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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2561

Mr DAWKINS (Treasurer) (3.17 p.m.) —Mr Deputy Speaker—

  Opposition members—Resign!

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I ask the Treasurer to resume his seat. Members of the Opposition will not interject. The Treasurer has the call.

Mr DAWKINS —When anyone comes to one of these debates talking about integrity, it is as well to come with clean hands.

Mr Howard —I do.

Mr DAWKINS —You do? The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) has the gall to sit there when we know that five days before the 1983 election he was advised by his Department that the forthcoming prospective deficit for Australia was $9.6 billion. That is what he was told by his Department. What was he saying in that election campaign? He was saying, `I tell you, the people of Australia, that the Budget deficit in prospect is $6 billion'. That was a deliberate deceit—not in the context of the Parliament, but a deceit on the people of Australia; a deceit which was a shabby and desperate attempt to save your flyblown hides. It did not work, because the people were up to you, the people had had enough of you, and the people threw you out. But you could not go telling the truth; you had to go telling a lie.

Mr Downer —Withdraw.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Treasurer should use appropriate language.

Mr DAWKINS —I withdraw.

Mr Downer —Mr Speaker—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Sit down. You do not have the call. The Treasurer has withdrawn. The Treasurer has the call. Resume your seat.

Mr DAWKINS —Sit down, goldilocks. I withdraw the remark about the lie.

Mr Downer —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Not only is what he is saying incorrect; I think this personal abuse that he is descending to should be withdrawn, certainly in relation to me.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Mayo should resume his seat. The Treasurer will assist the Chair by making his comments through the Chair. The honourable member for Mayo will resume his seat.

Mr DAWKINS —He could not go with honour; he could not go telling the truth: he had to go deceiving the people of Australia—a hopeless, frustrated and failed attempt to save his neck. But he did not. He was defeated. He was thrown out of office. But could he go honourably, telling the truth? No, he had to go deceiving the people of Australia. He knew before the election what the situation was and he decided to tell them something different.

  We have already seen this man returning to his type. We have heard him in recent days saying that under his industrial relations policy there is no way that current award conditions that people enjoy can be taken away from them. He has said, `You can't earn less under the policy, but you can earn more'. We know that that is untrue. He knows that that is untrue. We see this man, with a record of deceit, once again trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Australia.

  We saw it in Victoria just the other day. It took the Kennett Government just two weeks to break a fundamental promise. We are now seeing a lead-up to the next election where the honourable member for Bennelong is preparing himself to deceive, once again, the people of Australia. The speech we heard from the honourable member for Bennelong had much less to do with getting rid of me than it had with getting rid of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr Hewson). That speech was a demonstration of your inadequacies, your feeble leadership and your pretence to take over the Federal Liberal Party. That is what that speech was all about. It had nothing to do with this debate; it had everything to do with showing exactly how good the honourable member for Bennelong was and how hopeless the Leader of the Opposition is.

  When you choose someone to make this speech, you ought to choose someone who comes with clean hands—and the honourable member for Bennelong certainly does not. He does not come with clean hands because, firstly, he deceived the people of Australia; secondly, he is about to do it again; and, thirdly, he was the vandal in relation to the Loan Council matter which actually led to the watering down and the emasculation of the disciplines of the Loan Council.

  Mr Downer interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Mayo!

Mr DAWKINS —The one substantive point which the honourable member for Bennelong makes is that somehow this table in Budget Paper No. 4 represents a misleading of the Parliament. Let me just tell you what this table says.

  Mr Downer interjecting

  Mr Beazley interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Mayo and the Leader of the House will not converse across the table.

Mr DAWKINS —Table 19 says:

`Global' New Money Borrowings by Commonwealth, State and Territory Semi-governmental and Local Authorities.

That is the globals; the part of their borrowings which they had to report to us. That is what that actually demonstrates. Is that all of the borrowings of the States? No, it is not. Apart from the globals, the States are entitled to borrow temporarily. Indeed, the Loan Council guidelines say:

The Loan Council delegates to its members responsibility for administering the global limits in respect of their own authorities . . .

In other words, it is up to the States to determine which of their borrowings are temporary and therefore not subject to reporting under the globals, and which are long term and are therefore subject to that reporting.

  What does this wonderful, apparently incriminating and devastating, footnote say? The footnote says that the amounts exclude $1.267m of temporary purpose borrowings. The Victorian Government did not say, `Look, here is something that should be in the globals; why don't you put them in?'. It says, `This excludes $1.2 billion of temporary purpose borrowings'.

  Mr Downer interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Mayo!

Mr DAWKINS —That was the whole point.

Mr Downer —You knew about this.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Mayo.

