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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 597

Mr TURNBULL (3:32 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. How many jobs have been created by the December $10 billion cash splash, and how many jobs will be created by the proposed March $11 billion cash splash? What will be the annual interest cost of financing the $21 billion of those handouts at current interest rates?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —The honourable member, I think, asked a question in three parts. One was the impact on jobs of last year’s ESS.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RUDD —No, I am coming to it; I am just getting it right. The second was the current package and the—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RUDD —No, I have got that. And the third one was the interest rates. First of all, the government’s Economic Security Strategy was announced last October. It was delivered in December. As the honourable member would know, the full employment impact of that would not be known for some time. But, as the honourable member struggled yesterday with the most recently produced retail figures for the nation, to their collective dismay and disappointment, this country outperformed practically every other country in the world in terms of retail sales at that time. Obviously there will be some form of spillover of that investment into the support packages for households into the year 2010 as well.

Secondly, as the honourable member knows, the package that the government announced two days ago of some $42 billion represents, as we have said, a total employment impact in terms of supporting jobs of up to 90,000. On the breakdown of the individual components of that: I will of course provide those to the Leader of the Opposition later. I do not have them with me, but I will be happy to do so.

Thirdly, he asked a question about debt. On the question of the impact of the borrowings which would flow, I am advised that the interest payments would equal something in the vicinity of an additional 0.2 per cent of GDP at the time that they begin to be paid. If there is any variation on that, I will come back to the honourable member before the end of question time.

Could I also say to the honourable member who has asked the question that, as they seek, as is their democratic right—and they are members of this parliament—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RUDD —I know those opposite do not wish to actually debate that which is real here, which is: how do you deal with providing the stimulus which the Australian economy needs because of the global economic crisis? We have a program put forward. It is costed. The assumptions have been backed by the Treasury, and we stand by those because they represent for us a credible strategy to see Australia through this crisis.

The alternative is not just sitting on the fence, not just carping from the sidelines, but an avalanche of politically opportunistic negativity from those opposite. But here is the ultimate irony for those opposite. There they are, representing the forces of neoliberalism around the world. There they are representing the forces of unrestrained greed. There they are, representing the forces of unrestrained markets, representing the forces also represented by unprincipled merchant bankers operating with under-regulated markets—their entire ideology, which has brought this crisis about—and yet they are unprepared to lift a political finger to support this government’s efforts to deal with the consequences of that crisis. This is the ultimate irony, the ultimate hypocrisy of those opposite: the unrestrained greed, unprincipled merchant bankers, under-regulated financial markets—at the absolute core of neoliberalism—causing this crisis worldwide, and there they stand back, smugly, seeking to take political advantage of this government’s attempts to deal with the consequences of that crisis for working people. Those opposite have contested whether in fact they are really neoliberals. Remember, as the Leader of the Liberal Party has said in response to this debate on unregulated financial markets: ‘Let us simply let the market run its course.’

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would just ask the Leader of the Labor Party to refer to the Leader of the Opposition by his proper title, please.

The SPEAKER —Order! Members should be referred to by their parliamentary titles.

Mr RUDD —The Leader of the Opposition has said on multiple occasions, ‘Let the market run its course.’ That is the very heart of the neoliberal agenda which has brought about this mayhem on markets worldwide, with impacts on working people, who now pay the price through the loss of jobs right across the world and in our country as well. The Leader of the Opposition reinforced that in the debate in the parliament on Tuesday when he began citing as his new authority on fiscal policy Professor Taylor from Stanford University in the United States, who is himself one of the archdeacons of neoliberalism. Remember what Professor Taylor said? He always asks himself each morning: ‘What would Milton do next?’—that is, what would Milton Friedman do next? And then you have not just these statements of ideology but also the action itself of ideology, which is to block this government’s efforts in the Senate to actually deal with the stimulus needs necessary to repair growth, growth which has been undermined by neoliberal wanton behaviour around the world which has brought this crisis about in the first place.

So there you have this extraordinary contradiction—their ideology wreaking havoc on the world economy and them refusing to support any course of action to deal with the consequences of their ideology’s spectacular failure. How about, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, you just stand up one day and say, ‘Maybe this neoliberalism, maybe this market fundamentalism—maybe we just got it wrong.’ How about a word of apology about all of those investment bankers around the world who creamed it, who scored tens and hundreds of millions of dollars out of this? How about just a word of apology which said you might have got it wrong? And how about a word of action to support a government’s efforts to clean up the wreckage after you? That is the moral challenge here, a moral challenge which has been failed by the Liberal Party corporately and by the Leader of the Opposition personally.