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Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Page: 1313


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (21:26): Before I start, I would like to pass on my best wishes to the town of St George in your electorate, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, and hope that everyone is recovering, especially the occupants of those 60 or so houses that went under water.

I rise to support the two bills currently before the House, Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012, which will appropriate $2.8 billion and $341 million respectively. These bills authorise funding for measures outlined in the 2011-12 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The Gillard government is shaping a strong economy, protecting jobs and delivering the services Australians want and deserve now and for the future. The Gillard Labor government has helped keep our economy strong with a record of fiscal discipline. With continuing global economic unrest, particularly in Europe, now more than ever Australia needs a responsible pair of hands on the economy. Treasurer Wayne Swan—the world's No. 1 Treasurer—has shown how to navigate our economy through global uncertainty. As the Treasurer says, 'Our economy walks tall in the world'—and other political leaders say that as well. I note the Leader of the Opposition said, in his address to the Policy Exchange in London on 10 November last year:

This year, Australia's economic growth is expected to be one and three quarters per cent; our unemployment rate—

Mr Haase: Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek intervention and the opportunity to ask a question of the speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Will the member for Moreton take a question?

Mr PERRETT: No.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Durack will resume his seat.

Mr PERRETT: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. To continue that quote:

… our unemployment rate about five and a quarter per cent; our net government debt, Commonwealth and state, about eight per cent of GDP, the envy of the world;

As stated by Mr Abbott:

… our collective budget deficits just under four per cent of GDP and net interest payments just under two per cent of government outlays.

He went on to say:

Australia has serious bragging rights. Compared to most developed countries, our economic circumstances are enviable.

So here in Australia we hear those opposite bombastically declaring doom and gloom and dole queue schadenfreude, but overseas their leader tells a completely different story—such hypocrisy.

Nevertheless, we have solid growth. We have contained inflation. We have a huge investment pipeline, as anyone in regional Australia would know—$455 billion worth of projects in the pipeline—and the lowest net debt of all advanced economies. Of 200 countries in the world only eight have a AAA rating, and we are lucky enough to be one of them. Most economies are still trying to make up the ground they lost during the global financial crisis. We are seeing that in Greece and in other countries, and even Canada, which is easily compared with Australia, they have problems. But, here in Australia, because of our solid economic management, as those opposite gladly acknowledge, we have a AAA rated economy which is now seven per cent larger than before the GFC. In fact, all three credit agencies have awarded Australia a AAA rating. There are 192 other countries around the world that do not have a AAA rating from all the rating agencies, and some are a long way south of it.

This did not happen by accident but through a broad based plan to manage our economy and boost productivity. It also reflects this government's courage to make the tough decisions for our future. This is the Labor story: we do the heavy lifting and the nation-building changes and those opposite reap the benefits. There is not a lot of policy ticker to be seen over there at the moment. The easy, popular decision would have been to avoid major reforms like introducing a carbon price, a massive economic reform that will cut pollution, cut taxes and increase the pension. It is a faithful investment in the children who will be born this year and beyond. I particularly note that my brother Tim and his wife, Katie, are expecting a boy in the next month or so, and I think of the economy that boy will face in the many years to come. Good luck to Tim and Katie.

We could have sat back and watched the mining boom plunder our finite resources—and I stress 'our finite resources'—and only line the pockets of wealthy mining executives. But Labor did not. We acknowledge obviously the contribution of Gina and Clive and the CEOs of other companies in helping to dig out and sell our minerals, but the national interest obviously extends beyond Gina and Clive. We introduced the mining tax to ensure that the benefits were shared with all Australians, delivering a boost to retirement savings, tax breaks for small business and a company tax cut to benefit the 2½ million companies throughout Australia, the small businesses that are doing it tough. We are rolling out affordable high-speed broadband to all Australians and investing in productivity. As all sensible people know, the productivity reading is not going in the direction we need. That means we need better education, better health care and faster and more convenient access for all Australian businesses, and that is what the NBN will deliver.

