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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 337

Mrs D’ATH (2:14 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer update the House on what the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions have had to say about the government’s fiscal strategy and budget settings?

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I thank the member for Petrie for her question. As I was saying before, overnight the Australian economy and Australian economic policy have received a very big tick from the International Monetary Fund. They have said that the Australian government did a very good job in keeping our economy out of recession.

Mr Hockey —No they didn’t.

Mr SWAN —Yes they did. They have endorsed the application of our medium-term fiscal policy, which is as I said before the fastest fiscal consolidation since the early 1960s. The conclusions of this report are crystal clear, and I think I ought to quote the report in some detail. In this report the IMF is strongly endorsing the government’s commitment to fiscal discipline and to bringing our budget back into surplus three years early. That is what the IMF is doing. The report states:

The exit from the stimulus, which began this year, sees the budget back in surplus by 2012/13. If the recovery in Australia proceeds as expected, this pace of withdrawal is appropriate. This is faster than past consolidations in Australia and plans in most other advanced economies.

…                      …                        …

While public debt is projected to remain very low by advanced economy standards, returning quickly to budget surpluses as the authorities intend will put Australia on firmer footing to deal with future shocks.

That is a very big tick from the IMF. But it is not just the IMF—Standard and Poor’s put out a report last week which said this:

Australia has one of the strongest fiscal positions globally, with a net general government debt burden less than half the level of the AAA rated median.

This is a ringing endorsement of the finances of the Australian government and the Australian people, and that is why this government have put at the very core of our economic agenda a very strong fiscal consolidation. It is a bit rich to be lectured on fiscal rectitude by those opposite, because they had a $10.6 billion costing con job at the heart—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Manager of Opposition Business can resume his seat. The Treasurer is straying into what is argument, and he would have to convince me that it was directly relevant to the question.

Mr SWAN —Mr Speaker, it was a question about spending and its impact on the economy. You would have thought that, if they wanted to make the critique that they are making, there would be some alternative policy. But the fact is they would spend more and their surpluses would be much lower, and what Treasury found was a $10.6 billion black hole—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question was not about opposition policy, and therefore how is this being directly relevant to the question he was asked?

The SPEAKER —The Treasurer will be directly relevant to the question. This type of argument in an answer may have been allowed in the 42nd Parliament, but it is not something that is encouraged in the 43rd Parliament.

Mr SWAN —We on this side of the House understand how important strong economic management is; that is why we are bringing the budget back to surplus in three years, three years early. What we have been doing in this House has been endorsed by the IMF and other responsible authorities. That goes to the very core of this government’s strong economic management credentials.