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Wednesday, 29 September 1993
Page: 1386

Senator MURPHY —Could the Minister representing the Treasurer advise the chamber of the current outlook for jobs in the retail sector in the coming Christmas period?

  Opposition senators—Oh!

Senator MURPHY —This ought to be something opposition senators are interested in. What will be the contribution of the government's economic stimulus to employment in this sector over this period?

Senator McMULLAN —As most senators would be aware, one of the important aspects of the retail sales activity in the Christmas period is that it also leads to a surge in employment in that period; a very important surge in employment for many ordinary Australian families and their children who, as students, are seeking part time jobs, and for the unemployed for whom, although the jobs may be temporary, they are nevertheless extremely welcome.

  The ABS publication says that last December, Australia's retail sector created an additional 35,000 to 40,000 seasonal jobs—jobs additional to the underlying pattern of an increase in employment. December 1993 has the potential to see an even bigger seasonal boost than in previous years. The government's fiscal policy is designed to provide an additional stimulus just so that there will be more available for people to spend in the retail stores this year, while laying down a firm schedule for reducing the budget deficit in the medium term.

  The key ingredient of that additional stimulus is the personal income tax cuts scheduled for 15 November. That will contribute at least $300 million in extra retail outlays to pump into the retail stores this year. It will be a great tragedy if the intransigence, the lack of cooperation—the sorts of problems that Senator Ray so articulately outlined in the Senate—and the fiscal irresponsibility of the Senate were to lead to the situation where those personal income tax cuts could not go ahead on time.

  If the medium-term reduction strategy is still being held hostage by the Senate, the government will not be in a fiscally responsible position to go ahead with the bringing forward of those tax cuts, and those extra jobs over Christmas will be in jeopardy; they will be at risk.

  There are significant concerns about the loss of the tax cuts to those ordinary Australian working men and women, because they deserve them. The bring forward to which this budget contributes is important to those families; it is important to those individuals. Over and above that, it is a very fundamental economic stimulus to create more of those seasonal jobs over Christmas that are so important but which may not be of concern to the complacent opposition, which is concerned just to play spoiling tactics.

  The tax cuts are very important to ordinary Australian men and women and their children and I hope we can get a responsible passage through the Senate of the budget measures so that the tax cuts can come into effect on 15 November, economic stimulus can be generated and those jobs can be created.