Thursday, 16 August 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline to the House how the government is adding to savings through the establishment of the Future Fund? What is the risk of running down long-term savings for short-term spending?
I thank the honourable member for Dobell for his question. As he knows, the government has now reduced the Labor debt of $96 billion in net terms to zero and the government is building a Future Fund to provision for future liabilities that will hit us as the population ages. This Future Fund has been lauded by the OECD and the IMF, which said:
Australia’s Future Fund also looks like a good model for other countries.
The Future Fund will not work, however, if politicians are able to raid it for their own political advantage, because we will never have the opportunity to have long-term savings. This government is introducing legislation to make it explicit in the legislation of the Future Fund that no government will be able to direct it to invest in a particular company or to use the assets of the fund to support a particular activity. That will ensure that Labor’s grubby attempt to get its hands on the Future Fund will be contrary to legislation.
I expect that Labor will support this legislation because the member for Lilley has been demanding, for months if not years, that the Future Fund be a locked box. As he said on 6 November 2005:
We have to make the Future Fund a locked box ... It’s very important there is public confidence in the Future Fund and that it is a locked box that can’t be raided by the National Party, Peter Costello or anybody else.
We agree with that statement in its entirety. It should not be able to be raided by anybody, and so legislation is now coming into this House so that all members of parliament can vote as one to make sure that the Future Fund will not be raided for a particular company or a particular investment or for a particular activity.
It is important at a time like this that there is one level of government which is saving. The Commonwealth government is saving, the business sector is borrowing heavily and the state sector is borrowing heavily. It is very important that not only the Commonwealth save but it put its Future Fund beyond the grip of inexperienced politicians who would destroy Australia’s future prospects.
In closing I want to add my welcome to Gareth Evans, who is in the gallery today. He was the first shadow Treasurer I ever faced in this parliament, and the best. I fear to tell him—and this will come as a surprise to him—since he was the shadow Treasurer they got WTG: worse than Gareth. The attempt by the current member for Lilley, undoubtedly the worst shadow Treasurer Australia has seen in the last decade—
I know that is a big call! I made it after carefully considering it. I do not just make these things up. You are sitting next to one of the ones who was in line for that accolade. Raiding the Future Fund would be one of the worst things that could possibly be done for the Australian economy.