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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 502


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(5.22) —The Senate is being given this first opportunity, and a very limited opportunity at that, to commence some debate on the Government's Budget. I think it would be fair to say , and most people would agree, that this Budget has been built around and, indeed, built for an early election. It is a Budget which, in my view, should be judged in that light. It is important to do so because it is a Budget which in many respects is dishonest. It is a Budget which is certainly dangerous for the economic stability of Australia. It has to be judged against the Governments rush to an election, a rush which is now clear after only 18 months of the Hawke Government. I remind the Senate that in this area, as in so many areas, the Hawke Government has proved to be a government whose word cannot be accepted. There is nothing clearer than Mr Hawke's expressed view about when the elections should be held. If one goes back to 1980 one finds Mr Hawke saying very clearly on the Australian Broadcasting Commission AM program:

. . . I take the view that governments should run their full term.

He maintained the same view a couple of years later when, in response to a question from Mr Schildberger, he said:

There won't be any question of what's best for the electorate and what's obviously best for the electorate is that the Parliament run its full term, its full course . . .

We take the view that the government should run its full term. We have said that.

The latter was a comment Mr Hawke made to Derryn Hinch. He really spread himself around and made his view very clear. A little later, in October 1982, again while he was a shadow Minister in the Opposition, he told Mr Schildberger:

My view and the view of the Labor Party and as Bill Hayden has consistently expressed is that Parliaments should run their full term. And I don't think Bill or any of us would have shifted from that.

In the same interview he went on to say:

That is the view I have consistently expressed and generally has been expressed by the Party. Our position is firstly that Parliaments ought to run their full term.

I suppose that one might have thought that, on disposing of his mate Bill, who is referred to in the quotations, and his accession to the Labor leadership, perhaps Mr Hawke had a change of heart. But we find that when, as Leader of the Labor Party, he was running for the office of Prime Minister he made it quite clear during the election campaign that his view remained unchanged. He was quoted in the Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial on 15 February 1983 as saying:

Under my government, parliaments will run their full time.

I suppose that there may be one person left in Australia who believes that the Hawke Government will allow the Parliament to run its full term. That one person is perhaps one of the parents of Mr Hawke who would believe that he might keep his word. But I do not think that any more people would believe that Mr Hawke was prepared to abide by the words he so often expressed during 1982 and 1983. The fact is that we have a rush to an early election, an election which is predicted to take place about 20 months after the Hawke Government took office.

Why should the Government be getting in for an early election? I suggest that there are two major reasons. The first is that it has a hidden agenda-an agenda for Australia which it is not prepared to produce until it holds an election and wins another term in office. It believes that if it produces that agenda it will significantly reduce its chances of regaining office. There are issues such as the very difficult question of what taxes, if any, are to be imposed on capital. Taxes on capital are a difficult issue. It is quite clear-the Government is quite overt-that that issue is postponed until the next Parliament. The Government makes the assumption of re-election. It makes the assumption that a tax on capital is an issue which can be simply taken off the agenda and hidden from the Australian people in the meantime. On the issue of the extent to which the Commonwealth Government will impose its views regarding various matters on the States, the Government has held off because it does not want to buy a fight before an election.

The Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) came into this place and said without apparent embarrassment that there would be no human rights legislation. It appeared in his timetable for reform but it would be put off until after an election. Of course, with respect to the very difficult political question of Aboriginal land, a question where the Government in theory is prepared to move nationally against the wishes of the Australian people, I have certainly made direct attempts to obtain from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) an undertaking that he is prepared to disclose his hand in that area before an election. He has been notably coy in his response. So there is a series of policy matters which press upon the Government perhaps because some elements within the Government would like to see change and progress. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button), for example, would like to pursue a capital gains tax and various taxes on capital. But, of course, all of that has to be put out of sight until there is an election.

