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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4012


Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (14:25): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the case of 84-year-old war veteran Mr Alan Collis, who before Christmas needed major surgery on his face. His veteran's transport failed to collect him from his place of residence to undergo urgent tests, because the government has reduced the minimum payment for contractors transporting veterans to and from medical appointments. Are these cuts the inevitable consequences of her government racking up $167 billion in budget deficits?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:25): I would obviously be very pleased to get from the member the details of the incident he refers to and I will investigate it fully. I am very happy to do that. On the broad assertion made by the member, perhaps the member should recognise that the world has been through a global financial crisis, the biggest economic event since the Great Depression of last century. As a result of that global financial crisis hitting economies around the world, including our own, the amount of revenue coming to the government has been fundamentally reduced. That is understandable. You see economic activity reduce, you see businesses under pressure and you therefore see revenue coming to the government also reduced. So the global financial crisis certainly did hit into the government's budget by way of billions and billions and billions of dollars of reduced revenues. It was also hitting into our real economy, which meant that we could have seen thousands and thousands of people lose their jobs, become unemployed—young people who did not get—

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Prime Minister was asked about the priority her government gives to aged and infirm war veterans, and she is straying very far from the question she was asked.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister said that she would take on notice the specifics of the question asked by the honourable member. I think she was indicating why it might be necessary for there to be some cuts. The Prime Minister is straying and she will return to the question.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The second part of the question reflected on the government's budget management and so I am explaining circumstances in relation to the budget. Of course, when you look at the budget you have to look at money coming in and money going out and, whilst those opposite refuse to recognise it, because of the global financial crisis there was a reduction in revenues flowing into the government. Until the opposition recognise that, they should be viewed as a hopeless joke in the economic debate because that is transparent to anyone who has high school economics or even less.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will be directly relevant.

Ms GILLARD: Faced with those budget circumstances we have done a couple of things. We have moved to stimulate the economy to keep people in work. We as a Labor government think jobs are important; those on the other side could not care less about working people having jobs.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will return to being directly relevant.

Ms GILLARD: Mr Speaker, in order to have prudent budget management we of course have worked hard to make sure that across the government's budget we are taking an efficient approach to government expenditure. I will certainly respond to the individual example raised if the member gives me the full details. Generally you can rely on the government to run the government's budget in the interests of working people. It is a very stark contrast to the privileged few billionaires who are always on top of the Leader of the Opposition's list.