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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4956

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (16:47): As we begin on the Treasury portfolio I note, having watched the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness deal with his set of estimates in this place, that he took the questions for 45 minutes and did not seek to have the time taken up by any of his colleagues to come along and waste time. I certainly hope that the Assistant Treasurer will be following the practice of the minister for trade. As you know, Deputy Speaker, it has been a tradition in this place that these estimates take place so the opposition can ask questions of the minister. The Assistant Treasurer has allotted, I think, just 30 minutes of the one hour, and we sincerely hope that he is not going to seek to avoid scrutiny by having his own backbenchers waste half of that time and provide only 15 minutes. We would commend to him the approach of the minister for trade, who did not arrange for any of his colleagues to come in and waste his time.

I would like to take the Assistant Treasurer to the budget bottom line. He would be well aware, of course, from helping put together these budgets, that after posting a budget deficit of nearly $44 billion in the 2011-12 year the Treasurer announced that the budget would return to surplus within one year. I would direct the Assistant Treasurer to the fact that he went further: when we had these estimates last year, he was in the process of sending out a newsletter to his electorate where he said, 'We've delivered a surplus on time as promised.'

What I want to know from the Assistant Treasurer is—assuming he knows that was a completely false statement, because you cannot say you have delivered anything until the end of the financial year—what action he has taken since then and whether he is taking any action in his post-budget newsletter this year on that very issue. Within that same newsletter, as well as talking about a number of other budget issues, he talked about increased family payments through family tax A. Can I ask whether he has informed his constituents that that promise was broken and it has not gone ahead in the budget? But could he firstly answer why he—we assume intentionally—put out a false statement, paid for by taxpayers' money, saying that a surplus had been delivered when he knew full well that that was not the case?