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Thursday, 10 May 2012
Page: 3123

Budget


Senator SHERRY (Tasmania) (14:10): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Can the minister advise the Senate how the budget will continue to benefit all Australians? Are there any other budget alternatives and what would their impact be on families?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:10): I thank Senator Sherry and also congratulate him on his career.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!

Senator CONROY: The Gillard government is returning the budget to surplus on time as promised. The Treasurer has managed to do this despite the vandals opposite and despite the global uncertainty ripping $150 billion from government revenue.

Senator Cormann: Scrolling, scrolling.

Senator CONROY: We know that Mr Abbott has scrolled you off the page of the ERC process, Mathias, so you keep scrolling merrily. Importantly, this is a budget that provides a surplus for families and not from families; it provides the Reserve Bank with the maximum flexibility to reduce interest rates further if they support it. Importantly for families and small businesses across Australia, interest rates are now lower than at any time under the previous government. Our economic fundamentals are strong. Unemployment is at 4.9 per cent today. Inflation remains within the RBA's target and the economy is forecast to grow at around three per cent per annum. In contrast, the test for Mr Abbott, and the opposition, tonight in his reply is not to squib it. Those opposite should show us their cuts. They should come clean with the Australian people.

Senator Heffernan: Mr President, I think it is breaking standing orders to read the answer. We know you can read, but we want to know if you can think and talk at the same time.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order, Senator Heffernan; you know that. Senator Conroy, you have 14 seconds remaining.

Senator CONROY: Mr President, I am not surprised that those opposite want to try to shut down the answer. I am not surprised, because they do not want to come clean. They do not want to tell us on the back of the $70 billion self-confessed black hole where they are going to find the other $15 billion. (Time expired)








Senator SHERRY (Tasmania) (14:13): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate on the government's treatment of the National Broadband Network, a network which is so critical to the future of my home state of Tasmania?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:13): Mr Turnbull has once again willingly misled the public with his false claims of a blow-out and a fiddle in relation to the treatment of the NBN in the budget. His claims that $450 million of additional departmental expenditure in 2011-12 has been brought forward are simply false. The payments are made to Telstra under the terms of the definitive agreement. This is neither new nor news, as those agreements came into force on 7 March 2012 and their treatment within the budget was outlined in a press release distributed on that day. Similarly, the claim of a $400 million blow-out in equity is false, as it simply reflects the equity funding of $350 million deferred from 2011-12 to 2012-13. (Time expired)


Senator SHERRY (Tasmania) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline this year's budget funding allocation to the Special Broadcasting Service, SBS, and how this funding boost will help SBS continue to serve audiences across Australia?

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I hesitate to raise this in Senator Sherry's last question to the senator, but aren't these supposed to be supplementary questions? The first question was about the budget, the next one was about the NBN and this one is about SBS. What is the supplementary nature of those, apart from the minister, who pretends he knows a little bit about it all?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, if you look at the primary question you will see the supplementary questions have both been in order.




Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:15): Thank you, Mr President. The SBS is one of Australia's most important cultural institutions. As part of the 2012-13 budget—

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: A left-wing cultural institution!

Senator CONROY: I will take that interjection from Senator Fierravanti-Wells and her description of SBS as left wing. The Labor government is providing $158 million over five years to ensure that SBS remains a vibrant and dynamic national broadcaster and to enable the launch of a new Indigenous free-to-air television channel. This is the most significant funding boost that SBS has ever had. It will allow SBS to continue to provide innovative television, radio and online services, including high-quality programming such as the recent Logie Award-winning series Go Back to Where You Came From.