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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 381


Mr O'KEEFE —My question is directed to the Treasurer. The Victorian Leader of the Opposition has claimed that he would finance nearly a billion dollars worth of election promises by cutting general administration expenses. These include some very substantial items of funding provided by the Commonwealth Government for specific purposes. Will the Treasurer comment on the propriety of this approach?


Mr KEATING —I have had the opportunity of examining reports on the Victorian Liberal Party's document on the cost of its election promises. It is a most extraordinary document indeed. Mr Kennett has made over--


Mr Donald Cameron —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. It was quietly drawn to your attention that this is a matter not pertaining to the responsibilities of the Treasurer of Australia. Why are you allowing it at the moment if it concerns Victoria?


Mr SPEAKER —Order! If the honourable member for Moreton had been listening he would have heard that the question contained a reference to Commonwealth special purpose grants.


Mr KEATING —Mr Kennett has made over 400 promises to the Victorian electors, costing around one billion dollars. When asked the obvious question 'Where is the money coming from?', he said that he would save $100m or $200m each year by cutting back on general administration expenses. He instanced the rise of general administration expenses under the current Victorian Government. He has made a quite fundamental accounting error in seeking to imply, having seen general administration expenses rise in the Budget accounts and said that they should rise by only a certain proportion or by a certain percentage rate, that the gap could be offset against savings to cover his promises. Part and parcel of those administration expenses are major items which are not primarily administrative and which a State government could not legally appropriate to any other use, a conspicuous example being the Commonwealth employment funds of around $120m which are allocated to the States for employment projects. These sums are not primarily administrative and it would be illegal for any State to misappropriate them for any other purpose.

Another example is the superannuation of State employees, which adds up to $80m. Again these funds belong to the contributors. What we have in Victoria is the prospect of the Victorian Leader of the Opposition, were he to become Premier, contemplating breaking the law by misappropriating Commonwealth funds from general expenditure so that he may cover a plethora of irresponsible election promises which he has no hope of covering. In conclusion, I quote from an article on this very point in the Age newspaper. Tim Colebatch of that newspaper said:

The fact remains that the Liberals' policies do not add up.

I concur fully and completely with that conclusion.