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Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Page: 9201


Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (16:55): I certainly do not hope that what Senator Mason has just suggested occurs, and I would be very surprised if anybody else in the chamber agreed with him.

Senator Scullion: I do, absolutely.

Senator FAULKNER: Perhaps you do, but as I look around me it seems very few are supportive of Senator Mason's hope. However, I thank Senator Mason and the opposition for providing yet another opportunity for the government to speak about its economic record. It is very much appreciated that we have this opportunity in today's matter of public importance.

The Labor government has guided this country through the worst global economic circumstances since the Great Depression. It put in place the necessary fiscal settings to insulate our economy and protect jobs from the global financial meltdown. It introduced measures that stimulated our economy and prevented hundreds of thousands of jobs of Australians just hitting the wall.

The opposition has had the opportunity to support Australian jobs and our economy during the global financial crisis but it has squibbed it; it has walked away from that opportunity. Despite the misfortune that we suffer with such an inept and relentlessly negative opposition, the government has kept making the hard decisions in the national interest and getting those decisions right.

Since the worst of the global financial crisis the government has put in place strict financial rules that have had Australia's budget returning to surplus faster than every major advanced economy in the world, but you will not hear that from Senator Mason and the opposition. The government has made over $150 billion in savings to ensure that our budget is on track for a surplus; you will not hear that from the opposition. The opposition can bluster and waste time about the budget surplus, but they fail each and every time to support the savings measures necessary to see a budget surplus become a reality.

In fact, we had Mr Hockey over in London in April this year huffing and puffing about the age of entitlement, and blustering about Western democracy's reluctance to wind back universal access to payments and entitlements from the state. But, when he gets back home he does not support a single government saving. Of course, what he does do—along with Mr Robb—is he cooks up the opposition's ludicrous $70 billion black hole. That was an unforgettable and infamous Liberal Party botch job. I do not think that Mr Hockey and Mr Robb are ever going to be able to live it down.

It is true that the government has a very strong economic report card. Australia has an enviable combination of solid growth, low unemployment, contained inflation, strong public finances, solid consumption and a strong investment outlook. Since the government came into office in 2007, the Australian economy has grown by 11 per cent, despite the worst global economic conditions in 80 years. Our economy is growing faster than every major advanced economy it can be compared with. We have low unemployment: the unemployment rate in Australia is currently 5.4 per cent. Compare that to Europe's; it is less than half the rate: 11.6 per cent. It is also significantly lower than in other advanced economies. Almost 800,000 jobs have been created since the government came to office in 2007. Inflation is contained: currently at 2.5 per cent, which is in the middle of the RBA's target band. Our cash rate is low: 3.25 per cent, which is lower than at any time during the life of the previous government. And who could forget all those claims made day in day out, month in month out, year in year out about the Liberals being the party of lower interest rates? It is not true, is it? We have a strong investment outlook with a record $260 billion of investment at an advanced stage. Of course—and this is critically important—debt is low. Net debt as a percentage of GDP is peaking at around a tenth of that of comparable advanced economies.

I think that any objective and fair observer would agree that the Australian economy is in good shape. Of course, the opposition do actually know that is the case. They are not noted for their economic expertise. However, on this particular matter, they would be well advised to be generous to the government that has done such a good job as economic managers in this country. Just admit it. Front up and say it; perhaps just drop some of that relentless negativity and petty scaremongering, and tell the truth. I think it is time we saw the opposition start talking up our economy.

The government has been honest about the weaker global outlook which has weighed heavily on parts of our economy, including on some resource projects. We have seen a significant deterioration in the global growth and global economic outlook since last year's budget. We have witnessed a sharp decline in parts of Europe, only a moderate recovery in the US and slowing growth in our region, including China. This has contributed to a downgrade in the GDP forecasts for 2012-13, although on trend growth is still expected. Many forecasters have made the point that the growth outlook contained in the MYEFO is reasonable and in line with their own independent forecasts. I would like to conclude my remarks by again thanking the opposition for the opportunity that this has given to the government to present the government's AAA-rated economic report card—it is sound economic management which I believe will continue to be in place as those measures introduced by the government bring our budget back to surplus by 2012-13.