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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4957

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (16:55): I have been in the parliament now for nearly nine years and since the Labor government came to power in 2007 I have to say I have watched budgets being brought down in some rather interesting economic times, particularly globally. I watched budgets in the heart of the global financial crisis, in the threat of a possible breakup of the euro, the US fiscal cliff, whether there would be a double dip—budget after budget in really quite volatile global economic circumstances, and we have seen the global economy struggle quite a bit in the last few years. Now we have a persistently high dollar which is putting pressure on a lot of manufacturers in Australia. We have saving levels for consumers cutting back to normal, which is also withdrawing cash from the local economy. One could say we have a fiscal environment that is a little more challenging than it was in the precrisis period due to weaker nominal GDP growth, a fall in the tax share of GDP and a challenging environment for most of the non-mining sector. The government has a lot of work to do to ensure fiscal sustainability and is doing that by achieving budget surpluses on average over the medium term, keeping tax as a share of GDP below the 2007-08 average and improving the government net financial worth over the medium term.

On top of those things, which are incredibly important, the government is focusing on supporting jobs and growth in the short term. Again this is incredibly important. I point to the success of the government during the worst of the global financial crisis in keeping three per cent of my workforce in work on the school halls and public housing build alone, an incredible contribution to the families in my electorate.

In addition to those things, we are also moving ahead on some major enhancements such as the National Plan for School Improvement and DisabilityCare and critical infrastructure. We hear debate in the community from time to time about whether or not those things should be done at this moment. About a month ago I heard representatives from the opposition saying that we should delay some of those things until times were better. That is an interesting comment. I am going to ask the Assistant Treasurer to comment on those things. Why is it important while maintaining a responsible budget to support jobs and growth in the short term? Why is it also important at this time to undertake those important long-term structural decisions to fund initiatives such as disability care and school funding reform?