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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2305

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Social Security)(12.25) —We are about to come to the conclusion of this cognate debate on the Appropriation Bills and I, as the final speaker, do not have very long to sum up this very long and tortuous debate. There have been many speakers in this debate and all sorts of attitudes have emanated from Opposition senators. The Jeremiahs such as Senator Sir John Carrick and others have suggested that all is not well with this country and, in particular, with this Government. They have suggested that the Budget figures are inaccurate, that the deficit will inevitably blow out, that the predictions of the money supply are wrong, and that there is doom and gloom around the corner. I point out only that the people who have been making speeches like that on this occasion are, surprisingly enough, the same people who during the Opposition's term in government said that everything in the garden was rosy, that recovery was just around the corner, that the reason we were having economic difficulties had nothing to do with Mr Fraser, Mr Howard, Mr Stone or anybody else but was to do with the world economic scene; that the main reason the country was having difficulties was that consumers would not buy , the savers would not spend, the manufacturers would not manufacture. Everybody was blamed over those years except the government of the day and all its chickens came home to roost in March last year.

Before the first Budget of the Hawke Labor Government the same people said that our Budget deficit predictions were wrong, that our money supply predictions were wrong, and that our estimates of the decrease in the number of people receiving unemployment benefit were too generous. What happened? The Budget deficit came in under target, the money supply was on target, and the unemployment benefit bill for my Department last year was over $300m less than we predicted. In other words, our predictions were not exaggerated. They were too conservative, too cautious. Unemployment is going down, inflation has gone down, interest rates have gone down, and the number of people in employment has gone up by 250,000. There is a general feeling of confidence in the economy. The trouble is that the Jeremiahs on the other side do not like it.

We have had a few philosophical meanderings into the past. It is easy to tell that an election is around the corner. We have just heard from Senator Jessop one of those red menace-yellow peril speeches that we hear in this place only just before an election. People such as Senator Jessop have a reflex. They say that such speeches won them votes in 1966, 1955 and 1951; therefore they ought to win them votes now. They do not realise that the electorate learnt over all those years when those people were kicking the communist can and talking about reds under the bed and the yellow peril coming down. People became immune to that sort of nonsense. They do not believe it any more because it is not true. It is ironical that from the last Opposition speaker in this debate we should hear the sort of nonsense that we do not hear with any consistency except just before election time.

We had complaints that we were cutting off the debate on the Appropriation Bills and that people would not be able to speak in the Committee stage. Yet today at least two Liberal speakers were added to the speakers list ensuring that there would be no Committee stages and that the debate on the second readings would finish at 12.30 p.m.

Senator Harradine —Have it tomorrow.

Senator GRIMES —I am sorry for Senator Harradine that that has happened but the fault lies not on this side of the chamber but in the behaviour of people on the other side of the chamber. This is a responsible Budget. The predictions about what will happen over the next financial year are as inaccurate as the predictions we heard from people such as Senator Chaney this time last year. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. The reason that Senator Chaney makes such bitter speeches as the speech he made last night is that he knows he is speaking to people who cannot believe him any more, after the fistful of dollars in 1977, after the predictions of imminent recovery in 1980, and after the talk about the resources boom we heard in this place until 1983. I recommend that the Senate support the Appropriation Bills which we have been debating cognately. I am sorry that we have not been able to have a more reasonable debate.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The time allotted for consideration of the Bill having expired, I put the question:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

The PRESIDENT —The question now is that the remaining stages of the Bill be agreed to.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.