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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6718

Mr HALE (4:17 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the developments in the global economy and Australia’s response to the global recession?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Solomon for his question. I know he takes seriously the challenges facing the Northern Territory economy—an export focused economy with challenges because of contractions in global trade and therefore requiring an active government out there supporting business at every opportunity in these times of unprecedented global economic difficulty. That is the expectation of us by working families across our nation: right now out there standing in the gap between them and the global recession to reduce the impact of this recession on joblessness in our country. That is what people expect us to do. The people of Australia want us to be standing up for them at a time when jobs are being shed right across the world. They want us to be standing up for the things which matter for them, negotiating our way through this global economic recession, investing in the education revolution, in their schools, investing in our public hospitals where people need to go to get proper medical attention, investing also in the biggest and most significant age pension reform this nation has seen in the 100-year history of the age pension. Also they want a government taking action to abolish Work Choices and to replace Work Choices with a fair and balanced industrial relations system, and acting on the whole challenge of climate change responsibly in a balanced way, ensuring that we can craft a carbon pollution reduction scheme, craft a renewable energy target, to ensure that we are getting it absolutely right for business in our contribution to bring down global greenhouse gases. That is what this government is committed to and that is why we have legislation passing its way through the parliament—a government also getting on with the business of closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. That is what this government has been on about since the time we delivered an apology from this side of the House at the beginning of last year, embarked upon a program of closing the gap, investing in communities of the Northern Territory and elsewhere to make a difference in the lives of Australians.

And we are doing so at a time when the global economy is under virtually unprecedented challenge. As the Treasurer indicated in his answer before, the World Bank data released just now on global growth projections for 2009 is a sober reminder to us all that we are not out of the woods. The numbers are stark. The projection is for growth in 2009 to contract by 1.7 per cent. This is one percentage point lower than the March forecast of 0.6 and is weaker than the IMF’s forecast. This is not a passing inconsequence to working families across Australia, to pensioners, to carers, to small business people, those out there trying to earn a dollar in a very difficult environment. What we have done as a government is to embark upon a strategy of nation building for recovery and of nation building for the future, to make a difference. That is why we have gone out there and said we are going to support jobs, apprenticeships and small business today by investing in the infrastructure we need for tomorrow. That is the government’s strategy, and we have been implementing this strategy since the first data of the global recession came flowing into us. That is why we have embarked upon a three-stage strategy, investing, first of all, in support through cash payments for families to try and keep the economy afloat in the critical quarter to the fourth quarter last year, the first quarter this year and the second quarter this year. When the rest of the world was crashing into recession, the economy of Australia in the March quarter kept growth positive. We kept growth positive. That is because government was in there making a difference, investing to support consumption knowing full well it would take time for investment in infrastructure to flow through, which brings us to phase 2 of what we have done on the economy: investing in medium-term infrastructure, the biggest school modernisation program the country has ever seen, one of which local P&Cs and P&Fs are proud, one of which their communities are proud, because we are out there providing facilities—state-of-the-art language centres, state-of-the-art libraries, state-of-the-art science centres—to make sure our kids have the best education facilities possible for the future and also investments in social housing and investments as well in energy insulation. Then there is phase 3. Phase 3 of our economic strategy is nation building for recovery for our long-term infrastructure, including building for the first time a state-of-the-art 21st century broadband network for all of Australia, for all those areas which have been so neglected by those opposite after 12 years in office.

Our strategy is clear: nation building for recovery and supporting jobs, small business and apprenticeships today in order to build the infrastructure that Australia needs for tomorrow. This is, I believe, of some relevance as to why those opposite abandoned the economic policy debate last week. The reason is they were horrified when the growth data for Australia was positive. They were horrified that, in fact, the government’s economic strategy was having an effect. They were horrified that, among the most advanced economies, we were generating the fastest economic growth, we were generating the lowest net debt, we were generating a deficit which was lower than the average of the advanced economies and we had the second lowest unemployment of the major advanced economies. That is what the government has been on about, day in, day out, since this economic tidal wave came across the world with the events of last year. That is what we have been doing.

When positive economic data came out indicating that businesses and workers were striving hard to make a difference in the face of this recession, and we saw in early evidence a glimpse of good news on the economy—positive growth, virtually unique across the OECD—the opposition moved their campaign from one of political fear on the economy to personal smear in this place. That is exactly what they have done. We have seen a fear campaign on the economy led by the Leader of the Opposition, who simply smirks and smiles in this place as if today’s events are of no consequence to your integrity. I would say to the Leader of the Opposition: they are fundamental enduring consequences to your integrity because you are being marked by the Australian people for what you have done in the last several days and the fact that you have engaged in the business of transmitting information through your office contained in a false email.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RUDD —I say to those opposite, as they howl in protest, they stood in this place and demanded my resignation and that of the Treasurer and said that this was based on irrefutable evidence, that it was based on their smoking gun, only for it to evaporate completely in smoke today. Those opposite then believe that somehow this will just be forgotten, that the traducing of a person’s integrity, such as the traducing of the integrity of the Leader of the Opposition, which has occurred today, will simply be forgotten. My message to the Leader of the Opposition is that it will not be. The Australian people are making a judgment about the man who sits opposite and puts himself forward as the alternative Prime Minister of Australia and he has been found seriously wanting. There is one lone course of action: apologise and resign.

Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.