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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3853


Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (14:14): My question is to the Prime Minister. Why is strong fiscal management vital to keep the economy strong and deliver jobs for Australian families?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:14): I thank the member for Robertson for her question. I know that, as a great representative of her local community in this parliament, she is vitally concerned about making sure that, through the budget, we keep the economy strong. Mr Speaker, perhaps you did not hear it but when the Treasurer rose to answer the first question in parliament today, which was about the jobs numbers released today, the Manager of Opposition Business yelled out, 'What's this got to do with the budget?' and then repeated on a number of occasions, 'Why aren't you talking about the budget?'

How could you be so out of touch with the lives of Australians? How could you be so divorced from the concerns of everyday Australians as to think that jobs were somehow not associated with the government's budget? The government's budget is all about jobs. It is about keeping the economy strong; it is about getting Australians the opportunity that they want and deserve to improve their own lives, to make sure that they can improve the lives of their children. That is what the budget is about. It is built on the foundation stone of having created 750,000 jobs—jobs created while many nations around the world ended up with unemployment rates of eight and nine and 10 per cent: millions of jobs destroyed by the global financial crisis as this government acted to protect Australian jobs.

The government having created 750,000 jobs, this budget builds on that to create more jobs and more opportunity—another half a million jobs to be created in the next couple of years and a deliberate strategy to spread the benefits of opportunity throughout the Australian community. In order to do that we have to make sure that we are supporting Australians who are capable of work but who are not currently in the workforce into that workforce—responsibility and opportunity in one package so they too can experience the benefits of the current growth phase of our economy as our economy moves towards full capacity and the budget comes to surplus in 2012-13.

As well as building a culture of opportunity for Australians who are currently beyond the workforce, we want Australians within the workforce to have better opportunities. That is what our $3 billion training package is all about. We also want to make sure we are supporting Australians with the services that Australians need today. We have acted to improve skills; we have acted to improve child care; we have acted to improve vocational education and training, universities, our health care system—and the list goes on. But in this budget particularly we are focusing on mental health because too many Australians confront mental illness, either their own or within their own family, with insufficient support. So we have put a priority on that. But we have done it all in the context of bringing the budget to surplus in 2012-13, exactly as promised. You can only do that if you show a tough approach and make the appropriate cutbacks.

The opposition have condemned basically every cut the government has made. You cannot surplus budget and not make cutbacks. So tonight is decision-making night for the Leader of the Opposition. Does he endorse the government's budget or can he identify savings of his own? He walks into this room with no savings in his pocket. Let us see if they can get the job done.