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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 34

Mr TRUSS (4:30 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his comments at the National Press Club in December—that the government’s three major stimulus packages would ‘provide economic stimulus capable of creating nearly a quarter of a million jobs’. Prime Minister, how many of these quarter of a million new jobs have been created, and where are they?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —The cumulative impact of the measures taken by the government last year and this year will be delivered over time. That is clearly reflected in the statement that we have produced for the parliament today. That is our clear position. Secondly, when it comes to the question raised by the Leader of the National Party in relation to this package of measures, can I just say how isolated this Liberal Party and National Party are from where the country now stands. The Australian Primary Principals Association has just put out a statement which says:

This is a fantastic win-win for all Australians. The Government’s $12.4 billion Primary Schools for 21st Century

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the Prime Minister was asked a very clear question about jobs. The media release from an association backing this plan is not actually relevant to the question about where the jobs are. If he wants to back away from his previous commitments—

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt will resume his seat. On the point of order: the Prime Minister knows his obligation to respond to the question.

Mr RUDD —I thank the member for Sturt for his eloquent intervention. He seems to belong to the same school of economics as the Leader of the Opposition, which suggests that building a school or a school building does not create jobs. That is the most nonsensical proposition to be advanced in this debate so far. Not only are the measures announced by the government today good for the economy and jobs, they also deliver necessary infrastructure. So we have the Australian Primary Principals Association stating that this is a fantastic win-win for all Australians—

Mr Truss —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. My question was about the statement of the Prime Minister last December, not about today’s package, so his answer and his quotes and press releases are irrelevant to the question.

The SPEAKER —I will listen carefully to the response of the Prime Minister.

Mr RUDD —As I indicated to the Leader of the National Party before, the cumulative impact on employment of the government’s measures will be delivered over time. In response to the question from the member for Goldstein before, one of the principal measures released last year was for additional payments through COAG to the states for education and health reforms. As the honourable member himself knows, if he is being intellectually honest about it rather than just playing party politics, that is a funding investment delivered over a four- to five-year stretch of time, which was explicitly stated at the time. He knows that; he is simply pretending it is something else. Talking about the Leader of the National Party’s own constituency, I have here a release from the National Farmers Federation. ‘Farm stimulus to spark economic jump-start,’ says the NFF.

Mr Truss —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order, which is the same as last time. There were no references to farmers in the packages in December and, therefore, the Prime Minister’s comments are completely irrelevant.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will relate his response and material to the question.

Mr RUDD —Does the Leader of the National Party suggest the government stimulus package is irrelevant to farmers? Is he saying that there are no schools in rural Australia who will benefit from this package? Every small primary school in rural Australia will feel the benefit of investment through this package.

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We are trying to hold the Prime Minister to account for money he has already spent. We ask again that you bring him back to the question asked: where are the jobs that he has already promised?

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: the question was about jobs; the answer is about jobs, just like the package is about jobs.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: the question was about last year’s stimulus package and the Prime Minister’s commitments then. Today he is reading from press releases from associations about today’s package. The question from the Leader of the National Party was about last year’s stimulus package, and the Prime Minister should answer that question.

The SPEAKER —I have got the point. The difficulty has been outlined and debated in House of Representatives Practice. No matter how people think the question is confined, the practices of the House have—and I add this word—regrettably been wide. I indicated last year that I have some disquiet about the amount of debate that goes into responses, but that again is consistent with past practices. The question was in order. The Prime Minister is responding to the question.

Mr RUDD —I am responding to the most recent point of order by the Leader of the National Party, who asked the original question. He said that farmers were, in fact, not impacted by any element of last year’s package. He assumes that all the Economic Security Strategy measures—$10.4 billion—went to people in cities. Is he suggesting seriously that none of those payments went to people in rural and regional Australia? Is he suggesting that a COAG package of education and health reforms did not extend itself to rural hospitals or to rural schools? The Leader of the National Party should reflect carefully on the $300 million worth of measures announced by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government to local authorities, a large slab of which exists in rural and regional Australia. The Leader of the National Party does not have a clue what he is talking about. It is quite clear that the government’s package of measures, both last year and this year, are designed to support the economy, growth and jobs. Each of these packages will be delivered over the spread of time which is indicated by the investment profile attached to each of them. We have a strategy for seeing Australia through this crisis; those opposite seem to content themselves with opportunistic short-term politics. The people of Australia will make up their minds.