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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8319


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:13): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Can the minister advise the Senate how international economic conditions are impacting on the government's plan to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I will give the minister the call when there is silence.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! If both sides wish to debate this, the time is after question time.

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:13): I thank Senator Singh for her question. Thanks to the Labor government's leadership, Australia has a very strong budget position—and this, of course, is a great strength during a time of global turbulence. But the government has made it very clear for some time that global instability will inevitably have an impact on our economy and on our budget. On Friday the Reserve Bank showed the weakness in the global economy was affecting our economy, with downgrades to its growth forecasts. Today, a report from Deloitte Access Economics shows how the budget revenues have taken a hit as a result of global pressures. The global instability is also impacting on confidence in the economy. It is making consumers more cautious and businesses more hesitant to hire, and all of that of course has an impact on our budget. But, despite the instability, the government remains determined to return to surplus in 2011-13 as planned. We understand that there is work to be done to ensure we meet this target, and the revenue downgrades caused by the global turbulence will make the job of returning us to surplus in 2012-13 more difficult. But we are determined to get there. This means we need to make further budget savings. The government is working towards putting together the mid-year budget update, which it will release before the end of the year.

Now more than ever a disciplined fiscal approach is absolutely critical. We have seen how the markets punished countries that do not have the same level of fiscal discipline as Australia. This government is delivering the fastest fiscal consolidation on record and through this we are providing more room for the RBA to cut rates if the global situation deteriorates further. The IMF, the RBA and global rating agencies continue to back the strength of our budget position and our strategy to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13, well ahead of our international competitors.

Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:15): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise what role the minerals resource rent tax will play in ensuring the benefits of economic growth flow to all Australians?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:15): In addition to our continuing fiscal discipline, the government is committed to ensuring that the minerals boom can deliver a proper dividend to all Australians. We understand that there are many Australians who do not feel they are sharing in the direct benefits of the mining boom. We also remember how many people from the resource rich states felt they had been left with little long-lasting benefit from the last boom.

The government's minerals resource rent tax is a historic economic reform that will spread the benefits of the mining boom to all Australians, no matter where they live and work. The benefits will include a $1 billion tax break for Australia's 2.7 million small-business operators and a boost in the super guarantee from nine per cent to 12 per cent for around 8.4 million workers—I underĀ­stand that this became bipartisan today, so that is a good thing. Also, there will be $1 billion of investment in new roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. Australians know how important the mining industry is, but they also know that they are our resources and we should share in the profits. (Time expired)

Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:17): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any risks to maintaining a strong economy and a secure future for all working Australians?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): The working men and women of Australia care about their jobs, their job security and the jobs of others. They know that this government is creating and supporting jobs and providing Australians with the skills and training they need to access the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future.

Labor understands how to keep our economy strong. But time and time again those opposite have shown that they are simply not up to the job. They are not able to understand the importance of keeping the economy strong. There is nothing more revealing of this than the opposition's failure to get their maths right; they are now planning to cut $70 billion of services—of education and health—from the budget. Australians will want to know why that is occurring. Australians will also want to know how they are going to fund the reversal of their position on super. We now know it is going to cost them $80-plus billion of cuts in services— (Time expired)