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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4701

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (11:01): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) Australia's economy is strong, resilient and outperforming any comparable nation;

(b) Australia's unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent is historically low when compared to Europe and the United States;

(c) the International Monetary Fund ranks Australia's 2011 per capita GDP as sixth, ahead of 176 other nations; and

(d) Australia's government net debt as a percentage of GDP, which at peaked at 8.9 per cent, is extremely low when compared to nations such as Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France;

(2) acknowledges that:

(a) living conditions for Australians are the best in the world;

(b) Australia was ranked second in the 2011 United Nations Human Development Index; and

(c) Australia was ranked first in the 2011 OECD Better Life Index; and

(3) the Australian economy is becoming a knowledge economy with the finance sector accounting for more of the total economy than mining or manufacturing.

Australia's economic fundamentals are among the strongest in the world. Our economy has grown by more than seven per cent of its pre-crisis level of output and is expected to outperform every major advanced economy over the next two years. We have low unemployment at 4.9 per cent, with around 800,000 jobs created since this government came into office in 2007. We have a record investment pipeline, and economic prospects in our region remain very healthy. We have strong public finances and a AAA credit rating from all three major ratings agencies for the first time in Australia's history.

Our economy is the envy of the developed world because Labor has made the tough calls and the right calls in a tough economic climate. We did this by most recently doing exactly what we promised: delivering on major reforms and returning the budget to surplus. We were able to achieve this through supporting growth and jobs at the height of the global financial crisis under the stewardship of the world's best Treasurer, and we avoided the untold damage done to so many families, communities and economies around the world. Looking at other economies, it is clear that no economy is immune to global instability. Global developments in Europe have triggered volatility in global financial markets and the Treasurer anticipates that Europe's economy will contract by three-quarters of one per cent this year and that bouts of global volatility are likely to continue for some time. Even in this difficult economic climate Australia has managed to come through the greatest economic crisis since the depression as the envy of the world.

One of the many reasons we are the envy of the developed world is our exceptional record of job creation. Just two days after the budget we got a clear demonstration of what strong economic management is all about. Figures showed that there were more people in the workforce than ever before—just over 11.5 million Australians. Nearly 90,000 more people have gained the security and the dignity of a job so far this year, taking the total number of jobs created since Labor came to office to around 800,000. This is a big achievement, particularly when you consider that over the same period about 27 million men and women have joined unemployment queues elsewhere in the world. It is another indication of our economy's resilience despite the pressures of the high dollar, cautious consumer spending and ongoing global uncertainty, all of which are weighing on many businesses. Australia's unemployment rate at 4.9 per cent is among the lowest in the industrialised world and well ahead of the United States at 8.1 per cent, the United Kingdom at 8.3 per cent, France at 9.8 per cent and Spain at 24.4 per cent.

It is not just our employment record that puts Australia in a league of its own. The IMF ranks Australia's 2011 per capita GDP as sixth ahead of 176 other nations and we are returning the budget to surplus in 2012-13 before many of our peers have even halved their deficits. Our economy is forecast to grow faster than every single major advanced economy over the next two years. It is also important to highlight that Australia's government net debt as a percentage of GDP peaked at 8.9 per cent, which is extremely low when compared to nations such as Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

The 2012-13 budget was a Labor budget—a budget that recognised Australian families are feeling cost-of-living pressures and need a hand up. We know that Australians already have some of the best living conditions in the world, but in the latest budget we made sure that those Australians who are feeling the pinch most are able to share in some of the benefits of our mining boom and our strong economic fundamentals. The Labor budget demonstrated that you do not need to choose between a surplus and good social policy that will strengthen our economy and improve living conditions for the most vulnerable groups in Australia's society.

Few in our society are more vulnerable than those who will benefit from the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This scheme will provide Australians who have a significant and permanent disability with the care and support they need to participate in society, no matter where they live or how they acquired their disability. As the country's most fundamental social policy reform since Medicare, the scheme will take some time to implement. We know that we need to work through the details with the state and territory governments; we also know that this reform cannot wait. That is why $1 billion in the budget has been allocated to this reform. From July 2013, a year ahead of schedule, launch locations around the country will start to lift the standard of help for around 10,000 people with a significant and permanent disability, and the number of people receiving this help will grow to 20,000 from mid-2014. I know that those of us from Queensland—the member for Moreton, I am sure, feels the same way—really hope that the state government wants one of the launch locations to be in Queensland. I talk to many families in my electorate every day who are caring for loved ones with a disability, and I understand the pressures they are facing. We do need these launch locations to start as quickly as possible, and I want to see one of the launch locations in Queensland.

This reform is just one of many that the government has made. Another of these reforms is the securing of funding in the budget for aged-care reform. This is another very important issue for the electorate of Petrie. There are many seniors in my electorate, and many want to know what the future of aged care is. Are they going to be able to stay at home for as long as they would like to and have someone care for them at home? When they or their family makes the difficult decision that they need to move into a nursing home, will help be there and will there be an aged-care system that can support them in the long term? Also, the government is delivering a dental package that will ensure that all Australians are able to benefit from our strong economic fundamentals. There are many people on the public dental waiting lists in the electorate of Petrie, and this package will go a long way to assisting those people. Reforms such as these are exactly the reason that Australia is ranked second in the 2011 United Nations Human Development Index and first in the 2011 OECD Better Life Index. These are really important achievements and reflect not just on Labor's sound fiscal management, which promotes good living conditions, but also on the values, resilience and dedication to fairness of all Australians.

Finally, I urge that the House acknowledge that the Australian economy is becoming a knowledge economy. The finance sector accounts for more of the total economy than do mining or manufacturing. In addition, we know that the small business sector is one of the drivers of the Australian economy. Nearly five million Australians are employed by small businesses, and 96 per cent of all businesses are small businesses. These provide 47 per cent of the nation's jobs, which means that about 4.8 million employees are employed by small businesses. Across the electorate of Petrie there are over 12,000 small businesses. This Labor government is acting in the interests of these businesses and of our communities through responsible fiscal policy, and the government will continue to work in the interests of this nation in keeping our economy strong, resilient and outperforming that of any comparable nation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?

Mr PERRETT: I second the motion.