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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1243

Mr GRACE —Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the Government's approach to budgetary management over the coming year?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable member for his question. I would remind him that we have announced that a May statement on a range of new spending cuts will be made as an instalment on this year's Budget. As the Australian people understand, this will continue the most demanding Federal Government fiscal discipline in the post-war era.

Opposition members interjecting-

Mr HAWKE —The figures are there beyond dispute. The ums and ahs mean nothing. The fact is that we have reduced the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product from 5 per cent to around 1.5 per cent. I remind the House and the honourable member that the assets test, the capital gains tax and the fringe benefits tax and our removal of taxpayers' subsidies on businessmen's free lunches are important parts of the necessary restraint that will be exercised in this community. Together they contribute $1.4 billion to our success in reducing the Budget deficit. Yet the current Leader of the Opposition, who has attempted to peddle himself as a disciple of fiscal restraint, has promised to abolish all those reforms and hand $1,400m in privileges back to the rich. In fact, as I have pointed out, the Leader of the Opposition's long list of promises to the rich would yield a staggering deficit of $16 billion, because he has now succumbed to the pressure from the north on the question of a broad based consumption tax. I suggest that in today's environment it is relevant to ask ourselves who speaks for what and for whom in the Liberal Party. The name of the President of the Liberal Party has been intruded into this arena. He purports to speak for the Liberal Party, and certainly the Leader of the Opposition would embrace what is said by the President of the Liberal Party.

Mr Spender —I rise on a point of order. This has no possible relevance to the question put to the Prime Minister, even given the very liberal interpretation we give to the word `relevance' in this House.

Madam SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr HAWKE —Even the honourable member for North Sydney, with his limited capacity to understand economic matters, will understand the direct relevance of what I am about to say. He should listen to what his Federal President had to say on the subject of these taxes in 1985. I want to know, and I know that a lot of people behind the Leader of the Opposition want to know, whether the Federal President of the Liberal Party speaks with the authority of the Leader of the Opposition when he says these things. He said:

If you are really going to make any big reduction in government spending I have got to say there is one area where it is going to be done in and that is social welfare.

I remind the House that this is the Leader of the Opposition's friend, a man embraced by the Leader of the Opposition and who speaks for the Liberal Party. The President of the Liberal Party continued:

I think that our party is very conscious of the need to do that.

He then went on:

But look what has happened over even the assets test, which if I can again be a little candid on your private program was a very small step in that direction.

Those opposite should listen to what the Federal President said, though I know it hurts them to listen to these words. He said:

I think again to reverse the whole disease, if you like to call it, of fringe benefits which again has developed over a decade or more . . .

He then paid tribute to Paul Keating. He said:

I've got to say I think that is a fair and just thing in this country.

That was from the Federal President of the Liberal Party. He said that what Mr Keating did on behalf of the Labor Government on fringe benefits was `a fair and just thing'. Does the Federal Leader of the Opposition agree with the Federal President of the Liberal Party? No, of course he does not because when he is hurt, which is most of the time, he does not have the guts to face up to it. What did the Federal President of the Liberal Party go on to say? He said:

It's going to take, I imagine, every bit of a decade to reverse the trends of the past, but the longer we leave doing it, the harder it is going to be.

Then came this gem from the Federal President of the Liberal Party. I ask the people of Australia to listen to the man whom John Howard embraces as speaking with authority and representing the views of the Liberal Party. This is what the Federal President of the Liberal Party had to say when he was asked by a journalist why Labor had bitten the bullet on tax proposals. The journalist asked:

What makes you think it is going to be any easier for you, the Liberals?

What did the Federal President of the Liberal Party say? John Valder said this:

Well, that is why I would like to see them do the very hard things that they are going to get into trouble about because electorally that is the fact of the matter. They are not easy to do, so I have said many times, you know, let the Labor Party get on implementing the more necessary but perhaps less popular parts of our policy and let's hope they get them into place and promptly lose office and I think that that would be a very good scenario.

So there we have it. John Howard's friend, the President of the Liberal Party, is saying: `Let us be dishonest, let us be absolutely deceptive, let us get up and make noises against the fringe benefits tax and the capital gains tax, let us make all these noises about Labor being wrong. Let the Labor Party implement these things and then we will embrace them'. We know that the Leader of the Opposition agrees with the Federal President of the Liberal Party. He has branded himself as a partner in deceit in the most squalid of politics. We do not have to ask the present Leader of the Opposition whether he agrees with Mr Valder and I guess we do not have to ask the putative Leader of the Opposition. Whichever way we look at it, we are faced with two people in this place who share with the Federal Leader of the Liberal Party a partnership in the most gross deception and squalid politicking on these fundamental matters ever seen in the history of this country.