Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Answers to Questions

3:20 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

While we can debate the popularity of the government, have no fear, Senator Gallacher: the Labor Party is deeply unpopular and there is no love between the Australian electorate and the Labor Party—as demonstrated by the last federal election results. We are here this afternoon having a debate about promises and commitment and about the honouring of those commitments. But let us reflect for a moment on why we are here. Why are we in this place today having a discussion about budget deficits and, dare I say—words that have been erased from the Labor lexicon—budget surpluses? We are here because Labor wanted to do the exact same thing that we are doing and that we will do—Labor, too, wanted to get the budget back into surplus.

While we are talking about honouring commitments and saying one thing and doing another, let's have a look at what Labor said about budget surpluses. In 2008-09, in his first budget speech, Wayne Swan claimed that he would deliver 'a surplus built on disciplined spending'. Let us think about words, commitments and honouring those commitments. What was the result? It was $27 billion worth of deficit. In Wayne Swan's 2009-10 budget night address, he told Australians that the nation was on a path to surplus by 2015-16. What was the result? The result was $54.5 billion worth of deficit. In staying with today's theme 'honouring your commitments and saying what you mean', I note that for the 2010-11 budget, Kevin Rudd's final budget, the Treasurer said that Labor's program would see the budget return to surplus in three years time. What was the result? The result was $47.5 billion worth of deficit. It is very rich indeed for opposition senators, Labor senators, to come to this place and talk about promises kept.

But the story does not finish there. In the 2011-12 budget, the first budget under Julia Gillard, the Treasurer's speech claimed, 'We will be back in the black by 2012-13, as promised.' What was the result? It was $43.4 billion worth of deficit. In the 2012-13 budget, the year of truly magical thinking on the part of the former Treasurer, Wayne Swan said, 'This budget delivers a surplus this year and surpluses each year after that.' What was the result? It delivered a deficit of $18.8 billion.

I have one more point to demonstrate the theme, if I need to. In the 2013-14 budget, Labor's final budget, the message echoed exactly the same theme as previous years, and Wayne Swan said in the budget speech, 'This budget sets a sensible pathway to surplus.' Of course, we know the history. The coalition comes to office and inherits a $47 billion debt.

The message is a simple one. You will hear us talk about budget surpluses; you will not hear the word 'surplus' from their mouths. The challenge for our country is a real one. Time is against us. If I might just add this sombre note: what the events of MH17 have taught us is that just as our country is not immune from the events in faraway places, so too this country will not be immune should an economic calamity visit itself upon the global economy. More importantly, this country is not ready; this country is not prepared—so, when I hear the opposition talk about unfairness and inequity, I think that is an unfair outcome. That is an outcome we should be concerned about. (Time expired)


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