Speech - Informing The Modern Economy




"Informing The Modern Economy"




Thanks Helen [Dalley, MC] for that introduction and thanks John [Hartigan, Chairman Australian News Channel] and Angelos [Frangopoulos, CEO Australian News Channel] for inviting me to officially launch the new Sky News Business Channel.

It's a real privilege to be here to help do the honours, on such a special night.

Can I acknowledge at the outset the companies associated with the Australian News Channel that owns Sky, and the executives from PBL Media, Seven, and BSkyB.

I also want to warmly acknowledge my great friend, Stephen Conroy, and my parliamentary colleagues Malcolm Turnbull and Helen Coonan.

And it wouldn't be right if I didn't mention the Sky professionals I spend most time with, namely David Speers who is here tonight and Kieran Gilbert who is enjoying a well earned break in New Zealand.

I'm sure you'll agree they are two of the Canberra gallery's best journalists, of course bolstered now by the talented Ashleigh Gillon.

Sky has had a remarkable impact on government and business, and changed the face of real-time journalism with its regularly breaking news.

And since Sky began broadcasting here in the mid-1990s, the shape of the Australian economy has changed dramatically.

Whole new markets in IT and communication services have opened up and our financial, business and property services sectors today have grown to account for nearly as much output as manufacturing, mining and farming combined.

Key to our success has been our continued integration with the world economy.

We've become much more open to the world, and the world has become more open to us.

Media initiatives like the one being launched tonight play a big role in opening up the economy, and facilitating the easy flow of information.

Tonight in my brief remarks I want to make two points:

Firstly, the best way to strengthen the Australian economy is to modernise it.

That means making the hard-headed assessments and decisions for Australia's long-term economic prosperity.

And secondly, a modern economy relies on modern information.

The first point recognises that only a modern approach will do when it comes to tackling the big economic challenges of our time.

Challenges like winning the war on inflation, tackling climate change and securing water.

Challenges like making our workforce the most highly skilled in the world, and lifting workforce participation and productivity in the face of an ageing population.

That's why we've already shown national leadership on infrastructure, with the announcement of Infrastructure Australia and our plans for broadband.

That's why we've already acted decisively to end the blame game, by getting State and Federal governments to agree on comprehensive reform of special purpose payments and a blitz to cut elective surgery waiting lists.

And it's why the Prime Minister's five-point plan to win the war on inflation relies so heavily on a modern approach to fiscal restraint, saving, and to building economic capacity.

We will design our Budget to bear down on inflation after it hit a 16 year high in October, November and December of last year.

Tonight's not the night for detailed Budget discussion, but let me give you a sense of some of the principles that will underpin what we bring down in May.

You've often heard the Prime Minister and I describe ourselves as economic conservatives.

And we are economic conservatives because we know that to meet the big challenges, we need a combination of tight fiscal discipline, long-term preparation and foresight.

That's what the Budget will be all about.

Because after eight weeks in the job, one thing's become very clear: the easy years enjoyed by the last Treasurer and the last Government will not necessarily be enjoyed by myself and the Rudd Government.

These are more difficult times, to say the least.

We are experiencing a period of volatility, and a cross-current of pressures evident in the domestic and international economies.

But far from shirking big challenges like our predecessors did, we have actually acknowledged them as the first step towards tackling them.

We are determined to deal with the twin deficits in skills and infrastructure that we've inherited.

In a globalised economy we can't always expect a smooth ride, but with discipline, hard-headed reform and innovation we can modernise our economy and strengthen our capacity to withstand international events.

Modernising our economy will give us the increased flexibility and capacity to respond to changing global events which, from time to time, challenge our prosperity.

What the sub-prime crisis has made even more clear is this: many economic problems cannot be confined within the borders of one country any longer.

This modern reality leads to my second point tonight - recognising the importance of speedy and accurate information, in real time.

It was the former Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Arthur Levitt, who said 'quality information is the lifeblood of strong, vibrant markets'.

Quality information should be the lifeblood of our modern economy as well.

With the accelerating pace of globalisation and integration of markets, and with the current volatility in the world's financial markets and the fallout from the US sub-prime crisis, there has never been a greater need for accurate, quality, speedy news.

In the interconnected world things move even quicker - no more so than in the business world.

Last calendar year, ASX monthly equity trading volumes jumped from 3.76 million trades in January to 6.12 million trades by December, an increase of more than 60 per cent.

Last year, the ASX received, processed and published over 127,000 company announcements, including over 32,000 announcements marked as price-sensitive.

That is a daunting number of announcements for even the most astute and dedicated professional investor to track and respond to.

However, this is the information that company executives, fund managers and millions of Australian investors rely on continuously for their business, investment and risk management decisions.

The Rudd Government understands timely information is a key to business success, to creating wealth, and to building a modern economy.

That's why one of the Government's early priorities was to work with the Reserve Bank of Australia to ensure more timely and comprehensive information is provided on the decisions of the Reserve Bank Board.

The new Statement on the Conduct of Monetary Policy which I released with the Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens, early in December last year underscores this belief.

Effective communication by the Reserve Bank Board helps foster better understanding of the need to modernise our economy to meet the big challenges.

That's why the Bank announced new communication arrangements for its Board.

These include announcing the Board's decision on the official cash rate at 2.30pm on the day of the Board meeting, releasing a short statement each month explaining the cash rate decision, and the release of the Board minutes.

The new Sky News Business Channel will no doubt quickly report and analyse and interpret this information.

It's just one of the ways the Sky News Business Channel will inform a more modern, productive economy, and I wish it every success.Thank you.