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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4442

Senator HURLEY (2:19 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sherry. Is it the case that the recent economic data indicates that Australia continues to weather, better than all the major advanced economies, the effects of the worst global financial crisis in 75 years? Can the Assistant Treasurer update the Senate on the latest forecasts for the Australian economy? Does he agree with the growing view among economists and international observers that we have now come through the worst of the global recession? How vital is it that the government keeps delivering on its stimulus strategies, which have proved so successful, and keeps protecting the jobs of Australians? Is the Assistant Treasurer aware of any alternative views on this issue?

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —Since the Senate last met there have been a range of what I would describe as generally positive views about the Australian economy, and it is generally true that Australia is a leading performer amongst major advanced economies. Despite the worst global recession in 75 years, we are weathering the storm better than most other countries. We have the fastest growth, we have the lowest debt, we have the lowest deficit and we have the second lowest unemployment rate of all advanced economies, and Australia is the only one of 30 economies that has not gone into recession.

If we look today at the National Australia Bank’s monthly business survey and economic outlook, it shows that business confidence is at its highest level since August 2007, when the financial crisis, then the economic crisis, started to hit the world. The Dun and Bradstreet survey of business expectations also released today paints a positive picture, with all the expectation indices in positive territory. Sales and profit expectations in this survey have recorded their biggest one-quarter increase since the survey began in 1998. I think one of the most pleasing aspects of the effect of the government’s stimulus packages is that unemployment in Australia remains amongst the lowest in the world. The July figures released last week showed employment increased by 32,200 persons, with unemployment rates steady at 5.8 per cent. Contrast that to 9.4 per cent in the US, 8.6 per cent in Canada, and 7.6 per cent in the UK.

However, the effects of the global recession are still being felt in Australia and will continue to be felt for some time. We are certainly not out of the woods yet, and unemployment is forecast to grow— (Time expired)

Senator HURLEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Assistant Treasurer, is it not the case that the outlook predicted by the IMF has placed Australia as the fastest-growing advanced economy in the world? What implications does this have for our economic outlook? Have any Australian bodies further endorsed this view of Australia’s standing in the world? Assistant Treasurer, what would be the implications of not taking the swift and decisive action that the Rudd government has taken as a result of the global financial crisis?

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —There are a lot of interjections from the very negative Liberal-National Party opposition—a very divided opposition, I might say. They proudly opposed the Rudd Labor government’s decisive actions to introduce two stimulus packages—two stimulus packages that we know, on all the evidence that has been published, has helped cushion the Australian economy from the worst impacts of the worst economic crisis the world has seen in some 75 years. We do know that, in Australia, unlike most comparable countries, figures on retail sales, employment, construction, housing activity—a whole raft of evidence—show the positive impact that the Rudd Labor government’s decisive actions in protecting the Australian economy from the very worst of this economic downturn have had. They have been very effective. And we know those measures were opposed by the— (Time expired)

Senator HURLEY —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I thank the Assistant Treasurer for highlighting the success of the Rudd government’s swift and decisive action in the face of the global financial crisis and the recent assessments by international and Australian organisations of these strategies. But what alternative views for action have been put forward in response to the global financial crisis? How do these compare to the Rudd government’s swift and decisive action to protect Australia’s economic future?

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Those on my left. Senator Macdonald is on his feet wanting to be heard.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr President, on a point of order: this question has clearly been written for Senator Hurley. I wonder whether we should refer to the Privileges Committee the fact that someone has written a question for her and coached her—

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order there. The question stands.

Senator SHERRY —Thank you, Mr President. Those opposite in the Liberal-National parties, aside from being very divided over the six weeks since we last met, are very noisy, very embarrassed, as we have seen more and more evidence of the results of the decisive action of the Rudd government in a whole raft of areas that show that the Australian economy is performing amongst the best in the world.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator SHERRY —And what do those opposite propose? What did the Liberal-National parties opposite propose? Do nothing!

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Sherry, resume your seat. We will continue when there is quiet.

Senator SHERRY —A lot of noise we are hearing from the Liberal-National parties. They have no policy. Their view, in the face of the world’s greatest economic crisis in the last 75 years, is to sit on our hands and do nothing. That was the policy development of those opposite. And now, of course, having seen the positive impact of our stimulus packages in cushioning the Australian economy, they want to withdraw it! (Time expired)