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Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Page: 3641

Senator MOORE (2:31 PM) —Thank you, Mr President. I share in the congratulations to you and Senator Ferguson. My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr. Can the minister inform the Senate how blocking the government budget measures will affect Australian industry?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —Mr President, may I extend my congratulations to you and to Senator Ferguson on your election. The Labor Party makes no apology whatsoever for putting working families first. The centrepiece of our first budget, a budget which we now see those opposite seeking to destroy, was a $55 billion family package. We also have to recognise that one of the best ways of supporting Australian families is by laying a strong economic foundation for Australian industry. That is why we are so determined that the budget should be fiscally responsible. And that is why we have offset new spending measures with savings of $33 billion over four years. That is why we are ready to ensure that we do tackle the growing and glaring anomalies on the revenue side which are increasing the excise exemption on condensate, which has long outlived the purpose for which it was originally given. That is why we have lifted the luxury car tax—a measure which is expected to raise an additional $555 million over four years.

This budget demonstrates this government’s willingness to take tough decisions in the national interest. That is why we achieved the $22 billion surplus Australia needed to put downward pressure on inflation. The previous government—this is the legacy of those opposite—left this country with the great parting gift of an inflation rate running at some four per cent: a 16-year high. One can understand that they do not care about that, because they never look beyond tomorrow.

This is a government that does care. Our focus is on Australia’s long-term future. We understand that inflation is bad for Australian business. It makes costs unpredictable and planning for the future very difficult. It does increase risks. It also increases prices. It increases the price of capital. The point appeared to have been lost on the member for Higgins when he engineered 10 interest rate hikes in five years. High interest rates do not just hurt homebuyers and families; they also hurt business. They directly affect every firm’s bottom line and they put upward pressure on the Australian dollar, which makes our exporters less competitive.

The government has been making tackling inflation a policy priority because we want to give Australian families a fair go. We want to give Australian business a fair go and we want to give the Australian economy a fair go, too, in an uncertain international environment. We want to ensure that while allowing our businesses to prosper in these difficult times. And that is at the heart of this government’s budget strategy. What the opposition are trying to do is to destroy that strategy. They are displaying the same indifference to Australian industry in opposition that they showed in government. This is the time when we should stop trying to score short-term political points and start thinking about this country’s future.