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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3220


Senator CROSSIN (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sherry. Can the Assistant Treasurer advise the Senate on the latest economic figures and forecasts for the Australian economy since the Senate last sat? Does Australia continue to be a world leader in the recovery from the global recession? How important has the Rudd government’s stimulus strategy proven in ensuring our economy continues to grow and create jobs for Australians?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Crossin for her question. Since the Senate last met, there have been several important measurements of Australia’s progress through the worst global recession in 75 years. The first and most obvious point, of course, is that Australia did not have a recession. We were one of only three advanced economies to avoid recession as the rest of the world sank into deep recession, in many cases. In fact, Australia is one of the few economies which are larger today than they were two years ago. Many of the advanced economies of the world are in fact today smaller than they were two years ago. The latest National Accounts were released earlier this month and they show Australia’s overall economic strength, particularly compared with almost all other advanced economies. Our gross domestic product grew by one-half of a per cent in the March quarter, to be 2.7 per cent higher throughout the year. This is a very positive outcome. It was underpinned by public investment. Those opposite scoff, but if they actually read the national accounts they would see that public investment rose by 12.5 per cent in the March quarter.


Senator Abetz —We see big debt.


Senator SHERRY —We see the effect; we did not have a recession. We saw that you opposed the stimulus package. Your argument was: ‘Let’s wait and see Australia go into recession like so many other countries.’ We know what the Liberal-National Party approach was. This data was very, very encouraging. It shows positive growth outcome for the quarter, and it contains tentative signs of self-sustaining private sector recovery, and that is building. The government’s infrastructure investment is continuing to support demand, providing necessary targeted support for those parts of the economy that require it, particularly the construction sector. (Time expired)


Senator CROSSIN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the Assistant Treasurer aware of other independent analysis of Australia’s world-leading economic performance? Does the Assistant Treasurer believe there are significant challenges still ahead for the global economy?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —There are many reputable independent sources supporting the decisive actions taken by the Rudd Labor government in keeping this economy out of recession.

Opposition senators interjecting—


Senator SHERRY —They laugh opposite, but this government kept Australia out of recession. The OECD, for example, has also given the Rudd Labor government’s economic stimulus the thumbs up. It is welcoming the government’s fiscal settings and the strategy in the 2010-11 budget. The OECD has revised up its growth forecast for Australia, and it expects the Australian economy to grow by 3.2 per cent in 2010 and by 3.6 per cent in 2011. The growth outlook is one of the strongest amongst all OECD economies. Australia’s performance, and its outlook, is one of the strongest amongst all OECD countries—compared with 2.7 per cent in 2010 and 2.8 per cent in 2011 in other OECD countries. (Time expired)


Senator CROSSIN —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the Assistant Treasurer aware of any alternative policies to the Rudd government’s economic discipline and responsibility? Do these alternative policies have significant risks?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —As I have already said, those opposite opposed the stimulus. They argued, ‘Wait and see’. Australia’s economy would have gone into recession and unemployment would have hit double-digit figures. That was their own prediction. We are proud as a government of having prevented Australia going into recession like so many other countries. We are proud of our economic stimulus. The biggest threat and the vandalism to this economy lie on the other side of this parliament. I acknowledge the support of the Greens and the crossbenches in terms of that stimulus. If we had withdrawn stimulus immediately, we would have had a recession. The national accounts figures I have just referred to show that a substantial part of the Australian growth in the economy over that March quarter flowed from the stimulus package, particularly in the construction sector—which those opposite opposed. They had no answers and no solutions for keeping the Australian economy strong.