Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Matters of Public Importance


4:04 pm

Photo of Kerry O'BrienKerry O'Brien (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

At least he is being honest in here, saying he does not support the investment in Australia’s schools. But, for the photo opportunities, his colleagues are going to school after school where projects are opening because of these investments. They voted against the measures in this place and the other place, but they want to be associated with them when they are being given effect out there in the community because they know that the Australian community support them.

I said that this government faces lost income of $210 billion. This is unprecedented. If we were to do what those opposite suggest and not borrow, then what would we do? Would we cut our defence budget? Would we cut our education budget? Would we cut our health budget? Would we do all of those things? Is that what those opposite are really suggesting? Are they suggesting that we should stop the services to the country? Are they suggesting that we should stop those incomes? We would have to put a lot of people out of work. We could stop those incomes going out to those communities that Senator Williams represents. Would those people stop spending at the businesses that support those communities? Would those businesses then close? Well, of course they would! But those opposite do not give a toss about the outcome of such a very callous approach to the Australian economy.

Frankly, when Senator Williams stood up and said, ‘It is with pleasure that I rise to speak about the debt Australia is experiencing,’ I thought, ‘That says it all.’ This is political opportunism by those opposite. They see this as an opportunity to talk about the debt but not about the reasons why it has to be incurred and not about the impact on Australians if we do not incur it. That is the dishonesty of the position of those opposite. They want to tell the Australians, ‘Oh yes, you’re experiencing some debt, and this is profligate; this is terrible.’ They are not prepared to say that the cost of not going into debt would be thousands upon thousands of people being out of work, people losing their houses and businesses closing down right across the country, particularly in regional Australia.

There has been some talk about the impact of the stimulus measures. We have seen the figures on retail spending around the country and there are all sorts of apocryphal tales about money going into poker machines. I am sure some people spent the money that way—I am sure some people will always spend money that way—but the facts show that all comparable economies experienced a fall in retail spending late last year and early this year, while Australia saw an increase. There are hundreds and thousands of shop assistants who depend on retail spending for their jobs. Those opposite are content to see them out of work. Those opposite are content for people in the retail sector to lose their jobs because it suits their political argument. What they would like to say is: ‘Let’s forget about what is happening around the world. Let’s forget about the millions of people who’ve lost their jobs because of the global financial crisis. It’s all Labor’s fault.’


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