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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2206


Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(10.45) —I do not intend to speak for long in replying to the debate. Leaving aside the truly fatuous contributions to the debate, from for example Senator Walters, the general theme being pushed by members of the Opposition was that insufficient money is being spent on all areas. Senator Baume was quite explicit about one area in which he has given an undertaking that a future Liberal Government will spend more money than the present Government. That sort of approach opens two possibilities; one, the knowledge by the Opposition parties that they will never have to deliver on their undertakings on expenditure in a wide variety of areas in which they think it would be popular to increase expenditure, because they know they will be crushed at the next elections, no matter when they are held.

The second possibility, which I am afraid is the more likely, is that if the Liberal Party of Australian should ever be returned to government we will see a rerun of the 1982-83 period; that is, we will see another bout of reckless fiscal irresponsibility, such as the Fraser Government displayed in its later years when it knew that the Government's looming financial position was very serious, and in its 1982 Budget when it dangled before the electorate a lot of handouts targeted at politically sensitive groups in the community, handouts in the form of tax expenditures or tax concessions, the cost of which was deferred to future financial years. Because of that reckless bout of fiscal irresponsibility by the Fraser Government, this Government had to deal with an impending $10 billion deficit in the last year and had to deal with the highest interest rates and highest unemployment and, for the first time in almost 20 years, three consecutive quarters of negative economic growth.

That is the sort of economic, fiscal and more general economic irresponsibility that the country can expect if a Liberal Government is returned to office. The attitude the Opposition parties have adopted to the appropriations under the Bill confirms that that is the sort of policy they would adopt-if they were ever returned. I do not intend otherwise to take up the time of the Senate, in order to leave the maximum time for examination of the Estimates in Committee. I hope the contributions made by members of the Opposition in that forum are more relevant than those made in the second reading debate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.