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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 6008


Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (19:54): I am deeply frustrated, annoyed and bewildered by the lack of any substantive answer we have had. The minister just said in his recent response that these question periods should be about gaining insight into the budget—the most important document of the year. We have a cast of thousands here and I have had no insight given by the minister into anything. What he has said basically all night is a repeat of what was in the Treasurer's speech, which any year 10 student could google and get the answers that you have given tonight. I did seek to get some insight into the debt, I did seek to get some insight into trade training centres. They were legitimate, reasonable questions to ask in most cases why you have done it, to give us some insight.

Let me ask you about another area, the structural deficit. I would ask for some insight this time, not just a lot of pap in your response. Minister, why did the government not feature any significant discussion about the structural deficit or forecasts about the structural deficit in the budget papers as it has before? Does the minister accept that the current structural deficit is of the order of $35 billion, as can be deduced from the work done by Treasury a couple of years ago and added in a separate paper last year? Minister, have you seen that document from last year about a structural deficit? Does it worry you that this country has got an underlying structural deficit of $35 billion given that the forecasts on revenue are about as Pollyanna as you could ever get and they go out forever? Aren't you concerned if there is some reduction in the terms of trade greater than what is anticipated that the structural deficit may in fact lead to this country being lumbered with debt and deficits for a decade or more to come? Minister, given that the IMF and the OECD regularly publish these estimates of structural deficits, do you think that Australia should be able to do so and should do so? It is not an unreasonable question.

Mr Shorten: I'm glad you critique your own questions.

Mr ROBB: I am not getting any answer; I am not getting any insight. You can have your smart shots, but I would not mind answers to the questions. Finally, Minister, do you think it is possible that the terms of trade could fall from their current high levels given the supply response to resources that is building around the world, and what impact will that have on the $35 billion existing structural deficit? He was not even listening.

Mr Shorten: I'm sorry I did miss the last few minutes of Goldstein magic.

Mr ROBB: I rest my case.