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Tuesday, 10 September 1996
Page: 3819

Mr McARTHUR —Mr Acting Speaker—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! Members on my left will be quiet.

Mr McARTHUR —My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer aware of the public statements expressing concern and opposition to recent proposals to block billions of dollars of debt and deficit reduction in the budget? What would be the consequences for interest rates, job growth and the cost of servicing debt if those opposing $19 billion worth of deficit reduction were to succeed?

Mr COSTELLO —It is obvious that the Labor Party has been stunned by the widely welcomed fair and responsible budget that was brought down by this government. As I said yesterday, its position before the budget was that it should be balanced over three years. That is what this budget does—one, two, three years. It is just that the Labor Party opposes every single measure to get there.

We now have a party with no responsible economic strategy at all, the worst in a generation—a policy of sabotage. Not only did you create this problem, you refuse to cooperate in the solving of it—absolute irresponsibility. I am aware that the Australian public now is beginning to realise the absolute irresponsibility of the Labor Party in relation to this. Yesterday, the President of the Business Council of Australia said:

You can be pretty certain that if the savings side of the budget doesn't get up that's going to put pressure on interest rates.

The President of the National Farmers Federation said:

I share the Prime Minister's concern that interest rates will not be as low as they should be if the budget's down.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted:

This year's budget marks a turning point in the management of the Australian economy. It is a budget whose aim is to regenerate growth, encourage employment, and to do so by reducing the level of public sector spending. This was the appropriate budget and it is a good one.

And it is a good one—a very good one! All of the business leaders came to Parliament House yesterday—and they did not organise a riot, either. No riot! They were able to come in and put their views. Let me tell the opposition—

Mrs Crosio interjecting

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The member for Prospect!

Government members — Throw her out!

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Members on my right are not helping.

Mr COSTELLO —Perhaps the members of the New South Wales Right would like this quote:

More debt now simply means bigger interest bills in the future and fewer dollars to spend on hospitals, schools, roads, and all of our other key priorities.

The New South Wales Treasurer, Michael Egan—that's what he said! He's looking up there in Sydney at this Jurassic Park of people over there who have no economic responsibility at all. They are sitting around saying, `We're in favour of balancing the budget; we're just going to oppose $19 billion that gets it there.'

You have nothing but a strategy of deficit and debt into the next century. You have a policy to burden future Australians with debt. You want less to be spent on their schools and their hospitals. You are without any responsibility whatsoever. Not only was the budget fair and received widely and respected, but it has within it—

Mr Crean —We have a blood pressure bill ready.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —The member for Hotham had better take it.

Mr COSTELLO —Be easy on him, Mr Acting Speaker; he is going for the job of deputy leader and shadow Treasurer. What happened after the shadow Treasurer complained that he was suffering from relevance deprivation syndrome? The member for Hotham could not get out onto the airwaves quick enough. `I'm not suffering from it,' he said. What did he say? Laurie Oakes asked, `Are you suffering from relevance deprivation syndrome in opposition?' `Oh, no, I'm not,' he said, `I'm not. I'm actually quite enjoying it.' You certainly are. I thought it was so deft—right in the back!

And, of course, you would have been the deputy leader if the member for Holt had not done the deal with the New South Wales Right. We can always rely on them at crucial times. We always can. We thank the New South Wales Right for putting him there—and we would like you to keep him there!

Mr Acting Speaker, in relation to the budget, not only was it widely received and widely respected, but it is also a budget that puts in place a future for Australia—a budget that has already put our rating on a positive note, a budget which lays the basis for sustainable growth, a budget that lays the basis for investment, a budget that lays the basis for a fiscal improvement, a budget that has a plan for Australia, as opposed to an opposition that has nothing to offer.