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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 32

Mr ROBB (4:20 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his comments late last year that 133,000 new jobs would be created by his COAG spending package and 32,000 new jobs would be created by the government’s infrastructure package. Prime Minister, how many of these 165,000 new jobs have been created and where have they been created?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —The government is proud of each of the measures that it has taken so far in response to the global financial crisis. The reason for that is that they all represent an overriding discipline to do whatever is necessary to continue to support growth and jobs. We have embraced the measures that we have introduced, including: firstly, the Economic Security Strategy of $10.4 billion last year; secondly, the COAG payments underpinning both health and education reforms of some $15 billion spread out over a four- to five-year period; thirdly, the $6.1 billion long-term plan to assist with the retooling of the Australian automobile industry and associated industry components; fourthly, last year’s decision to embrace a one-off injection of $300 million into local government; and, fifthly, the $4.6 billion nation-building document released at the end of last year, which included within it not just infrastructure packages on roads but also an announcement in response to the recommendations of business for a one-off investment allowance of some 10 per cent. On top of that, we have the $42 billion package that we have announced today.

Each of these measures, in the immediate, short and long term, is necessary to continue to generate activity, growth and jobs in the economy. As the honourable member would know if he were being intellectually honest about the question that he asks, there is no magic in any of this. The alternative which those opposite in their own scoffing way recommend is, in effect, for government to do nothing other than the one proposal that has been put forward, which is a set of tax cuts brought forward—or the lack of proposal, eloquently described by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation in his last answer to the House. In fact, building on that, we have a statement by the member for Curtin. Just the other day, when asked why she was advocating such tax cuts, she said, ‘Well, the fact that the Treasurer has ruled out tax cuts is the reason I’m putting them forward.’

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Prime Minister was asked a very specific question: where are the 165,000 new jobs that the Prime Minister himself said would be created by his spending initiatives?

The SPEAKER —I will listen carefully to the Prime Minister’s response. He understands the question and he is obliged to respond to the question.

Mr RUDD —If you go through that list of five sets of measures last year, each of them has a specific timeline attached to the injection of funds. The COAG package—as the honourable member, if he were being honest about it, would know—involves funding agreements with the states over a four- to five-year spread, depending on the nature of the individual agreement concerned. He knows that, and he seeks to stand at the dispatch box and make a political point about the jobs impact now. He knows that to be untrue. He is just interested in making a retail political point in order to get himself a headline. The bottom line is that each of those measures has a different delivery point and the cumulative impact in terms of overall job creation will be seen over a course of time.

The alternative recommended by those opposite—if you listen carefully to everything, leaving aside the Turnbull three step, adequately described before by the minister for infrastructure—is to claim the idea as their own or initially support and then oppose. Leaving all that to one side, in substance they have opposed each of the measures we have put forward so far—each and every one of them. We have there an avalanche of negativity. The only proposal they have put forward is one about bringing forward generic tax cuts, and the intellectual consistency of that argument, against the point just made by the minister for finance about bringing a temporary deficit back into surplus over time, speaks starkly to everyone present. The whole point of a stimulus is for it to be temporary and targeted. That is what we have embraced. You recommend the reverse. Our strategy is clear. Yours lies in tatters.

The SPEAKER —Order! Without being too thin skinned, I would remind the Prime Minister that he needs to address his remarks through the chair.