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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 4892

Senator CROSSIN (2:37 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sherry. Is Australia’s world-leading economic performance during this global recession being reflected in a growing sense of confidence among consumers and business? Can the Assistant Treasurer outline some of the recent signs for optimism that Australia is weathering the worst global financial crisis in 75 years better than any other advanced economy? Does the Assistant Treasurer believe that this optimism is warranted?

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —It is true that there are few countries with consistently encouraging signs on the economic front in terms of recovery as Australia. Australia has the fastest growth, the lowest debt, the lowest deficit and the second lowest unemployment of the major advanced economies. Indeed this month’s Westpac Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index has risen to a two-year high. It has increased by 28 per cent in the past three months, which is the largest three-month jump in the survey’s 34-year history.

Of course much of the confidence that is being seen both in the business and in the general community is a consequence of the impact of the decisive actions taken by the Rudd Labor government to cushion the Australian economy from the world’s worst financial and economic recession in the last 75 years. It is now indisputable that the two stimulus packages delivered by the Rudd Labor government have helped to cushion the economy, boost jobs and boost confidence—unfortunately opposed by the Liberal-National Party coalition. There is no doubt also that the Reserve Bank’s 425-basis point reduction in interest rates has also played a major part. As a result of these types of measures, the Australian economy is growing at a faster rate than any other advanced economy. However, caution is needed. We do know that across the world the picture is much bleaker. World economic growth will be significantly negative this year, in marked contrast to that of Australia. (Time expired)

Senator CROSSIN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the Assistant Treasurer aware of any alternative approaches to managing the Australian economy during this global recession, and would suggestions to actually wind back the Rudd government’s decisive action to stimulate our economy put the achievements he has outlined at risk?

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —As I was just saying, the world’s advanced economies are expected to decline by four per cent this year in terms of output, according to the International Monetary Fund. The world still is a dangerous place, regrettably, and we are not isolated from the impact of these economic circumstances. As I have said many times, these are the worst circumstances in some 75 years. We will continue to see some good news in the year ahead but there will also be bad news before this crisis is behind us.

As I said earlier, it is particularly unfortunate that the Liberal opposition took a position to oppose our major stimulus package, which was very necessary and which is showing very clearly that it has worked and that it has cushioned the economy. Unlike in other countries, retail sales, construction, housing and the car industry have not fallen— (Time expired)

Senator CROSSIN —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that answer I also ask: in light of the success of the Rudd government’s swift and decisive action to protect Australians from the full onslaught of the global financial crisis, can the Assistant Treasurer outline what further policies the government is considering to try to help our country recover from the worst global recession since the Great Depression?

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —Thank you, once again, for that important question. As I have pointed out on many occasions, when we are asked a serious question about a very serious issue we get a lot of noise and a lot of catcalling from the Liberal and National parties opposite. We have had a lot of noise on this issue but no positive policy. Their approach consistently throughout the world recession has been to say no to anything positive that this Labor government has done to cushion the economy. Indeed their view was well outlined by the former shadow Treasurer, who argued that the Liberal and National parties would sit on their hands, do nothing and await developments. That is not the correct approach. The Rudd Labor government has acted decisively, and indeed leading world economic agencies such as the OECD and the International Monetary Fund have credited the decisive actions of the Rudd Labor government. (Time expired)