Thursday, 29 November 2012
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to provide a plan for a stronger Australia.
I call upon those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
Madam Speaker, may I say that part of my plan for a stronger Australia is to restore respect to this parliament. I would very much hope—after what has been, I fear, an unedifying and dispiriting period in this parliament since two o'clock—that, should there be a change of government next year, the members of the Australian public who are interested will be able to watch question time in this parliament without embarrassment. And they will be able to look at the conduct of government ministers and, indeed, the Prime Minister and say, 'Yes, we now have a Prime Minister who is more interested in being the leader of a nation than the mere chieftain of a tribe.' That would be my aspiration, and that would be an important part of building a stronger Australia.
We all know that our country can be better than it is now. Most of us think that our country deserves better than it currently has. We know that our country can be better in the future than it has been in the recent past, because, if you go back, we have been more of what we should have been. We have been closer to our best selves.
I want to pay tribute for a moment to previous governments of this country and to the economic reforms that they put in place, which have been substantially responsible for what economic strength we now have. The Hawke government, to its credit, floated the dollar and deregulated financial markets. It began the process of privatisation. It cut tariffs and, yes, it even hesitantly began a process of workplace relations reform.
Then the Howard government came into office. The Howard government largely completed the economic reform agenda which is responsible for this country's current economic strength, such as it is. The Howard government reformed the tax system. The Howard government significantly reformed the welfare system. The Howard government substantially reformed the workplace system, albeit going too far in an important respect, and it continued and strengthened financial reform which had been begun by its predecessor.
Yes, compared to many other countries, this country of ours has a strong economy, but we should not constantly compare ourselves with countries that are mired in euro sclerosis. We should not constantly compare ourselves with countries that have been taxing and spending and borrowing for far too long, because for 25 years we had governments that built up our economic strength. We should be comparing ourselves with what we were. We should be comparing ourselves with the standards of which we know we are capable, not comparing ourselves with the standards of others who are clearly failing at this time.
If you look at the statistics and if you look behind the headline figures that members opposite are so keen to quote, this country is not at that strength which it once was. Our GDP per head, which grew by well over two per cent a year between 1996 and 2007, has grown by scarcely half a per cent a year since then. Our overall productivity has declined. It actually declined by four per cent in the four years to the middle of last year. While our headline unemployment numbers have not risen much, hours worked—which are probably a more accurate indicator of the real state of the labour market—fell by 1.2 per cent in the last year.
Those of us who get out in the main streets and the suburban shopping centres of our country know that there is a serious lack of confidence in our economy. Why is the savings rate so high? The last time the savings rate was what it is now was at the time of the last big recession. The people of Australia do not trust the government to save enough—that is why they are out there saving more and more themselves.
What we need is a new era of change for the better. What we need in this country is a government with positive plans for a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia. What we have is an alternative government—the coalition that I lead—which has already put in place a whole series of specific policy commitments that I am confident will give us the strong and prosperous economy that we need in order to have the safe and secure Australia that all of us want.
First of all, there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead. When I make that statement to the Australia people I am telling the truth, because I understand that you do not improve the environment by damaging the economy. I understand that you do not impose on the Australian economy an unnecessary new tax that will act as a reverse tariff, damaging businesses and jobs in this country while inevitably helping the businesses and jobs of our competitors, which are not subject to this unnecessary new impost.
There will be no mining tax under the government I lead. Let's face it. What sane and rational government would impose a tax that actually raises no revenue but which does seriously damage confidence and investment in a vital sector? What sane and rational government would think that you can tax your way to prosperity, that you can somehow speed up the slow lane by slowing down the fast lane and that you can somehow strengthen the economy by clobbering its most successful sector?
One of the most important policy commitments that the coalition has made is that we will reduce the red-tape costs faced by business, particularly small business, by at least $1 billion a year. We will do this by following the constructive reforms in Victoria, which I have to say are to the credit of the former government where they were introduced. Every department and every agency will be required to put a cost on their compliance and regulatory burdens and they will be required to deliver specified savings, and Public Service bonuses will depend on those savings being delivered.
There will be a one-stop shop for environmental approvals. We all know how difficult it is right now to get new projects approved. One of the major coal seam gas projects in Queensland took $25 million, four years, 4,000 meetings and a 12,000-page environmental impact assessment statement to be approved. After all of that process, there were 1,200 state conditions, 300 Commonwealth conditions and no fewer than 8,000 subconditions. Is it any wonder that people are choosing to invest in places other than in Australia? One lot of environmental regulators is enough and that is what there will be under our one-stop-shop process.
We will have a wholly restored Australian Building and Construction Commission, because that tough industry deserves a tough cop on the beat. We know that that cop on the beat did deliver some $5 billion a year in productivity improvements in that industry. That is exactly the kind of productivity improvement that we need now if the Australian people are to enjoy the hope, reward and opportunity that they deserve.
Under an incoming coalition government, there will be a fairer Fair Work Act. We understand that the working people of Australia are doing it tough. The last thing that we want to do is damage their pay. We will never do that. The changes we make will be careful, cautious, responsible and within the framework of the existing act. But we will not shrink from the changes needed to address the flexibility, militancy and productivity problems which not just are holding our country back but are now making it harder for the workers of Australia to enjoy the wage increases that, quite frankly, we all should want them to have. And there will be tougher laws—much tougher laws—to ensure that union officials, no less than company officials, are subject to appropriate penalties when they break the law, because an incoming coalition government will not be conflicted. It will not be compromised. It will not suffer from guilt by association in the way in which the current government does.
There will be a once-in-a-generation commission of audit which will go through all the apparatus of federal government, department by department, agency by agency, division by division, branch by branch, section by section, to try to ensure that we are delivering only the services that government needs to deliver in the best and most efficient way. That is what the Australian people expect of an incoming government, and that is what they will get from the government I lead, should we win the next election.
There will be, at last, a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme. I acknowledge that the government has introduced a form of paid parental leave. Unfortunately, it is simply a rebadged baby bonus. I support the baby bonus; I was proud to be a part of a government that introduced the baby bonus. But we can do better than that. Paid parental leave is a workplace entitlement not a welfare one; that is why it should be paid at a parent's real wage, not at the minimum wage.
It is important that we give every Australian maximum opportunity to be an economic contributor, not merely a social and cultural one. That is why we will revitalise Work for the Dole, because every working-age Australian should be working—preferably for a wage but, if not, for the dole.
There will be a root and branch review of competition law. That is another important policy commitment from this coalition. There should be a level playing field for all businesses, large and small.
There will be modern infrastructure. Within 18 months of a change of government here in Canberra, I expect to see more cranes over our cities. I expect to see the bulldozers at work on projects that, frankly, have been neglected for far too long. The WestConnex project in Sydney will begin. The East West Link in Melbourne will begin. The Gateway Extension in Brisbane will begin. The Pacific Highway between Newcastle and the Queensland border will be completed, well within a decade, under the next coalition government. This is important, because if we have a more productive economy we will have more prosperity for the forgotten families and for the decent, honest workers of this country.
Let me give you just one or two illustrations of the benefits that will flow to the Australian people from fair dinkum economic reform—practical, achievable economic reform. We could increase gross national income per head by almost $5,000 a year with a single one of the reforms I have mentioned. Abolishing the carbon tax will make every single Australian almost $5,000 a year better off by 2050, and it is the government's own figures that show that. A single reform will make our cumulative gross domestic product $1 trillion higher by 2050. If we abolish the carbon tax then on the government's own figures we will increase our GDP by $1 trillion.
If we can do all that, then we can have the worthy reforms that this government talks about but will never be able to deliver, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme. A strong economy is what makes the NDIS possible. A strong economy is what makes possible further spending on education such as that recommended by Mr Gonski. That is what makes everything else possible. If we have a strong economy we can have a healthy society. That is why it is so important that we have a strong economy. We can have a million more jobs within five years. We can have two million more jobs within a decade. But only a strong economy will deliver them.
So that is our positive plan. That is our positive plan for a better country with a brighter future. All it needs is a change of government to bring it about.
I rise today on what must be a very sad day for this Liberal Party, and a sad day for standards of decency and integrity in this country. We have had, for weeks now, a bizarre attack on the record of the government, and completely fabricated claims made against the Prime Minister—unsubstantiated, unjustifiable claims against the Prime Minister.
The Leader of the Opposition is scurrying away from his pathetic attempts today to justify the wild claims that he made this morning that the Prime Minister has committed a crime. He could not justify it. He failed to justify it and he should be apologising to this House and to the people of Australia now for the unsubstantiated and appalling attack that he has made on the reputation of the Prime Minister. But, of course, no; having been given 15 minutes to justify his wild claims, his false claims, against the Prime Minister and having failed to do so, he does not apologise; he scurries away. What we have just had from the Leader of the Opposition is a pathetic pretence, to suggest that the opposition has some kind of positive agenda.
