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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 360

Mr HAYES (11:36 PM) —I am glad to follow the member for Canning in this debate on Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009. I have a lot of time and respect for his former occupation as a teacher and I know the Pilbara very well, so I do appreciate his earlier years. But after his economic contribution tonight I have to say that I do not think he would get a gig teaching year 10 in commerce, let alone economics, these days.

I start with a quote from last week’s Economist, a reasonably august magazine with world distribution. It said:

Few now doubt that the world economy is in its most parlous state since the 1930s. Demand is slumping across the globe as firms and consumers are battered by a pernicious, self-reinforcing bombardment of dysfunctional financial markets, falling wealth, higher unemployment and rampant fear. The IMF’s latest forecasts, published on January 28th, suggest 2009 will bring the deepest global recession in the post-war era.

That is the position as seen by world economic commentators. Regrettably, it is not the position that is even remotely identified by the opposition. Those opposite had 12 years, during which they failed to invest in infrastructure, stripped investment in education and purposely wound back investment in health and hospitals. Yet we have just heard again from the member for Canning that they have an unfettered belief that this situation should be left for the market to work its way through. More accurately, he said, ‘Leave it to the market to work it out.’ That is a little bit like the parting comments that George W Bush made in opposing the financial package that was proposed in the United States. He did not see a need for regulation or intervention. He actually thought, like the other Republicans over there, that this was an exercise they would leave to the market to work out—with all its casualties, I might add.

That is the level of contribution that has been made throughout this evening. We have not had a proposition put forward as to what might be addressed. To sum up, the advice coming from the Leader of the Opposition—and from the former Chairman of Goldman Sachs; I wonder what that august body, or its clients, might be thinking at this stage—is to ‘suck it and see’ and allow this to work itself through. Fortunately, the Australian people made a decision in November 2007 to choose leadership over rhetoric and action over indecisiveness. They chose a government that is capable of making clear decisions.

There has been no greater time when we needed clear decision-making than now. I suppose I spend a bit too much time on dealing with the opposition, because throughout the evening, whilst they want to prolong this debate, they have not made any real contribution in terms of substance. If you look at most of the economic commentators and credible economists around town, very few are paying any attention to the position adopted by the opposition. It is as if they have disengaged from the debate and from what is good for this country.

The economic position that we find ourselves in is, quite frankly, unprecedented. The Economist is right when it reports that these are unprecedented times. It is for that very reason that we have adopted a package of $42 billion and the Nation Building and Jobs Plan. Our plan is very much directed at the creation and preservation of jobs. It is a plan that goes beyond just the rollout of key infrastructure investments, which have already been provided for within the budget and are continuing through the development of Infrastructure Australia, which will look at all the infrastructure developments and the development of future productivity based gains to be made in this economy. This is a separate plan which is now adopted. It is a look at nation building and jobs at a time when the injection of money is required in order to avoid further adverse effects from the globally imposed recession.

The plan involves $42 billion. Of that, $28 billion will be directed to investment in schools, housing, roads and other essential infrastructure, including $2.7 billion to a temporary tax rebate and the expansion of small business in the private sector. It will also provide for $12.7 billion in direct payments to low-and middle-income earners. I would have thought that, as a teacher, the member for Canning would have talked a little about one of the key aspects of this package—that is, schools. Today I took it upon myself to contact a number of schools in my electorate. I have 43 primary schools and 19 high schools, a total of 62 schools. I did not ring all of them but I rang enough to get their views on this. In terms of primary schools being able to access capital funding of up to $3 million for essentially new buildings and upgrades of existing parts of their facilities under the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program, there was not one school that thought that was a poor idea. Similarly, all the high schools in my electorate saw a lot of merit in being able to invest in a science block or a new language centre within their schools, and they said they would compete for one of the 500 to be built. A lot were dumbfounded when they found out that all the schools in my electorate—all 62 of them—would be eligible to receive up to $200,000 for refurbishment and maintenance within their present school structures.

There can be no greater investment than in education. That is an investment in our future; it is an investment in our productivity. In all the economic publications I have read, particularly those dealing with education, I see that how we want to be in 10 years time depends on what we invest in education. That is where we see our productivity growth. It is probably why we have such a job in front of us, because 10 or 12 years ago the previous Howard government stripped money from education, and we are paying the price of that. We have to correct that. We have to take the position of investing in schools and generating jobs for local tradespeople.

A couple of people we spoke to today were local contractors. They are all very keen about each of these schools being able to receive up to $3 million. They know what that means in terms of the electricians they will employ and the carpenters and the apprentices who will be employed. That is another aspect of this package which is very much about jobs. Then there is energy efficiency in houses. I calculated that there are 25,000 families in my electorate that will benefit from the home insulation rebate or from being able to use the $1,600 for solar heating.

In terms of the household stimulus—and this is a very important part—in my electorate there are 14,081 families who will receive the back-to-school bonus of $950 per child. That is 23,000 kids whose parents will receive $950. There are 13,000 families in my electorate who are on family tax benefit B, and they will receive $950 per family. Of those who are students or are unemployed and returning to study, somewhere in the vicinity of 5,000 people in all in my electorate will receive $950 each. Going from the census figures, 98 per cent of all wage earners in my electorate in the south-west of Sydney, the seat of Werriwa, are earning less than $100,000 and will benefit from the tax bonus.

Small business will indeed benefit from the $2.7 billion in tax. And, in my electorate, small business clearly is the backbone of employment; I am glad to see the Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy wandering by. This evening I received some comments from the CEO of the Macarthur Business Enterprise Centre, David Waudby. He said:

The $42 billion package will help boost confidence in the short term, while helping deliver long term infrastructure benefits. South West Sydney businesses will particularly welcome the $2.7 billion tax breaks for business.

Small business welcomes initiatives to enable them to retain employees while maintaining viability such as the tax deductions on investments.

I should also indicate what Cheryl McBride, the President of the Public Schools Principals Forum, said today:

The Forum welcomes the huge injection of funds in the education system with open arms.

The Forum is delighted that the Rudd Government has placed education at the forefront of its economic strategy. An investment in education is an investment in our future.

I concur with the views of both Mr Waudby from the Macarthur Business Enterprise Centre and Cheryl McBride from the Public Schools Principals Forum. I would encourage all members opposite to ring their local schools and businesses and ask them what they think and at some stage during this debate be prepared to say whether they want their electorate’s schools to benefit from these provisions or not.