13 November 2013

Labor’s $400 Billion Gamble Doesn’t Add Up


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Hansard, Consideration in Detail, Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Amendment Bill 2013 Canberra

This speech made in Parliament by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer discusses the debt limit, politics and economic conditions.

I see what is going on here: the lights opposite are on but there is no-one home.

The Shadow Treasurer and the Member for Grayndler have stood up and said, 'We haven't heard any arguments about why the debt limit needs to go above $400 billion'. As has been said, indeed by the Shadow Treasurer, in the now Opposition's own Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook, gross debt was anticipated to reach $370 billion. The Opposition's own tabled information, from the Australian Office of Financial Management, said that there must be a buffer of between $40 billion and $60 billion. So, based on Labor's own numbers in isolation, $370 billion plus $60 billion is $430 billion. Based on those numbers alone, I have news for the Labor Party: $430 billion is more than $400 billion! The Labor Party stand at the dispatch box and says, 'We haven't heard any arguments; what possible arguments could there be?' How about your own numbers, Labor Party?

In addition to that, the extraordinary thing is that the Member for Grayndler stands up and says, 'What's the urgency? What's the rush? They're trying to ram this bill through; it just shows that the Government can't be trusted.' How extraordinary that another member from the Labor Party would make a comment like that. We know, again based on Labor's own information, that the debt ceiling will be reached in December—in weeks. Now, I have news for the Labor Party: the Senate is not sitting next week. The reality is that there is urgency to this Bill, and it is because of the parlous state that was left by the Labor Party.

Never forget: it was the former, former Treasurer—or, I should say, the former, former Treasurer—who said, 'Well, it'll be someone else's problem to deal with the debt limit.' So Labor, under the Member for Lilley, said, 'Someone else can deal with this problem; we're not going to deal with it.' And now the shadow Treasurer says, 'Let's make it $400 billion because we don't see any reason why it should be more than $400 billion'—even though their own numbers make it clear that it is $430 billion.

But the real cherry on top of the cake came from the Shadow Treasurer. The Shadow Treasurer stood up at the dispatch box, with a straight face—he would make a great poker player, I am sure—and said, 'Well, government, the reality is that this will get you past December', as if in some way that is an appropriate approach to take to good governance. And the Labor Party stands up, with the pinnacle of economic excellence on the Labor Party side, the Shadow Treasurer—

Dr Andrew Leigh: Hear, hear!

— that was a half-hearted 'Hear, hear' from the member for Fraser! But, anyway, we will just leave that! I think he got the joke. I am not sure that the Shadow Treasurer did—I think he thought I was being serious. But the reality is that we do not intend to manage Australia as a month-to-month proposition. We think economic security is more important than that. We think sending signals to the market is more important than making decisions on a month-to-month basis. We know that that is Labor's approach—we get it. The Government gets that Labor's approach is to come and ask for an increase in the credit limit, scurry off, spend more money, come back, ask for another increase in the debt limit, scurry off, spend more money, come back and ask for another increase. That is not our approach.

Let us be clear: once we have fixed up the damage that Labor has left behind, once we have got the budget back in a state of repair, once we have Australia back on her feet, then we know we will be able to start paying down Labor's debt. But we need you to get out of the way. We need the Labor Party to stop blocking us from saving money and to actually support us when we try to actually consolidate the amount of debt that this country has. We need to repair the damage that you left behind. Don't stand up and make yourselves out as caricatures by saying, 'We don't understand why it needs to be more than $400 billion'.

Let us make it clear: we do not support the  amendment that has been put forward by the Labor Party. We do not support it because, on their own numbers, which they left behind, it will be breached on their own forecasts.