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Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Page: 2287


Senator FORSHAW (New South Wales) (15:06): This is the 17th budget that I have witnessed as a member of this parliament. I arrived here at the time of the budget in 1994. So I have seen a lot of budgets—both Labor ones and coalition ones. And let me tell you something: the history of this country shows that when the country gets into some trouble you have to go to a Labor government to get us out of it. It happened in World War II—you fell apart and John Curtin had to take over to save the country. It was Chifley, of course, who started to rebuild the Australian economy after World War II and it was the Hawke and Keating governments that transformed this economy and opened it up to the world—and today we see the great benefits of those visionary decisions. hat have we had in the last couple of years? We have had the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression. What do we have in Australia? We have an economy that is the envy of the Western world. We have the only economy in all of those great nations that did not go into recession. We have an economy that has low unemployment, that has a low inflation rate and that has one of the lowest government-debt-to-GDP ratios of the world. We are a country with an economy that did not have all of the crises that we continue to see in Europe, in countries like Spain, Greece, Ireland and so on. Why was that? It was because of the great economic management of the Rudd and Gillard governments, through, as I said, the worst economic crisis this world has seen since the 1930s.

But it is as if the opposition thinks that it did not occur—because we fixed it, or because we made sure that our economy did not suffer in the way those other nations did. Senator Ronaldson talks about how when China sneezes we get a cold. A couple of years ago the world had one of the worst cases of economic flu in the history of the world in this century and the last century, but we did not catch a cold. We did not even sneeze, and that was because of the decisions taken by the Labor government at the time, decisions which those on the other side opposed. You opposed the economic stimulus package which ensured that our people stayed in work and that our economy continued to grow.

Now we hear the latest pronouncement on this budget. Senator Ronaldson just rattled off his problems as if he thinks this is the worst budget in history—as somebody over there said. It is not. This is a budget for the times. This is a budget that delivers some real increases in important services and important programs to this country, to areas, like mental health, that people have been screaming about for years. I served on a Senate select committee where we made recommendations for increased funding to mental health. I acknowledge that the Howard government did belatedly do something about it, but we have now put another $2.2 billion into that area. That is one of the most vital areas and it has been crying out for government support. Other changes we have made clearly will benefit many Australian families, particularly in terms of getting more people into the workforce.

The budget has also had to have some savings cuts in it, because we are still going to meet that target to get this budget back into surplus by the next financial year, 2012-13. Those cuts are important. But what do we get from the opposition? On the one hand, as Minister Wong said, the opposition says that it will just happen. They say they will just take us back into surplus if they were in government. But, as Senator Wong also pointed out, Mr Hockey is saying he will not support any of these savings cuts. What are you going to cut? Tell us the areas you are going to cut. You have an opportunity tomorrow night to tell the Australian parliament and the Australian people in what areas you will find the savings in government spending?

When you were in government, governĀ­ment spending grew by an average of three per cent. Under the Rudd and Gillard governments it has been growing at one per cent, so do not lecture us about wasteful government spending and all the rest of it. This is a terrific budget for the times and for the Australian people. (Time expired)