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Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Page: 4006


Senator CAROL BROWN (2:57 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sherry. Can the Assistant Treasurer update the Senate on any new data regarding the world economic outlook and what this data means for Australia? In light of this new data, how is Australia faring compared to other economies both in our region and internationally? Can the Assistant Treasurer update the Senate on what actions the Rudd government has taken and continues to take to step in to fill the gap left by the private sector to stimulate the economy and support jobs and working families from the effects of this global recession? Why is it important to continue to take action such as the nation-building plan where the need exists to protect Australian jobs and working families?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —Overnight, the World Bank released their Global development finance report and, unfortunately, I have to inform the Senate it is not a particularly good read. The report updates the outlook for the global economy and more broadly looks at the actions required going forward for global recovery. In the report the World Bank has further downgraded its outlook for the global economy. As my colleagues and I have indicated on previous occasions—perhaps it was not appreciated by members of the Liberal and National parties opposite as much as you would hope—the world faces a financial and economic crisis, the worst crisis in some 75 years. The recent report expects global output now to decline by some 1.7 per cent in the year 2009. Unfortunately, that is considerably more than the World Bank forecast just three months ago.

Major advanced economies are in a deep recession. The World Bank is forecasting the US to decline by three per cent in 2009, the European area by 4.5 per cent and Japan by a massive 6.8 per cent. In highlighting the decline in the economy of such a country as Japan, it is obvious, of course, that it is one of our major trading partners. We are not immune from this world financial and economic crisis. When the economy of a major trading partner like Japan declines in its output by 6.8 per cent—which is a massive figure—Australia is inevitably affected by this world financial and economic crisis. But the Rudd Labor government has taken a range of decisive measures to cushion the Australian economy. (Time expired)


Senator CAROL BROWN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Whilst it is clear that the global economy remains a serious concern and we are not yet out of the woods here in Australia, can the Assistant Treasurer update the Senate further on what impact the Rudd government’s stimulus actions will have on Australia’s economic and job security? Is the Assistant Treasurer aware of any alternative strategies to address the current economic conditions? What might have occurred to the Australian economy if the Rudd government had taken such an approach?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —On previous occasions—


Senator Abetz —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Questions are not allowed to be hypothetical. Whilst I do not have the exact wording in front of me, it did seem on listening to it that it was hypothetical. I would invite you to rule on that.


The PRESIDENT —I do not have the wording in front of me either. I will review that question and if needs be I will get back to the chamber.


Senator SHERRY —Despite that point of order, the government deals with the real issues of the day that require decisive action, not the hypothetical emails that Senator Abetz likes to flash around.


Senator Abetz —Or hypothetical travel allowance!


Senator SHERRY —An invented email, Senator Abetz.


The PRESIDENT —Order! Address your comments to the chair and ignore the other side, Senator Sherry.


Senator SHERRY —Senator Abetz should concern himself with the important issues of the day. I can report to the Senate what might have occurred if the Rudd Labor government had not implemented its decisive actions to support and cushion the Australian economy. I have referred to the $42 billion nation-building plan that we have implemented. You have only to look at the retail sector and the building and construction sector. We got some figures last week which showed that employment in the retail sector over the last six months actually increased. In other countries it has fallen off—(Time expired)


Senator CAROL BROWN —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. In light of the World Bank data the Assistant Treasurer has pointed to today, along with the dangerous alternative approaches to managing the current economic risks, is it important that the Australian government play a role in the international economic and regulatory measures to address the global financial crisis? What such actions have the Rudd government been taking? Is the alternative approach—to sit back, wait and do nothing—able to be reconciled with the need for international action? Can the Assistant Treasurer point to any other credible political parties in the world who have adopted this dangerous do-nothing strategy?


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —The Treasurer last week released a recent Treasury estimate of the additional jobs that have been created by the decisive actions and policy decisions taken by the Rudd Labor government to cushion the Australian economy at this time of world financial and economic crisis. It is estimated that some 200,000 additional jobs have and will be created as a consequence of the decisive actions taken by the Rudd Labor government. I have been asked about alternative policies. It is very easy to outline alternative policies from the Liberal opposition: there aren’t any. Their view, at a time of a massive financial and economic crisis, is that you should do nothing—sit on your hands and knees, don’t try and cushion the Australian economy and don’t try to create jobs. And you claim to be the alternative government! (Time expired)


Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.