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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11235


Ms GRIERSON (Newcastle) (14:50): My question is to the Assistant Treasurer and the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. What reform is the government undertaking to strengthen Australia's economy for the long term and how is it underpinned by a transparent and accountable budget process? What would be the implications if a transparent budget process were not followed?

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongAssistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation) (14:51): I thank the member for Newcastle for her question. I know she is interested in reforms to strengthen Australia's economy for the long term. In fact, if you want to reform the economy for the long term you have to get the fundamentals correct—fundamentals such as keeping people in jobs and creating jobs, fundamentals such as encouraging foreign investment, new enterprise and sustainable industries and making sure that you have strong fiscal settings and a robust budget bottom line.

It is because these fundamentals are strong today that we can do some of the long-term reforms that are required in our country for tomorrow, the next week, the next year and the next decade. Fundamental change such as putting a price on carbon pollution. Fundamental change such as a National Broadband Network to harness the potential of the digital economy. Fundamental change such as lifting compulsory retirement savings so that people in Australia do not have to work their whole lives and retire poor. Fundamental change such as improving our social welfare support and developing the foundations for a national disability insurance scheme.

Members opposite should by now be well aware that we intend to ensure that some of the Guinness book of record profits being made by some of Australia's richest mining companies are shared throughout the whole of Australia—through decreasing the corporate rate of tax, through supporting small business and through lifting compulsory retirement savings. That is the fundamental change we are talking about. Yesterday we announced further reforms of a fundamental nature to improve the superannuation system to make sure that when people are having their money compulsorily saved the investment managers, the fund managers, and all those who get to handle those investment retirement savings, do not charge excessive fees and excessive rates for handling people's money.

We are introducing new low-cost default superannuation funds called My Super. We will be consolidating accounts—the 30 million accounts which 11 million Australians have—and we will be improving the electronic back office of the administration of superannuation. We will be applying strong fiscal discipline and economic management to what we are doing. It is important that we have these fiscal frameworks. By establishing a new Parliamentary Budget Office, an independent costing service, we will have greater accountability and transparency in policy making.

For the first time ever, members of the opposition, individual members of parliament and senators, will have an opportunity to have an independent and confidential costing service outside a general election period and also during election campaigns. One of the reasons this change is important is we never again want to experience the sort of 2010 election campaign when those opposite tried to sneak through an $11 billion black hole.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Assistant Treasurer should be very careful. The Assistant Treasurer can debate the matter.

Mr SHORTEN: Obviously I would not wish to debate that unfortunate bit of history. When we look forward we understand that, whilst this economy is going very strongly, the world economic environment is still a precarious place. That is why it is important we are able to return the budget to surplus. That is why this government is engaging in the fastest fiscal consolidation that we have ever seen and why it is important that whoever wants to form the government is able to explain how they will fund their policies. That is why it is important that we do not have the $70 billion black hole that those opposite would inflict upon Australia.