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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8535

Senator MARK BISHOP (2:19 PM) —My question is to Senator Sherry, Assistant Treasurer. Can the Assistant Treasurer detail to the Senate the latest forecast for the Australian economy from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development? What does the OECD Economic Outlook, which was released late last week, say about Australia’s world leading performance in the face of the worst global recession for 75 years? Does the OECD expect Australia to maintain its position as one of the best performing economies in the world, with stronger growth, lower debt and lower deficits than the major advanced economies? Does the OECD Economic Outlook recognise the important role the Rudd government’s fiscal stimulus package has played and continues to play in the recovery from the global financial crisis and the ensuing global recession?

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —Thank you, Senator Bishop, for your interest. The OECD has released its Economic Outlook and it is an especially good report card for Australia, which is again at the head of the class on a global performance comparative. The report is further evidence that Australia is outperforming the rest of the advanced world with stronger growth, lower debt and lower deficits than the major advanced economies. Australia is one of only three member countries expected to record positive growth in 2009. Just three countries will have positive economic growth; Australia is one of them.

The forecasts for Australia’s growth are 0.8 per cent in 2009, 2.4 per cent in 2010 and 3.5 per cent in 2011. This compares with the OECD-wide forecast showing member economies will go backwards by an average of 3.5 per cent in 2009 before growing by 1.9 per cent in 2010. So they go backwards; Australia, at 0.8 per cent and 2.4 per cent, is well ahead of the average. The OECD expects unemployment in Australia to peak at 6.3 per cent—substantially lower than the average OECD performance of 9.1 per cent. I have reminded senators that unemployment in the United States has now reached 10.2 per cent. They are some of the reasons for Australia’s world leading performance.

The report notes Australia has been less affected by the crisis than other countries, with growth supported by expansive fiscal and monetary policy. Indeed, the Rudd Labor government stimulus package has protected jobs and positioned Australia as the best performing economy in the developed world. The package has saved some 200,000 jobs. Australians should be very proud of the way in which the entire Australian community, particularly the business community, has responded in these difficult times. There are many challenges. (Time expired)

Senator MARK BISHOP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. With the government stimulus package playing such a pivotal role in cushioning Australia from the worst effects of the global recession, does the OECD give an indication of when it should be withdrawn?

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Mark Bishop for his question. The OECD endorses Australia’s current planned schedule for stimulus withdrawal, noting that:

the planned reduction of the federal budgetary stimulus seems to be an appropriate response to the needs of the economy.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator SHERRY —Of course, we hear interjections from the Liberal Party opposite. They oppose the stimulus. They oppose the cushioning of the Australian economy.

Senator Bushby —That’s right!

Senator SHERRY —That is right. I will take that interjection—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Ignore interjections, Senator Sherry.

Senator SHERRY —The Liberal Party oppose the economic stimulus. They oppose the cushioning of the Australian economy. They oppose the saving of some 200,000 jobs. Their policy approach would have meant more than one million people unemployed in Australia. That was the policy approach of the Liberal Party opposite. Of course, the Liberal Party opposite continue to ignore independent evidence and commentary, such as that of the OECD, in support of our— (Time expired)

Senator MARK BISHOP —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Does the OECD report examine the effect of the global recession on growth prospects for member countries, including Australia? Has the stimulus strategy had favourable impacts other than the all-important aim of saving the jobs of some 200,000 Australians? Does it also express a view on Australia’s finances, as they relate to the job-saving, recession-busting stimulus package?

Senator Coonan —Very slack on infrastructure. No value for money!

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —Some members of the Liberal opposition interjected about infrastructure. If the opposition is interested in the performance of the Australian economy—and they have not shown much interest in recent months—and the views of the OECD about infrastructure, then they should ask about it. I cannot recall a question in recent months from those opposite about the economy. They have been ignoring economic issues totally for the last couple of months. The OECD report confirms that the Australian government’s finances remain amongst the strongest in the world. It confirms that Australia’s net debt is expected to peak at 10 per cent of GDP.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator SHERRY —Again, if those opposite are so interested in the issue of government debt, they should ask me a question about it. They have all but ignored this issue and the general economic conditions in this country—which are comparatively very favourable. They should ask a question rather than make unruly interjections. (Time expired)