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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3211

Mr CARLTON —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it not a fact that Telecom's proposed 17 per cent increase in charges announced by its Chairman today is a direct result of the mini-Budget and will be yet another tax on families, farms and businesses?

Mr KEATING —No, it is not. The extra charges which the Budget imposes across the board on Telecom's revenues are about $360m. In that sum there is a commitment to the Budget from Telecom in terms of capital repayment. That does not translate into that sort of sum, but on Telecom's part there has been a reluctance to increase charges for some time recently. Whatever adjustment Telecom has announced today, it is obvious that an element of that adjustment is other than the Budget charges, that is, it includes some of the charges which have not been levied, if you like, earlier. The Prices Surveillance Authority will go through the structure of those charges and look at them to see whether they are justified in terms of the cost burdens upon Telecom in general.

The point of the question is to make again the phoney point made by those opposite about taxpayers and families. It comes from a Party which wants to deny taxpayers and families wage increases, which wants to destroy their medical health insurance, which will not face up to its fiscal responsibilities and most of all which could never hope to cope with the terms of trade decline this country and the Government have been wrestling with. The essential point is that either the Government adjusts Australia's internal economy to meet the decline in our external circumstances or the market does it for us. If the market did it for us it would do so by way of an inordinately high interest rate structure, an enforced recession, galloping unemployment and a much greater level of misery in the economy. If one asks the Australian people whether they think it is better that the Government should sympathetically manage this adjustment downwards across a range of items, including Telecom services, I am quite sure that they will reply in the affirmative. As a result Australia will make the adjustments.

I record that in the last nine months since the last Budget this Government has cut $8 billion from the deficit of the Commonwealth. The last puny operation the Opposition mounted-the only one we ever knew about, the razor gang-involved cuts of $500m which dwindled to $200m and took 15 months.

Mr Brumby —They are wimps

Mr KEATING —The honourable member is right; honourable members opposite are wimps. The fact is that tonight our little mate here has a chance to put down some very hard numbers about Opposition policies, about how he would change fiscal policy, about the ambit of the tax changes he would make. Tonight he has a chance to indicate to the country what kind of fiscal and tax regime the Liberal Party would seek to have as a government. He has an opportunity, on television, for half an hour, to lay it all out.

Mr Howard —We'll have an opportunity to talk about you, mate. You won't be neglected.

Mr KEATING —He can come out of the shadows--

Mr Howard —I'll be talking about you. The more you carry on and show your irritation the more we'll talk about you, mate.

Mr KEATING —Is the honourable member saying that I will not be neglected? I will not be neglecting him. I am right behind him. I have not got him yet, but I will soon.