I want to talk about the record of our government—and I will, at length. But first I want to talk about the political context that this comes in. You can say one thing about this Leader of the Opposition: he is brazen, because you would have to be brazen to come in and make the claims that he makes, day in, day out. But I do not think anyone in this place really trusts him and, indeed, I do not think anyone in Australia could really trust him. It is nearly three years to the day since Tony Abbott became Leader of the Opposition, and what an unhappy anniversary it turns out to be.
It has been three long years characterised by negativity and by failure. There has been the bitter failure of the Leader of the Opposition to accept the outcome of the previous election. There has been the bitter campaign to trash the government in an attempt to bring it down, regardless of whether the opposition were trashing the traditions of this chamber in doing so. There has been the bitterness caused by the slowly dawning realisation that this Leader of the Opposition's failure might just cost this opposition the next election. Now we hear talk from this Leader of the Opposition about building a stronger Australia. He is not a builder; he is wrecker. That is all he is. He has not a single meaningful policy to offer, let alone a costed policy. We keep getting told that such policies will be produced 'at some point'. The Leader of the Opposition is an empty vessel.
This Leader of the Opposition set out with one brutal, simple, negative objective: to do whatever it took to become Prime Minister, and we know this from the member for New England. He sought to tear down the Prime Minister by hook or by crook, by fear and now by smear. First he set out to do it by fear; but he failed. Now that they have failed there, what have the opposition done? They have turned to smear. But the crude, relentless aggression has not succeeded. All that this Leader of the Opposition has managed to do is to lead his party deeper and deeper into a wilderness—a policy vacuum.
This Liberal Party is now modelling itself on America's far-Right Tea Party. It has turned itself into a party of tinfoil-hat wearing, right-wing nuts. The Liberal Party has travelled a long, long way from its founding fathers—from the legacy of Menzies and the legacy, indeed, of John Howard. I have here a quote from Sir Robert Menzies's book The Measure of the Years, and the opposition leader would do well to read it. It says:
My first proposition is that the duty of an Opposition, if it has no ambition to be permanently on the left-hand side of the Speaker, is not just to oppose for opposition's sake, but to oppose selectively. No Government is always wrong on everything, whatever the critics may say.
Menzies went on to say:
My second proposition is that an Opposition must always remember that it is the alternative Government; that it is unwise, when in Opposition, to promise what you cannot perform …
He could have been remarking on the Leader of the Opposition's crazy comments about the carbon price or the Leader of the Opposition's empty pledge to turn back the boats when he knew that it would be rejected by the Republic of Indonesia.
In the same work, Menzies said:
When you find yourself in Opposition and have recovered from the natural shock which accompanies the process, the first task is a positive one: to reconstruct; to find out what went wrong; to work out a programme of action; to initiate a new phase in political history.
Menzies could have been talking about the current opposition and the current Leader of the Opposition. The sad thing is that this Leader of the Opposition has never recovered from his election loss. He is still living in the past, fighting old battles and wilfully ignoring reality. Three years has been long enough for the Australian public to know that this Leader of the Opposition has nothing whatsoever of substance to offer. He devotes his time to crafting 10-second sound bites. He is unwilling to do the serious and hard work of crafting serious policies for this nation: to build a national disability insurance scheme; to build a national broadband network; and to build a cleaner, stronger, smarter economy while cutting carbon pollution.
This week the book of 10-second sound bites has been released. Three-word slogans repeated thousands and thousands of times might manage to make you up a slim volume, but it would still be made up of three-word slogans. Anyone who looked at this slim volume would see that it was just a compilation of this year's three-word slogans and 10-second sound bites. Such things pass for speeches from this Leader of the Opposition; his speeches seem to consist of three word slogans and 10-second sound bites.
It takes hard work, consistency and determination to make policy. Our Prime Minister has these attributes in spades. Just look at the achievements that as promised she has contributed to while we have been in government: abolishing Work Choices; investing in education; reforming schools funding; supporting jobs through stimulus; bringing in a carbon price. I could also mention mental health reform and dental care reform—there is a long list. It takes guts to do the hard yards and make tough changes while others run all around the country whipping up hysteria.
