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Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Page: 5306


Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (16:12): Amongst all the noise and pollution coming from the other side, you could be forgiven if you could not hear the laughter. They do say laughter is the best medicine, and I tell you what: the opposition need all the laughter they can get, because they are a very sick mob if they cannot even accept some of the basic premises and facts of what is happening in our economy, whether you compare us to anyone in the world or to no-one in the world. Either way, there are actually some really good things happening in this country and it is time the opposition, like many others, just took note of it and recognised what has happened.

What is also true is that, when you run out of your own ideas, you just start attacking the ideas of others. There is not one idea coming from that side. We saw it in the budget response. It was not a budget response; it was just the usual attack that we get in this place. It is just a lot of noise and a lot of pollution and it brings nothing new to the table. If people are really considering the issue, a matter of public importance has been brought forward here which says the government should rein in spending in the face of current events. If that is the case, where was their case—if that is actually what you are trying to achieve? The opposition comes in here and says, 'Rein in spending.' Where? I was sitting here making notes, hoping for one new idea—maybe we could use it. But there was not one. It was just a sheer, blatant, political attack just to try to gain some advantage. I am not going to use the same rhetoric that was used by my opponents, carrying on about spin and all the rest of it. It would be nice if just once in a while we actually got a contribution in this place, if you are going to raise a matter of public importance, that actually did just that. The fact of the matter is that none of the facts bear out the fanciful half-truths that we get from the other side.

There is something, though, that I really do appreciate, and that is the fact that Australians are really hard working, and I am sure the opposition will agree. They may not know that Australians are in fact the hardest working people in the world. It is true. Consistent surveys in recent years have rated Australians as the hardest working people in the world. We are right up there with the best of them. We work many hours and we work productively as well. We are actually an efficient mob.

It is because of that and because of what this government is doing that we have managed to get through the global financial crisis, that we have managed to weather the worst storms. I heard before that 'there is a perfect storm coming'. Well, there is a storm coming, but I do not know how perfect it will be or how big the opposition would like this storm to be. But on this side, on the government side, on the Labor side, we are doing everything we can to batten down the hatches, and whatever storm might come—we do not know what it might look like or what it might mean—we will work very hard to make sure that whatever happens we have an economy that is resilient to it.

One of the best ways to make an economy resilient is to make sure that people still have their jobs. If you look at any economy in the world that is struggling you see that the first thing that goes is people's jobs. If you do not have a job—if you want to go back to the old 'let's go back to basics' stuff—you cannot pay any of your bills. The reality is that we have got people still in work. We worked hard during the global financial crisis to ensure that this economy survived, that Australia would fare the best of any economy. I will make a wager with you. Travel as far as you like and go and ask any treasurer or any finance minister of any other OECD nation or any other nation whether they would like to trade our economy for theirs. They would hack off their own right arm to do that, because they understand the good fundamentals that we have here. That is something that is inescapable. It is just unimaginable for the other side to even contemplate that that might be true, but that is the reality.

Every time this government—and I am sure this happens on the other side—talks to people from other countries, global forums, financial forums and finance ministers' meetings they all look to us and say, 'How are you guys doing it? How are you managing to keep your economy so strong?' One of the ways we are doing that is through really responsible fiscal management—and responsible in a whole range of areas. It is not just some glib, simplistic approach which says, 'You just need to do one thing; let's just save more.' I love these sorts of things—'Let's just spend less and save more.' What does that actually mean? It must mean something, but they do not tell us what it means. It is a little bit too simplistic for me. If 'save more' means sack people, get rid of people's jobs and shut down industry, then I am not too keen on that. I think there might be a better way. I think we ought to work with industry and try to save people's jobs. I think we ought to keep our economy growing. I think we ought to do something to make sure that people are still working tomorrow as well as the next day.

