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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 2947

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:12): I also rise to take note of answers by government senators to questions from coalition senators. I listened with great interest to Senator Bilyk and I noted the challenges that she made in talking about how last night they delivered a budget for working Australians. This budget is all politics. It is a political budget. It is a budget that is determined to save a government with deep internal divisions and leadership instability. It is a government that is in trouble, and the thing that a government in trouble does when it starts panicking is splash money around.

Everybody knows, as Senator Bilyk rightly points out, that people like it if you offer money to them. They think that is a great thing. But it is incumbent on government to be responsible in how it spends taxpayer money. It needs to be able to use the fiscal tools it has available to it to try to create an economic environment in which business can thrive, wealth can be created, jobs can be created, people can get jobs and money can move around. In an overall sense, they need to grow the cake so that everybody has an opportunity to partake in a strong economy, get a good, secure job and be able to look after themselves and their families. Irresponsible decisions such as when govern­ments take great slabs of money and throw it all around in a desperate attempt to cling on to power in the falling days of their govern­ment just do not cut it. It smacks of political desperation. There is a lack of any coherence in this budget and a lack of any narrative, which suggests that this government does not have an ongoing, long-term plan to put Australia on a long-term, stable economic footing.

The senator also talked about returning to surplus on time. She seemed to be labouring under the misapprehension that the government has actually delivered a surplus. But the fact is that all that happened last night was that the Treasurer handed down a piece of paper that predicted a surplus which we will not know about until about September next year, at which time the election will have come and gone and the Australian people will have had no opportunity to determine whether that surplus was delivered.

Looking at the Labor Party's record on surpluses, even under the current term of this Labor government since 2007 the Labor government have handed down surplus predictions. The Treasurer has stood up in parliament in the other place and said, 'We will deliver a surplus.' Has he? No. In fact, it has been something like 23 years since the Labor Party have actually delivered a surplus, despite predicting a surplus on more than one occasion while in government. There is a world of difference between the Treasurer standing up in the other place and saying, 'We will deliver a surplus on time,' and delivering that in actual fact. Before we know whether a surplus will be delivered, we need to see how much money came in and how much was spent. If you look at just the current year, they started off predicting a $12 billion deficit. That has blown out over the course of MYEFO and other updates to a current fiscal position as of last night of a $44 billion deficit. As Senator Ryan said, goodness knows what that will actually be when we find out what it is in the end. It is on a massive upwards trajectory. It is likely to be in the 50s.

So when the Treasurer stood up last night and said, 'We are returning to surplus on time,' and when Senator Bilyk stands up in this place and says it, it is laughable that anyone would believe it. Their record shows that anything they predict will fail to be delivered. Just in this current year they have a black hole of over $20 billion in their budget. They have a $22 billion black hole in their budget.

That leads to the next issue I want to raise, and that is, as the minister was discussing, the increase in the debt limit. We have gone from $75 billion to $150 billion to $200 billion to $250 billion—and now we have to go up to $300 billion. You do not need to increase your borrowing limit if you are spending less than you earn. If you are spending less than the amount of money that is coming in, you do not need to ask for a bigger overdraft. It is just farcical. It is an admission on the government's own part when they say, 'We need to increase the debt limit,' that they do not expect that the $1.5 billion will actually be delivered. They are building in, hidden amongst the appropria­tion bills, this $50 billion increase in the hope that nobody will notice it, because they acknowledge themselves that their debt will go higher. (Time expired)