Monday, 20 October 2008
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Brisbane for his question. We are experiencing one of the most significant upheavals in financial markets since the Great Depression. The global financial crisis is affecting financial markets right around the world, including in Australia. More than 25 banks around the world have failed or have been bailed out, and global stock markets have seen very significant losses. This crisis is contributing to a serious slowdown in global growth. Obviously these difficulties will impact here. Growth will slow and unemployment will rise. We have been upfront about that from the very beginning.
It pays to remind ourselves what the IMF had to say only a week or so ago:
The world economy is entering a major downturn in the face of the most dangerous financial shock in mature financial markets since the 1930s … The major advanced economies are already in or close to recession …
This is not my assessment. It is the assessment of the IMF and it is also the assessment of finance ministers of the G7 and the G20, but of course the Leader of the Opposition says they have got it all wrong. Yesterday on Insiders, he said this assessment was ‘hyped up’.
That is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition—old motormouth over there—said. In the face of all of this evidence and in the face of the Leader of the Opposition saying that he supported our stimulus package in full, he went on television yesterday saying it was just hyped up. This shows how dangerously out of touch the Leader of the Opposition is with Australian families and, of course, with Australian business. He has no idea about the magnitude of this challenge before us and before the globe. He thinks the crisis is overhyped and, if he thinks it is overhyped, he does not necessarily agree with the solution.
This morning he was interviewed on Alan Jones and he said that he did not necessarily support the payments to families. He thought that what would perhaps be better would be some sort of general tax cut spread thinly across a wider range of people. This shows he does not actually understand what we are doing or why we are doing it, because the family payments are directly targeted to be paid in a lump sum before Christmas. That is a very important part of what needs to be done, given the magnitude of the challenge that is before us.
The Leader of the Opposition wants to have it both ways. He wants to say he supports the package, then he wants to turn around to say the problem is hyped up and then he wants to disagree with the individual measures. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition, it reminds me of that old saying of Mark Twain’s: ‘All you need in life is ignorance and confidence.’ He has it in spades.
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the comments from the head of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, last Friday:
The information behind the decision-making process in government is crucial to our members as they seek to make proper decisions and judgements about how to steer their business through this storm.
Will the Prime Minister immediately release the information behind the decision-making process that led to the government’s announcements last week so that business can get on with making proper decisions and judgements?
First and foremost, the government stands behind its Economic Security Strategy as announced last week, as the government stands behind—unequivocally, as opposed to those opposite—the statements made by me on behalf of the government the previous Sunday to provide guarantees to depositors and to provide guarantees for term lending on the part of banks in order to unfreeze credit. We in the government have proposed these as concrete courses of action—decisions taken by the government, unequivocally supported by the government, as opposed to the ‘bob each way’ approach being adopted by those opposite. That is basically what it is—on the one hand a bit of a shuffle over here from the Leader of the Opposition saying, in a half spirit of small ‘b’ bipartisanship, yes in extremis; on the other hand, unleashing the various dogs of war on the part of those opposite to have a chip away at the housing policy, to have a chip away at pensioners and to have a chip away at family tax benefit A, and now we have a chip away at the actual underpinnings of the package.
I say to the member for Curtin that the underpinnings of this package are clear. Growth, as of when the government determined on the package, was projected ahead to be plus two; therefore the government decided on the basis of the revision downwards in growth in the IMF world forecast, on top of the collapse in consumer confidence in the world, that we needed an extra buffer for growth for the future. That is why we acted in the way in which we have done. We have done so decisively, and I would call on the member for Curtin, rather than having a bob each way—rather than being politically opportunist one day and trying to be statespersonlike the next day—to get behind the government, because what this nation now needs is real bipartisanship, real consensus and real support, as opposed to walking both sides of the street, which those opposite have elevated from an art form into a science.