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Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Page: 4722


Mr CRAIG THOMSON (Dobell) (17:47): It is always a pleasure to follow the member for Mayo. He had his angry pills today. He was becoming quite personal in his criticism. I had a whole range of things I was going to talk about but I have to start with a critique of his contribution. Can I say in the first place, to call it a contribution to this debate is raising it to a level well beyond what it actually was.

Let us start with those from the opposition more generally. They are serial deniers. For some of them the global financial crisis was just a small event. At least the member for Mayo actually tried to face up and have a bit of a discussion about the global financial crisis. He does try to downplay it too, which is consistent with the opposition leader. Generally we do not hear anything from those opposite about the global financial crisis because it is an inconvenient truth to them in relation to what has actually occurred and to the state of the Australian economy right now. So they tend to be serial deniers—whether it is about the global financial crisis, whether it is about climate change, whether it is about their record when they were in government, they deny the truth of what actually happened.

I am going to take the opportunity to do a little bit of a comparison between the record of this government and the record of the previous government, at the invitation of the member for Mayo. He got so much wrong that I know he will appreciate having the correct position put on the record so that when he makes future contributions he can correct his errors from today. First of all, when we look at the taxation record of the previous government—well, let us be radical. Let us not look at just the previous government, let us look at the taxation record of the previous government compared to all governments since Federation. Which government comes out as the biggest taxing government?

The previous government. Not once, not twice, not even three times, but four times they took the record as the highest taxing government in Australia's history. For them to come here and lecture this government about taxation issues and say that we are a higher taxing government completely ignores their record as the highest taxing government four years in a row. Their solution to issues, when they were in government, was to tax as much as they possibly could. No wonder they had surpluses. This occurred during mining boom mark 1. The lazy former government did not have to make any hard economic decisions; they merely rode the mining boom, taxed the heck out of the Australian public and then said at the end of the day: 'We made all these surpluses. Aren't we economic geniuses?' If you were the heaviest taxing government and you had the quite extraordinary mining boom that we had last time, of course you were going to be in that situation.

This government faces a very different set of economic circumstances. We faced the worst global downturn in trade and the economy since the Great Depression. This government took hard decisions to make sure that ordinary Australians were looked after in electorates like mine, on the Central Coast, and that of my good friend the member for Shortland, where unemployment is always an issue. This government took the position that jobs come first and that we would make sure that we kept people productive and in work. If you look at the record of this government and how we were able to achieve that through the two stimulus packages, compared to what happened around the world, you will see that this government stands in marked contrast to most governments and economies around the world. It certainly stands in marked contrast to the opposition, whose proposition on the global financial crisis was: 'Let the market rip. Let's see what happens, if we lose a few jobs, that's fine.'

There are other approaches we could have taken. We could have taken the US approach; we could have taken the Spanish approach, and ended up with 10 or 20 per cent unemployment; or we could make a difference and intervene in the economy as we did through our stimulus packages to make sure people had jobs. That was good not just for the people who kept their jobs but for their communities and the economy. It is what was needed by Australia and it is why we are the envy of the world.

Our record on managing the economy stands in stark contrast not only to the record of those on the other side but to those of many other countries around the world. Our prudent economic management made sure that Australia's economy did not collapse like others did around the world. We did not go into recession.

We heard from the member for Mayo about so-called pressures on interest rates from inflationary pressures. Interest rates—official cash rates—are some two per cent lower now than they were when we came to government. Under the previous government there were 10 interest rate rises in a row. They were warned repeatedly by the Reserve Bank about constraints, or bottlenecks, in the economy and about the need to invest in skills, training and jobs. They did nothing. In fact they cut investment in those vital areas. This government's budgets have been about investing in skills, training and jobs, because job creation is the engine room of our economy. To make sure that people continue to be able to work, we invest in education and we make sure that industry can keep ticking over. We are increasing participation rates, getting everyone who wants to work in a job, and making sure they can be productive for themselves, their community and the economy. Those are very important, stark differences.

