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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 39

Senator HURLEY (3:21 PM) —It is very curious to hear the opposition trying to find their way around the economy and the economic package. They acknowledge that there is a global financial crisis, but then they say that Australia should be totally immune from it, that there should not be any job losses and that there should not be any impact on the budget. They imply that the Rudd government has caused this situation. I presume that they will get their strategy sorted out eventually. It is very interesting to hear the Liberal Party talk about these kinds of issues and make grand statements like ‘not spending your way out of a crisis’ while not actually addressing what the government is doing, saying what is specifically wrong with the stimulus package that they supported last year, or putting forward proposals which they believe would create jobs. As I said, I look forward to hearing their response when they have sorted out their views on the economy and the economic package.

The Rudd government has today announced a $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan. This Nation Building and Jobs Plan will protect, support and create jobs because it is a very well-targeted package. It is well targeted to those very areas that the former government did not address when it had money rolling in. The terms of trade were excellent, we had a resources boom, had a good global financial situation and had money rolling in in the form of taxes. What it did not address was infrastructure, training, education or an environmental strategy. In developing this package, the Rudd government is not only responding to the current global financial crisis but also making sure that those things that were neglected previously are not neglected this time, despite the handicap it faces of a global downturn.

The lack of work on infrastructure around Australia meant that Australia did not benefit in the way it could have from its export potential and from its job creation potential during the time of the former government. This applies even more so to training and education. It was acknowledged that there was an acute crisis in not only building and construction trades but also other areas like engineering and science. We just did not have enough of these people to ensure that we took advantage of those good economic conditions during the time of the former government. Further, the former government did not ensure in any way that its environmental strategy meant a sustainable future and continued economic growth for Australians.

The government’s plan not only addresses the fact that we will have a $115 billion hit on our budget revenues but also makes sure that we will be well placed in the future to recover from the current economic situation and go on to build a stronger Australia. The jobs plan provides immediate support for jobs and growth in our economy. It will stimulate growth of about a half of one per cent of GDP in 2008-09 and of around three-quarters to one per cent in 2009-10. It will support up to 90,000 jobs over the next two years. That is a wonderful achievement when we see Europe, the United States and China in dire economic circumstances. There are countries around the world that are already in recession, and some of them are almost in economic meltdown. The fact that our government can put together a package that will mean we will have that kind of result over the next couple of years is an excellent response.

The forecast budget deficit for 2008-09 is $22.5 billion, or 1.9 per cent of GDP. Australia will have to go into deficit to allow this package to be implemented, but the government is committed to restoring the economic situation. (Time expired)