Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Questions without Notice
Government members interjecting—
Order! I simply say to the member for North Sydney that what I am doing is giving the opportunity for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to repeat her question. Really, I think that the best that one might do is ignore—just as I have to ignore at times—things that happen behind him. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has the call.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his statement on 1 May this year when he said:
… our job is to produce a Budget which reinforces responsible economic management by producing a substantial surplus.
With the Prime Minister now admitting to driving the budget into deficit, isn’t he admitting to irresponsible economic management?
I thank the honourable member for her question as it goes to the question of responsible economic management. Responsible economic management is about how we support this economy and jobs and families during the greatest financial crisis that we have seen in three-quarters of a century. That is the practical question on people’s minds right across our nation today. What can government do to fill the gap which is left by private companies currently in retreat? What has happened with the unfolding of this crisis is as follows: the global financial crisis going through stock markets, going through property markets, going through credit markets, hitting the real economy and, as a consequence, hitting businesses and their ability to provide employment opportunities and therefore hitting jobs and, through that, hitting families. Responsible economic management says families are facing increasing difficulties for the future. Responsible economic management lies in a $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy: a security strategy which makes one-off payments to pensioners; a security strategy which makes one-off payments to families; a security strategy which says to first home buyers, ‘Here’s some help on the way through to help you get your first home,’ as well as providing support for the construction industry in the residential sector which is under such duress at present. That is what responsible economic management is about.
Responsible economic management is also about taking that $10.4 billion, equivalent to one per cent of GDP, and injecting that into the economy as quickly as you can—going hard, going households, going early—in order to ensure that we can try and fill the gap when it comes to growth and activity in the economy. Can I say to those opposite who find the Economic Security Strategy amusing that if you sucked out one per cent of economic activity from the economy right now, the consequences for jobs would be devastating. And let me say this to the member for Curtin: when it comes to the future, responsible economic management means putting an absolute premium on anything governments can do to support jobs into the future. If you read the OECD report on the impact of unemployment across the developed economies in the period ahead, the further revision down of growth, projecting—I believe, from my reading of the report—significant negative growth across those OECD economies across the year 2009, the impact on employment is something like eight million people losing their jobs. That is the impact which has registered. So the strategy which is available to any government and any legislature across the OECD is this: to stand back and let it all happen, let the damage be inflicted upon households, families, individuals trying to hold onto a job or to get their first job, or to do something about it. Our approach is to do something about it.
I would suggest to those opposite that they reflect long and hard about the course of action which they are currently advocating which is, in effect, to do nothing. And I would suggest to the member for Higgins that he could have begun this process some time ago, taking the advice from Access Economics, by investing in the nation’s infrastructure in the past, because now we are confronted with a double challenge. We have to overcome the infrastructure deficit left by those opposite over a 10-year period when the member for Higgins was rolling in the cash, as it came in the door off the back of the resources boom, but not investing a single dollar in the nation’s infrastructure. What we must do now as a responsible government is this: invest in the nation’s infrastructure—in our ports, in our roads, in our urban transit systems, in our rail, in our high-speed broadband, in our hospitals, in our schools, in our universities, in our TAFE colleges; support investment in the nation’s infrastructure and, through doing that, support growth and jobs and help families on the way through. That is a strategy for responsible economic management. And I suggest to those opposite they get with the project.