Australia’s parliament narrowly passed a A$42 billion (US$28 billion) stimulus package yesterday in a bid to stave off recession in the face of the global economic crisis.
The parliamentary approval leaves the government free to immediately implement its spending plans, with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stressing the need for swift action throughout protracted negotiations during the bill’s passage.
Rudd was jubilant after parliament backed the plan, saying the package was in the national interest and would help Australia’s center-left Labor government fight the global economic recession.
“The most irresponsible thing to do today, with the worst global economic recession since the 1930s staring us in the face, would be to do nothing,” he told parliament.
The package includes spending of A$28.8 billion on schools, housing and roads over four years, tax breaks for small businesses and cash handouts of A$12.7 billion to eligible workers, farmers and students.
Rudd said the Australian Treasury estimated the plan would boost economic growth by 0.5 percentage points in from last year to this year and between 0.75 percentage points and 1 point from this year to next year, supporting up to 90,000 jobs.
“Without parliament’s support for this plan, growth would be slower and unemployment would be higher,” he said.
The Australian Senate, or upper house, had rejected the package late on Thursday when independent senator Nick Xenophon voted with the conservative opposition against the plan.
But Xenophon gave the package his crucial support yesterday, allowing the bill to sail through the government-dominated lower house.
Xenophon changed his stance after intense negotiations with the government that stretched through Thursday night and into yesterday morning.
The government finally won him over by pledging A$900 million in funds for the drought-stricken Murray-Darling river basin, which feeds into the senator’s home state of South Australia.
“I’ve persisted and I’m pleased to say I believe we have been able to reach a compromise that, while not giving everyone what they want, may give everyone what they need,” Xenophon said.
The opposition has labeled the stimulus package financially irresponsible and said it would drive the budget deep into deficit, saddling future generations with debts.
Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said the package, which includes a A$900 cash windfall for many taxpayers, was Rudd’s attempt to stave off recession using “collective retail therapy.”
“Our children and their children will pay for all of it,” he said. “The prime minister is plunging our nation into enormous and unprecedented debt. Billions of that debt will be incurred for measures that will have no enduring economic effect.”
JPMorgan economist Stephen Walters said the package’s passage was good for market confidence, even though it contained few surprises.
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit
‘SIGNAL TO ALLIES’: The US Navy’s exercises are not in response to those carried out by China, the commander of the strike group led by the USS ‘Ronald Reagan’ said Two US aircraft carriers were yesterday conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy said as China also carried out military drills that have been criticized by the US Department of Defense and neighboring states. China and the US have accused each other of stoking tension in the waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from COVID-19 to trade to Hong Kong. The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement. It did not say exactly