This boom 'must and will be different'

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard says her government is focused on turning the mining boom into an "opportunity boom".

Ms Gillard told a forum of business leaders in Perth on Thursday that after four mining booms that ended with little lasting positive effects for Australia's economy, this time "it must and will be different".

She used the speech to emphasise the need for returning the budget to surplus, arguing it will give the Reserve Bank "room to move on monetary policy".

"All four of our previous big mining booms ended poorly - some in recession, others with little lasting benefit to show," Ms Gillard said.

"This time it must, and will, be different. That's why we've made the tough decision to price carbon so that clean energy moves from the periphery to the core of Australia's economic structure.

"This is not only about what happens in 2012. It's about where we want to be in 2062.

"When the way we generate power, manufacture things, use energy, run our transport systems have all been transformed.

"It's the same reasoning that has led us to ensure the benefits of resources growth spread to the whole economy."

Ms Gillard flagged the May 8 budget would include "targeted, thoughtful savings" to achieve the surplus, but said that would not come at the expense of frontline services.

And she hit out critics who claim the timing is wrong for a budget surplus.

"Indeed it's ironic that for months and years we've faced accusations that Labor will never deliver a surplus," she said.

"Now that we're on the very threshold of doing it, there are voices saying that we needn't bother.

"First they said we couldn't. Now they say we shouldn't. I say we will."

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott remained unconvinced.

"The Prime Minister has admitted that her economic policy for the last four years has been a failure," Mr Abbott told reporters on Queensland's Gold Coast on Thursday.

"If it's so important to deliver a surplus to get interest rates down, what does that say about the impact of the four biggest deficits in Australian history? That has been putting upward pressure on your mortgage rate for four years."

"If the government is serious about taking pressure off interest rates, it would get its own spending under control, it would get its own borrowing under control.



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