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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8104

Economy


Senator LINES (Western Australia) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann. Has economic growth slowed under this finance minister?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:28): Under this government and under this finance minister economic growth is stronger than it would have been if Labor had stayed in government. What people across Australia well understand—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator CORMANN: I know the Labor Party does not take this very seriously, but people across Australia understand that Australia, as a trading nation, has been facing some global economic headwinds. People across Australia well understand that we have had to deal, as a nation, with the biggest fall in our terms of trade in about 50 years. People across Australia well understand that the economy in Australia is going through an adjustment.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator CORMANN: Labor can laugh at all of this, but the Australian economy is actually performing very well in the circumstances. We are going through the structural adjustment very well. There is a range of reasons for this, some of which relate to structural reforms pursued by the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments—the independent Reserve Bank, setting monetary policy, with a floating exchange rate. All of that helps us to adjust to what is happening in the global economy. There is the fact that we have taken Labor's lead out of our saddlebag; that we focus on reducing the cost of doing business in Australia; that we have got rid of bad Labor taxes, like the mining tax and the carbon tax; that we have decided not to go ahead with Labor's bad bank tax; that we have decided to reduce company tax for small business, encouraging small business to invest in their future economic success and employ more Australians; the fact that we have pursued an ambitious infrastructure investment program; the fact that we have pursued an ambitious free trade agenda; the fact that we are now looking further at how we can provide proper incentives for innovation and further improvements to our tax system to ensure it is as growth friendly as possible so that we can generate the best possible opportunity for people across Australia to get ahead. You should be congratulating the government for having taken Australia back from the abyss that Labor— (Time expired)




Senator LINES (Western Australia) (14:30): Mr President. I ask a supplementary question. I will try again. It is like the repeat button is being pressed. Has spending as a percentage of GDP increased under this finance minister?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:30): Labor's chutzpah really is quite extraordinary. They make a complete mess of the budget, they put Australia on an unsustainable and unaffordable spending growth trajectory, and then they criticise this government because we are not fixing their problem fast enough. Labor locked in structural spending increases in legislation across a whole range of areas. Spending under this government is lower than it would have been under Labor, I can tell you that for certain.

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Senator Moore, on a point of order?

Senator Moore: Mr President, I raise a point of order on direct relevance. This was a really direct question. The minister has not even got close to it. Has spending as a percentage of GDP increased under this finance minister. We have not heard the words 'GDP' mentioned yet. Could we get an answer to the question?

The PRESIDENT: I thought the minister's answer was creative, but I remind him of the question. He has 32 seconds left in which to answer.

Senator CORMANN: Thank you very much, Mr President. Spending under this government is lower than it would have been under Labor. Look no further than the Intergenerational report, which showed that spending under Labor, as a share of GDP, was on track to be in excess of 30 per cent of GDP. We have reduced spending growth of 3.6 to 3.7 per cent above inflation to just 1.5 per cent above inflation. Labor is trying to have it both ways in this debate. They are trying to say that we are cutting too hard and that we are spending too much. People across Australia know that you do not know how to manage money and that we have to fix up your mess yet again. (Time expired)






Senator LINES (Western Australia) (14:32): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Has gross debt increased by more than $100 billion since this finance minister took office?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:32): I am wondering whether Senator Lines actually knows what she has been asked to ask here in Senate question time. The truth is—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Pause the clock. Senator Moore, on a point of order?

Senator Moore: Mr President, I raise a point of order on direct relevance. I know it is very early in the answer time, but the start did not give me any confidence that the minister was going to go anywhere near the answer.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Moore, that is not a point of order because it is not confidence we are looking for. We are looking for answers. We have to be very fair to the minister. He had not even commenced, basically. Minister, you are in order.

Senator CORMANN: Thank you very much, Mr President. Again, the chutzpah! At the time of the last election we had Labor locking Australia into a spending growth trajectory, particularly in the period beyond the published forward estimates, which we are working to bring back. Yet here they are saying that we are spending too much. Well, help us to pass some of the savings that you are blocking. Let me say to you, very slowly: over the forward estimates spending as a share of GDP is forecast to come down, over time, from 25.9 per cent to about 25.3 per cent at the end of the forward estimates. Government net debt is expected to peak next year before it comes down as a share of GDP. That is as a result of the efforts that we have made, not helped by the Labor Party. When we have been working to fix your mess, you have been boycotting us every step of the way.

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Senator Moore, on a point of order?

Senator Moore: Mr President, I raise a point of order on direct relevance. My confidence was not helped. There was a simple question. Can the minister actually say whether gross debt has increased by more than $100 billion since the finance minister took office? That was very direct, and we have not had an answer to that question yet.

The PRESIDENT: I will remind the minister of the question. He has five seconds in which to answer.

Senator CORMANN: Gross debt has increased by less than it would have under Labor and net debt, which is actually what matters, is expected to come down. (Time expired)