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Budget

Budget

Ms SPENDER (Wentworth) (15:00)

My question is for the Treasurer.

The budget papers project a structural deficit across the medium term and into the 2030s. This is unsustainable. What is the Treasurer's plan to return to a structural budget balance, and when will this be?

Dr CHALMERS (RankinTreasurer) (15:00): Thanks to the member for Wentworth for her question, which reflects her longstanding interest in budget policy, particularly tax reform. One of the most important reasons why the progress we've made so far in the budget, in budget repair, is so important—if you look at the two fastest-growing areas of government spending, which are feeding the structural deficit to which the member rightly refers, the first one is the interest on the debt that we inherited from those opposite and the second one has been the NDIS.

We have taken considered, methodical action to address both of those areas—two of the big drivers. I pay tribute to the minister, Minister Shorten, for the work that we do together on the NDIS, which recognises that we need to ensure that the NDIS continues to deliver for the people it was designed to help, and we need to do that not by cutting back spending but by managing the growth of that spending. So I pay tribute to him. When it comes to the contribution of debt interest to the structural deficit, that has been considerable as well. One of the reasons why it's so important that we've been able to shave that $150 billion of debt this year is that it saves us something like $80 billion in debt interest over the course of the next 10 years, and you can see that $80 billion makes a meaningful difference to the structural position of the budget in the medium term. So those are two things that we are doing.

As I think the member for Wentworth would acknowledge, even if she may have a different combination of proposals, there is a role for tax reform in that too. Before the parliament we have changes to the PRRT. We have changes to high-balance superannuation—that's why it's so ironic that those opposite are asking about billionaires when they are voting against some of these fairness measures in the tax system in the other place. Tax reform has a role to play as well, and in last night's budget there was more tax reform. I acknowledge that the member for Wentworth would like us to go further and faster on tax reform, but that doesn't mean that it has been absent. We've been working through a really comprehensive tax reform agenda in a methodical and considered way.

In the changes last night there were some compliance changes. There's obviously a tax cut for every taxpayer, to return bracket creep in the best possible way. There are also small-business tax incentives. There are tax incentives to make ourselves a renewable energy superpower. There are also other important changes, like the changes to capital gains taxes for foreign property owners. That's another change that's in the budget.

All of this together—the very responsible approach that the Prime Minister, the cabinet and the government take to managing the budget—is about improving the structural position over time. We've done a whole heap of that. We've made some good progress, but we know that there is more to do.

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