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Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Page: 1130


Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Justice and Minister for Home Affairs) (15:28): In May 2010, I met a young bloke called Joshua at a jobs expo I was running up on the Central Coast when I was the Parliamentary Secretary for Employment. Joshua was a young bloke who had left school when he was 16 and he had never had a job in four years. He got a job that day at the jobs expo working at the Ali Baba shop in Westfield Tuggerah Shopping Centre. He got a start, after being unemployed for four years. I remember talking to his mum a few weeks after that. She told me that he was a different boy, a different person, after he had got a job after being unemployed for four years. I checked up on Joshua just the other day. He has now moved out of home and he has got another job working full time as a security guard. So he is on his way. This is just one story, just one job. Since this government has come to office we have created 700,000 jobs, 700,000 stories just like that.

The member for North Sydney made some comparisons. He invited us to compare the record of this government and that of the former government, and I am happy to take up the challenge. The fact is that this government has seen 700,000 more people getting a job than when the Liberal Party was last in power. Look at the topic of income tax. Income taxes are lower now than they were under the Liberal Party. Someone who is on $50,000 a year is now paying almost 20 per cent less in tax than they were when we came to office. The member for North Sydney also talked about interest rates. Interest rates are also lower now than when the Liberals left office.

Mr Robb: That is not true.

Mr CLARE: It certainly is true.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Goldstein does not have the call. The minister will be heard in silence.

Mr CLARE: The cash rate would have to go up 10 times before interest rates could get back to where the Liberal Party left them. If you want proof regarding what interest rates look like now compared with what they looked like under the Liberal Party, you need go no further than my electorate. In my electorate four years ago, when the member for Goldstein was a minister, 60 families a month had their homes repossessed. That is something like three families a day losing their homes. Today, with interest rates lower, with cash rates lower, that number is in single figures—single figure numbers of people are having their homes repossessed, compared with the numbers when the member for Goldstein was a minister, when the Liberal Party was last in office. These are the facts.

The Australian economy is now stronger, compared with the rest of the world, than ever before. The strength of the Australian dollar is an indication of that. For the first time in our history we have a AAA credit rating from all three credit agencies—something the great Liberal Party never achieved. We are also a fairer country than we were four years ago. Four years ago more than a million workers had their wages or their entitlements cut by the Liberal Party's Work Choices legislation. We got rid of that. Four years ago pensioners received $148 less per fortnight than they do now. And four years ago there was no such thing as paid parental leave. The Leader of the Opposition said at the time that it would happen over his dead body. Well, it did happen, and now new mothers get 18 weeks of paid leave at the minimum wage. The next big reform to build a fairer country is the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which will provide lifetime care and support for the disabled—the sort of thing that only a Labor government would ever do.

All of this is because of the action this government has taken. That is the difference a Labor government makes—more jobs, a stronger economy and a fairer country. That is the story of the last four years. They would have been a very different four years if the Liberal Party had won the 2007 election. There are at least two things we can be certain of: they would not have got rid of Work Choices and they would not have taken the action we did to stop the impact of the global financial crisis. In other words, we would have had Work Choices and we would have had a recession. We would have had higher unemployment and lower wages. And the Liberal Party has the gall to come in here and have a debate about jobs.

If we had taken the action that the Liberal Party proposed, unemployment in Australia would now be more like it is in the United States. Unemployment in my electorate in Western Sydney would have been something like 15 or 16 per cent, and a generation of people across the country would have suffered. It would have taken us five or maybe 10 years to get unemployment back to where it is now.

It is worth remembering what the opposition leader said in his first major economic speech, a speech made a couple of years ago called 'Economic fundamentals'. This is what he said:

The economic stimulus wasn't necessary to strengthen Australia's economy at a time of global recession.

This is the man who expects the people of Australia to put him in charge of a $1.4 trillion economy, and in his first major speech on the economy he says that the stimulus was not necessary to protect jobs, the stimulus was not necessary to avoid going into recession, the stimulus was not necessary to protect Australia's economy.

