Thursday, 15 September 2016
Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016; Second Reading
I would like to thank all the senators who have contributed to this debate. Budget repair is an important challenge for the government but it is also an important challenge for the parliament because it is important for us to continue to protect our economy by preserving our triple-A credit rating, by protecting our economy and our budget, and by protecting our capacity to fund the important services of government sustainably over the medium-to-long term by making sure that we get the budget back into balance as soon as possible. Of course we should also get the budget back into balance to ensure that we do not keep living at the expense of future generations, at the expense of our children and grandchildren, putting their future opportunities at risk.
The debate tonight in this chamber demonstrates the difficulty with actually achieving budget repair because everybody agrees in theory with the need to get spending growth under control but then you need to make specific decisions about specific areas of expenditure, so obviously the whole conversation becomes much more difficult. It is in that context that I would also like to thank the Labor Party and in particular the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, for their very constructive engagement. We have worked through a very constructive process in recent weeks with the necessary give and take to ensure that we were able to secure a consensus in this chamber for $6.3 billion worth of budget savings.
The context is that in the lead up to the election, we went into the election with this series of budget savings that were unlegislated up until that point in time. Both the Labor Party and the coalition took a series of savings measures to the last election and the measures that were initially originally included in the omnibus savings bill are a reflection of those savings measures that both Labor and the coalition took to the last election. To be fair to the Labor Party, a number of them and, principally those that are subject to the amendments to this bill, Labor during the election period indicated that they, while banking the saving, reserved the right to implement it in a different way and that is why we have worked through this process.
Budget repair is not an easy affair. It is an important affair though in our national interest. It is important for us as we strive to put Australia on the strongest possible economic and fiscal foundation for the future as we strive to ensure that our children and grandchildren can continue to have greater opportunities in the years and decades ahead, to have the best possible opportunity to get ahead and be successful. It is important, as we strive to ensure that we are in the best possible position to deal with any future global economic shocks, that we do get our budget back into balance, back under control as soon as possible and this $6.3 billion contribution to budget repair tonight, if this Senate is to endorse it, is going to make a material and significant contribution. So I conclude my remarks again by thanking the Labor Party for having stepped up to the plate on budget repair, for having engaged with the government in working through some of the issues that this bill put on the table and for having reached a sensible compromise position. I commend this bill to the Senate.