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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 416

Mr RIPOLL (3:59 AM) — I rise to speak in support of the Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and cognate bills. Maybe it is because of the time of the morning, almost 4 am, or maybe it is just me, but the rantings of madmen sound even more ridiculous than usual. What ordinary Australians will not miss is that there is a global recession and that, while Australia is not yet there, this government, the Rudd government, is doing everything in its power to ensure that Australia does not slip into the same recession as the rest of the world. At this time in the crisis, there ought to be in this place, in this parliament, some sense and some logic about doing everything we possibly can as a government, as a parliament and as a nation to keep ordinary Australians in jobs, to support our schools and our education system, to support working families, to support the economy, to support retail and to make sure that in the future we can look back and say that we did everything in our power, that we did not leave anything to chance and that we took every measure and every step possible to make sure that Australia staved off a recession.

I note that yesterday in question time the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister, ‘What are you holding back?’ My immediate thought was ‘the recession’. If the Leader of the Opposition is not sure about what we are trying to hold back, the answer should be very plain to him—a recession. No less than two days ago the Rudd Labor government made probably one of the most important decisions on our economy since the Great Depression. It was a decisive move by the government which showed action and leadership under adversity to stave off a recession which could have a devastating impact on our livelihoods. It was a decision that needed to be taken. It was what our government was elected to do. It is what the Australian people expect us to do. They also expect that the opposition will not play games with the economy, with their lives, with their livelihoods and with their families. What the opposition should be doing here is looking at the most important factors. As a parliament, we should be doing everything that we possibly can to ensure that we stave off a recession.

The bills that we are debating have the intention of fighting an unprecedented economic downturn and relegating that economic downturn to the pages of history. Let me paint the picture. The outlook for the global economy has deteriorated sharply as a result of the global financial crisis. The global economy is now facing a much deeper and more protracted recession than previously expected. The United States of America is in a deep recession; Japan is in a recession; Europe as a collection of nations is falling into a recession; and, more specifically, a number of countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, have fallen into recession. The list goes on and on. Possibly of even more importance to Australia in terms of our exports and our economy is that China is also following those countries down the same path. Advanced economies are expected to experience the sharpest collective decline in gross domestic product since the post-war period. The key emerging economies of China and India are now forecast to slow markedly, with growth in China expected to halve in just two years. The global commodity boom, which has provided a significant stimulus to Australia’s growth and income over recent years, is winding back. The picture of gloom goes on and on.

A startling revelation for Australia’s economy is that what keeps the wheels of government greased and turning and what gives the government the ability to provide services and move the economy—the tax receipts that government receives—have been wiped out by some $115 billion across the forward estimates. That has moved the budget into temporary deficit. This is not something that any government chooses to do. This is something that governments either inherit or are left with or that governments have no choice in. This is not something that any government would wish to happen. We would be happy if there were a surprise boom in government returns, in tax returns, as has been the experience over many previous years when there were unexpected windfalls to government.

What the Rudd Labor government is doing is providing the absolutely necessary economic stimulus for putting money into people’s pockets. We are providing money for infrastructure and schools, and we are doing everything we possibly can to stave off a recession. The opposition in this place should stop playing games with people’s lives and support what we are doing.