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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2098

Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and follows the supposed answer he has just given. I remind the Leader of the Government of his plea that we should debate these important matters in a more intelligent fashion than we have in the past. Referring to Mr Keating's list, I ask him whether he can answer a couple of questions about three of the larger items appearing on that list to make up a fake figure of $2.5 billion. I ask him about the figure of $157m for the construction of a parallel runway for Sydney's Kingsford-Smith Airport. On what basis was that figure arrived at and has any off-set been allowed for the Government's own plans for improving the airport facilities for the city of Sydney and for the State of New South Wales? With respect to the item of $300m for the repeal of the new taxation arrangements for lump sum superannuation, in what year would it be anticipated that that would rise to a cost of $300m, given that the Government's May statement said that there would be a saving of $70m if the Government's original proposal had been implemented, and that was for a higher rate of tax? In what year is the Government suggesting that a cost of $400m would be incurred for the phased removal of double taxation, given that the Opposition has made it quite clear that any removal of double taxation would have to be carefully phased in bearing in mind budgetary circumstances at the time?

Senator BUTTON —Everything in the Opposition's proposal has to be carefully phased; I agree with that. But one section of the community that will not be fazed by it is the Australian electorate. As I have said, and it has been the subject of some comment from Senator Chaney, over the next few years governments in this country will have difficulty with the Budget process, with Budget deficits. The point I was seeking to make in my answer to the question is that the difficulties incurred by the present Opposition if it were, unhappily for this country, elected to government would be enormous by comparison. Senator Chaney asked me for specifics. He asked a question about the dual runway at Sydney Airport, said to cost $157m. I did not refer to that specifically as being included in the $2.5 billion.

Senator Chaney —Of course it is; it is here on the list.

Senator BUTTON —No, I beg your pardon. I answered a question which specifically excluded that. In relation to the other two questions, I will give Senator Chaney an answer in terms of the precise figures. I think I can probably do that now in relation to the repeal on lump sum tax commitments, but I cannot do it for the last matter. I will obtain an answer for him and give it to him as soon as possible.

Senator CHANEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the Leader of the Government for that attempt at an answer, but in the interests of clarifying the dishonesty in the release by his colleague the Treasurer, I ask him to tell us, in the further information he will provide, what is to be the net cost in 1985-86 of the item relating to the parallel runway if the Government's own plans proceed as hoped and, if it has alternative proposals, what will be the off-setting of that cost? I ask for the net cost of the new taxation arrangements for lump sum superannuation in 1985-86, and for the net cost of some phased removal of double taxation in 1985-86 given that no particular target date has been provided by the Opposition.

Senator BUTTON —I will provide those answers, but let me say that the point I was seeking to make in answering Senator Chaney's original question is quite clear. If one is to have responsible economic management in this country over the next few years, in the context of an election one cannot make promises to build nuclear submarines for $2.6m billion and then, once in office, say: 'We will never deliver on that. That was just a stunt for the purposes of the election'. In respect of any of these matters one cannot say: 'We undertake to the Australian people to do all that, but it will not happen in the next year, or the year after, or the year after that'. Those are the matters which are of fundamental concern and relate to the economic management of this country to which I referred.