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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1748


Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (16:06): I join my colleagues in asking this government to stop spending its time and energy talking down Australia's economy, stop sending mixed signals to the private sector about what its economic settings are going to be and get on with a plan to craft and protect Australian jobs.

I will start by expressing a little bit of solidarity with those across the chamber. This must be a really difficult debate for them to have, because the economic record of the first six months of this government is a shocker. You could not have made this stuff up. We have had 5,000 jobs go at Qantas. We have seen 2,900 jobs go at Holden and 2,500 jobs go at Toyota—the collapse of Australia's automotive industry—and we will ultimately see 200,000 jobs lost over the next few years. We have also lost 1,200 jobs at Gove, 500 jobs at Electrolux and 250 jobs at Simplot. On top of all of those losses, 60,000 jobs have already disappeared since these guys have been in government. They just cannot take a trick. This is before the razor gang completes their report, which we expect will probably lead to more Public Service job cuts.

Any reasonable government, in the face of this record, would get the cabinet together and say 'Let's knuckle down guys; we have real problem here and we are going to have to create a plan for jobs and growth.' Instead, this government comes in here and says, for the first time after the election, that the government does not create jobs. I want to spend a bit of time talking about this point because I think it is a very important one. First, if that was the belief of this government I would have liked them to have let the electorate know about it before the election. Instead, what we have seen in this document we have been spending some time on today is that a million jobs will be created by this government. What we have here is a group of people who want to take credit for jobs that emerge when they are in government but every job that is lost is someone else's fault, so it is a little bit inconsistent. It is part of broader a inconsistency across this government's economic policy settings, which I will return to. Second, the statement that government does not create jobs is nonsense. Government is integral to job creation. Australians know that. It does not mean putting everyone on the government payroll but, through smart management of the budget and through the right investment in education, skills and infrastructure, government can create an environment that builds jobs. That is why the government needs a plan. You would not think that this needed to be explained to anyone.

On this side of the House we can provide a couple of pointers on what a plan might look like. You might think that now would be a great time to think about a tax break to help small businesses invest to create more jobs. Instead, we have those on the other side getting rid of the instant write-off facility. You might think that this would be a great time to start co-investing in businesses we know are going to go on and create jobs, like SPC Ardmona, but this view is not shared by the government. You might think that this is a great time to start investing in skills, especially the skills of young people. I would remind those on the other side of the House that under Labor every Australian high school student was going to have access to a trade training facility to build their skills and to address our national skills shortages, but they have decided to scrap that too. You might think that now is not the time to make a massive expansion in our welfare state, but those on the other side of the chamber are putting in place a $5.5 billion a year scheme that will see some of the wealthiest women in Australia supported through their maternity leave. These are very puzzling settings.

I return to the question of why there is no plan in place. I certainly do not regard this document as a plan—some of the anodyne and bizarre comments are quite humorous. On the side of one page, the Prime Minister is quoted as saying:

… the sum of human happiness is most likely to be maximised when government knows its limits.

I do not know where these guys come up with this stuff. We know the reason there is no plan cannot be that the government does not think government creates jobs, otherwise they would not have promised that they would create a million of them. It could be, as I would put forward, that they cannot agree on what the plan should look like. We have a lot of fundamental inconsistencies on the other side of the House about how we should be managing the Australian economy. For example, round one, we had GrainCorp where a significant foreign investment in Australian agriculture was denied on the basis that being Australian-owned really mattered—Barnaby one, Joe zero. Then, round two, with Holden, Ian Macfarlane loses support for the car industry and we will see that industry disappear with thousands of jobs lost—Joe one, Ian zero. And then, round three—Qantas. This is the one that really bites because in this instance the Treasurer came in and articulated a four-point plan. You have to feel sorry for the guy as he went out and articulated the plan, and although Qantas clearly met all of the points he still lost. I feel sorry for the people working in the Treasurer's office who thought that this was going to be the great Hockey doctrine, where we would be rewriting economic policy in Australia. Instead it was an absolute failure. One thing I have learnt in my time in this House is that the people on the other side will not let the facts get in the way of a good story. If only they could agree what the story was. (Time expired)

Mr Fitzgibbon: Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw to your attention the fact that a number of members on the government side have been interjecting, and they are not in their seats.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): That is the case, and it has been the case on both sides during this discussion. The member for Hunter does remind me that interjecting while out of your place is grossly disorderly. I emphasise that right now to both sides of the chamber. I have been lenient.