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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 7980

Ms LIVERMORE (3:24 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Human Services and Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law. Will the minister outline to the House the evidence on the success of the government’s stimulus package? How important is it that the government maintains a consistent approach to economic decision making?

Mr BOWEN (Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law and Minister for Human Services) —For the last year, the Rudd government have been focused on cushioning the blow of the global recession on Australia and of course will continue to do so. We are now starting to get a better picture of how Australia is performing in the midst of the global recession. The Rudd government’s policy response has recently been applauded by the IMF in their assessment of the Australian economy. In fact, the IMF commended the Australian government on what they called its:

… timely policy response, which has effectively cushioned the impact of the global financial crisis on the Australian economy.

The IMF also stated that they:

… welcomed the targeted temporary fiscal stimulus which is expected to support domestic demand in 2009 and 2010.

Last Friday, the Governor of the Reserve Bank took a similar approach. Of the fiscal stimulus by the government, he said:

I think any objective observer would say that the size and speed of that response has been one of the important factors supporting private demand over the past nine months.

It is clear that a combination of government and private sector activity has meant that Australia has withstood this crisis with some of the lowest unemployment, highest growth and lowest debt levels in the developed world.

I am asked about the importance of consistency in economic decision making as we deal with the fallout from the global economic recession. When it comes to consistency, there are some important lessons to learn. For example, on April Fool’s Day, the member for Wentworth and the member for North Sydney held a doorstop. The Leader of the Opposition cast judgment on the government’s stimulus package and he declared it not to have worked. He said:

No jobs created, no enduring economic activity promoted or inspired by it.

That was the current Leader of the Opposition. That was their strategy: to cast out and say it has not worked. But then, of course, they had a problem on 3 June, when the Leader of the Opposition received some bad news. The news was that, despite the attempts to undermine the fiscal stimulus packages of the government, the ABS announced that Australia was one of only two OECD nations to grow in the March quarter. Then the Leader of the Opposition changed his tune when it came to opportunism. He conceded:

Well … every dollar a government spends within Australia has some impact on economic activity.

That was version 2 of the Leader of the Opposition’s narrative. Now, as late as last Friday, we have version 3 from the opposition: the stimulation is working too well and overheating the Australian economy and should be withdrawn and that it is putting upward pressure on interest rates. They have gone from arguing that the stimulus package had no impact to arguing that maybe it had some impact to arguing that it is having too much impact. The Leader of the Opposition really should not be so hard on the government’s stimulus package. They actually have a lot in common. The package is targeted and temporary, and so is the Leader of the Opposition.

This morning, the opportunism of the opposition has had further light cast on it. This morning we had a new low when it comes to the members opposite. Today, we heard from one of the shadow leaders of the opposition—in fact, the preferred leader of the opposition. Today, we heard from Banquo’s ghost: our old friend, the member for Higgins. He spoke to the ABC and he spoke of opportunity. He did not speak about Australia being a land of opportunity. He did not talk about the opportunities for Australia as one of the countries that has withstood the global recession better than any other. He did not talk about opportunities for young Australians. He spoke about political opportunity. The member for Higgins has recently been begged by many members opposite to return to the leadership. This is what the member for Higgins said this morning:

Actually, the political times probably suit an opposition because since the election more Australians have lost their jobs. Australians have watched their superannuation go backwards. The value of your average Australian asset—that is, their shares and their houses—has gone down, and it is undeniably the case that since 2007, on average, every Australian has gone backwards, which I would have thought is very fertile ground for an opposition.

Indeed, it gets worse. He went on to say:

So I say there is an opportunity there and the question is to realise it.

Have you ever seen more crass political opportunism from a member of this House than from the alternative leader of the opposition, the member for Higgins? The Australian people are looking for more from a political party than opportunism. They are looking for more than an opposition that say, ‘The times will suit us.’ They are looking for a political party that provides leadership to get through a crisis and provides decisive action, not political opportunism, which the member for Wentworth and the member for Higgins have made an art form of.