After all these months of running round the country whipping up fear and loathing about the carbon price, the Leader of the Opposition and his followers have finished at a dead end. The member for Flinders is in the chamber. He can vouch for the dead end that the opposition has reached. Like the Wizard of Oz, the Leader of the Opposition has conjured up a series of illusions and tricks. He has pretended that pricing carbon would smash the economy to pieces and that it would crush towns and villages in its path. He spoke about the cobra, the python and the tentacles of the octopus. He spoke about every animal that you can imagine other than the bunyip, and still the Leader of the Opposition is engaging in the biggest pretence of all: that he will repeal the pricing of carbon. He will not repeal the pricing of carbon; that too is a pretence. We can see the reality, and Australians can see the reality. The hard economic evidence is that after 150 days the carbon price is doing its job—
of cutting pollution, transforming businesses and providing assistance to households while we build a cleaner economy. We have from the Leader of the National Party the proposition by interjection that it is 'breaking the country'. What a nonsense. They are still going on with their fear campaign even though it has failed.
The facts and figures have arrived, and, like the Wizard of Oz, the Leader of the Opposition is now revealed as a humbug. He is just a man behind the curtain still furiously pulling the levers and pressing the buttons when his time has well and truly run out. This Leader of the Opposition has no policies and no positive contribution to make to this country, so, true to form, all he can resort to is throwing mud, raking muck and spreading untruths, misrepresentations, falsehoods and fabrications. To put it bluntly: he is just plain making things up. He makes things up about the government's policies, and he is making things up in his attack on the Prime Minister.
But the Australian people are onto him. Australians are over the aggressive and negative charade we have had to endure in this place for the last three years. The Liberal Party, in fact, has had to send out the Deputy Leader of the Opposition day after day this week to do the dirty work while they worked out to do with the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition has mostly been too gutless to front his own smear campaign, but, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition opens her mouth and extracts her foot from it, her leader's relentless negativity comes flying out. We know it all too well: straight from the chief of staff's dirt file comes a thick folder which is full of the Leader of the Opposition's words and instructions.
What issues has the Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised anyway? Her mate Ralph Blewitt has admitted that he does not have any real allegations. He was asked this question by Michael Smith: 'is it fair to say that you, Mr Blewitt, and Wilson certainly knew the association was a sham but is it fair to say that Ms Gillard knew it was a sham?' Ralph Blewitt said: 'I do not know if she knew.' So Blewitt blew it. He has blown the lid right off this complete fabrication of a smear campaign against the Prime Minister. We can see it for the pathetic muckraking campaign it has been. It has come to its end today. The only person who did actually know was Bruce Wilson and he has made it clear that the Prime Minister knew absolutely categorically nothing.
The so-called smoking gun today—on which this last pathetic attack that we saw in question time and before question time from the opposition was based—about the Prime Minister having written a letter to the Western Australian registrar, has been shown to be a total non-event as well. All we have had is an updated interview that actually confirms the Prime Minister's account of events. It backs up everything she has said. This same transcript—and you can read it in the Australian today; not that it would form part of the Australian headlines—records her answering a question from Peter Gordon in this interview, where Gordon asked: 'And so the last you had to do with this association was when you attended to its incorporation?' The Prime Minister said in 1995, 'Yes, that is right.' She has said nothing different in the 17 years since. The work that she did in 1992—more than 20 years ago—stopped at the incorporation of this association. So much for this smear campaign. So much for the Leader of the Opposition saying to the people of Australia this morning that the Prime Minister had committed a crime when she was in legal practice.
The Leader of the Opposition was given his opportunity; he was given his 15 minutes to substantiate that allegation and he came up with nothing. He rambled on with smear and innuendo. After nine minutes he could not even go past that. He had to resort to a more generalised attack to do with unions generally on the government. That is how pathetic this Leader of the Opposition has shown himself to be. Making totally unsubstantiated allegations, handcuffed as he is to the smear and the filth. That is all he knows. It is not befitting an alternative Prime Minister. Let us talk about what is 'becoming'—that was the Leader of the Opposition's word. He could not substantiate his allegation this morning that the Prime Minister had committed a crime. He squibbed it. He went only to that there had been, he alleged, 'conduct unbecoming' a Prime Minister. What we have seen has been conduct disgraceful and unbecoming of someone who is holding himself up as an alternative Prime Minister in this country. It is an example of rash overreach, disgraceful behaviour which demonstrates loudly and clearly the complete unsuitability of this man to lead our country. The only dignified thing for this opposition is to drop the charade.
