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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 10402


Mr HALE (6:56 PM) —On 14 October the Prime Minister and the Treasurer announced the $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy to deal with the challenges of the global financial crisis, to support continued positive growth in the Australian economy and to provide practical support for households. The Rudd government prepared well ahead for this crisis by ensuring the budget provided a strong buffer for the future.

There are no easy solutions or quick fixes to the global financial crisis. The strategy builds on the government’s decision to guarantee bank deposits to all Australians and addresses the challenges we face in five key areas. Firstly, Australia’s four million pensioners, carers and seniors will share in a $4.8 billion immediate down payment on long-term pension reform. Almost 5,000 pensioners, carers and seniors have been doing it pretty tough in Solomon. I have felt their pain when they have told me about having to cut back on things like food, medicines and trips to the shops. The feedback I have been getting about the down payment has been outstanding. It will definitely relieve some of the financial pressures our seniors and carers have been feeling.

The second measure is a $3.9 billion payment that supports low- and middle-income families. About 3.8 million Australian children will receive the one-off payment to their families. In my seat of Solomon, over 16,000 children and over 8,000 families will benefit from this payment. I spoke to some friends of mine; they are pretty typical of a lot of families I know. They struggle with the cost of day-to-day living expenses, they do without many luxuries and, like so many people I know, they live from pay to pay, week to week. I asked them what impact the government strategy will have and what it will mean to them. They simply said, ‘It is massive.’

The money spent in the local shops around Darwin and Palmerston will be welcomed by the business community. I have spoken recently to small business owners in Solomon and, like so many small businesses in rural and remote Australia, they are doing it tough. This injection of cash will stimulate economic activity.

The third measure is a $1.5 billion investment to help first home buyers to purchase a home. In consultation with industry and others, the government decided to act decisively in the housing sector. The first home owner grant will increase from $7,000 to $14,000, and $21,000 is available for first home owners who decide to build a new home. This will support activity in the housing sector, because the housing sector is critical to the economy. I know this measure is fantastic news for the people of the Territory. The assistance will be welcomed not only by first homeowners but also by businesses associated with the housing industry. Only last week it was reported that the NT’s Housing Industry Association expects a recovery in new home approvals during the next few months—just the news my mates in the building game wanted to hear.

Furthermore, the government is going to provide $187 million to create 56,000 additional new training places in 2008-09. From now until the end of the financial year, the number of productivity training places will double from 57,000 to 113,000. Having a son in his final weeks of year 12, I understand the importance of training opportunities. The fifth measure is for the government to bring forward the implementation of the nation-building agenda, bringing greater employment opportunities and stimulating economic activity.

Recent figures make it very clear that our economy was crying out for a boost, provided by the ESS. Had we not acted decisively, economic growth would have been much weaker than currently forecast, with flow-on impacts for employment. The strategy is expected to result in a boost to the level of real GDP of between half a per cent and one percentage point. It will help create up to 75,000 additional jobs over the coming year. The strategy will immediately improve the lives of thousands of Australians who are finding it really tough at the moment, like the pensioners in Darwin, small business operators in Palmerston and farmers and their families in Humpty Doo. When the Prime Minister announced the measures, he called it ‘an economic security strategy to help underpin positive economic growth into the future and to provide practical support for households’. In the interest of all Australians, I support the Prime Minister and the government for their decisive, responsible early action.