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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6318

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (2:38 PM) —Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. How is the global recession affecting the Australian economy? Why is it important to recognise the threat that the global recession poses to Australian jobs?

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Several comments on my left I am ignoring but I will not ignore them all the time. The sort of remarks that were made are not helpful for the proper conduct of the chamber.

Mr TANNER (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the member for Dobell for his question. The global recession is a very serious threat to the Australian economy and to jobs in Australia. Around the world, economic activity, trade, jobs, credit provision and government finances have been plummeting as a result of the global recession and that is inevitably impacting directly on the Australian economy through lower mineral prices, changes in the terms of trade, less investment and lower confidence in the Australian economy, and therefore it constitutes an enormous threat to jobs in the Australian economy.

That is why the government has responded through bank guarantees, through stimulus packages and through longer-term investment in infrastructure—all directed towards sustaining activity and jobs in the Australian economy. I have to confess that none of that is really much news to most Australians because people have been seeing it night after night on their TV screens. Most people are well aware of the fact that the global recession constitutes an enormous threat to jobs in the Australian economy. It is not a secret for most Australians but it does appear that it is something of a secret to at least one group of Australians—namely, the Liberal Party and the National Party opposition, because they do not appear to be fully aware of the threat that the global recession is posing to the Australian economy.

Like many other members of the House, I do not get a huge amount of leisure time up in Canberra. It is one of those circumstances where you do not get much chance to relax, but every now and then I manage to chill out a bit and have a cup of coffee or something like that. I admit it: I do that every now and then. Yesterday was one of those occasions when I managed to get an opportunity to relax for a bit, and I stumbled across a Liberal Party leaflet and had a bit of a read of it.

I admit that some people could suggest that this behaviour is a little odd—that for entertainment and leisure I am reading Liberal Party leaflets—but I plead guilty. They are pretty exciting! They are pretty interesting things! It is a very interesting leaflet. It is headed Recovery for Australia. It has a nice picture of the Leader of the Opposition on it and it has a little survey that asks you questions like what you think are the most important things in the budget, including paying back ‘borrowed debt’. Borrowed debt! They make sure that you get the message about what kind of debt it is.

There is an interesting thing about this leaflet and that is that all the way through there is not a single mention of the global recession. There is not one mention of the global recession, not one mention of the global financial crisis battering the Australian economy, not one mention of the collapse in government revenue that has flowed from the global recession, not one mention of the change in the terms of trade and not one mention to people of the massive threat to jobs that is constituted by the global recession.

Sometimes some Australians claim that politicians are out of touch. This Liberal leaflet is exhibit A in the case for the prosecution of politicians for being out of touch, because those in the Liberal Party are just like their forebears in the 1930s—those characters with the bowler hats, the waist coasts and the canes and all that sort of stuff. You can just see the Leader of the Opposition being exactly the same—totally uncaring, totally unconcerned about jobs and in complete denial about the threat of the global recession—and in that case the threat of global depression to jobs. He is in complete denial, just like many of his colleagues are in complete denial about climate change. There are places you can go to get help for this problem of denial and I would recommend to the Leader of the Opposition that he might try that. You sit around in a circle and then you pop up and say, ‘I’m Malcolm and I’m an investment banker.’ And then everybody gets together and has a chat about it all.

The problem for the Australian community is that the Liberal Party today is exactly the same as the outfit in the 1930s—completely unconcerned about jobs, completely unconcerned about the impact on the small businesses of Australia of the collapse of economic activity around the world and its impact on the Australian economy. Well, the government does care about jobs in this country. The government does care about economic activity and livelihoods of businesses in this country. And that is why, like so many other governments around the world, we are acting decisively to stimulate economic activity in order to sustain jobs and sustain business activity in the Australian economy.