Page 3977 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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You talked about wanting to see things in black and white. There are a few figures that I think are very good in black and white. At the moment the unemployment rate in Canberra is three per cent, and it is 5.1 per cent or 5.2 per cent nationally. They are good figures. In respect of this matter of public importance about how youth will be affected, if you were a young person coming into the job market, when would you rather have been coming in—under the Howard government, when unemployment is around five per cent, or back in about 1991 when the unemployment rate was up around 11 per cent and the youth unemployment rate was hovering around 30 or 40 per cent?

I know young people have done much better under this government, and I am sure they will continue to do much better as these changes take place. Once again, we have heard the line, “We will all be rooned. Mark our words; everything will be bad afterwards.” We heard that in 1996 and it was not true then. We heard it, I think, for the GST. Do you remember the roll back? That was going to be terrible. Had we brought in a broad-based consumption tax, that would have been the end of life as we know it. Life has gone on pretty well. The windfall money for the states and territories has of course been good. It was suggested that it was going to be terrible. That was not true either. You have to take with a grain of salt the Labor Party’s scaremongering on this issue.

We have seen three motions on this issue this week, plus a Greens motion, and they are all the same. They are all saying it is going to be terrible, yet look at the figures. We have five per cent unemployment, interest rates of six or seven per cent and record rates of economic growth. Mr Hargreaves says that we do not have to fix it, we should just stop; the job is done. The governments can all go home; we will leave it all exactly as it is now and never change anything again.

That is what Mr Hargreaves is saying, and that is what the federal Labor Party is saying to us: you made changes in 1995 and we did not like them. We said they were going to be terrible. Now we think they are really good. They are so good that you should not change anything. Don’t go and change anything; we’re done.” That is Mr Hargreaves’s view of government: you have achieved things, you have made changes that the Labor Party opposed which have worked, so we should rest on our laurels and never do anything again. That is not what I expect from government, whether it be the federal government, the ACT government or any other government. Reforms always need to happen. The reform process is never finished. So Mr Hargreaves’s view of the world of just stopping things in 2005 is not going to work and should be dismissed for the silly idea that it is.

Returning to the misquote I mentioned, Ms MacDonald was talking about Cardinal Pell. Mr Mulcahy may have covered some of this but I want to re-emphasise the point. Cardinal Pell was quoted as being against this legislation and saying how terrible it is. I watched him on television recently when he was at the press club. When asked a question about the changes he said that he did have concerns about some things but that these were matters of prudential judgment for governments. He said that he was sceptical in 1995 when there were workplace changes. He thought they would be bad but he had been quite surprised by how successful they had been—and how the market has responded and actually raised living standards for people.

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