Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 23 April 1985
Page: 1350

Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Minister for Finance. I remind the Minister that on 27 March he said that he had a tentative intention to release the forward estimates of expenditures in May and that last Friday he said that he had not changed his position. I remind the Minister that the Prime Minister, when asked at his Press conference yesterday whether he would release the forward estimates of outlays, said:

Well, forward estimates are not there in a releasable form because what is happening is that we undertook the expenditure review exercise early in this year.

I might add, Mr President, that I am asking this question because I think that was the only grammatically correct sentence that the Prime Minister used in the Press conference. I ask the Minister: Which of them is correct on the question of the availability of the forward estimates? If the Minister says they are both correct, what has happened to change the status or availability of the estimates since Friday, other than a desire by this Government to prevent proper scrutiny of its policies?

Senator WALSH —Senator Chaney is trying to synthesise some inconsistency where there is none. On 27 March I said that I had an intention to release the forward estimates in May. I think I said then-I have certainly said it since-that no decision had been made by the Government about whether that would be done. That is still the case. Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that a statement of real reductions from expenditure will be made in May and they will be compared with figures which had been in the forward estimates at an earlier period. Whether there is any point in releasing the full forward estimates which were actually prepared at the end of 1984 is, I suppose, a matter of opinion and a question yet to be decided by the Government.

In relation to the Prime Minister's statement yesterday that expenditure cuts amounting in total to $1 billion would be announced in May, I stress that they will be real cuts from expenditure-not the phoney cuts from expenditure which we saw when the previous discredited Government in 1981 produced a synthetic figure of $560m which its razor gang had slashed off expenditure and which the Prime Minister of the day described as eventual ongoing savings. What that means is savings accumulated over an unlimited number of Budgets. For example, the cancellation of the Alice Springs-Darwin railway by itself was, by Mr Fraser's definition, a saving of $500m. What this Government will be announcing in May will be savings of $1 billion from the 1985-86 notional or forward estimates budget.