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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2447

Mr LEO MCLEAY —Will the Treasurer assure the House that the principle behind the forthcoming May economic statement will be to introduce equitable spending cuts and not to hand out new tax breaks to the privileged?

Mr KEATING —The very essence of what the Government has done in the past in respect of expenditure restraint, or restraint in public outlays, tax expenditures or tax policy, has been equity and fairness. Whether we are speaking about tax cuts, tax concessions, wages policy or social security policy, they are all, in their essence, equitable and fair. That is how it will continue to be while ever this Government is in office. But I might say that that is not the position with the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia.

We now see being unveiled in this country by the real leader of the National Party, the Queensland Premier, a 25 per cent flat tax proposal which would cost the revenue $4.8 billion and give a massive tax cut to the wealthy which the Queensland Premier says would be funded by an $8 billion cut in outlays-which, of course, would inevitably hurt the poor. The interesting thing is that the Queensland Premier said on the radio program AM the morning before last, when asked about his position or his involvement in politics or in any possible government: `It is all about getting the right policies'. When a question was put to him about his being Prime Minister, he said: `Don't worry about the PM part; it is all about getting the right policies'. In other words, if forced, he would forsake being Prime Minister-if he had the opportunity-to get his way on policy. Everyone thought: `Well, he will never get his way on policy while John Howard is the Leader of the Liberal Party. John Howard would not deal on policy with anybody he called a wrecker and a thug. He would not allow the National Party to run his policy'. But what do we find today? On the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald we find the headline `Howard: I'd work with Joh'. In other words: `I will do a deal with the devil. All I care about'-that is, the honourable member for Bennelong-`is being Prime Minister'. So the man who gambled on Sinclair and on maintaining the coalition and lost now says to his Party: `I tried to keep the coalition together; I tried to break Joh and keep him from power and I failed. But keep me in the leadership. And just by the way, Joh is basically not a wrecker or a thug. We would negotiate with him if we had the raw numbers on the conservative side of the House of Representatives to put a government together'.

If that were to happen we would find that Australian public policy would be run by the lowest common denominator in Australian politics-the Queensland National Party and the Queensland Premier. We would find that, in every fight John Howard had with the Queensland Premier, he would lose-like he lost every fight with Malcolm Fraser. One could sum up, certainly in election terms, the news of this week in the phrase `A vote for John Howard is a vote for Joh', because Joh would be sitting in running the policy of a conservative government if honourable members opposite had the numbers to form a coalition government-if that were ever to come to pass in this country. That is what it is about. Joh has said: `I will break the coalition. I will run the policy. I will smash Sinclair'. He has done all those things. Howard said he would bail him up. He was banking on a coalition. He put his career on the coalition; he lost; but he is still saying: `Oh, no, I've got the credentials'. Then he surrounded himself with his own supporters on the front bench. Any talent has been banished to the back bench and we find--

Mr Tim Fischer —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to standing order 145. I point out that the question related specifically to the mini-Budget or economic statement and the Treasurer has now gone way beyond the question in his reply. He should be directed accordingly.

Madam SPEAKER —The Treasurer will return to the question.

Mr KEATING —The clear implication is-I repeat-that if it were ever to occur that there were enough raw conservative numbers in the House of Representatives, the lowest common denominator would run fiscal policy. The implications of the Queensland Premier running monetary and fiscal policy in this country are already a matter of comment in European and North American financial newspapers. It is a matter of very grave concern to them. The fact of the matter is that this country would be in grave economic jeopardy, as the financial markets closed in on it and crushed it under the kinds of policies which would be associated with the Queensland Premier running the honourable member for Bennelong in a coalition government. I am both surprised and disgusted to think that the Leader of the Opposition, who had put his career on keeping the coalition together, did not have the decency to resign when he lost on that.

Mr Cadman —Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Already a point of order has been raised on the matter of relevance. Madam Speaker, the Treasurer continues to defy your admonition from the Chair. I ask you to call him to order.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Mitchell will resume his seat. I remind the Treasurer that he has already been asked by the Chair to draw his answer to a close.

Mr KEATING —I will draw it to a close by making this final point: All the huffing and puffing about position and principle has come down to the fact that the members of the Liberal Party will do a deal with the devil to get their seats into ministerial chairs and put the economy of this country asunder.