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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7023

Australian Securities and Investment Commission


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:05): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. I draw the minister's attention to a report released today by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission warning that it is not sufficiently well funded to protect investors by conducting adequate surveillance of investment banks, insurers, financial planners and auditors. In the light of the global financial crisis, is the minister confident that ASIC has adequate funds and staffing resources to do the job the Australian people need it to do?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:06): Thank you, Senator Milne, for the question. The government made some decisions around the resourcing of ASIC, I think, in the last budget; but I will check—perhaps not in the course of this question but certainly afterwards—for some further detail on this. We are conscious of the importance of resourcing all our regulators appropriately, given the task that they are asked to undertake. I would also make this point, however: as the Senate would know, we make those decisions in terms of funding of all our financial system regulators in the context of a constrained fiscal environment, and one in which the government has had to deal with a very substantial write-down in revenues over a number of years. Our budget decisions are made in that context.

I would make this point: Australia's financial system did weather recent events well, in terms of the global financial crisis, and came through that crisis in much better shape than almost any other advanced economy. Obviously, that is a tribute to not only our institutions but also our regulators more broadly, as well as the cooperative culture that our regulators seek to have with our financial institutions.

In terms of particular requests of funding for different entities, obviously the government is faced always with a request for further resourcing for many institutions within government and we have to prioritise those. We have done so and we will continue to do so in terms of decisions to be made in the future.


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for her answer and note her reference to the constrained fiscal environment. So I ask: when the government struggles to find funds to properly resource vital institutions like ASIC, is it appropriate for the Treasurer to use his economic note this weekend to boast that the government is collecting $24 billion less in tax revenue this year than the Howard government did in its final year?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:08): With respect to the senator, I am not sure that I would use the verb in the way she has. It is a matter of fact that we are a lower taxing government than the coalition. That is a matter of fact. The statistics bear that out. On this issue, we do part company with the Australian Greens. We think that you do have to be responsible in how you levy taxation and the way in which you construct your revenue base. Regardless of other policy decisions that people may discuss, the reality is that the global financial crisis has hit revenues across the world, in advanced economies and in developing economies as well. Obviously, when you have asset values taking the hit that they have taken globally and domestically, that is going to reflect on and flow through to your revenues; similarly, to other heads of revenue. The reality is that revenues have been hit in this country and in other countries by virtue of the GFC and subsequent global financial volatility. (Time expired)


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I note the minister's answer there, but, given the Prime Minister's warning that Premier Campbell Newman's devastating Public Service job cuts are just a curtain-raiser for what Tony Abbott would do as Prime Minister, can the minister commit to raising enough revenue to invest up-front in major positive social reforms like Denticare, lifting Newstart and funding schools? And will the government rule out similar cuts to the Public Service in the upcoming MYEFO?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:10): I would make a few points. Unlike some in this place, we take the responsibility, as a party of government, of finding the funds for socially progressive policy, and we have done so. This is the government which has introduced things like the Paid Parental Leave scheme, the government which is putting in place a tax cut for every Australian earning under $80,000 a year, a government which is implementing increased superannuation and a tax break for low-income Australians for their superannuation, and I could go on. And we have found, in very tight fiscal circumstances, $1 billion for the National Disability Insurance Scheme launch. These have all been done without the sorts of cuts that we see to frontline services in coalition states.

I should also perhaps just return to the first question. I refer the senator to Budget Paper No. 2 where she can see the increased funding of ASIC for advanced market— (Time expired)