For generations the great promise celebrated in our national anthem - wealth in exchange for toil - has given us an enviable lifestyle.
Yet Australians are beginning to doubt that promise. They are prepared to work as hard as ever to secure a better life for themselves and their families, yet many feel it has become harder to get ahead. They have become distrustful of government and nervous about the future.
This review of the nation's economic challenges shows that Australians are right to be anxious.
The steady improvement in living standards Australians have come to expect is far from guaranteed; rapid changes in technology and highly mobile investment capital are disrupting established business models; wages remain static and basics, like energy and housing, are no longer cheap.
The burden of national debt makes us increasingly vulnerable to external shocks. Yet the mounting cost of the services we expect from our governments – welfare, health and education – makes the task of repaying that debt harder every year.
If we fail to meet the not inconsiderable challenges we now face, the outlook for Australians is gloomy. Job opportunities will shrink, wages won't rise and each next generation will have fewer chances in life than the previous one.
Business and individuals will be asked to pay higher taxes and higher energy bills which will drive up the price of almost everything we consume.
Fortunately there is an alternative. We can rise above these challenges by creating an environment in which businesses thrive and we can insist that government stops wasting our money, by providing services efficiently and effectively.
The rewards will follow: jobs, higher real wages, affordable energy and, above all, the opportunity for Australians to pursue their dreams.
Australia remains in control of its destiny, but we cannot postpone the hard decisions indefinitely. The choices we make today will shape our future.
Tony Shepherd AO
Chairman, The Shepherd Review
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