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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2288

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(9.05) —I congratulate the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh) on his optimism if he thinks that any damage he does to the industry will not be measurable. The late Rex Connor may well have had the same view, but I can assure the Minister that I know of no one who is prepared to say that that damage was not measurable. I have quite a lot of confidence that Senator Walsh will join the same hall of fame.

I am very glad too that the Minister raised the question of my attitude to how to raise money. I think it is fairly important that the Minister should look fully at the attitudes I have expressed to the mining and resource industries and not seek to quote one narrow passage. There is a very great difference between Liberal and Labor governments in this area for the simple reason that there is a very great difference between the attitudes of the two governments to expenditure. The Whitlam Government, the destroyer of oil exploration in the mid -1970s, raised government expenditure in real terms by 10 per cent per annum. That was one of that Government's proud boasts. It is one of the facts of history. Senator Walsh might like to get up and deny it, but if he does I do not think anyone will take him very seriously. The fact is that government expenditure ran away under Mr Whitlam and, as a result, taxation had to run away .

Under the Hawke Government we find that expenditure in real terms this year has gone up by about 8 per cent. The average under Malcolm Fraser was somewhere around 2 per cent. Indeed, for most of the life of the Fraser Government it was less than that. So the important difference between the Government of which Senator Walsh is a part and any Liberal government, past or future, is that in one case we will get some degree of expenditure restraint and in the other we will get none. I think that one of the very interesting elements of the Hawke Government so far is its ability to raise government expenditure so much in the first year, its ability to raise indebtedness so much in the first year, its preparedness to carry forward a high level of indebtedness, and its preparedness to add $1 billion plus to the repayment obligations of the Australian taxpayers each year. None of those things would worry Senator Walsh but they make a very important difference. They make the big difference that any government of which Senator Walsh is a part has to be a higher taxing government. He has become a tax collector and that is the record he will leave behind him.

The point I made to the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association was that I am opposed to additional taxes on this sector. I put the view that lopping off peaks of profitability is not the way to encourage economic growth in Australia, that it is not the way to encourage investment in this industry or in others. I am a little sick of Senator Walsh, who acknowledged the sensible principles of economics when he was in opposition and who has become such a woolly-headed man in government. The fact of the matter is that I put the proposition that the industry should not be subject to additional taxation. That was a realistic proposition to put if there was a better attitude to expenditure restraint. We would have that attitude.

I went on to deal with the position that would arise if we faced what I described as a theoretical situation of a Liberal government requiring the energy sector to produce more revenue. It is no secret that the Liberal Party, the Opposition, has indicated that it still believes there is a need for a shift to a greater emphasis on indirect taxes. That has been something we have advocated. I put the view that there would be a more rational approach which would involve putting some additional excise on fuel products generally. To suggest that I am an advocate for that is absurd. I put that as being a proposition which I would support if -I emphasise 'if'-we were faced with a situation that it was necessary for a decision to be taken to take additional funds out of this industry, and that is a decision which I have indicated I would oppose.