Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Questions without Notice
I thank the senator for her question. The Labor budget support jobs and growth. This Labor budget invests in the future at a time of economic insecurity around the world. This is what Labor budgets do—invest in the future, protect jobs, support industries, promote growth and provide services. Under Labor, 950,000 jobs have been created, with more Australians in work than ever before.
Those opposite need to acknowledge that they were a high-taxing government, in fact almost the highest-taxing government in the history of this country. It is estimated that the tax to GDP ratio in 2013-14 will be 22.2 per cent. That is 1.8 percentage points lower than the average of the last five years of the Howard government. Mr Abbott's choice will be to cut to the bone. It is in their DNA. They will put tens of thousands of jobs at risk and grind the economy to a standstill. That is what is in their DNA. If you need proof, you need look no further than the savage cuts of the Campbell Newman government. (Time expired)
Those opposite have told the Australian people at every turn that the policy they intend to pursue is austerity. They said the GFC was a six-week blip. No government gets to choose the global economic circumstances in which the budget is framed. But you do get to choose the priorities. Labor chooses a stronger, smarter and fairer Australia. While our economy remains resilient, powerful global forces and the stubbornly high Australian dollar have savaged budget revenues. When Labor are faced with a choice between cutting to the bone and putting jobs first, we proudly stand here and say, 'We are putting jobs first.' (Time expired)
Creating prosperity and spreading opportunity are the values which drive this Labor government every single day. These are the values the Australian people expect from their government. Labor has a proud record of making visionary choices which strengthen this great nation—the age pension, Medicare, universal superannuation, paid parental leave, pricing carbon. With this year's budget, Labor builds upon that proud Labor tradition. That is why we are increasing school resourcing through the National Plan for School Improvement, that is why we are investing in the National Broadband Network and that is why we are establishing DisabilityCare—the national disability insurance scheme. These are the choices which government has to make to keep our economy strong. (Time expired)
My question is to Senator Wong, the Minister representing the Treasurer. Given the current legislated debt ceiling of $300 billion and the projected increases in government debt over the forward estimates, can the minister advise the Senate exactly how much gross debt will be at the end of each financial year across the forward estimates?
I am asked about debt. It is important to recognise a couple of things. The first is that all the debt figures are published, in the usual way, in the budget papers. The second point I would make is that, despite the fear campaign from Senator Joyce—although I notice that Mr Hockey is now trying to tone his rhetoric down a little—Australia's debt remains very low by international standards. Our net debt peaks at 11.4 per cent of GDP, which is about one-eighth of the average of the advanced economies. In other words, the debt of the major advanced economies is on average eight times greater than Australia's. So I think it is an important economic fact to get into the discussion, because there is a lot of economic fiction, particularly from Senator Joyce, that gets put into the debate.
Mr President, I have a point of order on relevance. The question is quite clear. It asked what the gross debt will be at the end of each financial year. However, what we seem to be getting is percentages and analogies. Now the minister might not know the answer. That is all right. Just tell her—
I know that Senator Joyce is conducting a one-man campaign to change the OECD's, the IMF's and the generally accepted economic metric by which economies measure their indebtedness. I wish him luck in that, but I do not agree with it. The reality is that net debt is a sensible way for governments—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Net debt begins to fall as a per cent of GDP from 2015-16 and will reach zero in 2021-22. In terms of CGS on issue, I would remind the senator that the value of CGS on issue in the budget papers, because of the accounting standards, is the market value. Commonwealth government securities on issue is the market value, and that is what is reflected in the budget papers.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. We did not get an answer to that question, so I will be quite clear with the next one. What is the market value, seeing as you referred to that, of the government debt over the forward estimates?
Honourable senators interjecting—
Senator Brandis says, 'Well, do.' I am not sure. I think the next time I 'well, do' read the budget papers in question time, I suspect he will probably tell me off, because he will say, 'We can read the budget papers ourselves.'
Mr President, a point of order on direct relevance—the question was: 'What is the market value of government debt over the forward estimates?' The question was directed only to a figure. The minister has acknowledged in what she has already said that she has that figure in her possession, so she is able to answer the question. You should direct her to do so.
I think Senator Conroy is suggesting that it is in statement 3. I suspect it is in a couple of statements of Budget Paper No. 1. As I said, the market value is listed in the budget papers. The relevant debt figure, though, for the purposes of assessing the strength of the economy, is, of course, net debt. I would refer the senator to the comments of Mr Howard yesterday, which reminded the coalition— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The finance minister of the Commonwealth seems embarrassed to mention our own debt, so I refer the minister to the fact that the budget papers show that the market value of Australian government debt will peak at $370.3 billion. When does the government plan to increase the debt limit above $300 billion? Maybe she could be succinct in answering that, unless she is scared of that answer as well.
Was that supposed to be a 'gotcha' question? You know the answer and then you read the budget paper back to me as a supplementary. So that we are clear about the political strategy: you read the budget paper at me, after asking me what is in the budget paper. Is this a serious discussion of the federal budget from the coalition? Is this a serious discussion, the day after the federal budget, from the coalition? The best they can do is try and get 'gotcha'—
Mr President, I have a point of order on relevance.
Senator Conroy interjecting—
You wouldn't know what that was about, would you? The question clearly asked when they planned to increase the limit above $300 billion. You cannot be clearer than that, Mr President. She either knows the answer or she does not. If she does not, that is fair enough—she can just sit down and call herself incompetent.
Mr President, on the point of order: Senator Joyce was completely disingenuous about the question he asked. He had a rambling commentary before, during and after the actual substance that he has just mentioned. So it is completely disingenuous, when he goes on a rambling commentary, to try and claim that the answer is not directly relevant.
In relation to the debt cap, it is not necessary to lift the debt cap. We anticipate significant headroom under the cap at the end of the 2013-14 financial year, and the numbers will be reviewed in the usual way again before the 2013-14—
Honourable senators interjecting—
As I was saying, the numbers will be reviewed again before the end of 2013-14 in the normal way in the next budget. I would also remind the Senate that Australia's AAA credit rating has been reaffirmed overnight by all three ratings agencies on the back of the government's budget. (Time expired)