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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 585

Mr SULLIVAN (2:39 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister outline the importance of the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan and the need for all Australians to work together to see Australia through the global economic recession we now confront?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —What we have seen in the last 24 hours are two approaches to national leadership—one which says that we should put aside our party political differences, put aside the differences between federal and state governments and work together in the national interest. That is what has been at work since nine o’clock this morning over there at the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments—governments, federal and state, governments, Labor and Liberal, agreeing on a course of action to deal with the impact on Australia of a global economic recession, which Australians are not responsible for. That is one model of national leadership. The other model of non-leadership is what we have seen from the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party, who have, instead, decided to stand to one side and simply consign all Australians to have to deal with the impact of this global economic recession on their lives, their jobs, their businesses without any protection from government. That is what those opposite have decided to do.

Why have they decided to do that? Because the political interests of the Leader of the Liberal Party have been put first and the national interest has been put last. The political interests of the Leader of the Liberal Party are along these lines. He really does hope that the global economic recession—a recession which he has already hauled up the white flag on—worsens so that in a year’s time he can turn around and say, ‘Well, you couldn’t fix that.’ That is what this political opportunism is all about. It is not national leadership; it is simply an exercise in political tactics. If it were just electoral political tactics that would be one thing, but what is worse about it is that it is also internal party politics, directed at the impending challenge from the member for Higgins for the leadership of the Liberal Party. Not wishing to expose himself to an attack from the right of his party, what does the Leader of the Liberal Party do?

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Prime Minister was asked a question about the stimulus package. He was not asked for a commentary on political matters outside the stimulus package.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr RUDD —Thank you, Mr Speaker. The member for Sturt will indeed be challenged by the events which come his way in a few months time and as to where his loyalties, to the extent that they exist, will lie. Real leadership consists of putting aside differences, in the national interest. A failure of leadership consists of putting your own personal political interests first, your own personal political survival first and that is what we have seen worked out in the 24 hours that has unfolded since the events of yesterday morning.

What the governments of Australia have done today is agree on an implementation strategy for this nation-building plan for the future. What the governments of Australia have done is sit down around a table and work out a timetable for delivering stimulus to 7,500 primary schools across Australia. They have worked out a timetable for implementing a program to deliver additional funding for science wings and language laboratories in 500 secondary schools across the country. What the governments of Australia have done is sat down and worked out a timetable for implementing $6 billion worth of new outlay for 20,000 new units of social housing across the country. What the governments of Australia have done today is sit down and agree on a timetable to roll out what we will now do about black spots and about the recovery and repair of regional roads, together with additional infrastructure to be delivered to local governments across the country. That is what the governments of Australia have been doing today—sitting down, working out the best way we can advance this core challenge, dealing with the immediate impact of how we go about generating jobs in the near term and how, through that, we support the construction of infrastructure which the nation needs for the long term. That is what governments have been doing.

The other thing governments have been doing today is agreeing not just on the timetable but on the machinery for doing it as well. I have confirmed the appointment of a coordinator-general for the Commonwealth, Mr Mike Mrdak from the Prime Minister’s department, a public servant who has served both sides of politics well previously in the transport portfolio. Also, there will be coordinators in each of the principal program areas which the Commonwealth is funding through this unprecedented nation-building plan. State premiers and chief ministers have agreed to appoint their own coordinators-general of works, together with separate coordinators where necessary for each of the program areas. This is the practical business of government. Furthermore, what premiers and chief ministers have agreed to work on now is: how do we best bring together the various labour market programs, training programs, education programs and other programs, including those associated with regional development, to support those who will lose their jobs as a consequence of this global economic recession? That is what leadership is about—leadership we have seen from the Liberal Premier of Western Australia; leadership we have seen from the other premiers and chief ministers; leadership which has been conspicuous in its total absence in the politically self-serving strategy embarked upon by the member for Wentworth seeking purely to save his own political hide.