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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 8650

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (15:21): Mr Deputy President, through you, I would like to thank Senator Payne for sharing with us her thoughts about TV programs. But we are actually here today taking note of answers, to talk about the economy—because that is what question time was largely about today. The minerals resource rent tax was always likely to be a volatile tax. The PRRT did not generate the dollars that it was expected to at the time that it was introduced many years ago. In fact, it made about half the amount of revenue that was forecast. I am somewhat surprised that those opposite seem to be so opposed to the idea of progressive taxation as opposed to royalties on Australia's mining companies—particularly at a time when we know that commodity prices have fallen. We want to keep strength in the Australian economy, and it completely befuddles me why those opposite do not subscribe to the idea of progressive taxation—taxation based on profits, which have clearly fallen given the fact that commodity prices have fallen. It is not within their economic rhetoric. I do not believe that those opposite, when they were in government, taxed nearly enough of the super profits that were made by many of Australia's mining companies. Frankly, I would say the same of my own state Labor government under its royalties regimes. The simple fact is that this government has delivered a surplus. Those opposite have tried to argue that there is no surplus. We have just delivered a midyear economic forecast with billions of dollars worth of savings to return the budget to surplus as forecast. We are committed and we are very much on track to deliver it. This is really very important, because a budget surplus gives the Reserve Bank the flexibility that we want them to have to keep interest rates in this nation low—as it has several times in the past year when it has cut interest rates. This is of maximum benefit to the Australian economy and to Australian households.

What we are about are fiscal settings that will always be appropriate for our economy, for the nation and for the jobs that we seek to create. That will never change. These are Labor's values and Labor's priorities. That is why this government stepped in to support the economy at the height of the global financial crisis. We have had some debate today about the so-called success of the stimulus package. It was successful, and it is proven by the 200,000 jobs that were saved at a time when many economies around the world were losing jobs hand over fist.

What have we got from the opposition at this time? What have we got when it comes to their economic fundamentals? We have a Liberal Party with a $70 billion budget crater. We know, because they said it on Sunrise, and they have never been able to refute it. We have a party that has botched their costings, and we have a party that voted against the stimulus package—voted against the very measures that have saved hundreds of thousands of Australians' jobs and have kept momentum in our economy. If we had taken their advice during the global financial crisis, we would have been in recession and I think we would be in a much greater state of deficit. It would be much harder to come to surplus, because the momentum would be completely sucked out of the economy.

We should not forget that official interest rates are now less than half the level that the government inherited from those opposite. That speaks to our good economic management and the fact that we are making the right decisions to put downward pressure on interest rates. We have a proven track record of putting in place the fiscal settings that are appropriate for our economy. (Time expired)