House debates

Tuesday, 8 May 2018



12:13 pm

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State (House)) Share this | Hansard source

I second the motion. These characters opposite have been run over by their own debt truck. They are the roadkill on the road to budget responsibility. We have gone in five years from budget emergency to budget hypocrisy. We don't hear peep anymore about the so-called budget emergency. They went round the country for years in the debt truck, in the fire truck that the member for McMahon mentioned, going on and on and on about budget emergencies and debt and deficit disasters, and we don't hear peep about that anymore, for a very good reason. They haven't just failed the test they set for us; they've failed the test they set for themselves.

On this side of the House, we expect them to fail the fairness test. That's how they roll. When they stand up in May each year, we expect them to fail the fairness test, but they've also failed the fiscal test, and they've been doing so consistently now for five years, and tonight will be the fifth budget. What ever happened to that budget emergency? What ever happened to that debt and deficit disaster that we used to hear so much about? It's not that we don't hear about it because it's been fixed—far from it. We don't hear about it because we're close to an election now and they're conceding, by not mentioning, that we've seen five years of failure—five years to meet the test they set for themselves.

Remember the last time that the member for Wentworth was the temporary leader of his party. He said that $200 billion in debt was a 'frightening' amount of debt. He said $300 billion was an almost inconceivable amount of debt. And now we have gross debt well over half a trillion dollars in this country. Senator Cormann, in 2013 and 2014, went on and on about budget emergencies, debt and deficit disasters. He described debt at $200 billion in 2013 as 'a budget emergency'. In November 2013 he said that their top priority was to fix 'the budget emergency that we've inherited'. By March 2014, he said he was 'methodically setting out to repair' the budget emergency. Of course, the member for Warringah as well, all through that period, went on and on about a debt and deficit disaster.

The reality, as the member for McMahon went through in some detail, is worth reminding the House about. Those opposite inherited net debt at about $175 billion. It's now twice that. They inherited, when it comes to gross debt, $277 billion. It's now $525 billion. The only government in Australian history ever to preside over more than half a trillion dollars in debt is this one—the only government in Australian history. And the debt is growing, and it doesn't peak over the current 10-year horizon. The other thing that people don't appreciate is that those opposite are accumulating debt at a faster rate than their predecessor, and we had the global financial crisis to deal with. They accumulate gross debt $1.1 billion a month quicker than Labor did. They've had rosy global economic conditions, and we had the GFC to deal with.

As the member for McMahon also said, we're dropping down the league table when it comes to government debt. We've gone from eighth in the developed world to 15th. Our budget performance, which used to be the envy of the world, has dropped behind that of the UK, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, the G20 as a whole and the euro area as a whole. That is their record that they have to defend in this budget week. We heard Peter Costello, the longest-standing Liberal Treasurer—also the highest-taxing Treasurer in Australian history, but we leave that aside just for now—and even he thinks that those opposite have been a spectacular failure when it comes to managing the budget.

What we say on this side of the House is that we've got to close the tax loopholes. We've got to not give tax handouts to big multinationals, including the big banks as well. This record and growing debt on their watch is not because the global conditions are bad; they're the best they've been in a decade. Chris Richardson says they've got a humungous amount of money rolling through the door. The reason we've got record and growing debt is that those opposite will go to the wall to defend the biggest tax breaks going to those who need them least. Remarkably—and the Australian people have to understand this—those opposite hear what's happening at the royal commission into the banks, and they want to compensate the banks, not the victims, for the behaviour that's been uncovered at the royal commission. We want to compensate the victims of the banks' rorts and rip-offs. Those opposite want to compensate the perpetrators of those rorts and rip-offs.

And that's what tonight is actually about. That's what this budget is about: an $80 billion handout to the top end of town; $17 billion for the big banks. That's what it's about, not some half-hearted attempt to repair the damage of the last five years and four budgets. (Time expired)


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