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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 462

Senator PRATT (3:23 PM) —The Rudd government knows that it must do everything in its power to avoid a prolonged recession. This is about supporting jobs. We know that unemployment in this country is forecast to rise, and we are taking decisive action to contain it. Alternatively, those opposite can force families into unemployment, causing people to lose their homes, causing further deflation in housing values and, indeed, causing further collapse in the building industry, with people forced to sell their homes for less than they owe. These are the consequences of the current global economic crisis, and it is not the future that we want for Australian citizens.

The Rudd government has, on that basis, taken decisive action with its $42 billion investment to support the Australian economy and jobs. We know that there is an overwhelming and immediate case for our Nation Building and Jobs Plan. There is a global recession around us, and the outlook has deteriorated just so sharply in the past few months. We know Australia is better placed than many countries, but we cannot resist the pull of these international forces. That is why our Nation Building and Jobs Plan is so important, as highlighted by our ministers in question time today. It has been carefully designed to support jobs and bolster the economy in the short term. It has been welcomed by commentators for doing just that.

The key to this plan is laying the groundwork for having a stronger economy when we emerge from this recession. We will do that by investing in essential community infrastructure like schools, housing and local road projects. The plan is about supporting these local economies and local jobs. We are also providing support to families and individuals to ensure that we keep demand and consumption in the economy flowing in the short term. These are important economic fundamentals that clearly those opposite are blatantly ignorant of. We have a global recession that has wiped $115 billion off the government’s revenue and has brought our budget into deficit. In the face of the most serious global recession since the Great Depression, there can and should be no apology for choosing to support Australian jobs. Of course, the government remains committed to returning the budget to surplus once we are through this recession. There is going to be a debt to repay, but repaying a deficit will be much harder if the whole economy falls over on its arse.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Pratt, I suggest you withdraw that comment.

Senator PRATT —I withdraw. We need to cushion the economy’s fall or it will fall much further. We know how hard we have been hit by this global recession. I see it in Western Australia, where we have lost hundreds of jobs already. We have lost 300 from Lennard Shelf and 180 from Cloud Break. We have 300 to 500 projected job losses at Argyle Diamonds. We have already heard about the 1,800 to 3,000 at Ravensthorpe. We have lost 300 at Mount Keith, 400 at Telfer, 190 at Koolan Island, 200 at Wicherina and 70 at Spinifex Ridge. Where are these workers going to go? We need to restimulate and create jobs, and the Rudd government is doing just that. We will create new jobs in communities throughout Australia in local construction, in our schools and through our investment in schools. It is a tragedy that so many Australians are losing their jobs, so the Rudd government needs to make no apology for pursuing these policies. When those opposite get their economics straight, they will understand that there are certain times when it is quite fine to move into deficit and support the economy and stimulate the economy so that it does not fall further. (Time expired)