also importing record numbers of ready-trained foreign workers through skilled migration and 457 visas.
9 Disability reform: Gillard has committed Labor to implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme at an estimated cost of $6 billion a year, but has yet to reveal how it will be financed.
10 Education: Labor has pledged to implement the Gonski report's call for an extra $5 billion a year to be spent on schools (and disadvantaged students in particular), but has yet to reveal costings.
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