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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6309


Mr TURNBULL (Leader of the Opposition) (2:00 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the rejection of Ruddbank by the Senate. I ask the Prime Minister to detail to the House the Labor Party’s record in commercial property lending and advise honourable members how many thousands of jobs and billions of taxpayers’ dollars were lost through the Labor government run state banks in Victoria and South Australia. When Labor turns banker, don’t taxpayers always have to pick up the tab?


Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —Methinks he doth protest too much. The Leader of the Opposition knows that he is standing there as the single living roadblock to many businesses in Australia having access to finance to support jobs in the construction industry. He knows full well there has been a line-up of people from business and the finance community who have been to see him, saying, ‘Will you please stand out of the road in order to provide decent Australian firms with finance to go out there and continue their projects and build jobs.’ He knows he is under the spotlight on this, hence we have this great spray up the front today in order to try and take some pressure off him. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: this stands as one of the more reckless acts in which the Liberal Party has engaged in recent times. If you listen to the tenor of the questions put into the House of Representatives by the Leader of the Opposition over the last week or so, they have been along the lines of the availability of finance and the cost of finance. What does this team opposite then go around and do in the Senate? They block finance and its availability to business. This is a complete contradiction in the position they have sought to put forward in this House.

Following this act of economic vandalism by those opposite to wreck projects and to wreck jobs at a time of global recession, could I draw to the attention of the Leader of the Opposition comments this morning from the director of corporate affairs of Westfield, who said, ‘Like the stimulus packages, this piece of legislation was very important for confidence and jobs.’ I notice the Leader of the Opposition is having an objection to Westfield.


Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order that goes to relevance. I know it is just the Prime Minister’s modesty that is stopping him from talking about the Labor Party’s record in commercial property lending, but I would encourage him to address the question.


Mr Crean —What about HIH?


Mr RUDD —We will be coming on to HIH fairly soon, and the record, because I know the Leader of the Opposition had a particular interest in that matter. But let us just leave that for a time. Let us not rake over the coals just now. For that matter, so did the member for North Sydney, who presided over the implosion of a great Australian financial institution. The member for North Sydney was the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation at the time. What happened? We saw the implosion of a great institution in which apparently a current member of the Liberal Party sitting at a front seat—


Mr Hockey —HIH was a great institution! Do you know what you just said?


Mr RUDD —The great thing about the member for North Sydney is that the more he bellows the less the content is. The member for North Sydney was also interjecting about comments from Westfield. Yesterday or the day before Frank Lowy from Westfield was asked down there at the National Press Club about what actually was contributing to Australia’s relatively better economic performance globally. What was his response? Frank Lowy from Westfield has businesses in the United States. He has businesses in the United Kingdom. He said there were three answers: government stimulus, government stimulus and government stimulus. That is what Westfield had to say. I draw that to the attention of the Leader of the Opposition because Westfield and a whole bunch of other companies are out there from the property sector saying to the Liberal Party, ‘Why don’t you just get out of the road and do something constructive for the economy rather than always talking the economy down?’

Similarly this morning, in answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s question, we had the chief executive of the Property Council of Australia—another front for world socialism, apparently—say the following:

You know, Australia was ahead of the pack here in recognising there was a potential problem with foreign banks in particular being directed to reinvest in home countries by their new owners’ foreign governments, but, now the Japanese and Americans have recognised the same problem, they have put in contingency plans and we have not. So now we are behind the game. It was elegant, it was simple, it was transparent and we have missed an opportunity. Credit is still very difficult to get in Australia and this is totally different from the recession of the nineties. Foreign banks in particular play a crucial role in the way that they did not last time around in the recession.

So says the chief executive of the Property Council of Australia. The truth is that the Leader of the Opposition knows this. His colleagues know that. They have had one representative of an industry association after another into them asking why they will not just get out of the road and allow this measure to pass the parliament so that finance can be delivered to real projects by real companies to create real jobs for Australia.

Can I say to those opposite on this question as they reflect—and I am sure the member for North Sydney is reflecting on his stupendous achievements as minister for financial regulation back then, and of course on the Leader of the Opposition’s achievements when he was the member for Goldman Sachs—is that what this goes to is a very simple question of politics versus economics. We are saying we need to get out there and support businesses to create jobs and to uncloud the lines of finance for businesses to get jobs and projects going. Those opposite have simply engaged on a negative political strategy to block everything in the Senate and to talk the economy down. The contrast is here for all to see: a government in the business of trying to boost the Australian economy up and lift us out this global recession and a leader of the Liberal Party determined to do everything he can to negatively talk the Australian economy down. On this day those in search of Australian jobs and those supporting Australian companies will hang their heads in disbelief that the so-called party of business has left them marooned by this action.