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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 587

Ms CAMPBELL (2:48 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Why is it so important that the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan be implemented as soon as possible?

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I thank the member for Bass for her question. The government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan is about supporting jobs now and delivering lasting investments needed to strengthen the economy, to support jobs and to support business. Of course, the measures introduced in the House yesterday are critical and they are urgent. It is the strong preference of the tax commissioner and the chief executive of Centrelink that they pass this week.

Mr Hockey —Forty billion dollars, and we’re running to a bureaucratic timetable. It’s a joke.

Mr SWAN —It is not a bureaucratic timetable; it is a timetable for the Australian people to support jobs. Those opposite just do not get it. They do not understand that, because of the global recession, there is an immediate need to boost demand right now. They simply do not understand that, and without these measures more Australians will be out of work. For the first time in the history of this nation, we have had a Leader of the Opposition come into this House and intentionally vote for higher unemployment. That is what they did in this House last night. This is not a time for half measures. This is a time for governments to get cracking, to roll up their sleeves and to do what needs to be done.

What is the position of those opposite? This morning on radio the shadow Treasurer had this to say about the plan from the opposition. She was on with Fran Kelly this morning and, in answer to a question about what she would do, she said that what Australia should do is ‘sit and wait and see’ how the global recession pans out. Talk about putting the white flag up! Sit and wait while the developed world moves into recession? Sit and wait while growth halves in China? Sit and wait while Japan, the United States and most of continental Europe go into recession? That is the white flag of surrender, and it just shows that those opposite do not have a clue about what they are doing—or maybe they do, and that is even more damning of their actions last night.

I want to quote the chief economist of the IMF, who had this to say only on 29 January:

Above all, adopt clear policies and act decisively.

He went on to say:

Delays … in financial packages have cost … a lot already.

He went on, and everyone on that side of the House should listen, to say this:

Further rounds of debate … will stoke uncertainty and make things worse.

That is what the chief economist of the IMF said only a couple of weeks ago, but the opposition do not take that advice seriously. They do not take the advice of the Business Council of Australia. They do not take the advice of most reputable economists. They do not take the advice of anybody who clearly understands the magnitude of the challenge facing this country, because what they are on about is pure politics.

Of course, when it comes to the Leader of the Opposition, it is his ego that has come to the fore here. He is playing politics with the national interest because it is in his self-interest. That is exactly what he is doing, as the Prime Minister said before. He thinks he can score a cheap political point out of this and he is going for broke, and it is at the expense of the national interest. He has put his ego before our country. That is exactly what he has done. He has let the cat out of the bag again. This morning, on ABC radio, the Leader of the Opposition admitted that we do need to borrow to fund a collapse in revenues. Did you say that? Did you?

The SPEAKER —The Treasurer will address his remarks through the chair. This is one of the problems when the answers start to debate the question.

Mr SWAN —If you admit that it is the responsible thing to borrow to make up for a collapse in revenues, why are you opposing the measures here? It is just too much—is that the objection?

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr SWAN —So you now say it is perfectly legitimate to borrow to make up for the collapse in revenues. Let everybody note that is what the Leader of the Opposition has said: it is legitimate to do that. It takes us to the most important point that has been fudged by the opposition right through this debate, because in excess of two-thirds of future deficits are caused by a collapse in revenue. That is the whole point. What we are doing is the responsible thing—putting in place a stimulus package to make sure we can strengthen growth. That is the responsible thing to do in these circumstances. So I wonder why he is opposing what we are doing. When he thinks it is a responsible thing to do to borrow, when he thinks it is okay to have a stimulus package—just not one as large—why wouldn’t he come to the same conclusion that the Business Council of Australia, most other business representatives, most economists right around the country and the IMF have come to? I will tell you why: because he puts his ego and political interests before our country.