More seriously there is the problem of how long the economic recovery, which Australia has enjoyed in part, can be prolonged. It appears that Australia faces real economic difficulties. Although things clearly have improved at the moment, the question is: How long will that improvement last? I do not wish to be a prophet of doom. I simply draw the Senate's attention to the fact that many respected observers are casting doubts about the economic future under the regime which is being pursued by this Government. I noted the other day that the Confederation of Australian Industry expressed doubts that economic recovery was , in fact, taking place. The Confederation claimed that real growth in the Australian economy is being clouded by the statistical discrepancy between income-based and expenditure-based estimates. In other words, if one looks at the different ways in which growth is measured, one gets very conflicting pictures of what growth is, in fact, occurring.

Recent statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that aggregate manufacturing production fell in the June quarter for the first time since the March quarter in 1983. In addition to that, a very sobering matter for Australia is the fact that commodity prices have remained low despite the general upturn in the world economy. We face a situation where, unlike previous world recoveries, the commodities which Australia trades have not seen a strengthening of their prices. There are potential problems for this country in terms of our world trade and of that very large aspect of our economy which depends upon commodity transactions and sales.

The Government, in the Budget documents which were tabled in this place a few weeks ago, certainly acknowledges that considerable uncertainties face Australia . I refer to the Budget Papers, in which a series of points are made with which, with great respect, I agree. The Budget Papers state:

Looking ahead, there are considerable doubts about the strength and durability of the world recovery and concern that, within Australia, another year of strong growth in activity and profits might place considerable pressure on both the wage-restraint and other aspects of the Accord.

Those words occur under the heading 'Uncertainties'. We find an expression of concern about whether growth in the United States can be maintained, and what the impact would be of a slowing in United States growth or a large depreciation of the United States dollar. We find a reference in the Government's own documents to the problem of commodity prices to which I have already referred.

I think most importantly the Budget Papers acknowledge the importance of the accord to the Government's economic predictions and the dangers that the accord may not hold, given the perception amongst trade unions that the economy has improved and that the profit-share in the economy has changed.

Even in the Government's own assessment there is an area of uncertainty about the future and the Opposition believes that those areas of uncertainty are real and ought to have been of concern to the Government and ought to have been factors which had a very strong influence over the way the Government drew this Budget. In fact, the Government was handed an unusual chance to put down a Budget for stability. The fact of the matter is that the Government had the good fortune to take office at the bottom of the economic cycle. We recently had a very frank admission from a senior Minister in the Government-the Finance Minister, Mr Dawkins-about why economic recovery had occurred. Mr Dawkins is quoted as saying:

Some would say that the Government's policies have yet to be tested, when allowance is made for the fact that the Government came into office at the bottom of a recession, riding on the coat tails of the previous Government's wage pause initiative and at a time when the rural sector was about to swing into a boom year.

I would have to acknowledge that circumstances have been favourable.

It is not merely Opposition rhetoric to say that the Government has had the benefit of economic growth which has occurred because of the ending of the drought, the Fraser Government's wage pause and the generally favourable world situation compared with that a couple of years previously. We have a situation in which, on the face of the Budget Papers themselves, the Government was handed a very real opportunity to do something substantial to improve the stability of the Australian economy. Because of the one-off surge in tax revenues, caused substantially by the rural recovery, revenues for the Government are up by 10.5 per cent in real terms in this Budget. That is something about which I will talk in more detail a little later.

The view that I was to express in this speech today is a view which I found, somewhat to my surprise, expressed in the same terms in the most recent edition of Syntec. I think any honourable senator, and indeed, anyone else who has been reading the publication Syntec over the last year will not have classified it as a harsh critic of the Government's economic policies. Rather I think Syntec has given a generally favourable response to the Government's approach. However, we find in the post-Budget document, issued on 3 September, a series of statements which I think encapsulate the difficulties which the Government has presented to Australia because of its Budget. I will quote a number of passages from that publication. It states:

. . . the Government has chosen to take advantage of a distinctly cyclical surge in its revenues to add to the structural (non-cyclical) element of the Federal Budget deficit.

It has done this on both the outlays and receipts side.

Later the article states:

As a result, the structural element of the deficit is now over 50% and the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement-while lower than in 1983-84-is still very high at 7% of G.D.P. Any marked recovery in private sector investment this year would quickly lead to friction between the public and private sector in capital markets, and rising interest rates.

