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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7520


Mr HAYES (Fowler) (15:57): Once again we come in here to be lectured by people who had the opportunity over 12 long years of the Howard government to make change. In fairness, they did make change. These are the people who stripped over $1 billion out of public health. As a matter of fact, that was under the Leader of the Opposition himself. These are the same people who decided to cut investment in education, specifically vocational education as we were building up to a skills crisis. The coup d'etat of this mob opposite was that when they had control of both Houses they wanted to pit worker against worker and bring in the most obscene forms of industrial legislation. For the first time in this country's history they made it possible and legal for people on the minimum wage to be paid lower than award rates of pay. I think we need to be reminded of their economic position, their fiscal rectitude and the way they have gone about them when they have occupied the Treasury benches.

The truth of the matter is that we have a $1.4 trillion economy. We have a growth rate that is exceeding four per cent. We have an unemployment rate hovering around five per cent. We have a sovereign debt rate of less than 10 per cent, which is about one-tenth of most mainstream economies, and we have low interest rates. As a country we should actually be crowing about that and saying that it is not a bad achievement. Outside the halls here and certainly outside Australia, they go overseas and they do crow about it. What was Tony Abbott's quote when he visited London recently? It was something to the effect that we have serious bragging rights about our economy. He also went on to say that our economic circumstances are most enviable. They get back on the 747, come back to Australia and want to say that this is a basket case. Quite frankly, the only basket case here is people coming in and wanting to talk down our economy and our economic performance, apart from everything else. You would have to say that that is just simply un-Australian. If you cannot stick to the facts, shut up.

In 2008, not all that long ago, the opposition, which had been in government for 12 years before it was dismissed in 2007, had an opportunity. In 2008, the worst economic shock hit this country and, as a matter of fact, the rest of the world—the global financial crisis. There was no text book on how to handle this. It is was a matter of trying to work together to stimulate the economy. We came up with what I thought were pretty clever ideas, like investing in our schools. Not only did that keep our construction industry working but it also meant that those kids are going to learn and, through these advanced learning technologies, are going to become more productive members of our society as they hit the workforce later on. So we get a double benefit out of that.

What did those opposite say about that? They just said, 'No.' It was not, 'Let's compromise; let's talk about it.' They voted no to any investment in schools. That is probably what they did when they had an opportunity in government, in any event.

We put money into social housing. The idea was to assist state governments with social housing—not only directly funding the development of new social housing but also funding maintenance so that they could get more housing stock on line. Those opposite voted no to that too.

I turn to regional and local infrastructure. This is infrastructure that is owned and operated by all our councils. Whether they were Liberal, Labor or Callithumpian it did not matter; it applied to all our councils. We voted to use that as a way to stimulate our economy by investing directly in the councils, allowing them to oversee those projects. What did the opposition do? They voted no to that.

But they did have an overlying philosophy. When they sat over there in the face of the world's worst economic crisis they did make a contribution to the debate. Their contribution was, 'We should wait and see what happens.' Some could argue that maybe Ireland, Greece and Portugal took their advice seriously and waited to see what happened in Europe and that this why they are almost economic basket cases.

For the those on the opposite side of the chamber to get up and lampoon the Prime Minister for attending the G20 conference the other day and for saying how well the Australian economy is going, is, I have to say, a bit rich, when Tony Abbott goes overseas—to London—and talks seriously about the bragging rights we have in terms of the Australian economy.

But it is not just what they say. The shadow Treasurer has come in and quoted a whole range of people, again trying to develop the theory of doom and gloom in the Australian economy. But what about the recent IMF report? It was only released earlier in the week. It stated that the starting price on carbon should be around the level set by the Australian government in the Clean Energy Act.

Mr Mitchell: What?

Mr HAYES: Yes, that was the IMF—not exactly a rabid organisation! And that was only this week—on Monday—so those opposite should not have forgotten it by now.

Ms Hall: Did they acknowledge it, on the other side?

Mr HAYES: No, member for Shortland, they forgot to. But you are dead right: they should at least have had regard to that. The IMF went on to say that what we have done is the least costly option if we are serious about addressing carbon pollution. Their economic forecasts were included in the same document. The IMF actually released an economic forecast that showed Australian economic growth will outstrip all other advanced economies. That is not bad going. But if something came out on Monday you would not think those opposite would have forgotten it by Thursday afternoon.

The Business Council of Australia is not a mob of left-wing ideologues—I think there may be a few on the other side who are associated with it—but in their report Pipeline or pipe dream? Securing Australia's investment future they state:

By 2013, expenditure on capital investment is likely to grow to 30 per cent of GDP and remain at that level for the rest of the decade.

Thirty per cent is a huge growth. They are saying that this compares to 20 per cent for any other OECD economy. We are talking about the level of major projects in the pipeline. We are hearing that in excess of $540 billion worth of projects are lining up.

Shell have come out and said that they are going to be investing more than $30 billion in Australia over the next five years. CEO Peter Voser included a lovely statement. He said that Shell was actively advocating for a price on carbon on a worldwide basis, and that they would want it struck on a market mechanism. This is a company that is very much in the oil and hydrocarbon business coming out and saying that we do need to do that.

Woodside said something similar. I know that those opposite have been talking about Woodside earlier this week but they probably should have stopped and listened to the comments of Peter Coleman, who is the CEO. He said:

Woodside and our peers benefit enormously from Australia’s low sovereign risk profile and open investment regime.

Australia is a place that major oil and gas companies want to do business.

Where is the growth occurring in our economy? On the North West Shelf, in Queensland and the Timor Sea. And who is investing up there? Woodside. That is where the jobs are going. And here is the CEO saying that this is a place where his competitors also want to do business.

We were lampooned for the fact that we were returning to a surplus. The only concern they have on the other side of the chamber is that they had a view that we should have an aspiration to have a surplus. They can be aspirational because when they went to the last election they could not find $11 billion in their costings! They went and engaged an 'independent' set of auditors to come out and justify where this money was. Those certain independent auditors got done for breaching professional standards. That does not auger well when those opposite want to come in here and try and lecture us on financial rectitude and how to go about transparency.

While we are at it, those opposite have a little bit of a problem with their current policies. At the moment even they admit that there is about $70 billion—

Ms Hall: A black hole.

Mr HAYES: It is not a black hole, member for Shortland; it is a bloody crater! You would need a mining company to fill this crater. Those opposite want to come in here and play this silly game of talking down the Australian economy in the hope that things will go badly. This is nothing short of what they have tried to do with respect to people coming on boats from overseas. You can see those opposite; they actually salivate when they hear of another boat entering our waters.

These people do not care about management of the Australian economy. They just want to whinge and bleat. They have not been able to demonstrate any serious contribution to this debate. (Time expired)