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Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Page: 1029

Senator BILYK (3:21 PM) —The Rudd Labor government is more than up to the task of managing the economy. To us on this side it is truly amazing that those on the other side talk about jobs as if they actually cared for Australians. If they did they would have voted for the economic stimulus packages and so helped to save some jobs. We are facing serious economic uncertainty but things would be worse if we did not act, and the Rudd Labor government has acted decisively. It is all about temporary spending with lasting gains, engaging in genuine nation building and supporting jobs. In the previous 12 years there was a complete lack of money being put into infrastructure and development and research and design.

It is easy to say the opposition left the government with a great surplus, but they only did that because they managed to put money away rather than spending it where it needed to be spent. More than two-thirds of our economic stimulus is directed towards investing in schools and roads and housing—that is, for the future, for the kids of today and tomorrow. It is uncharted waters, but we know that doing nothing means exposing families to the full force of the global recession. If those on the other side had any true concerns about where Australia is going financially, rather than just trying for political one-upmanship, they would have voted for the economic stimulus packages. They think we should just let the market rip and expose families to the full force of global recession. I think they probably want a longer, deeper downturn and even higher unemployment because it suits their petty political agenda. It is not really about what they can do for the people of Australia; it is about what makes them look good.

National accounts have been a real slap in the face for Mr Turnbull and Mr Hockey, who have said that the global recession is hyped up and manufactured. They cannot have it both ways: it is either hyped up and manufactured or it is real. The fact that Mr Hockey says he expected strong growth in December shows how little he appreciates the magnitude of the global challenge that is taking place. As I have said, the Rudd Labor government have a clear view that we can get through this global recession better than other nations if we are strong and if we are united. We will continue to build on our strengths. It will be tough; we will need every ounce of national unity and ingenuity if we are to deal with this challenge.

Economists across the globe acknowledge that the world is facing its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. We cannot deny that; we do not try to deny it. What we are trying to do is act in an appropriate and responsible way to help save people’s jobs. Earlier today Pacific Brands was mentioned. It is very unfortunate to see so many people losing jobs, and the government is quite disappointed that Pacific Brands is withdrawing from the majority of its worldwide manufacturing. Through absolutely no fault of their own, 1,850 Australians will lose their jobs. This is a very, very serious blow to not only those people and their families, but to us as well while we are trying to handle the global economic downturn. Pacific Brands has indicated that it is a strategic decision. I understand Senator Kim Carr spoke with Pacific Brands and asked if there was anything the government could do to change the decision. The answer was no. So our concern is for the workers and for their families, and we will do everything we can to see them through this difficult time, including helping them to re-skill and to get back into the workforce as soon as possible. The government are very clear that they will take all action possible to help the workers and their families.

Earlier in question time, we were talking about the textile, clothing and footwear industries. We heard Senator Carr comment that he believed these are viable areas for Australia, that they are not to be written off. (Time expired)