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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 22

Senator BERNARDI (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Would the minister tell us how many jobs were created as a result of the government’s first stimulus package?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank Senator Bernardi for the question. What we know is that the government’s stimulus package last year provided enormous support to families, pensioners, businesses and the Australian community. What has emerged as the figures have come in in recent times is that there was a significant impact on consumer spending and consumer confidence. I think the figures from Westfield, released today, show that spending in the month of December 2008 was up 2½ per cent from the previous year.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Did you listen to Gerry Harvey?

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Senator, it was up 2½ per cent over the previous year in December. That is in contrast to overseas sales, which in the US were down 14 per cent and in New Zealand were down seven per cent. So what we saw in Australia over the Christmas period and the month of December was growth in spending in a number of sectors. I think what that tells you is that a lot of jobs were protected. That stimulus went to protect jobs, keep consumer confidence and increase consumer spending. I think that has been perfectly obvious. I am supported in this by Mr Richard Evans, an old parliamentary colleague from Western Australia—I think he was a Liberal at the time—who said that ‘the Rudd government has done its job with the $10.4 billion stimulus package’. When you talk to the people who are in business, who saw the impact of the stimulus, they say it worked—that it provided assistance to consumers to spend; therefore, it protected and grew jobs. What we do know is that there are a lot of jobs in retail and manufacturing in this country that directly benefited from the stimulus. Can I thank the coalition for their support in passing it.

Senator BERNARDI —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note the minister’s answer. He, by his own words, damns the Prime Minister’s statement. The Prime Minister said that the stimulus package would add 75,000 jobs. Isn’t it true that the Prime Minister of this country has misled the Australian people, Minister?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I do not know what Senator Bernardi and the opposition do not get, but I suggest they go out and talk to all the workers in retail in this country. Go out and talk to all the workers in retail and ask them whether they think the stimulus package helped save their jobs and create jobs in Australia. I know what they will tell you. What we know is that, while some saved part of it, many Australian families spent it. That helped protect jobs. I am confused now. Given that the opposition were supporting the package at the time, I am now confused as to what their position is—but that is not uncommon, given the way they keep flip-flopping. But, yes, it did protect jobs and it did increase commercial activity. I think all Australians know that there are a lot more jobs because of the stimulus package than there otherwise would have been.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! It is not debating time; it is time for questions.

Senator BERNARDI —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. In light of the fact that the Prime Minister’s promise of adding 75,000 jobs has failed to come to fruition, I ask the minister: what modelling, if any, has been undertaken to support the job creation claims about the second stimulus package? Secondly, if any modelling actually exists, when will the government release it?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —What we know and what is released today is a complete economic modelling of the state of the economy now and an announcement of measures taken by this government.

Senator Abetz interjecting—

Senator CHRIS EVANS —It is an update on MYEFO and provides revised forecasts. All of that modelling was done by Treasury as part of forming the response to the current economic circumstances. On the basis of that advice and on the basis of that modelling, the figure of 90,000 jobs being created by this stimulus package in 2009-10 has been arrived at. We think that is a very good thing. We think it is a very important package, and I would urge Senator Bernardi and the opposition to support it and to help create and support jobs in our economy.