Mr DAWKINS —The Victorians were claiming to us, erroneously as it turns out, that those borrowings, the $1.2 billion, were in fact temporary and therefore not subject to reporting. Indeed, table 19 requires us to report what the States tell us in relation to their globals. It is global up there; not all of their borrowings; it is global—new money borrowings. That is what they had to report to us. It was not agreed about what was temporary and what was global. It was essentially a matter for them. As the Secretary to my Department, Mr Cole, said on 29 October:

The Commonwealth is not in a position to attest to the veracity of the data reported by the States and published in the above table.

Let me remind honourable members of the following: when we went into an investigation of this matter, it was not a matter of Victorians coming up to us and saying, `Oh, we want to make a confession'. It was a matter of my dragging them to Canberra on the basis of what we understood to be an irregularity. They continued to maintain that they were temporary borrowings and, if they were not temporary borrowings, would we agree to them becoming global—to which question we said, `No, not until you have a medium term fiscal policy'.

Mr Reith —Prove it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Flinders!

Mr DAWKINS —If you do not want to listen to what Mr Cole has to say, just listen to what the Treasury in Victoria is now saying, under the authority of Mr Stockdale.

  Mr Reith interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Flinders will not interject.

Mr DAWKINS —Mr Stockdale says:

In June 1991 and again in the 1991-92 Budget papers, the then government issued a set of planning projections which proposed the accumulated deficits were to be repaid from future Budget surpluses. On this basis, funding of the deficits was treated as temporary and was not reported for Loan Council purposes, pending clarification of Loan Council treatment.

That clarification has now occurred, but only now on the basis of our having a full identification of the problem and a solution to the problem.

  The one charge which the honourable member for Bennelong makes is a footnote accusation which has nothing whatever in it. The footnote was on a document reporting the globals to us. What we reported in the Budget was the globals as reported to us. In terms of anything else, it required the further investigation of us, initiated by me, pursued by me, until I got an answer.

Dr Hewson —You covered it up.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition should not interject.

Mr DAWKINS —The point is that this is the man who dares to lecture me, who dares to lecture this Government, not only on the question of deception but also on the question of the Loan Council. The Prime Minister (Mr Keating) read out during Question Time the extent of the wreckage for which the honourable member for Bennelong was responsible during that unhappy period when he was Treasurer. Remember how everyone used to say, `The former and failed Treasurer of Australia'? That was his reputation, which hung around his neck like a stinking carcass from the moment he left office.

  But what happened during that period? Table 11 was produced for the relevant period showing what had happened to borrowings during the period 1972-73 to 1983-84. Here we can see that those amounts inside the global limits, inside the Loan Council programs, actually diminished. What happened to those which were outside the global borrowings or the Loan Council programs? As a result of John Winston Howard's decision, we had $2.6 billion in 1982-83 and a further $2.5 billion in prospect. Then, of course, we had increases in total of $2 billion during that year, up from negligible figures years ago. In other words, what the honourable member for Bennelong did during his failed period of treasurership was actually to let the Loan Council fall to bits. He said to the States, `Do what you like. Borrow what you like. We don't care what you do. Go and borrow what you like for your electricity authorities. Build whatever generating stations you want. We don't care'. In other words, he said, `We give up. We have no interest in what the States do in relation to their borrowing'. And he has the nerve to come here and make these accusations against me!

  Let me return to what is in prospect and tell the House about what kind of a political stunt we have engaged here. What does it say in Fightback!, the bible, the thing which we should all clutch to our bosom and read every day?

  Opposition members—Hear, hear!

Mr DAWKINS —I will read it to honourable members, and then let us hear the `Hear, hears!'. It says:

Reform of Commonwealth-State relations—in particular, allowing the States to make more of their own decisions on taxing and spending, and to be responsible for the consequences of those decisions—will be one of the more effective and lasting ways of boosting Australia's economic performance.

These are the ones who just a year ago were telling us, `Let the States rip. Let them spend what they like. Let them raise what they like and take the consequences'. In other words, they were saying, `Let them borrow what they like', because the consequence of their decision to spend and raise what they like is that they will probably end up with deficits which they will have to cover by borrowing.

   They are saying, `To hell with the Loan Council'—that is what they were saying last year—`let the States take full and individual responsibility for their own Budgets, their own financial situations, and their own borrowings'. That is the inevitable consequence of that particular policy. Now they are supporting motions in the Senate and telling me that the Commonwealth ought to have more control. They ask why we did not know; why we did not do more about it. You are, as the Prime Minister said, just a pack of frauds. You will abrogate your own policy when it suits you in order to make a cheap and squalid point which is apparently aimed at me, but which in the end has been aimed at the good people of Victoria, because what you have been doing over the last couple of weeks is damaging the financial position of Victoria and making the borrowings of the State of Victoria more expensive. You have already imposed a $30m impost on the people of Victoria as a result of your irresponsible activity. The Government absolutely rejects the nonsense of this censure motion and simply says: why would you ever listen to someone with a reputation like that making any pronouncements on me or anyone else on these questions of integrity? (Time expired)