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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 850


Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (14:37): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. How is the government keeping our economy strong and helping Australians make ends meet? Can the minister outline what other opinions have been put forward and how these would impact on working people?

Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:38): I would like to thank the member for his question. In his electorate, courtesy of this government's reform of superannuation, 31,000 of his constituents can expect to increase their superannuation entitlements from nine per cent to 12 per cent.

There are three ways in which this government is assisting Australians to deal with the future and making sure that people can make ends meet. The first way is by achieving a surplus, the second way is by supporting jobs and the third way is by having a view about the future and a positive plan for the future. We are achieving surplus. In the last budget—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SHORTEN: I like getting a lecture from the other side about surplus—they have seven different positions on it! This lot opposite remind me of the bar scene out of Star Wars.

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will be directly relevant to the question.

Mr SHORTEN: In the last budget we had $22.6 billion in savings, and we are engaging in the fastest fiscal consolidation on record—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! Minister, resume your seat. Question time is an opportunity to hold the executive to account. Honourable members should listen to answers.

Mr SHORTEN: When you look at Australia's position compared to the rest of the world and you have a look at the Commonwealth net debt, you will see that we are doing far better. We are at 8.5 per cent. The Canadians are at 36 per cent. The Germans are at 57 per cent. The United Kingdom is at 77 per cent. Italy is at 100 per cent. Our net debt, courtesy of this budget and this government, is far lower than the debts of other nations.

But it is not just about the surplus; we are supporting jobs. That is why we have a manufacturing policy which stands up for the automotive industry.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SHORTEN: Those opposite may laugh, but their policy is to buy a white flag and a European car. We are also standing up for apprenticeships—130,000 new places next year. We are also standing up for industry and jobs by using the mining tax to help provide a tax cut for small business. This is the contrast when we talk about supporting jobs. The difference between Labor and Liberal could be no starker or clearer than when it comes to the mining tax. We want to use the mining tax to lift people's retirement savings. We want to use the mining tax to help small business. They want to use the mining tax to give a multibillion dollar tax break to billionaires.

We are the ones who have a plan for the future. We are the ones who are putting forward the National Broadband Network. We are the ones who are investing in innovation. We are the ones who are investing in superannuation. Indeed, we are the ones who are willing to challenge the banks when we do not agree with what they are doing.

The member for North Sydney made some comments today. He accused the government of being out of touch with the banks' funding profiles. We on this side note that he is out of touch with the funding profiles of working families.