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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1966

Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:08): While Senator Wong is still in the chamber, I was wondering whether she could qualify, with the term 'detonator', whether there was a 'b' before the 't'. Perhaps, if you would like to write it down, Senator Wong, you will see the humour.

On a much more serious note—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator RUSTON: One thing that never ceases to amaze me when we have this particular debate about debt is that I am not quite sure what the opposition want. On one hand, when we come into this place and try and put in some tough measures to try and restore the budget, they throw a whole heap of mud at us and say, 'You can't do that; you're being too tough in the budget'. Now, when the Prime Minister has acknowledged that a softer approach will occur at the next budget, we are being attacked because we are supposedly being too soft. I am not quite sure what the opposition wants us to do.

Senator Wong rose a moment ago and spoke about the debt situation. I congratulate Senator Wong. She is about to become a parent again in a few weeks time. I know that, as a parent, I am certainly not going to spend and build a debt that I am going to make my children pay. The one thing that responsible parents do, just like responsible governments should do, is live within their means. To stand in here and suggest that it is responsible to continue on building and increasing the level of debt this country so that our children and their children have to continue to pay it off seems a little bit odd, because I am sure that nobody in this place who is a parent would do that to their children. Therefore, I do not believe that any government should be doing it to their people.

We talk about the debt to GDP ratio and the comment that the debt to GDP ratio in Australia, at the moment, is probably not as high as it is in some of the countries that we trade with. One of the things that we have to remember is that the rate at which our deficit is increasing is much, much higher than the rate for the majority of countries that we do business with. Whilst things may be okay at the moment, if you have the fastest rising deficit, it does not take a rocket scientist to realise that in a minute we will have a debt to GDP ratio problem. We also need to remember the fact that Australia is an extraordinarily trade-exposed nation. It is a country that relies extraordinarily on exports. So therefore we are not in the same position as many of our trading partners overseas, or the countries which we benchmark ourselves against in this particular space. I think we just need to be very careful that we compare apples with apples.

Unlike those opposite when they came into government in 2007, we came into government with a massive debt. They came in with a surplus. They had money to spend, and so they did. They spent it; they certainly spent it. We came to government with a massive debt and an increasing deficit. We thought that a very sensible thing for all responsible governments is to do something about our debt.

Senator Conroy: There's no cause for alarm with a 60 per cent debt ratio.

Senator RUSTON: Senator Conroy, I do not know whether you bothered to listen to what I was saying. Our deficit is increasing at a rate far faster than in most other countries around the world.

We have a plan. The coalition have a plan for the economic future of this country. The plan is that we want to deliver jobs. We heard today in question time that the Victorian Labor government is prepared to waste in excess of $1 billion not to build a road.

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator RUSTON: If that is sensible economic practice, Senator Conroy, I am afraid that I missed the economics lesson that you must have gone to when you were at school. All that the irresponsible behaviour in this space is going to do is push the issue to the next generation.

In the Intergenerational report that has just come down, we were given three quite clear scenarios. One was where the budget position was going under those opposite. It was going to end up with a Greece type outcome. That is something I do not think any of us would want for our country or our children. Another was that we could end up with a budget position which was what was proposed under last year's budget— (Time expired)