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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2727

Budget


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:01): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. I refer to the Prime Minister's pre-election pledge that there would be no change to pensions under a coalition government. Will tomorrow's budget break that promise, just like last year's budget?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:01): Senator Wong has, to a large extent, answered her own question, by confirming that the budget will be brought down tomorrow night. I would invite Senator Wong to wait and see what is in the budget.

What we have said to the Australian people is very, very clear, and that is that there is a task in front of us as a nation to ensure that budget parameters are brought into line. We as a government, we as a coalition, do not want to leave a legacy of debt and deficit around the necks of the next generation. The Australian Labor Party had us on a trajectory which would have seen this nation descend into $667,000 million worth of debt.

And, Mr President, do you know who the architect was of that policy? None other than Australia's worst finance minister ever, Senator Wong. Australia's failed finance minister, Senator Wong, has the audacity to come into this place and ask budget questions as though somehow she was the author of all expenditure rectitude. We know what Senator Wong left this nation. The Australian people understand what Senator Wong and the Labor Party left this nation, and we as a government are determined to fix that for the benefit of the next generation. What we also want to do is to ensure that there is fairness for those most in need, such as the pensioners of Australia—and they will be very well looked after in tomorrow's announcements.


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the minister is unable to confirm the Prime Minister's pre-election pledge on pensions, is he now able to confirm that the Prime Minister also pledged there would be no cuts to education under a coalition government? Will tomorrow's budget break that promise, just like last year's budget?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:03): I am not exactly sure I heard the senator correctly. I am not sure whether she asked about 'no carbon tax', something which she would be very well acquainted with and which she, as a government minister in this place, promised and then introduced and ran through this place—something which attacked the cost of living of every single Australian, including pensioners.

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Senator Moore on a point of order.

Senator Moore: Mr President, my point of order is on direct relevance. The question was specifically about the issue of education. I do believe the minister did mention the word as he sat down, but we would like to have an answer to the question, which was about education.

The PRESIDENT: I remind the minister of the question. Minister, you have 35 seconds in which to answer.

Senator ABETZ: Of course, the carbon tax impacted every educational institution in this country—a tax which has now been removed. But, what is more, I can inform the honourable senator that education in fact got a boost in last year's budget, and we will have to wait and see what happens tomorrow night. But the sort of unfunded trajectory that the Australian Labor Party had a lot of expenditures on was completely unachievable, and they know it. (Time expired)






Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:05): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to another pre-election pledge by the Prime Minister: 'There will be no cuts to health under a coalition government.' Will tomorrow's budget break that promise, just like last year's budget?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:05): Last year's budget did not breach that promise in any way, shape or form. What we did do, quite rightly, was reallocate funding within the Health portfolio to deliver better services to where they were needed. What we have with the Australian Labor Party is: when you see a dollar of health expenditure here that could be spent better over there for better value for the taxpayer, the Labor Party has the audacity to say that somehow that is a broken election promise. The health budget envelope remained, but we reallocated within it. Of course, I refer to the very good work of the Assistant Minister for Health in this place, Senator Nash, who did a very good job in that area.

In relation to health announcements tomorrow night, I remind Senator Wong again that she will have to wait until tomorrow night for any announcements in relation to health.