Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (17:46): Thanks very much, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to participate in the consideration in detail on the Finance portfolio with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and colleagues from both sides of the House. One of the best things about economic policy is that it is measurable, so when one side of the House promises, for example, to improve consumer confidence or business confidence, and they promise an adrenaline surge, it is measurable after that when confidence does not go as the government promised. It is the same for unemployment, for example. The government promised to improve the unemployment situation in Australia, and we know that unemployment is higher now than during the dark days of the global financial crisis.
The same goes for fiscal policy, and one of the reasons that the budget is so eagerly anticipated each year and that the colleagues from the Department of Finance and the Treasury put so much effort into the annual budget is that it gives us a good opportunity to see in black and white how the government is travelling when it comes to commitments like the Treasurer's original commitment that there would be a surplus in every year of an Abbott government, for example, or all the other various commitments that have been made—all the rhetoric around budget emergency and all of that. We can see it in black and white in the budget documents, so it is a good chance today to confirm and clarify some issues that jump out at us from the budget.
The first one relates to the underlying cash balance—or, in the parlance of the debate in this place, the situation around the deficit in the budget. So I want to ask a series of questions about that. I will go through them all for the parliamentary secretary, and then he can respond in detail after that. The first one is: after promising that the deficit would be fixed or improved by the Liberal government, will he confirm that the deterioration from the last budget, the first Hockey budget, to the second Hockey budget is something like $56.1 billion across four years, which is constituted by a deterioration in 2014-15 of $11.3 billion; a deterioration in 2015-16 of $18 billion, which represents a doubling of the deficit in the coming year; a deterioration in 2016-17 of $15.2 billion; and a deterioration in 2017-18 of $11.6 billion? That is how we get that enormous deterioration from one Hockey budget to the next—not from a Labor budget to a Liberal budget but from the first Hockey budget to the second Hockey budget. Can he confirm that even from MYEFO, the mid-year update, there has been a $12.5 billion deterioration in the budget deficit over those same years?
The same goes for debt. Can he confirm that the debt situation has deteriorated substantially? Can he also confirm that, after the Liberals promised to decrease the tax burden in Australia, the tax-to-GDP ratio—tax as a proportion of the economy, which is the commonly accepted measure of the level of tax in this community—is higher every single year of the Abbott government, in this budget in black and white, than it was in any year of the former Rudd and Gillard governments and, indeed, is at the highest level since the Howard government? Also, when it comes to spending, can the parliamentary secretary confirm that the level is the highest level of government spending in the budget since the darkest days of the global financial crisis?