House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018


Intergenerational Reports

4:11 pm

Photo of Trevor EvansTrevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In less than six weeks, the federal budget will be handed down by the Treasurer, and tonight I'd like to briefly reflect on one aspect of budgets past. It was 16 years ago that the then Treasurer, Peter Costello, handed down his seventh budget, and amongst the budget papers tabled that night was the landmark Intergenerational report, budget paper No. 5. This was a visionary report, for the first time setting out to highlight for debate and to consider the long-term fiscal implications of government outlays and the implications of Australia's shifting demographics.

Governments are often criticised for being short term in their thinking, and these criticisms are sometimes fair, which makes the conception of and the making of intergenerational reports an embedded part of Australia's budget framework all the more visionary and impressive an achievement. Australian governments are now required to produce such a report every five years. The central purpose of the report is to assess the fiscal implications of continuing current policies and trends over the next four decades—a 40-year forecast of sorts. In addition to the original Intergenerational report in 2002, subsequent reports were handed down in 2007, in 2010 and the latest in 2015.

The original Intergenerational report in 2002 looked ahead to 2042, and we're rapidly approaching now the halfway mark for those original long-term fiscal projections. The seismic demographic changes, particularly the ageing population, that were starkly set out in that first Intergenerational report are fast becoming a reality. As one of the younger MPs in this place, I have a particular interest in ensuring that the crucial issue of intergenerational equity is properly considered when we make or evaluate government programs. Of course, projections of revenue and expenditure and population shifts over 40 years are inherently uncertain—the intergenerational reports certainly make no bones about that fact—but the trend is our friend, so to speak, and successive reports have been very important in focusing public attention on some of the longer term challenges ahead for Australian policymakers.

Of course, one of the greatest threats to the budget at this point in time, to the Future Fund reserves and to intergenerational equity is the opposition—the Labor Party. So it's of great concern that the Labor Party, addicted as it is to spending taxpayers' dollars with little regard for the longer term implications, might raid the Future Fund if it were ever returned to government. This isn't an idle prospect. The Labor Party has form when it comes to raiding these funds. When last in government, it took Labor almost no time at all to raid the Education Investment Fund and the Health and Hospitals Fund, both of which are administered by the Future Fund, and deplete them almost to zero. The capital funds in them that had been earmarked for nation-building funds and programs were squandered by Labor to fund its so-called stimulus packages. It was short-term thinking—

Mr Perrett interjecting

at its worst. The member for Moreton interjects to suggest that he is a huge advocate of that sort of short-term thinking. Needless to say, the former Labor government did not add to the capital of the Future Fund, because they never delivered a surplus.

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Moreton?

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Deputy Speaker, I claim to be misrepresented. I'm taking the earliest opportunity to point out that he's misrepresented what I have said. That is not what I interjected at all. I'd ask that the record reflect what I interjected, not the words that the member for Brisbane put into my mouth, which suggested that I was supporting a different policy.

Photo of Trevor EvansTrevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't believe that's a point of order, Deputy Speaker—

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, it's not. Please continue.

Photo of Trevor EvansTrevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

so I'll continue. The capital funds that had been earmarked for nation-building funds were squandered by Labor, and they didn't add anything to those funds, because they never delivered a surplus. So the problem is that, no matter what Labor say in terms of delivering a surplus over the budget cycle, their heart's not really in it, so it never happens, and we all pay the price, especially the upcoming generations of young Australians. Unfortunately there is a day of reckoning for reckless spending, and the intergenerational unfairness of Labor's reckless spending sprees needs to be given more, not less, focus as we head towards the next election. The clear lesson is that Labor can't be trusted with managing either the budget or the capital funds in the Future Fund.

I'll have more to say on future occasions about the progress that we as a nation make in meeting the long-term budgetary challenges set out in the intergenerational reports, but tonight I pause to pay tribute again to Australia's greatest-ever Treasurer, Peter Costello, for conceiving and delivering the intergenerational reports and the long-term vision underlying them.