Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 200

Budget


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:30): My question is to the Minister for Finance. Can the minister confirm that since the election the government has determined to provide $8.8 billion to the Reserve Bank to give a tax break to Australians with superannuation balances around $2 million and to reopen tax loopholes enabling profit shifting and other tax minimisation behaviour by large companies? Can the minister advise the Senate what is the impact of these decisions over the forward estimates?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:30): I can indeed confirm that the coalition government is hard at work to fix up Labor's budget mess. I can confirm that we are hard at work, in a methodical, careful and orderly fashion, making decisions that strengthen our economy and that repair the budget mess that we have inherited from the Labor Party. Unlike Labor, which inherited a budget with no debt, with a $20 billion surplus, with cash at the bank, this government inherited a budget with a $30 billion deficit and growing, with net debt heading for $200 billion and beyond, with gross debt heading for $300 billion and beyond, without the government having taken the prudent and appropriate steps to ensure that the government was able to borrow the money necessary to fund the operations of government.

Senator Conroy: Mr President, I raise a point of order on relevance. The question was very specific. It asked: what is the impact of these decisions over the forward estimates? The senator has been going for nearly half his time and has not once attempted to address the question, so I ask you to invite him to address the very specific single question that was asked.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. I believe the minister is answering the question. I am listening to the minister's answer. I call on the minister to continue.

Senator CORMANN: Thank you very much, Mr President. Of course, in answering these questions directly and in a relevant fashion it is always important to provide the appropriate context in which we have had to make those decisions. I can confirm what has been publicly announced, and that is that we have provided a grant of $8.8 billion to the Reserve Bank, which was the responsible decision to make, given Labor recklessly and irresponsibly depleted the reserves of the Reserve Bank and made a whole series of other bad decisions.

The former minister for finance very well knows that budget positions are updated in the usual way in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which will happen before Christmas. Let me just address one other point that was raised in that question.

Senator Conroy: Mr President, I raise a point of order on relevance. There may have been the odd occasion in the past where you have invited me to address the question, but even I would have been embarrassed by avoiding the question this directly. What are the estimates over the forwards? That is a very specific question and, with 20 seconds left to go, I invite you to get him to have a stab at it.

The PRESIDENT: Can I say firstly that flattery gets you nowhere! Secondly, can I say in applying the standing orders I have been listening to the minister's answer, I believe the minister is addressing the question. The minister still has 17 seconds remaining. I call on the minister.

Senator CORMANN: Thank you very much, Mr President. Of course, Senator Wong and Senator Conroy well know that the budget estimates are updated in the usual way in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. That is what this government will do. But let me just reject one other inaccurate assertion. Labor's tax on earnings from superannuation— (Time expired)








Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:34): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to his comments on 22 October where he indicated that the budget position is deteriorating. Can he please advise the Senate of how much the budget has deteriorated since he became minister?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:35): I can confirm that we inherited a budget in a mess from the Labor Party. And not only did we inherit a budget that was in a mess we inherited a budget that was deteriorating at a rapid rate as a result of the bad decisions that were made by the former government. Furthermore, yes, we have been forced to make a series of decisions to fix the bad decisions, to fix the messes created by the Labor Party. As the Treasurer has said, every time we open another cupboard we find some more spiders that we have got to clean out. Every time we open another drawer there are some more Labor spiders that need to be sorted out. This government of course is committed to repair the budget mess that we have inherited from the Labor Party. I have to say, Senator Wong, you are very courageous, may I say, to bring up a question about the state of the budget when you are the minister—

Opposition senators: You!

Senator CORMANN: Senator Wong was the minister who presided over a budget blow-out of more than $107 billion in the three years that she was the minister for finance— (Time expired)



Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:36): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. I note the minister is unable to indicate by how much the budget has deteriorated since he became minister. How does the minister expect the Senate to agree to a $200 billion increase in the debt cap when he refuses to provide this basic information about the current budget position—basic information about the current budget position that the Minister for Finance is unable to provide.


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:36): The Labor Party are even more reckless, if that were possible, in opposition than they were in government. I refer the minister to their own economic statement released before the election, which showed that gross debt as a result of Labor's budget, Labor's mismanagement, was heading for $370 billion. I also refer the minister to advice read out by the former Treasurer Mr Swan in the House of Representatives that as a matter of prudent financial management there should be a buffer of $40 billion to $60 billion above the expected peak debt. In 2012 the former Treasurer read that advice into the House of Representatives Hansard, and she might care to have a look at it. So when the Labor Party irresponsibly and recklessly comes in here and says that they would only approve an increase in the debt limit to $400 billion, when we are cleaning up your mess, Senator Wong, is irresponsible. (Time expired)