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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2527

Mr HOCKEY (2:37 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, given the $10 billion Christmas cash splash failed to prevent negative growth in the December quarter, given it failed to create 75,000 jobs as you promised and that now the unemployment rate is at its highest level in four years, I ask you: whatever happened to working families? Are they just a jobs consequence of the Rudd recession?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —One of the things that working families are interested in right now is the protection of their redundancy arrangements. One of the things that working families are interested in is practical action to support jobs. One of the things that working families are interested in is whether there is a practical strategy at work to support stimulus in the economy of the type this government has embraced. This party in government supports proper protections for Australians in the workplace. Those opposite have supported, through legislative action, the stripping away of protections—all effective protections—from workers in the workplace, including redundancies. In the current economic environment, for those opposite to be out there defending Work Choices, which stripped away basic protections such as redundancy payments, I believe is a matter on which they stand condemned.

The question on the part of those opposite, including the member for North Sydney, goes to the impact of the Economic Security Strategy. I would say to the member for North Sydney, who was at the time the Leader of Opposition Business, that the Leader of the Opposition said, last October:

… we’re not arguing about the size of the stimulus. We support these measures and we are particularly pleased about the measure, the payments to pensioners.

What did the member for North Sydney say then? Did he oppose it? The Leader of the Opposition followed that up by saying, on 14 October:

… we are not going to argue about the composition of the package or quibble about it. It has our support.

What did the member for North Sydney say then? I am waiting. Did he object? Last year, when the Leader of the Opposition was asked the question, ‘Would the stimulus package work?’ he said:

Whether it is enough to make a difference, only time will tell.

In other words, he was saying: ‘Should they do more?’ ‘Yes, we support it,’ he said last year. ‘Oh, and you should think about doing more,’ he said last year. Turn the clock ahead to this year and now he says, ‘You’ll remember that last year we said that the economic stimulus strategy would not be an effective fiscal stimulus.’ I just draw the line under all of this for the benefit of those opposite.

In the midst of a national economic crisis, people want leadership which is consistent. Those opposite, last October, out there on the doorstep, were saying that they supported every element of the economic stimulus strategy; and today, in a complete 180-degree turn, they say they have always been opposed to it. I say this to the member for North Sydney, who understands full well the complete cartwheel which they have turned on this entire question: he knows that the reason his question is not taken seriously in this place is that they have no consistency underpinning it. What Australians expect of the opposition is to engage in a serious debate about the national economic self-interest of Australia—a legitimate debate whereby we in Australia, through the government, seek to reduce the impact on working families which has been hit upon them by the global economic cyclone. Those opposite have one position one day and another position on another. The member for North Sydney was so courageous at the dispatch box just now, with a booming voice of conviction—a conviction which he fundamentally contradicted but three months ago.

Mr Hockey —For the Prime Minister, I seek leave to table his Treasurer’s press release saying that the $10 billion cash splash would create 75,000 jobs.

Leave not granted.