Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Senate's verdict? I think they'll pass it

Here's the report, brought down last night

A snap inquiry has evoked the spectre of the Great Depression in a bid to get the Senate to pass the government's $42 billion economic stimulus package "as a matter of urgency".

Delivered to Senators late yesterday ahead of tomorrow's vote, the inquiry's report says any delay could render the package too late.

"The world is facing the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression," the report says. "Every major advanced economy is now in recession."

"Without timely implementation of this plan, the Australian economy could stall."

The Labor-authored report quotes testimony from Tax Commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo who said that if the proposed March and April tax bonus payments were delayed they would become impossible to deliver quickly...

"The period between now and April is relatively short," Commissioner D'Ascenzo said.

He would have to redevelop his systems, work with Australia Post, work with the Reserve Bank and work with the tax profession.

"All that can be done prior to tax time, but once we get into June-July, I do not think I could do both at the same time. One would have to be deferred," he said.

Coalition members dissented, arguing the package was "too early", involved too much debt and was poorly targeted.

They called on the Senate to reject the package "as a whole".

"The Government should then present to Parliament a package that is more modest, better targeted and which contains components that would genuinely improve productivity, assist in genuine job creation and raise living standards," the Coalition minority report says.

The comments of Greens Leader Bob Brown, Family First leader Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon each indicate a willingness to negotiate with the government, although Senator Brown complains that the time given to consider and agree to the package is "too short".

"Given the amount of money and preparation time in the stimulus package, it is
reasonable to expect that preliminary information could have been provided prior to its introduction to the House of Representatives on February 4."

"Over the last few days a range of groups and individuals have presented valuable suggestions on how the package could be more effectively structured. The Government would be well advised to give greater opportunities to tap this wisdom," Dr Brown says.

Family First leader Steve Fielding supports the idea of a stimulus package but says it directs too little support to the 100,000 Australians that it acknowledges will lose their jobs.

"Family First has been discussing with the government diverting $4 billion in the
package to a new plan investing in local communities which would help create jobs for these forgotten 100,000 people."

"These are human beings whose worth cannot be defined by numbers on a calculator," he says.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says the economy is "in need of a stimulus package, and it needs to be introduced promptly".

He wants a review of the effectiveness of the December's stimulus package, an extension of the proposed subsidy for home insulation to other energy-saving measures, and spending directed to the Murray Darling Basin.