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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 457


Senator MARK BISHOP (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Senator Sherry. Can the minister update the Senate on responses to the government’s $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan, including any alternative views?


Senator SHERRY (Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law) —As is well known, the Labor government, acting decisively, has announced a $42 billion nation building and jobs package in response to the global financial and economic crisis. We know that the Liberal opposition have announced they will oppose this, largely on the grounds of budget deficit and accrued government debt. However, what we have had from the opposition in the last day is a major superannuation announcement. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Turnbull—this was confirmed last night—and the shadow minister, Mr Pearce, have announced a new approach to superannuation. They are arguing that the government should in fact pay the superannuation guarantee obligations of a substantial proportion of businesses in Australia. This is their new proposal. I have here a copy of the press release on the opposition’s new proposal to pay superannuation entitlements from the budget for a substantial proportion of Australian businesses. At the end of this press release, however, there is no cost as to this proposal.

Of course I thought that Treasury should be asked to cost this. It is truly staggering, given we have an opposition that is complaining about budget debt and government debt, what the Liberal opposition proposal on superannuation would cost the nation were it to be adopted. In the initial two years of the superannuation proposal of the Liberal opposition it would cost some $20.5 billion—and this was the announcement made last night. Over three years— (Time expired)


Senator MARK BISHOP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question of the minister, arising out of his response. Can the minister further update the Senate on any other aspects of the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan and on uncosted alternatives to this plan?


Senator SHERRY (Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law) —The Liberal alternative superannuation plan would cost, over three years, $31.5 billion. Over four years, which is about the same time as the Labor Party’s $42 billion package, the Liberal superannuation policy would cost $43 billion, a larger cost—in a superannuation policy from the Liberal opposition—than the Labor Party’s $42 billion plan. And this is from an opposition which argues we should not have such large budget and government deficits! (Time expired)


Senator MARK BISHOP —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister update the Senate on any measures the government is taking to support small business in these difficult times?


Senator SHERRY (Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law) —If we add that $43 billion costing for the new superannuation plan announced by the leader of the Liberal opposition and the shadow minister, Mr Pearce, to the already announced proposals of the Liberal opposition, which have come to $15 billion, that means the grand total of the Liberal Party announcements to date to stimulate the economy comes to some $58 billion.

Government senators interjecting—


Senator SHERRY —That is significantly more than the Labor Party’s $42 billion package.

Government senators interjecting—


Senator SHERRY —We have Liberal Party senators coming in here complaining about the cost of Labor’s—


The PRESIDENT —There is too much noise. Order on my right!


Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr President—


The PRESIDENT —I am calling for order, Senator Macdonald. When I have order I will give you the call.


Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I want to help the questioner by asking you to direct the minister to actually answer the question he was asked. So far the minister has not mentioned, has not referred to, the subject of the supplementary question.


The PRESIDENT —The minister has 12 seconds left in which to answer the question. I draw your attention to the question, Minister.


Senator SHERRY —Thank you, Mr President. I understand why the Liberal opposition are now concerned about recent policy announcements: they are obviously not aware of the costings of their own policy announcements. So we are going to have a $43 billion super policy, and I think the leader of the Liberal opposition— (Time expired) 


Senator Barnett —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The minister has consistently throughout his answer referred to Treasury costings and has not tabled those costings. I ask you to ask the minister to table the evidence of those costings.


The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.


Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.