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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9396

Mr GEORGANAS (2:42 PM) —Will the Treasurer outline for the House why jobs and employment conditions will continue to be front and centre in the government’s economic strategy?

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I thank the member for Hindmarsh for his question, because it has been a difficult year in the global economy. Australia, through a combination of circumstances—including economic stimulus and fantastic community effort—has come through this global recession in far better shape than the rest of the world. But, as the IMF recently warned, it would be dangerous to assume that the crisis is now over—around the world but also locally we are still facing big challenges. One of those challenges is rising unemployment. Last week’s unemployment figures showed that employment fell by 27,100 people last month. The number of unemployed Australians has risen by something like 200,000 people over the past year. Regrettably, I think unemployment will continue to rise as the effects of the global recession do continue to wash through our economy.

That is why jobs are so central—front and centre—to this government’s economic strategy. We do understand the damaging impact of unemployment on an economy, on families, on business and on the wider community. We, in particular, understand the damage that unemployment does to those families that are caught in the cycle of unemployment. That is why the statements by the shadow Treasurer last Thursday were so damaging and why they really demonstrate the lack of understanding of the shadow Treasurer and those opposite. He said that jobs were not the No. 1 economic priority of the Liberal and National parties in this parliament. This is quite a change of heart from the shadow Treasurer because on 23 April he said this:

Every single sinew of the Government’s body must be focused on creating jobs, building jobs. It must be focused on how to preserve jobs.

What a change of heart we have had from the shadow Treasurer in recent times. And in the space of one week the shadow Treasurer has had a shocker. In the space of one week jobs have gone from being the top priority to a second order priority. On Thursday he announced a $50 billion a year savings target for those opposite. Truly spectacular! Then we had his leftist conspiracy in the G20. And then we had a rebuke from the World Bank—all in the space of a couple of days.

What this demonstrates is how those opposite have misjudged the global recession. They have misjudged its causes and they have misjudged the response. And so important to the response here has been that Australians have pulled together. They have come together working with the government to support employment. What is the new idea that those opposite have got this week? It is to bring back Work Choices. What a combination—to oppose stimulus and bring back Work Choices. It shows how those opposite have no grasp of the challenges facing this country. What they will do is push people down. What we on this side of the House will do is build them up. Those on that side of the House have no conception of what is required to support employment and the Australian people in a global recession.