What the article is saying is that the Government, in a year in which there has been a surge of revenues, a one-off increase which will not be repeated next year, has used the surge of revenues to add to the future problems which Australia faces. The Government has used the surge of revenues to add to expenditure in a way that will commit it to similar volumes of expenditure in the future. The Government has built in for itself and for its successors in Government and, indeed, for the Australian people the difficulty that we are spending a higher amount through the government sector than the country can really afford. A little later in the same publication, under the heading 'More dangerous fundamentals', Syntec referred to the fundamental economic imbalances which have been holding Australia back. Syntec defined those as:

. . . an excessive extension of the public sector's command over resources and an excessive share of National Income going to wages and other labour costs.

A little later in the same document it was stated:

The 1984-85 Budget actually worsens the public sector/private sector imbalance.

I will paraphrase that by saying that what Syntec is pointing out is that the Government has chosen to use this Budget to enable it to spend an even higher proportion of what Australia produces than has ever been achieved before. In the same magazine it is stated:

In the midst of a supposedly smoothly working Wages Accord, serious wage drift appears to be going on. The Government dismisses this as a statistical artifact, reflecting problems with some of the Statistician's wage series.

In short, what is being pointed out is that in a quite fundamental way the Budget is worsening Australia's overall position. I think that is a matter which is of deep concern to all of us. It will certainly be a matter which will impact on the people of Australia in due course. In fact, the Government has squandered the opportunity that the breaking of the drought and other positive economic factors presented to it. Therefore we find during this so-called period of economic recovery that the Government predicts continuing high levels of unemployment in Australia-the maintenance of unemployment of somewhere around 9 per cent, a level which can scarcely be regarded as a satisfactory outcome for Australia and particularly for those many Australians who are unemployed.

I shall refer briefly to the increase in revenue which the Government has obtained. I said a little while ago that that increase in revenue of about 10 1/ 2 per cent in real terms is the largest increase since the Second World War. In fact, Government revenue will go up by about $9,000m. Even though the Government will get that sort of increase, about $9,000m, from the present Budget it will be able to reduce the deficit by only about $1,300m. That means the great bulk of the increased revenue is being used simply to fund additional government expenditure. Of course, for the people of Australia there is some short term comfort in that. If the Government spends a great deal of additional money there are recipients of that money and so it seems very nice at the time. Of course, that very high level of expenditure necessarily underpins continuing very high levels of taxation. I will have a little more to say about that later.

The Government had an opportunity as a result of the revenue surge to do something substantial about the deficit. The government has chosen to nibble at the edges of it and has chosen to dissipate the recovery simply by spending more of the taxpayers' dollar through the Government sector. To put it in a slightly different way, the Government is predicting that the Australian economy will continue to grow this year. The Government's prediction-the prediction which will eventuate if none of the difficulties I have referred to occur-is that we will get a growth of about 4 per cent. Government outlays are growing by about 6 per cent. Again, that is a simple indication of the fact that more and more of what Australia is producing is going to the Government rather than being controlled by the people of Australia.

I think the most significant thing about the Budget is that it has confirmed the nature of the Government that we have in Australia. I thought a lot about the figures thrown up by the Budget and the figures which one can take to compare the way the Hawke Government has drawn its Budget with the way the Fraser and Whitlam governments drew their Budgets. I think we could say that the second Hawke Budget shows that Hawke is Whitlam writ small. He is a slightly more cautious Whitlam. I would say that what we have in Australia is a Whitlam government without Mr Whitlam's ideals. At least when Mr Whitlam became a profligate spender of other people's money, promoted a breakaway increase in the bureaucracy and increased taxation at an enormous rate he did so on the basis of some idealism. I think he really tried to do something to change Australia in a positive way. My sad conclusion is that in Mr Hawke, in this pygmy of a Whitlam, we have a man who shares only one characteristic-he changed his hairstyle to become Prime Minister. In other respects he is simply a big spending, big taxing Prime Minister who lacks any real idealism as to what this country might be or ought to be. I think he is there to maintain himself in government. I see no sign of the desire to do something positive for Australia that I think it was hoped he would deliver when he came into office.

