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Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Page: 6989

Turnbull Government


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:15): My question is to the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann. I refer to the deal stitched up between Mr Turnbull and Mr Truss to secure Mr Turnbull's prime ministership, which includes a families package that provides funding for stay-at-home mums. Was the minister consulted prior to this decision, and will he now disclose the cost of the decision over the forward estimates?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:15): I thank Senator O'Neill for that question. Let me say that the Liberal and National parties have for some time formed a very strong and effective coalition. What has happened this week, after the Liberal Party elected a new leader in Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, is that we have entered into a new coalition agreement, as is usual process. I am pleased to confirm for the Senate that the agreement reaffirms and reconfirms, in the main, existing and pre-existing policies and pre-existing budget commitments—

Senator Kim Carr: We want to know how much money?

Senator CORMANN: I am going to get to that, Senator Carr. I am being directly relevant to the question. Senator O'Neill raises the particular—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Just a moment, Senator Cormann.

Senator Gallacher: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. May I ask that the minister address his remarks to the chair. At least that way I will be able to hear his voice through the microphone. I cannot hear him through the side of his mouth.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Thank you. Order! If senators did keep the noise down, it would help.

Senator Wong: Mr President, I raise a point of order on direct relevance. There were two parts to the question: was the minister consulted prior to this decision, and will he now disclose the cost of the decision over the forward estimates?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, that is correct, but the minister has been directly relevant. He has been answering the subject matter of the question. The minister has more than one minute left in his answer. I call the minister.

Senator CORMANN: Thank you very much, Mr President. In the agreement that was reached between our leader and the Leader of the National Party, Mr Truss, we have reconfirmed a whole range of pre-existing policies and pre-existing budget commitments. Of course, there is one feature in the agreement which relates to the additional support for lower income families, which has been part of a proposal that Minister Morrison has been discussing with Senator Canavan, Senator Bob Day and Senator John Madigan for some time. This is part of a revised families package, which will be budget neutral and which will be fully offset as part of the overall revised families package that is being pursued by the government. In response to the other part of the question, the net effect of any decision of government that has budget implications will be reflected in the half-yearly budget update later this year, which is MYEFO. That is the usual way. Senator Wong knows it and, yes, I have been involved in this process in the appropriate way. (Time expired)










Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:18): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer again to the deal stitched up by Mr Turnbull with the Nationals, which includes Mr Joyce's pet dams project. Was the minister consulted prior to this decision, and will he now disclose the cost of the decision over the forward estimates?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:19): Clearly, Senator O'Neill must have been living under a rock because the government has for some time been committed to increased investment in water infrastructure. The government has for some time been committed through the agriculture white paper and the Northern Australian white paper to significant additional investment, particularly across Northern Australia in the context of the agriculture portfolio. As I have indicated in my primary answer, the agreement that was reached between the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the National Party formally reconfirmed pre-existing policies and pre-existing budget commitments, in the main. Clearly, there was a reassurance sought and a reassurance given that under the new leadership of the Liberal Party these policies would continue to be pursued. Of course, the fiscal implications of that are reflected in the budget in the usual way.

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock.

Senator O'Neill: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. We have not had an answer to the question, which was asking the minister to disclose the cost of the decision over the forward estimates. He has given us a history of his relationship with the National Party on two occasions now but no numbers and no clarity about a decision over forward estimates.

The PRESIDENT: The minister has nine seconds in which to answer the question.

Senator CORMANN: I directly answered the question. These are pre-existing policy commitments. The announcements are made in the usual way and are reflected in the budget and budget updates in the usual way. (Time expired)






Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:20): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to Senator Canavan who says that the cost of the coalition agreement will be between $2 billion and $4 billion, and this minister says that Senator Canavan is not correct. What will the impact be of the coalition's agreement on the budget bottom line and what programs will be cut to pay for it? Was the price of Mr Turnbull's prime ministership $4 billion? (Time expired)


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:21): Firstly, what I would say, as I have indicated in response to the primary question, is that the agreement in the main and overwhelmingly was a formal reconfirmation of existing policies and existing budget commitments. Governments make decisions all the time about reprioritising expenditure, and, as we have said all the way through, whenever there is new spending on identified higher priorities, they will be offset by reductions in expenditure in comparatively lower priority areas to ensure that the impact on the budget bottom line is neutral. That is the approach that the government will continue to take because we are very focused on repairing the damage that was done by the worst finance minister in the history of the Commonwealth, who left the budget in very bad shape—because we continue to work to repair the budget mess that you left behind. That is what the Turnbull government will be doing, to the best of its ability, in the months and years ahead. (Time expired)

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, on my left!

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, I gave a general warning a couple of weeks ago. I might give specific warnings if this continues.