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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12563


Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (16:10): It is a pleasure, once again, to speak on these matters of public importance—although they are the same matter over and over and over, and you would think that the opposition would just be a little bit more creative and come up with something that was a little bit more innovative in terms of the things they are trying to say. But if their only claim coming in here to speak on this matter of public importance is that we do not have a plan, then how sad it is for the opposition. Is this the new brains trust of the Liberal and National parties? Is this all they have left to offer? They may criticise us for the plans we do have; they may make some critique of that. But to say that we have no plan I think is a little odd and a little strange.

We are still waiting to see what their policies are in a whole range of areas. We want to not only see the policies but see them costed properly. We want to see them handed over to the office of budget honesty to see what we can actually make of what the opposition is proposing for the future of Australia.

But let us go to some of the key facts and see what this economy actually looks like. The rest of the world and we are going through some difficult times; there is no question about that. Since the GFC hit the world, we have all had to make some pretty tough decisions and weather some fairly tough circumstances. And that is exactly what we have done as a government. Since we were elected to government in 2007, this Labor government has made all of the tough calls, all of the tough decisions, to make sure we have plans in place. We have put the right budgets and spending in place to make sure that we support the economy and support jobs. We have made sure that people still have work to go to. We have made sure that business can stand on its own feet, with the assistance of government in the right areas, to make sure that we still have a strong, decent economy. That is a good position to be in. We are in a good position in this country.

When people get together for a barbecue and discuss things then, yes, they will have a bit of a complain about where the economy is at, and, yes, it could always be better, there is no question. But when you ask them the central question: 'If you could pick any economy in the world, if you could pick any place to be, where would you rather be?' The answer is, 'Right here.' Because they understand the tough times that we have all gone through, and they understand the work that this government has done to make sure that we still have a good economy—an economy that is still performing well by anybody's measure.

But let us have a little look at where this opposition was not so long ago. I can recall, back in the Costello and Howard years, the so-called 'greatness' of that particular government—and, in the fullness of time, maybe we will see just what that 'greatness' really amounted to. I also recall that there was one thing that was really significant about that period in history, and not just for Australia but for all our neighbours, for every OECD country, and for the world. We were experiencing a global boom, beyond any proportions anyone had ever seen before—so much so that some economists were talking about redesigning the parameters of the charts, because everything only ever pointed up back then.

In those days, they used to call them the 'rivers of gold' that flowed into Canberra. It used to rain gold bars. And there was a deliberate tactic of the then Treasurer, Peter Costello, in those boom years of gold bars just raining down on Canberra, to always underestimate just how big the surplus might be, how much would be left over no matter how much they spent, because they knew there was always just a bit more revenue coming in the front door. So it was really easy. I reckon I could have picked just about anyone to be Treasurer in that period of time, and they could have basically just kicked back a bit and waited for the rivers of gold to deliver the revenues, and then spend like there was no tomorrow.

There are some really good facts about the biggest spending, biggest taxing government in Australia's history—and that was called 'Howard and Costello'.

No-one questions that. There is no economist in this country or internationally who questions that.

Then a GFC came along, and so we had to make some tough choices in very tough conditions. That is when you get tested; that is when you measure things; that is when you start to look at what is happening to others besides you. We might live on an island, but we ain't one. We live on a small planet. Every single neighbour, every single OECD country, every single one of our trading partners has experienced some of the most difficult times in memory; in recorded times. They talked about it being the greatest depression since the 1930s. It was maybe even harder than that. What we did was to take some very tough decisions to make sure that we did not go down the path of Greece, Spain, Europe or, for that matter, the United States.

Over on the other side, you will only hear one mantra. This matter of public importance is not about a plan, fiscal rectitude or doing the right thing by the economy—it is not about any of that. It is the one plan that they have called on in this House every single day since the last election, which is, 'Let's blow this place up, let's run down the economy, let's oppose everything, no matter how important it is to the national economy, for opposition's sake.' They even opposed a stimulus plan, a plan to make sure that this economy kept going forward. That is there strategy: oppose everything; oppose every plan. Then they come in here and say that we do not have a plan.

But there is something even worse. You do not have to dig too far. Just scratch the surface and the very thin cheap paint that is the veneer of the coalition—the Liberal Party and the National Party—and what do you reveal? One strategy; one plan. 'One-trick Tony' does not have resonance for nothing, because all they want is an election. Every day they pray for an election. If they can get one in quick enough, they just might win. Forget about trying to do something for the economy; forget Australians; forget business; forget about trade; forget about all of the things that we have to do to balance the budget.

What we ought to be talking about this in place, and what we come in here to discuss, is what our plans are and what we have put into place. We have spent money where it needs and deserves to be spent. In our schools to provide school halls and science labs and more teachers for our students. We are making sure that when the young people in this country are competitive. And they are not competing against the boy or girl down the street, but with the boy or girl from Indonesia, from China, from Europe or from the United States.

When they talk about us having no plan, have a look at the Asian century white paper, a plan that looks to the future and shows us where we need to be. When they talk about us having no plan, have a look at the Intergenerational Report and the work that we have done in terms of meeting the challenges outlined in it. We have looked at the things that we will have to do in the future. Most people might be frightened by the fact that today there while in 1970 there were seven people in the workplace for every person aged over 65 today there are just five. But in 2050 there will be only 2.7 people in the workforce for every person aged over 65. That is scary enough on its own, so we ought to do something about it today. That is what we are doing. What is even more frightening is that there will be twice as many 65-year olds. And there will be four times as many 85-year olds.

Everything that this government has done has been focused on delivering for the economy today while looking to the future. If those opposite want to talk about plans, bring in your plans. Tell the Australian people what you plan—aside from the usual thing that we hear, which is just Work Choices. The solution to everything, apparently, is to make it harder and harder for people to keep a job.

Let me tell you a little bit about our economy and where we are at today. We have an economy 11 per cent larger in all terms than when we took government. The numbers show that there are better conditions today than when we took government at the end of the Howard-Costello era, an era in which it rained gold bars—an era in which you had to go out wearing one of those steel helmets so that a gold bar did not hit you in the head and you had to wear your trunks when you went outside because of the rivers of gold that flooded into this place.

We have had solid growth, with faster growth in this economy than in any other comparable advanced economy. We have low unemployment. Yes, unemployment is always too high—of course it is. But I tell you what: at 5.4 per cent, I would rather have this unemployment rate than any other in the world. We have had an exceptional jobs growth record, with 800,000 jobs created since Labor came back to office, despite the rest of the world shedding 27 million jobs. We have contained inflation. We have kept it within the normal target band. It is at 2.5 per cent through the year to September. That is important for families and for people trying to just get by.

There is a low cash rate, 3.25 per cent. That is historically low. We have managed to bring down interest rates—which is important in this type of an economy—six times since we have been in office. Those on the other side took it up 10 times, while at the same time Howard and Costello were telling people that interest rates would be lower under a coalition government than at any other time in history and lower than under Labor. But that turns out not to be true. We have the figures at hand right now and everyone knows it. We have strong investment.

Apparently, this is a bad economy and a bad country. If you listen to these guys you would think that they want to flog the place off and move elsewhere. They just do not like Australia. The more I hear, the more I am starting to get the flavour of what they are on about: they just do not like Australia, they do not like this economy and they do not like the fact that Labor is doing a good job and are going to balance the budget. (Time expired)