The member for Flinders makes a valid point. I think we will find it has been a wide-ranging contribution from the member for Isaacs but I would bring him back to the question before the chamber, which is: the failure of the government to provide a plan for a stronger Australia.
The Prime Minister has been crystal clear that if there are any credible allegations she will answer them. There are not any, and we should move on. That is what Australians want. For a stronger Australia, we could get away from the politics of smear. We could get back to talking about policy. We are proud of the policies we have introduced because, unlike those opposite, we know what we stand for: we stand for fairness; we stand for opportunity; we stand for dignity at work; we stand for providing support to those who need it most; we stand for pricing carbon, doing our part in tackling the problem of climate change; we stand for investing in schools, in universities and in TAFEs; and we stand for supporting the economy in the interests of working people. We have done a lot the nation can be proud of over the last five years. We will continue to work in the best interests of our nation.
This week marks five years since Labor was elected to office. It was just five years ago that Australians were so confident in the strength of our national economy, so confident about the sustainability of the improvement in their lifestyle, so convinced about the resilience of our nation that they thought they could take the risk on a Labor government. What has this five years delivered to Australians? What has this five years done to our country?
Labor has presided over massive increases in people's living costs, including electricity price rises of 89 per cent. They misled the Australian people by introducing the world's biggest carbon tax. They did not tell the truth. They introduced the world's biggest carbon tax after saying it would not happen. They turned $70 billion in net assets into $150 billion in net debt. They have run up the four biggest deficits in the Australia's history following on from the Howard government's four biggest surpluses. They have overseen unprecedented waste with overpriced school halls, dangerous roof insulation and an overpriced and undelivered NBN. They have weakened our borders, with 500 boats arriving carrying a total of 30,000 illegal arrivals. They allowed faceless men to remove a Prime Minister elected by the people and in doing so ensure ongoing division and dysfunction. They have overseen a marked fall in Australian productivity and they have crippled small business with their excessive regulations and cost increases. They stood by the member for Dobell and the member for Fisher when they were mired in scandal. Now they stand by a Prime Minister whose murky past is casting a shadow over the high office of prime ministership.
They identify as a government with the reality that they are a wholly owned subsidiary of the union movement. So they are caught up with the scandals of the union movement. They are caught up with the deceit and the dishonesty, with the slush funds and with the misuse of workers' money. They are caught up with it—the sleaze. They grew up with it—they are mostly members of the trade union movement. They are a part of this. They cannot separate themselves from their past. They cannot look to the future with cleanliness and honesty while this stain remains over their past record and their past performance. Yet they are not prepared to clean it up. They are not prepared to do the things which are necessary to have a trade union movement which genuinely looks after the interests of workers, which is out there defending the interests of their members and is not run by people just seeking to feather their own lifestyles through corrupt use of union members' money.
This is the Labor Party which is governing Australia this day. It is a government which has taken our once proud economy into a state of near despair, a government which has wasted the hard-earned money of the Australian people—the taxes which have been spent on frivolous and often ill-thought-out proposals. They have overseen unprecedented waste. Their deficits contrast starkly with the surpluses they inherited.
Labor has shown that it is completely unable to manage an economy. It is completely unable to balance the budget—and it is not going to get any better. Labor has not yet even acknowledged that they have been ineffective in managing the economy. They think debt is okay. They think it is all right to keep borrowing to cover their past mistakes. And they are not prepared to clean up their own den. They are not prepared to clean up dishonesty in the trade union movement.
The coalition's message to the people of Australia is that there is a better way. We can end the spin, the lies and broken promises; we can cut the waste; and we can stop the boats. Now, more than ever, Australia needs a steady hand at the wheel. Our economy, our businesses and our families alike crave certainty—so they can make decisions which will not be trumped by a government which lurches from crisis to disaster. They need a government they can rely on, who they can trust, whose word is their bond. Instability at the top and a crisis of confidence in the Prime Minister's decision-making come at a precarious time for all businesses—big and small and across all sectors.
There is simply no excuse for five successive deficits, four of them the biggest deficits in Australian history. There is no excuse for turning $70 billion in net assets into nearly $150 billion in net debt. Labor say that it does not matter, but it has to be paid back. Australians are already feeling the impact of paying the interest on Labor's debt. It will continue to get worse—$12 billion in this budget. Australian people this year will pay at least five times more in interest than will be spent on roads and rail. If we did not have this interest bill, we could afford a national disability insurance scheme.
