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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3850


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:00): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister of her statement before the election, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Why should the people believe that her commitment to deliver a surplus is any more trustworthy than her commitment not to introduce a carbon tax?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:00): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question and I thank him for raising the question of surplus, because it is indeed the issue for today. The government's budget on Tuesday night showed that the government will bring the budget back to surplus in 2012-13, exactly as promised. It shows that we have taken the tough decisions necessary to deliver the budget to surplus—they are there in the budget papers for all to see. Since the government launched the budget on Tuesday night, we have seen members of the opposition running around with completely contradictory claims. On the one hand, they criticise the government on the question of surplus; on the other hand, they oppose every cut in the budget. And, of course, we have the shadow Treasurer's representation that he could get the budget back to surplus one year earlier than the government.

All of this charade, all of this mindless negativity, hits one big roadblock and decision point tonight. That is when the Leader of the Opposition gets to his feet to deliver his budget reply. He will walk into this chamber with no budget savings in his pocket. During the election campaign the Leader of the Opposition was out there claiming to the Australian people he had identified $50 billion of budget savings. As we know, Treasury said $11 billion of those savings were a big black hole. Indeed, one of the reasons the Leader of the Opposition is not the Prime Minister today is that the Treasury found he was an $11 billion risk to the budget. The rest of the savings identified by the opposition were committed to expenditure programs. They committed them to the Australian people in the form of new expenditure during the election campaign.

Let us just add up the maths. He said there were $50 billion of savings, $40 billion committed by him in new expenditure and $11 billion which was a big black hole. So the Leader of the Opposition will walk into this parliament tonight with no savings in his pocket. That means he has got only two options: he can identify savings, if he is going to criticise the savings of the government, savings that stand up to Treasury scrutiny, or he can endorse the government's budget. But what he cannot do is walk out of this parliament without having identified every number, every feature and every part of his budget strategy. He cannot do that.

The leadership test that the Leader of the Opposition faces tonight is a very clear one. He has to make transparent to the Australian people every figure he relies on, every figure he says would bring the budget to surplus under his leadership. We know he has failed these tests shamefully and woefully in the past. We remember the farce of last year's budget reply when he delegated to the shadow Treasurer, who delegated to the shadow minister for finance in a press conference even his press secretary could not bear to watch. Tonight is the only opportunity that the Leader of the Opposition has to show that he is not a risk to the budget surplus, a risk to the cost of living of Australian families and a risk to the economy. We await the budget reply speech.