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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1111

Senator COOK —My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Government monitored the public's response to the 1984-85 Budget to ensure that the measures contained therein are well understood? Is the Government satisfied that opinion polls on the Budget published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Bulletin have properly reflected public understanding of the issues, and is the Government satisfied that the televising of the Treasurer's Budget Speech and the Leader of the Opposition's reply has helped contribute to an improved understanding of the Budget and economic issues generally?

Senator Chaney —Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. All that the honourable senator is seeking is a series of political opinions for electoral purposes. It is an absurd question which has nothing to do with the administration of any government department, and to permit a question like that would reduce Question Time to a farce. I object to it.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The point is a valid one. The Minister representing the Treasurer must confine himself to responsibilities of the Treasurer and not to the responsibility of magazines.

Senator WALSH —Very well, Mr Deputy President. Apart from the point of order, the answers to many of the questions asked by Senator Cook would be highly speculative; for example, to what degree the televising of the Treasurer's Budget Speech contributed to the Australian electorate's appreciation of the Speech itself and the Budget. People may believe whatever they like about that; it is difficult to know what they believe. On the substance of the Budget, the evidence-evidence as objective as one can get-indicates that the Budget has been quite well appreciated by the Australian people. Surveys conducted by commercial organisations before the Budget showed that some 12 per cent of the population expected to be better off as a result of the Budget about to be brought down and 30 per cent expected to be worse off. After the Budget, the number who expected to be better off had doubled, to 24 per cent, and the number who expected to be worse off had almost halved, having fallen to 19 per cent.

Those figures for 1984 contrast sharply with the public perception of the 1982 Budget brought down by Mr Howard, following which, according to the same commercial survey, over 60 per cent of the people thought that they would be worse off. Of course they were correct. Members of the public displayed a great deal of perspicacity in their assessment of the 1982 Budget, 60 per cent believing they would be worse off. In fact, probably something more than 60 per cent were finally worse off. In conclusion, the commercial survey to which I have referred and which was published in the Bulletin on 18 September has shown that the 1984 Budget has been the best received Budget of any Budget for 10 years. Obviously that includes the Budget of 1982, and I think the public should be commended for its perspicacity in its assessment of the current Budget.