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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 37

Senator LUNDY (3:11 PM) —I find it extremely interesting that the coalition nominated Senator Joyce to speak in this taking-note debate on such an important day—the announcement of the $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan to support jobs. To me, that is a clear indication that the Liberal opposition has little to say in response to our nation-building package. I presume that this equates to some kind of support, so I look forward to hearing what other contributors to this debate say this afternoon. This package is unprecedented because we are facing an unprecedented crisis. The Labor response has been comprehensive and forward thinking with substance to try to address the crisis here in Australia.

We know from the contributions of my colleagues during question time that our tax receipts have been reduced—in part, obviously, because of the slowing of the economy but particularly because of the slowing of the global economy and the impact on our capacity to engage and sell our exports. We are faced with a global recession, having already pushed our budget into deficit even before we take this decisive policy action with the $42 billion package announced today.

This package is historic, it is visionary and it targets all of the key areas designed to assist Australia in getting through this difficult time. But it does so with an eye to the future. The focus on Building the Education Revolution and investing in our schools is unmatched. We know there has been investment in schools’ programs before, but never to the degree that has been proposed by federal Labor today and never with the degree of integration with the roles that schools play in our respective communities. Some of the elements of that particular package and Building the Education Revolution include large-scale infrastructure investments in libraries and halls in primary schools, special schools and K-12 schools across Australia to the tune of $12.4 billion. Having worked in the sport portfolio and the local government portfolio previously, I can tell you that this is so needed in communities, whether they be outer metropolitan, inner city, regional or rural. It is this kind of investment that stitches communities together. By targeting this particular package in this way, not only will we drive opportunities for local businesses and jobs but also we will provide the kind of social infrastructure that will allow these communities to consolidate, build and grow through very difficult economic times.

I congratulate my colleagues on the thoughtfulness that underpins the announcements today. This is in stark contrast to what we have heard from the opposition—certainly from Senator Joyce but also I presume from the coalition opposition generally. For whatever reason, they decided to have a climate change deniers’ rant on this important day instead of discussing the primary issue and focus of question time today, which was the state of the economy and Labor’s second stimulus package. Why on earth they chose not to focus on these critical issues I do not know.

I know my colleagues will address some of the other issues, but in summary, yes, there is an investment package for building insulation. Why? Because we are facing several challenges at the moment. One of them, of course, is the global financial crisis and the impact on our economy, but another one is climate change. How clever and how forward-thinking is it to not only combine the two and look at stimulating the economy but also rectify the significant problem of energy inefficiency in our suburban homes? The insulation program is perfectly designed to address both of those issues in a thoughtful and visionary way that will stimulate jobs where they are needed during economically tough times. I would also like to mention the investment into housing of 20,000 new social and defence homes, again targeting where the need is at a time when we need to stimulate jobs and to specifically resolve a social crisis that the Rudd government has identified as a priority area. (Time expired)