House debates

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Questions without Notice


2:11 pm

Photo of Sid SidebottomSid Sidebottom (Braddon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. How successful has the government been in protecting Australian jobs and has there been any commentary about Australia’s recent economic performance?

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I am sure that all honourable members would welcome the fact that today Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 5.3 per cent. This is good news for Australian working families and good news for all Australians interested in the protection of Australian jobs. The government’s objective is to keep the Australian economy strong by protecting jobs and supporting working families. It is an important fact that, since August 2009, 194,600 jobs have been created in Australia. This is a good number for the entire economy, for the nation and for all families concerned about the security of their jobs. That is why Australia has been doing so much better than most other economies around the world. The protection of jobs is a big challenge for governments everywhere, but we have seen in the last period of time nearly seven million jobs lost in the United States, nearly half a million lost in the UK, 136,000 jobs lost in Germany, 270,000 lost in Canada and a million lost in Japan. By contrast, Australia has gained nearly 200,000 jobs over the last year. That is where we have stood as the direct product of the economic policy of the government in partnership with the Australian private sector, which has had their sleeves rolled up out there providing real project opportunities in the field.

The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday that it was not worth keeping Australia out of recession. He said the following on radio:

… it’s all very well saying oh, yeah, but we’ve kept Australia out of recession. Well, fine, but did you really have to waste money to do so?

The lesson of the Great Depression, the lesson of the eighties and the lesson of the nineties is that, when the private sector is under stress, when it is in retreat, the role of government is to step up to the plate to keep the economy working, to keep the wheels of the economy turning, so that there is activity to generate opportunities and small business, to ensure that firms are still taking on apprentices and to keep everything out there as active as we possibly can. The Leader of the Opposition has added to his remarks on this today. He said:

… there are other countries which have chosen a different path and there’s no evidence that their response has been any less effective than ours. For instance, in New Zealand …

Let us have a little look at the numbers on New Zealand. The New Zealand economy has contracted for five consecutive quarters. This is the longest recession New Zealand has had since their quarterly series began in 1987—that is, 23 years ago. The New Zealand economy has shrunk 2.9 per cent since the end of 2007; the Australian economy has grown by 2.6 per cent since the end of 2007. That is a difference of 5.3 per cent. This is the model to which the Leader of the Opposition draws our attention. He says they have done it better. That is his definition of better: much higher unemployment. Let us have a look at what that would mean for Australia. New Zealand’s unemployment rate has risen from 4.3 per cent in September 2008 to 7.3 per cent in December 2009. Our unemployment rate was 4.3 per cent in September 2008 and has risen by three times less.

If Australia’s growth had been the same as New Zealand’s during the global recession, we would have had five quarters of negative growth and we would have an additional 230,000 people out of work. That is the model advocated to us on national radio today by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of Opposition has made a quick grab for some example or analogy—some way to get out of a difficult question in an interview—and has picked on a country like New Zealand and has said that is the way we should go. We know there is a conservative government in New Zealand. I suppose that is the first instinct for his response.

He said that they have done just as well as we have at less cost. But 230,000 people would have lost their jobs by pursuing that benchmark for analysis. No wonder people are concluding that the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Treasurer and the shadow finance minister represent a risk to Australian jobs—because they do. It goes to the hard question of the future of policy. They say we should withdraw the stimulus. If we withdrew the stimulus for 2010-11, with the biggest infrastructure program in the country’s history rolling through our schools, it would detract 2½ percentage points from growth, and that would be 200,000 jobs down the gurgler.

That is what they are advocating. They are not just advocating New Zealand as an alternative model, not just 230,000 jobs down the gurgler; they are actively now suggesting a new course of action for the future: cancel the stimulus package and on top of that put at risk 200,000 Australian jobs. It is no wonder people have decided that those opposite represent a capital-’R’ risk. The Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Treasurer and, most importantly, the shadow finance minister represent the worst economic frontbench team that the Liberal-National Party has put forward in their history.