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Tuesday, 23 April 1985
Page: 1353

Senator MESSNER —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I remind the Minister of the Prime Minister's words on 13 November last year when he said:

Never in the last decade has there been anything like the combination of favourable economic prospects that now exists.

I refer the Minister to the Prime Minister's comment yesterday at his Press conference when he said:

This community cannot simply go on running up debts and living beyond its means.

Was the Prime Minister deliberately mis- representing the economic situation in an attempt to get re-elected or have the Government's monetary and fiscal policies, its failure to stand up to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and capitulation to the left wing on foreign policy destroyed those bright prospects in the space of just six months?

Senator BUTTON —Far be it from me to intrude a personal view. I recall saying last year, at about the same time as the Prime Minister made his remark, that any government would have difficulties with budgetary problems in the next three or four years. Senator Messner took the statement of the Prime Minister out of context and referred to this quotation: 'A favourable combination of economic circumstances now exists'. I do not personally regard that as being inconsistent with what was said yesterday by the Prime Minister. Of course a very favourable set of economic prospects now exists for this country if the difficulties which the Prime Minister referred to yesterday can be properly handled. I am sure that the Prime Minister was referring to the fact in November, as he might have done yesterday, that the Australian economy is basically sound, that we have had a very significant reduction in inflation, and that there has been considerable improvement in employment. A number of indicators of economic importance are very favourable at this time. For those reasons, I do not regard the two statements as being at all inconsistent. Of course it is true that a country cannot live beyond its debts. A question about that has already been addressed to my colleague Senator Walsh, and he answered that question in the same way that I would have, given a similar question.

Senator MESSNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister's reply not indicate that the Prime Minister was fully aware at the time of his previous statement last November that the country was running up debts and living beyond its means at that stage and consequently that he misled the people during the election campaign?

Senator BUTTON —No, it does not indicate anything of the sort.