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Monday, 9 September 1996
Page: 3688

Mr GARETH EVANS —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Having regard to what the Prime Minister said in answer to the Leader of the Opposition, do you remember in 1993 trying to knock off from the Labor government's budget $1.4 billion in the first year and $10.2 billion over the whole four years. If you did not think then that this would have any relevant impact on interest rates, what has changed now? In that context, do you also recall the exchange you had on Meet the Press with Paul Bongiorno in October 1993 when he asked you about what the impact would be on financial markets of your playing around with our bottom line and you replied:

This isn't a question of having fun. This is a question of standing up for the Australian electorate. The Australian electorate didn't vote for any of this . . . It's not going to help them. It's not going to give them jobs. How do you expect us to vote for it?

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member might bring his question to a close.

Mr GARETH EVANS —I will indeed. I ask the Treasurer: if it was good enough for you to use those arguments in 1993, how can you have the hypocritical hide to reject them now?

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will withdraw `hypocritical hide'.

Mr GARETH EVANS —I withdraw.

Mr COSTELLO —It is clear that the shadow Treasurer is not going to overcome his relevance deprivation syndrome by asking questions like that.

Mr McGauran —He is depressed.

Mr COSTELLO —It is true that he is depressed. He said to Derryn Hinch on 5 September 1996:

It's relevance deprivation syndrome. It hurts actually not being part of the action in any respect these days, not only in foreign policy but obviously across the board.

He said to Matt Abraham on 5 September, `We're not sexy or glamorous or seen as politically that relevant.' I will tell you that you are not seen as relevant at all. I will leave aside whether you are sexy or glamorous.

Let me make it entirely clear what the Labor Party put out the other day. The number of measures that it said it will vote against amount to $7 billion over four years. This is an opposition which is indolent, unintelligent and irresponsible. They are the measures they think they can beat. The truth is that, when you add up what they will be opposing, in addition to those measures, it amounts to $19 billion over four years. Your list did not include ATSIC, the ABC and the labour market programs. You will be opposing $19 billion of measures over four years. If we added in the Telstra sale, which we have a mandate for, as you did in relation to headlines, it amounts to $27 billion over four years.

This opposition is the most irresponsible in Australian history. Not only do they create these deficits, but they now want to sabotage all efforts to correct them. Not only did you leave us with a $10 billion deficit in the forthcoming year, you now have a strategy to run deficit and debt to the next century. The Labor Party—and let the Australian public know this—has set out on a course to run deficit and debt to the next century. Not only did they leave Australia wallowing in debt; they are now resisting all attempts to fix it.

No wonder the shadow Treasurer says that he does not feel sexy, glamorous or politically relevant. You have dealt yourself out of the equation. We know what your position is: you are opposed to absolutely everything. The only people that have now become relevant in this parliament are the Democrats, the Greens, Senator Harradine and Senator Colston. You have made yourself irrelevant. There is no reason why running around complaining about relevance deprivation syndrome will make you any more relevant to this process.

If you had wanted to establish some credentials you would have stood up to your colleagues and said, `There are measures here we have to support.' How much of the $7.2 billion over two years do you support? Let us put the question the other way: what measures do you support? You have not come out with any of the measures you support. There can be only one conclusion—you want to run deficit and debt to the next century. It was not enough that in underlying terms over five years you ran up $70 billion worth of deficit.

Mr Beazley interjecting

Mr COSTELLO —   You were the finance minister. Where were you all of this time—taking your orders from Keating? You are still taking your orders from Keating in relation to monetary policy. He comes out against an independent monetary policy and Little Sir Echo here comes out at the launch of the Jonathon Edwards biography and says that he is going to sue us. Who belled the cat on monetary policy? Not you. You did not have anything to say. It was Mr Keating who came out and announced it. The next thing we know, you are going to sue us. We are still sitting around waiting for the writ. You ought to ask the Hon. Gareth Evans QC, MP for some legal advice in relation to that. You had a policy of $70 billion in underlying terms over five years. Over the next four years you are opposing $19 billion of measures. You have a policy of deficit and debt to the next century. You want to put pressure on interest rates. You have no coherent economic policy whatsoever and you are trying to sabotage this government, which is fixing Australia's economic policy. I tell you: we will not allow it.