Thursday, 11 February 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. What has been the effect of the federal government’s stimulus plan on Australian jobs?
I thank the member for Wakefield for his question. I know that in his electorate he knows what it is like to see families struggle with unemployment and why he therefore would have been particularly welcoming of today’s news that unemployment has fallen by 0.2 per cent to 5.3 per cent in January. I have to say that I think it is quite remarkable that, when the Prime Minister first mentioned this figure in question time today, on this side of the House we saw welcoming and enthusiasm for that result. On the other side of the House we saw a stony-faced silence, because the opposition would have preferred it had the numbers been worse.
What these unemployment results are telling us is that the number of people employed in January increased by 52,700 to 10.966 million, and that is the largest increase in employment since December 2006. For the third consecutive month the Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported the number of people unemployed has decreased, down 22,300 persons to 612,000 in January. We should remind ourselves that, if we compare this unemployment result with the start of the global financial crisis, we can see that 124,500 Australians more are unemployed today than at the start of the global financial crisis. So there are Australians we want to support through economic stimulus and through the economy to get the benefits of work. It is also crystal clear that, if not for economic stimulus, unemployment would have been 1½ percentage points higher and we would have seen more than 200,000 extra Australians out of work.
If we compare where our Australian economy is with results overseas as economies around the world show the impact of the global financial crisis, we know that in the US, four million jobs were lost; in Japan, 1.3 million jobs; in the UK, more than 400,000 jobs; in France, more than 300,000 jobs; in Italy, more than 300,000 jobs; and the list goes on. Consequently, when we look at the situation in Australia, we can see economic stimulus at work—the economic stimulus that we have provided through our nation building programs including the Building the Education Revolution program. Let us hear this in the words of people who employ others and who know what is happening out on the ground. Joe Cachia, the managing director of Piruse Constructions, said
Without the stimulus money, the building industry is dead. In the next two or three months it will generate a lot more work. I’ve no doubt about that.
The federal government stimulus package, particularly the fiscal stimulus directed towards schools, is filling the hole left by private investment.
Steve Marais, the director of Condev Construction said:
As a growing company we have a large database of tradespeople who will benefit from the roll-out of the contracts.
We know that if the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Barnaby Joyce had been in the cabinet room when the global financial crisis hit, there would have been no economic stimulus, no employer would have uttered these words and we would have seen the Australian economy go into recession with more than 200,000 more Australians out of work.
Even in opposition, not having learnt that lesson, the Leader of the Opposition is threatening these vital stimulus projects even today. In doing so, he is threatening the biggest school modernisation program the nation has ever seen, but he is also threatening the jobs of working Australians who are delivering that economic stimulus. It just goes to show that for the Leader of the Opposition economics might be boring, but it is vital to working families who depend on the economy and the government’s management of it for work.