We have seen the hypocrisy today of Labor introducing NDIS legislation, giving hope to people with disabilities, but not owning up to the fact that they have no money to pay for it. The money that could have been spent on a national disability insurance scheme is being spent on paying the interest on their past debt, on their past waste. We could have had the money for education reform, but it is not there because it is being spent on interest on Labor's debt. They have no idea about managing the economy.
There is no excuse for Labor's carbon tax deceit, its mining tax farce and the way it shamelessly tried to cook the books for this year's surplus. In a real alarm bell to the Australian people, three-quarters of this miserable surplus is going to be swept out of the bank accounts of ordinary Australians and superannuation funds. Any money in accounts which have been dormant for a short period of time will be swept up and counted as Labor's surplus in this year's budget—swept out of the private bank accounts of ordinary Australians. This is dishonest budgeting.
In the just released MYEFO statement, the government are not owning up to the education cuts and the health cuts. They are keen to criticise the states for what they have had to do to try and balance the budgets left to them by previous Labor state governments. But they are not owning up to the fact that one of the real problems the states now have with their health expenditure is that the federal Labor government has cut its own expenditure on health. Any cuts in spending on hospitals are directly attributable to this government's cuts.
This is a government which is out of control and unable to control its own expenditure. The government has been playing a game of economic dodgem cars, creating carnage and happily crashing the hopes and dreams of working Australians. Every dollar that Australia is in deficit and borrowing will have to be paid back by future generations.
We have to do better. We have to start playing to our strengths. This government has never found a problem it could not make worse. We have dropped 10 places on international competitiveness, from fifth to 15th, in just two years. Is it any coincidence that that is the amount of time the current Prime Minister has been in the Lodge? There are no excuses and it is time we had a better government.
There is a better way. Yesterday, I had the great privilege of introducing the Leader of the Opposition at the launch of a document which sets a new tone for Australia. There are many people in the opposition who have had experience in government. We know how to do it better. Those days of growth and prosperity did not come about by luck. We can, with persistence and determination, get back to that era. We want to chart a new course for Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition has been focused and effective in opposition. But, behind the scenes, we have been working through the development of substantial policies, substantial policies which, in many instances, have already been foreshadowed to the Australian people—although they have received little media attention. The reality is that there is a cohesive plan and the Leader of the Opposition has spoken about that today. Our plan is ambitious but it is also achievable. We will play to Australia's strengths and help again build a prosperous future. Roll on, 2013; roll on, next election. (Time expired)
When I saw today that the matter of public importance was 'the failure of the government to provide a plan for a stronger Australia' I laughed out loud. It implies that those opposite have a plan for Australia. That would mean that they had policy, because if you have a plan you have to have a policy. We have seen all this year, and particularly in the last week, just one big policy vacuum. If those opposite are not terrifying the bejesus out of Australians, particularly those in Whyalla, they are trawling for dirt. They are completely devoid of policy and I find this MPI completely laughable.
Contrast that vacuum with what this government has done for the country so far and its strong record in strengthening the Australian economy, strengthening education, strengthening health, strengthening the environment, strengthening infrastructure and strengthening social housing, and making Australia a better and fairer society as a result. The OECD has just released its economic outlook and yet again it highlights the resilience of the Australian economy. While the rest of the world is beset with high unemployment and low growth, our economic plan has seen this country thrive in the face of a very challenging global environment. First we had the IMF saying, and now the OECD agreeing, that our economy will outperform every single major advanced economy and the OECD as a whole over the next two years. As the world watches our economic plans with envy, the forecasts are for growth of 3.7 per cent this year, three per cent in 2013 and 3.2 per cent in 2014. These forecasts are completely consistent with our mid-year economic and fiscal outlook.
That is just one element of our achievement. There are also our plans for productivity, for the nation's education system and for the nation's growth, and that growth is best represented in the Asian century white paper that we recently released. It outlines our vision for what we see as our role in Asia and maximising opportunities for all Australians to benefit from the opportunities that exist in an Asian century. Those opportunities mean that we need to become more Asia literate, that students need to gain not just an Asian language but also an understanding of what Asia is all about. I know from my time in India that understanding Hindi was just one part of understanding what India was all about. It was being immersed in the culture and completely understanding it, and living and breathing it every day, that gave me the chance to gain a greater appreciation of India.
