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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2329

Senator CHANEY —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to answers he gave on Monday to questions from Senator Cook and from me about the costing of the Opposition's election promises. He will recall his promises to provide answers to particular points I raised with him when I challenged the accuracy of the costing on which he relied. I ask: Does he now agree that he misled the Senate when he claimed that the cost of a dual runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport was not included in the phoney figure of $2. 5 billion trotted out by the Treasurer and used by the Minister on Monday? Does he now agree that that item was included in Mr Keating's calculations? Will he now give the net cost of the runway proposal when offset against the Government' s own plans for Sydney airport facilities? Is it a fact that the 1983-84 Budget Papers show that the cost of repealing the Government's new lump sum superannuation tax would be only $10m in 1983-84, a very different figure from the $300m so dishonestly claimed by Mr Keating? Finally, what is the true figure for a phased reduction of double taxation arrangements next financial year as opposed to the $400m claimed by the Treasurer?

Senator BUTTON —If Senator Chaney likes to consult Hansard he will see that in giving that answer I referred to the structural deficit in terms of the costing of the Opposition's proposals. The Opposition cannot have it every conceivable way. It cannot make a whole string of promises and say 'We will do these things which cost $2.5 billion', and then in the same breath say 'We might phase them in, we might not do them until the economy is right'. It cannot have the benefit of both things. I am saying that the Opposition's proposals, which have been costed at $2.5 billion, would build into the structural deficit of this country enormous anticipations, which the Opposition seeks, about what it might do. In the context of Australia's economy over the next few years they would build those costs into the deficit. That is what I said. The point of Senator Chaney's question-what it will cost next year-is not the real question. The point is what it will cost over a full year if the Opposition actually does these things. The cost in a full year of, for example, repealing the lump sum superannuation tax would be $300m.

Senator Chaney —When would that be?

Senator BUTTON —That is what everybody would like to know. The Opposition has been saying all this year that it will get rid of that tax. When will that be? That is what the Australian people want to know. When will the Opposition get rid of it? If the Opposition does get rid of it it will cost $300m in a full year. Senator Chaney, by interjection, asks the question to which every Australian voter will want to know the answer: 'When will you do these things and, if you do these things, what will they cost?'

Senator Chaney —Stop telling lies.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that remark.

Senator Chaney —I withdraw.

Senator BUTTON —Mr President, I seem to have upset Senator Chaney in some way. I did not intend to do that. I wanted to make the simple point that it is no good the Opposition saying that it is going to do all these things-it has been saying that all this year-and then going out into the electorate and saying: 'We are not going to look at the full year costs of those things because we might not do them'.

Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —You do not understand how it works.

Senator BUTTON —I am told by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle that I do not understand how it works. I go back to what I said earlier. When I answered the question from Senator Chaney I referred to the structural deficit, and that is in Hansard. If Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle wants to look at that and give us a particular explanation in view of her vast experience and wisdom on these matters, I have no doubt that she will do so.

Perhaps I can satisfy Senator Chaney on one point. I misunderstood the question about the runway at Mascot which Senator Chaney addressed to me and I sincerely apologise for that. I thought he was saying that I had adverted to that issue in my answer to his question. When I read Hansard I realised that what he was in fact addressing was, of course, a Press release which was put out by the Treasurer. Yes, the cost of the runway is in the Press release put out by the Treasurer. I would make only one other point which is supplementary to that. Senator Chaney also asked about the offsetting costs of the Government's proposal to purchase a site for the airport. It is my understanding that that is also the Opposition proposal-it is part of its policy-and so, in a sense, there is no offsetting costs in those terms.

Senator Chaney —That is not right.

Senator BUTTON —The Opposition, as I understand it, said that it would do that too. That is my understanding of what Senator Chaney has said. But I apologise to Senator Chaney for misunderstanding the question.

Senator CHANEY —I ask a supplementary question. One of the items to which I specifically referred was the supposed cost of $300m for the abolition of the lump sum tax on superannuation. I asked the Minister to indicate how many years it would take to accrue to that level of cost. Is it a fact that it would be 15 to 20 years on the estimates of the Australian Taxation Office before a cost of that level was incurred? In other words, it would be 15 to 20 years before the Government would expect to gather that sort of revenue from its proposals.

Senator BUTTON —I directed my answer to the cost in a full year. The $2.5 billion was said to be the cost of these proposals in a full year. We were talking about the structural deficit, which is really the cost that one can build into the deficit into the future in respect of a wide range of these items .