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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 6389

Senator FARRELL (2:20 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Finance and Deregulation—and a crowing Collingwood supporter—Senator Conroy. Can the minister explain to the Senate how the government’s economic stimulus measures have provided Australians with confidence—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! I need to hear the question. If people would leave their football allegiances alone for this week, I would be very happy.

Senator FARRELL —It will not last long. Can the minister explain to the Senate how the government’s economic stimulus measures have provided Australians with confidence in the face of the global financial crisis? How has the government’s response to the global recession supported Australian jobs and promoted stability in the Australian economy?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —I thank Senator Farrell for that almost gracious question.

Honourable senators interjecting—

Senator CONROY —Yes, he has paid up! The government’s use of fiscal policy since September 2008 has been framed against the backdrop of the deepest global recession since the Great Depression. Australia has not been able to escape the downturn, but the Rudd government has taken decisive action to cushion us from the worst impacts of the global financial crisis and protect Australian jobs.

When those opposite advocated doing nothing to support the jobs of Australians in the face of the worst global recession in 75 years, this government acted quickly and decisively to protect Australian jobs and support the economy. The success of the government’s stimulus measures has been widely recognised by economic experts. As Christine Christian, CEO of Dun and Bradstreet, said just last month:

The improvement in the key indices such as employment and sales expectations is a sign that the economic stimulus has been successful in encouraging household spending.

Unlike those opposite, leading Australian economists recognise that confidence is crucial to our economic stability. Retail sales figures have demonstrated time and time again that the government’s carefully targeted stimulus packages promoted consumer confidence and supported the Australian economy at a time when other developed economies have been in freefall. As Bill Evans, the Chief Economist at Westpac, has said:

The success which the government’s stimulus package has achieved in boosting confidence will be a lesson to other governments—

(Time expired)

Senator FARRELL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the risk to the economy of the loss of consumer confidence, is the minister aware of measures that could undermine the confidence of Australians and undo the relatively strong performance of the Australian economy compared to those of other developed nations where unemployment is on the rise and economies remain in recession?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —Confidence is crucial to our economic stability, to protecting Australia’s standard of living and to ensuring that we make a strong recovery from the global economic downturn. But those opposite now want to pull the rug out from under Australians. They want to wind back the stimulus and destroy the confidence that Australians have had in their jobs since we abolished Work Choices. Make no mistake: our industrial relations system has been supporting both jobs and small business in the face of the global downturn. That is because we killed off Work Choices—until Malcolm Turnbull brought it to life over the weekend. Those opposite and their out-of-touch leader want to destroy the confidence of Australians at a time when we are still putting in place the foundations for recovery. (Time expired)

Senator FARRELL —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister explain why employment is so crucial to economic stability and why certainty and fairness in employment are so important to Australia’s economic recovery and financial performance?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —The Rudd government understands the damaging impact that unemployment and uncertainty have on the economy, on families and on the wider community. That is why employment will continue to be at the forefront of this government’s economic strategy. In contrast, we heard the shadow Treasurer this weekend say that he did not think that the principal aim of economic policy during a global recession was to stop the damage done to Australian families by joblessness. The shadow Treasurer has come clean and admitted that supporting jobs is no longer his party’s highest priority. His comments prove that those opposite simply want to pull the plug and the rug out from under Australian families. How callous. How disgraceful. (Time expired)