Labor’s economic vision has always been about more than simply growing the economy – we also believe that everyone should have the opportunity to share in our nation’s prosperity.
The 2014 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report found Australia was the second wealthiest country in the world, second only to Switzerland. The report also found income inequality in Australia was low compared to other developed nations. Only six percent of Australians have a net worth below USD 10,000 compared to 29 percent in the USA and 70 percent for the world as a whole.
How did we get to this comparatively enviable position? There is no doubt that our nation and particularly Queensland, has benefited from booms in the mining and resources industries.
These sectors have created incredible wealth, but what are the key ingredients that have allowed people to take advantage of this success? Thomas Piketty, the author of the bestseller Capital in the 21st Century said, “The main force pushing toward reduction in inequality has always been the diffusion of knowledge and the diffusion of education.”
Here in Queensland, Labor has a strong track record of driving reform and investment in education.
Over the past decade, it has been Labor governments in this state that have quadrupled the number of kids in kindergarten, introduced an additional level of school – prep – and transitioned year seven to high school.
It is also true that when you compare Australia to a country like the United States, a defining difference is the role and success of the trade union movement.
Whether it’s ensuring those who work unsociable hours are compensated with additional pay, standing up for a decent minimum wage or fighting back when big businesses sack workers by text message – unions have had remarkable success redistributing power and wealth in favour of working people.
But while Australia is certainly leading the pack internationally, it’s fair to say, we have a long way to go.
There are far too many people who still don’t have access to the skills and education they need to take advantage of the jobs and opportunities of the future.
The Palaszczuk Government recognises that we can no longer rely on one (or four) pillars of our economy. It is becoming increasingly important that we broaden and diversify our economic base.
That’s why in this year’s state budget our government allocated $180 million for Advance Queensland - a policy that will see Queensland look forward, leading the way in scientific and technology driven industries.
Advance Queensland is all about attracting and developing the brightest talent and translating our best science and technology ideas into commercial and employment outcomes.
The budget also included $240 million over four years for Skilling Queenslanders for Work. A program with a proven track record of giving the most disadvantaged Queenslanders the skills they need to enter the workforce.
In my portfolio area, we are delivering a pipeline of infrastructure projects – with a $10 billion capital program across the state to support 27,500 jobs this financial year.
I know that good infrastructure, particularly public transport infrastructure, not only creates jobs - it also creates better communities, connecting people to services, education and each other.
Change in our workplaces & our economy are a true constant. How we adapt to this change, ensuring that everyone benefits from it, is the true test of a prosperous nation.
Labor governments should continue to ambitiously go after more jobs, new industries and greater growth – but we should never leave our values at the door.
In fact, it is our values - equality, fairness and sustainability - that will ultimately create greater prosperity for all Queenslanders.
Jackie Trad is the Deputy Premier, Minister for Transport, Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning and Minister for Trade.