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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5193


Senator STERLE (2:40 PM) —My question is to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery in relation to the nation-building economic stimulus plan, Senator Arbib. Could the minister advise the Senate on how the economic stimulus plan is progressing around the country, in particular how stimulus infrastructure is rolling out? Isn’t it the case that the construction of schools, social housing, community infrastructure and road and rail upgrades is underway across the country? Can the minister advise the Senate on how the states, territories, local government and block grants authorities are working with the Commonwealth to deliver the stimulus?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —I thank Senator Sterle for his question. I know that as a senator from Western Australia he is very concerned and interested in infrastructure and a big supporter of the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan. Can I inform the Senate that our infrastructure plans are well underway and kicking in, supporting jobs and small businesses across the country. As senators know, 70 per cent of the stimulus package is in infrastructure. Over the next 12 months some 35,000 projects will get underway. Senators might be surprised to hear that after five months we are actually completing projects. In Queensland we have been notified that the first Primary Schools for the 21st Century project has been completed. Students at Yandina State School in Queensland are moving into their new library, ICT centre, refurbished classroom and covered outdoor play area as we speak.

Senator Sterle asked about the effect on jobs. Let me tell you about the effect on small business. I have the contractors list from Evans Harch, the company that was building this project. Guess where the plant excavators came from: Mooloolaba Beach. Guess where the concreters came from: Yandina. Guess where the roofers came from: Nambour. Guess where the plumbers came from: Mooloolaba. The plasterers came from Maroochydore; the electricians from Nambour. The waterproofing? Noosa. The glazing? Maroochydore. All local jobs!

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order on both sides! When we have silence we will proceed.


Senator ARBIB —Liberal senators do not want to hear about the job creation that is happening. There are 9,500 other projects just like that, creating jobs and supporting small business. Just today the Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek, handed over the keys for the first social housing home right here in the ACT—local jobs! (Time expired)


Senator STERLE —Mr President, I thank the minister for his answer and I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate on the positive impact stimulus construction projects are having on Australian construction jobs? Is the minister aware of what builders and tradespeople, the people on the ground, are saying about the stimulus package? Isn’t it the case that there are people across the country in jobs right now who would have been out of work without the government’s early and decisive action? Can the minister outline for the Senate what the impact on Australian jobs would have been had the Rudd government waited to act?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —I thank Senator Sterle for his question. I do not expect those on the other side to actually believe my words. I do not expect them to do that—they are the Liberal Party; they would never believe what I would say!

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Arbib, address your comments through the chair.


Senator ARBIB —I did a bit of research in the local newspapers, just to see what other people were saying about the stimulus. Let’s take Jack Little, a bricklayer on the Central Coast, one of 70 tradespeople and five apprentices. What does he say? He said:

If Newbuild wasn’t building these, I wouldn’t be working. I reckon Rudd’s done a good thing.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Arbib, resume your seat. I cannot hear. The time for debating these issues is after question time. I need order on both sides.


Senator ARBIB —Thank you, Mr President. I will read this quote from a tradesperson again:

If Newbuild wasn’t building these, I wouldn’t be working.

I reckon Rudd’s done a good thing. I’m not Einstein with this sort of thing, but I’m working.

I will tell you what: he is not Einstein, but I wish those guys over there would listen to him. They voted against it. And what about Tony Constantino, Chief Executive, Bovis Lend Lease, who said:

It has been a Godsend for some of these people. For a lot of them it is the difference between their businesses staying afloat and not.

That is Lend Lease. (Time expired)


Senator STERLE —I thank the minister for those examples. Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question for the minister. Can the minister advise the Senate on the impact the stimulus is having on small business? Can the minister provide the Senate with any views of small businesses who are actually delivering the stimulus and employing people to do so? In particular, is the minister aware of any examples from the insulation industry, which I understand has seen significant benefits from the Rudd government’s Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan?

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! The time for debating the issue is post question time. If you wish to debate it, do it then.


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —I am happy to let Senator Sterle know that 6,000 installers have actually registered—that is, small businesses registered with the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, and over 170,000 homes. I just say to those Liberal senators that I know they oppose the stimulus; I know they totally oppose it. I know they oppose the Jobs Fund, which is part of the stimulus. But as the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has shown in the other House—

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! On both sides, I need silence.


Senator ARBIB —As Minister Albanese has shown, the hypocrisy knows no bounds, because while they have been putting their hands out for funding under the community infrastructure program, they have also been putting their hands out for funding under the Jobs Fund. The member for Canning, Don Randall, voted against the Jobs Fund, asking for a handout. David Hawker, the member for Wannon—exactly the same—asking for funding. Again, it was the member for Wannon. But we move on to Andrew Robb, the future Liberal leader, asking for a handout under the stimulus package. Yes, you may laugh.

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Arbib, you should not be displaying those in the chamber. You are entitled to read from them.


Senator ARBIB —Jobs plan on this side; no plan on that side.

Honourable senators interjecting—