I have a table which was prepared in my office and which I think bears out the points I have just made about the commonality in the basic approach between the Hawke Government and the Whitlam Government. I will seek leave to incorporate the table in Hansard, but I make it available to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan), who is at the table, so that she can inspect it in case she has an objection to its being incorporated. I will refer to it while she examines it. The table shows in a number of respects what happened in the three Whitlam Budgets, what happened in the seven Fraser Budgets and what has happened in the two Hawke Government Budgets. Of course, Mr Whitlam was notable and lives in Australia's memory for both his taxation and expenditure achievements. I think it is commonly known that whilst Mr Whitlam was Prime Minister the Government of Australia spent 10 per cent more each year in real terms. In nominal terms it was a massively larger sum, about 28.9 per cent. In fact, every year of the Whitlam Government meant an increase of 10 per cent in real terms in government outlays.

Under Mr Fraser there was a genuine attempt to restrain the growth of government. Under Mr Fraser we had an attempt to restrain the growth of government that many of us thought could have been more successful. Many of us were part of the Fraser Government and we saw the difficulties in restraining the growth of government expenditure, but we know that an honest effort was made to do so. We find there was a growth, in real terms, of 2.2 per cent over the life of the Fraser Government. We find in the first two Hawke Budgets a growth in real expenditure of 6.9 per cent each year; that is the average over the two years. Again, people say: 'So what?' What does it matter to me if the Government spends more and more of Australia's real resources each year? I simply say in response to that rhetorical question: The reality is that government can only spend other people's money. If government proceeds to take a larger and larger share of real resources year by year, that can only mean that the people of Australia have left to them less and less of the real resources of their own incomes. There is no escaping that high and rising government expenditures necessitate high and rising taxation.

That brings me to the next column in my table which refers to the revenue which was raised by personal income taxes under the governments to which I have referred. Again, one would have to say that Mr Whitlam emerges the champion in these stakes. Under Mr Whitlam personal income tax went up in real terms at a rate of 11.7 per cent per year. In other words, personal income tax collections on individuals went up by 11.7 per cent a year. Under Mr Fraser there was an attempt, consistent with the attempt to restrain expenditure, to restrain the collection of tax and we still had real increases of 3.7 per cent. Under Mr Hawke, notwithstanding his so-called tax cuts, there is an increase of 7.6 per cent each year. So we get a return to the pattern of the previous Labor Administration. Of course, governments do not rely on income tax alone; governments also raise revenue by taxing other sectors of the economy. If we look at total tax, we find that Mr Hawke has actually managed to equal the record of Mr Whitlam. Mr Whitlam managed to raise total budget receipts by 6.1 per cent per year in real terms; Mr Fraser about halved that down to 3.4 per cent and dear old Mr Hawke has got it up to 6.1 per cent again.

The reality that the Australian people face is that if a government is going to spend more and more, it is going to tax more and more. The reality which Mr Hawke has offered Australia in this Budget, notwithstanding his phoney tax cuts, is a reality that he is going to spend more and more and, therefore, the taxpayer will pay more and more. I seek leave to incorporate the table to which I have referred in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

AVERAGE ANNUAL GROWTH RATES OF BUDGET SECTOR

1972-73-1984-85 (estimated)

($ million)

Revenue (Personal

Outlays

Income Tax) (c)

Total Budget receipts

Deficit*

Year

Real (a) Nominal Real (b) Nominal Real (b) Nominal Real (b) Nominal

Whitlam Government (3 budgets)-

1972-73 (Last McMahon Budget) 23,159 10,190 9,314 4,089 21,626 9,494 1,585 696 1975-76 (Last Whitlam Budget) 30,792 21,831 13,002 9,219 25,803 18,294 5,031 3 ,567 Average Annual Growth Rate-%pa 10.0% 28.9% 11.7% 31.1% 6.1% 24.4% +47.0% + 72.4% Fraser Government (7 budgets)-

