“Our No.1 priority is getting people back into jobs,” he will say, according to an advance copy of his speech.
The government now expects unemployment to peak at 8 per cent in September, lower than initial forecasts of 10 per cent. A figure of 8 per cent would still be the highest unemployment rate in more than two decades, but expectations of double-digit joblessness have been tempered by the $1500-a-fortnight JobKeeper subsidy. The scheme, which has cost $13 billion to date, is supporting about 3.3 million jobs, according to Treasury figures.
“As we come out of the COVID crisis, infrastructure can give us the edge that many countries don’t have,” Mr Morrison will say.
“This isn’t just the roads and rail that get us to work and school. It is dams that improve water security and underpin an expansion of high-value agriculture. The telecommunications services that keep us connected.”
Government figures show by the end of this financial year, the Commonwealth would have invested $24 billion in infrastructure by bringing forward $7.8 billion in investment on priority projects not scheduled to occur until later years.
The priority list for fast-track approvals, announced for the first time on Monday, will include the Inland Rail route from Melbourne to Brisbane and the Marinus Link between Tasmania and Victoria.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese, also addressing the conference, will describe the national recovery from the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to increase economic fairness and productivity through workplace and training initiatives. According to an advance copy of his speech, Mr Albanese will urge people to maintain a sense of unity after the crisis abates and note that “unions and business thrive when they work together because, ultimately, their goals are the same”.
Mr Albanese will call for productivity gains to lift investment and will emphasise the role of vocational education and training to address national skills shortages. “We have a responsibility to repair our ailing vocational education and training system,” he will say, accusing the Coalition of harming the system with funding cuts.
“We need a VET (vocational education and training) system that not only trains people for current needs, but that provides workers with transferable skills, and the capacity to upgrade them.”
Mr Albanese will also call for a renewed appreciation for expertise and a greater effort for “grown-up democratic conversation” about Australia’s future.
“Expert knowledge, critical to our ability to get the future right, must be treated with respect,” he will say.
Eryk Bagshaw is the China correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Due to travel restrictions, he is currently based in Canberra.
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.