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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Mr VASTA (2:26 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer outline to the House how business expectations have improved, and are there alternatives that could damage business prospects?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Bonner for his question. I can inform the House that business prospects have picked up. The National Australia Bank’s last quarterly business survey for December shows that expectations for the March quarter rose, with the index rising two points to 21 points. Businesses also upgraded expectations for the year ahead, with the index up five points to 32 index points. We are going through a very difficult drought at the moment, and that is depressing some areas of the Australian economy.

Notwithstanding that, the Australian economy is on a firm footing. In the year of our ninth surplus budget, we have repaid $96 billion of the Labor debt. We are funding future liabilities which were never funded by the Commonwealth before. We have a monetary policy which is locking in inflation of between two per cent and three per cent. We have unemployment at 4.5 per cent. We have had 300,000 new jobs in the last year and we have had two million new jobs over the last 10 years.

The Leader of the Opposition says that all of this represents free market fundamentalism, and he describes this economy as ‘Howard’s Brutopia’. If he wants to sweep away Howard’s Brutopia, he obviously has some kind of different economic policy in mind. There has been some speculation as to what a brutopia is. I can now authoritatively inform the House that Brutopia is a fictional country which appears in several Donald Duck stories:

Brutopia is a ... hostile country, aiming for world domination.

Mr Kelvin Thomson —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 104, I ask you to draw the Treasurer back to the question he was asked.

The SPEAKER —I have been listening closely to the Treasurer. I believe there were two parts to that question. I will continue to listen closely but the Treasurer is in order.

Mr COSTELLO —This is the analysis that the Leader of the Opposition gives of the Australian economy—that it is a brutopia. Brutopia is a fictional country, in a Donald Duck magazine, aiming for world domination and trying to devastate the American economy. When you ask where he draws his inspiration for his quack economic policy, you find that it comes from a Donald Duck magazine.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This cannot possibly be relevant.

The SPEAKER —I have been listening carefully to the Treasurer and I believe he is in order.

Mr COSTELLO —Labor is drawing inspiration for its economic analysis from a Donald Duck magazine. This is the evolutionary cycle of the Labor Party. We have moved from Mark Latham’s roosters to Kevin Rudd’s ducks.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business would be well aware that the Treasurer has only just started to continue after his point of order. Does the Manager of Opposition Business have a point of order?

Mr Albanese —Yes, Mr Speaker. I believe that farm animals are the responsibility of the member for Gippsland.

The SPEAKER —That is not a point of order.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat.

Mr Price —Chicken Man!

The SPEAKER —The Chief Opposition Whip is warned! The Treasurer has the call.

Mr COSTELLO —Managing the Australian economy, which is a $1 trillion economy, takes experience and commitment—and you do not get your analysis from Donald Duck comics. It is much more serious than that. That is why only a coalition government can manage the Australian economy.