Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Questions without Notice
Mr President, my question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. Can the minister confirm reports that 'Treasury is behind schedule in preparing the budget because of the lack of clarity about what the government wants, with too many inconsistent instructions'?
I can confirm for the chamber that the government is completely on track in putting together our second budget, which will of course continue to build a stronger, more prosperous economy, and create more jobs, so that everyone can get ahead. The initiatives in our second budget will be focused on jobs, growth and opportunity, and they will continue to repair the budget mess that we have inherited from our predecessors.
As I was saying, our second budget will focus on jobs, on growth, on helping families, on putting Australia on a stronger foundation for the future, and on making sure that our expenditure growth is sustainable for the future and is sustainable for the medium to long term—because we inherited a situation from Labor where government spending was getting out of control; where debt was getting out of control. Under Labor, we were on a trajectory to government net debt of more than 100 per cent as a share of the economy within a few decades—I mean completely unsustainable. We are turning the situation around. As I said yesterday, we inherited from Labor a weakening economy, rising unemployment, and a budget position that was rapidly deteriorating. The economy is now strengthening, jobs growth is strengthening, and the budget position is improving and, of course, we will continue to work to improve the budget bottom line, and we will get the budget back to surplus as soon as possible.
Mr President, I rise on a supplementary question. Can the minister further confirm reports that there are 'deepening concerns in Treasury that ministers are running out of time to finalise huge decisions on the May 12 budget'?
I completely reject the premise of that question, and I completely reject the assertion that is made in that question. What I will confirm is that the government continues to work hard to put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. The government continues to work hard to protect living standards and to create better opportunities for the future. The government continues to work hard to ensure that the funding for the important benefits and services that the government provides for people across Australia is affordable and sustainable within the economy of the medium to long term—because the situation that we inherited from Labor was completely unsustainable. The problem was that—under Labor—if we stayed on that trajectory, we would be continuing to live at the expense of our children and grandchildren. We would continue to put our hands into the pockets of our children and grandchildren and fund our lifestyle today at their expense. We do not think that is fair. We think it is important that the funding and the spending of government is actually affordable, and that we get back to surplus as soon as possible— (Time expired)
Mr President, I rise on a further supplementary question: Minister, does the government remained committed to all the unfair measures in the 2014-15 budget, including cutting health, education, pensions and higher education?
The government remains committed to do what needs to be done to put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. The government remains committed to do what needs to be done to strengthen economic growth, to create more jobs, to help families, and to ensure that the important benefits and services of government are affordable in the economy, and are affordable for taxpayers over the long term, and indeed forever. As I indicated to the chamber yesterday, as a result of the ageing of the population, we are going from a situation where right now we have about 4.5 Australians of traditional working age for every Australian aged 65 and over, going down to 2.7 Australians of traditional working age for every Australian aged 65 and over—so that obviously means that there is a growing pressure on a smaller number of working taxpayers to fund the larger number of services over the decades to come. We need to ensure that we are in the strongest possible position to deal with that challenge. We are dealing with it. When is the Labor Party going to stop being in a state of denial about the disastrous situation that they have left behind? (Time expired)