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Transcript of interview: ABC News Radio with Marius Benson: 29 March 2012: Federal budget

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THE HON BRUCE BILLSON MP Shadow Minister for Small Business, Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Federal Member for Dunkley



SUBJECTS: Federal budget

Benson: Let’s stay with the economic story because the Federal Government is facing a bigger budget deficit this year which is excepted to top $40b. Treasurer Wayne Sawn is warning a collapse of tax revenue would last for years and Mr Swan has been delivering a speech to business economists in Sydney this morning. He has told them that cuts to existing programs and the toughing of tax laws will be needed. The Government is facing the biggest fall in tax revenue as a share of the economy since the 1950’s despite that Mr Swan says there is no backing away from a return to a budget surplus. For opposition view the Coalition’s small business spokesman Bruce Billson is on the line. Bruce Billson good morning. I’m sorry we don’t seem to have Bruce Billson there I’ll see if I can get him now. Bruce you’re with us?

Billson: Hi Marius yes.

Benson: Bruce you can hear the Treasurer again pledging to provide a budget surplus so you’ve been critical of their ability to do that but if they do it, perhaps not applaud, but do you think that’s the objective they should be aiming for?

Billson: Well it’s certainly a requirement the nation needs addressed by the Government in a competent way Marius. It’s important to recall that it was 1989 when a Federal Labor Government last delivered a budget surplus. You and many of your listeners may recall that Simply Red had a song out at the time If Don’t Know Me Buy Now and it seems to be very relevant today where Wayne Swan promises improvement in the fiscal position and then as the year rolls out it just gets worse and worse.

Benson: Well Wayne Swann say the budget will be simply black but he says there will be a price for that and price is that some services, some provisions provided by the Government will have to be cut or axed. Is that a reasonable price? Is the surplus more important than maintaining existing provisions from the Government?

Billson: Well it’s a familiar theme Marius leading up to each budget we hear these stories, yet what seems to be the Government approach is a grater gouge in terms of tax revenue. Just when the Government was elected Marius the Commonwealth budget was around $270b just four years later it is $370b. We’ve seen two very substantial new taxes in the mining tax and the carbon tax which have actually had a net negative impact on the budget position, yet we’ve not seen the Government be to critical of some of the areas of its expenditure and I think the Australian public is growing tired of this same old song where a herculean optimistic forecast is provided in the budget papers but as the year rolls out the budget position just continues to deteriorate.

Benson: These budget figures get confusing. You’ve got 270 and 370 in your last answer. But if you just look at the budget as a share of GDP which is the best way of tracking the tax take through the years now at an historic low, it is below 23 per cent, partly because of Government policy, partly as a result of an economic downturn. But when you say this is a high taxing

Government the facts in percentage terms the tax take is much lower now than when it was under John Howard.

Billson: It’s an interesting line that the Government runs there Marius.

Benson: No that’s not a Government line, I’m taking that particular line from the Fin Review but that is a statement of fact isn’t, the percentages?

Billson: But it does reflect the line that the Government seeks to assert. What they’re less keen to talk about Marius is the expenditure as a share of GDP is a very different figure. When you’re running these enormous budget deficits, the tax take is not what’s hurting the Australian people it’s the fact the Government’s not paying it bills. And budget deficits simple amount to deferred tax where future generations need to pay the debt and deficit that is being accumulated. Today Marius we as a nation will borrow another $100m and we’ve been doing that for some time now and we’ll keep doing it until at least the middle of the year when we’ll get a new budget forecast and that might present a different level of borrowing. So the tax take is only part of picture. The big concern is this ongoing spending binge, this growing debt and deficit where the expenditure is a very substantial proportion of the Australian economy being funded on the Government Visa card which we’ll all be paying as higher taxes down the track Marius.

Benson: Bruce Billson thank you very much.

Billson: Thank you for your time.