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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 2119

Government Policy


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:34): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. Can the minister outline to the Senate why this government places a high priority on ensuring all policies are properly costed and that all spending commitments are fully funded? Has the Minister seen any announcements—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator BILYK: I have not finished yet, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I don't need your intervention. Senator Bilyk, continue.

Senator BILYK: Has the minister seen any announcements relating to alternative approaches?





Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:34): I thank the senator for her question. This government understands that you have to cost policies and you have to fund them. That is what we have certainly done in our budget. That is what we have done in the mid-year review.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator WONG: I know they do not want to hear this.

The PRESIDENT: Order! On my left, when there is silence we will proceed.

Senator WONG: I somehow do not think Senator Sinodinos was laughing then. But, anyway, we will come to that point. We have laid out our plans in our budget. We found $100 billion worth of savings over a number of budgets, and we have laid out our plans, including what we will cut in order to fund things.

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator WONG: But of course the alternative approach—and I am surprised that Senator Cormann is interjecting, because it is embarrassing as a member of the economic team on the other side—is to do what the opposition is doing, which is to try and hide your $70 billion black hole, not tell anybody what your budget position is, not tell anybody what you are going to cut, not tell anybody how you are going to fund anything and certainly not do any proper costings. So what we have seen is Mr Robb and Mr Hockey trying to hide from the Australian people the true position of what the budget would look like under Tony Abbott. And, because they are refusing to tell anybody, we thought we would give them a helping hand. So I released yesterday what the 2012-13 budget would look like under Tony Abbott: a $9 billion deficit.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Wong, you should not wave documents around in the chamber.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind honourable senators on both sides that the time for debating this is at the end of question time. Senator Wong, I will give you the call when there is silence on both sides.

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator Conroy interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senators Cormann and Conroy, I am waiting for both of you to be silent so I can call the minister.

Senator WONG: A $9 billion deficit, that is what a coalition government would deliver were it in government now.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: If you want to debate the issue you can debate it at the end of question time.

Senator WONG: I can understand why Senator Cormann has not shut up at one point during this answer. He did not yesterday, on Twitter, either. He is extremely embarrassed as a so-called senior member of the economic team that people are actually starting to ask what the true budget position would be under you. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: If you wish to debate this amongst yourselves, you are just taking up question time.













Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:39): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate the approach the government is taking to return the budget to surplus and how this contrasts with alternative approaches?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: This is chewing up valuable time in question time. This is disorderly and you know it.



Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:40): The government are determined to return the budget to surplus and we will lay out our plans, we will lay out our policies—how we are funding them, how we have costed them—in the budget, just as we did in the—

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator WONG: If I may say, Senator Cormann is demonstrating his glass jaw to everyone far and wide. What a glass jaw over there. But anyway, we will return to this. The government have made clear it is our position, our determination, to return the budget to surplus and what we will do is put this—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator WONG: But on the other side we have weeks of infighting, complete confusion and contradictory statements being made by their economic team. As Senator Sinodinos reminded us all this morning, there has been some untidiness from the coalition on returning the budget to surplus. He calls it untidy—well, a $9 billion deficit in 2012-13 is pretty untidy. (Time expired)




Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:42): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline why it is important for governments to have clear fiscal strategies and why it is important to ensure that all proposed policies, including revenue policies, are fully costed and fully funded?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:42): As Senator Sinodinos also knows, a clear fiscal strategy is essential for good government. The alternative is a series of unfunded, unaffordable, undeliverable promises. We have seen the opposition conceding that they have to find $70 billion worth of cuts, but they do not want to tell the Australian people what they are. They do not want to do their costings. They give their costings to a catering company. A catering company is going to do their costings, and who can forget the election costings done by an accounting firm that was subsequently found to have breached professional standards. This is the standard of the coalition's budget numbers. What we know is it is more than untidy. It is $70 billion worth of cuts, the equivalent of every Medicare payment for four years. That is what they have to find; that is what they are hiding. (Time expired)