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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2178


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:07): My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister guarantee that the government's debt limit will not exceed $300 billion?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:07): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. I think it follows exactly a question asked to the Treasurer yesterday, which was answered yesterday. What I can say to the Leader of the Opposition, and what of course is always the backdrop to these questions from the Leader of the Opposition, is that the opposition fails to recognise that, as a result of the global financial crisis, as a result of circumstances in our economy, including the sustained high rate of the Australian dollar and the pressure it is putting on manufacturing, tourism and some other industry segments, we are seeing revenue write-downs.

What the government will always do in these circumstances is focus on jobs. I had the opportunity a little earlier today to make a major statement about our focus on jobs, on putting the jobs and opportunities of Australians first—that is what we will always do.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:08): Madam Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Given that the debt currently sits at $263 billion and is costing taxpayers $12 billion in interest payments each year, does the Prime Minister agree with her Treasurer's statement that further increasing the debt limit would be 'no big deal'?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:08): The Leader of the Opposition chooses to take words out of context and to twist the meaning of what the Treasurer said. I refer the Leader of the Opposition to the Treasurer's full answers in this parliament.

I would also say to the Leader of the Opposition: if he wants to be taken seriously on questions of budget accounting, if he wants to be taken seriously on his often-stated desire to return to surplus, then he cannot at the same time come into this parliament and oppose savings measures. We have been treated to the farce over the last few days—

Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I note in passing that in fact the Leader of the Opposition is the only person at the dispatch box who has an economics degree, but putting that to one side for the moment—

A government member interjecting—

Mr Pyne: Well, where's your economics degree from? The point of order is that the Prime Minister was asked a very straightforward question—

The SPEAKER: Order! The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The Leader of the House will resume his seat. That was an absolute abuse of the right to take a point of order. If you had come to the dispatch box and asked for relevance, I would have actually said the Prime Minister should return to the question before the dispatch box. But, if everyone wants to keep using the word 'you' in respect of their economics degrees: mine is from Melbourne Uni. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. You can tell already it's Thursday from the student politics performance we are seeing over there. Any time that the Manager of Opposition Business wants to come and look at my academic transcripts, studying economics at Adelaide and Melbourne universities, he is more than welcome to—in fact, I think I still have the textbooks in the shed; he can have those as well.

But to the Leader of the Opposition—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! If individuals would like to hear an answer, we do need silence. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: To the Leader of the Opposition: no-one is going to be reassured about his competence because he went boxing and played rugby 30-odd years ago. A reassurance about his economic competence would be taking a consistent approach to questions of surplus— (Time expired)