Question Without Notice - Budget

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:27): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline the importance of delivering a fiscally responsible budget and how Australia compares internationally? How is this approach being received and what is the government's response?

Mr SWAN (Lilley—Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:27): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question because we are seeing the quickest return to surplus on record and that is occurring well ahead of comparable countries.

Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada will not even have halved their deficits of a share of GDP by 2013. In 2013, the major advanced economies will still be in collective deficit of around five per cent of GDP and of course Australia will be back in the black. As I was saying before, we are doing that because we have put in place the essential savings—$22 billion worth of savings, two-thirds of those spending cuts. We are seeing the fastest fiscal consolidation on record.

I have seen some of the statements from those opposite but there has also been a number of statements from the market economists and the rating agencies. This is what the credit rating agency Standard & Poors said: The deficits and additional borrowings do not alter the sound profile of Australia's public finances which remain among the strongest of its peer group.

Mr Blythe from the Commonwealth Bank said: The Budget meets all the requirements of the government’s medium-term fiscal strategy … Our judgement is that this Budget largely delivers what is required from a short-term cyclical perspective. And it represents a step forward in setting up the economy for the longer haul.

That is the correct analysis of what we have done. We have the right fiscal settings for the future: bringing the budget back to surplus in 2012-13 and making sure we do not compound the inflationary pressures that will come from the mining boom.

Of course, the shadow Treasurer has promised to bring the budget back into surplus next year. So everybody in this House is waiting with bated breath to see the Leader of the Opposition come into this House tomorrow night and indicate how he is going to bring the budget back to surplus next year. I would not be too optimistic about his chances of that because, as we all know, following the last election the Treasury and the Department of Finance and Deregulation had a look at their savings and found there was an $11 billion hole in their savings. We look forward to seeing how they are going to bring forward the savings to bring this budget back to surplus. I think they have already said in the media in the last couple of days that they are opposing something like $3 billion worth of savings.

So they are going to start a long way behind. We are all waiting with bated breath to see how the Leader of the Opposition is going to bring the budget back to surplus in the next year. Failure to do so will prove that all they are full of is hot air.