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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6782

Mr BILLSON (DunkleyMinister for Small Business) (10:00): I am happy to present and speak to the Treasury portfolio expenditures and appropriations, an important part of the government's economic action strategy.

You have heard it said before, but it is important to make the point again, that we need to implement the economic action strategy to help build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia. The budget actually seeks to address some of the what are now uncontested challenges that are part of the financial trajectory that the previous government left for the incoming Abbott government. We have heard the Parliamentary Budget Office make the point about how important the need is for action and timely action. We have even heard the opposition leader acknowledge that there is a task to be dealt with. We have heard other expert commentators describing the need for us to take responsible, modest but thoughtful action now so as to guard against the debt and deficit trajectory that had been left for us by the previous government.

It is important to recognise where we are starting from. There is that joke where they talk about—

Mr Bowen interjecting

Mr BILLSON: No, no! I would reject any suggestion that Treasury is a joke! They take their work very seriously, and I am appalled to hear from the shadow Treasurer that he is having a go at the Treasury when they do great work—

Mr Bowen: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The point of order is that the minister misled the House. I said the Treasurer, not the Treasury, and he well knows it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Randall ): There is no point of order.

Mr BILLSON: If he could just pay the reasonable courtesy of not interjecting otherwise someone might not hear his shrill interjections clearly! I accept the clarification that the shadow Treasurer has provided—

Mr Bowen interjecting

Mr BILLSON: and I apologise if I have in any way mis-characterised his poor-mannered interjection, but that is a discussion for another day!

It is important to remember what the debt and deficit trajectory is that Labor has left for this country and for the incoming government, and how we have had to deal with those budget settings—those expenditure predictions and the debt forecasts—that see us on track, if no action is taken, to accumulate a gross debt projected to rise to $667 billion.

For those who are listening, let us round that up to $700 billion—that is, seven with 11 zeroes! It is an extraordinary amount of debt and the nation has little to show for it. It recognises the profligacy and the desire to spend and spend and spend some more, not having to realise that there is a need to finance that expenditure. And where it is expenditure that is not funded by revenues from today, as reflected in the historically large series of deficits that the previous government oversaw, that then incurs expense for the nation, our country and for future generations.

I recognise that Labor may not always have appreciated the harm that it was causing. I do not think it is in anybody's wish or will to disadvantage subsequent generations by being irresponsible in decision making today. I am not suggesting that Labor was consciously aiming to create the problem that it has left for this country. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. But the lesson is clear: we have seen this before. We have seen Labor go down this pathway and leave it for an incoming coalition government to fix the mess: to make sure that we all make a contribution today to build our prospects and our opportunities for the future—to deliver the great promise of our country, and that is opportunity, prospects for a better life and a better quality of life for subsequent generations.

It is now recognised that if action is not taken we are diminishing that prospect and those promises for subsequent generations. So I am pleased to be here to communicate once again not only the case for action but the thoughtfulness in the particular measures that are being presented to this parliament and to the Australian public. As I travel around the country, I am constantly reminded of the call from the citizenry for political leaders that take a longer term view, that speak frankly about the circumstances and canvass the options before our nation, that the parliament does think about building our capacity for the future and is making important decisions today that might not be easy but are crucial to our longer term prospects. That is what the nation and its citizens ask of me, and I am sure that they do of you too, sir. This budget does all of those things. It is not without its challenges to communicate the importance of some of these measures, but it is crucial that we get an understanding across to the Australian public that if we want those better prospects for the future this budget, now the Economic Action Strategy, is to be implemented.