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Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Page: 3540


Mr SUKKAR (DeakinAssistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing) (12:29): I'm actually very disappointed in the shadow Assistant Treasurer. I don't often quote Australia's worst Treasurer, Wayne Swan, but he did say in 2010:

It is important that our political leaders work hard to build confidence in our economy and not be out there talking down the economy.

That's been a general criticism that I've had of the shadow Assistant Treasurer and indeed the shadow Treasurer, but not until today have I heard what I would describe as something that absolutely crosses the line. The shadow Treasurer has just referred to Australia as being in an economic crisis—not a slip of the tongue, not something that was just said in a rhetorical flourish—an economic crisis he referred to on a number of occasions, presumably in a premeditated way. And it's disappointing to see somebody—for political purposes, presumably—use inflammatory language that, on absolutely every measure, is wrong and is obviously designed for political purposes and none other.

As I have said, when we came to government, we inherited a slowing economy, increasing unemployment and a worsening budget position—budget debt growing to $667 billion; unemployment at 5.7 per cent; and growth in spending running at exponential levels. To turn that ship around has been an extraordinarily dedicated and focused effort from this government. That effort continues and, as I've said in earlier contributions, the crescendo of that work is coming in the form of a budget surplus this year. So, no, shadow Assistant Treasurer, we're not in an economic crisis. There are obvious economic challenges globally that we are alive to, and the best way to manage that is to ensure that confidence emanating from this place is measured and reasonable. By all means, criticise the government—no-one would expect the shadow Assistant Treasurer to do anything other than that—but to use language like that, I think, is disproportionate and goes against what I think is in the best interests of our country.

In relation to the efficiency dividend, as I pointed out earlier, there will be no job cuts as a result. There are a number of very important agencies that are carved out from the efficiency dividend, and I listed them exhaustively in my opening remarks. That will continue.

I'd also say in the shadow Assistant Treasurer's earlier remarks about budget surpluses—he was cut off, but he was clearly heading down the path of saying, 'The reason you are going to deliver, the Morrison government, a budget surplus this year, the first in 12 years, is because of record iron ore prices.' I remind the shadow Assistant Treasurer that when Labor was in government, a government that he was a part of, a government that delivered quite famously, for the four budget surpluses that I announced tonight, the now cringe-worthy embarrassing opening lines to the budget from Wayne Swan—presumably written by his then chief of staff, the now shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers—which were never, ever delivered. At that time, iron ore prices were hovering north of $150—$150, and the Labor Party was unable to even get close to a surplus. In fact, it promised surpluses and delivered massive and record budget deficits.

In contrast, in the coalition, it's an article of faith to ensure that we conservatively estimate forward revenues. That's why, as the shadow Assistant Treasurer said, we have taken a conservative approach in our budget by projecting iron ore prices at $55 a tonne. I think the Australian people would expect nothing less, because Australian households, Australian businesses, in order to make ends meet, make very conservative assumptions about their income in order to ensure that if something does go wrong they can meet the shortfall. The Labor Party doesn't understand that. The shadow Assistant Treasurer doesn't understand the concept of repaying debt, and that is why Australians have no confidence that Labor could ever deliver a budget surplus as the Morrison government— (Time expired)

Proposed expenditure agreed to.