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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1786

Mr MOUNTFORD —Has the Treasurer's attention been drawn to predictions by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the Government will bring down a harsh mini -Budget next March or April? Is there any factual basis for such predictions or do they simply represent another attempt by the Opposition to side-track attention from the Government's successful economic management?

Mr KEATING —One is always interested to hear the Opposition state so firmly that the opposing Party will be in government after the next election and that budgetary policy will be in the hands of a Labor government. Let me make it clear that the purpose of a mini-Budget is either to change the direction of fiscal policy substantially or to change it absolutely. This Government has no need to change its fiscal policy in any way, much less in a major sense. My colleague the Minister for Finance gave an answer last week which I thought would have silenced the pathetic interventions on this matter of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Minister pointed out that the Prime Minister had announced just after the Budget this year that some of the expenditure data and procedures would be brought forward next year so as to undertake an expenditure review of the normal Budget processes earlier than perhaps we were able to achieve this year.

I repeat that the 1984-85 Budget is in tune with the economy. It was designed for the state of the economy, as the success of the 1983-84 Budget left the economy in the transition to a pick up in private investment and consumption. We have seen adequate data since the Budget has been produced, including in the market-place, on interest rates and retail sales and a range of other indicators , to show that the Budget strategy is working quite well. Of course, in that Budget we have forecast 5.25 per cent inflation, 5 per cent non-farm growth in the economy and a 5 per cent pick-up in investment. Hence there is no need from the Government's point of view to contemplate in any way a mini-Budget. What we are really seeing here are the thought processes of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who, as Treasurer in 1978, ripped away the tax cuts which were promised by his party in 1977. He said, revealingly, in the House a couple of weeks ago that he was able to take away the tax cuts because he had not given them; he was not the Treasurer. The fact that his Party gave them, that he promised them during the election campaign and then swept them away five months later is taken care of in terms of his morality by his saying: 'I never gave them in the first place, so I could take them back'.

If Australia were to have the unfortunate experience of a Peacock-Howard-led government after the next poll, the tax cuts given by this Government would be swept away. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made it quite plain a couple of weeks before the Budget that, given a choice between tax cuts and a lower Budget deficit, he would have no tax cuts. It is quite obvious that the tax cuts would disappear. It is also obvious that a coalition government would destroy Medicare , terminate our jobs program, introduce new taxes, attempt to finance the irresponsible parish pump expenditures promised by the Leader of the Opposition as well as destroy the prices and incomes accord. In other words, the Opposition has learned no lessons from its dismal experience. We are hearing predictions about mini-Budgets from the mini-Budget specialist, the honourable member for Bennelong, the person who presided over the worst economic performance in this country since the Great Depression, with a doubling of unemployment within a 12- month period, record interest rates and record inflation. He is now telling this Government how we ought to be implementing economic policies. The Government has no plans for a mini-Budget. There will be no mini-Budget. The fiscal policy is on track and the economy is growing very nicely, thank you. We are getting plaudits from the business community not only in Australia but also in the rest of the world and we do not need the Opposition's advice.