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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 352


Mr HOCKEY (North SydneyThe Treasurer) (15:56): Let me deal with a couple of issues here. The shadow Treasurer talks about being open and honest and responsible. Why did the Labor Party have a $300 billion debt limit when they forecast in the budget the debt would go to $370 billion? Why would you go out and buy a house and finance it on the basis that you will be able to raise $200,000 of debt but the bank will only give you $100,000? Why would you do that? Why would the Labor Party do that? Because they do not understand the implications of what they are doing.

I want to give you this promise. I will not bring down a budget that has projected debt that is greater than the debt limit. I will not do that. As you know, the AOFM has advised that you need to have a buffer of $40 billion to $60 billion for refinancing purposes. You do not even understand that. You just said they only ever issue for the year they have got to fund, but actually they have also got a whole lot of other challenges in funding as well, including off-budget funding. I really wonder about this.

In relation to the Reserve Bank, yes, I accept responsibility for the decision on behalf of the government. We do not need to hide behind advice. The Governor of the Reserve Bank will appear before the House Standing Committee on Economics, and you can ask the Governor of the Reserve Bank about that. Then you can ask the Secretary of the Treasury before estimates next week about the debt limit, and you can ask him about the advice that might have been provided to the government in relation to the Reserve Bank Reserve Fund.

But we are not going to be like your government in a whole lot of areas. One of the areas we are not going to be the same as you were is that we are not going to hide behind the advice. We are going to say, 'We accept responsibility for this decision, and this decision is in the interests of the nation.' That is how we are going to behave.

So, if you want to argue about the Reserve Bank Reserve Fund funding, let us argue about it. You tell me why they should not have that money, why the Reserve Bank Reserve Fund should be at 3.8 per cent. You explain that. You explain why the Reserve Bank should be in a position where it cannot deliver dividends for as far as the eye can see and why it has to work damned hard to replenish the Reserve Bank Reserve Fund in the face of potential headwinds coming out of Europe and the United States. You explain that to the Australian people. If that is your policy position, you explain it. But, when it comes to process, Labor are hiding behind a fig leaf, because they always treated the debt limit as a debt target. Last night I could not sleep too well and I wondered who the hell introduced that $75 billion debt limit in the first place. It was old buggerlugs. How about that!

And do you know what he said to the parliament when he introduced the $75 billion debt limit? He said, 'This government doesn't need to raise debt to finance its spending.'

Mr Bowen interjecting

Mr HOCKEY: I haven't finished with you! You were the one who introduced the $75 billion debt limit. And then, just weeks before the election, he announces that the debt is going to $370 billion. But he wants us to be in a position where the can is kicked down the road.

We will not go down the path of the United States. We will not have the parliament kick the can down the road for another moment of attention, if it needs to come to that, to deal with the debt limit. We will not allow that to happen, because we are offering the Australian people stability and certainty, and the Labor Party is offering the Australian people, as they did in government—they are now in opposition—more debt and more deficit. And the Labor Party is going to stand in the way of every attempt to fix up the budget. They trashed the joint, and now they are stopping everyone from going in and trying to fix the house. That is unacceptable. That will be unacceptable to the Australian people. It will be unacceptable, at the end of the day, to the markets. I say this to the member for McMahon and I say this to the Greens: I am keeping to my word that we will not under any circumstances deliver a budget that has forecast peak debt that is higher than the debt limit. And if the Labor Party wants to play games on this, then they can also accept responsibility for the cuts that will need to be made to Labor's expenditure, which is associated with the challenge of trying to live under Labor's poor debt cap.