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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 702

Senator WATSON —My question also is addressed to the Minister for Finance. Given the high level of prime interest rates and, in the words of John Howard, the highest real interest rates since the Depression, does the Minister foresee even higher rates next year when the Government has to finance a higher than normal level of Commonwealth securities that fall due for payment and a continuing high Commonwealth deficit?

Senator WALSH —I have not seen the comments of the discredited former Treasurer to which Senator Watson has referred. However, I know that the discredited former Treasurer ought to know something about high interest rates, because he presided over the highest interest rates we have ever seen in Australia. The short term rates hit 20 per cent when the discredited former Treasurer was primarily responsible for the national economy. While speaking about deficits, I might add that apart from the $10 billion prospective deficit which this Government inherited from none other than Mr Howard, Mr Howard was also a dismal failure at expenditure control. He introduced five or six Budgets, and in every one the outlays exceeded the estimates. He was a failure at keeping expenditure under control, a failure at restraining the deficit and a failure on interest rates. He presided over the preconditions of the largest deficit that this country has ever seen and the highest interest rates that we have ever seen. Over six consecutive years expenditure exceeded the rubbery figures that he produced when he presented his Budget estimates.

Senator WATSON —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Did the Minister hear my question? If so, could he answer it?

The PRESIDENT —Order! That is not a supplementary question.

Senator Walsh —I have nothing to add.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator is entitled to seek elucidation of the Minister's answer, but he is not entitled to ask another question, such as, 'Did the Minister hear my question?'