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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1002

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (15:48): Before I get further into taking note of the answer by the minister to the question asked by Senator Brown, I want to respond a little bit to what Senator Ketter said. He quotes some report that concluded that the Howard government was the most profligate spending of governments and that its spending was during a period of rivers of gold. But the facts are that the Howard government inherited debt from the previous Labor government and, when the Howard government left office, it had paid that debt off. That is a clear and simple fact.

The facts are that when the Rudd government first took office, it inherited money in the bank, and when the Rudd-Gillard years finished, they did so heading towards $300 billion worth of debt accrued. Those are simple facts, and you can spin what happened in the meantime, and what happened under Howard, any way you like, and you can quote any report you like, but the fact is that when you have strong income coming in, you have the ability to spend a little bit more, to be a little bit more, and, to use the word you used, be profligate in your spending. Because you have the income, you can spend a little bit more. But the reality is, as with any household, when income falls, you need to adjust your spending to suit the income. Of course, that might mean that, in the terms you are using and of the study that looked at this, you become less profligate if you do cut your spending. But the reality is, under Rudd and under Gillard, any savings they made—they used to quote new taxes as savings—were way insufficient to be able to cut the cloth to suit the income that was coming in. As a result, at the end of that period, the Australian government, which, as was very eloquently pointed out by Senator O'Sullivan, had accumulated debt which is now payable and owed by every single Australian taxpayer, including not just those who are paying taxes now but those who will be paying taxes next year and probably those who will be paying taxes in 10 years. And maybe even in 20 or 30 years we will still be paying back the debt that was put in place under Rudd and Gillard and, in the absence of change, will be growing at a faster rate than it is now.

On that, as noted by the minister—I have taken note of his answer, but it is relevant to the matters that Senator Ketter raised—we have put in place, through this place since we got in, savings measures that will reduce our debt by $250 billion over the forward estimates. That is not to say that it is not going up. It is still going up, because the trajectory that we inherited would have had us placed far worse than where we are today if government had not changed in 2013. Despite our best efforts to put in place a range of measures that would have actually addressed that trajectory more quickly, brought debt down more quickly and brought us to the point where we would have been in a budget surplus earlier than we otherwise would have been, and which have been blocked by this Senate over and over again, we have still managed to put through measures that have delivered $250 billion worth of savings.

Coming more specifically to the question that was asked and the answer by the minister, I am not exactly sure what the ALP or what Senator Brown was trying to achieve by asking this question, other than to try to bludgeon One Nation into not making considered and well-thought-out decisions to support the government where it is appropriate. Quite clearly One Nation has positions that not everybody in this place always finds agreeable. The ALP has positions that I do not always find agreeable. Every party in this room has positions that other parties find disagreeable, and that is why they are members of other parties. That is the nature of democracy: we have different views on different things.

But what we have discovered so far with One Nation, if you put aside those positions that they have and that they hold very, very strongly and on which they are not going to move—some of which we do not agree with and some of which we disagree with most vehemently—the fact is that outside of those particular issues, One Nation will sit down and have a mature conversation with us about what we are trying to achieve. And if we can convince them of the merits of our case, as we appear to have done with the omnibus bill, then they will agree to support us. That is the nature of democracy: being able to sit down with other people and convince them that we have a case that stacks up, and if they agree then they will agree to support us on the floor on the chamber. And that is what they have done.

You try to spin the omnibus bill as being all doom and gloom, but the reality is that it is spin, and it is misrepresenting the omnibus bill. There are 18 schedules in this, which deliver a whole range of very beneficial outcomes for Australians across the board in a whole range of areas. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: The time for the debate has concluded. The question is that the motion moved by Senator Brown be agreed to.

Question agreed to.