Thursday, 3 June 2010
Questions without Notice
Lindsay Tanner (Melbourne, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | Hansard source
I thank the member for Werriwa for his question. I acknowledge his very important work towards improving community infrastructure in south-west Sydney, such as the upgrade of the F5, the refurbishment of the Campbelltown station, the cancer centre at Liverpool Hospital and, significantly, the development of the autism-specific centre at Liverpool. I remember well doorknocking with the member for Werriwa in his electorate several years ago and meeting Julie Darmer—somebody who has been very active in the area of autism. I commend the member for Werriwa for his work.
The national accounts that were released yesterday represent another solid outcome for Australia’s economy, which continues to be amongst the best in the world at a time of great economic stress. The Australian economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the March quarter of this year and by 2.7 per cent over the year. That outcome was strongly supported by continued public investment, which rose 12½ per cent in the quarter to be more than 40 per cent up over the year. This contributed 0.8 per cent to GDP growth. About half of that is attributable to the government’s stimulus strategy. The stimulus is gradually being withdrawn as the economy returns to something approximating normal growth. Nonetheless, it is still playing a very significant role in supporting jobs. Infrastructure projects are continuing to plug the gap in private building activity, which has been substantial, while stimulus payments to households and tax breaks to businesses have in effect flowed through the economy. There is very clear evidence in the national account figures released yesterday of the critical ongoing importance of the government’s stimulus strategy in sustaining reasonable economic growth at a time of global economic challenge and sustaining jobs.
The Prime Minister has drawn attention to the statement on 30 March by the Leader of the Opposition. I will repeat it again, just so that people realise the true nature of the position taken by the Leader of the Opposition:
The economic stimulus wasn’t necessary to strengthen Australia’s economy at a time of global recession.
This was in a speech amazingly entitled ‘Economic fundamentals’. Anybody who is not bored by economics—anybody who is not innumerate, as the Leader of the Opposition was once described by the former Treasurer, Mr Costello—would read the national accountants and see just how critical the government’s stimulus strategy has been. But it is not just the government that sees this as the outcome of the national accounts figures. In fact, the man who I presume the Leader of the Opposition will be enthusiastically arguing to be Victorian Treasurer at the Victorian election, due in a matter of months, shares the national government’s view. I quote the Victorian shadow treasurer, Kim Wells, in a statement today, referring to the Victorian figures in the national accounts:
The result would have been far worse had it not been for solid consumer and government spending in the quarter, generated by the continued effects of government stimulus payments and programs funded from Canberra.
That is the Victorian Liberal shadow treasurer, who I assume the Leader of the Opposition will be saying is the right person to be managing finances of the state of Victoria come the Victorian election later in the year.
The member for Werriwa asked me about the issues of stimulus and local infrastructure projects in south-west Sydney. I want to refer to the seat of Macarthur and just indicate to the people of south-west Sydney and particularly the people in the seat Macarthur what they stand to lose not just in macroeconomic activity but in local infrastructure if the opposition is elected to govern Australia. It will be $1½ million for three black spots projects, $1½ million for three local councils for 25 community infrastructure projects, $48.7 million for 212 social houses, $206,000 for repairs and maintenance in social housing and, under the Building the Education Revolution program, $114 million for 141 projects at 59 schools. These are the things that are helping to keep people in jobs in the seat of Macarthur in south-west Sydney and all around Australia, helping to keep growth positive at a time of great economic tribulation internationally and delivering important new facilities for the people of south-west Sydney. These are the projects that the opposition is committed to eliminating. If ever you wanted an illustration of the economic illiteracy, the vandalism and the complete lack of concern for the jobs of working people, this issue tells you all you need to know.
The Leader of the Opposition and the member for North Sydney stand for depression era economics when the government sat back and did nothing and hundreds of thousands of people were thrown on the scrap heap. That is their position. The government stands to protect jobs, to support jobs, by investing in infrastructure at a time when the private sector is retreating, and that is being shown in the national accounts. Australia’s economy continues to grow and employment remains reasonably strong because of the efforts of this government.