Page 375 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 12 February 2013

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MADAM SPEAKER: Order! Sit down, Mr Barr. The standing orders require you to be concise and directly relevant to answering the question. I have said on a number of occasions since the very first day I occupied this chair that I will not tolerate snide comments about people’s character and the like. That comment was designed to put somebody down and it was inappropriate. I will ask you to come to your feet and directly and concisely answer the question. If you cannot do it, I will sit you down.

MR BARR: Thank you, Madam Speaker. In relation to the question the shadow treasurer asked, he would be aware that all jurisdictions in Australia are experiencing this challenge in relation to superannuation funding as a result of the long-term commonwealth bond rate being considerably lower than its long-run historical average. In fact, I would draw the member’s attention to an article in the Financial Review from last month that detailed the situation that each jurisdiction is in. This is beyond the control of the states and territories at this point in time as we do not set the long-term commonwealth bond rate and we are not responsible for the current situation where that rate is well below its long-term average.

There are a number of reasons for that, most particularly that the Reserve Bank of Australia has made a series of decisions to lower interest rates. The positive of that, of course, is the impact it has in terms of stimulating demand within the economy and what that does, of course, for cost of living pressures for those with a mortgage. But as with everything in economics, there is another side to the story and those who hold deposits, as the territory does, particularly in relation to our superannuation, can expect lower returns on those deposits as a result of lower interest rates. We are not alone in facing this challenge.

In relation to our borrowings, they are at a level that is sustainable and appropriate to invest in the long-term infrastructure needs of the territory. If the shadow treasurer has an alternative view, if he believes that the government should be withdrawing investment from the territory economy at this time, let him say so and let him look in the eye of all those Canberrans whose jobs would be lost as a result of that policy prescription.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Smyth.

MR SMYTH: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Treasurer, why did your government allow the territory superannuation liability to double from $2.6 billion to $5.2 billion in only a year?

MR BARR: The government did no such thing, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Seselja.

MR SESELJA: Minister, what plans do you have for “significant increases in capital injections” into the superannuation provision account to cover the government’s superannuation liabilities as noted in the report on page 156?

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