This is not the party of Howard and Costello anymore. It is now led by a man whom Peter Costello says he would not trust on economic matters—and with good reason. One day they say they are going to deliver a surplus; the next day they say that cannot. Last year they promised tax cuts in their first term—we all remember that—and now they say that is not possible. A few months ago they admitted they had a $70 billion black hole in their costings; now they are denying it. It is all over the shop.

Mr Fletcher interjecting

Mr Frydenberg interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Bradfield and the member for Kooyong will listen in silence.

Mr CLARE: I tell you this: Peter Costello never would have made the sorts of mistakes we are seeing from the member for Goldstein, the member for North Sydney or the Leader of the Opposition. No wonder they were so keen to get Senator Sinodinos into the parliament: he is someone from the Howard years who knows something about economics.

Mr Frydenberg interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Kooyong!

Mr CLARE: Last week the Leader of the Opposition, in his party room, said that every time we talk about jobs or the economy they are going to talk about 'carbon tax'. In other words, the scare campaign continues. Let us have a look at this scare campaign. Remember those bold predictions we had last year, that it was going to 'wipe Whyalla off the map'? Or that it was going to be the 'economic death' of the steel industry? It was all nonsense—not real. My favourite one—the one I always remember—came in June last year, when the Leader of the Opposition said that the carbon price would be 'the death of the coal industry'. The best way to find out if this is the truth or not is to follow the money; look at the investments that have been made in the coal industry since we announced the carbon price or since the Leader of the Opposition made those statements. Has it gone up or has it gone down? According to the Bureau of Statistics, in the year to September spending on coal exploration has jumped 167 per cent. But it gets better than that.

Mr Frydenberg interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Kooyong might be going if he is not careful.

Mr CLARE: As I told the House last year, one in six members of the opposition have bought shares in coal or resource companies since we announced the carbon price. It is worth the House remembering who those members are: the member for Wentworth, Senator Adams, Senator Cash, Senator Fisher, Senator Humphries, the member for Stirling, the member for Brisbane, the member for Flynn, Senator Ronaldson, the member for Fadden, Senator Johnston and the member for Kooyong. They all bought shares in coal or resource companies after the Leader of the Opposition said that the industry was going to die. The member for Kooyong is a pretty smart man. When you look at this list you think they are either stupid or they just do not believe what the Leader of the Opposition is saying. As Deep Throat said to Woodward, 'Follow the money.' Follow the money and you find the truth.

It gets better than that, because a very interesting document was lodged on the last sitting day of last year. Senator Sinodinos, the new senator for New South Wales, lodged his statement of registrable interests. Senator Sinodinos is an impressive man. He was John Howard's policy brain, his right-hand man. He came out of Treasury; he understands government; he also understands the private sector. If there was ever anyone to test the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that carbon pricing is going to kill the coal industry, it is Senator Sinodinos. What does Senator Sinodinos's return tell us? Like his colleagues—like the member for Kooyong—he also owns shares in the resources sector. He also owns shares in a coal company. But that is not all. A month after the Leader of the Opposition told the country that this would be the death of the coal industry, Senator Sinodinos became the boss of a coal company. He became the chairman of Blackwood Coal, an Australian coal company based in Sydney.

While the brawn of the Liberal Party is running around the country saying, 'This is going to kill the coal industry', you have the brains of the Liberal Party becoming the boss of a coal company. It just goes to show what a bunch of hypocrites the Liberal Party really is. You have the boss of the party out there trying to scare everyone by telling them it is going to be the death of the coal industry, whilst you have all the rest of them out there buying shares in coal companies. And the smartest one of all is running a coal company. Follow the money; follow the money and you find the truth. It shows this opposition leader for what he is. This Leader of the Opposition's answer to everything is either 'No' or it is 'No idea'.

Mr O'Dowd interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Flynn may have an interview outside if he is not careful.

Mr CLARE: That is not good enough. The people of Australia expect their government and their opposition to have plans for the future. They expect more than just a stop sign in a suit. That is what they have with this Leader of the Opposition. They need more than a dodgy scare campaign. As Senator Sinodinos has shown, if you keep crying wolf, eventually you get found out.