Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called on Australians to stop complaining about the economy, which she says has more jobs and stronger growth than any of Australia’s peers in any of the major developed nations.
Addressing the Foreign Correspondents’ Association in Sydney yesterday, Gillard pointed to the 900,000 jobs she said the government has created since it came into office, an unemployment rate of 5.4%, less than half the rate in Europe at 12%, lower interest rates than since 1996 and Australia’s triple-A credit rating.
“It’s hard to reconcile this Australia with either the economic cringe which discounts our national economic achievements – or the political negativity which denies them,” Gillard said in her speech.
“It seems hardly a week passes when a respected overseas journal or international organisation doesn’t point out Australia’s good fortune and puzzle over our fractious politics.”
Gillard blamed the negativity on a “loud and clamorous” political marketplace where bad news sells and “crazy fear campaigns” abound.
The Prime Minister also said there should be no nostalgia for the time that preceded the global financial crisis.
“The days when our household savings ratio hit zero, when easy credit and rapidly rising terms of trade created a sugar hit that could never be sustained,” she says.
“Even then, with rivers of gold flowing into federal coffers, a priceless opportunity was squandered.”
Gillard said the government’s May budget will continue its focus on fiscal discipline and the government will continue to prepare for, what it has dubbed, the Asian Century.
“The economic order of the world is changing, in turn the strategic order of the world is changing, and we are on the frontline of the challenges and the opportunities that those changes bring,” she said.
Gillard’s comments about the negative perception of Australia’s economy come as the NAB launched a “Quarterly Australian Consumer Anxiety Index” which surveyed over 1,000 people.
The index found despite a much stronger economy, Australia’s wellbeing score was weaker than the UK, suggesting economic growth alone does not fully explain wellbeing.
Respondents rated the cost of living as the single biggest cause of anxiety and job security concerns rated lowest despite moderating economic growth and uncertainty over future labour market trends.
The index found women were more anxious than men, particularly in regards to their ability to fund their retirement.