Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (12:53): I have often said that Tony Abbott has not had an idea that John Howard did not think of first. When it comes to the economy, it is pretty clear that Tony Abbott is committed to relying upon a very faulty memory of what they perceive to be the golden years of the Howard government when reality seems to suggest otherwise. They were called out on this big-time by Malcolm Farr in recent times when he basically matched up the claims we are hearing from the other side of politics versus the reality. I think it is important to look back on those years when the Howard government was in place and see how they actually performed as so-called economic managers. Remember that we have had Tony Abbott, the member for Warringah say—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): I would remind the member for Chifley to refer to members by their seat and their title.
Mr HUSIC: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I had already corrected myself—and thank you for using my time! I want to go back and pick up, for example, the claim by the member for Warringah in his National Press Club speech when he said, ‘We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again; after all, 16 members of the current shadow cabinet were ministers in the Howard government.’ A ringing endorsement, that! So let us go through some of the claims. Let us look at the inflation rate. In late 2007, inflation was just under four per cent and late last year it was under three per cent. The tax take took up 24 per cent of national output in the peaks under the coalition and is headed for 21 per cent under this government. Official interest rates, for only six months of the 11 years of the Howard government, were as low as the current 4.5 per cent, perhaps dropping to four in due course. Again, Mr Farr quotes the member for Warringah:
At the heart of our plan for a stronger economy is getting government spending down …
When you look at the figures you will see that, in 11 years of coalition government, there was not one year in which government spending was reduced. It grew by an average of 3.7 per cent in the final five years of the coalition government. Mr Farr goes on:
Current projections for spending growth have an average of 1.5 per cent.
It is worth bearing in mind fiscal consolidation, the amount of money cut out of the budget—$22 billion in one year alone, the highest in 40 years under the coalition government. As for fond memories, Mr Farr says:
… you don’t put into the economic equation a global recession which took more than $140 billion from the tax revenue—
of this government. In fact, the coalition will, for example, point to the deficits and completely airbrush out of history the fact that there was an economic catastrophe that people had not before witnessed, the worst in 75 years, in the shape of the global financial crisis. Yet they are quick to say to us that we need to remember the Asian economic crisis. Importantly, one cannot get away from the fact that the GFC had such an impact.
I am also quite puzzled as to how the coalition, which is fond of turning up to the opening of schools which have benefited from Building the Education Revolution funding, hasten to then criticise it the minute they step off the grounds of those schools. Again, it is worth noting that, under the coalition, the Regional Partnerships program ran for eight years and, as Mr Farr says: ‘It made the BER scheme look like a well-oiled economic mechanism of integrity and efficiency.’ For example:
The BER never funded a Queensland coastal hotel which boasted gaming and strippers, but a 2005 Senate inquiry was told—
that that was exactly what the Howard government’s Regional Partnerships program did.
Again, it is important to note that this Labor government took action to move quickly to respond to the GFC. As a result there was higher growth, lower unemployment, lower inflation and economic credentials that were the envy of most advanced economies. Imagine if we had listened to those opposite, who said they would have spent less, who would have modelled and would have done what Tony Abbott, the member for Warringah, indicated in February 2010 that they would do. He said, ‘We should be spending less.’ That was his prescription for the GFC. He was not prepared to lead a coalition that would argue that, at its worst point, the economy needed the injection of cash that was required to keep it buoyant. They need to be called out for their failure on the economy.