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Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9539


Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:02): My question is to the Minister for Finance and the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. Will the minister please advise the Senate of the most recent expert opinion on the need to repair the budget and also on the example set by any particular state?

Senator Lines: Oh—would that be Victoria?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:02): The Labor senator there from the great state of Western Australia—

Senator Conroy interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy!

Senator CORMANN: is quite right. The state that is leading by example when it comes to living within your means as a government and when it comes to building a stronger and more prosperous economy is none other than the state government in Victoria. So, Senator Lines, I am very pleased to note that even Labor senators in this chamber have realised that the Napthine Liberal-National government has been performing strongly when it comes to providing good financial management, good fiscal management, and when it comes to taking Victoria forward, strengthening the Victorian economy.

When we came into government in September last year, we inherited a budget in a mess. The Labor Party left behind $123 billion in projected deficits, $667 billion in government gross debt within a decade and rising beyond that. They forced us to pay more than $1 billion in interest payments a month, just to service the debt that Labor had accumulated in that period. We have set out to repair the budget because we want to protect living standards for Australian families. We want to build a stronger economy. We want to create better opportunities for our children and grandchildren for the future.

We are very mindful that, particularly at this time, as we are facing global economic challenges which are impacting on our revenues, it is even more important than before that we get our spending growth trajectory under control and that we get our debt growth trajectory under control. In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook in December last year what we set out to do was to explain the real state of the budget, using realistic budget numbers, and Labor said that we were being excessively pessimistic—that somehow the numbers were not realistic enough and we were just trying to make the numbers look bad. Well, look at this—we were actually, as it turns out, too optimistic about what Labor left behind, and none other than the Parliamentary Budget Office confirmed so yesterday.

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question.

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Senator Bernardi, you have the call.

Honourable senators interjecting


Senator BERNARDI: Should I wait for Senator Wong to finish interjecting?

The PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you. Thank you, Senator Bernardi.

Senator Conroy: So Senator Conroy's getting it wrong now?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left and right!

Senator Conroy interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy!

Senator BERNARDI: I refer to comments by Labor's shadow minister for finance on Sky News today that Labor's strategy to repair the budget involved higher taxes on superannuation which: 'Labor had put in place.' Will the minister advise the Senate whether any such higher taxes on superannuation have been legislated?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:05): Well, I sat there this morning in my office, working through some files on how we can repair the budget mess that Labor left behind. I was having my Weeties on the side, and I nearly choked on my Weeties—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator CORMANN: as I sat there listening to the shadow minister for finance suggesting that they had fixed the budget by increasing taxes on superannuation, and that they actually had put those taxes in place! Well, it is true that there was a big battle inside the Labor Party, with Mr Crean against Ms Gillard and everybody at each other's throat, attacking each other about the class warfare that the Gillard government initiated. I think even Senator Carr got in on the act at the time. It is true that Mr Shorten, on the back of a coaster wrote up a bit of a brain snap on how he could go back with his hands into the pockets of people across Australia saving for their retirement. But you know what? He banked it in the budget; he never legislated it. As so often with Labor, they are all talk and no action.

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:06): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to comments made by the same shadow minister that Labor put in place tax measures to deal with multinationals shifting money across to tax havens. Would the minister be kind enough to advise the Senate of whether any such measures had actually been put in place?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:06): The short answer is: 'No.' Labor was all talk and no action. They said they would do this and would do that, and they did not. You know what they said they would do? They said that they would stop giving a tax subsidy to multinational companies earning more than $20 billion a year for research and development. They said they would scrap the tax subsidy that is currently in place—they never legislated it. And now that we are trying to do the hard work for them, they are opposed to it. That is the modern Labor Party: they try to walk on both sides of the road.

Some of the measures of that report on the tax front—when we came into government we said, 'Okay, how are they going to be implemented?' Treasury officials were very embarrassed. They said, 'Minister, these measures that Labor announced and banked revenue in the budget against are unimplementable.' In the end, we had to draw a line; we had to deal with all of the Labor spiders that we inherited. We had to fix all of the problems that we found when we got in, and we are working to repair your mess. (Time expired)

Senator Kim Carr: Come on! You're shovelling money out to your mates!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy.

Senator Conroy: It was him.

The PRESIDENT: No, it is your question, Senator Conroy.

Senator Conroy: I thought you were calling me to order again. Dear oh dear! I thought, 'How unfair'. But I appreciate that. Seriously, I thought you were just picking on me as usual.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on both sides!

Senator Conroy: I am just so used to it.

The PRESIDENT: It rolls off the tongue very easily. Senator Conroy.