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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2616


Senator MASON (Queensland) (14:45): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. Given that under a Labor state government Queensland's public debt is projected to peak at $85 billion by 2014—over $18,000 per Queenslander—and under a federal Labor government Australia's public debt is $132 billion—over $6,000 per Australian—will the minister confirm that every man, woman and child in Queensland could have bought a brand-new Holden Cruze, Mazda3, or Toyota Corolla instead of having to pay off their share of Labor's debt?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:46): What I can confirm is that Australia has one of the lowest net debts in the developed world, peaking at just 8.9 per cent of GDP in 2011-12, less than one-tenth of the average net debt of the major advanced economies, which is around 93 per cent of GDP in 2016. We are at 8.9 per cent and the major advanced economies a number of years down the track will have a net debt at 93 per cent of GDP—8.9 per cent of GDP, Australia at our peak; 93 per cent of GDP for the major advanced economies. These are the facts that fly in the face of the appalling scare campaign and the trashing of the Australian economy that those opposite want to engage in, the talking down of the economy that no-one will thank them for. The reality is that we have one of the lowest net debt positions of any of the major advanced economies in the world. That is the reality.

The other thing that I can confirm is that those opposite have $70 billion of savings that they have to make. You do not have to rely on me to confirm that. You can rely on my counterpart, Mr Robb, who on national television has made very clear that $70 billion is not a furphy. If those opposite want to talk about debt, they had better tell Australians either which services they are going to cut or how much debt they are going to increase. The reality is that you cannot have it both ways. You cannot keep promising spending while saying no to revenue measures, and that is what the opposition is doing and that is why their numbers are in the position they are. (Time expired)

Senator MASON (Queensland) (14:48): On another supplementary question, given that Queensland Labor debt is set to nearly quadruple, from $21 million in $2004 to $85 billion by 2014, all at a time of a mining boom, and that it took the Rudd-Gillard government only a third of the time to amass nearly 1½ times as much debt as it took the Hawke-Keating government, will the minister apologise to Australians for Labor's appalling economic management?

The PRESIDENT: The minister need only address that part of the question that refers to the portfolio.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:49): The economy is at a place where we see unemployment with a five in front of it, we see inflation in the target band of the Reserve Bank, we see continued growth in mining investments notwithstanding the scare campaign by those opposite—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong resume your seat. There are interjections on my left which are making it very difficult to hear the answer. Order!

Senator WONG: We have a situation where, despite what has occurred globally, we have an economy that is continuing to grow, unemployment with a five in front of it and inflation in the target band, and those opposite want to pretend that everything is going down the toilet. It is just the most ridiculous position. This is from an opposition that has never once got its costings right. The economic team of the coalition have never got their costings right. Who can forget Senator Sinodinos saying that there is a lot of untidiness over there when it comes to your budget position!

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator Cormann: You never once got your budget right!

The PRESIDENT: Order! It is very difficult to hear the answer when people on both sides are interjecting. The time to debate this issue is after question time.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind honourable senators that the time to debate this is after question time.

Senator MASON (Queensland) (14:50): Given that the yearly interest repayments on federal Labor's $132 billion debt are about twice the net revenue from the mining tax, can the minister explain to the people in my home state of Queensland why their best-performing industry has to pay the price for Labor's obsession with spending and borrowing?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:51): What we would say to the people of Queensland and the people of Australia is that we stand for a fair share of mining profits for you. That is what we say. We say to people across this country: we want you to have greater superannuation savings. We say to small business: the Labor Party wants to deliver tax breaks—

Senator Ian Macdonald: It's called royalties!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, just resume your seat. I remind senators on my left: if you wish to debate the issue, the time is after three o'clock, not now.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: The time is after three o'clock! The minister has the call.

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron! I have just called the other side to order. I am waiting to hear the minister's answer. Order on both sides! The minister.

Senator WONG: The difference is very clear. We stand for ensuring that the Australian people get a fair share of the profits from the resources that are owned by the Australian people. We stand for providing tax breaks to small business. We stand for a tax cut across the broader economy. We stand for more superannuation for working people. That is what the Labor Party stand for. Those on that side stand for the interests of wealthy miners, including their largest donor, Mr Palmer. That is who they are standing up for. (Time expired)