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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1863

Mr HOWARD —I refer the Prime Minister to the report in yesterday's Melbourne Age that the Government would be selling public assets if this was justified. Is the Government in fact examining the possibility of selling publicly owned assets? If so, what criteria will be employed to determine whether such sales are justified?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I simply say to the Leader of the Opposition that, unlike the Opposition, my Government is not a captive of any privatisation ideology. We have adopted a calm and reasoned approach on this matter. Part of the normal Budget process is to analyse and to assess carefully all priorities, including the allocation of all public capital. Over time, clearly, the needs of the economy and the community generally change and so too will an efficient use of public capital. That analysis--

Mr Carlton —Ha, yes!

Mr HAWKE —It is no good the temporary shadow Treasurer laughing as though he is deriving some pleasure from that. What we are saying is that we are not captives of some stupid, blind ideological position which assumes that times do not change. We will in fact undertake an appropriate analysis and, to the extent that in our judgment of the overall budgetary situation disposal of some public assets is required, that will be done.

Having said that, let me say this: The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer need not get some smug satisfaction from this as though they can say that in that position there is not some fundamental difference between us. There is, because we take the view that there are some enterprises in this country which, whatever the changing economic circumstances may be, would still properly remain in the public domain. I need say no more than advert to an issue which of course is one of the many which cause a fundamental division between the Liberal Party and the National Party. The logic of the blind ideology in the Liberal Party is that it should dispose of Telecom. As my distinguished and very able colleague, the Minister for Communications, has made clear on many occasions, if the Liberals were allowed to have free rein with their ideological insanities and disposed of Telecom, it would be very largely the people whom the National Party purports to represent in rural Australia who would pay the price. I say to the people of rural Australia that we in the Australian Labor Party stand between them and the ideological vandalism that the Liberal Party would impose upon them.