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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 40


Senator BARNETT (3:26 PM) —I stand today to take note of the answers by Senator Evans to questions from Senator Bernardi regarding jobs and specifically the number of jobs created as a result of the first economic stimulus package announced before the last election and implemented by the Rudd Labor government. It was a simple question: how many jobs were created? And the good senator was unable to answer that question. In fact, he fumbled and gave a spiel that went on and on, without providing any answer—not even an estimate.

Prior to the election, the Prime Minister announced that the economic stimulus package would add 75,000 Australian jobs to the Australian economy. This is a point that Senator Cash made well and persuasively in her contribution to the Senate. Seventy-five thousand jobs is a lot of jobs, and they would deliver growth and development and good results for 75,000 families. That would have been a good thing, but it has not eventuated. We do not know exactly how many jobs have flowed from the package, and even the government do not know.

One of the key points here is that the government have not done their homework. They have not done their modelling. They have not done the research. We are concerned that the package was a knee-jerk reaction. We are concerned—and this is a growing trend with the Rudd Labor government—that it is all spin and no substance. The government are into the headlines and the quick political fix. They are good on the PR to get the headlines and attract media attention, but in terms of delivering long-term solutions—growth, development, jobs and security for Australian families—they are deficient big time.

An example in the last 10 days of these flaws was the announcement of the Ruddbank. It was a 1½ page media release announcing a $4 billion initiative, which comprises equity from the Australian government—taxpayers’ money of $2 billion—and equity from the banks of $2 billion,. It will provide from $26 billion to $30 billion for commercial property loans into the future. This announcement was made in a 1½ page media release. There was no detail, no homework, no modelling and no evidence to support that this was the way to go. The Prime Minister announced at the time that this initiative would save 50,000 Australian jobs. Where is the evidence of that? Where is the evidence that jobs are either going to be created or going to be saved?

They have been found out with respect to the first economic stimulus package. ‘Seventy-five thousand jobs will be created.’ Well, they have not been created. Where are those jobs? In terms of that first economic stimulus package, let me just ask this question. I understand, based on the figures provided by the government, that an estimated $50 million has been paid to some 70,000 Australians overseas. Well, the package was designed to stimulate the Australian economy, not overseas economies. So what is the rationale behind providing those funds? Surely the Australian economy should be the focus, the objective—not overseas economies. I hope the government has a good answer to that. Is there a need for a review of our policies in this regard? An estimated $50 million of taxpayers’ money has gone overseas as part of that economic stimulus package.

With respect to the Ruddbank, I think it is very much a dud and a dodgy proposal. It seems to me to be, indeed, anticompetitive. Why is it not anticompetitive, when the funds are only going to the four big banks? This will help the big banks. Yes, it may create one or two jobs at the big banks and it will certainly, it seems, help commercial property developers. But what about the mums and dads, the normal families out there that need support during this time of insecurity created in large part, in substantial part, by the Rudd Labor government. There is little evidence to support the merit of the Ruddbank proposal. This government should be aware of that from statements in the Financial Review today. The editorial was scathing in some of its observations. It says this about the 50,000 jobs:

ABIP has generated confusion and mistrust—

that is, the Ruddbank—

partly because Prime Minister Kevin Rudd chose to sell the initiative as one to save 50,000 property-related jobs. That is not the goal— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.