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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 11894

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (3:45 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer. Will the Assistant Treasurer outline to the House the need for economic credibility in assessing government spending programs? What current actions threaten sensible budget measures and the government’s economic strategy?

Mr BOWEN (Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, and Assistant Treasurer) —I thank the member for Braddon for his question. The House is well aware that this year’s budget contained a number of measures to protect government revenue and ensure the integrity of the tax base going into the future. It is fair to say that some of these measures have been controversial, with the Liberal and National parties opposing these measures in this House and in the other house.

These are the same people who over the last week have been doing their best to outdo Herbert Hoover as they argue that surpluses must always be protected at all costs. The irony of the Liberal and National parties opposing revenue and savings measures while ramping up their rhetoric about budget surpluses appears to have escaped them. But on this side of the House we know that the $40 billion hit which has been carried out on the federal budget as a result of the global financial situation has made these measures even more important.

Not only does the opposition not understand this, but their irresponsibility has reached new levels. I have to report to the House that the Liberal Party is planning to gut another revenue measure by this government. The opposition has indicated that they will tonight in the other house vote to emasculate the government’s measure to require the superannuation of temporary residents to be paid to the Commonwealth after that resident has left Australia and their visa has expired. This is a sensible measure and emasculating it will have no benefit for any Australian or for the Australian economy. Gutting this measure will not stimulate the Australian economy and it will not add to the savings of any Australian. The only thing that this measure by the opposition will do is potentially blow another $860 million hole in this budget.

This measure has been uncontroversial up until now. Of all the revenue measures that the government announced, this is one that the opposition have not opposed up until now. Apart from it being good policy, there is another reason this has been uncontroversial. This government is always keen to give credit where it is due, and this policy was not all our idea. In fact it was announced on 15 October last year by the previous Treasurer. The member for Higgins said on 15 October:

I am announcing today that, effective from 1 July 2008, all future superannuation contributions and balances for temporary residents will be required to be paid to the Australian Government which will hold them on behalf of those who are entitled to them.

It is a good policy, Mr Speaker, one that we are happy to implement. I table the former Treasurer’s press release announcing the measure and, through you, say to the shadow Treasurer: why don’t you plagiarise this one? This is more material for the member for Dickson, who has been out all weekend undermining the member for Curtin, backgrounding newspapers that she has got to go. And now there is more material for the member for Dickson to use in his campaign to become shadow Treasurer.

Mr Randall —I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer to standing order 90 about reflections on members and ask that he desist.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Assistant Treasurer will respond to the question.

Mr BOWEN —This brings coalition recklessness to a new level. We know that they oppose our sensible measures but now they are opposing their own. Mr Speaker, on the one hand they lecture us on fiscal rectitude, but on the other hand they oppose sensible ideas to protect government revenue. It is just another reminder that when it comes to the Leader of the Opposition you have got to look at what he does and not at what he says.