House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Questions without Notice


2:39 pm

Photo of Mike SymonMike Symon (Deakin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer. What has been the Reserve Bank’s recent commentary on the state of our economy and the economic debate in Australia?

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

I thank the member for Deakin for his very important question. I think that the evidence the governor gave last Friday was a heartening assessment of the performance of the Australian economy during the global recession.

I think when we last sat we were talking about the creation of some 180,000 jobs in this country in extraordinary circumstances, meaning that breadwinners were going to work and businesses were keeping their doors open because of economic stimulus and because of the remarkable resilience of the Australian economy, the capacity of the workforce, the capacity of employers to work together with the government and the economic stimulus to support our economy during a time of great trauma in the global economy. Everyone on this side of the House certainly celebrates that performance. It has been very important to this country.

I think that the evidence the governor gave at the committee was heartening. He talked about the strong rebound in the Asia-Pacific but, of course, he did note that there were headwinds elsewhere in the global economy. He made the point that we were still yet to see evidence of a self-sustaining recovery in private demand in the large industrial economies, with growth being driven by the inventory cycle and temporary stimulus. He confirmed, however, that Australia’s finances are much healthier than comparable countries. I would just like to quote from the governor:

And in terms of fiscal sustainability, Australia’s position is, by any measure, very strong indeed.

Of course, his remarks follow those of the assistant governor, Philip Lowe, last week, who had this to say about the Australian economy:

We have come through the global downturn better than expected and, unlike many other advanced economies, employment has recently grown strongly and the level of investment remains high.

So that is encouraging for the country and it is encouraging for all of our citizens.

I think it also demonstrates not only that Australia has cause for confidence but that it is important that we do not have public commentary which is talking down our economy. It is very important that we do not get into that position. Of course, the governor had some interesting remarks to make on Friday about recent commentary around spending and interest rates. Many in the House would remember that a week or so ago the governor gave a speech at a conference in Sydney, where on page 1, at the bottom, it said, ‘This commentary has got nothing to do with Australia.’

‘Nothing to do with Australia’—you might recall that we had the opposition in here with a map of the globe, and the shadow Treasurer came out with all guns blazing. I think he asked the question to the Prime Minister—I have not had many questions from the shadow Treasurer; I think there has been one since September—

Photo of Joe HockeyJoe Hockey (North Sydney, Liberal Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

You won’t even debate me!

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

Sloppy Joe there went out, all guns blazing—

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The Treasurer will refer to members by their titles!

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

hurdling the RBA governor in his attempts to talk down the economy! What did the governor say in his evidence about this distortion and misrepresentation from the shadow Treasurer? He said:

No particular message was intended for Australia here, as I think was clear in the disclaimer at the front of the paper—which most people who have reported on the paper have overlooked, I notice.

There has rarely been a sharper rebuke of a shadow Treasurer than that delivered by the governor at the committee last week: a direct repudiation of those opposite, and another demonstration of why they are so reckless and such a risk to the Australian economy.

For our part, we will go on supporting the Australian economy, creating jobs and looking after working people.