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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Page: 1311

Gillard Government: Western Sydney


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (13:59): My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the Prime Minister's plans to visit Western Sydney and her visit to the Rooty Hill RSL on 12 August 2010 in the closing days of the last election campaign. On that election visit, the Prime Minister told the people of Western Sydney and, indeed, Australia that she would bring the budget back into surplus in 2013 and that Australia's net debt would not exceed six per cent of the GDP. It is now around 10 per cent. Given that the Prime Minister has broken both these fundamental election promises about the budget—solemn promises, which in fact underpin her ability to deliver everything else—why should the people of Western Sydney believe anything she tells them when she condescendingly drops in to Western Sydney to see them again in March 2013?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:01): I thank the senator for his question. The Prime Minister's visit to Western Sydney next week coincides with a recent confirmation of Australia's AAA credit rating. When those opposite and Senator Abetz talk about 'delivering everything else', this Prime Minister has been delivering everything else. We are delivering a AAA credit rating.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on both sides, we will proceed. The time to debate the issue is after question time, as the honourable senators know.

Senator CONROY: No Liberal government has ever achieved this coveted trifecta from all three global ratings agencies; it is the first time in our nation's history. When Senator Abetz talks about 'delivering everything else', what he wants to ignore is all of the promises and achievements of this government that have been delivered. Our economy has grown by 11 per cent since Labor came to office. We have September-quarter growth at 3.1 per cent, compared to the 10-year average of three per cent. Those opposite describe this as having 'no pulse' and 'flat lining', yet three per cent is higher than the 10-year average. There is low unemployment at 5.4 per cent, which is well below the OECD average of eight per cent.

This government takes an exceptional job creation record to the people of Western Sydney: around 847,000 jobs have been created since Labor came to office. We have inflation at 2.2 per cent— (Time expired)




Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given Western Sydney is one of the fastest growing parts of Australia—as expressed to me by the Liberal candidate for Chifley, Isabelle White—does the minister agree that what the people of Western Sydney really want from this government is a plan, not just a visit when the polls turn sour? If the government is fair dinkum about helping the people of Western Sydney, why won't it abolish the carbon tax, which both increases the cost of living and destroys jobs, stop the boats and commit to build the WestConnex?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:04): That question demonstrates the hollowness at the heart of those opposite, because what Mr Abbott is proposing for people in Western Sydney is cuts. He wants to scrap and cut the schoolkids bonus. He wants to slash funding to schools and rip up the NBN. People in Western Sydney are already feeling the pressure from the savage cuts inflicted by the O'Farrell Liberal government on schools and hospitals.

There will be more to come if Mr Abbott becomes the Prime Minister of this country, because cutting services is what Liberals do—it is in their DNA. They will cut health, they will cut education, they will take away nurses, they will take away hospital beds and they will take away teachers. That is what those opposite are committed to. The Labor Gillard government are delivering for Western Sydney. We are rolling out— (Time expired)


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:05): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the cynicism with which state and federal Labor governments have treated the people of Western Sydney—breaking promises while taking their votes for granted—why should anyone in Western Sydney continue to reward the corruption, incompetence and deceitfulness that now define the Labor brand?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:06): The people of Western Sydney are going to be able to talk directly with the Prime Minister next week. Those opposite are engaged in cheap political stunts. What the Prime Minister will be able to—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind honourable senators that the appropriate time to debate the issue is at three o'clock.

Senator CONROY: The Prime Minister will be able to talk to the people of Western Sydney about: an inflation rate of 2.2 per cent, well below the 10-year average of 2.8 per cent; a low cash rate, sitting at three per cent, lower than at any time under the last Liberal government; and an interest rate and a cash rate which are at a lower level than they were at any time under those opposite, who claim the mantle of economic rectitude falsely. We have very low debt. Net debt, as a percentage of the GDP, has peaked at one-tenth of the level across major advanced countries. (Time expired)