Around 100 leaders from unions, employers, civil society and governments will meet in Canberra in early September to address the economic challenges facing Australia, in the first major step in the Albanese government’s push for a cleaner, more complex and productive economy.
On Monday Prime Minister Anthony Albanese set September 1 and 2 as the dates for Australia’s inaugural Jobs and Skills Summit, promising “real discussions” on productivity and how to take advantage of new industries like renewables and the digital economy.
The discussions will inform a Treasury white paper and its public consultations over the following year, but if agreements can be reached at the summit they may be included in Labor’s first budget in October.
The new government will also establish Jobs and Skills Australia as a new permanent independent agency to study workforce trends and provide impartial advice about required skills to government and industry.
An invitation list for the summit will be finalised over the next few weeks and he expects around 100 attendees.
Discussions will inform a Treasury Employment White Paper to focus on boosting productivity, wages growth, employment opportunities, skills shortages, migration, equal opportunities and equal pay.
The summit and the paper will also focus on maximising jobs and opportunities from renewable energy, tackling climate change, the digital economy, the care economy and a Future Made in Australia.
The Prime Minister and Treasurer will lead the summit, with support from key ministers, including Industry and Science minister Ed Husic.
“We know that the way that you boost growth without putting pressure on inflation is to ensure that productivity is the real focus,” Mr Albanese said.
“That’s a way to boost profits and boost wages whilst boosting the economy. And that productivity has been a forgotten element over recent years. We intend to work with business, unions and others, of good will.”
Manufacturing will be a focus of the summit, and stakeholders will be asked for input on how to capitalise on Australia’s energy and technology advantages, which Mr Albanese said can offset the cheaper labour offered by competing nations.
“One of the things that is happening, and what makes our future, I believe, very bright, if we just seize the opportunity, is that clean energy is cheap energy,” Mr Albanese said.
“We have access, better than anywhere in the world. We are the best country in the world for solar. We’re one of the best for wind. We are developing areas like green hydrogen. We can make more things here, driven by that, with high value, high-skilled jobs being created. That’s part of the objective here.”
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the outcomes of the Jobs and Skills Summit and the subsequent white paper will inform long term policy decisions but if “common ground” is reached at the meetings, it could trigger more immediate budget measures in the following month.
“We don’t want to pre-empt that. But equally, the whole reason that we’ve got a summit in September, a Budget in October, another one in May, the White Paper we’ll report most probably in about 12 months, is because we see the task of boosting incomes and solving labour shortages and making the economy more productive and making everybody better off, this is not just the task of one or two days in September, this is the task of every single day that we are in office,” Mr Chalmers said.
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