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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 2967


Mr PRICE —Can the Prime Minister advise the House of the Government's strategy behind the May statement?


Mr HAWKE —The May statement will represent a continuation of the unprecedented fiscal discipline which this Government has displayed over the past four years. As we on this side of the House have said, the Government and the Treasurer will sit for their test on Wednesday night when the Treasurer, on behalf of the Government, delivers the May statement; and the Leader of the Opposition will sit for his test when he replies on the following night. I might say that on this occasion the electorate will not be satisfied with the scissors and paste job which passed for a reply to the Budget last year. As I have said before, the Government has established a track record of sustained fiscal discipline. The Leader of the Opposition set his own standards, by which his reply will be judged, when he said on 17 February this year: `I am not prepared to put my name to any tax policy that does not add up. I am not prepared, nor will my Party be prepared, to suspend the laws of arithmetic in tax policy or in any other area'. That statement was made by the Leader of the Opposition in February. We know that the national priorities project showed us last week--


Mr Donald Cameron —Madam Speaker, can we turn the volume down? He is dominating the whole chamber.

Mr Madam SPEAKER-Order! I call the Prime Minister.


Mr HAWKE —The national priorities project showed us last week one horrendous way of cutting $12 billion, which is needed to help bridge the $16 billion credibility gap of the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition will have an opportunity on Thursday to embrace that set of cuts of the national priorities project, to come up with some other list or to repudiate his extravagant tax and spending promises. This Government has pursued a policy of consensus as it has gone about its task of the formulation of policy. I must say that a consensus is now starting to emerge in the community on the need for the Leader of the Opposition to present his fully funded tax policy. That consensus which is emerging in the community involves these people: Members of the Government believe that he should do it; Mr Elliott, the Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party, believes that he should produce it; Mr Andrew Hay believes that he should do it; and the former Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Kooyong, who does not think that the present Leader of the Opposition is a camel's backside as a leader, said on Sunday that he should produce it.

May I say in conclusion that I would think that in particular the Leader of the Opposition should have very much in his mind, as I have no doubt the honourable member for Kooyong has in his mind, the stricture which the present Leader of the Opposition, who was the then shadow Treasurer, addressed to the Leader of the Opposition in 1984. I think that the honourable member for Kooyong has probably sent the note back to the current Leader of the Opposition. I remind the Leader of the Opposition of what he had the temerity to say to the honourable member for Kooyong when he was the Leader of the Opposition in 1984. His note of 24 October is, I believe, very relevant for the Leader of the Opposition to have in mind when he prepares his address for Thursday night. This is what the then shadow Treasurer addressed to the then Leader of the Opposition on 24 October 1984:

As you are aware, I have been--


Mr Spender —On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The question that was addressed to the Prime Minister concerned the strategies of this Government for the mini-Budget. By no stretch of any meaning of the word `relevance' could his present rambling answer be called an answer--


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister has already announced that he is in conclusion.


Mr HAWKE —Poor old Clarence. This is what the then shadow Treasurer addressed to the honourable member for Kooyong when he was Leader of the Opposition:

As you are aware, I have been concerned for some time at the cost of many of our commitments. In particular you will recall my reservations about the consequences of many of our policy commitments as they were being made over recent months. I remain very concerned that in the election campaign in which we are alleging that the deficit is too high, that spending has run away underneath Labor, and in which there is a general perception of reasonable, competent economic management under the Hawke Government-

that is still true-

we will be extremely vulnerable if Labor can successfully put the tag of `where's the money coming from' on our election offerings.

He had the temerity to put that to the then Leader of the Opposition. Those words will come back to haunt the Leader of the Opposition on Thursday night when he will fail the test he so gratuitously put to his predecessor.