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Monday, 21 May 2007
Page: 14

Mr FORREST (1:22 PM) —I am reminded of the Victorian members of the Australian cricket team. The member for Hotham comes in here as Shane Warne—the master of spin—and with a myopia about volume and not value, and the member for Holt follows through with a Glenn McGrath style of spin ball. The member for Bendigo focused on his electorate, and I suppose he should speak proudly of those manufacturing activities down there in Bendigo. But all the speakers have failed to address the fact that there has been an incredible, massive increase in GDP since those terrible years prior to 1996. From November 1996 GDP has increased by a massive 44.5 per cent. That means that the economy has grown so much that, in the nature of conducting business, our imports have also increased.

It is worth while speaking in GDP terms, and I will read into the record the value basis of our export activity. In 1996 the percentage share of GDP was 19 per cent. Other speakers have acknowledged that. In 1997 it was 20.2 per cent, in 1998 it was 19.6 per cent and in 1999 it was 18.7 per cent. It is worth observing several things that have been happening with these movements. One is the value of the dollar—and the consistency with some of the massive crises that the member for Bowman has mentioned—and there have also been sales crises with the collapse in the Asian economy. Latterly, particularly over the last five years, we have had the worst drought on record.

I will continue. The share grew then in 2000 to 21.6 per cent of GDP. In 2002 it was 20.4 per cent; in 2003 it was 19.9 per cent of GDP; in 2004, 18.1 per cent; in 2005, 19.5 per cent; and in 2006, last year, 20.9 per cent of GDP. So our export activity is not as grim a picture as the members of the opposition have painted it. The member for Holt complained that the Australian Labor Party have not had any credit for the activity they engaged in, in the early nineties, with respect to economic reform. He failed to tell the Australian people that those measures were supported by the coalition parties, who then, unlike the opposition of today, recognised good policy and supported it in this chamber. That needs to be stated to the Australian people when the Australian Labor Party claim credit for their so-called activity.

I think our performance is a great credit to the current Australian government. We have a strong economy. Yes, there has been huge activity in the resources sector, but it should never be overlooked that we have endured crisis after crisis. This not an excuse; it is just accepting what is practical reality. There was the Asian financial crisis in 1997, not long after we came into government, and a downturn in the whole world economy in 2001, which was impacted by the terrorist attacks of September 11. That affected global travel, and travel is a very important, sizeable sector in the Australian export economy. We had the outbreak of the SARS epidemic in 2002-03, and from 2003 onwards we have had the drought. People older than me say that it is the worst they can remember.

I think the Australian people are wise to the spin being delivered to us here this morning by the Victorian members of the Australian Labor Party. They are switched on out there. They know they are benefiting from the economy—even those constituents in my own electorate of Mallee, on whom we rely so heavily because they are such great exporters. Despite what they have been contending with—drought and water shortages for irrigators—the Mallee economies continue to grow, following the same sort of activity that I have talked about here. They are not going to be conned by the presentation that has been made to us here this morning. They are grateful for a strong government that has given them a good economy.

The government is trying to take the lead and show the rest of the economy that we are the only nation in the world that is in savings. We are saving now and putting away for the future. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.