Question Without Notice - Economy

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:23): My question is to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer outline for the House the importance of sound fiscal management to support jobs and to return the budget to surplus?

Mr SWAN (Lilley—Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:23): I thank the member for Cunningham for that question because sound fiscal management is more important than ever, particularly given the global uncertainty that we are seeing. We on this side of the House have got the big economic decisions right, because in the face of global uncertainty and a global recession we supported jobs, we supported small business and we avoided a recession in this country. While we have had some recent job losses, we should never lose sight of the fact that over 700,000 jobs have been created in this country over the past four years. But we are certainly not immune because we have seen something like $140 billion worth of revenue stripped from the budget. Those opposite pretend that somehow the global financial crisis and global recession were a hiccup. Well, it stripped $140 billion from our budget bottom line—a massive hit to the budget.

The level of tax to GDP in the last year of the Howard government was 23.7 per cent of GDP—2½ percentage points higher than it is now. If we still had the same level of GDP as those opposite had in their last year of office our revenues at the moment would be $20 billion higher in 2012-13 alone. So it has been a massive hit to our budget. That is why we are out there, coming back to surplus and conducting one of the most significant fiscal consolidations—that is, return to surplus—seen in our history, because we understand with global uncertainty you have to be serious about your fiscal policy and send a message to international markets. That is not attainable by those opposite. We have seen the Three Stooges type farce of the last week from those opposite—

The SPEAKER: Order! The Treasurer was referring to three members of the opposition in an inappropriate way. He will withdraw.

Mr SWAN: I withdraw, Mr Speaker. They have been running around promising spending but they have been saying no to structural savings. They support spending on the one hand, but when we put up sensible proposals—ones which can build the strength of our financial system and direct more dollars to the health system—they say no. They have claimed in this House today that we did not put it before the Australian people. It was there for everyone to see in the pre-election fiscal outlook, which they did spend a lot of time studying until the Treasury discovered there was an $11 billion black hole in their estimates. Those opposite do not care about coming back to surplus because they are not up to running a $1.4 trillion economy. A $70 billion hole—but he only thing that Larry over there was concerned about was that Curly was going to leak the $70 billion figure.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! The Treasurer has used a term which a colleague opposite found offensive. The Treasurer would immensely assist the House if he were to withdraw that term.

Mr SWAN: I withdraw, Mr Speaker.