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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1455


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:34): My question is to the minister for finance, Senator Cormann. Is it a fact that 2012-13 was the year when the former Labor government promised more than 500 times to bring the budget back into surplus? Can the minister inform the Senate about the financial position of the Australian government at the end of 2012-13?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:35): I thank Senator Seselja for that question. It is indeed a fact that the former Labor government promised on more than 500 occasions that 2012-13 was going to be the surplus year. But, as always happens under Labor, they kept promising surplus budgets and they kept delivering more deficits. None other than Senator Wong, after she became the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, less than a month into the job, said to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, 'The return to surplus is not negotiable.' The following year she said that we are 'on track'. She promised that the three out-years from 2012-13 onwards would all be in the black with surpluses growing each year. Just this time last year on the ABC Insidersprogram, Senator Wong—the then Minister for Finance and Deregulation—said, 'Our position has never changed.' She said the budget update was 'on track' to return to surplus and, 'Over the forward estimates those surpluses continue to grow.'

The consolidated financial statements for the Australian government for 2012-13 actually show that the coalition government's last budget in 2007-08 had a fiscal surplus of $22.3 billion that went to a deficit of $27.9 billion.

We had an underlying cash balance in our last year in government of $24.6 billion. That turned into a $19.5 billion deficit. By 2007-08, the coalition had delivered six successive surplus budgets. This is Labor's fifth successive deficit budget. There is, of course, one more Labor deficit budget to come, and we will provide an update on that next week. (Time expired)

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:37): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister able to explain the reasons for the fiscal deterioration and further explain how these figures compare to results for previous periods?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:37): Thank you very much, Mr President. The reason for this deterioration is that Labor spends too much in government. There was too much waste and too much mismanagement. If you look at our last period in government, we paid off Labor's debt, we delivered surplus budget after surplus budget, we cut taxes, the economy grew more strongly and we created more jobs. And what happened after six years of Labor? Of course we only have here the report card of five years of Labor, but, in that time, debt ramped up, we had record deficits, we had 43 new or increased taxes, economic growth slowed and unemployment went up. Turning this around is going to be a significant challenge for this government, but it is a challenge that we are committed to meet. Once the Australian people are able to see next week the true state of the budget that we have inherited from the Labor Party, we will repair the budget mess that we have inherited from the Labor Party.

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:38): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate how this failure by the previous Labor government to return the budget to surplus affects the current budget challenge facing the government?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:39): The situation that we have inherited from the previous government is very challenging indeed. In the 11 weeks from the budget in May to the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook in August, the budget position deteriorated by $33 billion—$3 billion a week. We know that this reckless and irresponsible Labor opposition is now opposing $20 billion in savings measures, and that brings me to another quote from Senator Wong: She said:

… it is irresponsible and dishonest to call for a surplus, but block responsible savings measures that would deliver it.

Will you support our saves, or has Labor walked away from its commitment to a surplus? You are opposing $5 billion worth of savings that you banked in your budget, and, now, you are too weak; you do not have the mettle to make them happen.