Treasurer's Intergenerational Report Fail

26 February 2015

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (09:30):  Members of parliament have many different roles, and one of them is to plan for the future. That requires us to understand the trends and the developments on the horizon in order to ensure that we have that economic settings right so that future generations can enjoy better living standards than what we have today. That is what makes the Intergenerational report such an important initiative. I agree with the Treasurer on one point, and perhaps one point only, and that is when he described it as a 'critical' document. If it is such a critical document, the question is: why has he breached the law of the Charter of Budget Honesty in delaying its release beyond the five-year limit? It says a great deal about the confusion and incompetence in the Abbott government right now that this Treasurer will be the first of the four treasurers covered by the charter to breach it.

This Treasurer cannot get anything right. In a speech last week he spoke about three areas—not climate change, and not growing inequality or social immobility or inclusive growth, which did not get a look in, but three other important areas nonetheless. He spoke about the importance of productivity at the same time that he is cutting money for education and training, limiting access to university and relying on last century's copper network for broadband—all with costs to our human capital, technological infrastructure and productivity. He talked about workforce participation at the same time as he is cutting a billion dollars out of child care. And he talked about budget repair—a crucial objective, but one hampered by his worsening budget position, the tax breaks that he has given to the wealthiest people in the superannuation system and the loopholes that he has reopened for multinational corporations shifting their tax dollars offshore.

The IGR should outline in detail the cost of the government's decisions. Unfortunately, it has already been seriously compromised by the government's plan to play politics with it. We know from estimates that there has been interference in the forecast for migration, which has serious consequences for the budget numbers. This interference is why the Treasury secretary and the head of the fiscal group went to such lengths yesterday and the day before to describe this as the Treasurer's document and not the Treasury's. Another revelation was that the government is spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on market research leading to a taxpayer-funded advertising campaign. Australians are rejecting the government's budget because it is fundamentally unfair, not because it has not been spun well enough. There is not an the absence of spin; there is an absence of heart and an absence of vision, which no amount of taxpayer funded ads will fix.

We eagerly await the release of an Intergenerational report which is so late now that the Treasurer has breached the law. Despite the fact that the document has been compromised, we will engage constructively in the debate about the future of this country and its economy, because nothing is more important.