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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 113

Mr CREAN —My question is directed to the Treasurer. Does the Treasurer stand by his statement last Friday that `I say we have all the material that they can require . . . and if they want more I stand ready and willing and available'? Treasurer, will you guarantee that the documents you table later this afternoon will be all the documents relevant to alternative modelling of the government's tax package?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —What I propose to release is the work that was done by the Treasury modelling tax changes on the household expenditure survey. That is what I intend to release.

Mr Crean —All of them?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Hotham has asked his question.

Mr COSTELLO —Let me make this point, Mr Speaker—

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER —The Treasurer will resume his seat. I call the member for Hotham.

Mr Crean —It goes to relevance. My question asked whether the Treasurer was going to release all of the documents. All of them! You should require him to answer it.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The member for Hotham is well aware that the answer to a question is entirely the business of the minister and that the question that he asked, as I noted it, invited a much wider ranging answer than the minister has currently been giving.

Mr COSTELLO —Don't get so upset: it is only the first day, Simon! Mr Speaker, what I propose to release is the household expenditure survey—

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. If the member for Hotham persists with frivolous points of order, I will take action. I will hear the member for Hotham on a point of order.

Mr Crean —This is not frivolous, Mr Speaker. It refers to comments you made yesterday on taking the chair. Doesn't this constitute scorn and derision?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Hotham will resume his seat and consider himself warned.

Mr COSTELLO —As I said, Mr Speaker, what I propose to release is the Treasury advice to the government and the modelling in relation to the effect of the government's tax package done under costing of the household expenditure survey.

This treatment of the household expenditure survey data is wrong. It is nothing more than a statistical nonsense. The HES is based on a sample survey. As the data are divided into smaller and smaller subsets, the accuracy of any derived estimates declines rapidly. Some cells used in the opposition analysis contain as few as seven households and are clearly useless as a guide to the impact of the package. Word for word, that was a statement by Mr Dawkins, Labor Treasurer, to this House on 3 March 1992.

On 3 March 1992, in response to a freedom of information request from the member for Flinders, he released Treasury modelling of the household expenditure survey which said then, when the Treasury advised the Labor Party, that the household expenditure survey was not reliable. In fact, this was the document that the Labor Treasurer, Mr Dawkins, tabled in the parliament in March 1992, which included a Treasury minute—and the Treasury advice has not changed from 1992 to 1998—that the HES sample did not accurately reflect the Australian population in respect of the household characteristics—

Mr Martin —Why are you relying on it?

Mr COSTELLO —We are not relying on it. You are relying on it. That is the whole point. Right throughout the election campaign the Labor Party said, `Where is the household expenditure survey?' after their own Treasurer, in March 1992, had come into this House and said it was unreliable. In response to the member for Flinders, he had tabled a minute to that effect from the Treasury, and its advice has not changed in the last seven years. And now one of their frontbenchers says, `Why are you relying on it?' For heavens sake, we have been trying to make the point now for seven weeks that we do not rely on it. Neither did the Labor Party up until 1998, when it suited it to turn itself inside out, reverse its position, disagree with what it had said in government and retreat into the isolationist, populist rubbish that it is now going on with.