1975-76 (Last Whitlam Budget) 30,792 21,831 13,002 9,219 25,803 18,294 5,031 3 ,567 1982-83 (Last Fraser Budget) 35,771 48,935 16,789 22,967 32,501 44,462 3, 270 4,473 Average Annual Growth Rate-%pa 2.2% 12.2% 3.7% 13.9% 3.4% 13.5% -6.0% +3.3% Hawke Government (2 budgets)-

1982-83 (Last Fraser Budget) 35,771 48,935 16,789 22,967 32,501 44,462 3,270 4 ,473 1984-85 (estimate) 40,903 63,948 19,437 30,388 36,589 57,203 4,314 6,745 Average Annual Growth Rate-%pa 6.9% 14.3% 7.6% 15.0% 6.1% 13.4% +14.9% +22.8%

(a) constant 1979-80 prices as per Budget Paper No. 1.

(b) constant 1979-80 prices using Implicit Price Deflator for Gross Non-farm Product and a 6.5% increase in 1984-85 as per Budget Paper No. 1.

(c) Note in both Whitlam and Hawke Governments revenue from personal income tax rose at a much higher rate than total budget receipts, showing that individuals bore a disproportionate share of the increase under both governments.

* Average size of Deficit as % of GDP for: 3 Whitlam budgets-3.17%; 7 Fraser budgets-2.3%; 2 Hawke budgets-3.8%.


Senator CHANEY —I thank the Senate. I suppose another simple way of illustrating the change which is occurring under Mr Hawke is to point out that the Government 's receipts-what it is taking from the people of Australia in taxes-are in 1984- 85, under this Budget, at the highest level since the Second World War and at the highest level, shown in the Budget Papers, of 27.9 per cent. In other words, for the whole gross domestic product of Australia, 27.9 per cent is being taken by this Government in taxation. Because it is borrowing and spending more than it is taxing, its outlays are more than that. Once again, we have a record established by the Hawke Government of Budget outlays, as a proportion of the gross domestic product, of over 31 per cent. Those figures mean little or nothing to the men and women of Australia. The reality that does mean something to the men and women of Australia is that those payments, those collections, are the burdens which government places on them and they are the burdens which can be paid only by the people of Australia.

The Government has taken only easy decisions in this Budget. It has taken the easy decision of spending more. It is very interesting to find that, notwithstanding that early in the life of this Budget, on the day it was announced, there was some positive reception for it, it did not take very long for the realities of this Budget to sink through. A number of businessmen made very positive comments about the fact that the Budget appeared to them to be a good one. I can only conclude that they have not taken the trouble to check the aggregate figures to which I have referred. I must say from the Opposition's point of view, and I think from the point of view of the people of Australia again, that it is encouraging to find that a large number of commentators have analysed the Budget now and emerged highly critical of it. I suppose no one would accuse Mr Maximilian Walsh of being a partisan journalist; no one would accuse him of being an agent of the Opposition. It was interesting to find that in the Sydney Morning Herald of last Saturday in an article headlined 'The beginning of the end for the Hawke Government', we get a scathing attack on the wasted opportunity that this Budget represents for the Hawke Government and for Australia. I will quote very briefly from that article. Mr Walsh stated:

. . . Hawke and Keating blew an opportunity in the Budget . . .

Overnight they moved from being invincible to being opportunistic, expedient politicians.

We find in that article-again, I do not wish to refer to it at length-a reference to the very real dangers which Australia faces, the dangers of economic instability. We find a very clear description of how this Government has chosen to spend its way into a position in which Australia will find economic management in the future very difficult.

I suppose if I could summarise the sorts of criticisms which have been made by various writers it would be that the Government has really locked Australia into a position of continuing difficulty as far as economic management is concerned. What this Government has done is to lock us into a high expenditure, high deficit and high tax situation during a period when the Government is claiming economic recovery and when there has, in fact, been a series of indicators of economic growth. The questions that Australians have to ask is: What happens to them when the economic cycle turns, as indeed many people believe it is turning now? If the Government needs to borrow another $7,000m in this, the year of recovery, to balance its books, what will the Government have to do if there is a slide in the economy, if there is a problem with commodity trade and the other points which have been of concern and which have been expressed? Other points of concern have been expressed. So many fictions are put out. This Government has now borrowed $15,000m in two years of government just to try to balance its books.


