House debates

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Questions without Notice


2:26 pm

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer update the House on the employment data released this morning and what it says about Australia’s economic performance?

Photo of Wayne SwanWayne Swan (Lilley, Australian Labor Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Chisholm for her question. I think today’s employment figures are a tribute to the resilience of the Australian economy and to the hard work that employers and employees have done in extremely difficult circumstances over the past 12 months. They really are something special because, in the circumstances in which this country has found itself in over the last 12 months, to have created over 180,000 jobs is something very special. What it says a lot about is the impact of the stimulus. It says a lot about the resilience of our employers and the hard work of our employees. What we particularly celebrate about these figures today is the thought that 52,700 Australians have told their families in January that they got a job. Nothing is more important to somebody’s security than the certainty of their employment and the knowledge that they have a pay packet.

What has driven this government, particularly from the beginning of this global recession, has been jobs. It has been at the centre of everything that we have done in the economy. What it has meant is that when employment in other countries such as United States, such as Canada and many other countries was going backwards at a rate of knots, here we achieved such a special outcome for our country.

Photo of Wilson TuckeyWilson Tuckey (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No you didn’t. The Chinese did that.

Photo of Wayne SwanWayne Swan (Lilley, Australian Labor Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

It just shows you what little priority those opposite give to jobs. Those sorts of interjections just demonstrate the fundamental misjudgments and misrepresentations that are coming from those opposite, particularly when it comes to economic policy. That comment just demonstrates how wrong the Liberal Party got its response to this global recession by because, if it had not been for the stimulus that was put in place, this country would be in recession. Instead of growing by 0.6 per cent in the year through to September we would have gone backwards by two per cent and we would be standing here today talking about far higher unemployment.

But, of course, those opposite have so misunderstood the economy, so misunderstood the global economy, that they are a threat to future employment and investment in this country. As the Prime Minister said before, we had the Leader of the Opposition out saying on radio that saving jobs was a waste of money. Well, go and tell that to all of the Australians who are in jobs as a result of the stimulus. Go and tell that to all of the small businesses whose stores are still open as a result of the stimulus. But of course those opposite are masters of misrepresentation and masters of misjudgment, and no misjudgment is more fundamental than the misjudgment that the Leader of the Opposition made when he appointed Barnaby Joyce to the role of shadow finance spokesman. This was summed up in an article in the Courier Mail on 8 February by Tim Hughes, who writes a regular economic column. I do not think he is normally a friend to the government, but this is what he had to say:

What does it say about Abbott when he puts Joyce into the second-most unsuited portfolio for him? … To me it suggests that Abbott thinks the economy is a joke. Either that or he simply does not understand the serious responsibilities of government.

He went on to say:

Abbott made the appointment and, in so doing, has effectively disqualified himself from running our economy. Australia’s long-term future depends on a strong rate of investment and much of the funding for that investment comes from offshore.

That brings me back to Mr Joyce, because Mr Joyce has been out there campaigning against foreign investment—campaigning against the arrangements the government has put in place to make sure that we protect the national interests of this country through the Foreign Investment Review Board. It is a fact that one in four jobs in mining in regional Australia depend on foreign investment, and Mr Joyce has been campaigning right around this country against that foreign investment. But, of course, he let the cat out of the bag at the Press Club earlier this week, when he admitted that he had been flying around the country with Clive Palmer, the biggest recipient of the foreign investment in this country that is creating jobs. What that says is that Mr Joyce has one standard when he is in the front bar of the pub in Roma or somewhere like that and entirely another when he is in the plane with Clive Palmer at 30,000 feet, sipping a scotch. What that shows is just how short-term—how opportunistic—these people are. There is not a principle that they adhere to, and that is why they are such a massive risk to our economy.