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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5229


Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (17:25): I want to begin this contribution by asking some questions of the Assistant Treasurer with respect to finance. It goes to the heart of the government's transparency or lack thereof in the presentation of the budget.

I would like to draw the Assistant Treasurer's attention to the persistence in the budget of the Treasurer himself and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation in defining savings not only as expenditure reductions, which everyone out in the Australian community understands, but also tax rises. This is something that has not been commented on a lot.

I draw the Assistant Treasurer's attention to not just the budget papers but the press release issued in his name on budget night that talks about new savings a number of times on tax issues. The point is quite obvious. This is a deliberate deception conceived by this government. In fact, it is not something it has slipped in to; it was conceived in the very first budget in 2008 where this new definition was adopted for the first time.

As you would appreciate, Deputy Speaker Symon, in everyday households if they are planning their family budgets and they want to save some money, they have to spend less on something they are spending on. They have to spend less, they have to reduce spending or they have to eliminate something entirely. No household, no small business, no business counts an increase in revenue as a saving. But that is exactly what this government does and it does it deliberately because it wants to try and con the public into thinking that it has made greater expenditure reductions than it has and it wants to try and conceal its tax increases.

I have referred to the Assistant Treasurer's press release. I have referred to the fact that this is a practice that was invented by this government.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Proceedings suspended from 17:29 to 17:42

Mr TONY SMITH: I continue my comments on the government's deception in its budget papers in defining savings as both expenditure reductions and tax increases. Yesterday, in this very committee, the Assistant Treasurer repeated this deception. He said that there were a little over $40 billion of budget savings over the next four years. I make the point that, of that more than $40 billion—it is about $42 billion on the government's dishonest figures—60 per cent of these deemed savings are new or increased taxes, $25 billion in the next four years.

I ask the Assistant Treasurer why he persists with this practice, why the government deliberately set out in 2008 to try to deceive the Australian public and why he is comfortable repeating these falsehoods, as he did yesterday here in this chamber. As I pointed out in my earlier contribution before the division, it is something that a few in the media have picked up on; it is not just the opposition. In fact, towards the end of last year, in The Weekend Australian, Peter van Onselen made the point:

Finally, a few uncomfortable facts that puncture Labor's artificial narrative of economic success.

"Savings", as Labor MPs keep referring to them, include tax increases, not just spending cuts. Average voters would consider such rhetoric tricky.

I ask the Assistant Treasurer to respond.