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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8326

Carbon Pricing

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:39): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. What in dollar terms will be the impact of the Gillard Labor government's carbon tax on the budget balance over the forward estimates? Mr President, to assist the minister in being directly relevant in her answer, I highlight that I am only seeking from the minister a dollar figure.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:40): I do not have the fiscal tables, which are in the EM, in front of me, but those fiscal tables, which were distributed in the revised explanatory memorandum, set out both the impact in terms of the fiscal balance and the underlying cash balance as well as the impact on revenue and receipts. If the senator is going to an issue which he raised with me previously, which is the impact on—

Senator Abetz: No, he's not.

Senator WONG: Senator, if you would let me respond. Do you want to ask the question, Senator Abetz?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, ignore interjections. They are completely disorderly. If people wish to debate the issue, the time is at the end of question time.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, a point of order on the grounds of relevance: Senator Birmingham clearly said all he wanted was a figure. The minister has said she has not got the figure, so she should be sat down; she cannot answer the question.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. Senator Wong, you have one minute and 29 seconds remaining.

Senator WONG: As I said, the budget impact is set out in the fiscal tables associated with the EM. You will see in those, Senator, and I think we were discussing them in the chamber, both the impact on the UCB and the fiscal balance. I am happy to read them all out if you want. This is inclusive of government measures, because we of course have separately costed those which were the MPCCC measures. The fiscal impact, which is table 3, is 4,424 over the forwards—that is, 2,940, 1,061, 1,607 and 938 over the forward estimate period. The UCB impact—this is the MPCCC plus government measures—is 2,907, 558, 701 and then a positive 32, which is a total impact of 4,134. They are in table 3 and table 4 of the fiscal tables in the EM.

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:42): I thank the minister for providing the answer and I ask the minister a supplementary question. In what year beyond the forward estimates will Labor's carbon tax package stop running at a deficit to the budget? Will it be 2015-16, or 2016-17, or will Australians have to wait even longer for Labor's new tax to stop adding to the size of Labor's budget deficit?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:43): It is true there is an upfront cost to this plan. It is true also that, once it is up and running, the scheme is broadly budget neutral and is consistent with the governĀ­ment's fiscal strategy and fiscal reporting frameworks. The government does not intend—as was the case under Mr Costello—to release information beyond the forward estimates for policies, for the same reasons, I am sure, that Mr Sinodinos could explain to Senator Birmingham, should he desire.

Obviously, there will be a midyear budget update, which will update figures in the usual way, and then the budget next year in which a further year will be added to the forward estimates.

Senator Birmingham: Mr President, on a point of order: the minister was asked very specifically when this tax package would cease to run at a budget deficit. That is the clear point of the question. If the minister is not going to answer it, that is fine; she can say so and sit down. Otherwise, she is clearly not being directly relevant to keep talking, having indicated that she simply will not say when this tax package will stop running and adding to the budget deficit.

The PRESIDENT: The minister is answering the question and the minister has 12 seconds remaining to answer the question.

Senator WONG: I have directly responded to the question. I said we will not be releasing figures on this or any policy beyond the forward estimates, which is the same as Mr Costello's position. I have also said that, once it is up and running, this is a broadly budget neutral package consistent with the fiscal strategy. (Time expired)

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (14:44): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. If Labor is unable to bring in a new $9 billion a year tax without actually increasing the budget deficit over the forward estimates by more than $4 billion and is equally unable to say when in the future it may cease to run a deficit, why should Australians believe that Labor has any hope of recording a budget surplus anytime soon?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:45): Unlike the opposition, we have a fiscal strategy with fiscal rules and we have put forward our costings. Unlike the opposition, we did not have an $11 billion black hole in our election policies. Unlike the opposition, we do not have to cut $70 billion worth of services in health and education to make our policies add up.

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator WONG: Under Mr Abbott, that economic team over there, of which Senator Cormann is a part, have never once got the costings right—never once. Whether it was in the election campaign, on the floods package or now on the super package they have never been able to show where they will get the money from. Australians will know that, as they always do, they will have to hack into health, education and other services to pay for their costing errors.