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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7032


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:41): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. She has been a bit neglected today.

Senator Cormann: That's because she did a runner from climate change.

Senator MOORE: Maybe Senator Cormann can ask the question.

The PRESIDENT: Order! There will be no debate. When there is silence we will proceed.

Senator MOORE: Can the minister outline to the Senate what the impact on the Commonwealth budget of lower tax receipts in recent years has been and how the government has responded to this?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:42): I thank Senator Moore for the question. It is the case that governments at all levels have had to adjust to lower tax receipts in recent years. This government has responded by putting in place responsible savings measures and by prioritising the targeting of resources to where they are most needed. We have delivered more than $130 billion in savings over five budgets and we have done so by focusing both on responsibility and fairness. We have achieved $13 billion in public sector savings that focused on efficiency rather than job cuts.

I understand we have asked this parliament and the members of it to agree to some responsible savings measures. For example, we found over $2 billion in savings from more efficient and effective management of ICT; we have cut recruitment advertising by around $30 million a year since 2009-10; and we are spending $100 million a year less for four years in a row than the Howard government spent on campaign advertising in the year 2007. We are saving around $240 million from travel spending.

We also found savings through measures like means-testing the private health insurance rebate—opposed by those opposite. We found savings by reducing super concessions for individuals on high incomes—also opposed by those opposite—and by removing the ability for millionaires to access Commonwealth dental funding—also opposed by those opposite. If you want to see the priorities of those opposite you need to look no further than the state of Queensland, Senator Moore's own state, where we see savage cuts to nurses, doctors, firefighters, roads, transport, palliative care and even Vinnie's, with 14,000 jobs to go under a Liberal Premier who said that the Public Service had nothing to fear. (Time expired)

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:44): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline any alternative approaches to tackling the challenges of tough fiscal conditions. Will our government be following these alternative approaches?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:44): We will continue to focus on bringing the budget to surplus responsibly and carefully, focusing on getting our priorities right and focusing on fairness. The contrast with the alternative approach by those opposite could not be clearer. The coalition always cuts too much and they always cut the wrong things. We cut health insurance rebates for millionaires; they cut funding for breast screening. We cut campaign advertising and they cut spending on flood recovery in Queensland. We cut Tony Abbott's millionaire's dental scheme; they sack ambulance officers. This is, we know, a curtain raiser for Mr Abbott should he ever win government. If you want to know whether or not I am telling the truth on this you have to look no further than Senator Joyce, who himself said, when asked if the Newman government was a curtain raiser, 'Well, she is absolutely correct—' (Time expired)

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:45): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise how the government's commitment to the Charter of Budget Honesty underlines its constructive approach to finding savings and how this contrasts with alternative approaches?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:45): The reason Mr Costello introduced the Charter of Budget Honesty was to ensure the public knew what they were voting for. It was to ensure the public knew what the policies of the government of the day would be; but to date the only party in this parliament that has promised to adhere to Peter Costello's Charter of Budget Honesty is the Labor Party, because we know those opposite do not want people to know what is in the firing line for the $70 billion worth of cuts to frontline services. But to get some understanding of it you have to look no further than the coalition state governments—to the governments of Mr Newman and to the governments in Victoria and New South Wales—and you have to look no further than out of the mouth of Senator Joyce, the great coalition economic expert here. When he was asked today if Ms Gillard was correct when she said Mr Newman's budget was an Abbott government curtain raiser, Senator Joyce told ABC radio, 'Well, she's absolutely—' (Time expired)