06 September 2023

The United States is Australia's good friend and strong ally. Our bonds have been forged in war, with our troops fighting alongside each other in every major conflict since the Battle of Hamel in the First World War.

We also share a set of values steeped in democratic traditions.

As a student of history, I am fascinated by this large, modern democracy that has dominated geopolitical affairs for all my memory - and beyond.

There is always a sense that if the going gets tough, we can count on America's support.

But for that to happen, there must be a strong America. It is not just important to our Pacific region but for the stability of the world.

And right now, the American economy is roaring back after the pandemic under President Joe Biden. That's good news for all of us.

“Bidenomics”, as it's been termed, has been hailed as the most successful set of economic policies the United States has witnessed in half a century.

That's no mean feat after COVID.

The impact of shutdowns is still fresh in our minds. It was surreal. The shuttered shops. The job losses. The fractured society that took a long time to find its way back to some sort of normality.

The Biden administration has been methodical and measured in its approach to economic recovery - and it is working.

In the US, inflation went from 9 per cent in June 2022 to 3 per cent in June 2023. And while households and businesses are feeling the impact of the Federal Reserve Bank (the US equivalent of the Reserve Bank of Australia) increasing rates, the public investment in infrastructure, renewable energy and manufacturing is boosting supply and supporting activity.

More than 13 million jobs have been created, including nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs, and small business growth over the last two years is the strongest ever reported.

There are also record lows in unemployment, especially for workers who have been left behind in previous recoveries, such as African Americans and Hispanic Americans, people with disability, and women.

A focus on competition is achieving gains for middle and low-income American families, because competition equals lower costs for consumers and higher wages for workers.

The Albanese Government's approach to economic recovery has similarities to that of the US.

And it is working for Australia too.

I don't for a second underestimate how tough Australians are doing it. We still have a long way to go but the green shoots are appearing.

The pain has been caused by a combination of increasing interest rates, global uncertainty and high inflation.

Help with the cost of living is this Government's focus. And I congratulate Treasurer Jim Chalmers on the progress that has been made.

Inflation is down. It is now less than half what it was in the March quarter last year.

Not where we want it to be yet, but it's heading in the right direction.

Responsible economic management has seen the first Budget surplus in 15 years.

And the Albanese Government has overseen a record number of Australians in work, with nearly half a million jobs created - the most by any new government.

But we're also finding other, more targeted ways to ease the stress on the hip pocket.

Child care is cheaper - great news for 1.2 million families - and we've expanded paid parental leave to support greater economic opportunity for women.

Health care is getting cheaper with more doctors bulk-billing and the costs of medicines halved for millions of Australians.

We've also increased the minimum wage and JobSeeker, and expanded the Single Parent Payment.

Energy rebates are bringing relief to many households, thanks to the Energy Price Relief Plan. Retail electricity prices are around 25 percentage points less than was expected before our government's intervention. In many jurisdictions, rises will be completely offset with direct bill rebates for eligible consumers.

Housing is a pain point for many Australians - renters, mortgagees, the homeless.

That's why the Government has put in place short, medium and long-term plans to tackle the challenges we're facing.

That includes working with States and Territories to help them meet the ambitious new national target to build 1.2 million well-located new homes over five years. I acknowledge here WA's Keystart program which has been great for West Australians trying to enter the home ownership market.

And we haven't forgotten renters. We're co-ordinating progress towards a nationally consistent policy to require reasonable grounds for eviction, and have implemented the largest increase in rent assistance in 30 years.

That's just some of what we're doing to help Australians deal with these difficult economic times.

Our approach is very much focused, much like that of the US, on supporting workers.

Whether it's standing up for casual workers, protecting workers in the gig economy or closing the loophole on wage theft, or fee-free TAFE place, we're here for the people who work hard to keep this economy going.

Ultimately, the economic recovery policies are pushing our nation towards the Australian dream of a fair go for all. Achieving that will be the measure of success.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday 6 September 2023.