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Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Page: 16

Senator FURNER (2:18 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Conroy. Can the minister please outline to the Senate how the government will use the budget surplus to buffer the Australian economy from the global financial crisis?

Honourable senators interjecting—

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —I thank Senator Furner for that question. Over recent weeks—

The PRESIDENT —Resume your seat, Senator Conroy.

Senator CONROY —Thank you, Mr President. As I was saying, over recent weeks the world has changed dramatically. Australia is currently facing a global economic environment that is fundamentally different to the environment this time last year. That is why the Rudd government has today announced the $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy—to strengthen the Australian economy in these turbulent economic times. The Rudd government has learnt the lessons of international experience. For the duration of this crisis, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have undertaken a tireless program of consultations and engagements with key global policymakers. The government has learnt from this experience that the only way to respond to these challenging international economic circumstances is to act early, responsibly and decisively to restore confidence.

In addition to the pension payments outlined earlier by Senator Evans, the Economic Security Strategy also provides targeted assistance to the Australian housing market. The package includes a first home owners boost of almost $1.5 billion aimed squarely at stimulating housing activity and giving first home buyers a better chance in the housing market. Under this policy, first home buyers who purchase established homes will see their first home buyers grant increased from $7,000 to $14,000. First time buyers who purchase newly constructed homes will see their grant increased from $7,000 to $21,000. Through this package, the Rudd government is doubling the first home owners grant for those purchasing existing dwellings and tripling the grant for those purchasing newly constructed homes. All first home buyers entering into contracts between today, 14 October 2008, and 30 June 2009 will benefit from this increase—an estimated 150,000 first home buyers.

In addition to this investment in the Australian housing sector, the Economic Security Strategy also includes a major investment in strengthening Australia’s productivity. The government’s ongoing investments in productivity and skills are central to this government’s economic platform. Today’s package includes a $187 million investment in an additional 56,000 new training places this financial year. This investment will effectively double the Productivity Places Program to 113,000 places in 2008-09. It will take the government’s total investment in training places to more than $400 million since April 2008. The total value of the Economic Security Strategy is close to one per cent of Australia’s GDP, providing a stimulus to the economy proportionate to the danger of a deep and prolonged global economic slowdown. This is decisive fiscal policy action taken in the interests of economic security for all Australians and consistent with action taken elsewhere in the world. (Time expired)