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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10807


Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (14:27): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline the importance of supporting the economy and jobs in order to provide high living standards for all Australians?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:27): I thank the member for Fraser for his very important question, because jobs have been the No. 1 priority of this government from day one. That is why we moved so swiftly at the end of 2008 and in early 2009 to support jobs and to support small business. Because of our swift action we saved the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Australian workers. That is something that everybody on this side of the House is very proud of. We also made sure that we kept the doors open to tens of thousands of small businesses during that critical time. What that has meant for our country is an unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent, nearly half that being experienced in the United States and right across Europe. What it has also meant is that we have created in this country three-quarters of a million jobs in the past four years. Compare that to the fact that something like 30 million jobs have been lost elsewhere in the global economy.

Mr Billson interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Dunkley will go to the parallel universe he has been talking about all day if he does not sit there quietly. The Treasurer has the call and will be heard in silence.

Mr SWAN: Through our actions we kept tens of thousands of people in work and we kept tens of thousands of small businesses operating. What that meant was that people went home with the security and the knowledge that when they finished work they would have job security into the future. Nothing is more important to the peace of mind of all Australians than the knowledge that they have a job and job security. What all these actions meant was that this country, almost alone among developed economies, did not experience a recession. That is a great benefit now as we set about maximising all of the opportunities which will flow from the Asian century. That is why we do understand the importance of investing in skills and education. Our $3 billion skills and training package was at the core of the budget. It is why we understand that we need to invest in infrastructure, particularly the NBN. It is why we understand the need to give a tax cut to small business, particularly those not in the fast lane of the mining boom. The $6,500 instant asset write-off is very important to the cash flow for small business and to supporting employment in that sector.

We on this side of the House believe in investing in people and in building them up, making sure they have a job and a degree of job security, and making sure they have fair pay and working conditions. But, as we saw at the Press Club today, we know what those opposite think. They want to rip away wages and working conditions from Australians. We on this side of the House believe in supporting jobs. Those on that side of the House voted against the critical stimulus packages in this House, particularly in 2009.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Clearly, the point of order is that the Treasurer is not entitled to have one of these rants against the opposition since your ruling Wednesday a week ago.

The SPEAKER: No. I simply say to the Manager of Opposition Business that given I have defended the right of people to make points of order I will not allow them to be debated. He was warned for that earlier in the day. He is debating the point of order by describing a contribution in the way that he did. I think he has had sufficient warning. Firstly, I will give a ruling to his point of order because it can only be on direct relevance. But then I will have to deal with him, given that I gave him a warning.

The Treasurer knows that I do not wish to see the responses being overly a form of debate. Incidental mention of other things, I am happy with. I was happy with the first instance but, if he returns to it, I have a degree of unhappiness. He will respond in a directly relevant manner to the question. The member for Sturt will leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a).

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If I may respectfully suggest, the point of order that the member for Sturt raised may have been raised in a way that could have been done better but it was a valid point of order, as you yourself have conceded. I think that under all the circumstances it would help if the member for Sturt were allowed to remain in the House.

The SPEAKER: I say to the Leader of the Opposition that earlier this week I said there was an element of learning curve to what is occurring. My desire is that if a point of order is raised that it is raised as a point of order, not by way of a debating point. All that was happening was that I was about to involve myself in reminding the Treasurer of his requirements. I gave the call to the member for Sturt. He had been warned for what I believe was abuse of the opportunity to raise a point of order earlier, and I think that he overextended—even you have admitted that. As he has been warned, I am obliged—I believe—to discipline him.

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, can I respectfully suggest that the member for Sturt has well and truly been admonished. He knows he went too far.

The SPEAKER: I stand by my initial invitation for the member for Sturt to leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a).

The member for Sturt then left the chamber

Mr SWAN: I was making the point that our recession-busting stimulus meant that Australia did not experience the capital destruction or the skill destruction that has been so damaging to so many other developed economies around the world. Opposition to that stimulus has got to be one of the most wrongheaded and incorrect economic responses that has ever been seen in this country. There was opposition to this stimulus. It was wrong, and it was the wrong economic call at the time.

But because this side of the House got that call right we are in the position to experience and to maximise the opportunities that will flow from growth in our region. The rock upon which we build this policy is, of course, strict fiscal policy. That is why we need a parliamentary budget office—so that people right around the country can examine the costings of various political parties in our House. That is why we are so strongly supportive of the Parliamentary Budget Office. But those opposite oppose it, because they are not serious or competent in economic policy.