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Monday, 18 February 2008
Page: 516


Mr TURNBULL (2:34 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I refer to the recent 35-year record low in unemployment, of 4.1 per cent, and the record high in labour force participation, of 65.2 per cent. Given the Reserve Bank’s stated intention to tighten monetary policy to slow economic activity in order to lower inflationary pressures, what does the Treasurer regard as Australia’s current non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment expressed as a percentage? If the Treasurer regards that rate to be higher than 4.1 per cent, how many Australian jobs does he believe should be sacrificed to achieve it?


Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With regard to standing order 100, the question clearly asked for an opinion of the Treasurer. It is clearly out of order. I understand they are new to asking questions but they do need to be in order.


Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I also rise on a point of order. In the first place, section 100 has been interpreted liberally by previous speakers. The question is specifically about the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment. If the Treasurer does not know the answer, he should not have the job.


The SPEAKER —The question is well and truly in order up until towards the end and I think even the last bit is probably in order as well.


Mr Hockey —No more protection!


The SPEAKER —Order! The question has been asked. I would have thought there was a wish to have an answer.


Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I do thank the member for his question because it is a good question. As I indicated to the House only last week, we are optimistic about the future of the Australian economy. Unemployment is at a record low. We are in our 17th year of straight economic growth and that is a good thing for Australia, but what Australia has to do is deal with the economic challenges that are emerging. As I indicated last week, we have an uncertain international environment and we are not immune from international fallout. But the biggest challenge the Australian economy faces is dealing with the inflation challenge—the parting gift of the Liberal Party of Australia to the Australian people. We should always aim—


Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order which goes to relevance. The question was about the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment, and the Treasurer has made no reference to it at all.


Mr SWAN —I would like to make it very clear that the objective of the Rudd government is to get unemployment as low as we possibly can. But there is one hurdle, and that is the level of elevated inflation. The highest level of inflation in 16 years was left to the incoming government. That elevated inflation, which has been on the march for the last couple of years, has produced seven interest rate rises in a row. That is the legacy of the Liberal Party of Australia. That is the parting gift of the Liberal Party of Australia to the incoming government. We have taken responsibility for that from day one. The Prime Minister has put out there his five-point plan. Very important to ensuring that we have sustainable growth in this economy is to put in place our five-point plan to tackle inflation, and we are doing just that.


Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Again, the question was very specific. It was asking the Treasurer about the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment. It should be easy for him to answer it; he is the Treasurer.


The SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The member will resume his seat.


Mr SWAN —We all know that those opposite dropped the ball on inflation. If anyone wants any proof of that, watch Four Corners tonight.


Mr Dutton interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! the member for Dickson!


Mr SWAN —What we will see on Four Corners tonight is all of the disunity in the former government on display in all of its glory.


Mr Ciobo interjecting


Mr Andrews —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask you two things: firstly, could you draw the Treasurer back to the question and, secondly, could he answer what NAIRU is.


The SPEAKER —Order! Before the Treasurer returns and answers the question, can I ask that the members for Dickson and Moncrieff just modify their enthusiasm. Take the example of the member for Dunkley and not the member for Sturt.


Mr SWAN —I think Australians, as they are watching Four Corners tonight, when all the disunity is on display, when the complacency of the former government is on display—


Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order which goes to relevance. I have asked the Treasurer a question about a very important and very well-known economic term—the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment. He has not even mentioned it. Doesn’t he know what it is?


The SPEAKER —Before giving the Treasurer the call, I remind him that promos for ABC programs are out of order. The Treasurer.


Mr SWAN —Mr Speaker, I have answered the question. We aim to get it as low as possible. That is the objective of the Rudd government: to get it as low as possible. But I am sure the Australian people will want to know tonight—


Dr Nelson —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. To assist the Treasurer with relevance, I table the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment. He might consider that.


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition would have to seek leave, and leave would have to be granted. Is leave granted? Leave is not granted. The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. Can I take it that the Treasurer, having used the words ‘I have answered the question’, has completed his answer?


Mr SWAN —I think Australians will want to know, when these meetings were taking place at the Quay Grand, who was running the Australian economy. Who was fighting the fight against inflation?


Mr Anthony Smith interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Casey is warned! And the honourable member for North Sydney will be outside phoning a friend.


Mr SWAN —Who was guarding against reckless spending while they were out there stabbing each other in the back? This government will always put the national interest above the petty interests of those opposite and what they were doing at that time.


The SPEAKER —In fairness to the member for Leichhardt, as somebody who is yet to be able to defend himself from interjections, I think that we should go a little easy on him. I call the member for Leichhardt.