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Monday, 16 March 2009
Page: 2655

Mr PEARCE (3:14 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s series of announcements in the past few months on job creation: the $15 billion COAG agreement, where 130,000 jobs were promised; the $10 billion pre-Christmas ‘cash splash’, where it was said 75,000 jobs would be created; the $4.3 billion infrastructure announcement, where 32,000 jobs were promised; and the $42 billion stimulus package, which was said to support 90,000 jobs. Prime Minister, given that you have now spent $72 billion, which it was said would create 330,000 jobs, exactly how many jobs have been created by the measures?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —The honourable member’s question goes to the impact of the stimulus measures on jobs, specifically within Australia. The alternative—and the dividing line between us in this parliament—is as clear as day. The Liberal Party stands for sitting, waiting and doing nothing; this government has a clear plan of action.

Mr Pearce —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My question asked how many of the 330,000 jobs have—

The SPEAKER —The member for Aston will resume his seat.

Mr Robert —You’ve waffled for 10 minutes about nothing, but on jobs we get—

The SPEAKER —The member for Fadden will leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a).

The member for Fadden then left the chamber.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister is 17 seconds into the response. I will listen carefully to the Prime Minister.

Mr RUDD —In response to the honourable member for Aston’s question: jobs are the explicit focus of what we have done by way of support payments for pensioners, carers and veterans, because consumption is critical for the 1½ million Australians who are employed in the retail sector. He asked for evidence of its impact. Retail trade rose by 3.8 per cent in December 2008. It grew further, by 0.2 per cent, in January. In December, retail trade figures in Canada fell by 5.4 per cent. In the United States they fell by three per cent. In Japan they fell by 1.9 per cent. In Germany they fell by 0.9 per cent. In New Zealand they fell by one per cent. The clear contrast between retail sales in this economy and those in other economies in the December quarter and into January is clear for all to see. What, it seems, is very difficult for the member for Aston to see is that if retails sales are up then that supports employment in the retail sector. I know that is a difficult connection for him to make but, in terms of the 1½ million Australians who are employed in the Australian retail industry, if he were to reflect on the numbers that we saw in the collapse of retail in other economies around the world, he would have seen many more Australians out of work in the retail sector.

The second part of the stimulus package, which he draws to our attention in terms of the impact of the stimulus package on jobs, is in the housing sector. Again, I would draw the honourable member’s attention to the most recent housing figures out in Australia which are as a consequence of the first home owners boost. For the honourable member’s attention, in the scheme’s first 3½ months of operation there were 10,000 applicants for the first home owners boost in New South Wales, 5,800 in Victoria, 6½ thousand in Queensland, 2,800 in Western Australia and 2,400 in South Australia. These figures are the direct result of government policy through the government’s stimulus package—altogether 30,000 homes being built as a result of government policy. So I say to the member for Aston: do 30,000 homes get built with anyone working on them? I know it is a hard question. Can you build 30,000 homes with pixies in the bottom of the garden saying, ‘Poof! There’s a house’—with nobody building it? It takes a lot of people to build a house. It takes brickies, it takes carpenters, it takes sparkies and it takes people in the transport industry to build 30,000 homes.

Mr Pearce —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order on relevance. The question is: how many jobs, Kevin?

The SPEAKER —The member for Aston will resume his seat.

Mr RUDD —If the member for Aston would spend more time reading these statistics than he does acting as campaign director for the member for Higgins, he would be more familiar with what is actually going on in the Australian economy as a direct result of government policy.

Also on the housing policy and the first home owners boost, can I draw attention to the great intervention just before by the member for Cook. The member for Cook comes to the dispatch box obviously with a carefully thought out cunning plan to interject—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This cannot be relevant to the question for him now to be commenting on the member for Cook’s previous point of order. I ask you to bring him back to the answer to the question.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister realises he has an obligation to relate the member for Cook’s actions to the question.

Mr RUDD —On the question of the stimulus package and its impact on jobs and housing—employment in the housing sector being so critical to overall employment in the Australian economy—here again we have had on display a wonderful flip-flop-flap on housing policy. First, those opposite originally said they supported the first home owners boost; second, they said they opposed the first home owners boost; and, third, today the member for Cook gets up and says he wants to extend the first home owners boost. What remarkable consistency! What I would say to those opposite is: work out the connection between boosted retail sales and jobs and between increased first home owners housing stats and jobs. The conclusions are there for all to see—that is, other than those who spend all their time on the internal leadership machinations of the Liberal Party.