Responsible Budgets

What we have heard from the other side in this debate on pension indexation is a clear reflection of the fact that they are completely unengaged with the real problems we face as a nation. 

The real problem we face is how we are going to continue to pay for stuff. We all want more stuff in our lives but we have to pay for it somehow. The Intergenerational Report 2015, which came out last week—one of the most important reports for some time—shows that if we continue on the path we are on and do not do anything, in 40 years' time the pension is going to cost us $165 billion a year in today's dollars. If you want to check that, Senator Conroy, go to page 69 of the report. That is exactly what it says.

Senator Conroy:  "Three! It's a hat trick. How many did you score?"

How are you going to fix that, Senator Conroy? Senator Conroy is going to fix that by scoring goals, apparently. He is going to fix it by going and making lots of money for us from the English Premier League and he can pay for all of our pensions.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT:  "Senator Canavan, I would ask you to address your remarks through the chair."

It is $165 billion a year—and that is in today's dollars; there is no inflation there. That is more than a third of our current budget, our current spending. Average Australians pay about 30 per cent of their income in tax—around $20,000 to $25,000 a year. How will taxpayers pay for everything in the future? In the future a third of our tax is going to have to go to pensions before we fund defence, hospitals, the PBS and Medicare. We have to do something about that if we want to continue to provide an overall safety net for our country—and I certainly want to do that. If we want to continue to help people doing it tough we have to make decisions now or we are going to end up with a situation where our kids and grandkids cannot fund that amount and more radical surgery will have to be undertaken. I do not want that to happen. I want to act now because we are in a position right now to act without panicking. We are in a position to do something about this issue before we get forced to do something about it, when we can no longer borrow money from overseas at the same low interest rates we can right now and when we have massive amounts of debt but have to continue to go back to foreign markets, to foreign banks and to foreign governments to ask them to bankroll our bills. If we cannot do that, then we have completely lost control. Instead of us, here in this chamber, being able to sit down and debate these matters reasonably and with some flexibility, we will be pushed into a situation where we will be forced to make change—it will be taken out of our parliament's hands and it will be in the hands of those who we would seek finance from.

I noted in Minister Fifield's answer in question time today—I do not know if the other side did—that he did say that we are all ears. We are happy to have a discussion as a government about what alternatives might be in place here to deal with this issue, because this is seriously an issue. But there are no alternatives right now from the other side of this chamber who purport to be an alternative government. If you purport to be an alternative government, you should put up alternative proposals to deal with the major issues that face our nation. I note that the minister was asked by the Labor Party: are we still committed to the changes announced in last year's budget? The minister said that, yes, they are still on the table; we are still committed to making sure that we put a bunch of Australian government spending programs on a sustainable path and we are still committed to hearing other proposals to put those programs in place. I just wonder what the Labor Party are still committed to, because their option to deal with this issue is to put up taxes instead. They are still committed to a carbon tax. We have not heard what they are going to do about a mining tax, but presumably they are still committed to that. They are still committed to policies like shutting down the live cattle trade—which we also heard in question time. They are still committed to making sure that Australians in this country pay more taxes and not to funding our future through making reasonable savings and tough decisions on our budget.

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting—

Yes, and the Greens want to put up taxes too. I should not leave you out of this, Senator Whish-Wilson. I do not believe that more taxes are the solution for this country. I do not believe that our future should be based on paying more taxes. I believe taking off taxes is the right way to go about things. I believe that getting rid of the carbon tax was a multihundred dollar boon for pensioners in this nation. We did not take the increased pensions away from them by doing that, but we did take away the increased costs. Those costs are around $500 a year for the average household, and as a result of our decision pensioners no longer have to bear those costs. The extra pensions have been maintained and pensioners are much better off now than they were at the election 18 months ago. 

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