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Thursday, 13 September 2012
Page: 6887


Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. Given it has been confirmed that the Gillard government has made $120 billion worth of unfunded promises, creating a further $120 billion budget black hole on top of the $174 billion in accumulated deficits so far, will the minister rule out any further unfunded commitments by the Gillard government between now and the next election?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:00): I thank the senator for his question. The only confirmed unfunded promises and the only confirmed targeting for cuts is the $70 billion in cuts to services that the shadow minister for finance and the shadow Treasurer have both confirmed on national television. That is $70 billion of cuts to services, confirmed by Mr Hockey and Mr Robb. The only confirmed unfunded set of promises that we have at the moment is from those from the other side. Of course, the thing that Senator Cormann fails to recognise is that there is actually only one party in this place prepared to honour Peter Costello's Charter of Budget Honesty, despite the fact that Senator Fifield and Senator Brandis constantly tell us what a wonderful Treasurer Mr Costello was and how we should be emulating him. Here they come now, the fan club, but the problem is they are not actually going to honour his Charter of Budget Honesty. So it is up to the Labor Party to honour Peter Costello's Charter of Budget Honesty, but those opposite who claim to have sat at his feet and learnt the issue of fiscal policy—

Senator Brandis: Mr President, on a point of order about the subject of direct relevance: we have been very patient while Senator Wong has indulged herself, but with 21 seconds to go we ask her to direct herself to the question. It is: will she rule out any more funding commitments?

Senator Jacinta Collins: Mr President, on the point of order: once again Senator Brandis is rephrasing the question. The question commenced with a false premise. It is very difficult for the minister to be directly relevant to a false premise.

The PRESIDENT: Order. The minister is answering the question. The minister has 21 seconds remaining.

Senator WONG: Thank you, Mr President. The point I am making in terms of making sure we demonstrate our funding commitments is the commitment by the government to honour the Charter of Budget Honesty. That is the commitment. I invite the shadow minister when he next stands to make the same the commitment, but I will guarantee he will not because the coalition cannot bear the scrutiny. (Time expired)

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:04): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Given the Minister for Finance and Deregulation has refused to rule out any further unfunded commitments by the Gillard government between now and the next election—and given government revenue is down on the back of lower commodity prices, the increased cost of Labor's promise to credit state royalties, the decision to drop the $15 floor price on carbon, the way government spending commitments are going up and up—how will the government make up that massive budget shortfall—through more taxes or more debt?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:04): I am asked, I think, amongst that question—

Senator Conroy: Stream of consciousness.

Senator WONG: Stream of consciousness is probably the most polite way to put it. Thank you, Senator Conroy. That was a reference to taxation and I would remind the senator that he represents a party of a government that was far higher taxing than this government

Senator Abetz: Oh, nonsense.

Senator WONG: I will take that interjection from Senator Abetz.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Ignore interjections. They are disorderly, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Thank you, Mr President. Even some newspaper representatives who have currently entered the gallery might recognise that the tax to GDP ratio might be a reasonably accurate way of measuring the level of taxation. Who was the higher taxing Treasurer? Mr Costello, the one whose Charter of Budget Honesty you do not want to follow. But, of course, which is the one party that currently wants to increase taxes for companies? It is those opposite to pay for Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme. You want to jack up the company tax rate. (Time expired)

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:06): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Can the minister give a guarantee to the Senate here and now that the upcoming Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook will detail all the necessary spending cuts required to fill the government's $120 billion budget black hole or will the government just do what they have always done—that is, jack up taxes and increase debt?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:06): I tell you what, mate, we will not be using a catering company, which is the standard that you lot have set. We will actually judge ourselves by higher standards, the standards that Peter Costello set.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator WONG: I will take that interjection, Senator Brandis. What is disrespectful—

The PRESIDENT: Order. Senator Wong, I have told you already in question time today to ignore the interjections. Senator Brandis, interjections are disorderly and you know that.

Senator WONG: What is disrespectful is the disrespect shown to the Australian community by those opposite, who reckon they can come along and use catering companies to do their costings, who use accountants who have been found to have acted unprofessionally and then come in here with a straight face to ask us questions about costings.

Senator Cormann: Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. It is a very specific point of order, and it relates to the minister's requirement to be directly relevant to the question. There was only one question, and there is only one answer that could be directly relevant. Can the minister actually give a guarantee in the Senate, here and now, that the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook will give an indication of how the government is going to identify $120 billion worth of spending cuts?

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order.

Senator WONG: The commitments we have given, which you will not match, is that we will comply with the Charter of Budget Honesty in the midyear update and in the budget and in our election costings—something that your economic team, of which you are supposedly a part, have never done. If you want to talk about high taxes, which was part of your question, tell us about the 26 taxes that— (Time expired)