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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 7689

Senator CAMERON (2:57 PM) —I might just take a second to compose myself after that tidal wave of hypocrisy from the other side.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Cameron, ask the question.

Senator CAMERON —My question is to the Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Senator Sherry. In a time of significant strain on the Commonwealth budget, due to the impacts of the global financial crisis on the economy, and on revenues, is the minister aware of any major new threats to the Rudd government’s budget? How significant are these threats and who might be the main beneficiaries of any such action should they succeed?

Senator SHERRY (Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law) —As the 2008-09 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook showed, the impact of the global financial crisis on the budget has been very, very significant. The main impact has been on revenue, which has been revised downwards by some $40 billion over the years 2008-09 to 2001-12. In addition, the government has put in place an economic stimulus package—the Economic Security Strategy—of some $10.4 billion. But I just want to go back briefly to the budget of 2008-09, which was delivered in May. The intention of the government and the commitment of the government was to address inflation and some longer term challenges—a significant slowing in real expenditure growth and reprioritisation of spending to invest in Australia’s future—and, in particular, to deliver a strong budget surplus as a buffer for the future, putting the budget in a good position to help Australia weather the financial turmoil.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—

Senator SHERRY —Funnily enough, I do want to go to the previous government, Senator Macdonald. I actually want to praise the previous government. The previous government, the Liberal government, announced an important revenue measure that would have seen some $1.2 billion flow to the budget by ensuring that the tax expenditures are spent more appropriately on Australians rather than on foreign workers.

Senator McGauran interjecting—

Senator SHERRY —I praise the previous Liberal government, Senator McGauran, for ensuring and promising before the election that this $1.2 billion would be delivered. Indeed they started work on legislation and of course the Labor opposition committed itself to supporting this particular proposal. But what we saw last week was that the Liberal Party in opposition have taken a new turn. They have decided to gut this measure—to remove a large part of the $1.2 billion that they had promised themselves before the last election. (Time expired)

Senator CAMERON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister also outline to the Senate why the Rudd Labor government is taking action to reduce the number of lost accounts in the Australian superannuation system indefinitely, and will this important measure stand to make our whole superannuation system more efficient and cost effective for all Australians?

Senator SHERRY —As I was saying, I want to praise the former Liberal government and I want to praise Senator Minchin, the former finance minister. Senator Minchin, being so responsible, signed up to this revenue measure that was going to produce $1.2 billion for the budget. He and the Liberal Party both signed up to it before the last election. Now, they do not want to deliver. We have got the height of irresponsibility when the former Liberal government say, ‘We want to deliver a $1.2 billion saving to the budget.’ But now they want to gut it of some $860 million, which is what they want to remove from their own savings measure. We did not get a peep of this until last week when they decided to so significantly amend their own revenue measure, which they had gone to the trouble to draft— (Time expired)

Senator CAMERON —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Senator Sherry, I am going to ask you one more question as long as you do not praise Senator Abetz for his tactical genius. Can the minister explain to the Senate how the serious threat he has informed the Senate of may still be averted and why this is a critical test of who is best placed to manage Australia during these tough financial and economic times?

Senator SHERRY (Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law) —It is the height of irresponsibility and hypocrisy, particularly given the current pressures on the budget, for the former Liberal government to come into this place and indicate that they are going to gut a $1.2 billion revenue measure—a measure which they designed and started to compile into law, and indeed that Senator Minchin, to whom I pay credit, helped to design—when there is such significant pressure on the budget. They are going to gut that $1.2 billion revenue measure and deliver tax preferment to foreigners, at the expense of Australian taxpayers, via the superannuation system. Quite rightly, former Minister Minchin recognised that this was wrong. We needed to ensure that tax preferment in superannuation went to Australians and not to foreigners. And we needed to ensure— (Time expired)

Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.