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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3478

Mr ADAMS (2:29 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister outline the importance of supporting jobs in the local areas across Australia hardest hit by the global recession?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for Lyons for his question, because I have spent time in most other states of the country, including Tasmania, in recent weeks addressing local jobs forums. I have been in Perth, Adelaide, the suburbs of Melbourne and south-western Sydney for the last part of last week and I was in Wollongong yesterday.

I must admit that I did not notice that the Leader of the Opposition was in that part of Western Sydney where I was last week, but I take his word for it that he was there—presumably having been recently issued with a visa to visit Western Sydney and given a Gregory’s in terms of how to get there!

On the question of local jobs and their impact across the economy, the government is embracing a strategy which is based on global action through the G20—

Mr Turnbull interjecting

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that remark.

Mr Turnbull —I withdraw my remark.

Mr Randall interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Canning is warned.

Mr Abbott interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Warringah is warned.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The point is that the Prime Minister continues to mislead the House about where the Leader of the Opposition was last week and it is—

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt will resume his seat. I am not an arbiter of what is said. There are other mechanisms of this place, as the member well knows, which he could advise the Leader of the Opposition to use.

Mr Abbott interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Warringah will leave the chamber for one hour. I hate to think that he thinks it is a reward!

The member for Warringah then left the chamber.

Mr RUDD —As I have gone from one local jobs forum to another, talking to local communities, I have found that what they are concerned about overall is: will government assist local communities which have the highest peaks in unemployment occurring as a consequence of the global recession? They are interested in what we can do to make a difference within local communities. They are interested in what will be delivered in those local communities from our $800 million community infrastructure fund—a series of projects recently announced by the ministers for infrastructure and small business. Those communities were interested to know what we can do to make a difference locally.

What we have done in each of those communities is to conduct a forum—with representatives of local business, the local community and charitable sectors, and representatives of local government—with one objective in mind, which is: how can we make a difference to bring down the unemployment rate in those individual localities? This will be a difficult and practical challenge on the ground. But those opposite will simply carp, criticise and be negative, as has been their custom over the last six months, opposing everything and proposing nothing. We, instead, are rolling up our sleeves and getting out there in local communities to try and make a difference.

That is why we have established a local jobs fund. That is why we have the Minister for Employment Participation out there, with priority employment coordinators in each of these communities, working through one proposal after another. What will work in south-western Sydney by way of local government projects to provide additional jobs and training opportunities and apprenticeships for those in those communities? How does that differ from those in north-western Tasmania? What do we need to do in the north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide? What can we do in order to make a material difference on the ground? That is what this government’s compact with local communities is about—trying to make a difference and anchoring off the back of what we are doing by way of our national economic stimulus strategy to make a further difference on the ground.

And when I have been out in those communities the response from people on the ground about the impact of the government’s skill modernisation program has been extraordinarily positive. I ran into a builder in south-western Sydney last week who is out there tendering for a range of projects with the Catholic diocese, I think, of the Central Coast. Whether he succeeds or not will be up to the tendering processes but he is confident in what is going on out there. He is putting on an additional two apprentices. He is out there investing in a bobcat to take advantage of the temporary investment allowance which this government has introduced off the back of the recommendations from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is out there also making use of that by investing in various motor vehicles he needs to run his own small business. And, as I spoke to his staff—about 10 of them—that morning, they also indicated to me that two of them had recently gone out and bought their first homes using the trebling of the first home owners boost.

Uncomfortable as it may be, these are the activities happening on the ground and in communities right across Australia for one reason: the government has decided to act, and act decisively—and to do so in a responsible way, per medium of temporary deficit and temporary borrowing, in order to make a difference in the economy, as every economy and every responsible government in the world is doing. Those opposite have embraced a $180 billion debt and deficit strategy. That is what the Leader of the Opposition said recently on Meet the Press; but at the same time he pretends that in fact he is not going to head in that direction.

Our strategy is clear: global action through the G20; national action to stabilise our financial markets; national action to invest in short-term, medium-term and long-term infrastructure and stimulus; as well as acting on the ground with each community through a local jobs fund to make a difference. That is a positive strategy for the future. I would commend it to those opposite and that they come along.

I saw the member for Macarthur at one of our forums recently in south-western Sydney. Well, good on him! He is out there at least contributing to the discussion about what we can do, practically, on the ground. All those opposite should get out of negative mode and get into positive mode about what we can do for the country.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RUDD —What was the response to that invocation? Another howl of negativity. The expectation of the nation is that this parliament will rise to the occasion and actually make a difference on the ground for communities who are being hit between the eyes by a global economic recession for which they are not responsible. This government has a clear-cut strategy: we are going to support jobs, apprenticeships, small businesses and traineeships by investing in the infrastructure we need for tomorrow by taking these actions today. That is our approach. That is the right strategy for Australia. I encourage those opposite to abandon their carping negativity and get with the project for the nation.