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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 25

Mr TURNBULL (3:47 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his comments today that the government’s $10.4 billion spending package announced in October and delivered in large part in December would support—and I emphasise the word support—75,000 Australian jobs. I also refer the Prime Minister to the comment he made in this place less than three months ago, when he said:

That package of $10.4 billion, we are advised, will help to create up to 75,000 additional jobs over the coming year.

I ask the Prime Minister: how many of the additional 75,000 jobs have been created, and where are they?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I draw the Leader of the Opposition’s attention to comments I made in a press conference just before question time, which I will repeat here for his benefit. That is that, on the question of supporting jobs through fiscal stimulus, obviously that means that jobs can be created through direct government investment. It also means that it helps retain jobs which currently exist in the private sector. The second part of the honourable member’s question goes to the impact of the Economic Security Strategy. That strategy, as you know, was announced in October; the payments were delivered in December. In terms of an early response to the questions raised by the Leader of the Opposition for which the data is obviously nowhere near complete, we have an Australian company which is able to provide comparable data for the period. Westfield today released figures which show that spending in the month of December 2008 was up 2.5 per cent from the previous year.

If spending is up in retail, I would have thought that small businesses employing people in retail may be benefited by that. Or the alternative is that those opposite think that somehow there is the dead hand of socialism out there doing everything. Or is it the same logic as the Leader of the Opposition was arguing before that, if we invest in infrastructure and schools, some government monolith descends and builds all those schools and houses? It is the private sector—in retail, in construction—that actually does these jobs. That is why we are spending; that is why we are investing. We are supporting the private economy in order to fill the gap which has been left by the withdrawal of private sector activity.

To return to the point of contrast which those opposite, I think, find difficult, it is this: Westfield, an Australian supermarket chain, which operates globally in terms of shopping centres around the world, has produced figures today which demonstrate that spending in the month of December was up 2.5 per cent from the previous year. This is in contrast to their overseas sales, which were down by 14 per cent in the US and seven per cent in New Zealand. This is a clear contrast, and if those opposite deride and scoff at the role which private sector retail plays in providing employment in Australia it shows how far out of touch they have become.

Mr Dutton interjecting

Mr RUDD —Those opposite like to scoff. They like to simply carp from the sidelines. They want to engage in political point-scoring. This government is determined to invest in public infrastructure to support jobs. It is determined to invest also in supporting families who, through their consumption, support retail efforts across the economy as well and the employment which is generated within it. This government is determined also to invest in and support, through government effort and action, the continued stability of Australian financial markets. It is all these measures taken together which add up to appropriate support for continued growth and jobs in the Australian economy. The alternative, which at its heart of hearts is left exposed by the speech just given by the Leader of the Opposition, is to do nothing other than one thing he has suggested: bring forward tax cuts and somehow intellectually reconcile permanent tax cuts with a strategy which they also would be advocating, which is a rational approach to eliminating deficit in the future.

Mr Dutton —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister has concluded his answer.

Mr Dutton —Mr Speaker, the point of order was in relation to the question about jobs. There was not one word about how many jobs were created.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Dickson will resume his seat.

Mr Dutton —Not one word!

The SPEAKER —The member for Dickson is warned!

An incident having occurred in the gallery—

The SPEAKER —Order!

Mr Laming interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Bowman will withdraw that remark.

Mr Laming —I withdraw unreservedly.

The SPEAKER —I suggest that, given the events in the gallery, the member should reflect on the fact that things come and go. Let’s just settle down. The restoration of order in the galleries suffices the purposes of the House. Any comments that reflect on the disturbance are not very helpful.