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Monday, 24 May 2010
Page: 3768

Mr SULLIVAN (8:23 PM) —Twelve months ago, the shadow Treasurer stood in this chamber and scoffed. Labor could not achieve its budgeted outcomes he said. Well, events have proven him wrong, so very wrong, but there was no mea culpa forthcoming from the shadow Treasurer. Instead, the shadow Treasurer again stood in this chamber and sought to cast doubts on the capacity of this year’s budget to deliver on its forecasts, ably supported of course by a conga line of Hanrahans, each of them prepared to declare that we’ll all be rooned within the year.

The truth is as plain as it is painful for the opposition. Action by the Rudd Labor government, on the advice of Treasury, the IMF and the World Bank, averted the havoc that was wrought upon the rest of the world by the global financial crisis. Clearly this will never be acknowledged by those opposite, who hold the deep conviction that only they are entitled to govern Australia, only they are capable of steering our economy. Our success, they say, was all due to them. We inherited an economy that was in a position of strength—that is true. Did it help that there were cash reserves? Of course it did. Did it help that our banks are well regulated? Of course it did. All of which, however, would have counted for nothing without a stimulus.

I want to quote a Queensland statistician, Scott Steel, a writer for the online news organisation, Crikey, who ran the ruler over the effects of the various international stimulus spends:

According to IMF data and the consistency and significance of the stimulus/forecast error relationship, a stimulus package in Australia around the 2.2% of GDP would have given us zero growth—anything less than that would have delivered us negative growth.

When the Coalition says the stimulus package should have been smaller—they need to be asked how much smaller. Every drop in GDP causes an increase in size of unemployment. How many more people would they have been willing to throw on the scrap heap of unemployment in their pursuit of a smaller package?

Every time the Coalition complains about debt, they need to be asked how much smaller they believe the stimulus package should have been and how many more people would they have been willing to throw on the scrap heap of unemployment in their pursuit of a smaller debt load.

Debt was the cost of growth—growth was and always is the provider of jobs. Pretending that less debt could have provided the same jobs is fairy floss economics. A dollar is a dollar is a dollar.

The size of stimulus packages mattered—the international evidence is in.

The Coalition needs to be questioned about its economic viewpoints—viewpoints which are far from mainstream economics, existing on the very fringes of economic debate and which are completely at odds, completely and utterly at odds, with the international empirical evidence.

You know what an argument without evidence is called?

‘Making it up’ was not Mr Steel’s answer, but it was something quite similar to that. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, has publicly indicated via the ABC’s The 7.30 Report that that is exactly what he does—makes it up to suit the moment.

It is clear that Australia’s economy is still strong. On every measure we are in a superior position to similar economies worldwide. Despite the shadow Treasurer’s derision 12 months ago, we are in a position to achieve the unthinkable—returning to budget surplus in three years, a full three years ahead of expectation just 12 month ago, and halving the peak debt. That will be a great achievement. But the shadow Treasurer is nothing if not a trier. Last year as part of his scoffing he declared budget forecasts and projections to be optimistic. Last week, as if to explain away the remarkable 2009-10 outcome, he declared them to be pessimistic. Today he cast doubt on this year’s projections and forecasts as again being optimistic. As shadow Treasurer, the member for North Sydney is a one-trick pony.

I want to turn to some of the measures in the budget. The budget provides funding for the national broadcaster, the ABC, including additional money to purchase equipment to enable it to switch over to digital broadcasting. Coincidentally, today the Senate Environment, Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee questioned ABC representatives as part of the estimates processes. Again they were forced to listen to assertions from Senator Abetz that the ABC has a bias towards Labor.

The good senator might like to consider another isolated example when levelling bias charges at the ABC. Around about 1.30 pm on 11 February this year, the environment minister rose in this place to make a ministerial statement in relation to the Home Insulation Program. In a clearly worded statement the minister dealt with each occurrence that had been characterised as a warning, whether it was a report, a letter or other communication or incident. The minister spelt out what action had been taken in each instance and which department officials, which industry associations, which safety organisations or which unions had been involved. He advised the parliament of the decisions made and the actions taken. That evening, as I travelled back to my accommodation, the local ABC radio station led its 10 pm news bulletin with an item beginning with words, ‘Peter Garrett had 13 warnings on home insulation program but did nothing.’ If it was not those exact words, it was words very similar. That sounded to me then to be very much like the mantra that was being chanted by the opposition at the time. Eight and a half hours after the minister stood to refute those claims, our national broadcaster, broadcasting from the national capital, continued to repeat parrot-fashion the opposition’s line. That does not sound to me like the actions of an organisation biased towards the Labor government.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—Order! It being 8.30, the debate is interrupted in accordance with sessional order 34. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The honourable member for Longman will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.