Monday, 22 February 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Human Services and Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law. Minister, how are the government’s economic policies being received by Australian businesses? What risks are there to the growing confidence and stability within our economy?
I thank the honourable member for his question and I recognise his extensive small business experience and his knowledge of the importance of business confidence in creating jobs. Last week we saw a broad improvement in business conditions across almost all sectors. The NAB quarterly business survey found that business confidence strengthened in the December quarter 2009 and now is at its highest level in 15 years. I am sure this is welcomed by members on both sides of the House, because business confidence is so important when it comes to job creation. Getting Australians into work and keeping them in work has been the focus of the government in the light of the global financial crisis and the ongoing international economic instability.
Clearly, the government’s stimulus package has had a marked effect on business confidence, which has flowed on in terms of jobs. The OECD last week issued another reminder of the importance of the government’s stimulus when it comes to the economy. It said that employment in Australia in 2010 will be between 1.4 and 1.9 percentage points higher than what it would have been without the stimulus measures adopted. That is what the OECD says. It is very important that stimulus remains in place, because withdrawing the remaining stimulus would put at risk 100,000 jobs. One hundred thousand jobs will be put at risk by the opposition.
I am also asked about risks to the confidence and the stability within the Australian economy. The main risk lies in the trifecta of economic ignorance which makes up the economic team of those opposite—the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Treasurer and the shadow minister for finance; the trifecta of economic ignorance. We have all grown accustomed to the daily rants of the shadow minister for finance, but I think he has the right to feel aggrieved that his mistakes have received so much attention, because all he has been trying to do is keep up with the boss. We have seen the Leader of the Opposition cite New Zealand as the role model for the Australian economy. We remember that on The 7.30 Report on 6 January he was asked about how the stimulus was necessary and that it had appeared to have done the trick, and he said:
But at high price. And if you look across the Tasman, New Zealand has done just as well it seems as Australia without going into anything like the same level of debt and deficit that we have.
So they have done just as well as us—with an unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent! Apparently, that is good enough for the Leader of the Opposition.
And we have the shadow Treasurer, who has been willing to cite anyone and anything in support of his arguments that stimulus should be withdrawn. Do we remember the famous Gordon Brown speech—the phantom speech invented by the shadow Treasurer, a fabrication by the shadow Treasurer? That then brings us to the fabrication with respect to the Governor of the Reserve Bank’s remarks—the verballing of the Governor of the Reserve Bank, as the Treasurer indicated—which was completely repudiated by the Governor of the Reserve Bank. But if that was not enough, last week in Senate estimates, in answering questions from Senator Joyce about the line of argument put by the shadow Treasurer and the shadow minister for finance about spending and interest rates, the Secretary to the Treasury said that that was ‘a gross oversimplification of economic understanding’. So we have a new year and a new leader, but the same old sloppy Joe.
He is at his most credible when he is wearing a tutu, not when he is quoting others in response to his argument. We have a pattern here—a pattern of a fundamental lack of understanding of the Australian economy. I say through you, Mr Speaker, to the Deputy Prime Minister, that perhaps we need an enhancement to the My School website. Perhaps we need a subject-by-subject breakdown. If we had that, Nambour high school would beat Riverview every time. What we see is three people who have no fundamental understanding of economics and who are a great risk to the economy, because they do not get economics in Australia and they do not get international economics—they do not get economics at all.