Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:29): Australia, undoubtedly, in the face of a tough couple of years, has one of the most outstanding economies in the world, which is currently just 0.2 per cent smaller than it was in December 2019, in the prepandemic stage. And, of the advanced economies of the world, we are bettered only by the US and France in that growth rate. I might point out at this stage that the reason that the going has been tough has been the COVID virus. In the US they’ve had 800,000 deaths, and in France they’ve had 119,000.
In Australia, we’ve had 2,000. I’m quite content to sit at number 3 on that growth rate if that’s what it means.
This has been an economic miracle built on the foundations of our performance in combating COVID-19, and we have one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world, currently at about 87 per cent fully vaccinated. I might point out that over 99 per cent of the over-60s in Australia are now fully vaccinated. That is a remarkable achievement, and it’s been achieved despite the political attacks on the government and, lamentably, on the quality of the vaccines throughout the vaccination program. Remember the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, virtually barring Vaxzevria—that is, the AstraZeneca vaccine—from Queensland, throwing red meat to the anti-vaxxers and seeking to destroy public confidence in a perfectly good vaccine that has saved millions of lives worldwide. By Labor’s assessment, the national vaccine program was late, it was bungled, it was botched et cetera. Guess what? It was delivered on time. The Prime Minister nominated the end of October, back in December 2020, as the time that the vaccination program would be complete. Here we are today on 1 December, and we, by any calculation, are at the complete stage. We may have missed it by a couple of weeks, but it’s been delivered on time, and the management of the pandemic, compared with the OECD average, has saved 30,000 lives in Australia. Compared ourselves with the US and the UK, it’s estimated, we’ve saved 45,000 lives.
So today’s result on the national accounts for the September quarter, showing a 1.8 per cent reduction in GDP, is hardly a surprise as it came from the time when our two major states—over half the population of Australia—were in lockdown because of the delta outbreak. The Australian economy is not a basket case. It is a miracle, and we should all be proud of it because, while wages growth is important, having a job, keeping a job and being able to get a job are far more important. In Grey, I can tell you we have vacancies from one end of the electorate to the other. We are screaming out for workers, so if anyone’s out there wanting a job I suggest they come and visit us. As sure as night follows day, where you have tightness in the labour market it will lead to higher wages.
Unemployment is currently at 5.2 per cent in Australia, which is slightly up, by 0.6 per cent, from the previous assessment, but it is on the back of those lockdowns. We already know that this lift in unemployment and the drop-off in the GDP is a blip, as all the economic indicators are already pointing up. It was a mistake of the Labor Rudd-Gillard years—and they made plenty of mistakes, I might point out—that they were so focused on ‘short-termism’, and here they are again responding to every ripple in the road, if you like, and trying to generate a headline a day about the short-term response, when they really ought to be focused on the long term. That’s how you get policies like pink batts and cash for clunkers, for instance. How do we know this is a blip? Because we already have the information that tells us it is a blip, that 350,000 jobs have already been created since September, that we’ve seen a 4.9 per cent lift in retail spending and that $100 million has been invested in the non-mining sector, with accelerated tax write-offs and whatever has generated that investment.
So, after the predictions of the member for Rankin, for instance, when JobKeeper was going to finish and he said hundreds of thousands were going to be thrown out of work, what we found out was no-one was thrown out of work and the jobless rate continues to decline. As it does, wages will increase.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr Fre elander ): The time allotted for this discussion has concluded.