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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 257

Mr BILLSON (3:49 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister accept that his failure to get the national broadband network project under way, the government’s single biggest infrastructure election promise, has deprived the Australian economy of a significant economic stimulus?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —The question just asked by the member for Dunkley reminds me of all of the questions on national economic infrastructure posed today by those opposite. It begs one fundamental question: what did you do for 12 years? What did you do on broadband for 12 years? What did you do on building our schools for 12 years? What did you do on building our hospitals for 12 years? What did you do when the investment in our universities went backwards rather than forwards? What did you do to make sure that our research infrastructure was in fact world-class? The answer to the above: nothing, nothing, next to nothing, nothing and nothing.

Mr Billson —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As a matter of relevance, we were wondering how the NBN stimulus is going? That was the question, Prime Minister.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member will resume his seat. The Prime Minister will respond to the question.

Mr RUDD —On the question of infrastructure, including broadband infrastructure, the government will stand by each and every one of its pre-election commitments. These are vital to the nation for the 21st century. Our vision for the nation is to ensure that we have 21st century infrastructure.

This government stands for nation building; those opposite are for sitting on their hands. That is the alternative. Again, I say to those opposite, including to the leader of the Liberal Party: the Liberal Party, by its decision today to block this nation building plan in the Senate, has demonstrated how out of touch they have become with all Australians and with the needs of the Australian economy and Australian families.

So out of touch have they become that they have no mind whatsoever as to who will pay the price of this global economic recession. I will tell you who will not be paying the price: the merchant bankers. Who will be paying the price will be those who are out there depending on this government to act, in order to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of private sector activity, by assisting with the measures that we have announced. We have already underlined, through the statements the government made yesterday, those who will benefit from the package the government has put forward. But those who will pay the price for this action taken by the leader of the Liberal Party today are the mums and dads who, every day, are facing the challenges of paying back-to-school expenses, those out there who are waiting for decent primary school facilities and those out there who expect their governments to act, not just to waive through the recession onto their shoulders.