TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — My question is to the Minister for Industry
and Trade, Martin Pakula. Can the minister outline to the house how the Brumby
Labor government is cooperating with the commonwealth government, businesses and
unions to support and secure jobs in these difficult economic times, and is he
aware of any impediment to that cooperation?
M. P. PAKULA (Minister for Industry and Trade) — I thank Ms Tierney for her
question. As the Treasurer and I have stated in this place on a number of
occasions now, we are in the midst of the worst financial crisis in 18 years.
The International Monetary Fund this morning dubbed it the ‘Great Recession’. As
I have indicated, our export markets are in turmoil. Global share markets have
halved. Consumer spending is down. We are in the midst of an unprecedented
credit crunch globally.
Mr O’Donohue — Stop talking down the economy!
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — That is rich coming from Mr O’Donohue.
‘Don’t talk down the economy’, from the party that takes every opportunity to do
nothing but talk down the economy.
Mr Finn interjected.
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — Mr Finn, we have said in here that we are
not immune from this global crisis, but we are better placed than most to
weather it. It is vital that in these times there is absolute cooperation.
Everybody needs to be working together — businesses, unions, governments and
oppositions — to support investment, to support growth, to support jobs and to
support consumer confidence.
The government is doing its bit. Yesterday I talked in here
about the export initiatives the government supports. I talked about the
aviation industry. I was very pleased overnight to see Qatar Airways announce
the commencement of daily services from Melbourne to Doha. That is another win
for the Victorian community and the Victorian economy on the aviation services
front. We have talked about the tax cuts — whether it be WorkCover, payroll tax
or land tax — the skills package, the innovation statement, the Victorian
transport plan, the infrastructure programs and indeed the planning reforms.
We are also cooperating with our counterparts in the federal
government, whether it is through the Council of Australian Governments process,
whether it is by cooperating on industrial relations reforms to provide
certainty to Victorian businesses, whether it is about freeing up credit in the
construction industry or whether it is in supporting the federal government in
its $42 billion stimulus package — the cash payments, the money for the
building of schools, the money for the building of social and defence housing,
the money for infrastructure or the investment tax breaks for business.
The opposition pretends that we ought to be
immune from the global crisis, but it also either opposes or plays political
games with every job creation project that this government puts in place in this
state. We have seen it on the channel-deepening project, a project that provides
jobs in the agricultural area that Mr Drum represents, where the opposition sang
one tune to Blue Wedges and another tune to the Victorian Employers Chamber of
Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group — and it got caught
out. We have seen it in the food bowl modernisation project, providing water
security and jobs in Ms Lovell’s electorate, which the opposition opposed
Mr Atkinson — On a point of order, President, the standing
orders require ministers to answer without debating and without reflecting on
members of the opposition. This minister continually brings in debating points
and has actually gone as far as mentioning individual members of Parliament,
linking them with his debate. I ask you to return him to the question.
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — On the point of order, President, where I
have mentioned opposition members of Parliament I have talked about their
electorates and the benefits the government’s job packages provide to their
electorates. The other part of the point of order is that the question
specifically asked me about any challenges and impediments that I foresaw in the
government’s job projects.
Mr Atkinson — Further on the point of order, President, the
minister has reflected on those members and on opposition policies.
Unfortunately the opposition not in a position to affect any of those issues, as
he well knows. The reality is that he has not been talking about electorates,
but has specifically tackled members.
Hon. M. P. Pakula interjected.
The PRESIDENT — Order! Thanks for that assistance, Minister.
The reality is I do accept that the minister may just be
starting to debate a tad, but I do not accept that he is reflecting on or
engaging in some overt criticism of the opposition. He is stating some facts as
he believes them to be in reference to their seats and the like. I do not
believe that is in the category of reflecting on or is overt criticism of the
opposition. I remind the minister of the issue of debating the question,
although I think, as I said, he is only just getting to that point.
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — President, I will continue without
referring to members by name. The point is that this government has brought to
the table job creation plans, whether they have been the Victorian transport
plan or the VIM statement — the Victorian industry and manufacturing statement
— the planning reforms, the skills package, the desalination plant or indeed
the government’s support for the federal government’s stimulus package. With all
those measures the opposition has either outright opposed them or played
politics with them.
It is not just the Labor Party that has its concerns. Recently
I read something that Roger Corbett, the former head of Woolworths, had written.
He is hardly a red-ragger. He is not what you would call a Labor acolyte. Mr
Corbett called on the New South Wales and federal oppositions to get out of the
way of attempts to stimulate the economy. And then in the Age just a couple of
weeks ago Mr Brian Welch from the Master Builders Association said, ‘When
talking about — —
Mr Atkinson — On a point of order, President, citing these
examples of other people’s commentary is clearly part of a debate structure in
the answer to this question. It has nothing to do with the government’s policy
or the minister’s responsibilities. He is drawing on independent commentary at
random to pursue a debate in answer to the question.
The PRESIDENT — Order!
I remind the house that a minister can answer a question in any
way he or she sees fit, as long as he or she is relevant to the question that
has been asked.
Mrs Coote — There aren’t any ‘shes’. They got rid of them.
The PRESIDENT — Order! And it might be a long time before we
see any more, too. But right now I think Mr Pakula is still within the
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — This is absolutely on point, President,
because it is about jobs, jobs, jobs. Mr Welch, when talking about the decision
of the government to fast-track community projects, said:
- While many in the community have voiced concern about the government’s
decision to begin fast-tracking community projects, the consequences of doing
nothing will be far worse.
And talking about the opposition, he said:
- By opposing this economically responsible intervention, the opposition and
the Greens have placed themselves in the position of defending Australia’s
worst-performing councils, which are simply incapable of responding to this
crisis. This reeks of political opportunism.
‘Reeks of political opportunism’, President. I understand why
Mr Atkinson might not want to hear that, but they are the facts. I think this
tactic of the opposition of being all things to all people
is finally catching up with it.
Mr Atkinson — On a point of order, President, the minister is
clearly attacking the opposition and has focused entirely on the opposition in
this answer. He has not at all gone to matters of government business or his
The PRESIDENT — Order! I think on this occasion Mr Atkinson is
about 80 per cent right, and on that basis I remind the minister accordingly. I
uphold the point of order.
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — I will wrap up by saying this: we have
seen examples of restraint and cooperation across the community, whether it is
between state and federal governments, whether it is employers holding on to
staff for as long as they can or whether it is between unions and employers.
Just today we have seen both the shop assistants union and the
Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union announce that they are prepared to
look at phasing in wage rises over the next five years, and that means, for
instance, that in the hospitality industry jobs will be more secure; whether it
is at the European across the road or the Cuckoo in Mount Dandenong, jobs will
be more secure as a result of those decisions. Everybody except the members of
the opposition gets this message of restraint, cooperation and a focus on jobs.
When the Liberals talk about jobs, my advice is to cover your ears, and that is
why Mr Austin said in the Age today they have shown few signs — —
The PRESIDENT — Order! Minister, enough! The minister is
finished, I assume?
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — I am done.