Senator Peter Rae —Eighteen months.


Senator CHANEY —Eighteen months is the interjection from Senator Rae but, in fairness, I think it is meant to cover the Government in its second Budget. The highest deficit of the Fraser Government was a little over $4 billion during a year when there was a steep economic decline. Total deficits in seven years of Fraser Government-some would say this is too high-were about $17,000m. The Hawke Government has almost bested that in only two years. What room has it left for itself to move? What room has it left for the people of Australia to move if the economic cycle turns against Australia, as many believe it is turning now?

I think the sad fact is that the points I am making are well known to the Government. I think they are well known to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, who is at the table. I think they are well known to the Treasurer (Mr Keating) and to the Prime Minister. The simple fact is that this Government is prepared to sacrifice Australia's long term interests to its short term political interest in the belief that it will go to an election within a month or so of the Budget being dealt with in this Parliament and that it will try to reap a short term political benefit to the long term detriment of Australia.


Senator Kilgariff —I move:

That the honourable senator's time be extended.

I understand that it is traditional for a Leader to be given an extension of time when replying.


Senator CHANEY —The arrangement was that the Minister would move the motion. I do not know whether she intends to.


Senator RYAN —I should clarify my position. I was not advised of any agreement, but if an agreement has been reached I am happy to maintain it. Perhaps we could have some indication of the time required for the extension of Senator Chaney's speech?


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Under the Standing Orders it would be for 15 minutes. I will assume it is to be extended for 15 minutes.

Question resolved in the affirmative.


Senator CHANEY —It is faintly amusing that the normal traditions of this place which permit the Government to have an unlimited time to present its Budget and the Opposition to have an extended time to present a reply should not have been known to the Minister. It should not have required a break in my speech in that way. However, I do not expect very much courtesy from the Government.

To return to the question of the Budget, I have talked very largely in terms of the broad impact of the Budget on Australia. I have done that on the basis that the impact on individuals is a function simply of their participation as individuals within the Australian economy. If one raises taxes generally they will have to be paid by the people of Australia. Of course, most of us see the Budget from our personal viewpoint. Most of us are concerned at how it impacts on us in an immediate personal sense. That is why, in this pre-election Budget, in this pre-election atmosphere, the Government places such emphasis on the question of tax cuts. Whilst Mr Hawke promised six million Australians tax cuts when Labor was elected and promptly broke that promise, on this occasion he has delivered adjustments to the pay as you earn tax scales which will result in apparent tax cuts for many Australians.

I want to put a number of facts before the Senate now which give some indication of why so many commentators have described the Government's tax moves as a sham. Let me quote a number of people who were at a recent luncheon for economists in Melbourne recently. The article I refer to states:

''What tax cuts?'' said Dr John Marsden, chief economist at merchant banker Capel Court Corporation.

''The tax cuts are a fiddle,'' said Professor John Freebairn, from the Business Council of Australia.

CRA economist, John McLeod, also criticised the 'tax fiddle'.

I think there are some quite simple facts which the people of Australia will understand in the course of this year but which we, as an Opposition, would like them to understand now. The Government Budget figures show that something like one million Australians will move into a higher tax bracket during this year. The Government has changed the tax scale to introduce new tax scales which will result in one million Australians moving from one tax scale to another this year . Taxpayers on average weekly earnings will find themselves paying 46c in the dollar on their marginal dollars. I think most people would concede that that rate of tax is a ridiculous imposition on people on average weekly earnings. The calculations which have been done in my office, taken from the Budget Papers themselves, show quite clearly that the Government intends to collect from pay as you earn taxpayers $2,755m more than it collected last year. There will be $2 ,755m more in pay as you earn tax collections this year than there were last year. I have heard Labor Party speakers say: 'Yes, but that is because there are more people in employment. That is because the employment position has improved' . On the Government's own estimates the reality is that there will be an increase of only 3 per cent in the number of taxpayers in the year. That means that every pay as you earn taxpayer will average $8 a week extra. The collections of this Government from pay as you earn tax will be $8 per taxpayer per week more than they were last year. I put that figure as the simplest demonstration that this Government is collecting more not merely from the total of taxpayers but indeed from the individual taxpayers who make up the people of Australia.