Who are the workers in this country who actually create this economy? It is the small business owners. It is the people who buy a franchise—the people who create a job, who buy their own job and employ their family members or perhaps a friend. There are 500,000 plus franchisees in this country who create an economy, who create work. There are all the tradespeople who go out and work every day, whether they drive a ute, whether they work for someone or whether they work for themselves. We have to keep them working—and we have done that. We have done it in this budget and we have done it in consecutive budgets. We have made sure that when you do spend money—because that is part of growth; spending some money—you spend it in the right areas. Look at the schools and the investment that we have made in really decent infrastructure in schools which will have a legacy for the next 30 years. It keeps giving for 30 years. Look at the school halls, the science labs and the teaching facilities—30 years.

I heard the member for North Sydney bleating on about the 'Asian century'. What does that mean to him? According to him, we ought to keep up, we ought to be able to run faster and we ought to be able to do things. I would have thought that if you wanted to run faster you would need to train, and if you are going to train you will need somewhere to train and a training program. You would think that training program might start with our kids in schools. So what did we do? We commissioned Gonski, we invested money, we put bricks and mortar into schools and we actually went for the national curriculum and tried to lift the standard. But apparently that is a waste of money. That is the stuff those opposite talk about when they say they want to save money. You are never going to believe this—because I still do not believe it—but they are going to oppose the schoolkids bonus because, apparently, according to them, parents are not responsible enough to spend money on their own kids' education. That is an insult—but I will skip over that for the moment.

If we are to listen to the member for North Sydney, even for a split second, when he says, 'We've got to run faster'—and I agree with him; let's run faster—one might say that he will need to do a lot of training himself if he wants to run faster. If you are going to run faster, sign up to a program and get a trainer—get somebody who might have some knowledge about how you are going to run faster. That is what we are doing. We are putting money into schools, into people, into education—through Gonski and through proper funding. And who is going to benefit from this? Our kids are. I do not believe that any kid in this country should have less opportunity than any other kid in this country no matter where they come from.

So when the member for North Sydney talks about the Asian century, for him it is hollow, meaningless echoes off the wall. He is not training. He is not running faster. From what I can see his is running a lot slower—in fact, his walk has become a dawdle. That is what this opposition is represented by—former ministers who are dawdling and have plenty of hollow rhetoric echoing off walls.

The member for North Sydney loves to attack programs. And it sounds pretty funny to me—programs investigating or researching birds and snails and the moon and all the rest of it. But, under his ideology, you would burn the books and you would get rid of scientists—let's just get rid of all the scientists and all the books!

Opposition members interjecting

Mr RIPOLL: I am sure this bird and snail research was going on when John Howard was Prime Minister, and we did not hear this side say too much about it. The reality is that there is probably a whole heap of research here which relates to something else and is good for this country in some way. The reason that we have science, research, scientists, teachers, professors and universities and we fund them is because it is good for the economy. It is even good for the philistines who sit opposite, the uneducated mob over there, who would actually shut down every school, because that would save money—'Let's just shut down the schools. There's plenty of savings to be made if we have no teachers and plenty of savings to be made if we don't invest in health'!

Mr Ian Macfarlane: This is nonsense!

Mr RIPOLL: You are right—it is nonsense. That is why I am raising it—because I am trying to make a point. The member for Groom is completely right: it is nonsense. It is nonsense to attack research and science. It is nonsense to attack school funding. It is nonsense not to get behind and support these things. The facts do not bear out the jokes that these guys opposite come up with—and I think the classic one today has to be 'we've got to run faster'. Well, have a look at them. Even with skates they could not keep up!

The truth is our economy is strong. It is really strong and it is in good nick—4.9 per cent unemployment; down from 5.1 per cent. Even if you do not believe it, even if you are sceptical about the number, it is the same methodology and the same data that it has been for 30 years. It is the same data and the same methodology as it was when these guys were in government. Whatever that 4.9 per cent means, it means that unemployment went down and jobs went up. That is all it means. It means more people have got money in their pockets and they can keep the economy strong, because they will spend. They will keep buying. We have done things for small businesses. There is the $6,500 instant tax write-off, there is the $5,500 for the utes; there are things there for the economy to keep growing. It is a strong budget. If you compare it with any economy in the world, we have got inflation under control, we have got debt under control, we have got 9.6 per cent of GDP compared with every other economy on the world. Japan is on 240 per cent. I am proud of the economy we have got. (Time expired)