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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5412


Senator McLUCAS (3:17 PM) —I also rise to take note of answers given by Senator Sherry to questions asked today. I have to wonder, though, at the tactics and approach of the current opposition in the way they conducted question time today. It was a very scattergun approach with lots of kite-flying and lots of reading from the Australian—which I find is a bit of a theme that is emerging from that side of politics. It is a theme that I might pick up myself, because in today’s Australian there was some commentary from the coalition partners—unfortunately there are none here—about the way that question time is being run. Today’s Australian says:

Nationals sources said yesterday ... “We aren’t getting enough questions up and the questions that are being asked seem to be about demon-strating how smart we are—not questioning Rudd’s performance,” said one source.

I do not know if that is a reference to the Senate. It might be a reference to the House of Representatives but I suggest that it prob-ably has something to do with the Senate.

Let us go to the questions that were asked. Senator Coonan’s attempt at kite-flying about potential options for taxation policy in the lead-up to the budget were answered absolutely openly and appropriately by Senator Sherry. As many of you sitting on the other side know, many options are canvassed in the preparation of a budget and the important point is that the government makes the decision. That is what occurred at this time. These questions have been answered quite adequately by Senator Sherry and by his colleagues in the House of Representatives.

Can I also comment on the contribution from Senator Eggleston. We know that Senator Eggleston has some difficulty coping with the concept of climate change. We have heard that over the last week-and-a-half. That is all well understood, but I think Senator Eggleston is also having some difficulty understanding that we have a global financial crisis that has occurred in the last 18 months, and that looking back over policy approaches of the previous government and comparing them with the policy approach of this government, without recognition that we have one of the most significant financial crises that the world has seen in generations, is ‘disingenuous’. I think that might be a nice way of saying it.

We are dealing with the most difficult financial circumstance in nearly 100 years. Can I say that it is well regarded and well recognised by the economic commentariat that our government’s decisive, early action has put us in good stead. Now, we can argue about whether or not the stimulus was too little or too much, and there will be plenty of views about that, but I want to relate a story of a constituent of mine who came to my stall at the Cairns show to tell me that had the Building the Education Revolution money not been provided his staff of nearly 50 would have been cut by at least 12. These are professional people—designers, archi-tects and planners. He knows that he would have lost about 12 staff. As it happens, he has had to employ an extra four staff. Now, that does not sound like a lot but we are talking about professional people in a regional centre who otherwise would have lost positions—and that is a huge drain on any economy. I have enjoyed talking with school communities, principals and teachers about the benefit that this will have for their schools, but I have also enjoyed immensely talking to builders—the people who are doing the construction work. They have told me over and over that, without this economic stimulus, they definitely would have downsized. In fact, one builder told me that he would have gone broke. (Time expired)