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Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Page: 9193


Mr BRADBURY (2:32 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer. Will the Assistant Treasurer outline to the House the benefits of the government’s Economic Security Strategy to working families? Has the government’s decisive action been universally welcomed by the community?


Mr BOWEN (Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, and Assistant Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Lindsay for his question. He understands that the government’s stimulus package not only represents a prudent response to the turmoil that is convulsing world markets but also is an opportunity to assist, in a meaningful way, those in the community who are doing it tough. I am sure the member for Lindsay would welcome the fact that 10,176 single pensioners and carers in his electorate will receive the $1,400 lump sum pensioner payment and, importantly 10,774 pensioner couples will receive the $2,100 lump sum payment in his electorate, in addition to the family payments in his electorate, which will go to 13,786 families for the 27,680 children in their care.

The $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy announced yesterday by the Prime Minister and Treasurer is designed to support the continued positive growth in the Australian economy as we feel the very real impacts of the world financial crisis. As various international bodies have pointed out, Australia is well placed to get through this crisis, and it is; but it would be irresponsible for the government to rest on its laurels and not take decisive action to ensure continued growth. It is important that the Australian government do everything it can to get in front of the game.

Of course, once a stimulus package is decided upon, there are a number of opportunities—indeed, a number of responsibilities—for the government of the day: the responsibility to grow the productive capacity of the economy by investing in infrastructure and to grow our capacity to deal with the skills shortages across the economy, as the Deputy Prime Minister has referred to. The other responsibility is to use the stimulus package as an opportunity to assist those in the community doing it tough—those who need assistance with cost-of-living pressures. This is a responsibility the government took very seriously with the lump-sum payments to pensioners, veterans and carers, as well as those to families.

You would think that would be welcomed by all honourable members and senators. You would think that all honourable members and senators would recognise that pensioners and families are doing it tough and that it is a wise use of the stimulatory package to give them some assistance in these times of uncertainty. But that is not the view of the Leader of the National Party in the Senate. Yesterday Senator Joyce, a member of the coalition leadership team—this is not just any member of the coalition; this is a member of the coalition leadership team—said this on Radio 2GB:

I do have a concern that if you pay people in lump sums it can end up against the wall …

That is what the leader of the National Party in the other place said. Honourable members could be forgiven for saying that you could not think of a more offensive thing to say to Australia’s pensioners, but they would be wrong, because he thought of something more offensive to say today. The Leader of the National Party in the Senate said this as he walked into parliament:

I’m worried about when big chunks of money turn up in one fell swoop just before Christmas, because a couple of weeks later you see a lot of Australia’s $10 billion scattered around the floor with ‘made in China’ on the back.

That is what the Leader of the National Party in the Senate thinks. The snobbery of the Leader of the National Party in the Senate belies not only his lack of economic understanding but also his lack of confidence in Australia’s pensioners and families to spend their money as they see fit. That is what it underlies. I do not think the pensioners of Lindsay or any other electorate would appreciate being lectured by the opposition on how they should spend their money. They will spend it on getting them through tough times.

I note that the opposition cannot even be consistent in their hypocrisy. As the Leader of the National Party in the Senate yesterday criticised the lump sums, the shadow minister for ageing put out a press release claiming credit for them, saying that she had called for them back in May. Perhaps she was taking her cue from the Leader of the Opposition, who famously claimed credit for the banks passing on most of the interest rate reduction recently. I understand the Leader of the Opposition will soon announce that it was really he who invented the internet as well. He is perfecting the Kath and Kim approach to economics—holding a press conference and saying, ‘Look at me, look at me.’ That is the Kath and Kim approach to economics. The opposition speaks with many voices on this issue; the government speaks with one—one of responsibility and compassion.