The other issue I want to raise in comparing this government's budget this time and the previous government and, more particularly, the opposition at the moment and their proposals, is that this was a hard budget, a budget where we had to make some hard decisions about where we would put our resources. We were not out there willy-nilly promising money everywhere, as we saw at the last election with the Leader of the Opposition, who refused right up to the day of the election to have his promises costed. What we found out, of course, after the election was that there was an $11 billion budget hole in their election promises. So if those on the other side had been delivering this budget that we are talking about here today we would have seen higher unemployment, we would have seen this country go into recession, we would have seen a bigger deficit because of unfunded promises from this lazy opposition coming out of a lazy previous government, the Howard government, that was not prepared to work hard on these issues.

The last critique I wish to make of the member for Mayo's contribution relates to migration policy. A point he made was that it is impossible to be humane and also to be tough on borders. That is a proposition I totally reject and I think everyone on this side of the House totally rejects. Certainly you can be humane in the way in which you deal with asylum seekers as well as making sure that you have policies in place that are going to provide the greatest protection for our borders. The way you do that is by making sure that you look at regional solutions that break the people-smuggling-chain business model, and that is what this government is about doing. I think it is a vulgar position to put that governments have to make a choice between being tough on border protection and being humane in the way they treat asylum seekers. It simply is not the case, and that view has to be utterly rejected. I did think that the member for Mayo was better than that, but it looks like the early promise he showed when he first came here has drifted away as his leader has drifted more and more to the right, has lacked any real policies or humanity but has maintained the slogans. Unfortunately, I think the member for Mayo has fallen into that very dangerous web. One can only hope that when he does listen to this speech and reflects on his comments he will come and make a correction to that assumption that you need to choose between those two positions.

Not just in this budget but in previous budgets this government has addressed areas like mine, areas of need, that need to be supported. This budget builds on that tradition of the Labor government of making sure that those most in need get the assistance they need, the opportunities to be able to work and the opportunities through educational advantage to reach their full potential. The area that the member for Shortland and I share was one of 10 regions in the country to receive extra help in the budget for the difficult long-term unemployed who have often missed out, who have fallen through the gaps and whose lives have made it difficult for them to break out of that cycle. Often it is families and generations who have been caught in this unemployment trap. This government is determined to make sure that every Australian who wants to be able to be productive is given the opportunity to do so. The $304 million in this budget to help break the cycle of unemployment in these 10 areas is a very important initiative. What is particularly important about it is that we have learned from previous federal government initiatives that sometimes the best solutions are local solutions, solutions that are found and moulded locally. That is what the funding of these 10 regions is all about. It is to develop solutions that suit the local employment situation, matching employers with those who seek jobs and looking at the different circumstances of different areas and tailoring schemes accordingly.

This is a very important initiative. It is one of the most important initiatives to occur in our areas in a long time. The member for Shortland will agree with me that for too long people in our areas have spoken about high unemployment and how it is impossible to break that sort of cycle. This government is determined to do that, to break that cycle. The budget measures that were announced the other night are part of making sure that we are able to help people back into employment, to be productive, to contribute to the economy and to gain that self-esteem. The budget measures are aimed at helping to build communities by ensuring people have jobs.

This budget also saw a commitment of $2½ million to a jobs incubator in Wyong. This is going to provide businesses that operate from home with the opportunity to step out of the home and into an environment where they can get resourced and assistance to grow. If every small business were able to employ one more person through schemes like this, unemployment would be a thing of the past for our area. This budget provides over $9 million to trade training centres across my electorate and the electorate of the member for Shortland through the Lakes Community Trade Training Centre, which is based at Wadalba but also includes Lake Munmorah High School, Gorokan High School, Wyong High School and Northlakes High School. It is a terrific coming together of resources and schools in our electorates to give young people the training opportunities that they have been missing out on for a long time.

In this budget we put money aside to refurbish surf clubs—two to be refurbished and two to be completely rebuilt. Often neglected, surf clubs are a vital part of the Central Coast community. We have the best beaches in Australia, but we have not always had the best resources. This budget addresses those things. Most importantly, this budget also continues to make sure that resources are available for the NBN. For regions outside the metropolitan areas, such as ours, the NBN is one of the single biggest life-changing initiatives. This is a Labor budget because it is about looking after communities. It is about making sure that all communities get a fair go. It is something that all on this side of the House should be very proud of.