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Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Page: 11549

Mr SLIPPER (5:14 PM) —I have been in the House for quite a long time and I have never heard 15 minutes of such waffle uttered by a minister of the Crown. It is absolutely clear that the Deputy Prime Minister is a very busy person. However, one of the key issues confronting Australia today is job security and jobs. The minister could have come into the chamber to address this important issue, but she has run away from the parliament and she has sent in a message boy, the Minister for Employment Participation, who simply did not perform adequately at all. I listened carefully to what the minister said, and he abused the honourable member for Stirling. He accused the honourable member for Stirling of not having any answers, but I want to draw the minister’s attention to the topic of the matter of public importance: the failure of the government to develop a plan to save Australian jobs.

On 24 November last year the Australian people made a decision that I suspect many of them now regret. They elected the Rudd Labor government, and as part of the creation of that government the Minister for Employment Participation took on his role, as did the Deputy Prime Minister. We have the global economic crisis, but what the minister has done is to fill in his 15 minutes by talking about anything other than the government’s plan to save Australian jobs. Having listened very carefully to the minister’s contribution, one can only assume that the government simply does not have a plan to save Australian jobs. Sure, the minister spoke about the 75,000 jobs that will allegedly be created as a result of the stimulus package. He spoke about some assistance to the motor vehicle industry. He also spoke about some assistance to local government which will create some minor employment—

Mr Snowdon —Minor employment?

Mr SLIPPER —some not very high levels of employment through minor local projects, and he highlighted three particular areas where the government may have done a little.

However, what he failed to address is the forecast that unemployment is going to dramatically increase. In its latest economic outlook, the OECD has forecast a prolonged downturn, heralding weak prospects for labour demand. As was indicated by the shadow minister, the projected outlook is that the unemployment rate will drive up from its October level of 4.3 per cent to 5.8 per cent by the end of next year and six per cent in late 2010. It has been predicted that 140,000 people will lose their jobs over the coming months as a result of the crisis, and yet the government has continued to fail to come up with any solutions.

All the minister has done is to turn on the member for Stirling, to heap abuse upon his shoulders and to accuse him of not having the answers. Frankly, I can understand why the minister is asking the honourable member for Stirling for answers: because the minister himself and the Deputy Prime Minister do not have any answers between them. At least the Minister for Employment Participation had the courage to crawl into the chamber and purport to represent the government. I do not know where the Deputy Prime Minister is, but she is not where she should be—and where she should have been is at the dispatch box, at 5.13 today, to respond to what the opposition was saying.

The Australian people elected the Rudd Labor government with high expectations. The Australian people expected answers. At the first challenge to that government, the global economic crisis, we find that the government’s performance has faltered. The Prime Minister trips around the world talking at conferences, and yet at home the situation is quite dire. I challenge the minister to get out of his ivory tower, to go out there and talk to the Australian people, to talk to people who are concerned about employment. The minister, in his speech, spoke at length about assistance packages to pensioners, to carers—to all sorts of people. However, he did not address the need for jobs.

The best way to create jobs is to have a robust economy, such as the economy that the Howard-Costello government implemented over 11 years of office. We repaid $90 billion of Labor debt. We created two million jobs. Most of them were full-time jobs, but there were also part-time jobs. Yet we find that it is now projected that, under the stewardship of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment Participation, we could have a situation where that shocking record under the Keating government of having a million Australians out of work could well be replicated.

Is this what the Australian people voted for on 24 November last year? It certainly is not. They would certainly be disappointed, and I see the situation as being quite shocking. In fact it is a disgrace, because—let us face it—the Labor Party claim to be the party that is interested in the worker. They brought in the Fair Work Bill yesterday and the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations focused on union rights. She focused on extra costs to business. She basically introduced a bill that will cost jobs.

Mr Brendan O’Connor —Are you voting against it?

Mr SLIPPER —The situation, Minister, is that the government has its focus entirely wrong. The government is focused on implementing legislation which will destroy job opportunities for generations of Australians. Just walk down the main street of any town or city in the country and you will find that small business and large business have never had a lower level of confidence, and this is after barely 365 days of Labor government. The National Australia Bank’s most recent economic outlook survey has unemployment increasing to 6.5 per cent—well in excess of any government forecast—by mid-2010. In the mid-year forecast, sure, the Treasurer upgraded the anticipated number of unemployed—although not to the extent that independent people said—but the reality is that this government is fiddling, it is talking, it is abusing the opposition and it is playing party politics. It is doing everything other than addressing the desperate job crisis that is now confronting Australian families.

Just imagine, Minister, what it is like to be a breadwinner and to be threatened with redundancy because of the economic situation. Many of these people voted for the Labor Party last year and now many of these people are seriously worried. Minister, I ask you to stop playing politics. I ask you to stop seeking solutions from us. I ask you to think very carefully about the need to save Australian jobs, because the government will not have the economic wherewithal to deliver desirable social outcomes unless the government receives income from taxes—and you do not receive income from taxes unless you have got Australians in real jobs.

I listened carefully also to an answer given during question time by the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to jobs. She talked about the 75,000 jobs allegedly to be created as a result of the stimulus package. Mind you, I will believe that when I see it. I would like to believe it is true but, given the government’s comprehensive failure in so many areas, I am not confident that that is in fact going to occur. She then moved to support services in the area of unemployment. So she did not have any answer. She had even fewer points to make than the Minister for Employment Participation did in this MPI. Maybe that is the reason why the senior minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, has run away from her parliamentary colleagues in this MPI.

So no matter where we go, no matter where we look, we find that the Rudd Labor government simply do not have an answer with respect to jobs. The Rudd Labor government are simply wringing their hands. They have collectively made a decision that this is just too difficult. They wish that next year would come. They wish that the economic crisis had not occurred—as, indeed, we all do—but they simply do not have the mettle to take on the challenges presented to government at this time. Any party can provide government in good times. The test of a good government or a bad government is the ability to govern for all Australians in bad times. At the present time we face increasing job challenges, lack of job security, high levels of concern in the community, and yet this minister has the audacity to come into the parliament and not give us any response. He comes into the parliament and waffles on, he talks, he fills up his 15 minutes, but at the end of the day we are little clearer than we were at the outset of this debate on just where the government are going. The government have run out of steam. This is amazing after 12 months! (Time expired)