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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 490


Mr CRAIG THOMSON (3:21 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer update the House on recent economic indicators and any risks to the recovery?


Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I thank the member for Dobell for his question. Data released today provides further encouraging signs of Australia’s continuing economic recovery and evidence of how well the economy has performed in the face of the very strong headwinds that we have felt from the global economy. Today’s retail figures show that retail trade values rose 2.1 per cent through 2009, notwithstanding a modest fall in the month of December. For the December quarter, retail trade volumes rose by a strong 1.1 per cent. This demonstrates the very important role that stimulus has played in giving consumers the confidence to keep spending. We have also received encouraging news about activity in the home-building sector. Total residential building approvals were up 2.2 per cent in December and by 53.3 per cent over 2009. That is the strongest annual growth in almost eight years.

This comes on top of the Access Economics Investment monitor released today, which shows the government’s infrastructure stimulus has helped underpin investment in the economy. Compared with a year ago, there has been a big increase in the value of definite projects now going ahead. Our nation-building investments in schools, roads, rail and ports are a big reason for that improvement. This is what Access Economics had to say:

Significant government investment also played a very strong helping hand, most notably the federal government’s schools upgrade program.

So our infrastructure stimulus has provided a pipeline of projects that will continue to underpin confidence and jobs in the Australian economy. Today’s figures show again why Australians should be confident, though not complacent, about our economic prospects. We are encouraged by the signs that we are seeing that stimulus has worked to support the recovery, but we know that there are challenges ahead.

The biggest threat to this recovery is the threat by those opposite to rip the rug out from under the stimulus. If they had their way they would rip out the stimulus, costing tens of thousands of jobs, fundamentally impacting upon confidence in the economy and threatening the employment of tens of thousands of tradies right around this country. That would simply shatter confidence. On the one hand, those opposite are saying they are going to rip out stimulus. But of course, on the other, they are going round the country making unfunded promises. It has been something like 65 days since the Leader of the Opposition has had the job. In that time he has racked up $10.7 billion over five years in unfunded commitments. That is his record so far. It is pretty breathtaking.

The Leader of the Opposition is bored by economics. We know why he is bored by economics, and that is because he simply does not understand it. He has a shadow Treasurer that is so lazy we have not seen a funded policy produced by those opposite. All of those opposite—but particularly the Leader of the Opposition, particularly the shadow Treasurer and particularly the shadow finance minister—live in fantasy land. They believe in magic puddings. They think you can spend more, lower tax and have a lower deficit. That is their magic pudding. It is no wonder the shadow Treasurer is wandering around waving magic wands and wrapping himself in tutus. It is fantasy land. The Leader of the Opposition is going around dressed like Borat and the shadow finance minister is living in the Stone Age—Barnaby Rubble, getting out his rock abacus and embarrassing himself at the National Press Club.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Treasurer should refer to people by their proper titles and withdraw that disparaging remark about our colleague in the Senate.


The SPEAKER —Order! Offence having been indicated, the Treasurer will withdraw to assist the House and will also refer to members of both houses by their titles.


Mr SWAN —I withdraw, Mr Speaker, and I will conclude with these words. It is no wonder, after four leaders in a few years, four leaders in just over two years, what a divided rabble the opposition are. With three shadow treasurers in two years, it is no wonder their economic credibility is a smoking ruin.