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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 793

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (15:09): I am very pleased to be taking note of the answers given to questions asked about the Gillard government because it gives me a great opportunity to put to bed this nonsense that we have been hearing from the opposition. Regardless of all the confection and outrage that we have been hearing over the last few days, we happen to be one of the strongest economies in the world, which is a credit to the work of the Labor government since being elected in 2007. All of the nonsense that goes on about whether it is a Rudd government or a Whitlam government—a Freudian slip—or a Gillard government plays out in the media very effectively, while the people who are depending on us to run a good government, a strong government and a strong economy are working men and women, the decent people of Australia, sitting there waiting to be reassured they are going to be looked after. We are the government that has done that so effectively.

The Australian economy has been the clear standout in the world since the GFC. We still have the lowest unemployment rate: 5.1 per cent, compared to 8.3 per cent in the US and more than 10 per cent in Europe. The tragedy of those stories we saw roll out across Europe in Spain, Germany, Portugal and Italy, particularly about youth unemployment, was the challenge that we recognised here in Australia during the GFC. We had the challenge of keeping young people at school or earning. We made the investment to ensure that we did not have a lost generation of young people, as that was the fundamental challenge that confronted us in the global financial crisis. Since the GFC, our economy in Australia has grown by more than seven per cent. Minister Arbib said today that we have a rating of AAA from all the rating agencies, something the Liberal government was never able to achieve and cannot admit is the successful hallmark of the government.

As we heard today in question time, more than 46,000 jobs were created in January alone. We increased our employment rate and maintained our unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent, thereby showing that the investment pipeline is strong for Australia. Our economy is intact. We had a $913 billion investment pipeline in the December quarter. Business confidence is strong and growing. Consumer confidence is growing. All we hear from this opposition is nay saying. All they do is take every opportunity to talk down the economy in ways that give people a great sense of fear and anxiety about their future.

What have we heard from the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Mr Stevens, and the people who make decisions for all of us in our economy recently? They say our rate of employment is sound, we have strong economic fundamentals and we need to invest in the infrastructure that is going to underpin our future. What is that infra­structure? We need critical investment in our transport infrastructure, in our ports and mining infrastructure and in our NBN infrastructure, which are going to make sure that we have a vibrant, strong economy.

The idea that we have to sit day after day and listen to Tony Abbott and the opposition with no policies, no vision for Australia, and no strategy for the future is what is driving people demented. The leadership discussion is over and done with. The leadership issue is finished today. Let us not forget that Mr Abbott won his leadership challenge by one vote, so 49 per cent of his colleagues did not support him in his leadership battle. Let us not worry now—

Senator Abetz: Nobody is challenging now.

Senator STEPHENS: 'Nobody is challenging now,' says Senator Abetz. Let us just see what is happening with Mr Turnbull and his team. A minority government requires hard work. Mr Abbott could not deliver minority government for the opposition and they are living with the consequences. He said he will not do deals. He cannot.