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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Page: 1304

Mr TURNBULL (Leader of the Opposition) (1:29 PM) —On indulgence, Mr Speaker. There are two key issues that we must confront today. They are: jobs and debt. How many jobs will this package create? How much debt will it incur? We know how much debt it will incur: $200 billion, thrown onto the shoulders of our children for them to pay off. If we were to run $20-billion-a-year surpluses, it would take a decade to pay off that debt. That is the scale of this unprecedented debt that the Prime Minister is throwing—

Mr Dutton —What about the Treasurer?

The SPEAKER —The Treasurer will resume his seat. The member for Dickson is really getting to the limit. I warn him!

Opposition member—What about the member for Shortland?

Opposition member—She’s standing in front of the camera.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —That is not very smart. The member for Shortland will take her place. If the House has not got the indication that the House should perhaps think about the procedure that we have carried out today, I am sorry. But I do not find it clever at all for retaliatory actions to be taken on the basis that you do not think other things should have happened. I do not think that that is the way that we should behave in the House. I think that this has been a difficult day, but I can assure you that this occupant of the chair has learned a very big lesson from this. I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr TURNBULL —Thank you, Mr Speaker. This package is about jobs and it is about debt. We know how much debt it will throw onto the shoulders of our children: $200 billion. With surpluses of $20 billion a year, which would be an outstanding surplus, it would take a decade to repay. We know the demographic challenges our country faces. We know we are an ageing population. We know there will be greater claims on government in the years ahead. And that is why when we were in government we paid off all of Labor’s debt. We took debt off the shoulders of our children and their children. We relieved them of the burden of debts and obligations we had incurred, and now we are succeeded by a government that are throwing unprecedented debt onto their shoulders.

And for what are they throwing that debt onto our children’s shoulders? Jobs, they say. They have promised, from this package and their $10 billion cash splash in December, 165,000 jobs—75,000 jobs from December and 90,000 jobs from the $42 billion package. There is no evidence that one job was created by the cash splash in December. The greatest minds in the Commonwealth Treasury came to the Senate committee and could not produce any evidence that one job was created, let alone 75,000. And now we have the promise of 90,000 jobs from $42 billion. As the Leader of the Nationals said last night, that is $460,000 a job. Is that great value for money? Is that the sort of value that we should be mortgaging our children’s future to achieve? Is that effective government spending?

The Prime Minister has thrown all of the conventional rules of economics and financial management out the window. The economic conservative has become unhinged from any principles of common sense or economic prudence. He stood here today and boasted proudly that, by spending four per cent of GDP, $42 billion, we will get an increase of GDP of half a per cent this year and between three-quarters of a per cent and one per cent next year, according to the Treasury. So, for four per cent of GDP, $42 billion, the taxpayers of Australia will get 1¼ to 1½ per cent of GDP. What a pathetic return. What a pathetic, incompetent return. ABN AMRO were right in saying that, far from delivering a bang for the taxpayers’ buck, the government have delivered nothing better than a dull thud.

I do not know what is more troubling: the extraordinary falsehoods that the Prime Minister has delivered us today and every day on this topic or the fact that he may just believe them to be true. Is he disingenuous or is he deluded? It is hard to say. He has claimed that the opposition has said that nothing should be done. Yet everybody in Australia, except for the Prime Minister, knows that the government proposed a spending package of $42 billion and we said it would be more prudent and more effective to have a differently constituted package of between $15 billion and $20 billion. He insults the intelligence of every Australian by saying that we are in favour of doing nothing. We are in favour of action, but we are in favour of effective action.

The reality is that as of today the Labor debt train has left the station for destination unknown, except for this: our children and their children will pay for all of it. The Prime Minister is plunging our nation into enormous and unprecedented debt. Billions of dollars of that debt will be incurred from measures that will have no enduring economic effect. It is widely accepted that the $10 billion cash splash in December had no impact on jobs. There is no evidence that it had any impact on jobs. The Prime Minister, who was no doubt trying to achieve some sort of collective retail therapy, has been delighted that, after spending $10 billion of our children’s money, retail sales increased in December by $700 million.

The spending package that the Prime Minister has secured passage of today is far bigger as a percentage of our GDP than those spending packages in comparable countries—notwithstanding that those comparable countries, such as the United States, European countries and Japan, have economic conditions far worse than our own. In other words, we with the strongest economy have a government that is so panicked it is spending more money than governments with weak and struggling economies.

Australians need to know that this panicked government has made another panicked move, just like it panicked when it undertook an unlimited bank deposit guarantee, the damage of which—

Mr Swan interjecting

Mr TURNBULL —I hear the Treasurer laughing. He obviously thinks it is funny that a quarter of a million Australians have had their savings frozen thanks to his incompetence. No doubt he thought it was funny too when he made the jolly quip when people complained they could not access their savings that they should line up at Centrelink. That is the government of compassion!

The Prime Minister’s answer is simply to spend, spend, spend—plunging us deeper and deeper into debt. But the spending is not well targeted. It will not create jobs. We proposed measures which are better designed to create jobs which will deliver real benefits. Consider the Prime Minister’s remarks today about insulation. He told a story about a shop that sells insulation and said that the phones were ringing off the hook and that people were just lining up to get access to the free money from the government to put insulation in their homes after July. He is so proud of that. He is really delighted. But I wonder what he says to the engineering shop next door whose phone is not ringing off the hook. I wonder what he says to the plumbing store next door whose phone is not ringing, or the company that does interior design. What we have proposed are measures that will benefit every single business and small business in Australia and that will lower the cost of employing Australians for every single small business.

One of the problems with the government’s approach is that it is picking one industry here, another industry there and hoping that by providing a super amount, a super stimulation, they will do well. They may do well. They may well be very busy, but what about the rest of the economy? That is a fundamental failure to understand that government policies should aim to promote productivity and efficiency across the whole economy. We should aim as far as we can to benefit every business, every taxpayer and every industry, because that is what we Liberals believe is the role of government—that is, to enable Australians to do their best. That is the big difference. We believe government is there to enable Australians to do their best and to make their investments and their decisions and to create the prosperity that this nation depends on.

The Prime Minister believes his job is to decide that there will be one industry that will get his blessing, that will get a huge amount of money and whose phones will ring off the wall. Today that industry is going to be insulation. What will be the lucky industry next week? Who knows? We are committed to measures that will promote employment across the economy. But above all, we are committed to jobs. We are committed to measures that will promote employment.

Government members interjecting—

Mr TURNBULL —Those on the government benches are laughing; I hope Australians can hear them laugh. They are laughing about jobs. They spent $10 billion of our children’s future, they mortgaged our children’s future, to the tune of $10 billion in December and did not create a single job. Where are the 75,000 jobs? Where is the one job? Where are seven jobs? There is no evidence that any of these jobs have been created.

We knew that the position we have taken is not popular. We have known from the outset that taking a stand for our children’s future, taking a stand against wasteful government spending, excessive debt and running up $200 billion of debt on our children’s credit card would not be popular—but we know that it is right. We know that it must be done, because Australians today and tomorrow, and perhaps more tomorrow than today, will need to know that there were parties in this parliament that were focused on the future of this nation and determined that when our children are seeking to buy their first home or build their businesses they will not be crushed by high taxes to pay off the debt that this reckless government has incurred today.