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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4066

Ms CAMPBELL (2:32 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline for the House the role of nation-building infrastructure in the government’s comprehensive plan to stimulate the economy?

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I thank the member for Bass for her question. As the member knows, our Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan will deliver something like 80 projects in her electorate worth something like $34 million. Of this, there will be 63 school projects which are part of the biggest school modernisation program in our history. There will be 10 housing units. There will be seven black spot projects. There will be $8.9 million for community infrastructure. Of course, as the Prime Minister indicated before, if those opposite had their way not one of these 80 projects would be happening right now—not one happening to support local employment, not one happening to support local business, not one happening to support a local economy in the face of this global recession.

Last week both the Prime Minister and I had the opportunity to move extensively around the country. I went to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin to talk to locals about what was going on in their communities and about what important infrastructure investments we were undertaking right across the nation. In Adelaide I spoke to Mr Ron Jenkins, who is the president of the Seaford District Residents Association in South Australia. As the member for Kingston knows, he had been calling for an extension of the Noarlunga to Seaford rail in South Australia for something like four years. Ron, I have to say, was pretty pleased with the government’s commitment to $291 million to deliver critical public transport to a rapidly growing area. On the Sunshine Coast both the Prime Minister and I had the opportunity to talk to Mr Wayne Sachs, who is an ambulance officer in Gympie. Of course, he was pretty pleased with the government’s decision of $488 million to duplicate the Cooroy to Curra section of the Bruce Highway. He said to us that this would save very many lives. In Darwin, with the member for Solomon, I met with Mr Gary Fry, who is the principal of the Moulden Park Primary School in Darwin. He was pretty pleased with the funding that was coming through the National School Pride and Value in Action school projects, which were going to enhance the performance of his students.

I think it is important that these local projects bring local communities together, because bringing communities together and bringing all Australians together is very important given the environment of this global recession. We are dealing with an event the likes of which we have not seen in 75 years, and it is critical that as the national government we take steps to stimulate local economies and, through those local economies, the national economy. Otherwise, the burden would fall fairly and squarely on families and small business. So our stimulus strategy has basically had three phases. The first phase was to move very quickly when this became apparent at the end of last year, and that was to direct cash to cash constrained people in the country. It was very important to get that out to those people last December to keep up retail sales over Christmas. It was very important to keep employment up over Christmas. It was very important to support small businesses during that time. That was very important in maintaining confidence in the Australian economy.

Phase 2 is coming through now: 35,000 construction projects around the country, the likes of which members around here are out there supporting day in, day out. Of course, it is the case that there are some on that side of the House who are out there supporting them as well. They are champions for stimulus in their local communities, but they are pussycats when they come to this parliament. They are out there supporting these projects in the local community and voting against them in this House. I was at an event on the weekend where a state Liberal member of parliament gave the stimulus package his full support. He was not game to say anything else given there were 250 parents there at that school.

But we are doing this for the best of reasons. It is not just about the education revolution, it is about supporting jobs, it is about supporting business and it is about supporting the Australian economy at a time of great need. That is why our three phases of economic stimulus have been very important.

If we are meant to believe what those opposite say—that they do not really believe in borrowing—what is the logical consequence of that position? Because there has been a $210 billion collapse in revenues, to make up for that they would have to savagely increase taxes or savagely cut services. So which is it? Because if they are not going to do that they will borrow every cent that we are borrowing and they will not pay it back one day earlier.