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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 970

Senator WATSON —Does the Minister for Finance recall his all too frequent derogatory comments about the former Treasurer, and is he not concerned that some of the statements and titles may turn around to haunt the present Minister for Finance because of his own failures to curtail expenditure and to secure reforms, his presiding over the largest real interest rate since the Depression and his supervising a money supply figure in excess of budget and prime interest rates rising at alarming rates?

Senator WALSH —The leader of the Sydney faction of the Liberal Party of Australia and pretender to the Liberal Party leadership, otherwise known as the discredited former Treasurer and member for Bennelong, Mr Howard, had primary responsibility, along with Mr Stone, for the Australian economy for just over five years. In that period expenditure exceeded estimates every year. There was a marked decline in the capital spending component of the Commonwealth Budget over that period and a decline year on year in the capital spending component of the Budget in all but one of those five years. He also presided over the highest interest rates the country has ever seen. Short term rates were hitting 20 per cent. When he was finally removed from office by a decision of the electorate on 5 March two years ago, he left the country with a prospective deficit of nearly $10 billion because of the irresponsible Budget he had produced in the previous year. He was presiding over double figure inflation and unemployment, which no previous Treasurer of Australia had done.

Other Treasurers have presided over double figure inflation-most notably, Sir Arthur Fadden in 1950 and 1951, who presided over an inflation rate as Treasurer in the Menzies Government of 25 per cent for the year ended December 1951. Sir Arthur Fadden has the record of presiding over the highest rate of inflation the country has ever seen, but Mr Howard has presided over the only period when Australia had both double figure inflation and double figure unemployment. As for the substance-insofar as there was any-in Senator Watson's question, I suggest that he contain himself for a while until the expenditure decisions have been made.

Senator WATSON —I have a supplementary question. Is the Minister not concerned that he is establishing some unsatisfactory records, and is he not concerned that some of his titles may turn around to haunt him?

Senator WALSH —No.