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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1655


Ms GRIERSON (Newcastle) (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. How is the government managing the economy while building the prosperity of working people and their families? What are the risks to this?

Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:33): I thank the member for Newcastle for her question. She is intimately interested in jobs and I know she is aware of the good news in her own electorate, with 4,000 manufacturing jobs added in the Hunter. Today's Newcastle Herald, kindly provided to me by the Chief Government Whip, draws to our attention that in the Hunter there are going to be five new Woolies, a Coles and a BigW. Well done to those members of parliament involved; they are getting on and encouraging jobs.

I am asked about how the government is managing the Australian economy. We on this side of the House understand that we live in difficult times globally. We understand there are problems in Europe; we understand that in North America recovery has been slower and longer than they would otherwise have liked. But we also know, therefore, that we should not automatically be trash talking the Australian economy every time a microphone is put in front of our face.

Today we got the latest unemployment numbers, and they show a fall in the unemployment rate since last month, to 5.1 per cent. For those in the parliament interested in statistics, more Australians have a job today than ever before in our history. I do not say that these numbers are not volatile, because they are, and I do not say that the statistics and the news will always be positive, because they will not. I recognise, as everyone in this House does, that there are sections of the Australian economy and companies that are doing it very hard. The truth of the matter is that today we can report that employment has surged by 46,300 jobs. There are 760,000 more jobs than there were when the opposition was in charge of government. The numbers do move around but we do have strong fundamentals in this nation. We hear plenty of stories, and in fact the greatest risk to the Australian economy is the constant negativity of the opposition. Let me put before the House three examples of that and why the opposition is wrong.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr SHORTEN: I am positive about everything except you, mate.

Ms Julie Bishop: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not believe we should tolerate these reflections on the chair. It is the second time he has done it and I do not think it is appropriate.

The SPEAKER: Neither do I, and I am sure the minister will not do it again.

Mr SHORTEN: I was not reflecting on the Speaker; I was just trying to inject a note of friendliness into an otherwise adversarial situation. The Leader of the Opposition said this morning:

We've had an avalanche of job losses since the beginning of the year.

Yet IT firm Digital Reality is creating 220 jobs. I have a list of 20 success stories of jobs being created. What the Australian economy needs is a political debate which is not marked by the constant negativity of the opposition. Today's unemployment is good news and I just wish the opposition had the grace to recognise that good news for what it is. (Time expired)