I want to make some quick reference to the treatment that has been afforded the resources sector in this Budget. The Government has put very few additional burdens on the resources sector in the Budget and it has made a couple of minor concessions. It has made a tax provision for exploration expenditure which will cost the Government something like $8m this year and it has also made a decision to permit group accounts. In other words, it has restored the provision which was introduced by John Howard and then discontinued by this Government when it came into office. I remind the Senate that the Government, in not announcing any increased burdens on the resource industries in this Budget, has done so on the basis that it had already imposed additional imposts on the resources sector last year. In fact, one of the distinctions which the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh) will bear to his grave is that he has become a Minister for the taxation of resource industries rather than a Minister for the development of Australia's resource industries. I believe that he will be remembered as the Minister who presided over the closing of more coal mines and the closing down of more oil exploration teams than any other Minister in Australia's history, Rex Connor notwithstanding.

Honourable senators should remember what was done by the Government with respect to the removal of the so-called black holes, the irregularities in the excise table which applied to old oil, irregularities which we were working to remove when we were in government. The present Government continued our work but proceeded to mop up an extra $60m or $70m from the industry in the process. I remind honourable senators of tax that will raise an additional $312m this year which was imposed on Fortescue oil. I remind honourable senators of the Government's proposal to auction exploration rights through a tender system, which will result in a diversion of money into taxation instead of oil exploration. I also remind honourable senators of the Government's decision to allow the export of Australian oil, which is linked to the Government's maximising Australian production to maximise its tax take. I remind honourable senators of the failure of the Government to put the liquefied petroleum gas prices down by $50 a tonne earlier this year, thereby saving itself revenue and ultimately shielding the removal of a subsidy.

We have a situation where the Government in this recent period the Government has announced a new tax on oil; a resource rent tax on offshore green fields. We now find a falling off of exploration for offshore oil. We now find that offshore oil drilling rigs are lying idle in Australian waters and we find that the predictions of the Opposition, and indeed of the industry itself, are being borne out. I can say only that the record of this Government over the past 12 months in plundering Australia's resource industries is but one of the many sorry stories which can be told about this Government's determination to maximise the tax take it extracts from Australia.

There is only one other item on which I wish to touch and it is something of a light ending to my speech. I am very sorry that the Government has chosen to impose an excise on light beer. I should declare an interest in this matter. I certainly have no shares in the Swan Brewery but I am a Western Australian and I believe that the initiative of the Swan Brewery in producing a very low alcohol beer, with an alcohol rate of less than one per cent, was a very important step in encouraging sensible social behaviour and, in particular, in encouraging people who are driving to drink without having an excess of alcohol in their blood. I say very seriously, as the father of teenage sons, that I regarded that as a very sensible thing for the brewery to have done. I regard it as a very positive social measure. The fact that there was a price differential between that very light beer and those beers of even moderate strength was, I think, a quite important selling point.

I regret that economic logic, which is what the Government claims in this case, has been allowed to override what I think was a very sensible social change. We saw the ludicrous situation in which sales of that beer were being blocked in New South Wales by other brewers. Thankfully, the New South Wales Government eventually moved to remove what was a ridiculous restriction on free enterprise. I believe that the Government should reconsider its economic logic and its new excise on very light beer. I think that if the market proves to be great other brewers will get into it, so I do not especially plead for the Swan Brewery, but on behalf of all those people who are concerned about the road toll, I make a plea to the Government that it remove that particular and very silly tax.

I started off saying that this is a Budget for an election. It is a Budget which will guarantee continuing high employment and continuing high taxation in this country and it is a Budget which I do not believe will serve Australia's interests. I believe that the Government in this case, as in so many cases, has put its political interests before the national interest and I believe that in time it will be totally condemned for what it has brought down in this place within recent weeks. I hope that there will be a widespread realisation of the irresponsibility of the Government in this Budget, because I believe that for the public to be gulled by this dishonest document would be a very great tragedy for Australia.