Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to recent news that Myer will be closing two of its stores. One is in South Australia, specifically its store in Elizabeth, a region where the unemployment rate is 13.3 per cent, which is over twice the national average. What responsibility does your government take for causing uncertainty and low business and consumer confidence which is generating divestments and not investment and contributing to further unemployment in an already high-unemployment area?
Isn't it interesting to get a question from a South Australian, who conveniently forgets that his party in South Australia wants to sack a quarter of the public service? For a few hours, Ms Redmond actually told the truth that Mr Hockey, Mr Abbott and all of those on the other side do not want to tell—that is, she actually revealed what the coalition would want to do if they were elected in South Australia. But we do not hear from the South Australian senator any concern about that, nor do we hear from the South Australian senator any concern about the failure of the coalition to match Labor's investment in the car industry. If he wants to talk about unemployment in the northern suburbs, I am happy to talk about unemployment in the northern suburbs and what it would be if you proceeded with your plans to rip out that investment that this government has put into that important industry. All we get from this senator and those on the other side is more of the same: let's talk down the Australian economy.
Mr President, I raise a point of order. The minister is required to be directly relevant to the question asked. The question asked what responsibility the government accepted for the high rate of unemployment in Adelaide, and in particular in Elizabeth. The minister is being neither directly nor at all relevant to that specific question.
Mr President, on the point of order, once again Senator Brandis is reframing the question. The question was far broader than that, and Senator Wong is responding in a general way.
This side of the chamber is always concerned about jobs. We have more than doubled annual infrastructure spend per head per South Australian. We are committed, unlike those opposite, to building 12 future submarines to be assembled in Adelaide, the biggest Defence project Australia has ever undertaken. What do we have on that side? 'Maybe we will, maybe we won't'—certainly a long way from a commitment. This is a government that is assisting the car industry because we understand the importance of advanced manufacturing skills to the Australian economy and the South Australian economy. We do care about jobs but, unlike those opposite, we match that care with policies. They simply want to talk down the economy.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I remind the minister that the Myer store closure is symbolic of the wider problems in the retail sector in South Australia, where retail sales increased by less than 0.67 per cent in the 12 months to July, the worst performance of all mainland states and below the national increase of 2.8 per cent. Given that the retail sector is the second-largest employer, employing 92,500 South Australians, what is this government doing to stem the flow of job losses in this vital sector?
This government is investing in South Australia. Those opposite want to take that investment out. This government seeks to support jobs and seeks to ensure that the economic settings enable jobs to be created. Eight hundred thousand jobs have been created since we came to government. What do those opposite want to do? Talk down the economy—that is what you want to do, because you think it is in your political interests. If the senator is really a South Australian who cares about his state, where is he when Mr Abbott says he is going to take $1 billion GST from South Australia? Deathly silence over there, Senator. Complete silence.
Mr President, on a point of order: I submit to you that an answer which abuses Senator Edwards and abuses the opposition is not responsive to a question: 'What is your government doing about retail jobs in South Australia?' That was the question: what are you—the government—doing about retail jobs in South Australia?
Well, if you took $1 billion out of the South Australian economy I suspect that might have an effect on retail. If you sacked one-quarter of the state's public servants I suspect that might have an effect on retail. Crocodile tears over there, Senator, and everybody knows it.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. With the government's $10.10 per week carbon tax compensation failing to keep retail spending strong after being weakened by the carbon tax hit, is the federal government pursuing any initiatives on how to revive its retail economy, apart from yet another short-term cash splash which this country cannot afford?
The answer to the question is: 800,000 jobs have been created since we came to government, we have an economy growing at three per cent per year over the last year, we have an economy 11 per cent larger than it was when we came to government, and we have unemployment at 5.1 per cent. Those are figures which Australia has worked very hard for and no criticism from those opposite can walk away from the facts that this country and our economy is doing far better than almost any other advanced economy. Unlike those opposite, we will also look ahead to how we ensure prosperity is continued. What we will not do is succumb to the relentless negativity from that side which is about nothing but their political interests and that does nothing to serve the interests of the Australian people.