Matters of Public Importance - Gillard Government
Senator John Faulkner
7 February 2012
Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (17:27): This afternoon the opposition invites us to waste an hour of the Senate's valuable time debating the government's capacity to focus on the core functions of government! One thing is certain in such a debate: unlike the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party is able to put the interests of the nation above the demands of politics. And that is no better demonstrated than by the way in which the government has managed the Australian economy. The Australian economy is strong. Consider how our economy compares with that of other advanced economies. Unemployment is low. Growth is steady. Debt is low. Interest rates under the Labor government have reached lows not seen by the previous, coalition government. Inflation is contained. All of this has happened while there has been a huge investment pipeline and at a time of unprecedented international economic instability. That is focusing on the core functions of government. The Labor Government has steered Australia through the worst global recession since the Great Depression, well over 70 years ago, and it has done it with solid employment growth, a strong investment pipeline and a budget position that is literally the envy of every other nation in the Western world. That is focusing on the core functions of government.
Unemployment in Australia is currently at 5.2 per cent, lower than every major advanced economy in the world bar one, at a time when unemployment has reached 10.4 per cent in the euro area and 8.3 per cent in the United States. Since Labor was elected four years ago, 750,000 jobs have been created, including 100,000 jobs in the last year alone, and the government is on track to create another 300,000 jobs this year. That is focusing on the core functions of government.
After back-to-back interest rate cuts in November and December last year, the official cash rate today is at 4.25 per cent, down from 6.25 per cent when the previous coalition government left office. That is focusing on the core functions of government. For the first time in our history, this country has received a AAA rating from all three global ratings agencies, something that was never achieved by the coalition government. That is focusing on the core functions of government.
This Government has made really vital investments in infrastructure to expand the capacity and productivity of the economy. We have doubled investment in roads, railways and ports. Investment now stands at $36 billion. That is focusing on the core functions of government. We have implemented the largest national infrastructure project in Australia's history, the National Broadband Network, which will deliver increased economic growth and productivity in the years ahead. That is focusing on the core functions of government.
The Labor Government is giving Australians a fairer share of the benefits of the mining boom. The MRRT will boost retirement savings through increased superannuation contributions, provide tax breaks for small businesses and cut the company tax rate. That is focusing on the core functions of government.
Sound economic management has enabled this Government to deliver Australia's first paid parental leave scheme, bringing Australia up to date with the rest of the developed world after years of inaction from the previous government. That is focusing on the core functions of government.
The Labor Government has modernised 9½ thousand Australian schools, with a doubling of investment in new classrooms, halls, laboratories and the like through the Building the Education Revolution program. That is focusing on the core functions of government.
This Government has ended the blame game in health by providing proper funding for hospitals, achieved through a historic deal with the states at COAG. It will mean more doctors, more nurses, more beds and less waste, together with better accountability and community control. That is focusing on the core functions of government.
The Labor Government has increased the age pension, is improving aged care to give older Australians more choice and control, and has invested $2.2 million into a mental health package that delivers additional services with a greater focus on prevention and early intervention. That is focusing on the core functions of government—as is, in my view, the repealing of the draconian and unfair Work Choices laws.
We have recently seen a historic fair pay decision for 150,000 of Australia's lowest workers in the social and community services sector. As we know, 120,000 of those workers are women who perform valuable roles in our community working with people with disabilities and assisting the homeless and victims of domestic violence. And, of course, that is focusing on the core functions of government, as is what the Government has done in starting to build the foundations of the nation's first ever National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is a very strong record. Instead of this endless carping, whingeing and negativity, perhaps it is about time the opposition started to acknowledge it.