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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 444


Senator LUNDY (2:05 PM) —My question is to Senator Evans, the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can the minister explain to the Senate why the government is committed to implementing its stimulus package, the Nation Building and Jobs Plan, urgently?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank Senator Lundy for the question. Senator Lundy raises the very important issue confronting Australia today, which is the impact of the global financial crisis on the Australian economy. What we are seeing throughout the world is an enormous downturn in the economies of the world. Six out of 10 of Australia’s top trading partners are already in recession. Six out of 10! That has already seen Commonwealth revenue revised downwards by $115 billion since November—$115 billion off the expected revenue to the Commonwealth revised since November.

These economic factors—these international factors—are beginning to bite very hard on the Australian economy. They are biting hard on Australian jobs, Australian businesses and Australian families. The Labor government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan is designed to provide an immediate economic stimulus, to act decisively and urgently to try and protect the Australian economy from these impacts.

We have a well-targeted plan designed to provide two impacts. Firstly, we have a short-term boost to economic activity by stimulating consumption, to protect jobs and small business and to try and prop up confidence and, secondly, we have a long-term $28 billion investment in school, roads and housing that will provide job opportunities to Australians over the coming years but that will also build infrastructure to give our kids better facilities at schools, to provide roads in rural and regional Australia and to provide much needed housing. So there is a short-term strategy and a long-term strategy. It is all about providing support for the Australian economy and supporting jobs and business. It is urgent that the parliament support this initiative rather than put jobs at risk.


Senator LUNDY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. Can the minister outline to the Senate the response of industry groups to the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank Senator Lundy. I think the response from the Australian community broadly has been extremely positive about this package. People understand the need for it and overall the reaction has been that we have got the balance right. The Property Council, the Australian Constructors Association and other industry groups are all saying that this is a good package and that it needs to be implemented urgently. The Property Council of Australia said:

Every dollar that goes into the construction sector has a multiplier effect—it is spent three times over in the economy. This makes for an ideal measure of a well thought-out stimulus package.

The Australian Constructors Association says that it is a thoughtful and well-targeted program. The opposition are alone in their criticism of this package. All the major economic commentators and all the major industry associations urge the opposition to pass this and protect Australian jobs.


Senator LUNDY —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister please detail the response from the not-for-profit and environment sectors to the Nation Building and Jobs Plan?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —In an unusual consensus across the Australian community, not only have business groups been highly supportive of the package but groups like Anglicare Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Climate Institute and the Clean Energy Council are all saying that this is a good package that is well targeted, well timed and absolutely urgently needed. This is a reaction across the Australian community. Even green groups, who are not very happy with us at the moment, are saying that this is a great package and that it is urgently needed. We have the support of all the state premiers, including Mr Barnett, the WA Liberal Premier. They know that the stimulus package is required. They know what is impacting on WA and the rest of Australia as a result of the downturn of the economies of our trading partners. We have strong support across the Australian community, and the parliament ought to support his initiative in the national interest.