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Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Page: 29


Senator WORTLEY (2:07 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sherry. Can the Assistant Treasurer inform the Senate of whether there have been significant developments in Australia’s economic outlook and the world’s recovery from the global recession since the Senate last met? How has the Rudd government’s decisive stimulus strategy resulted in positive results for our economy, and will the government continue to deliver economic growth and to protect the jobs of Australians?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —Thank you, Senator Wortley. To all senators: have a happy and safe 2010. It is the first question time. More importantly, 2010 is shaping up as the year the world is going to emerge from its worst global financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. According to the latest World economic outlook released by the independent International Monetary Fund, Australia grew by just under one per cent in the last calendar year. Australia was in fact the only country, the only advanced economy, to record positive growth last year. The only country in the world with an advanced economy to grow last year was Australia. The IMF attributes Australia’s world leading performance in substantial part to our ‘timely and significant policy response to the crisis’—in other words, the stimulus package. In real, human terms, the stimulus package has saved around 200,000 Australian jobs. Some 200,000 Australian jobs were saved as a consequence. Tens of thousands of businesses would have closed if it had not been for the stimulus strategy.


Senator Abetz —Nonsense. Nobody believes that nonsense.


Senator SHERRY —And this was a strategy opposed tooth and nail by the Liberal-National Party. Senator Abetz says he does not believe it. Well, Senator Abetz, your shadow treasurer was predicting a million unemployed a year ago. That is what he was predicting. We on this side of the chamber are very, very thankful that the decisive action we took as a government has meant the saving of hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of businesses.

As I said, the IMF does expect a stronger economic performance amongst advanced economies. The economic growth rate for Australia, as predicted by them— (Time expired)


Senator WORTLEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the Assistant Treasurer believe that there are significant challenges still ahead; and how does the Rudd government plan to continue to protect Australians from the worst effects of the global recession and guide the economy through to a full recovery?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —The respected international and independent IMF, whilst it has said that there will be a stronger recovery this year, has also cautioned that the world recovery does remain fragile and uneven, and is dependent on stimulus support. That is the same stimulus support that the Liberal-National Party opposed vehemently—if they had had their way, it would have led to a million unemployed—and the same stimulus package that they want totally withdrawn. The independent IMF has repeated its warnings that ripping out stimulus—


Senator Abetz interjecting—


Senator SHERRY —in advanced economies would jeopardise economic recovery. Senator Abetz continually interjects. Senator Abetz knows best; that is his claim. Senator Abetz matches his economic expertise to that of experts at the International Monetary Fund. If we had adopted the prescriptions of Senator Abetz and the Liberal-National Party, we would have had a million unemployed in this country—one million unemployed. (Time expired)


Senator WORTLEY —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the Assistant Treasurer inform the Senate whether the Rudd government will continue to place economic discipline and responsibility at the pinnacle of considerations when formulating its policies; and is the Assistant Treasurer aware of any alternative policies?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —There are highly reputable economists and economic organisations—I can list them and quote from them—that have supported the stimulus strategy, not just in Australia but around the world. The last winner of the Nobel economics prize, Mr Joseph Stiglitz, put in a recent article:

Countries, like Australia, that implemented large, well-designed stimulus programs early emerged from the crisis faster. Other countries succumbed to the old orthodoxy pushed by the financial wizards who got us into this mess in the first place.

What we have opposite are the financial wizards Senator Abetz and his colleagues, the Liberal-National Party, who vehemently opposed the Labor government’s stimulus package. That was their policy prescription: sit back, do nothing, let the unemployment queues grow, let businesses close and fail. That was their prescription. That is not the prescription of the Labor government, fortunately. (Time expired)