Federation Chamber PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS Economy

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (18:40): I was actually going to get up and move an extension of time so we could actually get to the motion that was being debated. I heard a lot there, but I do not know at what point the member for Mayo was actually going to get to the resolution that has brought us here.

Mr Champion: To be fair, I did not speak to it either.

Mr HUSIC: That is a rather inconvenient admission. I do not need you to admit that in here. I start my contribution quoting three numbers: 22, 20, and 4.9. The first is 22 per cent unemployment in Greece; 20 per cent in Spain; and 4.9 per cent here in Australia. Imagine the way the political discourse would be carried on in this country if we were loaded up with the number of jobless that exist in those countries. Certainly no-one wishes that on anyone but having that level of unemployment, not only as an economic issue but as a social one as well and its massive distortion on politics, would be phenomenal if it were to occur in this country. If anything, in terms of this debate, it is not so much that we talk about facts themselves; it is more getting a recognition of facts from those opposite. When you look at where our economy is relative to others, our economy has done phenomenally well. We are right to be proud.

Mr Briggs interjecting—

Mr HUSIC: There are a lot of people that, I would say, Member for Mayo, seek to be gracious about the contribution of those opposite. It is easy to flog off a major asset like Telstra and use that money to retire debt, but where were you when we needed investment in education?

Mr Champion: Why have we got a skills shortage?

Mr HUSIC: And let us talk about health.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! There is one member who is on his feet. Please respect him.

Mr HUSIC: Instead of actually investing in health care, there was a massive dole out of funds through private health insurance. There was not an investment in hospitals; there was an underinvestment in health. In terms of education itself, instead of putting money into TAFE, those opposite sought to duplicate the TAFE system by setting up their own rival TAFE system and underfunding TAFE. Yes, you did get a surplus—everyone acknowledges that. It is the way that you got there and the underinvestment and what was left as a result of that and the type of issues that we have to deal with now. The Reserve Bank was saying from the early part of the last decade that capacity constraints were the biggest threat to the economy, that those capacity constraints were in the form of skills shortages and infrastructure constraints that needed to be addressed and were not. I have already talked about what happened in education. Where were you on infrastructure? You pretty much abandoned, for instance, anything to do with urban planning or involvement in urban infrastructure—not only making cities liveable but ensuring the fluid movement of people and goods within cities.

I will give credit to those opposite. The one bit of infrastructure that you did get to was the M7, and you only got to it because you put a toll on it. I am first to admit that the M7 was certainly—

Mr Briggs interjecting—

Mr HUSIC: Well, my preference is not that we have to rely on tolls, but that we are able to invest without putting the imposition of tolls. Most of the infrastructure in this country has not been developed simply as a result of putting a toll bucket on the end of it. Again, if you look at unemployment, at inflation and at growth, we have a great advantage relative to others. My biggest concern is not just about our recognising the strength of this economy but about making sure that we continue to ensure that this is an open economy, one that connects within the region, that maintains, for example, a commitment to recognising the value of Australian investment, along with foreign investment; that we are able to take advantage, for example, of what we have as a result of the NBN and take advantage of our IT sector and what that can do in connecting us, not only internally but within our region. As much as this is a discussion for here and now—and what I will pick up on in terms of what the member for Mayo is saying—the reforms that we make now generate prosperity down the track. I am certainly proud of being part of a government that has put us in a position where we are able to leap off the advantage that has been given to us.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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