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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 446


Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (2:10 PM) —My question is to Senator Conroy, the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the minister’s failure to inform the Senate yesterday, when asked, what the interest bill would be on Labor’s $200 billion debt. Has the minister been decisive and sought that information? If so, will he tell the Senate what this interest bill will be?


Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —I think that I answered that question yesterday, Senator Joyce; I think that I spelled it out. I read out what the increase was and gave you a very specific figure, so I am a little confused by that question. But perhaps the follow-up question might have a bit more substance to it.


Senator JOYCE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I find that answer quite indecisive. Given that the minister still cannot tell us what the interest bill will be, can the minister indicate whether the government has factored the projective bill into the Updated Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which was released on Tuesday?


Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —The government has been absolutely clear on this. To repeat it for you, on current projections, net interest payments are forecast to rise to $2.6 billion, 0.2 per cent of GDP, in 2011-12. That is the answer to the question.


Senator JOYCE —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. So $2.6 billion is the decisive answer. Given that the minister after one day’s notice has not been able to provide the Senate with the critical information for the long term, will he undertake to have this information available by the end of question time?


Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —I am a little perplexed because I have just given a very specific answer to the question. I guess when you already have the three questions written out in front of you and you get an answer and you do not how to deal with that answer you just have to read the next one out. But let me be clear: net interest payments, as I have just said, are forecast to rise to $2.6 billion, 0.2 per cent of GDP, in 2011-12. I do not know how much clearer I can be, Senator Joyce; I truly do not know how much clearer I can be.