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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3507


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (14:25): My question is to the Treasurer. I refer the Treasurer to his claim in the House yesterday that gross debt will 'peak' at $356 billion. Given that page 9-7 of his own Budget paper No. 1 reveals the market value of gross debt will actually peak at $370 billion—$14 billion more—how can the Treasurer be taken seriously when he does not even know the simple facts about Labor's debt?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:26): Well you should have spent a bit more time actually reading the budget papers—

Mr Alexander interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Kooyong is warned!

Mr SWAN: and in particular that table, because what I was referring to was the percentage of GDP at 20.2.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order!

Mr SWAN: That is what I was referring to.

Mrs Mirabella interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Indi is warned!

Mr SWAN: This is simply part of the fiscal fearmongering by those opposite. The whole country knows that net debt here is low, it is small compared to net debt across other developed economies, at 11.4 per cent.

And it is not just the government that is saying these things. We have had the rating agencies commenting on the budget, which completely repudiates the line of attack that is coming from those opposite. This is what S&P had to say:

[The] government continues to demonstrate a commitment to prudent fiscal policy over the medium term. Given the low level of public debt …

Mr Hockey: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. It goes to the direct quote from the Treasurer yesterday where he said gross debt, the 'peak' is $356 million—

The SPEAKER: The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The Treasurer has the call.

Mr SWAN: Yes, at 20.2 per cent. And that is what the tables actually show.

What we have here is the fiscal fearmongering of those opposite. What I was reading from, before I was interrupted, was the judgement of the rating agencies. Here we go again; this is Moody's after the budget, 'Australia's relatively low level of government debt has been one of the factors supporting the AAA rating'. So this government has, for the first time in the history of the country, a AAA credit rating, a stable outlook, from the three major global rating agencies—not something ever achieved by the previous coalition government. That is because of the stewardship of this government, the way in which we have managed the economy in recent times. But they want to go around and exaggerate the levels of debt, and the purpose of exaggerating it in the way that they are is so that, if they get to power, they can go out and slash and burn when it comes to health and education. They want to pretend that our debt levels are not low; they want the excuse to rip out the social safety net and they want to follow a policy of austerity for austerity's sake.

But we have also had some commentary from another person over the last week or so. Even former Prime Minister Howard said our debt levels were low. Former Prime Minister Howard said that in the last couple of weeks. So stop the fiscal fearmongering. Give us some detail tonight, and when we do not see it we will know that you intend to hide your real plans from the Australian people.

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (14:29): Madam Speaker, I ask a supplementary question of the Treasurer, but in the meantime I am happy to seek leave to table the Hansard from yesterday where he is talking about $356 million. I am happy to do it.

Given the Treasurer now recognises that it is actually $370 billion of market gross debt, can the Treasurer advise the House what the face value of Commonwealth securities on issue will be for each of the years in his budget?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:29): At least he has finally admitted that he is quoting market value, which is not the value of the securities on issue from the Australian government. It is not the value. It is the face value that counts when it comes to the debt cap. And, of course, these matters are handled by the AOFM and you can go to their website any time you like and have a look at the face value of securities issued by the Australian government. Now they have decided that the face value is very important, but it was not a figure that was ever published by those opposite when they were in power. We publish because of the Charter of Budget Honesty, and because of all of the requirements of the ABS we publish the market value. But to pretend that there is some issue, if you like, with the face value issuance of our government securities is just part of their fear campaign.