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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 322

Mr RAGUSE (8:39 PM) —This package is one that we take very seriously. I have been listening to the debate during the day and recently the comments from the member for Flinders. It seems to me that for the opposition this is simply a high school debate about what they are doing, what they have done, what we are not doing and what we should do. Essentially they are not even telling us what we should be doing. They are saying what is wrong with our proposals, yet through all of this they are forgetting that this package, contained in the Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and cognate bills, is about a stimulus. This is not simply about arguing over philosophies, talking about the history—what they have done right and what they think we have done wrong. This is very serious and it is about extraordinary times. It is about our ability as a government to respond and be able to make good in the situation that we find ourselves in. I should also note that this package and these bills are about prevention. This is very much about looking into the future as far as we can and saying that, given the circumstances around the world, if we do not act now, as we acted last year with our other package, there could be even more dire consequences for us as a nation.

The member for New England raised the notion that this should not be politicised. He is absolutely right. This is not about politicising an issue that is so important. Extraordinary times and extraordinary events require a government and an opposition to work together to provide some solutions. It is interesting to hear people peel away the issues, even talking about some of the initiatives on the environment and the outcomes and consequences of what we might put up as part of this package. If you take notice of all of those who have spoken, certainly on the opposition side but also on this side of the House, really what we are describing here and the solutions we are presenting are very much part of our agenda as a government. In a lot of ways this is about bringing forward our nation-building, whether we call it our education revolution and building that revolution, and all of those nation-building initiatives that we put in place as the government in that first 12 months. It was lucky that we essentially had 12 months to prepare ourselves for what has come down on us now.

It is interesting to see that the member for Higgins, who gave a very impassioned plea, talked a lot about the history and his role as Treasurer of this country. He had a long period as Treasurer, and we can support or disagree with the whole range of things that he has done as a Treasurer or that the previous government did. The member for Kingston said tonight that the member for Higgins seems to believe that he saw this coming back in 2007. As the member for Kingston said, if he had such foresight why didn’t we make arrangements to buffer ourselves against that? I think a lot of it is political rhetoric. It is good to see that the member for Higgins is back in the debate. He has been silent for the last 12 months and I think the nature and concerns of the debate on these bills means that the opposition need to bring him back on board for whatever experience he can bring to the table.

As a government we certainly enjoy every bit of understanding that can go into this debate, but at the end of the day we have got some serious business to do. We have to get these bills through. We can organise and discuss and debate all of the specifics of this bill but it is about a prevention package; it is about stimulating the economy. We as a government need to take quick action, and it does concern me that the opposition is going to oppose these bills. I find that remarkable. A lot of it is just trying to make comparisons with history, whether we talk about the Whitlam era, whether we talk about the Hawke-Keating era, whether we talk about the Fraser era or whether we talk about the Howard era. The member for Flinders talked specifically about statistics and some economic concepts. I was probably paying tax and working when he was still in primary school. In fact, by the time he was in high school I was in business, paying 22 per cent interest under the Fraser-Howard government. If we want to go back and talk about economic credibility, we can look at those periods of government and say, ‘Well, they did not do it very well.’ In fact, it was a Labor government that turned the first surplus as a Commonwealth government. So let us remember all of that.

I am not going to dwell on it because, for this debate, it is just not important. This is not about who has done well and who has not done so well; it is about the economic times that are confronting us right now. I would certainly suggest that the member for Higgins sit down with his own party and talk more specifically about some solutions, because I have not heard what those solutions are. The reality is that income tax rebates or tax cuts are just not enough. We can argue the point economically; in fact, it was stated in the House today during question time that most economists do not necessarily agree on the way forward or the tactics. But, as a country, as a government, we have to use those resources that are available to us. The wonderful thing for us as a government, the one light of hope, is that the bringing forward of the stimulus package is also delivering very vital infrastructure.

While this is very much a national and global debate, it would be unforgivable for me not to talk a little bit about my electorate and how important this stimulus package will be, especially for families. This is about giving people security and a state of mind that says that this government is acting rather than reacting to events that may occur in the future. It is about putting on the table some understanding that we as a government are here working to find solutions. As our Prime Minister said, if this package can take us through the next budget period, the next 12 months, we will need to see how the land lies at that time. But no-one can predict what that is going to be. So to hear the argument from the other side of the chamber today telling us about what they think we should be doing in light of not knowing where this is all going is very difficult.

However, we as a country are very lucky in terms of our financial position that we can borrow and put money into the economy in building assets. If we look at my electorate—and I know it is common for most electorates—there is somewhere in the vicinity of 50 schools that will ultimately benefit from these maintenance and building programs. The seat of Forde was formerly held by a Liberal member, a great member for the area, for nearly 12 years, but unfortunately the former government just ignored our region. We are so far behind the eight ball in terms of the infrastructure we currently have. From my perspective this is a great package for the country not only with the injection of funds into the economy but also in providing some very basic infrastructure.

On a number of occasions I have spoken about the lack of good roads within my electorate. We have a major highway within our electorate, the Mount Lindsay Highway, which is rated one of the 10 worst highways in the country. Before I came into this place, before I started talking about these particular pieces of infrastructure that were rundown, we were getting very little airplay. In fact, before the last election there were no commitments for our electorate. We have been lucky through the infrastructure spend of this government. Now that we have the ability to actually get more projects up in our community we are going to be able to put in place some of that basic infrastructure that we have been missing for so long.

The member for Blair spoke today about his conversations with one of the mayors in his electorate, the Mayor of the Scenic Rim Regional Council, John Brent. I also had a conversation with John today. He is very keen to work as quickly as he can with government to get some much needed infrastructure into his area. That includes roads, schools and a whole range of items. He has been ignored for a long time in his region.

My electorate is known as the Gold Coast hinterland because it takes in the area behind the Gold Coast, almost out to areas like Boonah. I also have three local government authorities. The Gold Coast City Council is the one in the northern part of the Gold Coast city, but the city of Logan, a very new city in terms of its expansion and amalgamation, is desperately in need of infrastructure. It is so important that with this package we can now coordinate and make sure that we get these projects up and running so that we as a community and those local government authorities get the support and funding for projects that will put in place efficiencies for our local economies for many years to come.

For those reasons this is a serious debate. It is a serious issue that we are confronted with and we need to act, and act quickly. Again, my plea to the opposition is to sit down and think hard about what they are doing in holding up this package. It is not so much about the family payments, which are so important and will give confidence to families; it is about stimulating the economy. It is about getting the built environment, getting builders, contractors and investors back into our communities and building infrastructure that is going to stimulate the economy and create jobs. To do some calculation about how much this is costing per job is an absolute nonsense because, at the end of it, yes, we will create jobs and, yes, we will give security to families, but we will also put long-term assets in place.

In closing, I would like to say that this package is so important, and I make a plea to the opposition to support it. This is nation building. It is true stimulus. I suggest that unfortunately the opposition’s stimulus is akin to using a nasal spray. Our stimulus package is a true stimulus package. It is about putting money into the economy and making sure that we can take ourselves through future periods without knowing what the global environment is going to do to us but certainly preparing ourselves for anything that comes. So, for those reasons, I commend these bills to the House.