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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3474


Mr TURNBULL (Leader of the Opposition) (2:11 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister of his election campaign speech in November 2007:

… I am saying loud and clear that this sort of reckless spending must stop.

Given the Prime Minister has spent an additional $70 billion since last year’s budget, despite declining revenues, and that tonight his Treasurer will announce a record $58 billion deficit, I ask the Prime Minister: when will Australians stop paying the price for his failure to end Labor’s reckless spending?


Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I note that in the question which has just been asked by the Leader of the Opposition he makes no reference to the fact that this is a global economic recession and that the consequence, therefore, is that every responsible government in the world is seeking to respond to this global economic recession by taking action to reduce the impact on jobs within their economies and on small businesses and other businesses within their economies. That is this government’s strategy; it is the responsible course of action.

I would also draw the honourable member’s attention to the following. In terms of the impact of the measures taken by the government, I would draw his attention to the 1½ million Australians who, for example, work in retail and the impact of the government’s measures on retail sales in Australia—4.5 per cent higher than they were in November 2008. Contrast that with the following: a 2.5 per cent fall in the United States, a 3.1 per cent fall in Japan, a 2.2 per cent fall in Germany, a 1.7 per cent fall in New Zealand and a 3.1 per cent fall in Canada. And that is a direct consequence of government intervention in the economy.

Secondly, if we go to the whole question of building approvals and what is going on out there in the housing construction sector, the government has also taken action by trebling the first home owners grant, the first home owners boost. Those opposite always remain silent at this point because they do not know whether they are Arthur or Martha on this one, because the first home owners boost has been singularly successful in supporting activity in the housing sector. I draw the honourable member’s attention to this fact—that total building approvals rose for the second consecutive month in March, by 3.5 per cent. The increase in house approvals, up 3.4 per cent in March, is the highest monthly rise since March 2007. I would ask the honourable member to contrast that with what is happening with the housing sector in other economies also simultaneously affected by the global economic recession.

Furthermore, let us look at the impact of these interventions on the most recent survey of business confidence. The NAB business survey confirmed that the stimulus that we have delivered so far through this series of measures by the government is stabilising business confidence. Business confidence was broadly unchanged in April. I quote from the survey: ‘The results of the April survey represent the most encouraging set of numbers for some time.’

What do these various pieces of data indicate? They indicate the impact of measures taken by this government to cushion this economy from the worst effect of the global economic recession. Those opposite have one strategy, which is to do absolutely nothing—to sit on their hands and let the forces of unfettered markets rip and tear their way through working Australians, working families, right across Australia.

Those opposite like to engage in their boutique debate about these matters. But any responsible government in any place in the world will now be acting to reduce the impact of this recession on working families and communities everywhere. These are difficult choices. These are hard times. This is the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression three-quarters of a century ago. We have a strategy for the future. Those opposite have an excuse.