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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1756

Mr O'KEEFE —My question is addressed to the Treasurer and it concerns the shopping list of proposals for reductions in government revenue. Can the Treasurer inform the House of the effect on Australia's economic performance of a reduction of Commonwealth revenues by $21.5 billion?

Mr KEATING —As I have said on a number of occasions in this Parliament, it is a continuing requirement of Commonwealth policy that there should be a diminution of public sector demands upon financial markets to free up funds and resources to go into the import competing and export sectors of this country. If we are to deal with the problem of our current account imbalance, we have to lift our exports-and diminish our imports-and lift our import competing performance by putting more economic resources into those sectors. Hence, any grab for funds by the Commonwealth Government or an increase in its call upon Australian savings would only slow down that fundamental change which is now taking place in the economy. On a number of occasions, I have instanced the tax expenditure commitments of the Leader of the Opposition. The National Party Conference on the weekend carried resolutions from its agenda booklet which I have here that are quite interesting. These tax expenditure commitments are as follows: Increasing family assistance to the family by full income splitting-$2.85 billion; child care rebates costing $115m; repealing the assets test-$160m; repealing the tax on lump sum superannuation-$85m; freezing wages-a $500m cost to revenue; 25 per cent flat tax with a threshold-$7,500m; increasing the dependent spouse rebate from $830 to $4,000 and the dependent child rebate from $200 to $2,000-$2,500m; abolishing the capital gains tax-$25m; abolishing fringe benefits tax and substantiation-$900m; abolishing quarantining of negative gearing-$100m; abolishing the financial institutions duty-I presume it means the bank accounts debits tax-$300m; abolishing the prescribed payments system-$850m, even though it was introduced in the first place by a coalition government; and the removal of the indirect taxing cost on fuel instanced by the Deputy Leader of the National Party-$5.6 billion. That comes to $21 1/2 billion.

We have seen the whole process of electoral bribes in this country being lifted to an art form by the Liberal Party and now by the National Party. But what is interesting about the National Party is that it obviously hopes to dominate a coalition government in the way in which Sir John McEwen was able to dominate coalition governments in the late 1960s and very early 1970s. When Sir Robert Sparkes decides to pull the plug on the 12 Queensland Nationals who will leave the National Party and the coalition, we will see a National Party presence in any coalition government. Sir Robert made it clear in his comments in the Press this week that he saw his role as lifting the power and influence of the National Party in any coalition government. These decisions are not from the extremists associated with Sir Joh because the moderates supposedly dominated this particular conference which proposed $21 billion worth of tax expenditure commitments. That is on top of the $16 billion which the Leader of the Opposition has paraded on his own commitments. What we are seeing from the Liberal Party is total fiscal irresponsibility. What we are now seeing from the National Party is even greater fiscal irresponsibility. If Sir Robert Sparkes get his clutch upon a coalition government he would wipe the floor with the honourable member for Bennelong and with the honourable member for Kooyong, if he were to displace him. He understands where the weakness is and he is determined-as he thinks the Queensland Nationals run a decent political machine-to put his stamp on a future coalition government. If that is the best we can expect-$21 billion on tax expenditure commitments and $16 billion from the former Treasurer-God help fiscal policy and this country.

Mr Howard —Sit down, Goebbels.

Mr Barry Jones —I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I find the term of abuse-Goebbels-applied to the Treasurer quite unacceptable. I ask you, Madam Speaker, to rule it as unparliamentary and ask the honourable member to withdraw it.

Madam SPEAKER —I did not hear the comment. If the comment has been used I ask for it to be withdrawn.

Mr Howard —I withdraw the description of the Treasurer, but it happens to be true.

Madam SPEAKER —Is the honourable member withdrawing that comment also?

Mr Howard —I regret that lapse and I withdraw it.

Mr KEATING —We excuse his lapses because he is under pressure. We understand. The Government is the only party in this country that looks to bring down an economic policy which is complementary to Australia's current economic conditions and that means reducing the call of public sector funds upon the budgets of this country. That is not the policy of the Opposition. It is a disgrace that parties not so long ago in government should be associated with policies of this dimension and impact.

Mr Tuckey —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Treasurer has been speaking for six minutes on a matter of irrelevance. I ask you to ask him to bring his answer to a close.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member does not have a point of order.

Mr KEATING —I conclude on this note: These kinds of electoral bribes would blow our interest rates into the 30 per cent category and damn Australia to a recession from which it would take a decade to emerge.