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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 262

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh) to a question without notice asked by Senator Cook this day relating to the income tax levels.

I would like to make a few remarks about the answer. The Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Walsh, partially quoted what the former Treasurer, the honourable member for Bennelong, Mr Howard, said. The Minister quoted in a way which was quite misleading and in a way in which Senator Walsh is an expert. He is really the Minister for sleaze rather than the Minister for anything else in the chamber.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Leader of the Opposition should withdraw that remark.

Sentor CHANEY-I withdraw that remark. In response to Senator Cook's question, Senator Walsh made reference, in part, to a statement of Mr Howard which, as far as I have been able to ascertain, is close to being accurate but is a partial statement. Senator Walsh quoted as follows:

. . . that is, faced with a choice between reducing the deficit to a more acceptable level or a tax cut, I believe it could be in the longer term economic interests of Australia that the deficit be reduced.

The Minister went on to debate that statement and referred to Mr Howard in derogatory terms. There was no excuse for what he did because exactly the same technique was used in the House of Representatives yesterday. I am a little disappointed that Senator Walsh should merely meekly follow something that was done in the House of Representatives yesterday. As Mr Howard was able to make a personal explanation in the House of Representatives but is not able to do so here, I thought I should take this occasion to point out what Mr Howard said in his personal explanation in response to the point which has been made by the Treasurer, Mr Keating. Mr Howard said, and I quote in part:

It is true, as one of those honourable gentlemen said at Question Time, that at one stage of that interview I said that faced with a choice between a taxation cut and a reduction in the deficit, in straight economic terms my preference was for a reduction in the deficit. Thus far, the quotation of the honourable gentlemen was okay. What he quite deliberately did not do, and therefore misrepresented my position, was to acknowledge the fact that what the Government should do was provide room for the tax cut out of further reductions in expenditure. I quote from the answer that I gave then--

this is the quote-

If you are asking me from an economic point of view what is the better thing to do quite clearly the better thing to do is to give a greater priority to reducing the deficit.

This is the portion of the quote omitted both by Mr Keating and his follower, Senator Walsh:

If the Government wishes on top of that to give taxation cuts, then it should cut further into its own expenditure to find the room.

Mr President, in response to the challenge that Senator Walsh issued to the Opposition I rose and perhaps in a disorderly way made the point that one of the differences between the Government and us is that we had exercised some reasonable restraint on government expenditure and the present Government has distinguished itself by increasing government expenditure in real terms by 8 per cent in its first year in government, give or take one or two decimal points. In the second Budget it is somewhere around 6 per cent. The Government has managed to pile on about $15,000m worth of deficit in only two years and yet it has criticised the Fraser Government for having deficits totalling some $17,000m in seven years.

Mr President, in the usual way, Question Time has been abused by Senator Walsh. He has chosen to use Question Time to waste time, to debate matters and to partially quote Opposition members. Quite frankly, the Opposition is sick of it. I have moved these motions today because I think quite often Question Time is used as a means of giving lengthy statements, of depriving the Opposition of the appropriate use of Question Time. If that is to be the case, we will use the forms of this place to ensure that we get a chance to respond to the debating points which are made by Ministers during Question Time. On this occasion, I obtained the leave of the Senate to move these motions. I acknowledge that and I therefore have no wish to abuse the privilege that I have been given by making a lengthy speech. As I say, I do acknowledge having received leave. I regret that Senator Walsh chose to repeat the transgression of the Treasurer, Mr Keating, in the other place. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjournd.