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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 1982

Senator COOK —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the transcript of an interview of the National President of the Young Liberals, Mr Kim Jacobs, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's AM program on Monday morning, suggesting that, in line with the Queensland Premier's submission to the 1985 National Taxation Summit, the Queensland Government should cut its spending by 7.5 per cent-the same proportion as the Queensland Premier had proposed that Commonwealth spending be cut-and hand the proceeds back to the Commonwealth? Did the Queensland Premier, in his submission to the Tax Summit, prescribe a 7.5 per cent across the board reduction in Commonwealth spending? Does the Commonwealth anticipate that Sir Joh Bjelke- Petersen will make an offer at the forthcoming Premiers Conference of the type suggested by Mr Jacobs?

Senator WALSH —In response to the last part of the question, I certainly do not anticipate that Premier Petersen will make any such offer to the Commonwealth at the forthcoming Premiers Conference. Indeed, I would be surprised, if funding to Queensland were cut by that amount or by anything approaching that amount, if he would not, on the contrary, very noisily, albeit probably somewhat incoherently, object to it. It is correct that the Premier, in his submission to the Tax Summit, put the proposition that Commonwealth spending should be reduced by 7 1/2 per cent. If I recall correctly the figure for total payments to the States, if total Commonwealth grants to the States in general were cut by 7 1/2 per cent, that would involve a cut of about $300m to the State of Queensland. Whatever cuts are finally made in funds to the States and announced at the Premiers Conference, I trust that the Premier will accept anything up to $300m off Queensland's pencilled-in funding without any complaint.

The Premier's well-known support in the abstract for expenditure cuts by the Commonwealth is hard to reconcile with his attitude on specifics. This was demonstrated yet again by a story in today's Bulletin, which quotes Premier Petersen as supporting the construction of the Bradfield scheme, which is often misdescribed as another Snowy River scheme. It has the important exception, however, that whereas under the Snowy River scheme the water goes downhill about 1,000 feet of altitude and generates electricity, with the Bradfield scheme the water has to be pumped uphill about 1,000 feet of altitude, thereby consuming electricity. However, I guess that if somebody can believe that we can have a fusion reactor in the boot of a motor car, a small problem such as the inversion of altitude should not worry him at all. It would be interesting to know what the Premier's latest or newest economic adviser, the former Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Stone, thinks about the Bradfield scheme, I would be most interested to see his economic analysis of the proposal.

Finally, I can understand Mr Jacobs's frustration and the Liberal Party's frustration in general with the antics of the Queensland Premier. They have many points of difference. However, they do have one thing in common, if a report in the Sydney Sun of 18 January of this year is correct-I table the report-and that is that they are experts at rigging elections.