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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 329

Senator COLSTON —Has the attention of the Minister for Finance been drawn to allegations made by the Premier of Queensland that Queensland is not receiving its proper allocation of tax sharing funds recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 1982? Is the Premier correct in saying that Queensland has been deprived of $51m for 1984-85 and a total of $855m since 1977-78?

Senator WALSH —I have seen a report along the lines that Senator Colston mentioned in the Courier-Mail of either yesterday or the day before which says, among other things:

Queensland was not receiving its proper allocation of tax sharing funds recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 1982-

It goes on to give some figures, the same as those given by Senator Colston. Senator Colston asked: Is the Premier's claim correct? The answer is no. Indeed, the Premier's recent foray on this question is a breathtaking revision of history. On 25 June 1982 the Premier was reported in the Courier-Mail following the Premiers Conference which had just been completed, as having said:

We accept it.

That is, the arrangement about which he is now complaining-

We can go along with it.

We accept we are part of the one nation. We failed to get what we wanted because we realise we have to help all other states which are poorer.

That is what the Premier was saying about the arrangements up until June 1982. Indeed, the agreed communique that came out of that Premiers Conference said:

The relativities as recommended by the Grants Commission, but slightly modified at the Premiers' Conference (at no cost to Queensland) were to be phased in over the course of the three years 1982-83 to 1984-85; and that a real terms guarantee to the annual level of tax sharing payments operate alongside the phasing-in arrangement.

That joint communique from the Premiers Conference in 1982, needless to say, had the endorsement of Mr Bjelke-Petersen. It is also accurately supplemented by other information reported in the Press. The fact is that in the period since 1982 Queensland's tax sharing grants have been increasing faster than those of all other States and in this financial year they are expected to increase by 12.2 per cent compared with an estimated average increase of 4.5 per cent for the other States. So a position which he said was satisfactory at that stage and which has since treated Queensland more favourably than any other State is now described by Mr Bjelke-Petersen in the lurid terms which both Senator Colston and I have reported.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. A question has been asked which is clearly a prepared question. The Minister has been referring to a series of documents which he has in front of him. He is clearly debating the question. It is just part of his obsession about Premier Bjelke-Petersen. He totally ignores the fact that Premiers Cain and Wran frequently complain about their being shortchanged. Clearly, the Minister is entering into a general debate in Question Time to the detriment of honourable senators who wish to ask questions seeking information. I ask you to call the Minister to order, ask him to give an answer and sit down.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I have listened to the Minister carefully and I believe that he is replying to the question. As yet he has not engaged in debate and I hope that he will not do so. I call the Minister.

Senator WALSH —Certainly not, Mr President. The fact is that Queensland, which the Premier said in 1982 had been treated quite satisfactorily, has received a faster rate of increase in funds, compared to all the other States, since that time. Whatever the cause may be for Queensland having the highest unemployment rate in the country and the highest per capita debt of any State, it certainly cannot be attributed to any relative disadvantage imposed on it by the Commonwealth through our Commonwealth funding arrangements for State governments.