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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1642

Senator WALTERS —Does the Minister for Finance agree with the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Dolan, who said on AM today that offsetting the effects of indirect taxes in certain sections of the community has been, to use his words, more or less admitted as being just about administratively impossible?

Senator WALSH —I heard Mr Dolan this morning, as I have said, and I do not recall whether the words just used are exactly the words Mr Dolan used, but I will accept Senator Walters's word that they are correct. There are certainly administrative difficulties in an offset of that type. I do not know the degree to which Mr Dolan has gone into it, but from the examination I have made it would only be possible to get a 100 per cent offset with a great deal of administrative effort-administrative effort of an intensity which would probably not be justified. I remind Senator Walters that most policies are imperfect and, indeed, probably all policies are imperfect to some degree or other-even the policies of the former Government which she as a supporter pursued. They were grossly imperfect. They produced the highest level of inflation we had had for a number of years, the highest level of unemployment we had had for 50 years, and the only sustained period of negative economic growth we have had since the war. The policies of the Government of which she was a member were so imperfect that at the time that Government was ignominiously removed from office we had both inflation and unemployment running at above 10 per cent, something that had never before happened in Australia.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. The Minister has been asked a short and quite precise question about a matter. He is now engaging in a debate on a wide number of economic policy and other issues which have nothing to do with the question. I ask you to ask the Minister to restrict himself to answering the question.

The PRESIDENT —At the time the point of order was taken I was about to indicate to the Minister that I tended to think he was ranging into the area of debate rather than immediately answering the question. I ask him to direct his remarks to the gravamen of the question.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. I was pointing out to Senator Walters that something less than perfection is probably all that can be realistically expected from any policy or any law, but there are degrees of imperfection. The level of imperfection of the policies of this Government pales into insignificance beside the massive imperfections, supported by empirical evidence, of the policies of the previous Government.