Matters of Public Importance: Employment

That is 200,000 Australians, more than all the workers in my electorate; more than all the workers in the electorate of Moncrieff. That is effectively two Olympic stadiums full of people who would have been unemployed if we had adopted the approach of the opposition, which is to do nothing, stand on the sidelines and let the market take its course.’

We will see on Thursday night if you have an approach that resembles anything like a policy of doing something about jobs, because every time we offer up an approach it is either criticised from the sidelines or fundamentally opposed. All of the evidence that comes in, whether it is the unemployment data that came in last week, the retail figures for March that came in last week or the housing data for March that came in last week, is clear. The work that this government has undertaken to stimulate the economy is having an effect to protect and support jobs. There are 1½ million people in the retail industry in Australia, such as the people who work at Centro in Bankstown or Bass Hill Plaza in my electorate-people who have jobs because we have stimulated the economy, putting money in people’s pockets that is being spent at shopping centres and supermarkets around the country.

If you want any proof of the effect that that stimulus is having on the economy to protect and support jobs, compare the data for retail figures in Australia to the rest of the world.

Let’s compare it to America, where they have lost 5.7 million jobs over the last 12 months. People who worked in retail in America 12 months ago do not have a job today because retail figures in America are down. If you look at the retail figures for the United States since November-since Lehman Brothers collapsed-you will see that they have fallen by 2.5 per cent. In Japan it has fallen by 3.1 per cent. That is why people are losing their jobs in the United States and Japan.

All of this money which supports the retail industry supports all of the associated businesses, such as the trucking industry and everybody that is associated with the retail industry. These are people who have jobs today who would not have had jobs if we had not taken this effort and had the energy and the wit to stimulate the economy.

It is not just the retail industry, though: have a look at the housing figures that came out today. You do not hear much criticism from the opposition about the increase to the first home owners grant. They were critical at the start, but now they have become great supporters of it. And why wouldn’t they support it? People that they represent have a first home, have bought back into the great Australian dream, because of that boost to the first home owners grant. The $21,000 that enables somebody to get into the housing market with a brand new home at places like Ropes Crossing in the member for Lindsay’s electorate is creating jobs from laying the slab through to putting tiles on the roof and every job in between, whether the tiler, the builder, the glazier who puts the windows in the sills, the person who lays the tiles or the person who cleans the site at the end of the day. The multiplier effect of all of those jobs is substantial.

The data from March says this: loans for construction are up 13.9 per cent and loans for new dwellings are up 8.8 per cent. That is just the month of March. That is already supporting jobs for all of those tradesmen, all those people on the tools, who I have just mentioned. What does it mean? It means real jobs. The evidence is in. The evidence is on our side; the opposition is on the other. That is why you suddenly hear them go about a little bit quiet on the other side.

I will give you an update from the Housing Industry Association. You should not talk about debt, mate, after Sky TV last week. You should be very quiet on debt at the moment. The Housing Industry Association is not a friend of the Labor Party. They are an organisation that is not a signed up member of the Labor Party. The HIA chief economist, Harley Dale, had this to say just today: ‘The consequences of this policy’-that is, our stimulus package of 12 October-‘have been more construction activity’-tick-‘more jobs’-tick-‘and more demand in manufacturing and retail sectors in the first half of 2009 than would otherwise have been the case’.

The substance of this MPI is that the government, through all its activities, has made things worse. That is what the previous speaker said: everything that the government has done has made things worse. I will tell you what: if there was anyone out there making that case other than the opposition you might take them seriously. But whether it is economists or industry representatives, all of the evidence, argument and experts are on one side and the opposition are on the other. If you ask the opposition why they took this approach, why they decided to oppose the stimulus package and why they opposed the Nation Building and Jobs Plan and who advised them to do that, you will hear deafening silence. No-one advised them to do that. They made the decision all on their own for political mischief’s sake. It is all about politics.

If we wait here and listen carefully after asking whether anyone gave them the advice that they should oppose the Nation Building and Jobs Plan-after asking who was the economist or erudite person who told them that it was a good idea to oppose stimulus to the economy at a time of global recession-it sounds like there is nobody there. The only people there are the Crosby Textors of this world, who say, ‘Paint the Labor Party as the party that is miring people in debt and, if that doesn’t work, accuse them of throwing people overboard.’ That is their approach.

This government’s approach is pretty different. It is about creating, supporting and generating jobs in local communities, particularly the ones that need it, whether that is through stimulating the economy by stimulating the retail industry, stimulating the economy by stimulating the housing industry or stimulating the economy by creating jobs at the 9,750 schools across the country. There is a construction site in every school, big or small, across the country in every town, whether a big town like Sydney or a small town like Deniliquin. There are construction jobs everywhere. That is what the education revolution is all about.

I cannot help quoting the AMP chief economist, who only recently said, ‘In other words, the recession would’ve been a lot deeper if it weren’t for the stimulus.’ Isn’t that interesting? Tony Abbott was on Lateline the other night and he conceded that the stimulus was working. He conceded that it was having the desired effect; it was stimulating the economy. But then he said, ‘But if you stimulate the economy, you’ll make the recession deeper and worse.’ I thought I had better have a look at this. Surely by stimulating the economy-by creating jobs-you cannot be making a recession deeper or a recession worse. And according to the AMP chief economist, that is a nonsense argument.

The Liberal Party’s approach to this is: ‘It doesn’t matter how many jobs people lose; don’t worry about the social impact or the human cost. Don’t worry about that. Try and minimise the amount that you spend and let people lose their jobs as a consequence.’ But the less you stimulate the economy, the more jobs that will be lost, the less tax that will come in and the more you have to pay in unemployment benefits. The longer the recession, the deeper the cost and the more social casualties there will be as a consequence. And that is what the economists say. Where is the evidence from them and where is the evidence from anybody that supports their arguments? Again, there is deafening silence.

This is a government which is doing things nationally and on the ground. In my local community, like in every other community around the country, money is being injected to create community infrastructure and that is creating jobs on the ground, whether it is arts centres or car parks-such as another car park in the electorate of Lindsay. There are projects all throughout the country that are creating construction jobs and other jobs across the country.

I was with the Prime Minister in the electorate of Blaxland-my electorate-just last week. In fact, it was the first time a Prime Minister had been to Blaxland in 13½ years. The only time the government ever came to Blaxland in the past was to rip jobs out of it. They ripped 650 jobs out of it by shutting the tax office; they ripped 150 jobs out of it when they shut the immigration office. But this Prime Minister came to Blaxland to help build, create and generate jobs, along with the minister. They are working with people like Bill Kelty and Lindsay Fox-people who have a history of creating jobs and supporting employment in this country-to come up with local solutions to local problems. That is what the budget will be about tonight: creating and generating jobs. This is not the Liberal Party’s approach with all its human cost, which is all about ripping money out of the economy.’