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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6078


Mr CIOBO (2:21 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. I refer the Treasurer to the Reserve Bank minutes released today which contain the statement:

Many businesses were facing higher risk margins when loan facilities were rolled over or renegotiated, and many had experienced a significant tightening in the terms under which credit was available.

Why are our government-guaranteed banks making debt so much more expensive and difficult for small- and medium-sized enterprises?


Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —The very first point I would make is that the government put in place the bank guarantee last October to ensure that credit was going to flow to the Australian economy, to households and to businesses. If it had not been for that decisive action then we would have experienced in this country a severe contraction of credit and the price of it would have increased dramatically. As a consequence of that action there has been a flow of credit in this economy virtually unlike in any other advanced economy. The point I want to make is that those opposite opposed the bank guarantee. They opposed our term funding guarantee that has enabled our banks to borrow almost $100 billion.


Mr Turnbull —On a point of order, Mr Speaker, it cannot be relevant for the Treasurer to misstate the facts of the proceedings in this House. We voted for that legislation.


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. There is no point of order. The Treasurer is responding to the question.


Mr SWAN —Those opposite must think that everybody in this House has no memory whatsoever. They have been in this House for week after week opposing the term funding guarantee—week after week conducting a campaign against the term funding guarantee—which has enabled our banks to borrow $100 billion offshore to ensure there was a flow of credit to the Australian economy, including to Australian businesses.


Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point order. It cannot possibly be relevant to misstate facts about votes in the House like this. The Treasurer has lost the plot—completely lost the plot.


The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


Mr SWAN —Today in the Senate there is a very important piece of legislation which will put in place ABIP and which will ensure, under some circumstances, a flow of finance to business. They are going to vote against it. They have opposed that tooth and nail and they have opposed the term funding guarantee tooth and nail. You could produce a very large box of statements from those that oppose the term funding guarantee. I know everybody in the gallery remembers the opposition coming in here day after day ripping the government apart because we put in place the bank guarantee—which has turned out to be spectacularly successful and one of the most beneficial measures that has been put in place in Australian history to support our financial system. It is also the case that there are difficulties for some sections of business in accessing finance even at the moment—I accept that—but it is not a function of anything other than the fact that the conditions in financial markets globally are very difficult.


Mr Ciobo —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Treasurer has been speaking for three or four minutes now and has not mentioned small business once. That was central to the question. I ask for one mention of small business from this government—


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Moncrieff will resume his seat.


Mr SWAN —There are thousands of small businesses that have a stake in what occurs with the ABIP legislation in the Senate this very day. There are thousands of small businesses that have a very big stake. There are thousands of small businesses that think that the government’s economic stimulus measures were absolutely what was needed to support demand and to make sure that small business had customers. This is something that those opposite have opposed all the way through—the essential economic stimulus that we have put in place to ensure that small business has got customers walking through the door.

Of course, then there is the campaign from those opposite against OzCar and the efforts of this government to ensure a flow of finance to car dealers. The principal beneficiaries of that will be car dealerships in rural and regional Australia. We have had a whole smear campaign mounted around that. They cannot be too concerned about the flow of credit to car dealerships. They are certainly not concerned about the flow of credit to many of those people in retail small business. We understand there is still a challenging environment out there for many in small business, and that is why we will do everything we possibly can to ensure that those matters are attended to and that credit flows.