We are not in government to simply warm the benches and tinker at the edges of legislation. We are here to deliver lasting and real change for a better Australia, for today, for tomorrow—in fact, 'for infinity and beyond'. That is a quote from the movie Toy Story. I was disgusted to see former prime minister John Howard endorsing the opposition leader's oppose everything approach to populist politics. The Hon. John Howard should be better than that. It was beneath someone who worked for the national interest at the highest level of Australian politics for nearly 12 years. Surely where we share common ground and common purpose agreement can be reached, as stated so eloquently earlier in the evening by the member for Scullin. The negativity of the opposition leader may enthuse the rank and file of the Liberal and National parties but it does little towards making us a better Australia. It is certainly not befitting of the alternative Prime Minister and neither is his talking down of our economy when he is not back in front of his birthplace.

The Gillard Labor government have been working hard to protect Australian jobs in these tough times. We have created more than 700,000 new jobs in just four years, but I would be the first to admit that more needs to be done in this area. At a time when the opposition were urging us to sit on our hands and do nothing, in fact some of them even slept through votes on things like the steel industry protection package, we instead moved quickly to protect Australian jobs from the fallout of the GFC. All I hear from the opposition are plans to cut jobs and bash Australian industry, plans to slash $1.5 billion in government support for the auto sector and to cut public service jobs.

With a thriving manufacturing hub in the Moreton electorate, I am concerned about the impact that slowing world growth and the high Australian dollar are having on my local businesses. That is why the Gillard Labor government are working closely with the manufacturing industry to support innovation, increase productivity and to improve our international competitiveness. We must continue to work to protect jobs. However, we should be proud that our unemployment rate remains in the low fives, which is lower than that of almost every other major advanced economy. Still, we must be vigilant.

The Building the Education Revolution program was another fine example of this government's commitment to jobs during the global financial crisis. I am disappointed that tomorrow, because of my commitments here in parliament, I will miss the blessing and opening of St Pius X Catholic Primary School in Salisbury. I wish them well with their new multipurpose hall and council rooms. Those facilities are a fine example of what local schools can accomplish when governments provide the money they need to deliver the education facilities that our students deserve.

Of course, the BER program was not just about better education facilities; it also ensured that our building industry stayed strong beyond the uncertainty of the global financial crisis. So many of the builders, the painters, the carpenters and the electricians in my local area are thankful for the injection of funds and work provided by the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments. The BER program builds on the Gillard government's record investment in education and skills. It fits hand in glove with our other education investments in innovation—for example, computers in schools and the national curriculum. These two initiatives are complemented by the NBN, which will be a step towards our bigger program of improving productivity. I am not taking away from the 3,000 flagpoles of those opposite—they were important—but 3,000 libraries are a much better contribution. I love our flag, but I love our kids too, and I think that libraries are the greater contribution.

We have doubled investment in school education. We have upgraded facilities at every school—all 9,800 of them—and created 130,000 training places. We are also working to protect Australia's most vulnerable people. This work is at the heart of the Labor cause. We have delivered an historic increase to the pension, and we are working to improve the aged-care system. We have to look after those who are nearing retirement—not that there is anyone in this room approaching that age!

We have to get on with our commitment to introduce the nation's first ever National Disability Insurance Scheme. We have secured $5.8 billion to help rebuild flood affected regions in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. As a Queenslander I was little bit disappointed in those opposite, who voted against this helping hand in our time of devastation. The modest flood levy and our tough budget savings enabled us to direct the necessary resources to communities doing it tough after our summer of disaster.

This government's record of service delivery and economic management is noteworthy. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we should have 'serious bragging rights'. But that is not my style; let us just get on with the business of helping industry and reaching out a hand to those who are doing it tough or who have not yet found the opportunity that awaits them. I am proud to be part of a Labor government which is making life better for all Australians, and I look forward to doing more to help the good citizens of Morton. I commend the appropriation bill to the House.