So, we have that strong economic record. In addition, we have an incredibly strong track record on education. We have doubled the investment in education since we have been in government and the historic education bill that was released this week, the first of its kind to look at schools funding in 40 years, will take us that next step. We will do that through national plans and a range of other measures, and I am very much looking forward to hearing about the negotiations on that with the states and territories and Catholic and independent schools over the course of 2013. As I said, to date we have made record investment in education, and record investment in apprenticeships. We have record numbers of apprentices coming on line. The trades and vocational area has been an area of neglect for many years and it is only Labor that has taken this on to address the significant skills shortage we have in many trade sectors in this country.
We have a well-recognised and world-class record on the environment. We have introduced the carbon price, and we had a very difficult first six months of this year doing that but we did it. That was a major achievement for the environment. In addition, we have the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and the states have been grappling with this issue for the last 110 years, since Federation. Now, finally, a historic plan has been achieved.
We have a strong track record on health. We have funding for more doctors and nurses, more beds, and particularly important for my own electorate are the GP superclinics. We have made historic investment in infrastructure to build productivity, historic investment in social housing and a strong record on fairness, particularly with the introduction of the NDIS legislation this morning and the Indigenous bills this week.
I want to turn to Canberra because the government has a strong track record not only in terms of the nation but also in terms of investing in Canberra. One of my great loves is education, and I will highlight a few of the investments we have made since Labor has been in power. Under the Building the Education Revolution program, Richardson Primary School has received $2.1 million; St Francis of Assisi, $3.1 million; St Thomas the Apostle, $2.4 million; Galilee School, which looks after high risk kids—I am going to their graduation in the next week or so—$346,00; the Woden School, $1.1 million; Malkara School, $945,000; Canberra Montessori School, $942,000; Canberra Girls Grammar School, $3.2 million; the Islamic School of Canberra, $55,000; and Yarralumla Primary School, $2.2 million. They are just some of the investments we have made right across Canberra in education. We have also made an investment of $5.7 million for a trade training centre for a number of the Catholic schools around Canberra, and also $8.1 million for a trade training centre in the college system in Tuggeranong.
In addition to that we have made significant investment in infrastructure—$18.5 million to upgrade and duplicate the Monaro Highway—finally, after 40 years, patient Canberrans and New South Welshmen now have a completely duplicated Monaro Highway. We are providing $144 million for the Majura Parkway, again a historic project, finally linking the north and south of Canberra. There is $409,000 for black spots, with $3.6 million having gone towards fixing black spots across Canberra since 2007, and $20 million to help the ACT government maintain and upgrade local roads. That is in addition to our significant investment in funding for our cultural institutions—for the War Memorial, for the National Portrait Gallery, for Parliament House walk, and for our fantastic centenary next year; which I am very much looking forward to. We also have the National Arboretum and the lights at Manuka oval. The list is endless.
Before I close, I want to acknowledge some of the people that have helped me during the year to implement Labor's agenda to make both Australia and Canberra a stronger and a better place. I particularly want to thank my staff. I would like to thank my electorate office staff: Eva Cawthorne, Julie Burns and Jim Mallett—thank you for managing what is about the largest electorate in Australia by population. I would particularly like to thank Tom and Jack, Eva's children, who are incredibly patient with their mum, who often has to work long hours. I would also like to thank those who work for me during the year—that is, Celia Mallett, Marc Emerson and Claire Johnston. I would also like to thank John Hannoush, who works in my Parliament House office on all of my committee work, and also my wonderful media adviser, Simon Tatz.
There are a number of volunteers I would like to thank too, and also people who have worked in a part-time capacity: Caitlin Delbridge, Jeeven Nadanakumar, Edward Burns, Alice Wade, Anna Langdon, Sandy Thomas, Katie Gilette, Brendan Morrison, Stephanie Jones and her carer Karen, Rob Travellion, Natalie Shephard and Sue Robinson. I would also like to thank the sub-branches: Canberra South, Telopea, North Woden, South Woden, Curtin, Tuggeranong, Lanyon, Western Creek and also the new Brindabella daytime branch, which has provided me tremendous support throughout the year. A number of the members have also volunteered on my mobile offices throughout the year. Also I would like to thank my past FEC team committee and the new FEC team. This is a complete nonsense of a motion. As I said, I laughed out loud when I read it. If you have a plan then you need policy, and that is completely devoid in the opposition.