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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 71

Senator CHANEY —My question to the Minister for Finance follows the answer he has just given and his reliance on the number of bankruptcies as a measure of the success or failure of a government. Is the Minister aware that in all mainland States except Queensland there is a Labor government? Australia-wide is it a fact that, comparing the number of bankruptcies in the first half of the 1986-87 financial year to a year before, there has been an increase of 35 per cent? Is that half-year bankruptcy result the highest ever recorded in Australia and in those States with Labor governments? Are we looking at the prospect of Australia's largest ever number of bankruptcies, an horrific number of 8,000 businesses going broke this year, due to the Government's policies? Do this half year's figures follow last year's record breaking results of 6,408 bankruptcies, which were also the highest ever recorded and which, of course, took place under the Minister's Labor Government?

Senator WALSH —I was hoping I would get a question from Senator Chaney before the end of the first Question Time. Of course it is true, as Senator Button has already said today and many others have said before, that the Australian economy is going through a difficult period. It is also true, not surprisingly, that that has resulted in an increase in the number of bankruptcies, and Queensland just happens to have more than there are anywhere else. The solution offered by the Opposition to the problems of the economy in general is a watered down version of Joh Petersen's snake oil.

Senator Chaney —I rise on a point of order, Mr President. There is a clear direction contained in the Standing Orders against debating a question. The Minister was asked a straightforward question relating to numbers of bankruptcies, including in Labor States. He is now proceeding to enter into a debate and using expressions such as `snake oil', in the typical way the Minister does. I ask you to keep the Minister to answering the question which was directed to him and not to debate the matter in a way that is prohibited by Standing Orders.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Standing order 100 clearly states that no senator shall debate the matter. I ask Senator Walsh to observe that standing order and reply to Senator Chaney in the areas to which the question related.

Senator WALSH —I have said, Mr President, that we are going through difficult economic times, and it is not surprising that there should be an increase in bankruptcies in those circumstances. Senator Chaney made some reference to interest rates, or if he did not do so there was some reference to interest rates by way of interjection. Interest rates, as Senator Button has already said, are influenced by a great number of factors, including-and I would not want to place too much emphasis on this-the accumulated level of public debt, the servicing costs of which must be met out of every Budget. In that context I think it is instructive to note, as Mr Steele Hall, the Liberal Party member for Boothby, said earlier this month:

During those Fraser years as a financial conservative I watched with dismay the deterioration of our finances and with others I was astonished at the size of the deficit that was handed down when the Fraser administration cashed in its chips.

As a financial conservative Mr Hall was astonished at the size of the deficit that was handed down when the Fraser Government cashed in its chips. Who was the Treasurer when the Fraser Government cashed in its chips? Who was the Treasurer who left that financial burden on the Government that succeeded him? It was none other than the temporary Leader of the Liberal Party.

Senator Chaney —I rise on a point of order. The Minister is clearly debating the question.

Senator WALSH —I have finished my answer.