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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4744


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (14:17): My question is to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer the Acting Prime Minister to the downgrades last week of numerous Spanish banks; concerns about escalating withdrawals from the Greek banking system; evidence of further slowing in the Chinese economy; and the recent decline in the spot price of key commodities such as iron ore. Against this global backdrop, does the Acting Prime Minister agree that now is the worst possible time to be hitting Australian businesses and jobs with the world's biggest carbon tax?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:17): What we have here is yet again another example of the opposition talking our economy down and trying to undermine confidence in our community. I can think of nothing more reckless than that sort of assertion, which somehow tries to equate what is going on in the Spanish banking sector with what might be happening in the Australian economy. This is the same sort of wrecking-ball politics and economics we have seen from those opposite throughout the whole global financial crisis and global recession. They come into this House, on the one hand, and pretend it never happened—that it never had any impact on our budget bottom line and that we did not have to put in place a stimulus to support our economy—and then, on the other hand, come back and say, 'Oh, there's a big problem in Europe!'

There is a challenge in Europe for the global economy and we have got the runs on the board in handling that global volatility. I recall that when the global economy was challenged by events everywhere, including in Europe, those opposite opposed the actions we took to support the Australian people. I remember that well and so do the Australian people.

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Acting Prime Minister was asked about the wrecking-ball effect of the carbon tax on the economy and he is not even attempting to answer it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The Acting Prime Minister has the call.

Mr SWAN: As I was saying earlier, if you look at our forecasts, the forecasts of the IMF, the forecasts of the major private forecasters or of the OECD, what you see is an assessment of an Australian economy which, relative to all of our peers, is strong. We are growing at trend. We have unemployment at 4.9 per cent. We have a strong investment pipeline. We have our public finances in good nick. We have a AAA credit rating from the major agencies for the first time in our history, and yet those opposite have the hide to walk into this House and compare the Australian economy and our financial sector to Spain! To ask a question like that—to come in here and talk down our fundamentals—just shows how reckless those opposite have become in their assessment of the economy and how incompetent they are. They are not capable of being put in charge of a $1.4 trillion economy.

The fact is our forecast, the private forecasts, the IMF forecast and the OECD forecast all show that we can achieve this with a carbon price. We are achieving it with a carbon price because we have the guts to put in place the longer term decisions which secure our prosperity and ensure that we continue to have 21 years of continuous growth. Far-sighted Labor governments brought in superannuation, enterprise bargaining and competition policy and brought down the tariff wall. Just as measures in that vein have strengthened our economy, putting a carbon price in will strengthen our economy. We have the guts to face up to the challenges of the 21st century and to support our economy and our people, but those opposite are so reckless they just talk our economy down every day of the week. (Time expired)

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (14:20): My supplementary question is to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to the Acting Prime Minister's statement that we are currently 'growing the economy at trend'. Can the Acting Prime Minister advise the House what the impact of the carbon tax will be on the growth forecast?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:21): I said less than a quarter of a per cent.