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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4064

Mr HOCKEY (2:18 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Does the Treasurer stand by his statement of 20 May this year that the peak debt will be $315 billion?

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I will start off by saying that the government absolutely welcomes this debate about deficit and debt—we certainly do. By the end of the forward estimates, net debt will be $188 billion or 13.6 per cent of GDP. By 2013-14, net debt will be $203 billion or 13.8 per cent of GDP. If he wants me to go on and talk about gross debt, I am happy to do that as well. In 2013-14 it will be $315 billion.

These are matters that were raised by me in numerous interviews last week. Why were they raised and why are they relevant to questions in the House today? They are relevant because this country has had imposed on it a collapse of revenues by $210 billion over the forward estimates. That is why it is necessary for the government to borrow to support jobs, to support business and to support our economy at a time of national need because of the global recession.

Those opposite continue to wander around Australia with the pretence that if they were in government they would not be borrowing right now. We all know that that is a falsehood; it is absurd. But those opposite will simply not fess up and admit that if they were in government now they would be borrowing every single dollar that we have had to borrow and they would not pay it off one day earlier than this government. But they want to, for their own political reasons, continue this farce that somehow if they were in government at the moment they would not have to borrow. The responsible thing to do for the Australian people to support employment and to support business is to borrow and then chart the course back to surplus, which is exactly what this government’s budget does.

We had a couple of outings from those opposite over the past week. First of all, at the end of last week we had the address-in-reply from the Leader of the Opposition. Then we had the shadow Treasurer wandering off to the Press Club for his traditional reply. There were three words that were not spoken in either of those speeches, and those three words were ‘alternative fiscal policy’. There was no alternative fiscal policy put by the opposition in either of those two outings. Given the magnitude of the economic challenge faced by this country, this should not have been a normal reply from the opposition. Given their critique of the government, they had an obligation to put before the Australian people an alternative, and they did not. Fronting up to a budget reply in the middle of a global recession, whether it is the Leader of the Opposition or whether it is the shadow Treasurer, without an alternative fiscal policy is a bit like the jockey turning up to the Melbourne Cup without a horse.

They stand absolutely naked in this debate. They pretend they have an alternative fiscal policy, but at the end of the day they will borrow every dollar this government has been forced to borrow and they will not pay it off one day earlier, given their lack of commitment and given their lack of guts. The one thing we do know is that they have not got the guts to chart the course back to surplus, like this government does, which is why we took the hard decisions in the budget to bring the budget back to surplus and to look after the long-term interests of this country.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the Treasurer was asked a brief question which required a brief answer. It has been going on for over five minutes. I would ask you to draw him to a close.

The SPEAKER —The Treasurer has concluded his answer.